Spiritual Slaves

…Teach older women to be holy in their behavior, not…enslaved to too much wine… (Titus 2:3, NCV)

The Christian life is filled with competing desires. We have 2 natures within us, fighting for control: the Spirit-filled nature and the sinful nature. The fight is evident in how we pursue pleasure and minimize pain.

When we find something that brings us pleasure or decreases our pain, we want more of it. What starts as an indulgence — something rare and special — can easily become an over-indulgence. We are hard-wired to create habits — and the habits we form often bring us pleasure or relieve pain. But how do we know when we have crossed the line from healthy to enslavement?

When we cannot be happy, satisfied, or functional without something or someone (besides God), we are wise to ask ourselves if we have become enslaved. Another warning sign is if our thinking changes from “I like this” or “I want this” to “I NEED this”. Christians are not exempt from enslavement, but far more life helps us recognize and overcome it.

We are tempted to think that faith in Christ is all we need to drive away sinful habits and compulsions. So when we struggle with or give in to sin, we may be tempted to think it is because we lack faith. And plenty of people with bad doctrine will confirm that false belief. So we do more of all the things we think will increase our faith: we go to church more; we study the Bible more, maybe even memorize parts of it; we pray more; we try harder to be good people. But working hard to grow your faith usually does not overcome an over-indulgence that has enslaved you. Why? Because lack of faith is not the problem. Even the Apostle Paul, a man of great faith, wrestled with this:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. (Romans 7:21, NIV)

It would be great if a switch was flipped when we accepted Christ. That switch would turn off the pleasure we receive from sin, impure thoughts, anger, anxiety, fear, and pain.  It would turn on peace, patience, and a desire for only pure hobbies, entertainment, and fun. But that is not what God chose for us.

…It is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose. (Philippians 2:12, PHILLIPS)

Accepting Christ delivers us from the penalty of sin; we will never be punished for our wrongdoing (Romans 8:1). And it delivers us from the power of sin; we now have a clearer understanding of right and wrong and His Spirit living within us gives us power to choose what is right (2 Peter 1:3). But it also increases our awareness of sin; we realize things we thought were okay are actually displeasing to God, and some are actually enslaving us (John 9:39-41). We will spend the rest of our lives becoming aware of actions, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs we have embraced that are contrary to righteousness. There is no need to feel shameful about this; it is God’s plan for us. Far more life is being alert, honest, and humble about these areas.

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin…having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18, ESV)

We live as spiritual slaves, either to sin or righteousness. The Greek word translated slave, doúlos, means “someone who belongs to another”. So plugging that definition into the above verse reads, “…You who once belonged to sin…now belong to righteousness.” We want to be independent, self-determined, our own masters. But spiritually speaking that is simply not possible:

…Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. (I Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV)

God, our Creator, owns us. Although we originally rejected Him and chose sin, He paid a high price for a restored relationship with us: the blood of His Son. God is our rightful master. And once we become His through Christ, nothing can separate us from Him; we belong to Him for all eternity (Romans 8:38-39). We have security as a slave to the righteousness of our perfect, loving Heavenly Father. This is hard to grasp, but there are benefits of being a slave to righteousness:

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22, NIV)

As slaves of God, we become a new creation. Our new nature desires to please God. We want to do what He says is right, to be holy like He is holy. We want to live in awe and reverence to Him. As new Christians, we see some changes right away and eagerly pursue more! We experience unconditional love and want to share it with others. We find purpose and meaning that satisfies us. We gain true pain relief through embracing His truth. We get a taste of far more life!

Sisters,
Think about what brings you pleasure; are you walking in the Spirit-filled nature or the sinful nature when you pursue it?
What do you do to avoid (emotional) pain? Which nature does that reinforce?
What do you NEED to be happy, satisfied, or functional? Is this healthy or could it indicate enslavement?
How do you feel about being a slave to righteousness? Does that feel different from “belonging to” God? If so, why?
Thank God for the benefits of being a slave to righteousness. Far more life is one of them!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Beautiful Temples

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (I Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV)

Have you ever wondered why we have physical bodies? God could have made us however he wanted but chose to house our mind and soul in bodies. The bodies of His children are also the temple in which His Spirit lives.

The tabernacle served as God’s temporary home on earth during the years the Israelites were wandering through the desert and establishing their nation. It was a tent that was set up and taken down over and over for more than 400 years as they moved around. Once the Israelites established Jerusalem as their capital, the temple was built as God’s semi-permanent home. Several chapters of the Old Testament lay out intricate plans for these structures. God detailed the dimensions, the materials to be used, the specific layout, and the furnishings. They were designed to be beautiful and practical while serving a specific purpose: God’s dwelling place on earth.

We should not be surprised that God designed our bodies to be beautiful and practical as well. They, too, are His dwelling place on earth among those who place their faith in Jesus.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Ephesians 3:16-17, NIV)

…When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14, NIV)

Unlike Old Testament saints, we are filled with God’s Spirit: He lives inside us from the moment of salvation until Jesus returns to take us to Heaven. We do not need to go to a special place to connect with Him or have another person sacrifice on our behalf. What an honor to be God’s daughter and have Him live inside!

Far more life is found when we put the proper emphasis on our physical bodies — not too little (discussed in the previous post, Beautiful Bodies) and not too much. Our bodies are important, but not our primary focus. New Testament writers recognized our temptation to idolize our bodies:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV)

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator… (Romans 1:25, NIV)

How do we honor God with our bodies? Consider these verses:

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes… But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:22-23, 31, NIV)

We honor God with our bodies by focusing on our spiritual work. We should not neglect our physical needs, rather we should understand our greater purpose.

Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires…offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. (Romans 6:12, NIV)

…Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Corinthians 7:1, NIV)

Each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable. (I Thessalonians 4:4, NIV)

We honor God with our bodies by living righteously. What we see and hear, what we think about, and what we do can honor or dishonor Him. Some of our “evil desires” are to make pleasure our primary focus, be it be blatant sin or private over-indulgence. God created us to experience pleasure and has given us freedom to enjoy much in His creation, but Satan tempts us to seek pleasure over holiness. Other “evil desires” tempt us to look for self-worth and confidence in the state of our bodies. This temptation is less about what we do and more about why we do it; we can perform the same activities with righteous or unrighteous motivations. God wants us to take care of our bodies so we can use them to glorify Him; Satan wants us to seek our own glory. We experience far more life as we grow in Spirit-controlled use of our bodies.

…Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. (I Corinthians 12:22-24, NIV)

We honor God by recognizing that our bodies, like the temple, consist of public and private parts. We honor Him by giving Him the priority in our hearts and minds. We honor Him by sharing some parts only with our husband. We honor Him by using our public parts to bless and care for others. All parts are beautiful and honorable, but serve different purposes.

If your childhood dream was to be a princess, your reality is better: you are God’s beautiful and holy temple, designed to glorify Him! Enjoy far more life by filling your temple with righteousness.

Sisters,
Are you more tempted to under-value or over-value your body, God’s temple?
Do you have any doubts about the permanence of God in your heart? If so, search His word for the truth about your status before Him. (Or ask a trusted spiritual mentor for help.)
How do you already honor God with your body? How do you want to grow in this?
Thank God for choosing you as His temple and filling you with far more life!
-Shari