Truly Free Will
“Does man have free will?” someone wrote and asked me a while back. It seems an innocent enough question, and if one already has a systemized theology with a standardized pat answer to this innocent question, it is in that case easy enough to answer.
But that has always been one of my problems. My systematic theologies keep systematically breaking down, and as always with innocent little questions of that type, the answer must be something more real than academic.
So we start with … freedom?
It is out of freedom that God requires our works at our hands. If we were simply beings without will we could not be called sons and He could not require anything of us. Because we have all eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, each of us is aware in our core of the fruit of that tree. We have all been the same as Adam and Eve, trying to hide from the Lord God, because we have all known our own nakedness (not being clothed with God, Who is our true clothing) and are inwardly ashamed of it, since we all know we have not been what we were created to be. There is something missing, and we all know it.
Every man (male and female) shall give an account of his own life before and in God (Rom 14:12). There is no one on earth who does not inwardly know there is a Living God, in and to Who we are eternally responsible. We all live and move and have our existence in Him (Acts 17:28). This is the foundational basis of our whole being – everything we are. This is not just an idea or a concept. God Himself is the very Reality that we live in right now.
He has created us to be filled with Himself and by our human lives to express Him through and as those same human lives. Yet we have each gone our own way and we know it. We are each answerable to God for our own self-opposition. It doesn't matter if we are unfamiliar with the words of the Bible and/or “Christian theology,” because we know it in our inner parts. We all inwardly face a dread that underlies all of life. Every religion or philosophy the world has ever seen is some effort to deal with this deep discomfort, as well as all the addictions of man: sex, power, fame, money, drugs, self-pity, etc. This is what Hebrews calls the lifetime bondage of the fear of death. (Heb 2:15)
Of course it is the kingdom of darkness that we sense, and thank God we do, because that sensing is the beginning of our return home. The Spirit uses the discomforts that dog us to turn our hearts inside out from darkness toward light, toward God. The outer reasons can be infinite: as varied as our discomforts are, so are the varied ways God uses to draw us into Himself, and thereby to reveal the Son in us.
How does that happen? Jesus told the apostles no one could come to Him except the Father draw him (Jn 6:44). But next Jesus says, “And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh to me” (Jn 6:45).
So there is a drawing, which comes from God, and there is a hearing and a learning which occurs in man. So first of all, everyone is drawn, because everyone is taught! “All shall be taught of God.”
The speaking of God is going on in all creation in everything that is. A person begins to wake up to true life when he himself first begins to hear that speaking. Of course it is not an outer sound vibration that he hears, sound waves vibrating on his physical eardrum, but rather a spiritual ear in his spirit center, that suddenly begins to be released from deafness and starts to “hear” for the first time the speaking of God.
That speaking has always been going in his life, but either gradually it grows in consciousness, or by some Damascus road experience it happens, that he realizes, in some sense, that “God IS.”
I have heard many stories of this first awakening from many people. One man who stands out, a fellow named Don who told me this more than thirty years ago, said he was walking on a California beach at sundown one evening. As he stood still watching the sun sinking little by little into the Pacific Ocean, he began to weep because it was so beautiful, and he didn't know who to thank. One thing led to another, and then the Lord Jesus found him, and through Him Don met the One to thank!
Drawn to God
In my own life, I went through an extremely intense time of searching in my late teens and early twenties. I wasn't even aware of what I was searching for. I just knew that there was something fundamentally wrong about my life, and for the space of about one very very intense year – the year of my 21st birthday – “finding God” became the sole passion of my life. I HAD to!
And I did, as at the end of that year, I found myself, by grace, dropping everything else for the Pearl of Great Price Who had made Himself known to me: the Lord Jesus Christ.
All those years ago, from my perspective at the time, it was just what was happening, and I simply went with the flow of it, from one point to another. I didn't do anything particularly “holy” to start the process or to continue it. I didn't even “choose” to start the process. I didn't even know there was a process to start. If anything, when I first began to think of God in those days (when I was partying every day and every night, taking every illegal substance made or grown), my life was about little other than my own pleasure. Whatever produced pleasure in the moment, I was for it, and would most likely participate if I could. It was in the midst of that life that I began to “hear” something else.
Of all things to start the “hearing” process, one day Janis (my girlfriend at the time, wife now) and I each took the strongest dose of LSD we had ever taken, a capsule with 2.5 doses of Orange Sunshine in it (one of the most potent forms of LSD available at the time). I had the strangest ride ever. Over and over again in my mind, and seemingly also in my experience, I moved back and forth through different planes of reality. For a period that seemed to go for a couple of hours I experienced dying and coming back to life again. I would literally sink down to what seemed to be a point of death, and then at just that point, I would begin to regain life.
At one crucial point, I came to a decisive moment. There seemed to be “others” there (I could not see them but I could sense them), and they told me I had a choice of whether to go back into life or stay in the place where I was.
At the time where I was seemed wonderful, and for a moment I wondered what did I have to go back for. Why go back and live in that drudgery any more? But for some inexplicable reason, I remembered a particular small child we knew. Though I wasn’t a father yet, when I remembered the child, a young boy, it instantly became crystal clear to me that I had a reason to return – for all those coming after me. At that moment I consciously chose to live, to “go back,” and from that instant on, the dying and coming back to life stopped, and I became conscious only in this world.
