Saturday, July 29, 2006

James 4 and Free Will

I have been doing a pesonal study and personal reflection on the concept of free will. This is the third post in the series. I have laid out my own personal definition of free will, and explained how our strongest desire at the moment of choice determines the choice that we will make.

Last Sunday, we studied James Chapter 4. It was amazing that much of my personal reflection was embodied in this chapter.

1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

There are many truths contained in these verses. We choose to fight and quarrel because our own evil desires that are within us. Fights, quarrels, and murder are all results of our own sinful, covetous desires. It is no wonder that when we pray we don't get what we want.

4You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?[a] 6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
"God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble."

In the above verses, God has called us adulterous. This is spiritual adultery. Committing your life to Christ, and the committing adultery against him by sinning, is like commiting yourself to your wife or husband and having an affair. It is turning your back on God in favor of another. (As a side, adultery is serious business, but not unforgiveable. Read Psalm 51 to see how David repented of his affair that actually led to murder.) No wonder verse 5 says that God is envious or jealous. Much like a jealous wife or husband that is being cheated on. However, instead of acting in a jeaous way, verse 6 simply says that He gives us more grace. Instead of packing His bags and leaving, He gives more grace, and stays in us.

7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

I have stated several times that our strongest desire at the moment of choice determines our choice. "At the moment of choice" is a key phrase. In Sunday School, or while sitting in church, or while praying, we may repent and decide not to sin. Our strongest desire at that moment may truly be not to sin. But our sin nature does not work that way. It springs up unannounced at a time when we are more vulnerable. The fact that we sin or don't sin is proof of the spiritual warfare that rages within us as Christians. Since it is our "strongest desire" that wins, it does not mean that when we sin we did not have any desire not to sin, only that the desire to sin was stronger at that moment. the verses above tell how to increase our desire not to sin. This is also an act of grace.

Other Posts on Free Will
Free Will: Introduction
Free Will: Humanist Perspective
Free Will: James 4
Free Will: A Reflection of Our Sinful Nature



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