The Utter Ruin of a Man
Proverbs 5:22 "His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins. He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray."
A person is certainly able to freely choose to follow the path of unbelief and sin. What he is not able to choose is the consequences of that choice of unbelief and sin.
G. K. Chesterton said that people never break out into a larger space, they always break out into a smaller one.
The cords of sin bind a man more and more to iniquity. This is God's decree and they cannot escape it. Sin is the judgment upon the sinner for his sin. "Because they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind," is the way Paul puts it in Romans 1.
A man may think he is master of his own mind and is free to think as he chooses, but nothing could be further from the truth. Waves of near insanity sweep over mankind from time to time, fads and customs of thought come and go; men think old, old, follies and imagine themselves very sophisticated and chic, but they are boringly dull. Solomon said years ago, Ec 1:9 "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."
The truth is, man was created to think God's thoughts after Him, as an image. Ps 36:9 "For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light." When we turn from God's light, we think we see, but we see with darkened minds.
The mind was created to see the distinction between the Creator and the creature, but this is exactly where man goes astray. He worships and serves the creature more [rather, or besides] than the Creator.
God is not idle, however when man does this, Paul says. When man does not use the gift of intelligence to see that God is to be worshipped, God darkens the man's mind. Ro 1:28 "And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient [unfit]."
So the poor man, under the wrath of God, has his mind darkened so that he cannot think straight. Unwilling to make the distinction between the Creator and the creation, serving the creation, He more and more becomes unable to make other distinctions, for his mind is corrupt.
The moral and social wicked stew described at the end of Romans 1 is the result of the darkened mind of the wicked rejection of God. He is held by the cords of his sins and cannot deliver himself. Unless God saves him from the his own folly, he will more and more turn to hatred of God and foolishness, ultimately dying without instruction, hating and despising those who try to help him.
He goes astray in the "greatness of his folly."
The result is described in Romans 1:29-32. The reprobate mind is described as:
"Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant1-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."
Faithful pastors and teachers, though warning again and again, can only watch with horror and tears.