(Part 1 of 4)
Man's freewill--just how free is it? How far reaching does it extend? And what does man's will have to do with salvation, if anything? Can he of his own choice renew the relationship that was lost by his great, great forefather, Adam? Can he by his own will accept the grace that God has to offer; namely, the atoning sacrifice and resurrection life of His Son, Jesus? Can he by his own means regain the relationship he had before it was lost? Hopefully, there will be some light shed upon the long sought after answers to these questions.
There are many beliefs concerning man's return to his Paradise Lost, and salvation is a common term used to express this achievement. Some of the ways to gain this ground are said to be: (1)baptism (sprinkling or immersion), partaking of the Eucharist, believing certain doctrines, being a good person, holding fast to the Ten Commandments, or simply belonging to the right church. Anointing with oil is another way and is often synonymous with not only receiving salvation but also the Holy Spirit.
Some teach that man of himself, and by his own freewill, can return to God when he so chooses. It is believed that these rituals are the keys that unlock God's door to heaven for them after they die or at the resurrection. The scriptures, however, disagree! For they clearly say that there are no works, including rituals, which are acceptable or pleasing to Him, that salvation cannot be had by anyone without the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. To be reminded by one verse, it is "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." Zechariah 4:6.
Some teachings say that man's will is neutral--that it is free to choose to be saved or choose not to be saved. The flip side of this is the teachings of Calvinism, saying that people have nothing to do with being saved--that they are predestined to go to either heaven or hell, that it is totally God's choice. He is the one who chose before the foundation of the world who would be saved and go to heaven and who would be lost to an everlasting hell. That belief system maintains that no one can change their predetermined fate, not even the most loving, self-sacrificing person in the world. It matters not if they are as pure as driven snow, if they have not been chosen by God to be saved, they will burn in hell throughout eternity.
Believe this if you will; but if that is what is in your heart and mind, in my very sincere opinion you are in dire need of help, and I truly feel for you as I present this cause before the throne of grace. Moreover, if this is really you, I pray that you are not part of the eighty percent of the people who will not change regardless of the undeniable facts presented. Such a stance and hardened refusal to change could be due to being Hardwired To Lie (rf. Publication #224.10, free upon request, or online at http://godfire.net/apocalypse_22.html ). If, however, you are among the twenty percent who are able to forsake and change lifelong beliefs, I am sure that you will find a sweet release from the chains of (2)John Calvin's disparaging doctrine.
It may be surprising to some of our friends; but with the unveiling of man's freewill, we will see that no one is saved against their will. Everyone freely exercises his or her own will, and this is whether saint or sinner. We will also see that salvation does not first depend on mans will but upon Gods. Salvation has never depended upon man's will to be saved apart from a prior work of the Holy Spirit. No one is saved against his will. However, God influences and changes the person, thus making the sinner willing. The Bible clearly teaches that salvation does not depend upon man's will but on God's will and is coupled with His wonderful grace and irresistible power. If God did not have power over man's will, the whole world would be an utter loss.
People are not saved against their will, nor is the will taken away; but the work of the Spirit of God changes the human will and makes men willing in the day of His power (Psalm 110:3), working in them to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). This is what happened to each of us when we freely willed to have Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Until the power of His grace worked in us, our carnal minds had no real desire for Him.
At one time or another, however, we might have wanted to escape whatever we believed to be eternal hellfire, or we perhaps had a patriotic feeling by being a part of a congregation who sang together, and practiced religious rituals. With these motivators, we may have gone to church on Sunday mornings. We may have felt that by doing so our fire insurance was always up to date, which made sure we would escape the "Last Days Barbeque," as our dear friend Stacy Wood used to say. Some of these scenarios may have been our motive for attending church and going through those religious motions; but it could be that our actions were not motivated by our human will or carnal inclinations. It could very well have been the pleasure, the power and the influence of the indwelling Spirit of Christ.
We have friends who cannot remember a time when they did not have a fervent love for God. There may be some who question if their desire toward Him was only due to the human will. Frankly, I see no reason to question this; for the power of the Spirit can just as easily work in a young child as an adult and cause he or she to have an intense love for God and desire His holy, spiritual things. Those called at such an early age are very often used mightily in the service of the Kingdom. The wind of His Spirit not only blows where it will, but when it will, and we are not the ones who can tell it from where it should come, where it should go, or when it must go. So is everyone that is born of the Spirit, as written in John 3:8.
