Even though freedom is a gift, the choices that we make allow us to be good stewards of the gift of freedom or waste it.
For example, if you decide to murder someone, that choice will rob you of freedom. Even if you were able to get away with the crime and escape a life behind bares, the guilt of the deed you committed and the constant fear of being caught would hamper your ability to enjoy your life.
Another, much more practical, example is how we choose to use our money. The choice to use credit to furnish a lifestyle way above your means will lead to the reality that you will be enslaved to your creditors. By spending tomorrow’s money today you limit what you can do in the future, because there is a group of people who have a rightful to the money. Not only that, because of the interest that needs to be paid you will actually be paying more for your things than what they are worth. Your freedom is hindered by the choice you made.
Our choices will either lead us to greater levels of freedom or they will restrict the freedom that we already enjoy. There are many choices, both large and small, that we make that end up taking away our freedom. Our freedom and our choices are eternally connected.
Ponder for a moment what Erwin McManus wrote:
“Not all free acts lead to freedom. The choices you freely make may cost you a life of genuine freedom. This is why the Bible talks about the human experience in terms of being slaves to sin. Sin creates the illusion of freedom; it fools us into seeking freedom from God rather than finding freedom in God.
“Whatever else Jesus came to do, one thing is clear—He came to set you free. God is not a warden; He is a deliverer. And so earnest is He about your freedom that He was willing to be taken captive and crucified on your behalf just so you can run free” (Stand Against the Wind; p. 14).
If we are going to be free we have to make those choices which support the freedom in our lives. One of the ways we can make good choices is by thinking about the consequences of our choices.It is important to ask the question; “What is the true cost of my behavior?”
A second way to live a life of freedom is to follow Jesus. Contrary to popular belief obedience to Jesus doesn’t restrict our freedom, but allows us to live out the freedom God has given to us. Ultimately we have to realize that a life lived apart from Christ Jesus is a life that is devoid of freedom. Only Jesus has the power to rescue us from the slavery of sin.
In Romans 6:15-19 the Apostle Paul wrote:
15 Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not!16 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you.18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.
19 Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. (NLT)
We have to make a choice. We can choose to be controlled by sin, or we can give ourselves over to righteousness. To become slaves to righteousness means that we devote our lives to spiritual disciplines that enable us to live in the freedom that God created us to live.
The follower of Jesus is free because he has given himself over to Jesus’ way of living life. This is a life devote to the study of God’s Word, to being part of a Christian community, to participating in communion, and to seeking God’s guidance and blessing through prayer (Acts 2:42). There are other disciplines that I could mention, but these are the basic four that the early church used to grow in faith and freedom.
We need to be devoted to disciplines because that is the way we learn to live in freedom. A person of faith is like a jazz improviser. The improviser needs to have learned the chords and practiced the music so much that he has become master of the song. The discipline of practicing gives him the ability to stay true to the song, even when he goes off on his own. The jazz musician has freedom to improvise because he have been a slave to the music.
When we devote ourselves to holiness through observing the spiritual disciplines of the Christian faith we are able to live with freedom because we know our purpose in life and we know where life is heading. These two realizations help us make the right choices in all the thousands of different situations we face throughout life. We are able to do the right thing because we have chosen to surrender our lives to following Jesus.
True freedom is not found in doing whatever we want to do, but it is discovered in choosing to do the right thing. We discover what the right thing is when we train our lives in righteousness, but we need to choose to surrender to the spiritual disciplines. Jesus came and opened up the way to freedom, now we have to decide whether or not we will follow.