All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
In this series, we have been exploring wise questions to ask when we are thinking about issues that fall under the umbrella of Christian liberty. In the first two posts we explored two sides of the same coin with the questions “Will this help me pursue maturity?” and “Will it hinder me from running well?”
Today, we ask a question with even more immediate consequences: “Will this bring me into bondage?”
We are creatures designed for habits. We are habitual sinners before we are saved, and those habits of sin remain deeply ingrained even after the Spirit has done His mighty work in regenerating us, and even though He continues to do mighty work in sanctifying us. It is hard to become a habitually righteous person. But when God saved us, He saved us in order that we might become creatures of good habits. As Ephesians 2:10 says, we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works.”
How ridiculous is it for a man designed by God, a human being made to be the pinnacle of His creation, to become a slave to a computer, or to a drug, or to a hobby? And yet we all know how habit-forming even innocuous things, like music or fashion, can be.
Because we have been remade unto good works, we need to give our maximum effort to creating the kind of habits that are good and to avoiding any habits (even morally neutral ones) that threaten to take over too much of our lives. Shopping is not immoral; listening to music is not immoral. But when something becomes so much of a habit that it begins unduly influencing the decisions you make—when it is a desire that you can’t resist fulfilling—then it begins to drain your zeal for good habits. And even though the habitual activity itself may not be sin, enslavement to it tends to quickly open the door to habits that are sin.
This process—going from an innocent activity to a growing habit to an overflow into sin—is the principle of enslavement. I don’t want to do anything that has the power to take over my life in this way.
In my personal life, I sometimes refrain from doing things (things I have total freedom to do) for the sheer purpose of establishing that I am still in control of myself. Sometimes, when I want to do a certain thing, I decide not to do it just to train my ability to say no to myself. It’s sometimes as simple as turning down a steak or a hot fudge sundae. These are good things to enjoy, but I never want to be in a place where I’ve lost my ability to say no to them. I really believe that having (or not having) this discipline in the little things of life spills over into the bigger things in life one way or the other.
Next time, we will look at the role that our consciences should play in guiding how we use our Christian liberty.