There is hardly such a thing as being so free as to be able to run your own life in absolute independence — free from the influence and sway of all circumstances; independently free. A man is enslaved to the limitations of this world and his own self, so he cannot claim to be master of these very limitations that hold him back somehow — that is daring to grasp at Deity! Yet, men have managed to figure out innovative ways of postponing the effects of sure circumstances, even if they cannot escape the inevitable hand of such occurences. This postponment has however not taken care of the problem of man’s limitation. Man, sooner or later, has to play to the uncontrollable tune of nature — he has a will that he exercises freely, but only according to its nature. The nature of a corrupt man is a corrupt will; the will does not govern the heart but is governed by the heart’s desires. A man cannot will to stop hating if in his heart he has not desired to stop hating — the heart is the source of the spring of the will. The will is bound to the heart and is a steadfast reflection of its desires. This is why man’s will can never be free to fly as it pleases — because it has a root, that is, the heart. Furthermore, mankind is a moral agent. This means that he is responsible for his own action, and he is accountable to the Moral Law-Giver — for the envisioned will gives birth to performed action and this action is measured against a fore-set standard. It’s always back to square one for man — call it limited freedom, if you so wish. Man cannot escape responsibility because he is accountable and he cannot then will freely (as in libertarian free will) as his natural acts testify to his corrupt heart. So, where do we then find the libertarian freedom that men so boast to possess?
Here is how Scripture views it — man is either a slave to righteousness or a slave to sin. A man’s freedom is constrained to whichever state he’s in – freedom to do righteousness or freedom to do sin! Hence, a man can only be either righteous or a sinner. There is no other condition in which a man may be in. To be in sin spells only disaster — a man is bound in it, and thus bound to death. Sinners have absolutely no freedom — they may create multiple illusions which lead only to death and call them free options, yet in truth they have only chosen what was available to them, that is, death. The highest freedom man can ever and shall ever attain is the freedom of the will IN CHRIST (which actually means that he is still bound, but now to Christ Jesus through righteousness). This can only be as a person yields to the Holy Ghost and to the bondage of obedience to the Sovereign Lordship of Christ. This happens only when the man’s heart is changed; given new desires — hence the will is able to choose that which leads to life. The notion of libertarian freedom is destroyed in the sense that men actually either abuse it (those who use their perceived freedom as a license to sin) or they do not have it (those that are still bound to sin). How is it that Christ would tell men who would have freedom of will that they have to deny themselves? If men were free, they would have been encouraged all the more to embrace their nature. Moreover, they would not deny themselves because they could not will aright — they refused because they could not receive; they did not have the power in their will to accept Christ’s words and perform them. That beats the whole notion of libertarian free will of man. Had we such a potent will, Christ would have told us to save ourselves – to hasten and come out of our sorry state using our own power and by our own selves. If we had such free will, the death of Christ was, then, of no use whatsoever. But if we are slaves who needed to be set free from our deep bondage to sin – then, it follows that Christ Jesus came to ransom us, poor and defeated race of Adam, from sin’s bondage. And at what price? His very own blood!
We have read of a man like Nebuchadnezzar, the great Babylonian king of old, who conquered the whole world but in his bondage could not see how much of a prisoner he really was — a prisoner to his own self and to sin! Did God violate Nebuchadnezzar’s free will when He had the evil king go mad? He was still bound to self — he was in no way free to save himself from his own conceit that he indulged in! It was Ravi Zacharias who rightly said, “We are too possessed by ourselves.” Look at man — take a good look at him. He is too bound up in the current affairs of this world; the temporal peace of this world; the social state of this world; the corruptible treasures of this world; the material goods of this world; the abominable idols of this world; the seductive powers and manipulative influences of this world; the greedy profits of this world; the carnal respect and short-lived approval of this world; the sexual pleasures and temporary comforts of this world; the abusive might and vain knowledge of this world; the crooked dreams and indulgent ambitions of this world. Natural, unregenerate man is too concerned with the present life of this world that is soon to pass away. He wants to rule the world and take of its pleasures — whatever the cost. The result is that he ends up being more wound up in this poor world. Man is a slave to this carnal world and he cannot see his prison until he is set free by God! In fact, he not only cannot set himself free but even this – he willingly entangles himself more and more in the fleeting pleasures and rebellious sin of this wicked age. When it comes to the willingness and the ability to be free, man is dead! Give man true freedom and do you know what he will choose? Filth! Rubbish! Vile and detestable dung is what he desires and so shall have. Corruption! Bondage to wicked sin! Oh, do not be fooled by the outward morality and the kind gestures of civilization; the modest grooming that modern unregenerate man shows to you. He does so because there is a law etched into him that yet holds him back — that reminds him of his moral agency. Were it not for conscience, which God, for His own high purposes and for the sake of preserving man has placed in him, man would long ago have perished! O, the wisdom and mercy of God — who can understand His ways? Man still has some sense of justice and righteousness – but again, being carnal-minded, he holds it in unrighteousness! If left to his own, without the threat of justice and punishment; without the law of God; without the restraining hand of the Almighty; without the reality of death and the torments of hell, mankind would long ago have consumed himself. Which sin is it that man is incapable of doing? All the vile acts that we have heard happened throughout history – were they not committed by a man just like you and I? They certainly were not committed by a demon, or a phantom, or some primitive god, were they? Absolutely not! Man would go as far as killing God — he had the chance and he did not hesitate to take it! Man is the chief perpetrator of sin — bound to it as a slave, he is fully mastered by it. And would he be the corrector of such fault? Can man correct his damnable error? How can a slave correct his master? How can sin destroy itself? Man is incapable of righteousness without the intervening Almighty power of Jehovah! Man, I repeat, is dead — dead to righteousness for he is dead in sin. He is dead in his wretched and damnable sin and Divine Justice requires him to rot in hell for all eternity — justifiably so, for man did commit eternal injury upon the commands of God. Hell and destruction are every man’s portion by right of fairness and justice — BUT GOD. Yes, “but God” — what a sweet conjunction we come across in Holy Writ. God is rich in mercy and loving-kindness. He greatly delights in gloriously displaying these to the universe by saving bound men — by setting the slaves of sin free! What a wonder; what a blessing; what Grace. How indebted to God is the man that is set free indeed. It is that freedom that is only found in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who died that His people might be saved. Truly, whom the Son of God sets free is free indeed. Shall you remain in your bondage, O sinner? Shall you not cry out to this great deliverer of slaves; shall you not beg Him on your knees like a man begging for dear life; shall you not turn to Him by faith and ask that He may grant you this freedom? Has He granted you this freedom — be ever thankful for His grace. May God have mercy upon sinners today, in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen!