Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Only Free Will.....

...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
- Rom 5:3-5

This past weekend Megan and I were the keynote speakers/performers at a marriage retreat near Houston.   After the performance we met with many in the crowd to encourage them, pray with them and have them ask questions of us.  Near the end of our time together I noticed a man against the wall looking as if he was working up the courage to approach us.   I walked towards him, introduced myself and asked him how he was.

His lip trembled as he explained how, as a former addict, he'd identified with my testimony of God's goodness to me in the midst of my addiction.   I learned how deeply thankful he was to have been sober for 3 years and that he owed any and all credit for his sobriety to his relationship with Jesus Christ who had overcome his bound will.

We agreed that Christ now frees us to hearts of thanksgiving for our former addictions.   After all our addictions had helped us to understand our helplessness apart from God's Spirit.  That as addicts we had indeed been poor in spirit and were, consequently, in a perfect posture to be blessed by God.

The Apostle Paul writes of the reality of sin in our lives and the only deliverer from the cycle of dependence upon our own ability to affect our pitiful state....

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! 
- Rom 7:21-25

This false idea of "free-will" is a real threat to salvation, and a delusion fraught with the most perilous consequences. 
- Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will

So many Christian addicts understand what Luther writes above: that the will is not free.   How many times have we heard, "God loves you so much that He wanted you to choose Him.  So He gave you free will"?   This is, in part, quite true.  God does love us and He does want us to choose Him but tucked within this pleasant-sounding teaching is a heavy dose of  "the law" (read another yoke of slavery to self).  It's subtle but it renders the teaching ultimately unhelpful. to both evangelism and discipleship.   

In his omnipotence and omniscience He also knows that we are unable to choose him because we are enslaved to sin.  Yet the "free will"  teaching assumes my salvation depends on my choosing to love God.  But how can I love what I have no power to understand?

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
  - 1 Cor. 2:14

Paul was first overwhelmed by the love of God who chose Him, giving him a new identity (and a new name) and lavishing him with mercy and grace in the midst of his persecution of Christians.    Likewise when I finally came to Christ it was because I was compelled.   I could no longer resist His grace.  It was irresistible.  This is The Gospel: Christ came to save helpless sinners.

Sean and I agreed that instead of loving God enough to choose Him, we found ourselves being so overwhelmed by God's love in the midst of our brokenness that our will for evil was finally overcome. We had been captured by His grace.   He'd poured His will into us by the power of His Spirit.   There was not some little piece of goodness in me that yearned for Him and invited Him in.   He did it all!

If we believe that Christ redeemed men by His blood, we are forced to confess that all of man was lost; otherwise, we make Christ either wholly superfluous, or else the redeemer of the least valuable part of man only; which is blasphemy, and sacrilege. 
- Martin Luther, The Bondage of The Will

The only truly free will belonged to Jesus Christ who laid it down doing the will of His Father in Heaven and becoming on the cross the propitiation for our sins.    Now being loved by Him no longer depends on the impossible (our choosing God).   Instead, though we are helpless to love Him, others or ourselves, He has chosen us before the beginning of time to be His very own.  

May we stop trying to choose Him and start relying on His having chosen us.


PS - For an abridged version of Luther's The Bondage of The Will go here.

This Week 

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday AM
   Chapters 15-19 of The Screwtape Letters
   2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* Couples Bowling Night - Green Acres Bowl, Friday @ 8pm
    RSVP to mpmagill@gmail.com

* The Magills featuring The In-Laws & Out Laws @ Ben Wheeler's The Moore's Store Saturday Night @ 7pm - 13 and older show 

Next Week
Our men's group will be taking a road trip to Dallas to see Tim Keller at Park Cities Presbyterian Church.   Let me know if you plan on attending!


No comments:

Post a Comment