The Spirit gave life to each of us and began to reveal God's truth, enabling us to see things in a different light than ever before, and what an apocalypse! After the cherubim stepped aside, our eyes were opened to the Truth. Our will freely bowed its humbled neck, the neck that was once as hard as iron. We accepted the yoke that had been despised, and we have worn it with distinction while tilling our fallow ground. We were made new creations in Christ Jesus by His will, and our will was made to gladly yield; for something transformed us from the inside out, and it started with the fire of His love. And now, "We love Him because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19.
There is no doubt, should crowns be presented and we are asked, "Upon whose heads shall they be placed?" Without hesitation, and as a grand symphony, we will resound: "Crown Jesus; He is the one; He is worthy; He loved us; He quickened us; He made the difference. We could have never done this on our own."
"So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." Romans 9:16. The Amplified Bible has it this way: "So then [God's gift] is not a question of human will and human effort, but of God's mercy. [It depends not on one's own willingness nor on his strenuous exertion as in running a race, but on God having mercy on him.]" And "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:3- 4. How can it be more clear than this? However, if you are still of the eighty percent who are (3)Hardwired to Lie (to yourselves), I am sure there will be no change at the moment to your thinking; but please pause and think, or selah, as it is so often used in the Psalms.
Can dead trees of their own accord live again? "There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. 8Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; 9Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant....14If a man dies, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change comes. 15Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands." Job 14:7-9, 14-15. If water is not given, there will be no life for the tree. If God does not call, there will be no response; but when it is the right time, He will call and He will have the desire that His hands work!
Dead men cannot be made alive by being beaten with the dead letter of the word any more than the dead can deliver themselves from the grave. Neither the lifeless clergy who are twice dead and plucked up, nor they who are dead, know anything (Ecclesiastes 9:5), and neither can give to others or themselves something they do not possess--life. There is no way they can come to the knowledge of the truth. Those who abide in the natural realm of humanity are dead to spiritual realities. Jesus made this point when He said, "Let the dead bury the dead," and they will remain dead until God wills it otherwise. Surely, if He changes the will of (4)the ten horns that sets upon the beast, don't we know that He can and will change the will of every creature under the Sun? Absolutely!
How do we suppose God changes our will to His will? Does He do it by the sweet sound of music that is accompanied by a compelling invitation, or by a desperate plea to "Come just as you are before it is eternally too late?" I am sure there have been plenty saved by these methods; but we should not feel that these are the sure keys to unlock the door to salvation. Whatever is the best way for each of us is the path He lays before us. With one person it could be this way, or be as simple as reading an obscure verse from the Bible, as it was with me. A catastrophe or urgency of some sort might be what is necessary for others, such as this analogy:
Suppose there is a group of people who are having a party in a warm, comfortable tavern. Everyone is having fun. The buffalo wings, beer, wine and comradery are superb. Around midnight, someone comes in from outside and announces that the party is over, and everyone is told to leave. Two or three exercise their freewill and heed the call. They go with him, while the others exercise their freewill to ignore the messenger. After a few minutes the confident man returns and rolls a live hornets nest into the midst of the people who were determined to stay put. They had exercised their freewill, and that will was to remain right where they were come hell or high water. They had not, however, taken into consideration a nest of angry hornets! Within seconds the tiny creatures are buzzing furiously throughout the room. Amazingly--everyone's freewill suddenly changes, and not one person wants to remain anywhere in the house. They can't get out fast enough. They are bailing out windows and stampeding though every available door.
You see, the messenger did not make them leave against their will, he merely used the hornets to change their will. There was no begging, debating, pleading, or threatening at all. So, likewise, with the freewill of man when it comes to the time of his will to be changed from the carnal man of Adam to the spiritual man of Jesus Christ.
Even though people harden their hearts against God, He always has a reserve of hornets, and once those hornets are set free in their lives it will not take much to get their hardened freewill changed. Those hornets will never lay hold of anyone and push them through the door or throw them out the windows. They would never compel them to go against their freewill; but they certainly have a way of making them willing.
