God, the Freedom Freak

control

I made a nice list of phrases related to God, control, and freedom that you don’t have to agree with anymore, why you don’t have to, and better alternatives to each.

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You have heard it said, “God made you just the way you are.” But I say, God recreated us as new creations, just the way Jesus is.

If you mean he made you as his beloved child, then yes. But if you are referring to things like disease and depression (anything negative), then no. This only pertains to your true identity in Christ as a new creation and nothing that is part of the fall. God doesn’t make you sick or depressed. He heals you.

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You have heard it said, “God has a plan for your life.” But I say, Jesus is God’s only plan for your life.

This phrase is based on some verses in Jeremiah 29. Keep in mind, Jeremiah was not prophesying to you. God was speaking through him to the Israelites concerning the specific circumstances they were in at the time, namely of a coming destruction.

Jeremiah wasn’t saying God had every detail of their lives laid out (as if God has already determined it), nor is he saying God has things he wants us to do down to every detail (as if God wills something specific for every situation in our lives – i.e. he doesn’t care if you wear your blue or black socks).

This doesn’t mean God is uninvolved in our lives and just watches as things happen, not caring how it all goes down. Far from it! His desire is to live in relationship with us, with the most intimate interaction. But that is only possible when we are free. It wouldn’t be much of a relationship if we merely did everything the other told us to do.

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You have heard it said, “You need to give God control of your life.” But I say, Holy Spirit has empowered you with self-control.

Guess what? God doesn’t want control over you. And even if you give it, God will reject it.

How pointless would it be if God had only created us so that we would come to a point where all we did was constantly ask God what to do and then do that? If he wanted robots, he could have made those. Instead, he made us in his own image – free and desiring.

(Note: sometimes God doesn’t tell us what to do when we ask him because he wants us to choose, not him.)

God never wanted puppets; he desires children. Although children do go to their daddies for wisdom, they don’t ask what to do for every decision they make. We were not created to suppress our wills and desires but to realize union with our creator, willing and desiring with him.

Yes, at times God does tell us what to do. And we would be plain stupid to not do what tells us to because we know that he has our greatest joy in mind. But these times are only to help us in our maturing process. God is building us up to be able to handle increasingly more freedom with unlimited options (and sometimes his suggestions are things we haven’t even considered yet, opening our eyes to more possibilities). But ultimately, God’s will is that we will.

It was typically the case that God would say ‘No, I don’t have a will for you; I want to know what you want to do.’ So you were put here to will and to make a difference. It’s not always the case that we should want to know what God wants us to do, but often that God wants to know what we want to do. In fact we were put here so that God could trust us and give us what we want to do. – J. P. Moreland

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You have heard it said, “Everything happens for a reason.” But I say, God may not have wanted everything that has happened to have happened, but he knows how to bring about good despite it.

Sure, everything that happens does have a reason for happening. But sometimes the reason is that we’re stupid and we make bad decisions. Like it says in Provers 19:3, “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD.” Bad stuff happens and people blame God. Or bad stuff happens, people attribute it to God, but are quick to add something like “don’t worry, God has a good reason for this and it will bring him glory.”

Just because something happens doesn’t mean God made it happen or that he even wanted it to happen. Romans 8:28 is sometimes twisted to mean that in all the apparently bad things that happen to us in life, there is always good in them. For example, there is good in earthquakes, tsunamis, sicknesses, deaths, etc. Somehow, God is glorified. But it doesn’t say that. God doesn’t work evil to bring good (e.g. make us sick to teach us a lesson), but God works despite the evil, which he is and always was adamantly against.

This doesn’t mean God is not involved in the world and its activities. It just means he only does good things. And I don’t mean that in a “God works in mysterious ways” way (a popular excuse for a lot of evil in this world that we have been empowered to deal with).

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You have heard it said, “God is in control.” But I say, God has all authority in heaven and on earth, and he has delegated it to us, his children.

God is not a control freak who exercises meticulous governance because he is worried about giving people freedom to make significant choices. God could control everything if he wanted to, but he doesn’t.

Say you had the power to control everyone that you came into contact with. Would you use that power? I wouldn’t. That would give me the most boring esixtence on earth because it is void of love, which can only be born between free beings.

God does, however, have all authority.

Our world is like a home. The parents (Trinity) have full authority, but that doesn’t mean they control everything that happens within the household. Their kids are still free to do whatever. The parents do give healthy limits to what the kids are allowed to do (because lots of things have negative natural consequences), but even with those prescribed limits the kids can still choose to ignore them. For example, a parent might tell a child, “don’t touch the stove!” when it is burning (likewise, God told Adam and Eve, “don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil – it’ll kill you!”, but they were still able to and did). The limits given are for their benefit, so it would be foolish to ignore them.

