Monday, June 29, 2009

The Will of Man

A common query today may be posed to Christians: If God is perfect, and intended His world to be perfect, why did He permit Lucifer and then humanity to turn from Him? Did He lack power to restrain this occurrence, or does He not care? Many people use the argument of this world's imperfection to "prove" that God does not exist. Else, why bother with making a fallen world, and only taking a select few (the elect) to a better one, while the rest go on to punishment?

In the vein of this question, let us consider man's free will and God's authority. Let no one delude themselves: God is absolutely sovereign. "God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God," Psalm 62:11. "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from Heaven," John 3:27. "For who maketh thee differ from another? And what has thou, that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" 1st Corinthian 4:7. Some suggest that because the godly suffer like the unsaved, there is further proof that God does not exist, or does not judge justly. Yet if anyone reads the Scriptures without such bias, Jesus informs believers, "In the world ye shall have tribulation," John 16:33. Jesus also told the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:24-30, relating to this type of thinking. Later in the same chapter He explains this parable at length, informing Christians that they shall grow side by side with unbelievers (even unbelievers right in the church), in many regards being indistinguishable from them, until the time of harvest, or the end of the age when God shall bring His own to Heaven, and cast the rest into the flames.

Christians are not promised special treatment on earth: i.e. exemption from illness, disease, death, crime, etc. Nowhere is this written! We are promised persecution from those who hate the Lord Jesus Christ. Anyone who proposes such an idea is being unbiblical and bordering on presumption, which the Bible declares to be sinful, Matthew 4:5-7, Deuteronomy 6:16, James 4:13-16. It is not God's will that anyone perish; nor is it God's will to presume upon His mercy. Should a parent give their child everything they want, right when they want it? What will that teach them? To be selfish and self-centered; to think the world owes them everything. Why then demand that God should do so, and answer every prayer, and give to anyone who comes with a petition, no matter how proud or selfish it is? This does nothing good for such a person, in fact it ruins them. "Is is not lawful for Me to do what I will with Mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?" Matthew 20:15.

For anyone seriously seeking the Lord, someone earnestly wanting His truth, God is not silent. He says, "And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart," Jeremiah 29:13. The writer of Hebrews adds, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him (God): for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him," Hebrews 11:6. Our Lord stated, "If any man will do His (God's) will, he shall know the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself," John 7:17. While it is God's sovereign election to save those who believe and call His elect, it is no less valid for anyone who hears the message of salvation to respond in faith, and trust the One who offers this miraculous gift. The gospels are littered with scores of verses where Jesus commands men to believe in Him, and rebukes men when they fail to do so. "I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins," John 8:24.

Why do the unsaved go to Hell? They go because they choose to do so; Jesus has made the offer of eternal life, and paid for this tremendous gift by His own blood. But a gift that is not received is one that avails us nothing. Should we perish because we distrust God, who offers us eternal life in His Son's name? It is clear in the Bible, the only thing barring our path from Heaven is us. Small wonder God abhors the sin of pride.
Where does the source of human misery dwell? From whence did our sufferings originate? We would like to lay blame at God's feet, but lay blame where blame is due. The beginning of sin found fertile ground to germinate in Lucifer, who would later be known as Satan. This proud angel, once one of the mighty Cherubim, was beautiful and wise; so much so that he deemed himself fit for rule, judging (falsely) that his own innate wisdom made him self-sufficient: autonomous. Listen to the lies he first told himself, and then our first parents. "For thou hast said in thine heart (Satan), I will ascend into Heaven...I will exalt my throne above the stars (angels) of God...I will sit also upon the mount...I will ascend...I will be like the Most High," Isaiah 14:13-14. Is it any wonder the Lord says, "God resists the proud, but gives grace the humble, Proverbs 3:34, 1st Peter 5:5? Now Satan brings this false doctrine to Eve and says, "Ye shall not surely die (by disobeying God): For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods (or God), knowing good and evil," Genesis 3:4-5.

Is God to blame? Or is Satan, Adam, and Eve, for making a willful, conscious choice? Would man rather have no free will, but be an automaton, doomed only to act as programmed? Did God warn our first parents? Yes. Did they have the choice to obey? Yes. Did they listen to God's wisdom, or their own? Follow through to the logical conclusion: whose wisdom failed them? "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths," Proverbs 3:5-6. Is this a wicked thing to want, that we should be governed by the One who is infinitely wise, and knows the beginning from the end, the very One who says He is Alpha and Omega? We forfeited Paradise by our own volition solely because we wanted our own will exalted. Our society is saturated with a mindset that gratifies gross self-indulgence, but we mask it in various terms: self-expression, being an 'individual', being a nonconformist, doing our own thing, bucking the system, etc. At the bottom of it, I cannot help but wonder that an intense selfishness, an insatiable desire to have others notice our unique attributes, does not drive this thinking. Are we transforming into a nation that no longer desires or admires self-control (the only good selfism mentioned in the Bible), discipline, patience, generosity, temperance, charity (selfless love), chastity or purity? We don't want to be taught moral and intellectual strength. It appears we are leaning toward a diet of self-gratifying passions, and being pleased more than being useful to others. This is the fruit of 'self'.

This rebellion began in Heaven, continued in Eden, spread through Adam's seed to all the world, and continues with all mankind. The indictment is universal: There is no one righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace they have not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes, Romans 3:10-18. This certainly sounds like a just God accusing His creatures of wanton, willful acts contrary to His will. The Lord permits this to show men and angels the fallacy of governing this world without Him. Where has it brought us? We have removed Him from government, education, and are slowly in the process of removing Him from religion. There is no peace apart from Him, but we won't turn to Him for genuine healing and wisdom; instead we hold fast our illusion of autonomy.