We recall a similar story concerning a reluctant prophet whose will differed from that of God's. It wasn't hornets that was used but a fish. When Jonah was sent to Nineveh the outlook did not appear very promising to him, so he exercised his freewill and abandoned the call to duty. Yet, the three days and three nights in hell, the belly of the great fish, changed his will.
You see, God did not force Jonah against his will. He merely made him willing to go. The prophet's will was made so strong that he made a three-day trip in one day. And let us keep in mind--it was his freewill that was exercised that day. It was first his will to run away from Nineveh, and then it was his will to run to the city. God has ways of getting that which He wills, and it always involves man's freewill.
The Nature of God and Man
Even at a very early age, children radiate the nature of Adam, and not always on the good side of that nature. Very often they are seen to be self-centered and self-willed. They can be very demanding when they can get away with it. Frankly, they are most often selfish! The reason for this is that it is their nature to be that way. Rather than having been born of Christ, they all were born of Adam. Therefore, we should not be shocked when they act and do horrible things. Very early on, way before what the nominal church calls "the age of accountability," we will see the wonderful fruit of their mothers' wombs acting like little devils at times. They miss the mark of righteousness as easily as do their mommies and daddies. Whether they are two, twenty, or even forty years old, they can very well manifest themselves as sinners, par excellence. Some, therefore, assume that all this sinning makes them sinners. But please know, dear friends, they are not sinners because they sin. They sin because they are sinners! They were born sinners! It is in their nature, and they are only being natural!
Many parents and grandparents lament and grieve because they cannot talk any sense into their rebellious heads of stone. They simply will not listen to sound reasoning or good council. If they would only straighten up and fly right, or commit their lives to the Lord everyone would be so much happier, including the kids.
Some seem to do so at times. If the outside pressures become too intense, they may say the sinners prayer and go to church for awhile; but everyone's hearts are broken when those teenagers or grown children go back to the pig pens of the world. But there is no great wonder here. Those kids are in bondage to their nature and are merely exercising their freewill and doing that which comes natural, and they have a hard time understanding why their parents and family won't leave them alone.
Since they are sinners by nature, their will can only be according to that nature. Some of their wills are manifested in one form or another, perhaps very evil, while others will be much different, depending on the character of each. And if God does not send a great fish or a swarm of hornets into their houses, don't be discouraged. This is His doing, not ours, nor the children's. They are not the ones who call the plays or run the race.
Although they are in bondage to their nature, we would all do well to remember that they are free; but their freedom is only free to act according to their nature, nothing more, nothing less. For instance, without the aid of a device of some sort, people are not free to fly because they do not have the nature to do so. They are not birds, nor do they have light-weight bones or wings. Horses will not slop with the pigs at the trough and eat garbage. This, of course, is not because horses are not free to eat garbage, nor that they are lacking the necessary body parts, such as mouths and teeth, but it is because of their nature. And so it is with pigs. We will never see them grazing in the pastures with the horses and cows. They may be in the same pastures, but rather than grazing grass they will be rooting in the ground for grub worms and other pig morsels. And this is for the same reason they do not eat as the horses and cows eat--not because they are not free to do so, but because they are free only to do according to their nature.
So it is with the freedom of the will in the adamic man. Men are only free to act according to their nature. They have no will to act or do anything that is not their nature. We would love to coerce our rebellious children to cease from eating from pig troughs and have them to feast at the banqueting table of our Lord; but until their nature is changed from hogs and dogs to that of the eagle, their freewill remains unchanged. There will be nothing in them that will desire a world that they know nothing about; for they are spiritually dead and know nothing about the world of the living.
Jesus made this very clear when He said, "...a tree is known by his fruit," and "...O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 35A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things." Matthew 12:33-35.
There are some points to notice in this passage through which the light of Christ's word passes: A tree that has fruit; men, good or evil, bring treasures out of the treasure chest of their hearts; and the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart like a stream that overflows its banks. The latter is not so obvious as the first two; but the word, abundance, speaks of an overflowing, a surplus, superabundance, an excess, superfluous. It is as a liquid overflowing the brim or banks of its container.
