The Power of Free Will
June 8, 2002 § 6 Comments
Every time I sin, I am amazed that God has chosen to give us free will. I am one who does not believe in predestination. How can I? Every minute of my life, with every decision that I make, I get to choose whether I want to act based on God’s principles, or the principles of pleasure and sin. And these decisions are what make our destiny. In essence, we make our destiny. We decide whether we want to be on God’s side or on the other side.
The teenager who sleeps around and becomes pregnant wasn’t predestined for it. The drunkard who dies of cirrhosis wasn’t predestined for that. The preacher who sins with prostitutes and thus ruins a life’s work of bringing people to God wasn’t predestined for it either.
The king who kills one of his most faithful servants to hide the fact that he has slept with his wife and gotten her pregnant was not predestined for it. That king’s son, who after a life of glory on God’s side, decides to worship idols because his wives coax him into doing it wasn’t predestined for it either. Do you know whom I’m talking about here? They are David and Solomon.
If you strive against sin and ask for God’s help, the Lord will strive with you. But you have free will, which means you can always choose to sin. What you have to understand is that it all goes on in your mind. Your body has nothing to do with it. Your body does whatever your mind lets it do.
Let me tell you what the progression of thought is from righteous living to sin. It goes from “This temptation doesn’t even exist for me, God has changed me so much that I don’t even want to think about it” to “What is this thought doing in mind, it has no place there!” to “My God, please clear my mind of these evil thoughts” to “I have to resist this temptation” to “I’d like to yield to this temptation but I shouldn’t because the Bible says it’s wrong”, and finally to “I cannot possibly resist this temptation, it’s too strong for me”.
The moment when you switch your thoughts from the Lord to yourself, the Lord stops striving with you and you are left to face the sin alone. Then it’s only a matter of time before you commit that sin. Let me make that clearer. The moment you say “I have to resist this temptation”, you are already lost. You have just stopped relying on God and are now relying on yourself. This happens out of reflex, and it’s hard to spot. That’s why I made such a case about watching your thoughts in one of my previous articles entitled “Never Let Go“. Look where relying on yourself has gotten you if you compare your life with God’s mirror, the Ten Commandments, or with the life of Christ. Your life and my life are truly “dirty rags”, as the Bible says. Look where Adam and Eve got by relying on their own powers of reasoning when it came time to resist temptation.
Remember that you are dealing with very smart and superior beings. You are dealing with fallen angels who have been studying you since the moment you were born. They know you better than you will ever know yourself. They have through repeated temptations built inside you chords of sin that they know how to resonate whenever they want. And when these chords resonate, you will not be able to resist temptation UNLESS your focus is away from yourself and pointed to God. It is only by relying on God’s power and mercy that you can overcome sin. It is only by continually thinking on Him and reading His word that you can keep your mind on Him. And when your mind is on Him, your body will also obey.
The key decision, the ONLY decision that you and I have to make is to choose God over temporal inducements such as pleasure, glory and other such things that will not profit you in the long run. Pleasure is by nature a short-lived experience, and you must always seek new pleasure or it soon gets old. Glory is likewise a hungry animal. You must continually feed it or it will end up eating you instead. Every morning, every night, and every time you think about a decision, say this in your mind, or out loud: “I choose God over this world. Lord, please guide my life now and forever.” See what happens over the course of days or weeks. You will be amazed with the results.
But you have to make that decision. God will not make you say it. God cannot make you say it. It is against His nature to force anyone to do anything. You have complete free will. The Lord certainly won’t force you to do good. There are those who believe that you can resist sin by obeying the law, like the Pharisees of old. You cannot gain victory over sin by blind obeisance of the law. You have to obey His law, but you have to truly love it. If you don’t you cannot truly obey it. True obeisance to the law comes from love of God that extends to love of His law. Otherwise it is a yoke upon your neck, a burden to bear.
It’s not, “I shouldn’t do this because the law forbids it.” No! You shouldn’t do something because you can’t even think of committing that act. It is beyond your desires, beyond even your dreams. When the only way you can think of living is through God’s law, then you will be able to resist sin. It is all a state of mind. Instead of playing a game by the rules, you play the game because you love it, all the while respecting the rules. That’s the vital difference between a true Christian, and one who says he is a Christian because he goes to church and reads the Bible.
Do you know what the initial exercise of free will and of love of God’s law was? It happened in the Garden of Eden. It was the simplest test one could devise. But leave it to us to make it complicated. I have read tens of useless and misguided interpretations of this situation. If they have frustrated me, imagine how they could have frustrated God. He made it so simple so we could understand it, yet 6000 years later, most of us still manage to botch it up somehow. Let’s take it from the top.
The only law that God gave to Adam and Eve was they could not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) It doesn’t get simpler than this. The definition of original sin was this: eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why did God choose a tree, or one with fruits for that matter? He didn’t do it so we could become confused, that’s for sure. Look at what the Bible says: “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” (Genesis 2:15) And look at this verse too: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” (Genesis 1:29)
I ask you again: Why did God choose the fruit of a tree? Because Adam and Eve’s diet consisted of fruits and vegetables, and they also worked with and around trees all day long. God wanted them to make a clear decision about Him and His law. He could have chosen as a test of their faith that they could not pick a flower that grew on the top of the highest mountain and only flowered for three days a year, but would that have been a true test? No! This also speaks to those who for thousands of years now have chosen to alienate themselves from humanity so they could better serve God. These would either go into the wilderness or would become monks. Removing yourself from the world, from temptation, is not the answer. If your graduation test from medical school would consist of a single question that asked you for the answer to 2+2, would that qualify you to work as a doctor? No, it wouldn’t.
In much the same way, Adam and Eve needed to prove their faith to God by making a clear decision about which side they were on. They had the power of free will, and what easier way to exercise it than to say no to eating the fruit of a tree? It’s not that they were simpletons and couldn’t handle a harder test. But this test touched them where it mattered: in their daily activities. I hear people complaining of temptation where it matters most, of how they’re tried right where it hurts. Wake up and realize that it’s going to be like that for all of God’s children, young or old! Both God and the devil want you to make a clear decision about which side you’re on, so you’d better be ready! God doesn’t want a half-hearted Christian! God clearly says this: “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelations 3:16) God wants to you make a clear choice for Him. That is why he gave you and me the power of free will. It’s time we all exercised it to the fullest!