FREE WILL

(July 25, 2021) Robert and Maureen McQuillan discourage blaming God and others…

Free will… there’s a catchphrase that often come up conversations with Christians over concern about the evil in our world and wars, bad judgments, murders, family distresses, terrorism, Holocaust type atrocities, drug taking, alcoholism, the quickness to sin, Christians including ministers falling from grace, the current covid-19 crisis… and other sad happenings.

Regarding bad choices, so often, when trying to offer explanations, hope and comfort, Christians usually say, ‘Well it all gets back to God allowing us to have free will… in our humanity we either choose to do or say the right thing or not.’

Now that’s true… but at times it comes across that we’re blaming an unthoughtful creator! The reality is that when God created humanbeings in his own image back in Eden, Adam and Eve could have made the right choice, and sin would not have become a dangerous reality and the world would not be in the mess it’s in!

Hold it…
Even as we mustn’t even consider accusing God, let’s not dump blame at Adam and Eve’s feet either!

Their big slip-up is in the past, decades ago… we’re in the present and need to readily accept our responsibilities to make the right choices today!

And… such responsibility of making right choices needs to be reinforced not only to the world in general but in the church.

Their big slip-up is in the past, decades ago… we’re in the present and need to readily accept our responsibilities to make the right choices today!

And… such responsibility of making right choices needs to be reinforced not only to the world in general but in the church.

  • ‘We all have free will – and with that comes great responsibility’ (Harold Finch, unique machine inventor portrayed by Michael Emerson in TV’s Person of Interest, to which his senior agent Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in The Passion adds, ‘Sometimes great loss.’).

Good parents teach their children to think, pray, say and do the right thing. Likewise pastors and Bible teachers need to emphasise this foundational principle to their people as a certain carelessness has crept into the church and Christian’s lives.

Paul’s challenge
Paul’s pastor’s heart for leaders was strong: ‘I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers?’ (1 Corinthians 5:12Mge).

The apostle’s 1 Thessalonians 5:12Mge direction called for commitment not only by leaders but by those hearing them: ‘And now, friends, we ask you to honour those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience.’

Back in Eden, God laid down the rule of responsibility… he gave Adam the responsibility of looking (shamar…protect, guard) after the garden and freedom to eat of any tree except a special one (Genesis 2:15-17). That protection would have included his wife.

It was a matter of honouring the creator and his work. God’s first couple ignored their responsibility and disobeyed and, as they say in the classics, the rest is history!

Unfortunately, Adam and Eve both made the wrong choice. (Hey, guys… don’t be like Adam, blaming Eve or even like Eve blaming the devil!). Sadly, many human beings have been doing similarly ever since – even unwise, unthinking Christians today who don’t seek God or wise counsel from experienced friends!

Jesus example
He was human too! Life wasn’t rosy-dozy, easy-peasy in Jesus’ time on earth. There was trouble all around… not just strong Roman Empire control but corruption, shallow religion, dictatorial religious leaders, easy virtue, treachery, followers unsure of themselves and of Jesus, greed, avarice, sexual immorality, temptations and satanic deceptions.

Yes, the devil had it in for the Lord too. As a human Jesus faced situations where he had to make choices. Scripture recounts that he always made the right ones, even the one that led him to Calvary. He knew ‘his rights’ but chose to put God’s commands first, honouring his Father’s wishes.

Remember how in Matthew 4 Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness and was tempted by Satan? Interestingly the Message Bible regards this tempting as ‘The Test’ adding in verse one that ‘The devil was ready to give it.’

Verse two tells of one of Jesus’ great build-ups for challenge – ‘Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights.’

Despite his ensuing extreme hunger, Satan’s goading and sly usage of certain scripture, Jesus acted responsibly and went for the right choice – he refused to yield to mischief, deceits, wrong choices and blatant temptation about power.

In the end his refusal was curt: ‘Beat it, Satan! (v10Mge)’ He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness’ (Deuteromony 6:13).

‘Serve’ and ‘single-heartedness’ indicate ‘ministering to the Lord as an act of worship.’ Being responsible in correct-free will decision-making is an act of worship! No wonder Matthew 4:11Mge records Satan’s hasty departure: ‘The Test was over. The devil left.’

Frequent responsibility
Get the picture?

Jesus only put up with temptations for a short while, then he strongly dealt with them. His free will choice on these occasions was not to benefit himself – it was primarily to honour and glorify his Father.

