[Continued from Freedom: Are You Free?]
In the beginning, God gave to mankind the freedom to choose their own thoughts, actions and attitudes. We were never free to choose the thoughts, actions or attitudes of others. Freedom never meant freedom from responsibility or to choose the consequences of our actions; external laws and circumstances will affect us whether we want them to or not. For example, if I choose to jump out of a tree, I will be acted upon by gravity and run the risk of injury. I cannot choose that gravity will not apply to me. I am held responsible for my actions and for the potential consequences of my actions. If I desire to experience a particular consequence, then I ought to make a choice that is likely to lead to that consequence.
When sin came into the world, things changed. To put it simply, without engaging in a theological debate, mankind lost the power to fully resist the power of sin’s control over him. He found himself doing what he did not want to do and not doing what he knew he ought to do. In other words, he lost the fullness of his freedom to choose for himself.
Jesus desires to restore this freedom to those who seek it. He said,
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free… everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin… if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31-32, 34, 36, NASB)
There may come a time when I am not physically free. I may be unjustly imprisoned or constrained by physical ailment. But in the midst of captivity, I can choose my thoughts, my attitudes and my actions. In Christ, it is possible to respond with gentleness and patience in the face of persecution, to respond with kindness in the face of hatred, to honestly forgive those who wrong me and to pray for the welfare of those who mistreat me. It is possible to not only consistently display this attitude outwardly, but to experience it inwardly. This kind of freedom only comes through Jesus Christ.
However, it doesn’t happen automatically. It comes as a consequence of pursuing Jesus, of knowing and choosing, in the moment, what He says is true: “If you continue in My word… you will know the truth… if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” In other words, in any given circumstance, I remember what Jesus tells me is true about this circumstance and I consciously choose to think and act in accord with that truth. He breaks the power of sin over me and empowers me to carry out the right thoughts and actions I have chosen.
This is not a one-time choice, because God never takes away from me the right to choose my own thoughts, actions and attitudes. He simply offers to empower me, in the moment, to carry out my choices without the interference of sin.
We are creatures of habit. This can be both a blessing and a curse. What I mean is that God has so designed mankind that repetitive actions tend to become habits and habits become second nature. This is good when we practice good habits, because as habits are developed, those actions become second nature, meaning I don’t have to consciously think about them so much or work at them so hard. But when we need to break old habits and develop new habits, it can be hard.
If you have not been living in the freedom of Christ, remember that it takes practice to develop new habits, but as you practice it will become easier to choose the truth that makes you free. Choose to “continue in His word” by prayerfully reading and studying the Bible. I have found it especially helpful to pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to bring to my attention those moments of choice that may otherwise slip by unnoticed due to old habits. Then, in the moment you become aware of your choice, purposefully choose not to follow the path of sin, neither in word and deed, nor in thought, but instead to hold on to what is true. You must choose in the moment, you cannot put it off! At times, I have found it helpful to verbally state my decision. For example, if I become aware of thinking resentful thoughts toward someone, you may hear me say to myself, “I’m not going down that path!”
When you have made the choice not to follow the path of sin, acknowledge the Spirit’s presence in your heart and embrace what He says is true. If the truth requires you to take positive action, don’t put it off, do it!
Soon you will find yourself living with a new sense of freedom in Christ!