People might say it was the drug, or the devil – maybe so, maybe not – but the result was that when it was over and I came back into my regular mind, I had seen and known for a fact that there was something to life beyond what I could feel and experience with my five senses, my intellect and emotions. It was the rock bottom beginning of my “turn” -- from prodigal son eating the husks the swine won't eat, toward the eternal Father, the ground and source of our being. And at the end of that year, I met Jesus when I came to a waterloo, alone in the night in deep trouble, and poured out my soul to One in Whom my mind did not yet believe, but in Whom, by that time, my heart could not help but to cleave to. It was love, and not reason, that won the day!
Choices and Choosing
Now what does any of this have to do with man having “free will” or not?
I think about Don on the beach and wonder if anyone else experienced the same thing Don did, and either kept with it or didn't? Was the same Word being spoken to everyone on that beach that day, or just to Don? Was not God teaching all on the beach that day? Did all hear? And if they heard, did they learn?
Or in my case, how is it I got picked out of my group of friends? How is it I “heard” the word of God and was eventually brought out of darkness into His light, while the majority of my friends showed no interest whatsoever? Why is that? Weren't they also being spoken to? I would have to think so, but why they haven't as yet heard, then learned, and then come to Him, I couldn't say. The same offer was given to them, because I myself told them. But why didn't they hear, and I did? I don't know.
But I am certain this is the truth, that it was God Who was the instigator, from start to finish, of that whole process in me, which of course has continued until this day. I certainly didn't think it up nor even desire it, at least consciously, at the time it began to spring up. The desire to seek God simply came out of nowhere, as a complete surprise to me. I had had no thoughts of God. My “god” at the time meant having a perpetual party.
But God, for His own reasons of love, eternally knew me in Himself, and made that knowing known in me. Why me? I don’t know. It is God’s business.
Someone might say, “But you didn't resist,” and I would answer that isn't true. For the most part there was nothing to resist, at least at first, since I was just living in a flow along in a stream of life that went from one thing to another. Sometimes there was a plan; sometimes there wasn't. Sometimes the plan worked out. Most of the times there had to be Plan B and C and D and so on. I had no CLUE which way to go, so I just stumbled from what looked like one mistake and bust to another, but found myself getting there anyway! How come?
Free will? Yes, I did choose, finally at some point, to make my faith leap into the Unknown – Jesus. But it came after a million other things just “happened” that I didn't so directly “choose.” By the time it was clear to me that I had to respond to this increasingly insistent call from God, it had also become pretty much the only recourse I could have taken. To have NOT taken the leap into Jesus would have been the harder thing. I was brought there, brought to the moment of that “choice,” if you can call it that. But to me it was more like a desperate plea into a dark void, hoping against hope that God was really there, rather than some intelligent calculated choice!
There is no doubt whatsoever that I had been in the thrall of my old master, Mr. Self-for-self. But God's voice reaches through that hypnotic spell, and enables us to hear Him even while we are still held in prison by the other. He's like Radio Free Europe, blasting into old communist Europe. By the Spirit’s wooing we are enabled to hear the voice of Freedom even while living under the propaganda of a totalitarian regime. I was stirred within me somehow to somehow break out of the confines of my old life, to “bust out” of there and find freedom. I just started “hearing” and followed rather blindly along a led path every step until I met Him.
And all of life has been that with me. I have learned that in my freedom He expresses His will and election. I long ago agreed with His Voice in me in faith that He chose me before the foundation of the earth (Eph 1:4) – that I am accepted in the beloved (Eph 1:6), among the elect (Col 3:12; 1 Pet 1:2), a brick in the household of God (Eph 3:18-22), and a branch of True Vine (John 15:5).
That hasn't made any agony of major (and sometimes even minor) choices less difficult from time to time. That is part of the divine process in us. The outcome of that process is the manifestation of the Son, and how that is “effected” in us is the same as our coming to Him in the first place. We are participants and we do respond – but – it is He who calls us, and not we who first seek Him. We seek Him because He calls us and by grace we hear the call to seek Him. We love Him, because He first loved us! (1 John 4:19)
What we increasingly realize as we walk in the Lord, is how He directs our paths. The Lord showed me how even in my “unredeemed” days, He directed all my paths. Even while I was living in the dominion of the god of this world, He directed my paths. Every step God brought me into Himself.
Did I choose my way those prodigal years? Yes, I did. Was I responsible for my transgressions? Yes, I experienced them to the depths of my being. Was the god of this world, Mr. Ol’ Number One, the devil, my master, my inner heart of selfishness and covetousness? Yes, he was, and I had a dim inkling of it and went along with it.
And yet it was God Who knew ME from before the foundations of the earth, and chose me in Him then. Knowing all things beforehand, He is the instigator and engineer of a plan infinitely complex, involving an equally infinite system to manage every thing in it, in order for everything to come out just in the ways that it does in the exact times that it does, for each and every person on earth for all time. And all the while in order to do that, i.e., “work all things after the counsel of the His own will” (Eph 1:11), and “work all things together for good” (Rom 8:28), an infinitely large number of other events must coincide with, precede, or succeed each other all throughout time and history as well as in the contemporary world, in order just for us to be here, right at this moment, and faced with whatever choices we are faced with.
In other words, by the time we come to a point of making a particular choice, the entire universe (and that’s pretty big) has been in a sense “manipulated” to bring us to that point. In that moment our choices have been honed down, from thousands of possibilities of what could have or might have been, to the one or two alternatives that are perfect for us in the present moment. Even though we are not aware of the immensity of what has gone into it, every event of human and universal history, both temporal and eternal, participates, and works together for our good. Everything.
