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♣ Set Free to Rightly Will

free from sin

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” – Romans 6:12-13.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” – Galatians 5:16.


MAN’S FREE WILL and choice are very unwelcome terminologies especially for many who adhere to the Biblical doctrine of God’s sovereign choice in our salvation. It is because we cannot fathom the depths of such a profound mystery that we prefer to keep things straight forward and simple with a concrete explanation; nothing ought to clutter, confound or contradict our systems of belief (we declare), but we must always remember that God is incomprehensibly bigger than our bodies of doctrine. Our finite minds barely scratch the surface of God’s communicable attributes, let alone the incommunicable. We see in part and we know in part, but what we must acknowledge is that all the glory is and will be attributed to God for our salvation; we have done nothing in and of ourselves to begin it, neither to continue it, nor to eventually bring it to completion, for without His unending grace we are utterly without hope to make any progress.

What we can thoroughly grasp and understand is that we have now been set free to obey God. We can choose to sin or refrain from it. We will never be sin-free in this life, but we now have the power (in Christ) to not sin; we do not have to sin and we are no longer obliged to yield our selves to be mastered by it. If we had no choice – and how this works out in God’s absolute sovereignty in all of creation reaches heights and plummets depths that exhausts our understanding – then why did Paul state, Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body…”?

How God’s sovereignty (which rules over all) works out in our free will baffles the understanding, yet some of us are adamant in obtaining absolute understanding on subjects we are insufficient to fully grasp on this side of eternity; we are not naturally disposed to acknowledging and feeling our weaknesses and infirmities that deeply humble, causing us to cast ourselves entirely on God alone.

I remember a few years ago in a meeting where God’s sovereign choice in our salvation was being wonderfully discussed. The assistant pastor, who is a brilliant teacher and well in to his seventies, was humble enough to acknowledge he didn’t know why God has chosen to save some and not others. He was wise to admit he doesn’t know why – and of course, none of us know why: “How unsearchable are His judgements and how inscrutable are His ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counsellor?’” (Romans 11:33-34). The glorious atmosphere was rudely interrupted by some cocksure and arrogant Christian about to embark onto reformed theological seminary. He repeatedly expressed it was simple to grasp this doctrine and God’s mind in choosing us. He is a very intelligent young man, but relied too much upon his intellect (Proverbs 3:5). Again, we know in part and we see in part – which implies we have some understanding, but we come nowhere near to fully grasping God’s mind – of course we can’t and we never will do, yet some of us think and act like we do.

When we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in our sanctification, a power is released when we yield ourselves to God and say “no” to sin. If this sounds disagreeable then put it to the test when sin comes knocking at your door. There will be a terrific fight, a tug of war in your mind and body and you may feel weak and helpless under the weight of the temptation, but the moment you present your entire being to God, to love Him and obey Him, a power will come coursing into your soul. We can choose at that moment to either fall into sin or into the arms of God. We know this to be absolutely true, do we not?

We have been set free to will rightly under the canopy of God’s sovereignty. We now have the power to not let sin reign in our bodies. When we do yield to sin we inhibit our growth in grace and if that is not true then examine yourself after when you fall into sin; examine your spiritual blood pressure and feel how low it is; measure the freedom you encounter in your communion with God. Is it marred, do you feel uninhibited? Are glorious opportunities and moments missed in spending time with God when we choose sin over Him? You bet your life on it! Yet God’s gracious covenant is not broken; His everlasting grace and love continues to abound.

If we are truly God’s chosen then it ought to humble us to the dust, increasing our desire to obey Him rather than just slumping back and continuing with our sin. We are brought into a state of grace where God does not overlook sin; grace is meant to deal with sin at it’s root, not feed and nurture it and it is because we fail to rightly understand God’s grace that we nurse our sin. God’s kindness experienced must lead us to repentance; it will unsettle us and break our hearts over our attitude to sin.

If our wills had nothing whatsoever to do with obeying God, then why on earth are we commanded in Scripture to not let sin reign in our mortal bodies, to put to death what is of the flesh, to walk by the Spirit, to put on love, kindness, humility, meekness, patience and to set our minds on things above? Our obedience to God is never passive; our wills are fully inclined and our minds are fully cognizant. Yes, God will ultimately have His way and if we are persistent in our sin we can be sure that times of chastisement will break us and humble us until we see how brutish, ignorant and beastlike we are towards God (Psalm 73:22). No wonder the Psalmist said, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71) and no affliction that is pleasant but painful later brings about a harvest of righteousness, wherein is joy and peace (Hebrews 12:11) – we are amazed by God’s patience Who ever leads us in His paths of righteousness. This is the path of true blessing, that we are found to love – not forced against our wills – to love His ways of righteousness; we find them to be a delight to our soul (Psalm 119:47); it is the fruit of having our eyes opened to behold wondrous things out of His law (Psalm 119:18).

This is indeed the work of grace in our souls because our hearts are enlarged and set free to run with our whole will in the way of His commandments (Psalm 119:32).

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