People are free to choose to do whatever they want.

Some might ask that if God is not in control, then how can we completely trust God’s sovereignty? But if God’s so-called “sovereignty” includes things like the holocaust, natural disasters, and disease, it’s not a very trustworthy sovereignty to start with. You don’t need a theologian to tell you that these things are evil and that there is no good in them. Jesus himself stopped a stoning, a storm, and healed every single person who came to him because all these things were not aligned with his will.

In conclusion, God is a freedom freak who insists on our being free to make our own choices despite the possibility of our making grave mistakes. What a Dad!

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Also see:

Is God Sovereign?
http://escapetoreality.org/2013/01/04/is-god-sovereign/

A Militant God? – If You’re Owned, You’re “Pwned”

russian-troops-surrender

What does a wrestler do when he’s placed in a painful and inescapable position?

What does an army do when it is completely surrounded and outnumbered?

And what do you do when God tells you that he’s madly in love you?

Surrender.

Surrender?

Well, that’s what a lot of believers say. Kind of strange, no? Think about it.

Has anyone ever responded with an “I surrender” when you told them that you love them? If someone did that to me, I would think that that person is thinking that I want to control them or something. lol.

Surrender communicates fear. At least the way it is normally used does. Wrestlers surrender to escape pain. Armies surrender to they don’t get slaughtered.

And it does so even when Christians use it. It makes it sound like God’s ultimate goal is obedience, and if he’s not obeyed that there will be punishment. In other words, he wants control over you, and he will use fear to get it.

But God’s not like that. At all.

First, obedience has its place. But God desires his children to move beyond merely being obedient slaves to being friends who know his heart. Jesus communicated this to his disciples the night before he was crucified (John 15:15).

Second, Jesus took care of any and every need for us to fear or be punished on the cross (1 John 4:18).

Third, God is not a cosmic control freak. That’s why he created us free, even to the point of allowing us to reject him if we so choose. There can be no love without the freedom to choose whether to love.

God is not militant; he is benevolent.

He’s not trying to get you to surrender to his every bidding. He simply wants you to know the depths of his love for you, and he knows the rest will naturally follow out of knowing that love.

Surrender is a poor word to describe our relationship with Christ. It expresses a sense of being obedient although, really, we don’t want to. There’s a word for “following Jesus” only out of a fear of damnation: religion. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), but it is not the end of it. You can only truly get to know Jesus by love. We fear him as a foundation to fall back on when all else fails, but ultimately we are not able to live a fruitful life or have a healthy relationship without love being our motivating factor.

If you think that doing what God tells you to do is no fun, I have some good news to share with you: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

Let me switch to a related topic.

Have you ever told God, ”I give you everything. I give you all of me”?

If you haven’t, you’re probably not a disciple of Jesus (not that you have to say those exact words, but the idea within it).

If you have, have you told him that more than once? If so, I question why you are re-giving him everything. Did you take it back from him after you gave it? I encourage you to not do that. It’s just not a very nice thing to do.

Instead, recognize that you already belong to God (1 Corinthians 3:23), you were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20), and everything you have came from God as a gift (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Us belonging to God doesn’t mean he uses us the way we use our belongings like pens, clothes, or computers. We belong to God and God belongs to us the way a husband and wife belong to each other; we are his bride. It is a mutual belonging of love.

It’s not about giving yourself to God (as if he needed anything from our side). It’s about realizing that we belonged to him all along, even before we acknowledged it.

When you believed Jesus and became part of the Church you acknowledged that you indeed do belong to Jesus.

Here’s what I wish to point out: possession implies surrender.

If you acknowledge that you belong to God, then you’re already “surrendered” to him. You “surrendered” when you realized your need for a savior and came to Jesus.

Practically, this means that you have believed that God’s ways are a lot more fun and joyous than what the world has to offer. Thus, when God tells you to do something, you cheerfully do so, not because you are “surrendered” to him or because it’s your “duty,” but simply because you know that that’s the most fun and most joyful thing you can do. And if God’s goodpleasing, and perfect will doesn’t seem so fun or joyous to you, then your mind is not renewed in that area (Romans 12:2). If you come across something like this, all you have to do is ask Jesus why it’s so great and I bet he will tell you. Even if he doesn’t right then, if you truly believe he loves you and has your best interest in mind, then he can be trusted.

If “surrender” is to have a place in a believer’s vocabulary, it should be to describe the sweet surrender of giving up on your own efforts to try to please God and live upright and instead trusting in what Jesus did and does in and through you.