Those who yield to the Lord's will and accept by faith what He says will follow God's will here and forever, because we have seen and agreed that God's sovereign will governing is better than our own. This is the essence of why eternity will remain without sin or rebellion: we will have been conformed to a will we have already presently agreed is better suited for government; even the government of our individual lives. God is love (1st John 4:8), and only wants our good. To this end He establishes rules and boundaries for our own protection, as any wise parent would. Submission to such a God as this is not weakness. We are all subject to someone. Peter tells us, "for of whom a man is overcome, of the same he is brought into bondage," 2nd Peter 2:19. No man is an island is a trite saying, but true. We are either slaves of sin, to do its bidding and fulfill the lusts of the flesh, or we are slaves of God, set at liberty to do His bidding and reap the fruits which will endure through eternity. Anyone who declares they are slaves of no one lies. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us," 1st John 1:8. Paul declares unsaved men are, "servants of sin," Romans 6:20. If we were truly autonomous ("It's my life," "that's your opinion") then I suggest a test: do not die. If your life is truly your own, then never die. You must have a permanent lease on life, if you are autonomous and answer to no one. To whom are we not indebted? We lean on others for food, clothing, shelter, learning, company, etc. The list is endless. Perhaps it would be well to heed wisdom: "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was (at our death): and the spirit (of this departed person) shall return unto God who gave it," Ecclesiastes 12:7.

This alone provides elegant testimony of our free will, and our responsibility toward our Creator. What gross injustice would it be for God to judge a person who is predestined or predetermined to be a sinner, and commit acts that outrage our Creator? Predestination (so defined) or worse, fatalism, would be God's engineering of events to coerce men to do evil, so He might punish them for it. Too many statements in the Bible plainly speak about man's ability to choose his actions. "That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness (lewdness), an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within and defile the man," Mark 7:20-23. James agrees: "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts (selfish desires) that war in your members (your body and mind)? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss (in error or selfishly), that ye may consume it upon your lusts," James 4:1-3. Secondly, if God did indeed interfere, the self-same people who complained about His lack of mediation would accuse Him of being a dictator.

Aside from that, then many would follow God, not because they love Him and believe His word, but because He performs miracles on their behalf. Is this faith? Jesus was hounded by miracle mongers in His time, until He began to teach doctrine that made them upset, and then they turned on Him because the truth offended them. While He was creating bread and healing the sick they loved Him; when He confronted them with their need of salvation, that they needed to accept His offer the same way the sick accepted His healing, the fangs came out. Miraculous occurrences do not convert and save; the Bible is littered with scores of episodes where those who witnessed profound miracles died in unbelief. The word preached needs to be mingled with faith in those who hear it (Hebrews 4:2), or it avails nothing, miracle or no miracle. Miracles were a proof of Jesus' deity, and He appealed to them as such, yet the Pharisees gave Him over to death, because their pride (self) would suffer no rivals. What a tragic testimony: "But although He (Jesus) had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him," John 12:37.

We live perpetually in rebellion toward God, wanting our own way but conveniently blaming Him for all our personal ills, and the world's ills. Instead consider thousands of years of history and billions of graves as proof that God alone knows what is good for us. Heaven shall be the place where His children will glorify and praise Him for being so merciful and loving to such hard hearted sinners as we. We misunderstand man's will, our ability to choose, along with the conjoined consequences that always follow. We are at liberty to follow our own will in this life, yet He warns us quite frankly the intrinsic harm of deifying our self; raising man to be the measure of all things. Many centuries have elapsed to reveal as witness the folly of a government (national or family unit) divorced from God's word, and the ruin we have made of it all should stand alone as compelling evidence that God's way is best. "Yet you say 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair?" Ezekiel 18:25.

In the end, the Millennium will unveil the wickedness of the human heart. Jesus Christ will reign on earth for one thousand years, and the Devil will be cast into the Bottomless Pit for all of this time, Revelation 20:1-9; Isaiah 65:20-25. Men will live longer lives, be free of disease, war and crime will be abolished, and armies and police will be unknown, because Christ shall reign in Heavenly Jerusalem with a rod of iron. The land will yield abundant food, and the animals will become tame herbivores. The utopia mankind has long desired (so they say) will be provided, and for 1,000 years enjoyed by generations. All excuses man can make about God's injustice are removed: all conditions for peaceful life will exist in an abundance we cannot presently imagine. How does Millennium end? The greatest rebellion in history. An army as great as the sand of the sea, apparently stockpiling weapons and making plans for some time to attack Jerusalem, is led by a newly liberated Satan. It is Adam and Eve in Eden all over again, with idyllic conditions for our race. The Devil offers his words again, likely: "Overthrow God and become like Him! Be your own god!" The nations attack, and God destroys them in one fell swoop. I am firmly convinced that a part of Millennium is to reveal mankind's desperately wicked intent. We don't want paradise; we want to be God, in His place. We would storm the throne and cast Him down from it if we could, to rule ourselves. In the heart given to self, we already have done this. Self-absorbed people grow too interested in who they are, how they are, and what they are to pause and consider why they are here! There is only one Christ who saves, and He is Lord of all. He will suffer no rivals.

Our God's honor is being greatly maligned in this day and age, even among His professing children. Our nation once was great under God, and the blessing was immense. God can only bless the nation that turns to Him and follows Him, Malachi 3:10. Yet in a country where good is called evil, and evil good (Isaiah 5:20) no blessing will come down. We are in a spiritual drought, and that by our own hand: the will of man. If ye will not be reformed by Me by these things, but will walk contrary unto Me; then will I also walk contrary unto you, Leviticus 26:23-24.

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Joshua 24:15

All Scripture is taken from the King James Bible (KJV) or New King James Bible (NKJV). Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.