Sunday, February 26, 2012

“Free Will . . . My Will … God’s Will … Whose Will?”


video


Genesis 1:26-30
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so.
Genesis 2:15-17
Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17  but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

Message                    “Free Will . . . My Will … God’s Will … Whose Will?”                      Tom Williams

Years ago I heard a parent relating a story about their young son who was very active.
On this particular day the parent was extremely busy and becoming frazzled when the youngster continued to stand on a kitchen chair. She was afraid that he would tip the chair over or fall off of it.
“Sit down” orders had been issued several times and ignored.
Mom finally picked him up and “sat” him in the chair.
After a minute or so had passed the child looked defiantly at his mother and said, “I’m still standing up on the inside!”

I’m sure that we’ve all been both the victim and perpetrator of this type of defiance.
It is an integral part of our nature as human beings. It is the exercise of our free will.

The scope and limitations of free will has been theologically discussed for a long-long time by greater minds than mine so I will not get too involved in the debate on the nature of free will.
My quest is to understand the reason for free will.
Why did God create a creature capable of defying Him?

Let’s look back to the beginning.
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us create human kind in our own image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, And over the birds of the air, and over the cattle and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
That’s a pretty simple explanation of why God created human kind. He had a job for us to do.

God placed man in the middle of a perfect natural world.
He was given free reign over it all.
With one
… one! …
tiny stipulation …
 “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.”

Without free will, there would have been no need of that limitation.
Without free will, there could have been no ability to eat of the fruit or even the temptation to do so.

So, again, why did God create a creature capable of defying Him?
What was the purpose of free will?
Certainly it wasn’t given to us to get us into trouble!
Then, why?

I’m sure that as we all were growing up we had a stuffed toy or doll that we really loved.
Mine was a teddy bear with the original name of Teddy.
This bear was a gift from my sister on the day I was born.
Originally he was a soft, plush black and white panda bear with glossy black plastic eyes.
I say “originally” because he doesn’t look like that any more.
Yes, I still have him! Over the years I literally loved him to pieces.
His eyes have been replaced by plain buttons.
His plush ‘fur’ has worn off to the point that he appears to be made of canvas.
The white has turned to the color of old asphalt and his chest has a star drawn on it (He was my deputy sheriff).
His head has been reattached by my less than skillful youthful hands in a stitch pattern that would make Dr. Frankenstein shudder.
And his right arm has once again fallen off.

Teddy was my nearly constant companion until about the middle of elementary school.
He listened to my jokes, stories of woe and shared my tears.
He was a comfort when I broke my arms
(so many times that I don’t know how many times they’ve been broken
– once while it was still in a cast.
– how would you have liked to been MY mother?).
He joined me as I scaled high mountains and fought my way through the darkest jungles.
He was my copilot in my airplanes and space ships.
We fought side by side against amazing armies of Indians, Germans, cattle-rustlers, and legions of bad-guys of all kinds.
We were occasionally wounded but didn’t keep us from being victorious over our foes!

I loved this bear!
He was as real as my family with his own personality and most importantly Teddy loved me back!

Well, that’s what my childish mind told me.
I understand now that I was projecting personality and love on to him.
In reality he is just a cleverly cut and sewn piece of cloth stuffed with sawdust and cotton batting.
A toy!
Not capable of returning my feelings of friendship and love.

God did not create us to be his toys!
We were not created to be His playthings or His pets!
We are His children! Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
Remember that verse in Genesis? We are created in his image and likeness!

But what is the image and likeness of God in-which we were created?
Obviously we are not made in the physical image of God because He is a spirit.
Indeed, it occurs to me that it might be rightly said that,   in the person of Jesus,   God created Himself in the image of man.

So, if we are not the physical image of God, how are we in His image?

I believe that the main way we are like God is in our free will.
Our ability to choose.
This is a great and terrifying gift.
With the gift of free will we can choose order or chaos, love or hate, obedience of defiance.

I believe that the reason we were given this gift is so that we can truly love God.
To be in fellowship with Him.
To be in partnership with Him. “Take my yoke upon you,” Jesus says in Matthew 11:29.
That says to me that we are working side by side. And pulling in the same direction.
Our will and God’s will in step.

Love?
How?
How do we show our true love to God?
Jesus gave examples: 
LOVE: John15:9-15
Even as the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you: abide ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do the things which I command you. No longer do I call you servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I heard from my Father, I have made known unto you.
LOVE:  John 21:15-19
So when they had broken their fast, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again a second time, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Tend my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
LOVE: John 14:15
I ye love me, ye will keep my commandments.

Here, I believe is the one thing God really wants from us:
to say “not my will but thine”.

Herein lies the true reason for the gift of free will: to give it back to God.

I mean really!
What else do we have that we can give to God?
What do we “own” that doesn’t already really belong to God? Nothing!

Some will say that (Senator Foghorn voice) our tithe is our gift to God.
Wrong! We own nothing.  Everything belongs to God and comes from God.  It is only on loan to us.
MONEY/POSSITIONS
John 1:3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.
I say that the 90% that God allows us to manage is His gift to us.

Some might say that the time we spend in prayer, ministry, service and worship is our gift to God.
I think that since I can not CREATE time, it isn’t mine to give either.
TIME: Revelation 22:13
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
Before he created the first day, there was no time. And for that matter, no one to keep track of it.

“My gift is the use of my talents in God’s service,” some would say. 
Oh wait, … those are God-given talents.
TALENTS/GIFTS: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord. And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit: to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.

No, in truth the only REAL gift we have that can be given to God is our will.

And here is the real irony, only by bringing our will into alignment with God’s will can we be truly free!

You see, we are already “slaves” to sin.
John 8:34 “Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
Jesus recognized this truth when he was challenged to decide the fate of the woman caught in adultery. “He who is without sin among you cast the first stone.” John 8:7
His tormenters knew that truth also. Nobody threw a rock!

So?
Does this mean to quit being a slave to sin I have to become a slave to God?
The apostle Paul answers that question in his letter to Titus (Titus1:1) by calling himself, “Paul, a servant of God”
The author of the book of James echoes that by calling himself “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” James 1:1
Peter does the same in 2nd Peter 1:1 “Simeon Peter a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ”
The writer of Jude “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James” Jude 1:1.

These writers knew the difference between being a slave and being a servant.  You know what that difference is?
You guessed it! Free will!

I ask you to take a moment and look at your own life. Answer for yourself, “Am I a slave or a servant?” that is really the only two choices available! What will you do with your free will?

If you aren’t happy with your answer, take the step to change it. Pray “not my will but thine.” Actively seek the will of God. (here’s a hint … the answer is in the Book)

If you need help and support, I and others of the congregation and staff of this church are available.

In closing,
As I pray this familiar prayer, pay close attention to what it means to have His will done on earth as it is in heaven.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen

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