In my previous post I discussed how God does not desire to control us but rather has empowered us with self-control. In this post I will expound on this idea.
I believe that people, as creatures created in God’s likeness, are genuinely free. We can make decisions and act on them with ourselves being the only cause (i.e. God is not making us do things). The basis of our humanity is that we are free to will and can therefore love.
Though the Holy Spirit inhabits your humanity as God, representing in His person both the Father and the Son of God, He will never violate the sovereignty of your will, nor deprive you of the moral responsibility to choose…That is why your free “yes” to God, at any given moment, fills His heart with greater joy than all the thrilling wonders of a million universes, throwing out into the vastness of outer space by the word of His power. They have no capacity to love him – because they have no capacity to choose Him! – Ian Thomas
This doesn’t mean God can’t influence our decisions. And he does influence us with his love. But influence does not equal coercion. Whether it’s God or physical factors influencing us, we are not controlled by them. We are united with him. We are his co-laborers. We live and make decisions together.
The reason I’m bringing this up is because of misunderstandings this idea produces and has made people (including myself) relate with God in negative ways.
A classic example of this is asking God to remove your pride, purify your heart, help you resist temptation, kill your flesh, or die to yourself (all of which he has already done, by the way). When people ask God to do these things, they are essentially asking God to control them. They are asking him to make a decision that they are capable of making themselves. “Make me act good, God!”
One reason people stay in this mentality is because they have been taught that they have a sinful nature. You don’t. You now partake of God’s own divine nature, completely free from sin. Sin doesn’t interest you anymore, but righteousness looks like a lot of fun! And it is :]
Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). Holy Spirit does the producing, and we get to do the eating. It is possible for us to choose to not eat it, however, and refuse to acknowledge our privilege of freedom. But God isn’t going to take up that responsibility; we have been given a spirit of self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).
Don’t ask God to do what he’s empowered you to do.
You can do everything through Christ. God didn’t want you to be helpless and unable to do anything. That’s the state you were in before coming into a relationship with Jesus. Not anymore.
Self-control is usually used in the sense of controlling yourself to avoid sin. But the opposite is more important, because sin-avoidance naturally follows it. Self-control is more about choosing to be conscious of Jesus, what he has done, and who you are in him than it is about restraining yourself from being naughty.
Last week I was talking with Jesus about stress. He said, “Stress is a choice, Ty. You can choose to live a stress-free life.” Oh my God! That’s really good news!
Of course, stressful things will happen in life, and that can’t be avoided. But we don’t have to be a victim of our circumstances. When something stressful happens, we can choose to set our minds on what is stressful, or we can remember the greater reality that we are in Daddy’s arms. The choice will make the difference between feeling stress and feeling joy. Easy choice.
And this is not only true of stress, but any and every other kind of negativity: depression, sadness, lonliness, worry, anger, frustration, irritation, pessimism, anxiety, etc. You can control yourself by choice to experience the thoughts and emotions of God. Never stop hanging out with him.
This should not cause you to worry or feel like its all up to you to make everything work out. All I am trying to communicate is that God respects the freedom that he gave you and is not interested in directing your every move, and also that you have been equipped with everything you need to continually experience the fruits of Holy Spirit.
All of this must be seen in the context of Christ’s work. Don’t make an idol out of your will. Don’t rely on your willpower but on his. “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
Our job is to rest in Christ as he does the work.