I chewed. Plain and simple. Using smokeless tobacco was a popular pastime in my rural hometown, even though I had been well warned of its dangers. As I worked on the farm during the summer, tobacco was a diversion from my task in the fields—and I embraced it. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t quit.
My unattractive vice followed me to college. I remember feeling shameful in leading others spiritually when I had such an obvious addiction facing me daily. In my eyes, I was a hypocrite, sharing the gospel with passion one minute, and sneaking out back to soothe my troubled mind with a pinch of tobacco between my cheek and gum the next. For years, I was caught in the powerful web almost all of us find ourselves in at some point in life: bondage.
Bondage comes in all shapes and sizes. It can come in obvious sinful addiction, or it can come in something that quietly steals us away from intimacy with God. We can be held captive by a degenerating relationship or an insatiable need for approval. We can even hold ourselves captive, determining to succeed on our own apart from God. Bondage can come in sheep’s clothing, often disguised as good works.
Regardless of what may be gripping us right now in our lives, there is hope. But the pathway to freedom in Christ is an unlikely one: willingness to be bound to Christ. To be free from the bondages the world offers, we must be bound to Christ. It sounds contradictory, as if we are simply trading one type of bondage for another. But God’s guidebook to life, the Bible, specifically maps out the road to recovery. And it promises complete freedom. However, as we venture down this road, we must understand that this is not a road that can be traveled half-heartedly. In fact, it might be difficult at first. But we soon understand that to experience the depth of freedom that God desires for each of us, we must be willing to submit to His plans, His principles, and His purposes for our lives.
Bondservants of Christ
The apostle Paul explained this concept of freedom in Christ through the analogy of a bondservant. He wrote: “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10, NKJV).
Most of us would love to be able to say what Paul said and mean it. But anyone caught in the cycle of bondage knows that desiring to be free is vastly different from actually being free. Though we may have a great desire to break the chains that bind us and more deeply follow Christ, we must take a step forward into what God desires for our life. It’s a lot easier to steer a ship that is already moving than an anchored one. And our first step consists of letting go of the things in our lives that hold us captive.
Sin is powerful. We all experience its power on a daily basis. But what we may not understand is how tightly we cling to sin. Part of its power is held in our initial association with it. When we find ourselves caught in a pattern of sin, we are both in sin’s grip and gripping sin ourselves. We hold onto it, which keeps us in that place without freedom for long seasons. To begin this process of releasing the things that hold you captive, pray and ask God to begin changing your heart so that it is aligned with your actions.
As we begin through prayer to release the chains that have bound us, we know that we are far from home free. That’s why we need people to come along with us on this journey to freedom. We need people who will support us, encouraging us to stay the course despite our desire to return to a familiar comfort—even if it’s the comfort of bondage. We also need people to tell us the truth, whether we like it or not. Those in bondage often have distorted views and need to be told the truth. This kind of support only comes within the context of community.
Filling the Void
After we have prayed to release our grip and asked others to assist us in this journey, it’s common to wake up and face a stark reality: There’s a void in our hearts that needs to be filled. This feeling is what normally causes our best self-efforts to break free to crash. We mistakenly assume that since we feel a void, we must fill it back up with what was once there.
We are made to be filled, which is why detachment is difficult without attachment. You might know of someone who quit drinking but replaced it with smoking. The idea of detachment from something must always be accompanied with the idea of attachment to something else. And for freedom to occur in our lives through Christ, we must detach from our sin and attach to Him.
The Power of the Truth
After struggling for years to overcome my addiction to chewing tobacco, the moment it lost its grip on me was not earth-shaking as much as it was heart-shaking. It rattled my self-reliance to the core. I had no fight left in me, and I realized I needed to turn to my source of strength: Jesus Christ. In a simple prayer, I asked God to forgive me for allowing this into my life and asked for His help to conquer this addiction. After all, it was quite obvious I couldn’t conquer it on my own.
Becoming free wasn’t a quick or easy process. But now I know through the power of the truth I am living life’s greatest adventure—experiencing daily what it means to walk in freedom in Christ as I live out His principles, plans, and purposes for my life. In the mystery of God’s kingdom principles, the more I experience His freedom, the more I become solidly bound to Him.
Adapted from CS magazine.