1 Corinthians 8:9, 9:19 Though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant…
As I ran last night, I was once again reminded of how God works in me when I take the time and effort to listen to him. When I choose to spend time with God, He clears the clutter of my mind, causing me to understand what He is saying through his word. This does not happen automatically though. I must put forth the time and effort to read, pray, and meditate in order to hear him. God asks that I pursue him.
In contrast, it was never any effort to get myself to pursue my addiction. The pursuit itself was laborious, but I did not have to force myself into the pursuit. In my addiction, it was impossible not to obsess about that which I chased above all. I did not have to work to get myself to follow the drug. I was enslaved. That is the profound difference between my flesh nature and God. The desires of my flesh enslave me to my destruction. God never enslaves but rather, grows life when I choose to follow him.
In my addiction, I became quite familiar with being enslaved. I got to the point where I could not say no. I bowed down to the drug, sacrificing family, career and faith on the altar of my desires. I did not set out to do this, but once I was addicted, I had little choice. By that time, I had given away my ability to decide. I exercised my right to do a thing until I surrendered my choice. In pursuing my desires, I became a slave to them.
Contrast this to Paul’s perspective. In today’s passage, he outlined his rights and insisted, that though he had the freedom to do whatever he wanted, he chose a life of service to God. He did not exercise his freedom to pursue himself but rather made himself a slave to God’s will. Paul did not worry about money, food, security, or pursuit of the good life. He considered the good life to be doing the will of God above all. Paul realized that his life was not about himself. His life was about following God.
As I said previously, God does not enslave. He asks that we continually choose to deny self and follow him. Unlike the desires of my flesh, God is not a trap that seduces us with pleasure and then delivers pain. God, in his love, sets us free from ourselves when we follow him. In his love, He longs for us to love him back. As true love requires a choice, God allows us to continually choose to follow self or to follow him.
God asks me to choose service to him as this is the only way I will ever be free from slavery to me. Paradoxically, it is only in voluntary submission to God that I can be free from the destruction of following self. I will always serve either me or something else. I have proven to be a terrible god. As God is the only one capable of filling the role of God, I must daily choose to deny self and follow him.