If we don’t have free will to choose we cannot live in freedom, which is what Jesus came to give us (see Gal.5:1). Freedom requires two things. First, it requires having response-ability. By definition, you cannot be free if you have no ability to respond to choices. Second, freedom comes from our union with Christ, for true freedom does not come from without, but comes from within.
Let’s look at these two requirements for freedom a little more closely.
Freedom requires response-ability
I shared a post about God’s sovereignty last week (“How We See God’s Sovereignty Matters“) and how God’s essence is love, which requires free will. But another untenable problem with a deterministic worldview is it tends to minimize or even negate our responsibility toward the Lord and others.
Our choices have consequences which will determine the level of our freedom. Here’s what Paul told the Corinthians:
12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Cor.6:12 NIV)
23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. (1 Cor.7:23 NIV)
These admonitions would be absurd if we had no free will. Even under the Old Covenant we were held responsible for our choices; either to walk with God or go our own way.
19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live (Deut.30:19 NKJV*)
15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…. (Josh.24:15 NKJV*)
Jesus told us that IF we follow Him we will be made free. This implies that we have a part to play in our freedom.
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 NIV*)
While we cannot save ourselves, we CAN choose to receive or reject Christ’s invitation to freedom. As it’s been said, we cannot do God’s part (salvation, grace), but He won’t do our part (receive the free gift, follow Jesus).
And, as followers of Christ, our actual freedom is proportional to the choices we make that are in sync with His teachings. Furthermore, He gave us His Spirit to empower us to live a godly life and have the freedom to say “no” to that which would put us in bondage.
12 This same grace teaches us how to live each day as we turn our backs on ungodliness and indulgent lifestyles, and it equips us to live self-controlled, upright, godly lives in this present age. (Titus 2:12 TPT*)
Freedom comes from our union with Christ
We’re not just legally free, Jesus intends to make us experientially free. But like taking responsibility for our choices, we also become free to the degree that we remain in Jesus’ love (John 15:9-12), allowing His Spirit and Living Word to recalibrate our mindset (Heb.4:12). Again, here’s Paul talking to the Corinthians:
22 For truly, if you are called to a life-union with the Lord, you are already a free man! And those who were called to follow Jesus when they were free are now the Messiah’s slaves. 23 Since a great price was paid for your redemption, stop having the mind-set of a slave. (1 Cor.7:22-23 TPT*)
Paul makes it clear in this chapter that our outward status and circumstances have nothing to do with our freedom. Whether we’re slave or free, wealthy or poor, influential or marginalized, freedom is an inside job.
Paul tells us to stop having the mindset of a slave. But in order to change our mindset, we must have our minds renewed, which requires our willing cooperation with Holy Spirit to bring our thoughts into sync with the mind of Christ.
Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvelous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship.
2 Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes. (Rom.12:1-2 TPT*)
Again, this would be an absurd thing to say if we have no free will. Our part (responsibility) is to willingly put our minds on God’s potter’s wheel, to be re-shaped and re-formed. With our permission, Jesus reaches into the deepest parts of us, revealing lies that have held us in bondage, freeing us from these strongholds by replacing them with truth.
But here’s the thing. Taking those thoughts captive requires our free will.
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor.10:3-5 NKJV*)
Beloved, notice that we’re in a war. It’s not one of flesh and blood but of mindsets and affections. But we don’t fight for victory, we fight from victory. Jesus’ part is to empower us by His Spirit and reveal truth that breaks all bondage and strongholds; our part is to take those thoughts captive, opening our hearts to His truth that makes us free.
Freedom is one of our most cherished values. But if we don’t have free will we will live powerless lives, never finding the freedom that comes from taking responsibility for our choices. Choose well.