God created man in the Garden with the freedom to choose whether to eat from the forbidden tree or not. God wanted his creation to have that ability to choose rather than be robots programmed to be perfect. He wanted his creation to be free to choose to love him or not. I always compare this to my 3 children. They can choose to love me or not. It means something to me when they choose to love me, and they have chosen that. If they were robots programmed to love me, it would mean nothing.
Let’s dispel Calvinism quickly. TULIP. The “I” is irresistible grace”, i.e. the grace that saves a person cannot be resisted. The whole emphasis of the reformer Calvin’s Calvinism was to magnify the grace of God in salvation as opposed to the works system of salvation of Catholicism. According to Calvinism, man is born “T”, totally depraved in the inherited sin of Adam. Salvation does not depend on man’s choices or works or else it is not by grace. So, “U”, God unconditionally elects certain ones arbitrarily to be saved. The idea is that, if a man had to meet certain conditions to be saved, then it is not totally up to grace. Thus, “L”, limited atonement: since only certain ones are chosen, then Christ only died for that limited number, the elect. Those not of the elect are simply not able to choose to be saved since they are so totally depraved. What if they did want to choose to be saved? I guess Calvinism would say their depraved nature doesn’t even allow them to be able to do that. God has to send His Spirit to change the heart of the elect so they are able to choose to be saved. Even the elect can’t choose on their own. When God sends His Spirit on them to save them, they can’t resist. Thus “I”. Usually, this would be manifested by some Spirit given signs, feelings, etc. as proof that the person is one of the elect. Again, this system supposedly magnifies God’s grace, not our choices or works. Then, once a man is saved, “P”, perseverance of the saints: he can’t “fall from grace”. It doesn’t matter if he turns from sin or does good works, he will still be saved in eternity by God’s grace. God’s grace is so great that it can do that! Oh, Calvin said, it is good for the church and society for him to turn from sin and do good works, but not necessary for his eternal salvation.
BTW, Calvinism has a Bible passage to supposedly support each one of these tenets of TULIP, which I will not go into here, but each one of the 5 points contradicts other plain passages. Each of their verses isolated might seem to teach TULIP, but those verses must harmonize with all other verses, and they don’t. I leave the study of those verses for future study. But Calvinism basically takes away the freedom to choose, to really be free to choose whether to be saved or not. I had a friend once who, under the teachings of Calvinism, went to the “mourner’s bench” 2 or 3 times with a penitent heart, wanting to confess Jesus and be saved. He got no Spirit signs that he was the elect and went home discouraged, feeling unsaved and without hope of salvation. I studied with him one night. We read Peter’s first gospel sermon in Acts 2 where he preached the completed death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Many of the Jews asked, “What must we do to be saved?” Did Peter tell them “there’s nothing you can do to be saved; simply ask God to show you in some Spirit sign that you are the elect”? No, he told them, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Spirit” (Acts 2:38). It doesn’t sound like Peter was teaching Calvinism, does it? He says they are able to choose whether to repent and be baptized or not. He makes repentance and baptism conditions of receiving God’s saving grace and forgiveness. He leaves salvation open to anyone and not just a limited number. He makes the receiving of the Spirit something that happens after you have been forgiven, and not before forgiveness, which is the opposite taught in Calvinism. He doesn’t deal with “P”, but later in his writings in 2 Peter 2:20-22 he clearly teaches that false teachers who were once saved would be lost, 2 Peter 2:1 denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. So he doesn’t preach the “P” either.
My friend I was studying with read Acts 2 with me. He looked at me, and said, to the best of my memory (it has been 45 years ago), “you mean, I have already repented of my sins, so all I have to do is be baptized and I will be forgiven and can feel and know that I am saved?”. I, of course, said “yes”. I baptized him that night. He then felt saved because Acts 2:38 says that he can know that he is saved. His baptism was not a work to earn salvation, as some might accuse me, or even Peter, of teaching. It was not something to do to show that you already have been saved by the “sinner’s prayer” that is often used by evangelicals. I mean, did Peter tell them, “just confess your sins and say the sinner’s prayer, confessing Jesus, and you will be saved”? No, he did not. Did Peter put some conditions of receiving the forgiveness of sins? Yes, repentance and baptism. If someone did not choose to meet those conditions, then he/she would not be forgiven. Are those 2 things clearly conditions of salvation? Yes. Does that make salvation any less by grace? No. If I offer you a sack with a million dollars in it, money you haven’t earned and can’t possibly earn working for me, but I tell you that you must trust me that the money is in the sack and you must reach out in faith to take the sack from my hands, and then it will be yours. So I put conditions on receiving the money and allow you to choose. So if you do choose to reach out and take the money, does that make it any less of a gift from me? Of course not. To me, that illustration explains it all. My friend the assurance of salvation for many years after his baptism before he died about 15 years ago. I believe he is enjoying eternal life. I am so glad that God let our paths crossed so I could help him understand the Scriptures and how to be saved more correctly. I wonder how many have given up on being saved because they have been taught Calvinism and got no sign that they were the elect?
