Free will is God’s gracious gift to man. We can choose either to obey Him or reject His ways. However, having made our choice, we cannot choose the consequences of our decision.
At conversion, the believer becomes a new creation. His ‘spirit man’ becomes new. His mind has to be progressively renewed. His body wastes away and will only become brand new at the rapture. What about his will—the ability to choose between right and wrong?
Sometimes we think that, as a result of the new birth, every part of our lives becomes brand new.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
While it is true that we have died to our old self and now we have new goals, values, worldview and lifestyle, we still retain the privilege of exercising our free will. In other words, our will remains neutral after conversion.
And we can still fall into sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).
The ability to choose is God’s precious and gracious gift to us. Even after we have become believers, we can choose between pleasing self or God. We can choose between good and evil.
Freedom of choice is something that remains with us even after we have become believers. God does not turn us into robots or automatons.
From the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, the privilege of volition (free will) has always been with man. Adam and Eve sinned because they chose to listen to the voice of satan who deceived them into thinking that they “will not die” but will “be like God” if they took the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:4-5).
Isn’t it clear throughout the Bible that God grants man the privilege of free will?
- “Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
- And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21)
- Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
- Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, (Colossians 3: 5, 12)
When tempted, we can either take the path of least resistance or resist evil. Adam was attracted by the forbidden fruit and fell because he took the easy path. However, the last Adam (Christ), through prayer, resisted the temptation of putting His own comfort above God’s will. He chose the excruciating death on the cross for our sins.
A word of caution, directed especially to youths. When we are young, we have lots of energy. We can make many varied choices in life. We can make good or bad moral choices. We can mix with the right or wrong crowd. We can go to the places which build your character or to sleazy joints. Yes, we have to make sure that we choose well.
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. (Ecclesiastes 11:9)
I am not implying at all that we can stay strong spiritually by sheer will power. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak. We need to watch and pray that we may not enter into temptation (Matthew 26:41). In fact, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to resist temptation.
The book of Proverbs repeatedly warns against sexual promiscuity. It offers fatherly advice to men to resist the enticement of the wayward woman lest they suffer loss both in this world and the world to come. They are to run away from the scene of temptation; to linger on, trying to resist temptation, would be futile (Proverbs 5: 1-12). Choosing to run away would be the best course of action to take, just like Joseph’s fleeing from the temptation of Potiphar’s wife.
It will be a grievous mistake to assume that the believers’ will is made completely new at conversion and that, in our faith journey, we will never fall away, deny God or give up our faith. To think in this manner is to breed complacency and set ourselves up for deception.
For many believers—even great leaders—have fallen. And many more believers will continue to fall if they persist in embracing these false beliefs:
- that their will has been completely renewed at the point of conversion.
- that free will is unimportant and has no part to play in their lives.
To reiterate, though our ‘spirit man’ has been made new at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17), our will remains neutral. We can still fall into immorality just like the Exodus crowd if we are not vigilant (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). Even the great apostle Paul had to exercise discipline in the spiritual race so that he will not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27). We can still deny God even though we have been believers for many years (2 Timothy 2: 12-13, 2 Peter 2:20).
Whether they are men or angels, all of God’s creation can choose to obey Him or rebel against Him. But this freedom of choice comes with a catch. Those who rebel against His authority will be held accountable. They will have to face judgment eventually (Jude 1:5-7).
Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:5-7).
God has been most gracious to us by giving us freedom of choice. As believers, we still retain this privilege of exercising our free will. We can choose either to obey Him or reject His ways. However, having made our choice, we cannot choose the consequences of our decision.
RESIST, FLEE, CELEBRATE, BE EMPOWERED, RECOGNISE THE HEAVY PRICE OF SEXUAL SIN.
A clear understanding of the ongoing battle between the “old man” and “new man” is essential before we can walk in victory.
In light of the pressure faced by persecuted Christians in the Middle East, this is an important question that needs to be asked.
Note: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (Dec 2008 – Oct 2011). He can be reached at his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AskDrLi
SOURCE OF ARTICLE: http://limpohann.blogspot.my/2015/04/choosing-wisely.html
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Dr Lim Poh Ann