So, yes, we choose, but it is out of His ordering of our steps. We choose out of the choices He has determined in Himself, which is a place of faith we come to individually in Him rather than being a conceptual doctrine.
And as we go further, we discover that He has come into us in order to choose in us as us. Since we are fixedly His, and since He has joined Himself to us as one person with us, what we formerly thought of as our own particular choosing ability has been given over to him, so that our choosing through Christ now becomes a manifestation of His choosing. His will is our will, the two having now become only ONE will.
We Are Pleasing to God
Jesus said, “I always do those things pleasing to Him.” How could even Jesus say that, except by the Father within Him who “does the works.?” Ezekiel says He CAUSES us to walk in His ways (Ez 36:26,27), and in our freedom we are delighted to be “caused” by the Lord God to walk in His light expressing Him only! And how could this be, except we receive Him by faith (our one capacity in freedom), and walk in agreement with God, that what He has promised in our lives, He HAS fulfilled!
Always remembering, “It is He who hath made us, and not we ourselves.”
We are not the creators of our own lives or the paths of our lives. God is. Neither will our mental machinations make a hill of beans. Our life is determined by our hearts – for out of it are the issues of life, and our hearts have been permeated by the Spirit of God, kicking out the old hidden indweller, so that in our center we are only One – Christ in us as one with us, so that in our lives we now know only God, as the All, in all. We see nor recognize no other reality, and when we are given by the Spirit to see this, we have finally come to our total rest in Him.
In other words, our heart/spirit center (whether it contains the God of glory and love, or the god of selfishness), determines the path of our lives. Not whether we believe in free will or not. We don't make God do our bidding based upon what we think. Jesus said we cannot accomplish the least little thing by “taking thought.”
However, Proverbs hits the nail on the head, when it says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov 23:7). This is not outer mental thinking, referred to above, but spirit center. This scripture is saying our true colors show and manifest, no matter what our appearance on the outside to the contrary. The writer's example in Proverbs is of a wicked man who flatters – who appears “for you” – but in his heart, spirit center, he is really not how he appears to be outwardly.
So then what wins out – the outer appearance of flattery, or the inner truth of self-for-self? The writer correctly says that whatever the heart is, that is what manifests, instead of focusing on the outer behavior, which might have appeared righteous. The converse is also true.
We live in our “choices” out of our spirit center, and being in Christ that is who we are, and that is where our choices from.
Bottom line, then, when we KNOW union with Christ, i.e. “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (one self) with him,” so that we have been given the revelation and taken by faith the truth of it, we find that our human “I,” having been joined as one with Him, is now He expressing Himself as us. Therefore there is no separation between ourselves and Christ who lives in us. When I (He and I) see that we together are as one person functioning, then the question of free will does not come up. We will what He wills and delight to do so. We have no separate will, and we can't look inside ourselves and figure out where He leaves off and we begin.
The reason is that there is no “place” in us where there is a separation. There is an inner wholeness in us, which permeates everything in our lives, so that all we see is the Lord God in manifestation in all His creatures, even those in opposition to Him. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
What is Freedom?
In this “idea” of free will, if we are to truly discover its meaning, we must first understand freedom in God Himself. Because if there is freedom, and the New Testament is overflowing with it, then it must originate in and be in God Himself. Yet what has happened?
God has limited Himself, describing it from a human understanding, by forever willing only love, and forever rejecting its opposite, a will to hate and devour. So now God's eternal “freedom” is defined, or limited (still speaking only from the crudity of human understanding), by the fact that He has eternally chosen to be only Love, Light and a Lamb slain, i.e., self-giving to the point of death and hell, and in so doing God is seen and manifests Himself in Trinity, as the manifested outflow of His eternally fixed choice of other love.
And in freedom, in which He works all things after the counsel of His own will, He contains all the creations and all its sentient and non-sentient creatures, who contain Him also, though He is only truly known in those who have heard His voice and whose hearts have leapt and who in some way cry, “Abba Father.”
Now the point I am making here, is that in our freedom, which is out of the mysterious free depths of the Godhead, we make a choice, and then from that choice our freedom develops in its limitation by that choice. “Limitation” might not sound like someone’s idea of freedom, but chaos and freedom are two different things. True freedom occurs within the limitations of a course or choice made out of alternative possibilities.
I am speaking of things like marriage, loyalty to friends, the love of God, etc. In choosing my wife, I “keep only unto her,” as the traditional ceremony says. But in that supposed limitation, there is a lifelong freedom within it to discover the greater and greater riches of our union together in marriage. We are “taken” by our choice and our lives develop in freedom within the confines of that choice. Our choice then becomes the foundation of the freedom in which we live.
Now that is what I mean when I am speaking of Galatians 2:20, the most succinct statement of our personal literal reality that has ever been made, when I speak of God willing in us. In the Cross we have died to an “own life” -- an “own will” (which finds its identity primarily in, “I, Me, Mine”). In that emptiness of death (having died with Christ in His death) we have been emptied into nothingness, and through the resurrection of Christ (enacted in US) we have now been filled with the exact sap that makes this tree grow to its greatest fruition. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).
And as Jesus did in the Garden, we reject any idea of “my will,” and say there is only “Thy will,” and that's the will that shall be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Whatever supposed “free will” we may have, it only finds its ultimate liberation in letting go of any supposed “own will” we might have, so that it is forever “not my will, but thine.”