First, man is like a tree, and his heart is the root of the tree. It is the source of his life. It is who he is. From this root his nature is manifested as the trunk, limbs and fruit. There is no way for fruit to be produced contrary to the nature of the roots. There is nothing in his limbs/thoughts to have such a desire, and when his roots are bad, the entire tree is bad; for he is bound by his nature to produce bad/evil fruit. If an apple tree could do the impossible and decide to alter its fruit, regardless of how strong its will might be, it could never override the nature of its roots and produce strawberries. Notwithstanding, with every tree/man having his own nature, good and/or evil, spiritual or natural, he can only will that which is in accordance to that nature.
Second, man is like a person standing on a street corner with his treasure chest, and he hands out to every passerby from that which is contained in his treasure chest. If the man is in Jesus Christ, he will be blessing people with precious stones that his treasure holds. If the man has not been born from above, there is no way of drawing priceless items from a box filled with his carnal nature--wood, hay, stubble, and perhaps some rusty iron.
Third, man is like a stream which cannot rise above its source, the spring from which its nature comes. It cannot be different than its source. If a man's spring flows through the leach-line of a septic tank, his stream will be polluted, bitter, evil. If his source is fresh and sweet, his stream will be the same. If it is good, it will not be bitter, and from the good branches of his tree he cannot and will not choose to be bitter. Doing so would be contrary to his nature.
The will is not neutral to choose which way it will flow. When it is dead in trespasses and sin it cannot of its own will choose life. Everyone's will must reach into the heart for its choices. The contents of the heart determine what words and deeds may be brought forth. Every thought, every word, and every deed will draw upon and partake of the nature of the treasure within whether it is from above or from beneath.
These three illustrations contain the same lesson. Namely, what is in a man's heart/roots determines what he chooses. Choices of the will always reveal the character and nature of the heart. The heart is the bottom line, the determining factor of men's freewill. In the same way it is with children, men are not sinners because they choose to sin; they choose to sin because they are sinners. If this were not the case, we could never know a tree by its fruit.
Quite a number of people practice the Christian religion without having been born from above and know nothing of the Kingdom of God. Some have been, but they have been blinded to the truth by the traditions of men, as well as other contributing factors. They may say the proper words and believe the right doctrines, yet, these things are not the fruit of godliness in Jesus Christ. They may have similar appearances to that of the fruit of the tree of life, but such things are facades. They are like Christmas tree ornaments that are pretty and shiny. Very few, however, are fooled and do not take them as being good fruit. You cannot tie imitation fruit onto a tree's branches and expect those called of God to desire it. Tying religious words and doctrines to their lives is nothing more than acting the part of godliness. Jesus called people like this--hypocrites.
Nature itself teaches us that fruit cannot be tied to trees, that each one bears its own fruit. The fruit of evil men is voluntary sin. They take evil treasures out of their chests, that is, evil words and evil deeds. Righteous men are holy by choice; they select good treasures, that is, good words and good works.
If the will were able to make decisions contrary to reason, as well as the likes and desires of the heart, it would be an entity totally alienated from its host and could become a treacherous enemy. If this was remotely possible, and you were such a person, you might find yourself in a restaurant ordering all the foods you dislike. You might find yourself socializing with the type of people you abhor. You might find yourself sailing around the world while your heart's desire is to be a homebody. Or worse yet, contrary to your heart, you might murder, rape, steal and plunder. But, praise God, the will is not alienated from its host, and it is not a treacherous enemy. It is a friend to the heart whether it is of the first Adam or the Last. Your will can never choose contrary to your heart; for they are joined together and so tightly knit that they are one. Your will expresses your heart, and you are free to be yourself whether in the goodness of Jesus Christ or in the evils of the old man. The point is, you cannot be anything other than who you are, and try as you may, your will cannot transform you into someone else. If it could, there would be no need for Jesus and his death would have all been in vain.
