Mozzarella sticks are amazing. Those deep-fried string cheese things with gooey insides and crusty outsides are the best appetizers around!
One afternoon, I was hungry and I noticed we had a bag of mozzarella sticks in the freezer. Ignoring the warning from my health class about eating a balanced diet, I had eight mozzarella sticks for lunch.
A few hours later, during my writing time, I felt sick. I lay there on the carpet unable to force my thoughts into coherent sentences, let alone publishable ones. Nothing makes me crankier than when I can’t write, and I was fully aware that it was my fault.
Since that day, I’ve found I have less of a desire for those greasy little things. More importantly, I’ve learned a lesson about what it means to be free.
The four parts of freedom
There are four things a person needs to have complete freedom to do something. John Piper describes this in his message “You Will Know the Truth and the Truth Will Set You Free.”
The first piece is desire. To be free to do something, you have to want it.
- If you desire to read a book, you are free to do it.
- If you do not desire to read a book, you are not free to do it.
Desire is often a driving force behind our decisions. We don’t necessarily need desire to act because we can use willpower, but we wouldn’t enjoy it. Finding joy in what we do is part of being free.
The second thing is opportunity. To be free to do something, it needs to be available to you.
- If you have the opportunity to go to the fall festival, you are free to do it.
- If you do not have the opportunity to go, you are not free to do it.
There are plenty of times I’ve wanted something, but I didn’t have the freedom of opportunity because of time or money. Freedom of opportunity is crucial.
The third element is ability. If you are free to do something, you must be able to do it.
- If you have the ability to drive, you are free to do it.
- If you do not have the ability to drive, you are not free to do it.
This one affects us more when we’re younger. I remember wanting to read and holding a book, but not being able to read without my parents to help me.
The last concept is the most important. It’s when you ask yourself this question:
“If I have the desire, opportunity, and ability to do this, will I be free to do it with no regrets?”
Remember my mozzarella stick story? Let’s go through the checklist:
- Did I have the desire for mozzarella sticks? Yeah, absolutely.
- Did I have the opportunity to eat them? Yes, they were in the freezer.
- Did I have the ability to eat them? Sure. I know how to microwave stuff.
But did I have the freedom to enjoy the mozzarella sticks without regret?
No. I did not. In fact, I felt a lot of regret.
Living a life of no regrets
That was the kicker. I wasn’t completely free to enjoy my mozzarella sticks as a satisfying meal because of the consequences, which were headaches and an upset stomach.
I don’t want to live a life where I have fun in the moment but wake up with regret. I want to be completely free and live a no-regrets life. People might tell you that what the Bible condemns as sin is “no big deal,” but Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.”
Living in sin is not freedom because there will be regret, a second death. Freedom is not living however you want, because there are consequences for your actions. Instead, freedom is living a life free of these consequences.
Freedom and the gospel
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 6:23
There are much more serious regrets someone could have than eating too many mozzarella sticks, but we’re not left to live with regrets. The second part of Romans 6:23 offers us hope. There is a way to live a life without regret. It’s receiving the gift of salvation.
We’ll never be able to make perfect choices because of our sin. The checklist I described above is not a way to live a perfect life because there is no way to live a perfect life. But there is someone who did: Jesus, who was fully God and fully man. He lived a sinless life, died on a cross, and on the third day rose from the dead.
Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” This is a gift of grace.
That’s the most important thing to remember—grace. We will still sin after we receive Christ, but now we are forgiven. The work is finished and the sin is paid for. When you’re a Christian, it’s not that you sin less, but you repent more.
Christians, we know the end of the story. Jesus wins. Take heart, and don’t be afraid. Remember the freedom the gospel gives us. The freedom of grace and mercy, and life of no regrets.