There is a time in our lives where it is imperative that we choose our way. But, if there is to be a furthering of this life in us, we must also come to the place where we give our choosing up to Him, that there might be only one will functioning in us – “Thy will.”
The point of the freedom debate then, from God’s perspective, is not that we get all our head knowledge straight so that we can write better theology books. Perhaps we get our head knowledge crudely right in some “through the glass darkly” way, but we can't work it, so its real purpose is that it presses us into God. The intellectual exercise hopefully breaks us, or if not that, then life leaks over our dams into our fortresses anyway. God gets our attention. And His intention in getting our attention, is simply to reveal Himself to us, in us, and as us, and for us concurrently to be able to see Him in all things. Therein is all our freedom, our will, and our identity.
We come to that place, in that breaking, where we realize our liberation is not found by our figuring out every point of how we work and operate, but that at some juncture we realize by the Spirit to the deepest uttermost that we have no ability to work any of it, and that it is only Christ in us who not only can, but will, and IS, the totality of our life in this present moment – the worker and doer of all.
When You See Me, You See the Father
More than once when I have declared that “God wills by us,” people have expressed fear of being an automaton or robotic. But I don't think an automaton or a robot said, “My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work.” It was a man fully conscious of Himself and of God in Himself, and that they were One. One person functioning. When you see me you see the Father.
And now in the resurrection and revealing of His sons, is this not our statement also? Certainly it would have to be by faith since it would have to call something which may not appear to be in the present moment, to be present here and now anyway. If this is what we have seen by virtue of His life alive in us, so that we live, yet not we but He, then what other faith confession could we make and be telling the truth about ourselves, unless we want to be in unbelief in Him and His certain promises?
“My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work,” becomes now OUR statement of faith.
If so, then now God's will fills my human will (no longer being to itself an “own, separate” will), and what were formerly two, are now one and the same will. Union. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (1 Cor 6:17).
And this produces a faith that permeates and is fixed, not one that has to be pumped up every five minutes by admonitions and exhortations. This is God's word that wells up from within us, which bears its own fruit and accomplishes the purpose whereto it is sent.
This is the point the Father brings us to: when we are His, our will is an expression of His will. We are not our own, but bought with a price. We are slaves of God (Rom 6:18,22).
The point is this. Yes, we may continue to say, “I'm free, I can make my own choices,” (which makes us, by default, in charge), or we can agree with Him that forever “my will” is swallowed up in “Thy will,” and stop the double-mindedness completely, by casting the crowns of our kingship at His feet, as forever do the 24 elders. His Word is the truth, and at this point we are brought up to believing it and then experiencing the freedom of being an absolute slave of God and thereby knowing the real liberty of His perfect life, expressing Himself perfectly by means of imperfect-looking us.
And then an “own, separate, my” will becomes for us, as it was for Jesus, an anathema, a temptation, something to be swallowed up into the One will of the Father who lives in us. Forever we say, “Not my will, but thine be done.”
Now that's the faith and the operation we are speaking of when we say, “Lose your life and find His.” Because therein is perfect conscious non-robotic freedom!
But aren’t we supposed to continually yield ourselves to God?
There is a life that is more than (or beyond) a continual “yielding” or “letting.” Many of us find our perception of what it means to “yield ourselves to God,” puts us into a state of continual self-evaluation and usually self-condemnation, because we NEVER measure up to ourselves. The reason this is so is because often, instead of a Christ focus, we are caught in a self-focus, in which we are always worrying about ourselves and whether we're up to snuff or not. The real truth is He IS our total sufficiency for everything in this current moment, but we can't see that because of this HUMONGOUS GIANT SELF FOCUS that blinds everything but ourselves and whatever “issue” holds our attention, as an projection of that self-focus.
This further life I'm speaking of starts in a final letting go of any “ability” we have to do that yielding or letting. It is a place to which we are taken by the Spirit when we have come up against a spiritual brick wall, called by many the Romans 7 experience, where Paul says, “I do those things I don't want to do, and don't do those things I want to do,” and so on. Some call it he “dark night of the soul,” and others, “the wilderness.” It's the first part of Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ,” and the theme of Romans 6. We have been crucified with him, which means we died with him. We call it coming to the end of ourselves.
When we come to that point, we have then been conditioned by the Spirit to see that whatever “choosing” we may have done, all things originate in God. He chose us, not we Him. Our choosing Him is the response of His first choosing us!
His choosing of us is eternal, and at some temporal point we hook into it, but it did not originate at that point, but in Him in the eternal, which is beyond our intellectual ability to understand and articulate. And as we understand the further and further depths of what that choice has brought us into, we come to the final turn of the key in the lock.
After we have seen that we have died with him (the old man is dead), that we rise again with him, as Romans 6 says, we now begin to see that what rises is not just ourselves as we have always been, but Christ in ourselves as one person with us. We come to UNION!
This is the key to everything, to every other issue in the scriptures and in life, union with Christ, so that I live yet not I, but He lives, and “when you see me you see the Father.” We join in the Son's own “union life” with the Father, as Jesus prayed for us in John 17: 21-23. As Jesus was “one” with the Father, so are we.
And that is where we begin to say that our will and His will are the same will, one will, because we are one person with Him. Now, having come up on the other (resurrection) side, the last part of Galatians 2:20, coming to the end of ourselves and our self-ability through Romans 7, entering into the life of the Spirit in Romans 8, we operate as one with Christ ( really the whole Trinity).
