Cicero said freedom was the power to live as one wishes. I have to challenge that idea a bit today, though. Freedom - true freedom - is not the ability to live as you wish - allowing every whim and fancy of your flesh to rule your life. Freedom is actually living within boundaries - knowing truth and allowing that truth to change how you make choices and what you allow as a response from within your being. Freedom involves the soulish parts of man, but it also is intensely founded on where our spirit man is anchored. If we have never said 'yes' to Jesus, allowing his freedom to be our true anchor, we are likely still living mostly soulish lives - self-centered, self-motivated, and self-fulfilling. We want what we want and we go after it. Cicero would have said we allow whatever force within us to direct our paths - Jesus says we deny self and listen to his voice, conducting our lives within a framework of goodness and grace.That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God. (Romans 6:12-14)
Sin has a way of telling us there is no real freedom within boundaries, but I would like to challenge that a bit. Freedom doesn't mean an absence of boundaries - in fact, it is best found within the boundaries God establishes in his Word because there is no greater respecter of persons than God himself. If we have been inclined to follow our own desires and fulfill our own wishes in life, we might have realized we don't do a great job of 'respecting' ourselves. In fact, we do a whole of unwise things that don't really reveal a great deal of respect for who we are and what we can be. While living without rules seems like it might just be freedom, it isn't. Imagine a whole group of a hundred people in various cars or trucks of their choosing, all driving the freeway or highway around your home. Now, imagine no speed limits, no dividing lines, and no limitations on which way the traffic is to flow. Is that safe? No, the lines divide so as to give each a safe passage; the limits on speed have been calculated to allow for a good flow of traffic and safe transitions; and the traffic flow divided one way for those lanes is there to get us safely to our destination. Follow the rules and there is safety - live outside of them and there will be chaos.
So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom! (vs. 15-18)
Some acts destroy freedom, don't they? Think of the last truly selfish thing you did and ask yourself what that action really demonstrated. It is likely you might realize that action left others out, excluding them from the joy of the experience. It is also likely you might realize that one selfish action led to another and another until all the actions of the day or week were really self-focused. In the end, your 'desires' were fulfilled, but what about those around you? What impact did those actions have on others? If you don't think they impacted anyone else but yourself, think again. Freedom to act as we want never affects us alone - there is always someone else observing those actions and they are impacted by our choices. We set the example that it is okay to indulge self, allowing our actions to be dictated by whatever our emotions (feelings) demand. I have to ask a very telling question here - how many times have we 'acted' upon our desires only to feel disgusted by what we did or didn't do? It is likely our emotional actions left us feeling a little down on ourselves. Why? We realized doing 'what we wanted' didn't really produce the results we desired.
Freedom isn't really living as we want, but rather living within the openness of God's grace and goodness. There are tons of things we can pursue in life, but not all of them will lead into the 'wideness' of God's goodness and grace. When those things we pursue are selfish in nature, they lead away from that 'wideness'. We may not think it will, but trust one who has engaged in many a selfish action in this lifetime - it doesn't really compute to true freedom. It actually makes you feel a little 'bound' and 'captive'. Just sayin!