So I commend to you “Sweet Surrender” by Bread. These guys have it down :] (lyrics below video)

Baby I’m through runnin’ it’s true
I’d be a fool to try to escape you
Maybe I’m beat but oh what a sweet surrender
You keep your rights, I’ll take your nights
No one can lose when we turn the lights out
Tastin’ defeat, lovin’ that sweet surrender
I’m giving’ up myself to you but I didn’t really lose at all
I gave the only love I’ve known and it never hurt me to fall
Now that it’s done, so glad you won
I know our lives have only begun now
No more retreat, only y sweet surrender

A Manipulative God? – The Abusery of Usery

use santa
Have you ever wondered how Santa feels? He has kids asking him for presents every year, yet no one really takes the time to develop a relationship with him or even thank him for that matter. He’s just the dude to go to to get presents.

Every year, people use him.

I wonder how he feels about that?

What I’m writing about today is this language of “using” people. There’s a common use of this phrase among believers today that bothers me because it portrays a distorted view of God. Here’s the phrase: God uses us.

Let’s take a broad look at the use of this phrase, starting with some linguistic observations.

First, notice that this phrase is always used negatively when it’s referring to human beings. When we say “I feel like so and so is using me,” it always expresses a sense of manipulation and control, never anything positive.

Second, being “used” expresses a sense of unawareness on the part of the person being used as to what the user is up to. The user is using the other to accomplish some purpose, but the person being used has no part in that purpose and may not even know what it is.

Bottom line: If you’re being used, you’re being abused.

i use you

How about the bible? Does it ever express this idea?

Nope. Phrases like “____ was used by God” or “God used ____” do not exist in the Bible (at least I didn’t find any after looking at every verse using the letters “use” in the NASB, which is a very literal translation). More importantly, the idea behind it, that God is somehow controlling people to accomplish his will, does not exist in the biblical narrative.

Here are some things that the bible does say. He does things with us (Mark 16:20; Acts 14:27). We work together (2 Corinthians 6:1). We are his fellow workers (1 Corinthians 3:9). These express a totally different concept of our relationship with God than being used by him does. Instead of manipulation and control it conveys union, togetherness, and intimacy.

John 15:15 tells us that Jesus no longer considers us slaves because slaves don’t know what the master is doing. What does Jesus mean by this?

Slaves are given orders to carry out, but the master does not tell them his intentions, the “why” behind his decisions and actions. They are just told what to do.

Friends, on the other hand, disclose their plans and their heart behind it to each other. Friends don’t need to tell each other what to do because they know each other. They know the needs and desires of the other and act to fulfill those because they love the other.

And that’s what Jesus counts us as. Friends.

We are not God’s slave-laborers. We are his co-laborers.

You are not a tool in God’s toolbox. You are his lover.

Perhaps you feel that I am being too obsessive over a few words. Here are some reasons why I think the use of this kind of language matters based on the effects that using this kind of language has on people:

  • Consider what an unbeliever or a new believer will think when they hear that the God who supposedly loves them wants to use them.
  • Since God uses us, and we can’t make him use us, we just have to wait patiently for him until he chooses to use us. In other words, passivity is encouraged.
  • This kind of language implies that God’s ultimate goal is to get us to do stuff for him.
  • It sounds like God is separate from us, outside instead of inside.

Perhaps you don’t agree with or mean any of the things listed above when you talk about how “God used you.” I hope so. What most people actually mean when they use this phrase is probably along the lines of “I chose to respond to God’s working in me.”

Okay. I get that.

But intentions are not the only thing that counts in communication. What is actually likely to be communicated matters too. And this phrase does not communicate God working in us and our response. And it totally misses the internal relationship that we have with Christ and instead pictures the relationship as external.

“God using us” is simply a poor way of expressing the biblical concept of co-laboring with God. And, instead of bringing clarity, using this kind of language nurtures misconceptions.

I have often heard people pray, “Lord, please use me.” And I have good news for those people: God will not use you. Not because your not good enough, but because you are too good to be used. God’s not going to control you. He could if he wanted to, but he’s not interested. That’s why he gave you a spirit of self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).

So let’s enjoy living life with God.

Quit asking God to use you; you have the same Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead living inside of you, backing you up (Romans 8:11). And you are one with that Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17).

Don’t wait for God; God’s waiting for you.

Without God, we cannot; without us, He will not. – Augustine

This is not to say that it’s all up to your efforts. Thank God it’s not!

Simply acknowledge that you have died with Christ and now it is him living through you.

You have been united with Christ (Galatians 2:20Romans 6).

There is no usery between you and him. Only love.

And remember the best Christmas present you ever got and will ever get – God himself.

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