Instead of moment-by-moment yielding which we have to figure out when and how to do, we now lived “yielded.” (That has once and for all been settled in us, that we are God's through and through, though there are fresh opportunities daily to live out what has already been settled.) Instead of continuously attempting to “let” this mind be in me, we come to the permanent LETTING it, and once we let it, i.e., take HIM as the “let-er in us”, HE TAKES US, so that we now live continuously “letting” this mind be in us. Not something we keep striving for, but now a done deal! There is a great struggle to come to that, but once we have come to that settling and we know it, we SIMPLY can never go back!
Somebody recently said to me, “We have to wake up every day and let God take us over.” I said back to him, “No, I LIVE taken over! I go to sleep taken over. I wake up taken over. I walk around taken over. Like getting married – I did it once and now it’s a done deal!” For me to live IS Christ! The war has been fought, and to the victor belong the spoils, and since God is the victor, Who by Jesus' Body and Blood purchased us to be His own peculiar people, we are forever now His. Because of this, we are eternally privileged to participate in the already accomplished victory, which we see by revelation of the Spirit as true substance and solid evidence through faith. It is a victory which we did not win, but which was won for us, in us, and then as we understand it, is won as us.
The Source of a Separate Will
Very briefly, let's look at the original source of a will separate from God.
Lucifer, or Satan, was the first to originate having his own, separate will. Isaiah 14:12-14 contains the “I wills” of Lucifer. That is the description of the origin of sin in God's creation. The very definition of sin has at its basis a will separated from God! Yes, Lucifer, out of His freedom, and not by the instigation of God who is Love and could never have been the author of such a choice, “chose” to go his separate way, by asserting a separate will from the One will of God. He left the “one will” and created his own, separate will.
(Now, this origin of evil is a very great mystery and can only be known by the Spirit, because even though Lucifer chose of himself something outside the choosing of God, still Lucifer’s choice, and all that has happened because of it, are all still part of the eternal Father’s plan in which He works all things after the counsel of His own will, as we have stated above.)
Next, Lucifer passed that separate will onto our forbears. When they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they chose their “own” will, something they didn't even know they had, instead of the one will in which they were operating in freedom and innocence. Yes, they had a choice, but the choice was between the already ongoing “will of God,” which in their case was, “You may eat of every tree of the garden but this one,” or, to choose their “own way.”
This was something about which they had no knowledge since they only had had experience of one thing – God, and up until that point knew nothing else. Likewise they didn't know, but would later find out, that their “own way” or “own will” was, surprise, the way of Satan! Because when they ate the wrong fruit, he had included himself in the deal, and became their (and subsequently our) hidden indweller.
They “chose out of”, or left, what they already were, and by so doing created something in the temporal that had never been seen before, a separate independent will from God, doing its own thing.
There had been no impediments on Adam and Eve before that; all was free, except the one thing. In breaking off and leaving the one will of God in which they were living spontaneously in freedom and innocence, they came immediately under the harsh taskmaster dominion of the “god of this world,” which included having to worry every single day and every single moment over every choice they made, whether it was good or whether it was evil, whether it was right or whether it was wrong. Do we go this way to the market, or do we go that way? What had been before no issue at all – “freedom of choice” – had now become a living nightmare, as more choices than one could ever possibly contend with suddenly popped out of every inch of creation. Moral choices, emotional choices, intellectual choices, faith choices, what do we have for dinner choices, etc.
The Second Adam
Jesus came to put right what had been broken by Adam. He came to be the Second Adam, Who would not only restore what had been lost, but also to bring us into the fullness of our inheritance as the sons of God, which Adam and Eve had not yet discovered in their original innocence. In order to do that, He had to reverse the damage of the Fall, by finally Himself breaking through the barrier that prevented us from entering the kingdom of God, through the cherub's sword guarding the gate, and taking us there with Him. That's what He did with His life that He lived, and which was consummated in the Cross in His Body and Blood, and in His Resurrection and ultimate Ascension.
Among those things which He restores or redeems from the fall, is the wayward human will. It was never meant to be broken off from God as if it were a separate entity alone. There is a human will, but it is eternally meant to be a reflection and expression of the one will in which is finds its existence, the will of God. It was never meant to stand alone and be something on its own.
Now, in reality, there is only God's will and – Satan's! There is no middle will. If we don't have and do God's will, there is no “grey area” human will. Human reason might allow for that, but the scriptures and reality do not. God is the only one who can rightly say, “My way or the highway.” And the highway, in this case, is Satan's way, or Satan's will. Sin. Where he is in charge. (We are, by the way, never in charge. We were partakers of the nature of wrath, Satan, and did his will, as we are now partakers of the divine nature, Christ, and now do His will.)
Any supposed “will” other than God's is false, emanating from unbelief, and is sin, and Satan is the person of sin, and is sin, and its originator in us. (Likewise, even as we are never “in charge,” we are also never originators. Everything we have we have received.) Satan is the originator of any non-God will, any separate “I'll go my own way” will. He is the secret inhabitor of any “own will.” (Prov 1:31; Is 53:6a; Is 56:11; Ez 22:31; Ez 36:17; John 8:44).
