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From Chris's Heart

March 2011
The Issue of Free Will
by Nick Harris

I don't know about you, but as I look at life today I find myself wondering about a lot of things I see around me. That is especially true when it comes to God. I look around and I often find myself asking, "Why doesn't God put a stop to this injustice or that injustice?"

Maybe you have also asked these same questions. Something may have happened to you that nearly destroyed you and you are asking yourself, "Why did God allow this to happen to me?”Some people may ask, “Why did He allow me to be abused as a child?” Others may ask, “Why did God allow me to lose my job?” Others may ask, “Why did God allow my wife or husband to get cancer? And yet others may ask, “Why did God allow my baby to die?"

Have you ever asked God any of these kinds of questions? Well, I have! But let me tell you what I have learned after forty years of studying the word of God. I have learned that these "why" questions simply cannot be answered, and they cannot be answered because they are the wrong questions.

I am not suggesting for a moment that the concerns behind these questions are not legitimate. I can assure you that they are! The experience of child abuse is a terrible thing. The loss of a mate or a child can be a pain which at times seems too hard to bear. The elimination of one's source of income can be enormously traumatic. But, still, the question, "Why did God allow this thing to happen to me?" is the wrong question.

This is the wrong question because it is based on a false assumption. This is the fact: God did not allow these things to happen at all! Remember that! But having said that, I must also say this: God did not disallow it either.

You see, what is involved in all of these questions is the complex issue of human free will. One day, our original parents chose to disobey God and sin. And by that decision they brought pain and heartache, disease and poverty, separation and death into the world. God's Word is clear about this: those things were not a part of the world that God originally created. Sin brought them into the world. So, bad things now happen to good people because human choice brought sin into the world, and sin brought in its wake disease, poverty, pain, and death.

Now wait! Don't get me wrong! I am not suggesting to you that bad things happen to us because we have sinned and somehow God is paying us back. That is definitely not the case. These things happen to us because we live in a world where the curse of sin prevails, not because we sin.

Let me explain this! It is not that we sin and then God gets even with us by allowing bad things to happen. But I am suggesting that the practice of sin will eventually cause pain and suffering to arise in our lives. I just cannot understand why this seems to be such a difficult concept for people to understand today. Sin is like a hot stove. It is a law of nature that if you touch a hot stove you will get burned; you will pay the price. The same is true of sin; practice sin and you will suffer; that's just how it is.

But, now, here's the problem. We are all born with sin in us, and that is bad enough. But the other part of the issue is that we are born with sin all around us as well. And it is this sin that brings disease, poverty, pain, and death to the human family.

This sin problem of ours goes all the way back to the time before the creation of Adam. In fact, it goes back to the ageless past to the time when God made the decision to create the human race. Even at that time, God had a specific purpose in mind for us. That purpose had been in place long before God ever bent down and shaped Adam from the dust of the ground.

Remember this; at that time, God was not alone in the universe. His house was filled with billions of beings similar to himself. I am talking about invisible, non-physical, spiritual beings known as angels. But the company of these beings did not fully satisfy the heart of God. And why was this the case? It was because the angels were created by God, they were not born of God. In other words, they did not share the nature of God. His life, called ZOE, or eternal life, was not in them. And remember this too: angels were/are a life form all to themselves.
Now, don't get me wrong; God loved these angels that he created. But God wanted more than the love of these created beings; he wanted sons and daughters. So, God said this to himself: "There must be a way that I can birth for myself sons and daughters, who will have my own life in them, who will partake of my very nature and who will be birthed of me."

Now I ask you, why would God desire to do this? To answer this question all we have to do is ask ourselves why we desire that very same thing. You know the answer to that question; it's because we want to be loved by that which we produce. The same is true of God. The Bible says that God is love, and love is relational. Love given is never satisfied until it receives love in return. That is the essence, the nature of love.

However, God had a problem. He could not achieve his purpose if he simply created another being, like an angel, who had no other choice than to love him. God knows that love coerced is not love at all. True love must be given freely and that demands the freedom to choose not to love. And that is the reason God decided to give his human creation the freedom to choose, even the freedom to choose not to love him. That is the risk that God took.

God was willing to take the chance that one day his human creation might choose to reject him and refuse to love him. In other words, God's love was a risky thing, but free will is always risky. But that was God's sovereign choice. He would create a being free to allow or to disallow and he would never override that freedom to choose. So, when God made Adam, He gave to him this the freedom to choose! In fact, that ability to choose is what made Adam a man, and not an animal, and especially not a robot.

As most of you know, I spent six years of my adolescence living in East Texas. One of my favorite places was the little town of Dangerfield, Texas. It had been an oil boom town in the 1930’s and the avalanche of money from this boom had allowed the leaders there to do some wonderful things. One of those things was this: they built one of the finest baseball diamonds in that part of the state. The field had grass for one thing, and it had a fence for another. They also had dugouts and dressing rooms. For a kid from East Texas to go to Dangerfield to play a ballgame was like going to baseball heaven. One thing I remember most of all was the place where we would turn off the highway to go to the field. It was at the First Baptist Church of Dangerfield. I thought this was one of the most beautiful churches I had ever seen. Imagine my shock when thirty years later I turned on the news and heard this: some deranged individual had walked into that beautiful little church in Dangerfield and murdered seven worshiping Christians in cold blood.

Now I ask you---did our God allow this to happen? Of course he didn't. If God had allowed this to happen it would have become an accessory to murder. But, I must also affirm to you that God did not disallow it to happen, either. You see, that man who pulled the trigger that day exercised the freedom of will to kill godly people. God did not force him to do it or prevent him from doing it; or, consider this: What about those first century Christians who were martyred by the millions by the emperors of Rome? These emperors crucified millions of Christians, and fed thousands of others to lions and other wild beasts. Again, I ask you, "Did God allow this?" The answer is no, but God did not disallow it either. This present world is under the dominion of Satan. In fact, according to II Corinthians 4:4, Satan is now "the God of this world."

But even in his role as the God of this world, Satan cannot allow or disallow things either. In the issue of free will, his hands are also tied. Human beings are truly free. We can do whatever we choose to do. We can listen to the voice of God or we can listen to the voice of the evil one. We are the ones who always decide.

Please, understand this: you and I presently stand at the growing edge of the fallen, evil, free will of this human race of ours. Not even God can stop us from doing what we choose to do. That is why we should subject ourselves, by an act of the will, to the will of God as revealed in His holy word. He will them sanctify our wills and our choices will be constructive, not destructive.

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