Here in the United States we talk a lot about freedom, and we live in a culture that certainly loves to celebrate it. People are free to do what they want, to exercise their rights, and to feel independent of control by others.
But, Freedom is a door that swings both ways. The Bible has a lot to say about our freedom to choose, and about all the contingencies that result from it. Apparently doing whatever you want may offer a brief, giddy sense of empowerment, but it often has consequences that extend farther than the feeling…
“To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue. All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Proverbs 16:1-3, NIV)
“There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21, NIV)
“So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels.” (Psalm 81:12, NIV)
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:28, NIV)
According to Proverbs, we have the right to make plans, to keep our own counsel, and to make choices based on our heart’s inclination. Those plans may or may not coincide with God’s plans, but we are not restricted to obedience. These verses point out that our actions come from our heart, our motives, and our will; we are free to plan and pursue our own choices. Although we live in a world created by a sovereign God, the Bible is pretty clear that He has granted us the right to exercise our own will.
But freedom is a two–edged sword. When we have the ability to do whatever we want, we have the ability to choose to do something foolish, impractical, or selfish. Apparently every time we make plans, and every time we take action, we have the option of seeking and taking the Lord’s counsel–or not. Solomon points out that our human plans can be self-interested, temporary, based on impure motives, self-delusional, impulsive, stubbornly selfish, and sinful. Men have been proving that for centuries.
The Lord’s plans, on the other hand, are not based on petty human desires for power, fame, or lust. They are solid, dependable, wise, and worthy. These verses highlight a couple of things. 1) Before you make plans or take action, seek God’s counsel. We aren’t always even honest with ourselves about why we are doing something, or what our true motives are. Going through the process of asking the Lord what He thinks provides perspective, and it is always a good idea.
2) Remember that your plans can take you the wrong direction. We have the freedom to be stubborn as we walk away from God. To be sure, He will call us back, He will offer counsel and direction, and the Holy Spirit will offer motivation to do right. God’s desire is for us to be holy as He is holy, to walk with Him and to commit our way to Him. He will call all people to Himself, and He will offer all men motivation and inspiration.
But there are several places in Scripture where it plainly says that at some point God will honor man’s freedom to such a degree that He will “give them over” to their own plans and desires. Those who continually choose self over God will ultimately get their wish. C. S. Lewis said, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’”
When wrong seems right, and when culture tells you it’s ok to choose something depraved over God’s plan, tread lightly. Exercise your freedom wisely. You may find that you have started down a one way street. Don’t miss that last exit.
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,
But even so, the Lord has given us the right to choose.
He doesn’t make us follow Him or go against our will,
And even when we sin, His grace abounds and calls us still.
If you persist in choosing sin, however, you may find
That you have wandered out so far that God is far behind,
And He allows your own depravity to rule your mind.
Choose wisely. God desires that all his children would be saved;
But He also allows us each to choose to be depraved.
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