A great American freedom fighter, Patrick Henry, once declared ‘Give me liberty or give me death!’ This idea of freedom has been something we all strive for. Whether it is something we try to obtain from our parents or higher authority, it is something we all want but seldom know how to use. If there is any one series of questions I have heard from college students, it has been regarding free will. Am I absolutely free to make my own decisions? Does God decide for me? How does free will work with God’s sovereignty?
I’ve come to realize that though free will exists, no one is completely free. Yes I might decide my own hair style and clothing for the day, but my freedom is limited. I did not get to choose who my parents were going to be or in which city I was born. It was not mine to decide or pick. But with that said, though complete freedom isn’t given to all, there is a sense of freedom God has given to all humans. We have to realize that when talking about freedom, there are restrictions in the true sense of freedom. Freedom is directly connected to your purpose and the fulfillment of your created purpose.
If I look at a fish in a small bowl of water swimming, in my eyes, it is restricted from the vast lands that surround it. Taking the fish out of the bowl and throwing it up in the air and screaming, ‘Freedom!!’ so it can roam on the grass that sits before, it will actually cause the fish to shrivel up and die. It’s in the restriction of the water the fish is actually free to go about it’s intended and created purpose.
When you talk about having freedom and free will, you have to view it through the lens of the One who has given this gift. History goes like this: the lines of true freedom got blurred when Adam sinned against God in the garden of Eden. He chose willingly to disobey God. But one can not forget that God was fully aware of Adam’s decision and had in mind the perfect plan already on how to deal with the situation. The result, a sovereign God perfectly planning history and presenting us the ultimate sacrifice for redemption and hope – His Son, Jesus Christ. God has planned everything from eternity, but He planned it in His sovereignty with our freedom in mind.
In God’s plan, we are given the choices to act freely according to the boundaries set before us. The Bible tells us that while we were in our mother’s womb, God knew us. It also takes the time to declare that we were predestined before the foundations of the earth. Though these verses might cause us to wrestle with the thought of how a supreme God has planned out history and still allowed us to work within the freedom He has given us, it does give us an insight into how our free will works within the terms of God’s sovereignty. When looking at freedom through the lens of your relationship with God, you realize that the process of salvation (accepting Jesus as your Savior and God) can only happen by God’s initiation, but our decision to do sinful acts can only happen as God permits us to do so. Those are our two choices. If you wonder how it works, think of this:
Imagine if a mother, who has two children, finds her children leaving their room messy every single day. Every day she tells them to clean it and because of her sovereignty, they obey. Finally, after being so tired of forcing them, she tells them, “I’m not going to tell you anymore. You remember to do it on your own.” Sure enough, she finds the room messy again the next day. Now, while it isn’t her “will” that the room is messy, the only reason the room can be messy in the first place is because of her “will” – she permitted it. It is her sovereignty that would force the children to clean it, and her sovereignty that would permit their freedom to rebel. In both cases, in telling the children to clean it, and leaving them to do it on their own, she is sovereign.
Outside of knowing God, does man have free will? Yes, but there are limits. Unless God opens our hearts to receive Him, we will be free, but only to rebel against Him. In a relationship with God, man receives the ultimate understanding of seeing light in the midst of darkness and walking in His full potential.
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