Archive for Free Will/Predestination

Do Unto Others: Part 4–Who Do You Think You Are?

 

Who do you think you are?

 

I’m not asking that in the sense that you usually hear it.  Usually this is a rhetorical question reserved for somebody who is getting WAY out of line.

 

But seriously, who DO you think you are?  What kind of adjectives would you use to describe yourself?

 

Unfortunately, the words many people would think of are not flattering.  “Depressed.”  “Worthless.”  “Insignificant.”  “Damaged goods.”  “Failure.”  “Unlovable.”

 

This matters, because how we see ourselves is a major factor in determining how we interact with others.  People who have a low self-image are not likely to engage in a healthy way, if at all, with the world around them.

 

Self-image is a complex thing.  It is the sum total of every attitude we have ever had about ourselves, but also everything we have ever HEARD about ourselves.  Some people are just jerks that like to pick on us and beat down our self-image.  Sometimes, however, we suffer long-term consequences for something we actually did do.

 

If any of this sounds familiar to you, may I offer you some encouragement, courtesy of St. Paul?

 

And his fullness fills you, even though you were once like corpses, dead in your sins and offenses.  It wasn’t that long ago that you lived in the religion, customs, and values of this world, obeying the dark ruler of the earthly realm who fills the atmosphere with his authority, and works diligently in the hearts of those who are disobedient to the truth of God.  The corruption that was in us from birth was expressed through the deeds and desires of our self – life.  We lived by whatever natural cravings and thoughts our minds dictated, living as rebellious children subject to God’s wrath like everyone else.

But God still loved us with such great love.  He is so rich in compassion and mercy.  Even when we were dead and doomed in our many sins, he united us into the very life of Christ and saved us by his wonderful grace!  He raised us up with Christ the exalted One, and we ascended with him into the glorious perfection and authority of the heavenly realm, for we are now co-seated as one with Christ!

Throughout the coming ages we will be the visible display of the infinite, limitless riches of his grace and kindness, which was showered upon us in Jesus Christ.  For it was only through this wonderful grace that we believed in him.  Nothing we did could ever earn this salvation, for it was the gracious gift from God that brought us to Christ!  So no one will ever be able to boast, for salvation is never a reward for good works or human striving.

We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One.  Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!  Ephesians 2:1-10 (TPT)

 

Our worth does not come from what we have done (or failed to do) or from anyone’s opinion of us.  We have value simply because we were created in the image of the One who is the most worthy of all.  We didn’t have to clean ourselves up or check of a list of criteria or accomplishments to be “good enough” to live this life.  Rather, we have this life to live because we are already counted as good enough by the only One who matters!

 

We were made in the image of the all-sufficient God; therefore, what we have in our hands will always be sufficient for the tasks ahead of us.  Because when we were created, so was all of the work that God had planned out for our entire lives.  We are all wired to be proficient at and passionate about certain things.  And although we do have the free will to choose whether or not we want to walk on this path that has been so scrupulously marked out for us, it always seems to go better for us when we do.

 

Will we get off the path from time to time?  Of course we will.  We’re humans; we do that.  Remember, though, that the value of your life is not determined by how many times you screw up.  There are no “D-” children of God.  Life is pass/fail, and the pass is irrevocable, because the One giving the grade rigged the coursework in our favor.  All you have to do is show up for class.

 

Success!

 

I think the reason so many of us (myself included) see ourselves as failures is because our definition of “success” is all whackety.  We live in a world that is constantly judging our performance, so naturally, we do that to ourselves as well.  It seems we’re always trying to measure up to something.

 

Can we please help each other get over this?

 

I’m going to repeat myself here, because I need to hear it again too.  We don’t EVER need to worry about being good enough, because we were designed to be good enough to do the work that we were designed to do.

 

At the end of our lives, there are no bonus points for climbing the corporate ladder.  No other human will be giving testimony at the Judgment Seat of God that will determine whether or not we make the cut.  God is only going to ask us about two things: What we did with Jesus, and what we did with the gifts He gave us.

