New Apostolic Church USA

The Gift of Free Will

"Free Will... But For What?" from the 2020 Winter Vision Newsletter

God created man and woman in His image and gave them some of His attributes. Highlighted among these is the ability to choose freely, free will. Throughout the course of humankind, we can observe how this great gift could bring people into God’s proximity under His blessing and joy, or separate them from the Almighty, resulting in sorrow and even disaster.

God allows us a free will to be able to decide for Him or not, to love Him or not.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we express the words, Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

We can understand that the Lord gave us this phrase in relation to our concern about the decisions we make with our free will. It is during the time of decision-making that we are most exposed to temptation. Our free will allows us to do whatever we want, but we need to ask ourselves, “Just because I can do something, does that mean I should do it?” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:23, All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

As a clear example of how to manage our free will when making decisions, let us look to Jesus when He was tempted in the wilderness by Satan.

Satan first tells Jesus to satiate His hunger, since He had not eaten for forty days, by turning a stone into bread. Jesus responds with, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’” (Luke 4:4).

Even though it seems to be a logical choice, the temptation is to act, being driven by an earthly desire, and in doing so, comply with Satan’s wishes. Jesus resisted, quoting Scripture, and realized that Satan’s offer was not a choice that would lead to sustenance.

Let us also not invest in something that will not sustain us. Examples of this may be to only focus completely on a profession or a relationship. We should always seek God’s will in these matters and ask Him, “What is the best thing for me? What can sustain me into the future?”

Another temptation that Jesus faced is when the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and claimed that He could have authority over all if He worshiped him. Jesus responded, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Luke 4:8).

We may also be presented with different kingdoms in our own lives that make us feel like we are in control. The internet has made these kingdoms available to us very easily by showing and offering us many things that are of interest to us, that make us feel good. These offerings can validate our own opinions and reinforce our egos as algorithms connect us with people who have the same views. We can be deceived into thinking that what we see on the internet is the only reality, and that others with different perspectives are wrong.

And while the internet can help us connect with others, it also may alienate us as it consumes our time and attention. This consumption of time and interest could be considered akin to worshiping, as it is something we give worth to by spending our time with it. We should always be aware of what we give our time and attention to, asking ourselves if these “kingdoms” are truly worth it.

A third temptation we see in the account of Luke 4 is when the devil brings Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple. He says to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you’” … And Jesus responded, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (Luke 4:9-12).

At times, we may be lured into taking a risk for the sake of a rush of adrenaline or pleasure. Or, we may be drawn to push the boundaries of ourselves or of others. The unspoken question becomes, “How far can I go?” How much can I get away with? How far away from God can I go and still have His protection? Jesus’ lesson is clear: do not tempt God and push Him to act. If we truly love Him, why would we hover at the boundaries of His care? Rather, we should fight our tendency to wander, and seek His proximity and presence.

Consider the third verse from Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing: O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wand’ring heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, o take and seal it; seal it for Thy courts above.

In these moments of temptation, where our free will is tested, we need to trust God to provide for us the right path, be sure of and strive to fulfill our purpose, and be convinced that God’s will is best.

God has given us the gift of free will. However to grapple with this correctly, when we pray the words, Do not lead us..., we are asking God to help us govern our free will, to realize the great benefit in aligning our desires with what God desires. His will is what we strive to fulfill, looking to Jesus as the ultimate example in accomplishing the Father’s will.

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