Robin Williams just committed suicide and Facebook comes alive with all sorts of comments. It was his CHOICE comes screaming up on the page hi-lighting the confusion many believers face in knowing how to reconcile the use of their free will and the choices they make. This issue must be addressed.
Placing blame and making judgments as a result of those choices seems to be a spiritual activity few of us seem able to resist. But as with anything, jumping to conclusions based on poor or partial information can make a bad situation even more spiritually devastating.
If we do not have a clear enough picture of what is happening behind the scenes in the bigger picture of the war that goes on for our souls and understand spiritual warfare, the wrong persons may end up getting blamed or being acquitted. Or worse yet, we may even, with all our good intentions, miss the whole point of God’s love and grace and salvation and be found guilty of doing the very thing we have judged others for doing.
First of all, and finally, in the matter of judging, it is not our job to determine who goes to heaven, and who does not!! Why do we think it is our job to hold people responsible or judge them, unless, of course, we do not trust that the Lord God to be able to do His job correctly! But, isn’t micro-managing God what most of us are busy doing, even as we live in fear and the need to control everything and everyone around us?
So with that in mind, seriously consider the following admonitions and instructions from the words of Jesus as we have them printed in “red” letters in most of our Bibles. Jesus did not join in with the accusations or accusers of the woman taken in adultery in lending support to their judgments or justifying their harsh and hostile actions against her by saying, “It was her choice.” “Nor did He say she had it coming, or that she had made her bed now she would have to lie in it?
He never told the woman at the well with 4 or 5 husbands that her current predicament was as a result of “the choices she had made” either. Though He could rightly have mentioned it and humiliated her in public to teach everyone a “lesson”, He did not. He never confronted Zacchaeus or Peter, or any one who, under the pressure of the attack of the Enemy, had made an obviously bad “choice”.
Instead, in keeping with His divine nature, He looked at sinners as lost sheep, not wanton criminals. Even the Pharisees, whom we might have judged as flawless before the law, He knew, were being held under the seductive power of a religious spirit. Deception had captured them using their desire to be right as an opportunity to catch them on hooks of self righteousness which made them even more susceptible to spiritual blindness and judgmentalism.
But, back to the woman taken in adultery, He said that those who were without sin should step to the front of the line and cast the first stone to make sure justice was served, in this case, death. One of the greatest dangers and inherent assumptions we make in judging others is that we take on and usurp for ourselves, the position of Judge and Lawgiver, a position rightly reserved only for God Himself, (James 4:11-12). We also put ourselves in harm’s way in not heeding the warning of the Word of God to not judge one another. (See also Romans 14: 1-13).
And, what ever happened to the commandment to “love your enemies” and “be ye therefore merciful, just as your Father also is merciful, and judge not, and you shall not be judged, and condemn not and you shall not be condemned”? Jesus clearly tells us what to do in all matters of human interaction. “Forgive and you will be forgiven” give and to you it will be given,…for with the same measure you use, (to judge and give to and forgive others), that same measure will be used by God to judge and give back to and forgive you! (Luke 6:35-38).
If we, as believers and followers of Jesus Christ, would live under the Law of Love, and by that distinctive only, i.e., that they will they know we are His disciples by the love we have for one another, (John 13:35), than we would have to seek another explanation, a biblical, rightly divided, understanding of the truth for what is really going on behind the scenes in the lives of those we are so quickly tempted to judge.
Too many of us are being taken out at every level of “good intentions” and personal ambition by the choices we are making to judge others. So we had better come up with a better interpretation for the destructive and harmful things people do than, “he should have known better, it was his fault, and he made a choice”.
And with that, how many of us carry a double standard? I can judge you for “whatever” I might think you are doing wrong according to my opinion or the rendition of the particular sect, denomination, or church teaching I am following, but that same thing, due to personal circumstances, is “okay” for me to do?
How do we think it is okay for us to continue to gossip, back bite, judge, find fault, sow discord, bring division, and create confusion and contempt for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His people through our blind and hard-hearted judgments, though the same mercy or right we want for ourselves we are not willing to give to the next guy? Scary thought: “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:15).
This not only puts a stumbling block in front of unbelievers who are more often than not, turned off by our hypocritical, self-righteous behavior but also most certainly and directly uses us to serve the house of Hell in dividing the house of God. And what ever happened to the admonition where we are instructed to win the unbelievers over to the Grace of God through our meek and “honorable conduct” among them? (I Peter 2:12)
Most of us have unwittingly thrown out the true Gospel of Grace in order to declare our own versions of truth and opinions as RIGHT! It is more important for us to be RIGHT then to submit to and defend the righteous judgments of God. To be sure, no one wants to be wrong, but, in order to make sure we are RIGHT we have had to adopt a specific list of rules and standards to insure uniform behavior among ourselves.
Most of us have fought and bickered with each other over who and what is right for so long we have forgotten that our righteousness comes from dying to our own declarations of personal righteousness. Forgiveness and grace are emotionally messy and time consuming. The personal perfection and the religious judgments we so fearlessly practice and piously defend have only succeeded in bringing the Enemy’s pronouncement of judgment and guilt upon us even as and in the same measure we have done to others.
