Do Christians Have Free Will?
I've recently begun to dig into the book of Jeremiah and realized once again how God really does have things in control. For example, in my last post, we discovered that God had a plan for Jeremiah's life before Jeremiah had even been conceived. Does this mean He also has our lives planned out in advance? If so, how much free will do we really have?
It is evident when you read the complete first chapter of Jeremiah that we have quite a bit of free will. True, Jeremiah was born into a family of priests, so his future was somewhat marked out for him. He also would have been trained on how to approach God and the laws of the Torah and the respect that comes with that. So, his upbringing likely prepared him for the role God had in store for him. But was he ever in the position to say no?
Then I said, “Alas, Lord God!
Clearly, Jeremiah felt comfortable voicing his concerns to God that he had the wrong man for the job. However, God convinced him that everything would be fine because He would be with him (Jeremiah 1:7-8; 1:18:19). So we can see from Scripture that it is okay to relate our fears to God about what He wants us to do. But can we say no?
"Now, gird up your loins and arise, and speak to them all which I command you.
The word "dismayed" in Hebrew is chathath and means to be shattered, dismayed, broken, abolished, or afraid. God basically tells Jeremiah that if you are too scared to do my will, I will keep you in that state. In other words, Jeremiah's actions would either be a victory for God or a harsh lesson for Jeremiah to learn to trust in God more. One leads to success. The other would lead to a spirit of fear. God doesn't force us to do things we don't want to. However, He gives us the power to do them and prepares our path to do them well. It comes down to your faith. How willing are you to trust God? It also means you must be absolutely sure God has called you to do His work. Not everyone receives visions and dreams like Jeremiah. So how can we know for sure what God's will is in any given situation?
As Christians, we have the assurance of Ephesians 1:3-6. In particular, we have received the Holy Spirit as a pledge from God as to our inheritance in Him.
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).
This promise of the Holy Spirit is crucial for Christians when trying to understand what God has called us to do concerning our service to Him. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that we were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
In my own life, I always equated "good works" (caring for the sick, feeding the poor, helping your neighbour, etc. ) with helping others, but I have come to realize it is more than that. Because of my illness, I cannot get out and "help" anyone. In fact, it is quite the reverse. I need help daily. However, my "service" to God, my "good works," if you will, is sharing with you from His Word. Oh, yes, I can give money to help a needy cause, but my mission, my calling from God, is to discern His Word and share it. He prepared this in advance for me to do by giving me a spirit that hungered after His Word. Yes, I questioned God on my ability to teach, but He confirmed His choice for me through people, circumstances and His Word.
For example, a good friend of mine (without telling me) paid for a course for me to take on teaching the Scriptures. Why? God told her to do it. She put her faith into action at a conference we were both attending and paid for me to participate in a training course. The result was that at the end of the conference, I was feeling convicted to take a training course on teaching the Bible. The course she had already signed me up for! When you step out in faith, amazing things can happen!
You did not choose Me but I chose you,
It all comes down to how much you trust God. The Bible tells us that we did not choose God, but He chose us (Ephesians 1:4). Isn't that amazing? I am reminded of Joseph's story (Genesis 37-45) and how God took the evil act his brothers committed against him and turned it into good. God always has a plan, and He does have a plan for your life and will reveal it to you at the right time. Right now, you may not know what God wants you to do with your life. You know what you enjoy, and you have dreams, but you can't imagine how to fulfill them. But don't worry. If you are doing your best to follow God, where you are right now, what you are experiencing (good or bad) will prepare you for His plans. And God's plans are for your good (Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 8:28; Jeremiah 29:11)! But you have a choice. To say no to the God of heaven and forever be unsatisfied and unfulfilled with your life (because you aren't fulfilling your God-ordained purpose) or live a life following God's will and reap the benefits.
It is absolutely your choice! You can say no to God, but why would you want to?
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