It so happened that not only was the enemy defeated but as Jesus’ followers, we too can take great responsibility and make right decisions. Matthew 6:33 promises that ‘He will give you everything you need.’ This must surely include right-decision-making help.

Of all the remarkable statements the human Jesus’ made, is one about choice and is outstanding… ‘… my life… I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down’ (John 10:17-18 Mge). He deliberately chose to put God’s will ahead of his own.

Free will… choice! Great responsibility is an amazing thing that God gave humankind. We can do whatever we want… but responsibility ensures we don’t abuse, we can make wise and balanced choices. It’s really a matter of laying down what ‘tickles our fancy’ and what we want: Choosing the better good.

This ‘right’ to lay down is akin to prostrating on the ground, throwing something off, getting rid of. We recall the scene from The Passion where Satan as a snake is tempting God’s Son. Suddenly, having had enough, Jesus (actor Jim Caviezel) forcefully stomps his foot squashing the serpent!

As well as being a graphic reminder of Genesis 3:15, it’s a very picturesque way of ‘prostrating’ – determinately laying down, dealing with – something that could have had him doing his own thing, taking Easy Street as it were, diverted from God’s will.

Our free will choices must line up with honouring God’s will. Repeatedly this will mean ignoring Easy Street decisions and travelling the Road of Hard Knocks – but, like Jesus, with the Holy Spirit’s supernatural help.

Seeming losses
Scripture speaks quite a bit of responsibility. Peter indicates it is a trait of God and adds a warning – ‘You call out to God for help and he helps – he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living. Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God’ (1 Peter 1:17Mge).

Responsibility and making right decisions on this journey of life calls for best actions: ‘Each one should carry their own load’ (Galatians 6:5).

Mr Finch’s statement above infers that at times taking responsibility may involve losing out – at least it may seem that way.

Oh we could talk about those times we make the right decision to put others first, causing us to lose promotion; giving away valuable assets and losing the pleasure of having them as our own; contributing needy finance resulting in doing without something we had wanted; making do without something so that someone benefits; and such.

Personally, we’ve done such acts of generosity. Did we lose out? Only for a moment! We learned a long time ago to make right decisions and then let them all go, discovering that our generous Father made it up in incredibly different, even overwhelming ways!

Really, we never lost anything. But the key is this: We never did anything on the basis of ‘giving to get.’ That’s another false teaching perpetrated by some Bible teachers and hyper churches!

Jesus, the most selfless of all
In the end, Jesus’ examples always remain the best!

Paul highly honours his great commitment to honour the Father: ‘Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion’ (Philippians 2:8).

For Jesus, his decision to choose Calvary meant shame, belittlement, loss of friends, torture and agony. But Isaiah 50:7 speaks of his determination: ‘I’m not disgraced. Therefore I set my face like flint, confident that I’ll never regret this.’

And he didn’t! He arose triumphant over death and all his foes to birth his church and send the Holy Spirit! To change the world, to bring joy to countless and guarantee a new future for all who follow him.

Remember Jesus’ blunt words of Luke 14:27 (below)? A reminder of that Genesis 2:15-17 shamar – be careful to guard, protect – direction?

Maybe ‘Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple’ includes taking responsibility and making right decisions – even if we sometimes appear to lose out.

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Dr Robert and Maureen McQuillan’s links are
OnlinerConnect@gmail.com and Facebook (Scripture/other emphases in this Onliner ours. Appreciated images/pics: various general sources). Link: Geraldine Brandt’s Abiding in the Vine / Jim McClure’s Truth or Dare
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3 comments

  1. Hello Robert, you’re still on fire my friend. I love that point about ‘giving to get… a false teaching’ and it surely is! There is actually a biblical principle involved here, namely, sowing-and-reaping; nothing wrong with that except on Sunday mornings when a ‘sowing and reaping message is given, disguised as a giving message’ – it happens all the time. Love and regards to you and Maureen. Peter Fitz

    1. Tnx, Peter… appreciate you. You’re right re your point about falsly disguised Sunday ‘giving’ messages. Blessings!

  2. It will not come as a surprise when I say this article reminds me of a 1989 song ‘You’re a winner’ by Ernie and Debby Rettino (Psalty) ‘with the Lord you’re a winner even when you lose; cause the standards not a score, but the fact you choose, to do right, to serve God and to give your all, even when you fall, he forgives and you win.’

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