“How can I live a better life?”
This theme had dominated my priorities since getting to know God. I could see how a healthy life, utilizing advice on psychology, diet and work, among other things provided in the Bible, had benefited my friends, mentors and many throughout history. I wanted this for myself. I wanted a clear mind, I wanted energy, I wanted diligence in my studies, I wanted kindness and patience towards others and the ability to help where I could.
And this is where my confusion began.
Question 1: “Thanks for the free will, but what do I do with it?”
Free will. A forgotten material of existence. When we think about oppression, we are drawn to ideas of life under someone else’s rule, of the inability to speak our mind, even of the destruction of choice. But oppression’s greatest opponent, the object it wishes most to change but will never even smudge, is freedom to think.
How important is free will?
When Lucifer began whispering notions of doubt among the other angels, his message was simple. In fact, it would probably appeal to many today who see the evils of oppression. His original statements are mirrored in Genesis:
“For God knows [and wants to prevent] that… your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
– Genesis 3:5
To extrapolate what is being said: “The power is with God, He is keeping it from us, He will not let us be truly free, which is to be equal with Him.”
This is a tempting thought isn’t it. To go even deeper, the message is:
“God doesn’t support free will, I do.”
So, what does God think? Does He support free will? We need to remember God is more a Man of action, not words. Let’s see what He did:
First off, God didn’t destroy Lucifer – an easy solution, but one which leads to a motivation to serve in fear.
An alternative is to start again. He made it all once, He can do it again. Next time just take out that bit of the mind that lets this kind of question come up. We know He didn’t do this, because, well, look where we live.
What He did instead took a whole book, and the experience of every being who has ever walked the Earth, to describe! To recount thousands of years of history in a statement, God basically said:
“You have made an accusation, I hear it, and I will show you the truth as clearly as I possibly can.”
The result of this was that central theme to the whole Christian religion where Jesus, God Himself, came and gave up His Godhood, was then rejected, then mocked, then beaten, tortured and strung up on a cross to die.
Oh, and on top of this, He took the natural penalty of the decision we made to question Him and gave us freedom to start again, and again, and again.
To summarise: God values free will so highly, that He was more willing to stop being God, let me repeat that, He was more willing to
stop being God
than to in any way interfere with free will.
Question 2: “The value of choice is clear, but what about dying to self?”
In case you haven’t heard the phrase, “dying to self” is the biblical idea of realising your way of living is unhealthy and destructive and giving it away for something better – God’s way.
I started by looking for all the things I was doing wrong, and boy is that adventure like climbing into an ants nest. The tunnels seemed never ending, and each branching tunnel brought with it more branching tunnels. On top of that, the sheer volume of formic acid each little error pumped into me sent me near blind to the rewards of my journey. To make matters worse I had completely forgotten to bring my TERRO T300 Liquid Ant Baits (this article is not sponsored by TERRO T300 Liquid Ant Baits) so I had no way of actually getting rid of the ants except manually squashing them – which coated my hands in even more acid. All in all, this was ineffective. I made my way back to the house and soaked in the bath for the next few weeks.
I needed a new approach. I was listening to a series of sermons that said don’t focus on your mistakes, but instead focus on God. The preachers said that you would experience change as a natural result of seeing more and more of His character, and slowly you would become a reflection of Him.
As much as I tried, I couldn’t get this to work. I did my best to focus on God, but my problems were so aggravating to me that my attention was always short lived. I believe this is the true method to freedom, but I still need to learn more.
Question 3: “How do I know what God wants me to do?”
While all this was going on, another question was burning a hole in my think sponge:
“WHERE DOES GOD WANT ME!!????”
I hope I’ve expressed that with as much exasperation as I felt.
I had read so many Bible stories, heard so many testimonies, and built up such a picture of God, that I believed my life needed strict direction from God to not only be following the right path, but also be worth anything at all.
The problem: I’ve never actually heard God talk. I’ve never had any clear indication that He wanted me to do this, or that. This is why I was so upset: if the only way for me to have a meaningful life was for God to tell me what to do, and if God was as loving as He was, then why didn’t He care enough to give me some direction, just something, so I could be sure I was on the Christian walk?
This restless grappling eventually culminated in an ultimatum. I sat God down one day and told Him that He either needed to tell me what He wanted from me, or I would have no option but to stop believing in Him. I waited a long time for Him to reply, and He didn’t.
This was shattering.
I didn’t know what to think, it felt like my world view was being reworked, the second reworking since the time I first discovered Him.
Answer: Putting the pieces together
I don’t yet have a clear understanding of the process I’ve followed in the months since then. I know I’ve been listening to another series of sermons; I know I’ve been impressed by friends and family who are walking with God, but whatever His method, I’ve discovered something powerful about free will.
God didn’t reply to me that day for the same reason He has and is allowing the whole process of sin and suffering to play out. God voluntarily puts Himself under the rule of free will. He has chosen to give us as clear as Divinely possible a picture of Himself, and the power of choice.
God DOES NOT want puppets; He DOES NOT want to be followed out of fear.
God wants individuals.
He wants free thinkers.
He wants children who love Him, really love Him, because they have considered all the evidence, they have considered their wants and desires, and have chosen Him to be the one they give their lives to.
He put His foot down that day, and said to me, “Mitchell, there is nothing I want more than to speak to you now, but I cannot, because if I do I will be taking the most valuable thing there is away from you. I will not take your free will.”
God wants you to choose your path, He wants everything about it to be your choice.
Satan offers ‘freedom’ to do whatever you want, but he’s taking it all. He’s taking your will purely to fuel his hatred of God, he wants to use you against God. He knows that the greatest pain God can feel is seeing one of His children hurting, and so Satan does a lot of it. God, for now (and now is nothing in the face of eternity), allows it so we can see the nature of sin and the contrasting nature of God for ourselves, and then choose.
For me, I now see that I’m not so much walking behind God, but next to Him. God, through the Bible, offers to implant in me a framework of right and wrong that allows me to choose between the two. But it comes down to just that, my choice. No pressure, no force, just freedom.
“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”