Even Peter's supposed “concern” for Jesus, when Peter protested Jesus' saying He would be killed in Jerusalem, was rebuked by Jesus as “Satan,” and which he called, “an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Jesus is calling things that be “of men,” Satan??? Whoa! C’mon now, that’s too harsh. Peter was showing good, nice, human “concern,” but Jesus saw through it and that he was really masquerading a separate independent presumptuous will, and Jesus said that “nice” concern was Satan's will and an offence! (Matt 16:33)
The only time it comes up that Jesus has some so-called separate human will, (and paradoxically He does), is at the moment of temptation. It hasn't been mentioned before. The entire time before this, Jesus' assertion is that all He does is the “Father's will.” “My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34)
Jesus walked around confessing only one will – God's – and He firmly confessed to be doing nothing except fulfilling it, something which made all His opponents gnash their teeth and eventually seek His death.
This whole temptation scenario in the Passion story is very interesting. The fact that Satan engineered the crucifixion itself is plain in scripture. “And Satan entered into Judas.” Satan is the behind-the-scenes plotter of the crucifixion. This is something very plainly said. (He was fulfilling the Father’s plan. “By the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God …” [Acts 2:23]).
But the scriptures don't specifically say that the Garden experience, the three hours of bloody sweat, was a “temptation.” And yet, what else could it be, but a very subtle temptation, masquerading in the form of one's “own” will? Jesus' record of His own prayer life is that God has never denied Him anything (John 11:42), and there is even an escape clause in that He says He could call on the Father and 10,000 angels would come to His assistance. He has a case! Perhaps there could be an alternative, something not quite so drastic as this Cross thing, and the real kicker, going to HELL! Maybe we could find something a little less dramatic as that! (“The things which be of men” -- Matt 16:33).
But Jesus knows why He is here, why He has come, and why He has been born. He has always known, at least from the baptism of John onward. He knows He has “come down from heaven,” for this very moment, this particular hour, that He might finally prevail over sin and death, over Satan and Hell, and through His suffering, become the captain of salvation for all creation, especially for the race of men which God has peculiarly chosen to be His eternal expression and image.
Jesus has testified of this purpose from the first moment of His coming into Galilee in the power of the Spirit declaring, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” There has never been a moment's doubt. He even had a big conference with Moses and Elijah, and was transfigured in heavenly light on top of the mountain with them, which was witnessed by James, John, and Peter, and in that conference they (Moses [the law] and Elijah [the prophets] and Jesus [Grace and Truth]) were talking about this very hour that Jesus was here facing in Gethsemane. (Luke 9:31). He KNEW what the will of God was!
And now here He is being mealy-mouthed about the whole thing in the garden. ”Maybe you didn't really mean everything I've believed and talked about these past three years, Father. Maybe Moses and Elijah weren't really real, and this is just a figment of my imagination. Maybe we ought to think this through. After all, I'm only 33 years old, not hardly old enough to know anything. I should really consult some elders on this.”
If Jesus had succumbed to that supposed separate human will he was expressing in the garden, we would still be in our sins, and God's will, which was for our eternal salvation and sonship, would not have been done. Adam would still be wandering far from the garden in the sweat of his brow. There is only one true will. To have done anything else would have been Satan's will, and not just a human Jesus will. But someone might say, “But wait, it was Satan who was engineering the Cross. Why would he thwart himself by trying to get Jesus to not go through with it?” Because his is the kingdom that opposes itself, which shall not stand.
When Jesus said, “Not my will, but thine be done,” He DID NOT SAY, “I will align my will with your will, Father.” No, HE REJECTED HIS “OWN” WILL. He had never mentioned before that having the least little HINT of a separation in His will from God. But in rejecting “my will,” He was saying it was false, a construct of the devil, just as He had said to Peter, and as reasonable as human reason may have sounded in his mind that night, He forever rejected any “own will” (that we inherited from Satan through Adam) but instead forever said, “Not mine, but thine.”
And it is the same in any scriptural encounter with God. No human will ever prevails, but only the one will of God, expressed through the human will which becomes the expression, reflection or image of the Divine will. “Be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).
And then Jesus, after having settled the matter by the Spirit, was taken through the whole rest of the Passion experience by the will, power and strength of the Living God in Him. Even when the sense of the Presence of God was withdrawn from Him, so that in His most tragic moment on earth of agony and darkness He cried, “My God my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He is not functioning from some “yielding” or “letting” thing He had to continue to make work even while nailed to the Cross.
Jesus went through and prevailed but by the power of the Spirit who CAUSES us to walk in His ways, even in things far beyond the ability of any human being to endure, and even when we can't operate such things ourselves because the situation denies it.
This is the extent to which the Lord's upholding goes.
“Behold my servant, whom I uphold ... I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles.” (Isa 42:6)
He goes to the max, the absolute total. By His grace we give Him all, even our own willing, and He fills it all with Himself, and is faithful to do it. “My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish his work.” Jesus said that, and it is ours to say also, if we want it and confess it with faith. “Faithful is He who calleth thee, who will also DO IT.” (1 Thes 5:24)
How much can we trust God? Is it presumptuous to believe His promises? Consider Ezekiel 36:27, which is a description of the fulfilling of the New Covenant: “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
“I will ... cause you.” Can He? Certainly we know He can.
But will He, or has He, performed that in me? Ah, that's where faith comes in. I always say anybody can say the Lord is mighty. Big deal, we all know that. Who will say the Lord is mighty IN ME? That's faith!
Can we trust the Lord that He CAUSES us to walk in His ways? Right now, in this present moment? Not by what we see outwardly, but by the Word of God within us? Remember, the faith that rises up within us is out of God, and therefore is actual SUBSTANCE (it's REAL) and EVIDENCE (solid and conclusive) of things hoped for and of things NOT SEEN. (Heb 11:1)
“I am HE!” He told them, even though He knew it would rile them and ultimately result in His death.
