When I was a kid, I wanted nothing more than freedom.
I wanted the freedom to stay up as late as I wanted. I wanted the freedom to watch the TV shows I wanted. And, of course, I wanted the freedom to eat as many cookies as I wanted.
As a kid, any imposed structure on my childish wants was nearly incomprehensible.
My parents would try to explain, “Eating that many cookies is bad for you, Jonathan. You will get a stomach ache.” But I didn’t have ears for their logic. The boundary felt downright tyrannical and if it were up to me, I would have used my freedom to eat every single cookie on the plate.
Thankfully, it wasn’t up to me, and now, as an adult, I don’t need imposed structures to keep me from eating all the cookies on the plate. Don’t get me wrong, I still sort of want all the cookies on the plate, but now I want other things more. I want to be healthy. I want to have the pleasure of eating cookies on multiple occasions, so I will save a few. And truth be told, I really don’t want a stomach ache.
I now have all the freedom I ever wanted as a child, but because my good, loving parents imposed those structures at one time, I am now free to want the right things.
Another word for this kind of freedom is liberty.
But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.James 1:25
There are two competing beliefs about human nature.
The first theory believes that human beings are fundamentally rational creatures who reason their way to action. In this framework, humans are primarily “thinking beings” whose actions follow what, to them, logically maximizes happiness. Head guides heart. This can be summarized in the maxim, “You are what you think.”
The second theory believes that human beings are fundamentally passionate creatures (relating to desires or “passions”) whose actions follow their desires. In this framework, humans are primarily “desiring beings” who aren’t irrational, per say, but who operate sub-rationally, on the level of want, desire, impulse. Heart guides head. This can be summarized in the maxim, “You are what you love.”
Which one sounds more like humanity?
The early Christian theologian Augustine recognized the second belief as unlocking much of what the Bible taught about human nature. We sin because our loves are out of order. If “desire” or “love” is the rudder which guides all of our action, then we are bound to sin, so as long as our loves are out of order.
Sadly, all of our loves are out of order.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.Isaiah 53:6-8
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.Romans 3:10-12
You may say you believe in the integrity of business, but if you make business decisions that cheat or exploit others then you really love your own prosperity more than you love integrity.
You may say you love giving and generosity, but if all of your extra time, energy, and income goes towards things which directly benefit you, you really love your own comfort more than you love giving and generosity.
The only way for us to truly change is to allow God to reorder our loves, with Him at the very top.
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of IsraelHebrews 8:10
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.”
God’s plan is to re-order our loves. He didn’t come to create a people who obey him out of compulsion. He came to create a people whose love for Him “bears fruit” in good works.
Paul also says it in this way:
For the love of Christ controls us.2 Corinthians 5:14-15
We are then controlled, not by our own lesser loves, but by the love of Christ dwelling in us. It’s sort of like how I am “controlled” by my love for my wife. My love for her leads me to do and not do certain things. I don’t do them begrudgingly, I do them because I love seeing her pleased. Because I love her, her joy is an end, in and of itself.
As Christians, we are free to love God in this way. We are free to love Him more than anything else. When we do we become generous, kind, and forgiving. We are able to do things like suffer well not because it’s easy, but because the love of God, which is of highest priority, compels us.
It is in the love of God that we find the freedom, the liberty we’ve always ever wanted.
God, help me love you more than anything else in this world. Control me with the love of Christ today.
Make a list of things you love dearly, ordering them from 1 – 10. Pray over that list and ask God to be your number 1 priority over every other thing you love.