Monday, March 6, 2017

A Double-Edged Gift

God gives His people gifts.  Those gifts are (according to Paul) to be used to build up and strengthen God's Church.  But there are even more foundational gifts that are part of the human experience ... part of God's divine imprint.  One of these is a two-edged gift called "Free Will."

Free will is the subject of many theological discussions and much denominational doctrine, but the real issue of free will is that it is a reflection of our divine creation.  In fact this gift is the gift that allows us to truly love and become more Christlike.  Let me unpack that by retelling a Biblical story.

We (Genesis) were made in the image of God.  Jesus expresses this image in a beautiful way as he begins His ministry in the wilderness of temptation.  Satan knows Jesus can do anything He wants, so Satan tells Jesus to exercise His supernatural authority over the physical world, all for the purpose of meeting His physical and spiritual needs.  Rather than exercising His power over these things Jesus chooses to use free will and He chooses not to exercise His divine authority.  He doesn't turn the stones to bread, he doesn't throw Himself down off the temple and He expresses His love for God (and His rejection of worldly power) by choosing to worship and follow God.

This holy attribute returns as Jesus hangs on the cross and his antagonisers tell Him "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down and save yourself."  Instead Jesus chooses (free will) pain, suffering, death and salvation of the people He loves.

How is this relevant to daily life?  Do you ever ask, "If you are God save my friend."  "Jesus, if you are sovereign and all-powerful, make my illness and pain go away."  Jesus often answers these requests with a very quiet and puzzling, "Trust My will!"

It is also relevant when Jesus asks Peter ... "Do you love me?" and when He asks us, "Do you love me?" We can answer that question yes or no because we have been given the gift of free will.  If Jesus compelled the answer and exercised His authority over us He could force that love, but we all know that the very nature of love means it is a free choice.  It is the lyrics of the Billy Joel song that says "And you can have this heart to break."  In His sovereignty God chooses to not exercise His authority over us by giving us the ability to choose to love Him, to follow Him, to lay down our selfish desires for Him and to do what Jesus did for us ... give up our lives freely, willingly and completely.  We can love God or break His heart.

We have been given free will.  We, in God's image, have some divine semblance of authority over the direction of our lives.  God allows this because He wants to be sure our love for Him is our free choice.  And this divine gift also comes with the ability to not choose God.  It is a double edged gift, always most wonderful and beautiful when we choose to give up something we value to receive the most precious thing we could ever have ... Christ.  Randy

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