Vol.XVI No.XII Pg.5
February 1980

Are You Really Free?

Robert F. Turner

This is a rerun of a thought that is so often in my mind it demands repetition. Paul wrote, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any" (1 Cor. 6:12). The "all things" is a synecdoche, or way of saying "many things." (As, "We do it all the time" — i.e., it is common, we do it often.) Paul is saying there are many things right within themselves that are not expedient or profitable. They contribute nothing useful to our lives (1 Cor. 10:23), or they may wrongly influence others and cause them to go astray (Rom. 14:16).

And the second clause goes further: "I will not be brought under the power of any." At face value, this rules out tobacco, "pot," or the like — any thing that has power to limit our control of self. But it also applies to the "sports nut", music fanatic, or those glued to the boob-tube. Some Greek philosopher said if one found himself overly attached to a particular art object, say, a valuable vase, he should break it rather than have this attachment control him. The pagans had no higher object than self-mastery; but Christianity has a more noble use for self-control.

True God-service can come only as we give our "self" to the Lord (Matt. 16:25) in a very real sense "self" is our will or volition. We are what we think, feel, and desire. Superficial "doing" is not acceptable service to God; we must obey from the heart. It follows, therefore, that to give "self" to the Lord we must be in control of "self", have self to give. It is obvious that many of us have habits, passions, or tastes that exercise greater influence in our lives than does God. For example, if we can not pull ourselves away from the TV football game to worship God, we either want to see the game more than we want to worship, or we want to put God first, but our desire to see the game controls us —, overrides our better intentions. Sure, you can wiggle out of this by some ploy about "worshiping at home" — but did you turn off the TV to do it?? People who genuinely worship God in their daily activities are the first to acknowledge their need to assemble with saints, and recognize God's instructions regarding such matters.

The alcoholic has lost part of his or her "self." The "pot" smoker takes a "trip" at the expense of fully controlled self. The smoker who "can't quit" is no longer his or her own master. But the list does not stop here. Can we give up a golf game for something more important, like our family? Can we get up and walk away from any thing that stands between us and service of God? How truly are we our own? Are we "brought under" same power??

The value of an untrammeled will is further seen when we realize that only such a self can come to Christ (Lu. 14:33). This is the element essential for a good conscience, for speaking and acting upon our convictions. "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). It is no "little thing" to give ones will into the hands of habits or other people. It is the one thing we could give God for eternity.