Sunday, April 08, 2007

"FREE WILL?"


I find it fascinating how often the subject of man’s “free will” becomes a matter of discussion. At our men’s Bible study last week the subject arose again. We had an exhilarating conversation. I love the discussion but I don’t quite grasp the problem it seems to raise for some folks.

For some reason, people think they can contradict the sovereignty of God by citing man’s “free will.” Or, they say that God limits his sovereignty when it comes to “free will” so as not to offend the freedom of his creation. (Is that an oxymoron or what? What in the world is “limited sovereignty?”) Or, they say that “free will” is obvious because if we did not have free will then we would be no more than puppets. This is invariably followed by some human being making a statement about what God wants or does not want, like, “God wants us to love him and worship him by our own ‘free will,’ not because he forced us to.” (Why do people think they have to speak for God when he is perfectly capable of speaking for himself and does so very well in the Bible?)

I would like to suggest that there is mystery involved here. Just because you can’t figure something out doesn’t mean there is a problem. The Bible makes it perfectly clear that people make their own decisions and that God controls the hearts of men. I was reading Exodus in my devotions the other day and came across these passages:

Exodus 9:12, “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.

Exodus 9:34, 35 “When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses.”

Exodus 10:1, “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them’”

I could go on and on showing how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and how Pharaoh hardened his own heart. I wasn’t there and I have no proof but I doubt that Pharaoh and his officials struggled over this and said to each other, “We really want to let the Hebrews go but God is forcing us to change our minds and keep them here against our will.” God hardened their hearts because God is sovereign over the hearts of men. (Remember that he controls the hearts of kings!) Pharaoh and his officials hardened their own hearts. It makes perfect sense to me.

“But,” people say, “salvation is different. God wants us to choose him of our own ‘free will.’” There it is again. “Free will.” Where do we find this in scripture? I know this; God says that the unregenerate person is controlled by the flesh and that the mind of the flesh is “hostile toward God. It does not submit to God’s law, NOR CAN IT DO SO. Those controlled by the flesh CANNOT PLEASE GOD.” Romans 8:5-8

So God wants us to come to him of our own “free will?” He wants us to do this because it is pleasing to him? But the Bible says the unregenerate person cannot please God! So if we are capable of coming to him of our own “free will” then that would NOT be pleasing to him, since we cannot please him.

Does not God clearly say that he will remove our hearts of stone and give us a heart of flesh and put a new spirit in us? (Ezekiel 11:19) What is the problem here? God did not give Pharaoh a new heart but hardened his heart of stone. Pharaoh hardened his own heart freely and made his decisions accordingly. God gave me a heart of flesh and put a new spirit in me and I made my own decisions accordingly.

I never felt like God was treating me like a puppet. I never said, “I really would like to be a Christian but God won’t let me. He keeps hardening my heart.” And I never said, “I never really wanted to be a Christian but God forced me to be one by giving me a new heart.”

I come to this happy conclusion: God is sovereign over all things, including my heart and my mind. He has given me a new heart and has put a new Spirit in me. He has done all this and somehow he is very happy with me anyway!

11 Comments:

At 8:20 PM, Blogger jazzycat said...

Dave,
Good points... I believe Romans 1:18 begins Paul's description of where fallen man's heart will lead him unless God sovereignly imparts grace and changes his heart as you point out.
wayne

 
At 3:43 AM, Blogger bluecollar said...

I am thankful for that "heart of flesh" that GOD replaced my original heart of stone with.

Before that happened I was sin loving, and God hating. Afterward I was God fearing and semi (unfortunately) hating.

Dave, this post was excellent!
Mark

 
At 3:45 AM, Blogger bluecollar said...

that should read "semi (unfortunately) sin hating".

 
At 9:13 AM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

Blue,

For a minute there I was wondering what in the world you have against semitrucks or truckers!

 
At 4:34 AM, Blogger bluecollar said...

I used to listen to "Truckin' Bozo" every night on the way home from work. Great radio show hosted by Dale Sommers. His son has taken it over now. My local station dropped it from the line-up. Too bad.

I also like trains!

 
At 9:09 AM, Blogger Gayla said...

Dave you should also post this over at Bluecollar. :)

It is A MOST EXCELLENT post! Spot on in every point. I'll just add this one little piece of Scripture, which you alluded to ...

The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. Pr 21:1

Praise God that it is He who is in control!

 
At 9:19 AM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

I appreciate your comments. Thanks for your additions, thoughts, and kindness.

Gayla, I'll think and pray about putting it on Bluecollar.

Dave

 
At 4:09 PM, Blogger Baptist Girl said...

Hi Dave,
Great post! We are born with a will but because our whole nature is in bondage to sin we would not ever seek God without Him seeking us first and removing the blindfold so that we could see the light.
Salvation is of the Lord!

Cristina

 
At 9:51 AM, Blogger Scribe said...

Great post, Shiloh Guy! The enemy is never at a loss in trying to usurp the Lord's sovereignty over His creation(i.e. the fall of man, the temptation of the Lord in the wilderness and now man in his incessant, perpetual wickedness wish to throw off these "fetters".
But the Sovereign saith, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure"

 
At 5:24 AM, Blogger Gordan said...

Hi, Dave.

I'm here on recommendation from Scribe. I'm going to have to thank him!

Lots of decent, Reformed writers try to say what you said in this post. They may get more technical, but I've seen no one get more to the point. I appreciate how down-to-earth your writing is, even (apparently) when addressing subjects men find difficult.

To God be the Glory!

Yours in Christ,
Gordan

 
At 5:22 PM, Blogger Puritan Lad said...

Hello Shiloh Guy,

Thanks for visiting our blogs.

As far as "free will" goes, man does have a will. That will is "free" to do what it wants to do. However, man is not free to change his own heart. If left to his free will, he will never come to Christ. Man must be born again.

See The Myth of Libertarian Free Will

 

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