So bear with me as I try to dissect this particular verse and reach to a conclusion on what this could probably mean. I guess, by trying to look at this particular verse, we'd also get to understand if we really do have a choice in our lives and how these choices are operated. I'll probably go to another verse in Proverbs to see where plans and decisions lay.
It seems a bit odd having being considered free yet still called slaves. This is one of the verses that most would point to when they try to explain mans limited freedom of choice. As I have observed through my life that most of the choices that I pick would be the ones that I mostly love. Doesn't even consider the consequences of these choices, as long as I consider it good for me, I'd go for it. I would equate puffing a cigarette after every meal as part of those choice. Let's make a use of that as an example.
A smoker knows what kind of hazards smoking does to our body. I knew what kind of side effects it would give me, for so long I couldn't last and play long minutes in basketball since I couldn't run because of the effects of smoking. I knew that, I loved playing ball, and I loved smoking. As you'd see, I always have a choice of smoking and not smoking... yet, I still choose to smoke. No matter what kind of justifications I have inside my head, that's where I'll go. Same with eating burgers compared to salad. I know I'd rather have burgers since that's what I love to do.
This is what Paul was saying in Romans 7 where we could begin with verse 16 where he writes "Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?". We are obedient to where we present ourselves. I was a slave of myself, my own desires, my own passions and pretty much everything that I thought I needed in life was what controlled every bit of me (Eph 2:1-3). Decisions, choices, actions all of them, obedient to the passions of my heart. It is of the same thing that I couldn't turn to Jesus back then because I was a slave of self, it could be said the same with me not choosing to eat salad because I loved meat, or a vegetarian not considering meat because they love vegetables. I hope I'm clear in this one. This is where I was set free.
"But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were commanded" Romans 7:17
Thanks be to God, that I, who was once a slave of sin, slave of desires without direction, slave of unrighteousness have become aware of God's perfect law that revives the soul (Ps 19:7) and has become obedient of it and has taken delight in it. Oh what turn from hating it to loving it.
Now I notice that... I am a slave of something else. My desires have been changed from the heart, my mind and actions are now more consumed by what the Word directs me to do. I am now a slave of righteousness set free from the slavery of sin. I still have the same choices available. I know that there's still that free choice of choosing to sin or choosing to backslide from where I am. There are still forks present in our journey showing these decisions, narrow path? or wide and gold paved road? Hanging out with your friends for a late night cap with booze, or choosing to hang out with other friends for some clean fun. These choices are there, these choices are still free. The only difference now is that you, your heart, your mind are all in sync in choosing what is right, what you want, what you desire, what you believe would help you more. Set free from the slavery of sin... but now slaves of righteousness.
Are we controlled? By all means no. These are birthed from our own initiative, these is us exercising our freedom of choice. The only difference is that we have a change of heart, surgically operated by God himself to help us out in the choices and decisions that we make (Ezk 36:26).
One of the analogies that I would use here is something that we could all relate to. Courtship. As a single guy, there are alot of choices, as the old saying goes, there are alot of fishes in the sea. You could choose girl-a or girl-b. But the real question here is... do I want to? Now that I feel that my heart has taken joy and delight towards someone else, even if I'm free and allowed to go out, I just choose not to.
I'm free, yet still a slave.
Thanks be to God for that.
I leave with this very verse that I was reading this morning about plans and decisions in Proverbs 16 where in it is written "The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord." We can plan whatever we want, we can have different forks in our hearts, we can have different choices available present in our heart... But the decisions that we make is, as this Proverbs say, is from the Lord. From the God who is able to change our hearts effectively, changing the desires that birth from it.
I hope that this would be clear to you as it has been revealed to me in understanding through my reading of scripture. I hope this made sense to us all as, in a way, we have scraped through what the verse implied. I leave us all with my favorite doxologies found in the New Testament in Jude 24-25.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."