“I always do those things that are pleasing to the Father,” He said in great boldness. And yet He was a man, like you and I. But a man demonstrating by His life the life of a man walking in the Spirit, and because of Him, and only because of Him, we can say the exact same things about ourselves that Jesus said, with the exception of some of the things concerning of His blood and body, which are exclusive forever to Him alone as both Son of Man and Son of God.
Only a man who has lost his own life and found only God, can sincerely confess that “I always do those things that are pleasing unto Him.” (John 8:29; 1 John 3:22).
Old Testament/New Testament
The Old Covenant was a covenant of separation between two completely unequal partners: God, who could fulfill His part of the bargain, and the people of Israel, who could not fulfill their part of the bargain. Now that's pretty much where everybody lives. We try to do our part, but keep messing up, and there is continual bemoaning by preachers and church folks everywhere over how God is continually thwarted from doing His mighty acts in the world because most of us are such lousy Christians. (And poor God, since He's so ineffective!)
Certainly the vast majority of the believers unknowingly live in that old contract, “I do my part, God, and you'll do yours.” But that deal was replaced in the Son. Though taught almost universally, such an arrangement has nothing to do whatever with the New Testament.
The new contract, the new will from God, the new testament ratified through the death of the Son, is a party of One. He is the fulfiller. It is the word that came to Jeremiah the prophet: “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer 31:33)
This is the rest we enter into in the New Covenant, which is Christ in us, not as two dwelling side by side, but as two dwelling in each other as one. We live, will, desire, and love as one person doing the living, desiring, willing, and loving. Not as two cooperating. I will what He wills because He and I are one person willing. The only time when “two” comes into the picture is when I am pulled by temptation, when I would know myself “after the flesh.” But to know myself after the Spirit can only be by seeing out of the vision of God, from the inside out, in which He is in me and I am in Him and there is no dividing point of separation. And there we abide, or remain. And from there, out of that “heart,” come all the issues (activities, realities) of life. (Prov 4:23) And that life is Christ.
Let's look at this from Hebrews 3:
1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
4 For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.
5 And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;
6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
“Whose house are we ...,” the writer says. What does he mean by that?
First of all He is comparing Jesus to Moses. Moses is a servant, who gives and administers the law. The law speaks to the separated consciousness, requiring of it something which it cannot fulfill. You ought to be this, you ought to do that, you should not do this, you should not think that. But the law has a fatal flaw, not in its value and truth as the law, but in its implementation. It is “weak through the flesh.” (Rom 8:3).
But it is precisely this flesh to which the law addresses itself, making impossible demands on it, and the flesh – separated consciousness, self-responsibility – deludedly thinks it can meet those demands, and confesses that it will do so (Ex 19:8), thereby assuring its failure. It is an impossibility for it to succeed, because the self that tries to will and do what God wills and does, cannot in itself do either.
And that is exactly what the law is for, to expose this deluded flesh consciousness of separation and wrong self-focus which comes from sin. And it can only be exposed by letting it run in its delusion, the delusion that it can “perform,” until the delusion is worn out and ready to be cast aside as “filthy rags.”
Now a great distinction is given here between Moses as a servant, and Jesus as the son over His own house. A servant is not lord and master; only the Son and heir is. Moses did his job in the house, which was to train the kids by giving the law and to demand obedience to it, but it is Christ as the Son over His own house who fulfills the law Himself, and, says the scripture, “whose house are we.” That is, we are the place of his dwelling and the seat of his activity.
When the law has done its job, i.e., having killed us (the fleshly self-consciousness which we received from our former master and slave-boss, the devil), then the servant (the law) hands us over to the Son (grace and truth), and we begin to take our share in the inheritance, as sons in the Son by means of a free gift from God (and not by our having earned it).
A Full Share in Sonship
We become co-heirs with Christ. To say the least that's a pretty big inheritance, and we share fully in it. We operate no more as servants in the house, always having to remember the rules and working continuously for our keep, but now as full sons with all the rights of sons, to whom the total inheritance is given, we make full use of the possessions of the Father which are now ours in Christ.
And we could only be fully sons by being One person with The Son, even as He is One with the Father, so that in His union with the Father and the Spirit we are One in and with the Father, Son, and Spirit as well: They in us, we in Them. (John 17:21-23)
In this union reality there is no more confusing separation of wills, because we have forever found the One will expressed individually in each of us who are called by His name. And in this oneness, we live no longer under the law – it speaks to us no more. Now instead we live in freedom and spontaneity through the grace that works in us, which is unveiled access into the Father through the Son, receiving revelation and empowerment in the Spirit, in Whom we walk continuously by His continuous keeping (1 Pet 1:5).
Contrary to what we have mostly been taught, this life in union with Christ is not something that we have to pump up everyday. It is instead a perpetual living reality, which flows out of us continuously because we have discovered the inner spring in us, always bubbling up to overflowing with the Life of Christ, as Jesus promised the woman at the well. He told her that if she drank the water He gave her, she would never thirst again. When we discover that well in us, we, too, never thirst again. We go to bed and it is flowing as we fall asleep, and we wake up and it is still flowing. It flows throughout all the day in all we do, and not just for our benefit. He is an unfailing a stream of blessing and light, filling the world with Christ through and as us funny-looking and funny-acting bunch of scalawags.
