Our Free Will
Excerpted from an article by Nancy Missler, www.kingshighway.org
God has given man a free will, much like His own. Our free will is the most important element of our make-up, because within that will lies the power to choose: to choose to follow what God desires us to do or follow what our own thoughts and emotions are telling us.
This is … a critical topic because our will is the master of all of our faculties and upon it everything else depends.
Our will controls our reason, our intellect, our emotions and all our abilities. In other words, our will is the “gateway” through which all things must pass and the bridge over which our faith must travel.
Now, the reason our will is so very important to God is that our will – our choice – is what allows Him to accomplish His will through us. Now, of course, God can do as He pleases; however, in order for Him to use us as He desires, we must cooperate with Him.
God has not set Himself up as our Divine Dictator, but rather as our loving Discipler, and thus He has given us the free choice to either follow Him and do as He asks or deny Him and do as we please. This is a choice we must make not once a day, but constantly all day long. In other words, the Lord wants us to render back to Him that which we have so long claimed as our own – namely, our own will.
Life, therefore, is really just a series of ongoing choices. For the non-believer, it’s a daily choice between good and evil; for the believer, it’s a moment-by-moment choice to either follow the Lord and say, like Jesus, “Not my will, but Thine” (Matthew 26:39), or to follow what we want, think and feel.
Our Free Choice
The Christian life is not determined by our circumstances, our church attendance, our social standing, our finances or even our belief systems, but by the daily choices we make.
Sin isn’t birthed in our mind or in our body; it’s begun within our will! God has given us a fearful and awesome responsibility with our “free will,” because what we choose determines the degree of our sanctification.
Faith choices allow God’s Life from our hearts to flow out into our lives and bring us closer to reflecting Christ’s image; whereas, emotional choices quench God’s Life, block it from coming forth and prolong the sanctification process.
Scripture tells us that when we are “born again” we not only receive a new spirit and a new heart, but we also receive a new supernatural willpower. This new willpower is not only God’s authority enabling us to choose His will over our own, but also His power to carry out and perform that will in our lives, just like the example above. As Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do, of His good pleasure.” In other words, our new willpower gives us the authority and power of God to “go against the tide” – to choose to set ourselves aside and follow Him, regardless of how we feel, what we want or what we think. Thus, our free choice is really the critical crossroads of our lives.
The Greek word for this “free choice” decision is exousia which means “it is permitted.” Exousia means we are permitted to choose something we don’t feel. It means we have the authority or the word of the person in charge (which, of course, is God), and we also have His power and His ability to make that choice happen in our lives.
What this is saying is that as Christians, we have the delegated authority and power of God to choose to “relinquish ourselves” and do what He wants (exousia), or, to choose to “hold on to ourselves” and do what we please (what we feel and want).
Jesus states in John 10:17-18, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power (exousia) to lay it down, and I have power (exousia) to take it again.”
So God is the One who gives us the supernatural power to override our own negative thoughts and feelings [i.e., to “forbid self”], and to say, like Jesus, “Not my will [my own emotional desires], but Thine.”
(Matthew 26:39) In other words, God enables us to “go against the tide.”
I call these kinds of choices faith choices, non-feeling choices or contrary choices. They are contrary choices because they are contrary to how we naturally feel, what we think and what we want, but nevertheless, they are valid because God has given us the authority and the power to make them. 1 Corinthians 7:37 validates that in Christ we have “…power [authority] over [our] own will….”
Thus, we can be honest with the Lord and say: “I really don’t like this person. I don’t want to forgive him. I don’t want to love him. He’s not my friend!” But, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine.” In other words, “I choose to do what You want me to, regardless of how I feel, what I think or what I want.” I also am confident that You will change my feelings to align with that choice in Your timing and perform Your will in my life.
One important thing to keep in mind: the deeper the wound (i.e., the longer that arrow – that hurt – has been in us), the longer it seems to take for our feelings to align with our choices… What’s so incredible about making these kinds of contrary choices is that God does, in His timing and in His Way, not only change our negative thoughts and emotions to align with what we have chosen, but He also restores our joy. In other words, if we are willing to make the right choices, He will give us the love, the wisdom and the power we need to go on as if nothing has ever happened.
Therefore, the choice to relinquish the negative feelings to God is ours; but the responsibility to change those feelings is God’s. The fact is, there’s no way we can ever change our feelings by ourselves. God is the One who will be faithful to make us genuine by the time we need to do whatever it is He has asked. In other words, God promises to produce His Love and all the fruit of the Spirit needed in our lives if we simply will make the right choice.