For by grace you have
been saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8 WEB

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New Life of Beauty and Grace

The Power of Your Will

Apart from God, your will is the single most powerful thing in your universe. It has the power to choose heaven or hell as your ultimate destination and a heaven infused life versus a hellish one down here.[1] Like a fire hose under maximum pressure it can send you careening all over the place, unless you learn how to get a good grip on the thing and attach your will to His grace and truth.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live. Deuteronomy 30:19 ESV
 

The Power of Our Will

Your will is powerful! God has gone on record with “heaven and earth” as witnesses that He has given to no one else but you the power to choose life and death, blessing and cursing. It is “set New Life in Christ: The Power of Your Will: Cliff Climberbefore” you every day. In every situation, at all times, you and you alone have this stupendous power over your life. There has to be a catch. Otherwise, all of us would be living the dream. That’s just not happening! Perhaps it’s time to check the fine print on the offer and see what the deal really is.

One thing we need to note right away is that in giving this power to us, God had to “step back” and create room for it (us) to operate. If you give a friend the keys to your car, you retain ultimate responsibility for all that follows, but he has immediate authority over the car. If your car is a Ferrari, watch out! He may not even take you along for the ride. In that case, he’ll be fully on his own with something he is ill-equipped to handle. Yet, that is just what our God has done. He has given us “earth suits” with immense capabilities and turned the keys over to us.

We can even say “No” to God! Think about it. The most powerful Being in the universe has given all of us the ability to say no to Him and make it stick. He wants to bless all of us at every turn, He desires to save all of us from that final speed bump at the end of the road, but we are juiced up on Self and barreling along in our Ferrari, keeping His Hands off the wheel and our feet on the gas. That’s a formula for disaster. And even God cannot stop us from crashing and burning. He has given true freedom of choice to us.
 

The Problem of Our Will

There’s a good reason why the Lord didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We are all “stuck” with having to choose between good and evil, right and wrong, blessing and cursing with every choice we make. No one can “opt out”—this is our moment by moment moral responsibility. Through our ancestral parents we are born into this whether we like it or not. We have to choose. Even not choosing is a choice.

The great problem is that we are always operating under conditions of insufficient knowledge. We don’t know what right and wrong truly are in every situation. Neither do we always know which decision will produce consequences of blessing down the road, or summon the curse. These would be problems enough, but to make matters much worse, our entire perspective is skewed. We have become “as gods” in our own little worlds, seeing everything from the warped perspective of Self.[2] What seems best for me and mine isn’t necessarily the best.[3]

These are insurmountable obstacles! In Christian terms wrong choices don’t simply produce mistakes, they are sins—sins of thought, word or deed, of things done or left undone, whether known or unknown to us. Sin left unchecked always produces death.[4] Sins are notoriously hard to remedy, but being sinful is even worse. Yet that’s our pre-conversion condition of being centered exclusively on Self, riddled through and through with a fallen nature which interprets all of life from our own self-serving perspective. How do you escape that?

This does not mean that we can’t get some things right. Obviously, people all over the world make lots of good choices, including trying to overcome their natural tendencies to selfishness, or the world would be in much worse condition. Anyone can make a right choice at any time. That is the power we have been given. To make a right choice and to make it stick we need two things which we have sometimes, but not all of the time:

1) Sufficient knowledge of what the best choice truly is.

2) Sufficient motivation to carry it out.
 

For this reason St. Augustine and many of the Reformers insisted that our will is not genuinely free. It is hopelessly shackled by our sin nature and by the inescapable limitations of our imperfect knowledge and faulty motivation. Of our own “free” will, none of us can save ourselves. None of us can even ensure our earthly happiness. Or totally avoid bone-headed failures. As they say, even good intentions can “pave the way to hell.”
 

The Playing Field

Suffering and wrong choices are never God’s fault. He is not the Author of evil.[5] He never makes any wrong choices. He is perfectly loving and thoroughly right in all of His ways. Giving freedom to us (and to the angels, even those that fell) was the right choice. His love cherishes our freedom. What’s more, His love can only grow in us if we are free. How did things go so wrong?

All suffering, sin and evil are the result of three things:

1) Free will—our choices.  Here’s where the rubber meets the road each and every day.