So we are now the dwelling place of the Son who is over His own house. What does it mean to be the house of the Son? When it says we are His house, it means that the whole of us is His house, i.e., all that is us, He lives in. He does not come into just part of us, or someplace in us side-by-side with us. He takes possession of the whole house as soon as we ask him to do so. The whole house is all that we are, spirit, soul and body. This whole person that we are, becomes the house in which He lives and expresses His life. What kind of half-baked divine indwelling would that be, for the Lord to come only into part of us, when in the very beginning didn't we ask Him into our hearts, our innermost selves and place of deepest intimacy? We had no clue what we were asking, but He knew, since He instigated the prayer, and not we ourselves. “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Cor 12:3).
Don't we think that He, the Lord of all, would not take possession of the whole house that we are, since we are His and He has bought us with a dear dear price. His intent from the beginning to was to take possession of His own house and to dwell in it “I will dwell in them and walk in them, and be their God.” (2 Cor 6:16)
Some might say, “Well, He won't force Himself on us,” and I would certainly agree, but faith says that if we have invited Him in and to take over, which is surely the heart's cry of millions of God's people, then HE HAS ANSWERED that prayer. We don't have to keep asking the same things over and over and over. Does He not tell us to believe that we HAVE RECEIVED the things we have prayed for? For years I prayed He would fully reveal Himself in me. One day the Spirit answered, “When are you going to believe that I have?”
But back to this one central point. And that is that at the heart of everything, is the “I” that we are, and right there, in that “I,” THAT is where we are ONE with God. Our “I” has now been made one with “I AM.” He inhabits our “I” to express His “I.” It is our “I” – indeed the whole of our humanity, whatever and however we describe ourselves –spirit, soul, and body – that He has come to fill with Himself, and to be the doer of all in everything that we are, as our total All in all. He is not some nebulous “Christ in us” that exists in us as some sort of battery if we can figure out how to hook up the poles correctly, (which is how I used to view the Holy Spirit in my earliest Charismatic days), but He who has become “one spirit” (one person) with us in deepest love and intimacy.
Do we think Jesus endured the Cross and the depths of horrific darkness, just to leave the whole shebang up to our faulty little dim selves to get it right and operate this thing correctly? We can fall into His arms, ceasing from our self-labors, and see if the everlasting arms don't bear us up. We can relax in Him, and come out of the boat; we can step out on the water, and if in our little faith we fear we'll sink, does He not take us up? “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.”
As the Hebrews writer said, let us enter into the rest of God, where we find continually, “The Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works.” That's where we find our sabbath rest, when we cease from our own works, as even God did from His. (Heb 4:10)
“What must we do to work the works of God? they asked. And this is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” (John 6:29)
How do I “do” this? Simple faith, simple agreement with God, as God has revealed Himself in us. God is continually giving us a gift, and all we have to do is receive it by faith. It is the gift of knowing that we ARE NOW one person with Him, so that we living in the world is He living in the world, so that we talking is He talking, so that we loving is He loving, so that we willing is He willing. “As He is, so are we in THIS world.” (I Jn 4:17).
Galatians 2:20 is not an academic problem or formula to work out, but something to take as absolutely literal fact about ourselves in the present moment, without further explanations, definitions or analysis. We believe Him in a simple acceptance!
If we are in Christ, then we have been crucified with Christ. This is a fact! We did nothing to make it happen. We have been crucified with Christ, period. We don't attain to this; we don't work at it; we don't practice it; we simply take it by faith and believe God that it is so.
This is Jesus’ accomplishment, and we are the fruit of His labor! He did it! He made it happen. “This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes!”
Likewise, “Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” is also literally true in us in this present moment. This is not something we figure out beforehand, like a mathematical formula, what the correct quantities of this and that are, in order to make the formula work. This is a reality which is ongoing in us in Christ, and we trust God that it is so, that He is the one who causes its reality, not by anything we do. We rest in His performance of His life in us, and leave it to Him to give us increasing understanding of Himself in us.
Again, this is something the Lord does, not something we conjure up by right formulas or correctness of words. The Holy Spirit is the One Who testifies of Christ in us, who reveals Christ, and it is not by our rational mind that we comprehend the things of God. The things of God cannot be fully understood in a 1-2-3 logical way as we know the things of this world. Only God can reveal Himself, and He unveils Himself by the Holy Spirit in our spirits, and not necessarily in a way we can or will understand with our conscious minds. But somehow we just “know,” and it is a solid knowing and nothing can shake us from it, even as we know, without any possibility of proof, that we are born again. “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself” (1 Jn 5:10).
So we take nothing less. We take nothing less than the total God expressing Himself in His totality in our lives totally perfectly. This isn't the old admonition from the preacher in church getting us to rededicate one more time, resolving again to do better for God. We find instead that this is what God has “apprehended” us for, for Him to find in our inner nothingness, the riverbed through which His water of life might flow out into the world. And we see Him living not just “in” us as some separate entity in us, but living as the very “I” that I am, He having put us on as we have put Him on, He in us, we in Him, walking in the rest and peace of the Lord. Our hands are expressing His hands, our eyes His eyes, our feet His feet. Isn't that what every Christian prays for? Let us then believe He has answered our prayers, and that what Paul said is true not just for Paul, but for us right now in this present moment: “For me to live is Christ.”
We are then living in a “truly free will,” a will that seeks to go out of itself to give and expend itself for others, that seeks not for itself, to elevate or promote itself, but only to give the life that it knows in itself out to the whole world.