This is true in the realms of both morality and religion. When the mind is at war with God; when it denies His truth; when the emotions hate everything about Jesus Christ; when it wants God's word and the gospel to be banned from the earth--the will cannot be in a position to choose Him, the very one who is detested. If the will could oppose its soul mate and do this, a man would not be truly free to be himself, and he would be a kingdom that is divided against itself. Here is a truth about man's freewill: while free from outward compulsion, it is in a state of bondage to whatever heart it is joined--Christ's or Adam's. It is not alone and in a state of neutrality to vacillate to and fro at it's own whim. It is not a tool by which a man's nature and personality can be moved from sin to righteousness, from unbelief to faith.
The will of a natural man is in bondage to sin. The chains which bind his will to sin do not come from God, not by any means. The chains of bondage are the man's own sin-laden faculties. The prison is his own nature, and he cannot escape it on his own. Furthermore, he does not want to break loose. He is always willingly obedient to that master who imprisons him. He gladly eats the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but never from the tree of Life, for an evil heart cannot give that which it has not. Its treasure chest is totally void of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Again, our Lord's question in Matthew 12:34 brings this home with clarity and force: "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?" Frankly, it is impossible! Our wise Lord is saying that a man can only speak as he does due to what he is. To sinners, He was saying, "You are unable to choose good words because your nature is that of your father the devil, you have an evil heart, and it possesses you. If the tree is bad, if the treasure chest is filled with evil things, if the fountain is bitter, your will cannot produce good words. Your fruits and treasures will overflow and produce after its own kind--evil."
There is a plethora of scriptures which attest to a man's bondage to sin that is due to his nature. Such as, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil..." Jeremiah 13:23. "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him..." John 6:44. And "Because the carnal mind...is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Romans 8:7.
These examples are no different than when Lazarus lay dead in the tomb. He had no ability of his own to stand up and live; but when Jesus told him to come forth, he did. And the man who had been impotent for thirty-eight years had no ability to heal himself regardless of how strong his will might have been. Yet, when Jesus commanded for him to take up his bed and walk, he immediately did so. And likewise, when we speak from the throne of grace to those laying dead in the tombs of their carnal hearts, they will hear and live. When our anointed words strum the heart-chords of life within them--they will sing praises to God as they pick up their beds and walk, and nothing can prevent it! Their hearts and nature will be changed from Adam's death to Christ's Life, and their freewill shall change as well from freely willing that which ministers death to that which freely genders life!
"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Revelation 22:17. Now that the veil has removed from the face of this mystery, can we now see the Spirit of the word in our text verse? Namely, those who will take the water of life freely are the ones whose wills were changed due to hearing the Spirit and bride say to come. Likewise, they hear those who had previously heard (the bride) and who had been made alive and their wills changed. They, the bride, speak as the Spirit from the throne of grace. Moreover, no one can thirst after righteousness if their nature has not been changed. But with it changed, the door of life is opened wide to them; thus--"let him that is athirst come, and let him take the water of life freely." Their will is now free to do so! Praise God for this apocalypse that is from He who is the changer of natures and wills!
Elwin R. Roach
1. It is believed by various religious organizations that these rites/rituals convey divine grace, blessing, sanctification, and eternal salvation upon the ones who participate in them. They also represent the gift of the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, and membership into the Church.
2. When only twenty-six years of age Calvin published in Latin his "Institutes of the Christian Religion." The first edition contained in brief outline all the essential elements of his system...but never did he make any radical departure from any of the doctrines set forth in the first edition. http://www.reformed-theology.org/html/books/calvinism-history/10.htm
3. Excerpt: "After the subjects had made up their minds, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions, such as disgust, and the activity in areas that involve reward sharply increased, a response that Westen said 'was similar to an addict getting a fix.' He went on to say that 'There were no increases in the part of the brain that controlled reasoning. They were not taking the information given to them and logically thinking it through.'
"'The finding suggests that the emotion-driven processes that lead to biased judgments likely occur
outside of awareness, and are distinct from normal reasoning processes when emotion is not so heavily
engaged....The result is that partisan beliefs are calcified, and the person can learn very little from new data.'
said Dr. Westen." (rf. Publication #224.10)
4. "Then he said to me, "The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations,
and tongues. 16And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate
and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His
purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.
18And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth."
4. "Then he said to me, "The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. 16And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth." Revelation 17:15-18
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