CHOICES {PART 1}: Freedom to Choose

CHOICES {PART 1}: Freedom to Choose

“Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”—Romans 14:13 NIV

There’s a saying floating around the internet, I’m not sure where it originated but it speaks truth in volumes for so few words, it goes something like:

“We have the freedom to choose, but not the freedom to choose the consequences of those choices.”

Growing up I wasn’t allowed to make many choices, it was just a matter of doing what my parents told me to do because either “The Bible says so” or “I’m your parent and I say so”. Neither of those answers pleased me much, nevertheless, I complied. I was afraid of the consequences of not complying. I was afraid of the belt, afraid of my parent’s disapproval. So, out of fear (not freedom) I obeyed. However, once I turned sixteen, I began to realize my parents had less control over my choices, and I could get away with a lot of things without them knowing (I had my own job and car, and with that came some added “freedoms”). Of course, as a sixteen year old with raging hormones, not many, if any, of my choices were well thought out.

It didn’t take more than a few “bad” choices before I became overwhelmed with shame, a real “failure” as a Christian. No longer was I the compliant, obedient “good girl”, but the rebellious, self-centered “prodigal”. Instead of repentance, my shame led me farther into the pit of stupidity, until nearly a decade later when I found myself pregnant, living in a shack of a home (no running water, windows broken out, roof falling apart…etc.) with my boyfriend. When sharing my testimony I often start with this scene because that is what God used to catapult a major life change in me.

Did I want my daughter to grow up with an eating disorder? Did I want her having sex with whomever she pleased on any given day? Did I want her contracting STDs? Did I want her growing up so insecure she felt the only answer was to take a blade and cut her body? Did I want her to decide one day that suicide was the only reasonable choice? Did I want her to turn to drugs to ease her pain? Did I want her turning out like me? Did I want her spending an eternity separated from God because I never taught her the truth about Him? The answer to those questions was a resounding, NO!

I knew if there was any hope for my daughter, I was in fact the one who needed to change. I knew she would follow my example, and that is the last thing I wanted. So, over the years following, God changed my heart one issue at a time. However, despite having a change of heart and re-committing my life to following God, I still continued to make dumb choices (and still do). Some of these choices have had catastrophic consequences (more on that will be discussed in later posts). It really is a miracle that, despite my ignorance, my husband is now a Christian, and our marriage is stronger than it’s ever been. It very easily could have ended much differently.

One of the things I struggle with is an eating disorder (began 16 years ago) and intense insecurity. Understanding who I am in Christ has gone a long way in helping with those issues, nevertheless, I still struggle. One of the things that triggers anxiety and temptation to revert back to the eating disorder is wearing revealing or tight clothes. The insecurity is so intense, that despite living in Arizona where the summers often reach 120 degrees, I wear pants all the time (unless I am swimming, which I will only do in the presence of good, trusted friends, and even then, I wear shorts). I usually wear baggy t-shirts as well. I hate the feeling of clothes on my skin. (It’s hard to explain or understand unless you’ve had an eating disorder).

I’ve prayed about this issue repeatedly, as it gets to be quite tiresome dealing with such emotions and anxiety (even something as simple as eating a meal can turn into an emotional ordeal if I let my focus shift from the truth of God’s word). The Holy Spirit produced and answer that, after careful contemplation (asking the questions near the end of this post), I decided to implement. Dress differently. Novel concept, I know. For me, that meant wearing long, modest skirts instead of jeans, shorts, or pants.

Now, some of you may be thinking, “Great, another ultra conservative nut-job who thinks it’s a sin to wear pants”. Actually, no, that is not the case. I don’t believe God is too concerned with what we are wearing, other than it needs to be modest (not causing a “brother” to stumble). Pants, shorts, whatever, I don’t really care what you wear, that’s between you and God. But for me, the long skirts are a personal conviction that has nothing to do with whether or not is a “sin” for a female to wear pants. So please, no comments about that. (And no, I am not forcing my daughter to wear skirts. I explained why I was chose to do so, and told her she could decide for herself what she wanted to do. My only requirement for her clothing is that it be modest.)

When it comes to making choices, from the clothing we wear, the food we eat, or the type of activities we engage in, we must recognize our freedom to choose while also understanding we do not have the freedom to choose the consequences of those choices.

“’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.”—1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love…For I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”—Galatians 5:13, 16

In a nutshell, we all have free will. God gives us His word to protect us, but it is our choice whether or not to read it and follow it. For many years I chose to ignore it, and for the rest of my life I will have to experience the consequences of my “free will”. I can’t undo the consequences, some of which have deeply affected my family. Our consequences will affect others, either positively or negatively. These days I am erring on the side of caution. For some this may come across as being too “uptight”. But, I know that I am making these choices because of my freedom, not to obtain freedom or acceptance from God or others.

Will we use our freedom to choose to encourage others, help others, love others, and serve others, or will we use it to serve and please ourselves? Coming back to the example of clothing, by choosing to dress modestly, I am accomplishing a few things: first and foremost I am no longer dealing with the anxieties and temptations I dealt with wearing other types of clothing. I am more comfortable and more relaxed. As an added bonus, I am protecting others from “stumbling” by doing my best in covering what needs to be covered and leaving everything to the imagination (as opposed to leaving nothing to the imagination, as it seems the majority of women, even Christians, are doing these days). My body is for my husband, not for anyone else. But again, this is a personal conviction, not a “rule” for everyone to follow. I have peace knowing I am doing all that I can to protect myself from temptation and others as well. I am also setting a good example for my daughter, showing her that she is more than a pretty face or a good body; she should be noticed and appreciated for her character, not her appearance.

