Study 3 -All Christians Believe In Free Will?

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Romans 7:21, 25So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (NIV 1984)

Humanist View – Man makes choices spontaneously. Nothing prior to the choice determines the choice. This is not a Christian view.

Moral Problem – If purely spontaneous, there is no reason, motivation or intent for the choice. Thus, it has no moral significance. God considers the intent of choices. If there is no intent, there is no moral significance.
Practical Problem – Without motivation or a reason[ing], is it really a choice? What does it matter? Why make a choice if there is no reason to? Choice without a motivation is like an effect without a cause, which is a practical impossibility. You cannot have something out of nothing.

Jonathan Edward’s Law of Free Will – Free will is the mind choosing. Choices cannot be made independent of the mind. Free (no coercion) moral agents always act according to the strongest inclination (desires) that they have at the moment of choice. There is always a reason for every decision.

Coercion – Outside forces (forcing is not free will) affect choices against our will. Strongest inclination in this instance is likely not our strongest inclination absent the coercion.
Desires Change – Our strongest desire absent temptation may be to please God, but when temptation to sin comes our strongest desire may be to give in and we make that choice freely.

Calvin’s View – If free will means that fallen man has the ability to choose what he wants, he has free will. If free will means that fallen man has the moral power and ability to choose righteousness, he lacks free will, because he cannot always do so.

Paradox View (Sproul) – Every choice that man makes is free and every choice that man makes is determined. Paradox because free and determined (caused by something outside man’s will) are generally considered to be mutually exclusive.

It Is Not Determinism – Things happen to man solely due to external forces.
It is Determined – If choices flow from a man’s dispositions and desires, which are internal forces, and if man’s actions are an effect that have causes and reasons behind them, these internal desires determines man’s personal choice.

The question is: if my desires determine my choice, how can I be free?

Because what determines my choice is me (choices are both free and determined). This is called self-determination, which is not the denial of freedom, but rather it is the essence of freedom. Not only may we choose according to our desires, we do (perhaps must) in fact choose according to our desires and inclinations. The essence of freedom is to choose what you want.

This leads to fallen man’s problem: fallen man sins because they want to sin, which means that man sins freely.  Sinners reject Christ because they want to (freely) reject Christ.

In order to choose Christ, fallen man must want (have a desire) to do so.

The question is: Does fallen man retain in His heart any desire for God?

Moral Ability versus Natural Ability (Edwards) – Moral ability means the ability to be righteous or sinful. Man was created with the ability to be righteous or sinful. In his fallenness, man lost his ability to be righteous in and of himself because he is born with a sin nature. He has lost the ability to be totally righteous. Natural abilities are abilities we have by our nature (Man has the ability to think, reason and stand upright. Man does not have the ability to fly unaided). In his fallenness, man lost the natural ability to be righteous (what is natural is to sin). Will is inclined to evil and disinclined to righteousness.

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul

Setting an Example, One Way or Another

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1 Timothy 4:12Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Spiritual maturity has very little to do with chronological age. “Older” Christians can learn from those who are younger.

My Advice – You do not live your life for yourself alone. One way or another you are an example to other believers, non-believers and someday to a family. Be diligent in continuing to be a good example in the ways listed and in others ways that people might look up to you.

Don’t Miss the Train

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1 Timothy 3:7Train yourself to be Godly. (NIV 1978)

My Musing – Godliness is not our natural state. It is our transformed state. While we are immediately justified when we accept Christ, it takes time and training to become Godly and Christ-like.

My Advice – In addition to taking time for your physical shape (exercise) and mental/emotional shape (rest and relaxation), make time for spiritual training (Church, Bible reading, prayer, small groups, fellowship with other believers).

A Sincere Faith

1 Timothy 1:5The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – A sincere faith leads to a pure heart, which in turn leads to a conscience that is clear. The final result is love.

My Advice – Keep your faith in God and Christ sincere. It is the key to a pure heart, a clear conscience and love for others.

As For You

1 Thessalonians 3:13And as for you brothers, never tire of doing what is right. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We become discouraged when doing what is right rarely seems to make a difference. We are not rewarded for results. We are rewarded for effort.

My Advice – It may seem at times that there is no reward or that no one takes notice when you do what is right. Sometimes you may even be ridiculed or persecuted for doing what is right. Do not let that stop you. Right is right no matter what, and God notices.

Stand Firm, Hold On

2 Thessalonians 2:15Stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We do not live for ourselves only. We need to pass on to others the things we learn from God and from His Word.

My Advice – Remember the things your mother and I taught you and tried to model to you. Hold onto them. They are a part of who we are. By holding onto them you are holding onto a part of us, even long after we are gone.

Brought Down or Rising Up?

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Proverbs 24:16 –  [F]or though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity. (NIV 1984)

Seven musings to inspire us to rise again and not be brought down.

Billy Graham – “Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing patience and being persistent.”
My Musing – The fact that we all make mistakes is not an excuse to repeat them or wallow in them.
Rick Warren – “We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
My Musing – We are only prisoners if we choose to be, because Christ has set us free.
Colin Powell – “There are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”
My Musing – Like Paul, we need to press on.
Abraham Lincoln – “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”
My Musing – What could be more dangerous than being content with our failures, with our life of sin?
Barack Obama – “The real test is not whether you avoid failure, because you won’t.  It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it.”
My Musing – We may not be able to avoid failure, but we can avoid situations that lead to failure.  If you don’t want to eat the apple, quit hanging around the tree.
C. S. Lewis – “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.” — C. S. Lewis
My Musing – A steady upward progress is often difficult to measure except in retrospect,
Winston Churchill – “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”
My Musing – Unfortunately we often keep going back to the same old tree.
My Advice – As Christians, our eraser (confession and repentance) that will always outlast the pencil (our sins).  But that does not give us license to sin.  And what a mess all those eraser crumbs can leave.  To obey is better than sacrifice (asking for forgiveness).