 

I need to pause here to note that the questions come in that order for a reason.  Because if you haven’t done anything with Jesus, the rest of this doesn’t matter.  You can’t do the work God predestined you to do if you are not even aware of (or are in denial of) the Truth that God actually did do that.  The thing is, we can’t do any of this on our own.  God doesn’t just provide the calling for our lives, but also the strength to live it out.  If we aren’t in a state of total trust and reliance upon that strength, then we are doomed to failure.

 

But wait a minute, aren’t there lots of successful people in this world who don’t believe in God?  Again I ask, how are you defining success?  If you’re talking about worldly things like money and status, then sure, I guess.  But as the King of the Piedmont Blues, Cootie Stark, once sang, “I never saw no U-Haul behind no hearse.”

 

 

 

Sure, we can make money and get the corner office, the big house, and all that.  But are we ever satisfied with our own efforts?  Solomon was one of the richest kings who ever lived, but this is his observation:

 

If you love money, you will never be satisfied; if you long to be rich, you will never get all you want.  It is useless.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 (GNT)

 

It is true that our identity is inextricably bound to our work.  It’s supposed to be that way, but we tend to look at this truth from the wrong angle.  Our work doesn’t determine who we are.  Who we are—who we REALLY are—determines our work.

 

So maybe when we meet people for the first time, instead of asking the typical guy question, “So what do you do?” maybe we should be asking, “Who do you think you are?”  Well, maybe not, but you get the idea, right?

 

So, Truthseeker, who DO you think you are?  Or better still, who do you KNOW you are?  Because that will determine what you do.

 

Free Will or Fate?

 

 

If God is omniscient and omnipotent, do we really have free will, or are we merely puppets of fate?  To answer this question, we need to go back to the Garden of Eden.

Adam and Eve did not have theology or organized religion; they had ONE rule.  Don’t eat off that one tree.  That’s it.  Only one “don’t.”  Everything else was a “go ahead.”

Well, we all know how this turned out.  Eve said that the serpent deceived her, but she still chose to eat the fruit.  Adam didn’t even have deception as an excuse.  However, since a man will do whatever a naked woman says, he also chose to eat the fruit.

Now theologians have argued for centuries about whether or not Adam’s choice was predestined.  Well, if it was predestined, then it was not a choice.  If Adam had no freedom of choice, then it would follow that we don’t either.

This argument makes no sense theologically, or even just plain logically, because a complete absence of free will would make our creation devoid of purpose.  God created us in His own image, and God is not a robot.  Therefore, we are not robots.

Everything we do is a choice, whether we are conscious of the fact that we are making a choice or not.  Some of those choices may be against God’s plan for our lives.

If we were to live a perfect life, as Jesus did, then our lives would be a straight line between point A (birth) and point B (death).  This straight line represents God’s predestined will for our lives.

Only here’s the problem.  No one lives a perfect life, on account of our having free will.  The choices that we make which are not in accordance with God’s plan will direct us away from God’s straight line from point A to point B.

Since God is omniscient, He knows not only that our rebellion was possible but all the possible ways in which we could rebel, consciously or unconsciously.

So how does this concept play out in our lives?

Picture the predestined straight line of God’s will as an interstate highway taking you on the fastest and easiest route from birth to death.  Making a choice contrary to God’s will would be like getting off the interstate and taking a dirt road into the desert.

The farther you go down that road, the farther away from the interstate you are.  In addition, the dirt road may have twists and turns and lead you down into canyons and ravines.  Then, not only are you far away from the interstate, but you are also completely lost.

When we stray from God’s path, He sets up detours in our lives to divert us back to His predestined will—the straight line.  Nevertheless, we still have the free will to choose whether to allow ourselves to be detoured, or to crash the barricades and continue to go our own way.  If we do that enough times, God steps back and lets us go over the cliff.

Fortunately for us, we still have the opportunity to repent and surrender, thereby allowing God to lift us up out of the ditch we have steered ourselves into and put us back on his road (kind of like in Mario Kart).  Furthermore, as long as we are alive, God’s grace gives us an unlimited number of do-overs as we continue down the road.

When you look at it that way, the issue of whether events of our lives are predestined fades in significance.  The main question becomes not “Do I have control over my life?” so much as “What will I do with the control that I do have?”

In other words, ultimately our free will determines our fate.