2) Real world—our consequences.  Every choice has a consequence for good or ill, for better or worse. This is called the law of sowing and reaping.[6]

3) Real devil—our enemy. Even the angles were free to choose. Some chose to rebel along with Satan, who then deceived us into joining the Great Rebellion. Now they are seeking to “devour” us through our own wrong choices.[7]


On this field of play there are three typical conditions of the will:

1) A strong will. Having a strong will is what we ordinarily call will power. These people make choices and make them stick. We generally admire those who have a strong will, but the source for this is Self. It can be just as firmly fixed on something wrong, as on something we think right. The Bible calls it being stubborn and stiff-necked.[8]          

2) A weak will. What seems to us like a weak will, is actually a strong will in disguise. It too is powered up by the fallen nature, but unlike the “strong” will this person cannot (or will not) make a choice and make it stick. The Bible calls this being double minded.[9] Both those with “strong wills” and those will “weak wills” keep God out.

3) A yielded will. This is the one we want. Now that we know Jesus as our Savior, we can freely choose to surrender and submit to His leadership over our lives as Lord. This is called having a willing spirit.[10]  
 

The Coach's Game Plan

It’s time to go back to the fine print and see the rest of the Lord’s statement on that fateful “day” when He set blessings and curses before His people as their sovereign choice. In Deuteronomy verse 19 He told them about the power He was giving them. This is immediately followed in verse 20 with His strong “recommendations” for what they/we should do with this incredible power. These two verses should never be separated!

19 I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live 20 and may love the Lord your God, obey His voice, and cling to Him. For He is your life and the length of your days, that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 AMP
 

Did you catch that? In order to “love Him” and reap the blessings, we have to "obey His voice." That means listening for the inner leading of the Holy Spirit as well as for His voice coming to us through conscience, so that we can Walk in His Spirit. To do that His “advice” is that we “cling” to Him. How do we cling to God? By calling on His Name!

Call on Him whenever you need help with your choices or with your motivation; whenever you need help resisting temptation; above all, whenever you begin to falter at trusting and obeying Jesus. These are the moments in daily life that we all face. All of us need Jesus to help, save or rescue us in the midst of them. What do we have to do to get His help? Call and cling!

For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10:13 ESV
 

Free will only works for us if we keep it attached to the One who gave it to us. Jesus is our Tree of Life![11] Now that we know who He is, we should be “feeding” on Him for all we are worth. As we learn to look to Him for guidance about our choices and call on Him for help to see them through, we enter into the life that has been promised to us, a life of purpose, passion and peace.

This New Life doesn’t work by will power, but by will submission. We choose to believe in Jesus, we choose to trust what He tells us (in His Word and by His Spirit) and we choose to follow Him. Whenever we believe in Jesus enough to trust Him with everything and everyone, the Holy Spirit empowers us to walk with Him in yielded obedience. This is genuine Spiritual Health. It is also our one true offering to God.

God has given us one thing that is uniquely our own—our wills—so that we can have something of value to offer back to Him.[12]


More to Explore

Spiritual Growth ABCs  Even babies begin growing as soon as they leave the womb. Now that you’ve left the dark womb of the world behind, you’re going to need a clear idea about which way is up where your growth is concerned. These pages will give you the keys for accelerated growth!

By the Gospel of Grace  It was Jesus who saved you by His death on the cross; it was the Father’s love that saved you by sending Jesus to the cross in your place; and it is the Holy Spirit who is bringing that salvation into your life by His work of helping you to believe, trust and obey. But the vehicle they are using to drive all this home into your heart and life is the Gospel of Grace.
 

Scriptures on the Will

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! Psalms 143:10 ESV
 
And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39 ESV
And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." Luke 22:41-42 ESV
 
"A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master." Matthew 10:24-25 ESV
 

Scriptures and Foot Notes

[1]  “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days." Deuteronomy 30:19-20 ESV
[2]  But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:4-5 ESV
[3]  There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12 AMP
[4]  The soul who sins shall die. Ezekiel 18:20 ESV; For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 ESV; Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:15 ESV
[5]   James says that we should not allow ourselves to “be deceived” concerning God’s perfect goodness. Our God has no “shadowy” side whatsoever: Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:16-17 ESV
[6]  Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8 ESV
[7]  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith. 1 Peter 5:8-9 ESV
[8]  For I know your rebellion, and your stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, you have been rebellious against Yahweh; and how much more after my death? Deuteronomy 31:27 WEB
[9]  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7-8 ESV
[10]  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me… Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalms 51:10, 12 ESV
[11]  From the beginning we were meant to be “feeding on” or drawing our life from the One who is Life, Jesus: The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9 ESV
[12]  I am paraphrasing from memory. I think the quote comes from Francois Fenelon, Spiritual Letters to Women, Keats Publishing, Inc., New Canaan, Connecticut: 1980. P?