Having said all that, back to the main point. All through the Scriptures, people are given the freedom to choose right or wrong, to be saved or not. Adam and Eve. Genesis 3 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. God then punished them because of their bad choices. James 1 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin [p]is accomplished, it brings forth death. Sounds like James says that Eve saw the fruit, lusted (wanted) it and chose to eat it out of her own lusts.
Joshua told the people they were free to choose to serve God or the gods of the Canaanites. Joshua 24 15 If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Moses gave some strong sermons on the plains of Moab before he died. He warned them about repeating the sins of their fathers. He told them what God required for them to be blessed by God. But then he gave them the freedom to choose. Deuteronomy 30 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your [w]descendants, 20 by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him;
On Mt. Carmel, Elijah challenged Israel to choose to follow God or choose to follow Baal. 1 Kings 18 21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you [i]hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”
Ezekiel 30 30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord God. “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. 31 Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.”
Isaiah 65:12 I will destine you for the sword,
And all of you will bow down to the slaughter.
Because I called, but you did not answer;
I spoke, but you did not hear.
And you did evil in My sight
And chose that in which I did not delight.”
Jesus taught freedom of choice. John 7:17 17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. Yes, Jesus said in John 15:16 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you… But that does not mean that the apostles did not willingly choose to leave their homes and occupations to follow him. Yes, Jesus said in John 6:44 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him… But that does not mean that the person dos not want or choose to respond to the drawing of the Father.
Let’s clarify something about freedom of choice. You might not be able to choose your circumstances, but you are free to choose how to respond to them. Joseph was not free to choose whether to go to Egypt or not; his brothers made that choice for him. But he was free to choose how to respond to being enslaved in Egypt to Potiphar and in prison 2 years. You can choose to respond to bad or difficult or even tragic circumstances in your life in faith and God will bless you. Or you can choose to. respond in bitterness, self pity, anger, even rejecting God.
So many things in life are based on our choices. My mother in law, who is always very happy and calm even in the worst of circumstances, always said, “People are about as happy in life as they choose to be”, and she is right on. Every day we can choose to rejoice in our salvation and the hope of eternal life and enjoy the day, looking for how God can use us to do His will. If things go bad, we can choose to do what James says: James 1 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various [c]trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces [d]endurance. 4 And let [e]endurance have its perfect [f]result, so that you may be [g]perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Just go with the flow, go with “God’s flow”. Look for the good in even the bad. Romans 8 28 And we know that [k]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God. Even if you can’t find something good in tragedy, think about eternal life that is prepared for us where there is no more tragedy or pain or death or disaster or disease.
Choose to eat healthy and exercise. So much of our bad health is because we don’t choose to eat healthy or exercise. I have been on the Mediterranean diet for almost a year now.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:
- Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
- Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
- Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Enjoying meals with family and friends
- Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
- Getting plenty of exercise
I can testify that this diet has lowered my cholesterol, helped me lose weight and keep it off, and feel better about myself. I’m still grouchy, but that is probably because I choose to be! I can stay on this diet so much easier than other diets. I snack on almonds and walnuts at night, and popcorn, but I don’t eat supper. I wake up hungry but with my weight under control We truly “are what we eat”. I try to walk everyday, but the key is what we eat. I hear people talk about their high blood pressure, their borderline type 2 diabetes, being overweight, etc. So we look for a pill when most of their problems could be controlled by eating properly and exercising. But it’s our choice.
One of the greatest things a parent can do for his/her child is to teach them that their choices have consequences. So many parents bail their children out when they make bad choices, not allowing them to suffer the consequences of those choices. Eli rebuked his 2 evil sons, but he never made them suffer the consequences of their evil choices.
Well, this article started off emphasizing our freedom to choose to obey God and be saved or not, but I kinda got off track, huh? But life is about choices. And choices have consequences. So choose to obey God and receive eternal life, or choose to live in sin and receive the wages of sin, which is death. Jesus said in Matthew 16 24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his [v]life will lose it; but whoever loses his [w]life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?