I close with two biblical motivations for why you should strive to free yourself from all enslavements, whether it is the fourth helping of food or to that first or second glass of wine or the twelfth cup of coffee or lust or laziness or work. First, be motivated to preserve your freedom in Christ because slavery is dangerous. And second, preserve your freedom because freedom is so wonderful.
First, slavery is dangerous. Here is what I mean. The persistent refusal to say no to an enslaving habit (like overeating or browsing an inappropriate website) runs the risk of hardening your conscience so that you no longer feel guilty toward that enslavement. And then other things become more easy to justify and pretty soon it can happen that the whole biblical concept of spiritual warfare and vigilance and self-denial and self-control vanishes from your life.
Do you think you are beyond the possibility of making shipwreck of your faith? Where do you think backsliders and apostates, or those who fall away from the faith, come from? They come from people who, little by little, in things that are seemingly unimportant, ignored the voice of God in their own conscience. Food for the body, the body for food—both will decay in the grave someday; its not important how I eat or drink.
We know that is a flat out lie. Why does God record for us in Heb 12:16–17 the tragedy of Esau with these words:
16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.
Do not be like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. He was spiritually LOST. Over a meal. And he couldn’t take it back. The damage had been done. It was irreversible damage.
How did Hymenaeus and Alexander fall away from the Lord? 1 Tim 1:18-20.
1 Tim 1
18 Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
In v19, what is Paul referring to when he says, “some have rejected these?” What are “these,” what are the things that caused people like Hymenaeus and Alexander to shipwreck their faith? “These” refers to their repeated failure to hold on to their faith and their repeated rejection of their conscience. The sense of guilt in your conscience is the work of the Holy Spirit. Don’t drink that, don’t browse to that site. Your conscience is stricken, you feel guilty, but you ignore your conscience, you suppress that feeling of guilt. That’s what it means to reject one’s conscience. What do you expect the spiritual consequences to be when day after day you reject the voice of conscience and yield to the enslavement of food or drink or lust?
What did Paul mean when he wrote to the Philippians in the third chapter, verses 18 and 19 —
18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
It’s interesting that again Paul uses the word stomach. The belly. Their god is their belly, the fleshly appetites. These things will enslave and if you allow yourself to be enslaved, your destiny will be destruction.
Why did Paul commend to the Corinthians the following in 1 Cor 9:25-27 —
1 Cor 9
25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Spiritual life requires training. Oh, it’s too cold, I don’t feel like getting out of my bed to pray. We need to beat our bodies so that our bodies do not master us, but we master it.
Why, in his first and perhaps only sermon to the governor Felix, did the apostle Paul choose for his sermon outline in Acts 24:25 —
25 …righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come…
If you had one sermon to preach to a governor from prison, would your second point be self-control?
Why did Jesus say in Matt 18:9 —
9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
God has said all these things for our sake, as warnings. They are written that we might realize that bringing the body under control is no minor matter! All things are lawful for me, BUT I WILL NOT BE ENSLAVED BY ANYTHING! Cast off the bondage of your body. You were not meant to be led like a dog on a leash of lust or comfort or pleasure or anger. When you get angry, it is not just an emotion, it is a bodily experience. Our chest cavity tightens up. You sweat. You breath heavily. And you say, this is me, I can’t help myself. These are all things that enslave us.
I want to end with the second reason we should strive to free ourselves from all enslavements is that freedom is wonderful.
When that man in the three-piece suit, his belly hanging out, when he chose the pleasure of an empty hand swinging at his side over the pleasure of a clear conscience, did he choose JOY? Did he choose joy? No, he didn’t choose joy. A persistent yielding to the desires of the body against the voice of conscience is not a life marked by joy, but a life of misery!
To turn and do the opposite: to avail yourself to the law of the Spirit of life within, and to feel yourself bearing the fruit of self-control, and to pommel your rebellious body into submission until it is no longer your master but it’s a yielded tool, a vehicle to glorify God—this is victory and this is joy!
Paul says in Rom 6 —
13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer [offer is a proactive word, it’s something you obey – offer] yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
To beat your body and to make it a slave, an instrument of righteousness, is a life of freedom and joy. If you live this way, you can rest at night peacefully, with a clean conscience. Brothers and sisters, you were bought with a price. Jesus died to purchase us. Your bodies count. They are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Glorify God in your bodies: receive his gifts of pleasure with gratitude, deny yourselves all excesses and offer not only your hearts, but also your bodies as living sacrifices unto the Lord.