How shocking for us that we think we will be justified for such bad behavior when the plain truth is we are a disgrace to the heart of our Heavenly Father who is kind even to the unjust and the unthankful. His standard of perfection for us is to be perfect in heart and attitude, just as He is perfect, full of mercy and grace.
Does God’s grace given freely to us mean God endorses the misuse of grace or gives us a license to sin? Shall we find fault with God for being gracious and long-suffering, when, in fact, it is the long-suffering of God that actually brings us to repentance? “Or do we despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).
Granting someone grace and mercy does not mean that we have given them a license to sin. Refusing to forgive them does, however, makes us slaves to the Evil One. He uses our sin of unforgiveness as his opportunity to bring both consequences and judgments upon us. Included in those demonic judgments are pain and in many cases, the same afflictions carried by the one we have judged.
Unwillingness to forgive others also sets God up in a predicament! How can He forgive us for what we have refused to do for another? Can it cost us our eternal salvation? Though sin itself separates us from God, sin is not the cause of our Eternal Separation from God. It is the rejection of the Son of God as the sacrificial Lamb of God that is the ultimate cause of our being eternally separated from God.
The perfection God requires is obtained in and through His Son who finished the work of satisfying the demands of death in dying for us Himself. For this reason it would be pointless for God to demand good behavior or self-improvement as the key to our getting into heaven, when the issue of eternal life has already been settled and obtained through the death of the Son, not through the good behavior of those enslaved by Satan.
Our salvation comes as a response to God’s invitation, “whosoever will” call upon the name of the Lord. It is a matter of accepting the perfect work the Son of God has already done. God’s kind of perfection requires us to lay down the empty pursuit of our own righteousness and vain attempts to live up to the expectations and the standards of another gospel and accept His Righteousness as our own.
Laying down the pursuit of our own righteousness also protects us from the legalistic traps the Devil would set up using the demands of the law as the standard of righteousness and the means of salvation. Because the Law can “justify no one”, keeping the Law as a means of obtaining salvation won’t work.
All of our efforts to be good to get to heaven based on our own merit are pointless and futile. The only goodness that counts is the life of Christ that flows out of us as a result of our being grafted into Him. Goodness is one of the fruits of the Spirit and a proof of the truth. By their fruits you shall know them, Jesus tells us. (Matthew 7:16)
The real goal of godliness is in surrendering our self-improvement activities to the working power and process of the Holy Spirit, Who, as the Third Person of the Trinity, has been delegated the responsibility of “perfecting that which concerns us”, (Psalm 138:8).
Back to, “What Would Jesus Do?”, in complicated situations when someone had really messed up? When James and John wanted to call fire down on the Samaritans, a pretty severe and immediate judgment, Jesus said, “You do not know what spirit you are of”! Obviously, they were not under the counsel of the Holy Spirit, or following the same Spirit that was directing Jesus at that moment.
Jesus knew that the Enemy has the power to influence even the most holy of men, so how much more vulnerable to the Enemy’s deception are those who do not claim His covering? If we are not living our life at a deeper level of awareness when it comes to spiritual warfare, we will not have a clue about how much the voice of the Enemy clamors inside of us or how insidious the battle to “take every thought captive” really is.
If we do not understand the importance of “submitting to God and resisting the Devil”, the alarming number of casualties in the war for our souls will continue to climb. If we do not believe in how much pressure we are under to succumb to the lies of the Enemy, the increased confusion in the discussion and debate between our souls and our spirits that precedes the commission of any drastic act, including suicide or adultery, or cheating or lying or stealing, even things we have seen in the most esteemed of our Christian leaders, will continue to take us out.
Think of it! If the Devil could make me do something he would have already done it! We would already be bound in hell. So, technically, the Devil cannot make a believer do anything. He only has the power of the lie and his ability to use it to persuade us to believe it. Unbelievers, however, are still his property technically and may not have the strength and power to “resist the Devil” as believers have.
God, on the other hand, will not make me do anything, because He has given us a free will. The Devil tempts us to believe that what he is influencing us to do is good and the truth, even that it was our idea! That is called deception. The more his deceptive arguments are entangled with religious language, the more likely we listen to them. The stronger his influence becomes the more he will manifest as a spirit of intimidation and fear that begin to control and take over our free will, until we are experiencing the same “wretched” dilemma that Paul was experiencing in his “doing the things he did not want to do.” (Romans 7: 15).
So, the bottom line on “can the Devil make me do things? ”, is only if we agree with him. The continued influences of the Enemy program us to believe that the lies he tells us are the truth. Listening to the Liar sets up in us a “body of death” that produces responses that look like “it’s our choice”, but really draws us deeper in the internal spiritual conflict that he uses to enslave us. We find ourselves crying out like the Apostle Paul, who says, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:23-24).
At some point, if not at many points, we will either admit we also need deliverance, or we will continue to fall for the Enemy’s clever lie. That lie may be that it is my fault and I am guilty of doing the things that I did not want to do, or it is their fault and I am mad. In either case, denying our need for deliverance and repentance, finds us agreeing that deliverance is a cop out and we need to take responsibility for our own sins because, after all, we had a choice!! Was Paul’s cry for deliverance simply a way to shirk his responsibility to get his act together? Or was he revealing a deeper mystery into the Grace of God and the folly of saving ourselves?