While this is just one example, the principles that led to this choice apply to any choice we can make. My dad used to tell me, “When in doubt, do without”. That little phrase has come in handy, especially now that I am committed to following God’s plan for my life. From major choices to seemingly insignificant ones, we can be assured of making the right choice if we:

1) Seek God’s word on the issue first and commit to following his Word (after all, He wants to protect us from the consequences of bad choices, which is why He gave us His word!)
2) Pray about what God would have us do (if this is not already made clear in his word)
3) Ask and answer honestly a few questions about the choice:

●Will it hurt me or anyone else?
●Is there any possibility this choice could be a “stumbling block” to someone else?
●Does this choice encourage me and those around me to think on what is good, lovely, pure, and acceptable (Phil. 4:8)?
●Do I have peace about this choice?
●Am I shining God’s light, love, and truth to the world through this choice?
●Am I making a choice I would want my child (or loved one) to make?

If you have any doubts about your decision, “do without”. In other words, say “no” and trust God has something better in mind for you. Pray for patience and wisdom to make the right choices, the ones that will reap consequences of joy, not sorrow.

 

 

**NOTE: This was not intended to be a post about modesty or clothing; that is simply a recent example from my life I chose to use as an illustration. Please do not feel the need to defend your choice of clothing to me. Truthfully, I don’t care what you choose to wear or do. It really is between you and God. My choice is a personal one, and that’s the extent of it. I am merely sharing my journey and experience as I stumble through life attempting to walk in grace the best I know how.**

 

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I will be continuing this series on choices in much greater detail, if you haven’t already, please enter your email under the “Follow” tab to receive new posts in your inbox. No spam! Just new posts, (usually two to four posts a month at most). If you found this website to be of encouragement to you, please share it with your friends!

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If You Really Want the World to Change, it Starts with This

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach the transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.” Psalm 51:12-13

After Nathan confronted King David regarding his sin with Bathsheba, David’s spiritual eyes were open to the bondage he had been held to for nearly a year’s time. His sin had left a gaping wound in his relationship with God, and during this time he experienced a void where God’s presence and peace should have been. When David finally came to a place of repentance he was changed from the inside out. He was released from the bondage of rebellion, lust, envy, and deception, among other things.

But David’s repentance didn’t just serve to restore his own relationship with God. In being released from the bondage of sin and once again experiencing God’s perfect peace and freedom (life to the full, see John 10:10), sinners were brought to redemption. First, his own joy of salvation needed to be restored, then he was enabled to teach others the truth, and only then were sinners restored to God.

We live in an age where the Church is hyper-focused on the behavior of the world, when it should be hyper-focused on the spiritual health of its members. We have churches full of people anxious and willing to serve, yet these same Christians have unwilling spirits when it comes to personal repentance. Yes, we can teach the truth of the Word even while living in bondage, but the impact will not be as effective as it was meant to be. In order to see the revival we so long for in our society, we need Christians asking God for a willing heart; a heart willing to uncover any bondage of pride, bitterness, fear, anxiety, depression, self-pity, legalism, double-mindedness, inconsistency, criticism of others, malicious attitudes, and impure motives. A heart that wants to experience the fullness of the joy of the salvation it proclaims to others.

Imagine if believers not only taught about the value of life, but demonstrated it with their own actions. Maybe then the issues of abortion and suicide would start to be impacted in a positive way. Instead, we have Christians preaching about the sanctity of life, while failing to even treat their own temples with respect and care. Never mind what our poor examples are teaching our children about their own value in God’s eyes. Really, the way society is should not surprise us. We’re stuffing our faces with Big Macs and preaching about the sanctity of life at the same time. Do we really believe we are fearfully and wonderfully made and that our bodies are temples? Our behavior gives us away every time.

And how often do we preach of racial tolerance, yet some churches are still segregated by race (this has always baffled me)?

Or we’re quick to boycott the next business that supports gay marriage, because we believe homosexuality is against God’s plan, yet many Christians fail to even ask God what His plan is for their own lives—nor do they care. They’d rather do what they want and ask God to bless it. No bother of His plan for us to forgive each other, live in peace, and be united in Christ. Instead, we can hate each other, tear each other down, gossip and slander each other, then go and tell the world to follow God’s will or go to hell.

Only when Christians experience life to the full will the lost be reconciled. It’s up to each of us, as believers, to commit to believing the truth and experiencing the freedom we were created for on a daily basis. It starts with us, and that influence spreads to others, one person at a time. Experiencing freedom as individual Christians will impact the lives of others. People will see our peace and joy despite our circumstances, and they will want that for themselves. We need Christians with integrity to rise up and speak (in love) to each other. Instead of calling the world out, we should call each other out. The problem is not the world—we cannot hold the world to a standard (the Bible) it has not accepted as authority. The problem is with the Church and its members who are living in bondage. The world sees no difference in the believer, and therefore no need to live by the rules that believer proclaims. Sure, the world sees Christians who attend church and preach a lot, but do they see Christians really living in peace? Or just believers who live to point fingers? This needs to change! It starts with each of us, one at a time, choosing to live by the truth minute by minute, day by day, despite our feelings and circumstances.

Living free and full of joy and peace is an attractive way of life, something the world is desperately searching for. Let’s stand together as warriors for truth, proclaiming it with our lives (not more religious duties but more sincere and godly attitudes), not just our words. Perhaps the next wave of revival will be ushered in by a group of people who made a choice to follow and actually believe the words of Jesus once and for all—no turning back, no turning back. Choose to believe God’s truth today, and don’t look back!

“He has put a new song in my mouth…many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

“Let everything you do reflect the integrity of your teaching.” Titus 2:7b, NLT

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

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