Free Will

By:  Staci Stallings

Expanding upon what we’ve been talking about, namely the two trees in the Garden of Eden and what they can teach us, we look today at the concept of free will.

First, let’s review.  In the Garden, there were two trees:  The Tree of Life (Tree of God) and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Tree of Me).  Adam and Eve chose to not rely on God by eating from the Tree of Me–my plans, my agenda, my strength, my effort.  And so do we.  This is the fundamental sin of mankind.  It’s called Pride.  I will do it myself.  I do not need God.

When Adam and Eve committed this sin, God banished them from the Garden and set up a barrier so they could not get back to the Tree of Life.  Jesus Christ came and died on a cross, which created a bridge across that barrier from us having to do it ourselves to being able to once again rely on the Providence of God.  The bridge Jesus created became the crossbar of the cross and on that cross bar are:  forgiveness, grace, mercy, and God’s love.  These, in accord with Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself, save us from being doomed to a life of living on our own that is mortal and will die.  To a life that is filled with joy and light and peace and happiness living once again as we were meant to, staying at the Tree of Life.

Very good.

So where does “free will” fit into this?

Here is the picture I draw for my Sunday School Class:

Now a lot of people get free will wrong.  They think it means, “God lets me do whatever I want.”  To one extent that is true, God will let you do “whatever you want”–right or wrong, but the choice is simpler and more profound than that.  You see, some people think that the whatever-I-want choice is between good things and bad things.

For example, “I can help my neighbor or I can go shoot someone.”  Okay, now I’m hoping you know that one of those is “right” and one is “wrong.”  But here’s the thing:  You can do the right thing for the wrong reason… and STILL be wrong!

How?  Well, let’s look at the story of the two men in the Temple.  The one, the tax collector, had stolen from everyone.  He was vilified and hated by many.  He was seen as a cheat and a liar.  Obviously setting him on the side of darkness and sin (the Tree of Me).  The other man in the Temple LOOKED really good on the outside.  He tithed.  He prayed.  He fasted.  Oh, he looked really good.  But the truth is that he too was on the side of sin (the Tree of Me).

See, what we miss is that the second tree is not the Tree of EVIL, as in, so as long as you’re not doing evil, you’re okay.  No.  It’s the Tree of the Knowledge of GOOD and Evil.  That means that you could be doing GOOD things and still be stuck in the sin of pride.

How, so?  That doesn’t make sense.  Oh, yes, it does.

God doesn’t want us to do good things on our own effort.  He doesn’t want us to do good things for Him and bring them to Him like some kind of bribe for letting us into His Kingdom.  His Kingdom is not built on OUR effort.  It’s build upon HIM.  Not us.

What God wants is for us to cross that bridge of His Son, admit how fallen we are, be humble to know that all good things come from God and only God, and orient our whole life around just staying close to that Tree of Life, recognizing that we’re not the ones in charge and we’re not the ones doing the good things in our lives.  God is.

Good for good sake is a trap.  It will drain you of all energy running around trying to do all of these good things for God.  It will bring you, eventually, to the point of giving up because you can’t do all good things on your own.  It’s not possible.  It will make you resent God and everyone else. If you try, you will feel defeated and worthless and like a failure, and nothing you do will feel like enough.  Now I ask you, does that LOOK like what God wants for our lives?  No.  He says He wants us to be “at rest.”  How can we possibly do that if we’re running around doing good things out of fear of God punishing us if we don’t?  Answer:  WE CAN’T.

This is where free will comes in.

Free will is literally the choice of which tree are you going to eat off of (live off of)?  Are you going to try to go it on your own, trying to do enough good things and be good enough to try to convince God you deserve Heaven?

I’ll tell you what happened to the self-righteous man in the Temple who thought he was living right by doing all good things–he walked away unjustified by God!  That’s scary.  The man who thought he was doing all of these great things for God was NOT in fact living in God’s Kingdom.  He was still an outcast.  He just didn’t know it!

Look at the other man, the tax collector.  He threw himself at God’s feet and begged for mercy and forgiveness.  He knew he was a sinner.  He knew he was nothing on his own, and God forgave him… and justified him in the sight of God.  That means he walked in on one side of the barrier and because he stopped trying to do it all himself, recognized that he couldn’t, and begged for God to save him, he crossed that bridge and came out in God’s Kingdom!

Free will is the gift of choosing:  Where are you going to live?  In Heaven or in Hell?  In light or in darkness?  On God’s Provision or on your own devices?

Make that choice wisely for it will affect you at this moment and all the way to and through eternity!

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2 Responses to Free Will

  1. Do we have free will in Heaven?

    If not, then how can we think it’s a good thing?

    If we do, can we disobey God while in Heaven? What happens? The metaphorical trap door opens and we go to Hell?

    (These are serious questions.)

    • I’m an “authority” only in the things that I’ve been blessed enough to experience here on earth through the Grace of God, so take my answers as my “best guess” rather than as some definitive statement from God Himself…

      I believe that we do have free will in Heaven. The only difference is that Heaven is the state where your free will is so aligned with God’s that petty differences and even major differences with others and God won’t matter because we will see as God sees rather than through our own very limited perspective. Let me give you a short example. Recently I had someone in authority pull the rug out from under something I had worked very hard to accomplish. Now from my limited perspective I could have gotten very angry, thrown up my hands, quit, and really let him have it. Instead, because I’ve been practicing living on God’s grace in my own life, I backed up, cooled my jets, and realized that I didn’t have all of the pieces of this puzzle. I breathed and consciously focused on trusting God for what HE wants in this situation rather than what I want. Did it resolve to my liking? Not yet. Will it? I don’t know. But I can tell you my spirit is at peace with however it turns out because I realize this is not up to me. It’s up to God, and I trust HIM.

      I believe THAT is Heaven.

      The choice between Heaven and Hell is not really something GOD chooses for us, i.e. I do something “bad” so He dismisses me via the trapdoor to Hell. I believe it is US that removes ourselves from God. We choose not to rely on Him and thus remove ourselves from His presence. As to if that is permanent on the other side? I don’t know. I’m not there yet.

      And yes, free will IS a good thing. Do you think it’s a good thing if someone is forced to love someone else? Is that love? I don’t think it is. That’s, I think, why God gave us free will. He doesn’t want us to have to love Him. He wants us to WANT to love Him… here and in Heaven. It’s just that in Heaven, knowing more and understanding more than we do here, we will WANT to love Him more than we do here. So why is there a here? I think it’s the story of Doubting Thomas. We are removed from God’s physical presence for a period of time so that the choice is not overwhelmingly in His favor. So the choice truly is free.

      I will tell you this, from my own experience, staying close to God because I WANT to rather than because I feel like I HAVE to has made all the difference in my life. I’ve tried it both ways, and this way is a WHOLE LOT BETTER!

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