Become a slave to righteousness by practicing it. Humans are creatures of habit. Even things that are not physically addictive can become habit forming. Some people are more prone to this than others, but we are all affected by it to some degree. If you become accustomed to doing something on a regular basis then you start to do it as second nature. You start to feel wrong if you don’t do it. An example of when this happened in my life involves video games.
When I was first married I played a game called Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare. This was the first video game that I had ever played online with people from all over the world and it is a competitive first-person shooter game so I really enjoyed it. Back then I didn’t have kids so I would often come home from work and then sit in front of the TV and play video games for a few hours. The amount of time I spent playing this game just kept increasing and eventually, I would come home from work, head straight to the basement to play the game and stay there until bedtime. After several months of this, I started thinking about doing other things like leaving the house or even playing other games. But I found it really difficult to do. I could spend the day at work thinking about how I would play a nice relaxing game that evening instead, or else maybe watch some TV or a movie with my wife. But even if I tried to do it, I would usually wind up in the basement playing the game because it just felt wrong to skip a day.
In the end, it wasn’t even fun anymore. I would usually be screaming at the game and feeling awful about myself because even after years of playing this game I was still always one of the worst players in a match. But the game had a hold of me. It’s unlikely that you could say I was physically addicted like I had been to cigarettes years before, but I was still uncontrollably drawn to it. In biblical language, I had become a slave to it. The game owned me. I suspect that it was this way for a lot of people and the game developers knew this and turned the game into a yearly release title. I’m sad to say that this yearly release schedule kept me hooked on the game for nearly half a decade.
More recently I had become a user of medical marijuana. I went through the proper channels, was given a prescription, ordered through the licensed vendors and even stayed below the amount that I had been prescribed. I stopped using marijuana completely after my true conversion on May 7th, but I had stopped getting it from licensed suppliers well before that. I found that I didn’t need nearly as much of it as I had been prescribed so it was easier and cheaper for me to just get it through a guy I knew.
When I had been using the prescription stuff I was high all day. This is how they told me to use it. Initially when I cut that off it was because I didn’t want to be stoned all day and was having qualms about a professed Christian using marijuana. This was still while I was a false convert, but I was worried about what people would think of me if they found out that I was a Christian and smoked pot. I had a short period where I experienced one of my old spiritual highs and I stopped smoking it altogether and cut off my prescription. I knew that I could still get it from other sources if I needed it so I wasn’t too worried, but I wanted to try. That lasted about a week before I started getting it from the guy I mentioned earlier.
I didn’t want to use nearly as much, so I only used it in the evenings after my kids went to bed. At first, that seemed to be working well, but before long I was thinking all day about when my kids would be in bed so I could get stoned. Eventually, I was rushing through their bedtime routine so I could get to it faster. Initially, I had used it once and that would last me the night, but before long it wouldn’t anymore. And I would use it more and more. And then, of course, the little high that I got wasn’t enough and I was smoking more at one time and trying to get as high as I possibly could. I will admit, it was making me happier, I laughed more, I felt more creative, I enjoyed my normal activities more, but I also knew that it was taking over and that I had become worse than what I had been before.
It hit me hardest on a Friday night when I chose not to go to a church meeting and instead when over to my buddy’s house to get high. I even told him, “I should probably feel bad about skipping church to smoke pot, but I don’t really.” This was the beginning of what eventually led to what I believe was my true conversion. After that night I started to really question whether or not I even was a Christian. But this post will go way off the rails if I head down that trail so perhaps I will come back to it in a future post.
The point is these two things that are both considered non-physically addictive activities were able to take control of my life and make me a slave of them simply by making a habit of them. This can happen with other things as well. Facebook is one that most people experience. I hated Facebook with a passion, but to get away from it I had to make a new password that was super complex and not write it down. Now in order for me to get into my Facebook account, I would have to recover my password. Knowing that has worked to keep me away. But that’s just one example. There are so many things that people do every day that they believe to be harmless, but Christian, if you find yourself doing it unintentionally, or if you find that it’s difficult to go a day without it, then that thing is a master over you. And a servant cannot have two masters.
We are told to practice righteousness. We are told to renew our minds. We are told to think on only what is good and pure and true. We are told to study the scriptures. There are a lot of things that we are told to do in the Bible, not so that we can earn our way into Heaven, but so that we can become slaves to righteousness. And don’t take that the wrong way. We WANT to be slaves to righteousness because the only other option we are given is to be a slave to sin. Even if you think you are a slave to no one, that very thought makes you a slave to sin. You have one master. You were purchased with a price. Start doing the things that He commanded you to do on a regular basis. Get to the point when not doing them feels weird.
You know what feels weird for me right now? Praying over a meal in public? It’s only that way though because I don’t do it. And I’m not saying that you have to pray over a meal in public with bowed heads and folded hands. When Jesus blessed a meal he just looked to heaven and said: “Thank you.” But that’s not the point. I know a lot of Christians who never talk about God because they are uncomfortable with it. We need to get to the point where talking about God isn’t outside of our comfort zone, it is our comfort zone. I’m not saying that you have to push your faith on others, but nothing says that you have to talk and act as though God isn’t real for the benefit of others. In fact, we are specifically commanded not to do that. If we are ashamed of Him before me, He will be ashamed of us before our Father.
If God is real to you, then walk like He is. Talk like He is. Put your faith where your mouth is. Because the things that are real to us, the things that excite us, the things that we most believe in are things we talk about. They are things we invest our time in. So if we’re going to have ingrained habits and addictions, we should be trying to make those ingrained habits and addictions righteousness. And we can do that because Christ is in us and we are able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We really need to grab on to that, believe that and live that. Doing so will make you a peculiar people, yes, but it will also establish the Kingdom of God on Earth right now.
Be a slave to righteousness, in which there is true freedom, or be a slave to sin, in which there is bondage and death. By the Grace of God, the choice is yours.