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"Actions have consequences" is a phrase we are used to hearing. But are we really aware of just how broadly this principle applies? Our choices can make the difference between success and failure in our lives.
"Freedom of choice" is a hallmark of American national identity. Sadly, many do not realize that freedom of choice carries the potential not only for great good in our lives, but also the potential for great harm.
From every choice we make, there are resulting consequences that we must accept. Our lives are ruled by cause and effect. The Creator of the universe has set in motion certain laws, both physical and spiritual, that regulate the world of cause and effect.
We all know about the laws of physics, which affect how physical objects interact. When we drop something heavier than air, gravity ensures that it hits the ground. Gravity is always in effect, whether we "believe" in it or not. If you drop a bowling ball on your bare foot, the law of gravity does not care if your action was accidental; you will still be hurt. Yet just because the law of gravity can be an agent of harm, it does not follow that the law is inherently harmful. That same law of gravity ensures that, when you go out to your driveway in the morning, your car has not drifted off into space because of the blowing wind.
Similarly, God has established spiritual laws. Like gravity, these laws are concrete and stable, and they "work" whether or not we believe in them. Like gravity, these laws themselves are invisible, but their effects are equally real. They affect how people interact with each other, and with their Creator.
When someone tries to ignore the law of gravity, the effect will quickly be visible. When someone tries to ignore God's spiritual laws, the effects are just as real, though they may take longer to notice. Instead of a bowling ball on a broken foot, ignoring God's spiritual law can lead to broken marriages, shattered relationships, failed jobs and even ruined lives.
What are these spiritual laws? God has summarized them in ten principles widely known as the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1–17).
What might happen if you were to violate the first four commandments? What if you were to have the "almighty dollar" as your god, line your walls with idols, use God's name in vain continually, and conduct business even on God's weekly Sabbath of rest? Would you feel the pain immediately, the way you would feel a bowling ball crashing on your foot? Maybe, but maybe not. You might for a while believe that you were getting away with "disobeying" God's spiritual law, but there would be penalties. Whether or not you even knew about these spiritual laws, by violating them you would be keeping God from being actively engaged in your life, where He could intervene and bless you.
The same is true for the next six commandments, which govern human relationships. What if you were to disrespect your parents, murder those who got in your way, become unfaithful to your spouse, steal your neighbor's car, lie to your boss and lust after every person or possession you see? Would you feel the pain right away? Maybe, but maybe not. Yet, sooner or later, you would pay the penalty—and your life would be miserable as a result.
God's spiritual laws are a blueprint for human happiness. They are in effect, just like gravity, whether or not you choose to "believe" in them.
These laws of cause and effect are real, and they can operate for your benefit or harm. God said, "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days" (Deuteronomy 30:19–20).
Each of us has the "freedom to choose" whether or not we will follow God's spiritual laws. But just as our lives would be filled with problems if we stubbornly tried to deny the law of gravity rather than use it for our benefit, so too will we experience true freedom only when we choose to follow God's spiritual laws—and we experience the blessings that come from obedience instead of the penalties for breaking those laws.