Do we have free will?

Question:  Do we have free will?  If so, to what extent are we free?  And if not, to what extent are we not free?

First let me say that this is a very difficult question.  Why?  Two reasons:  1) Because we are finite creatures with various mental limitations, that is, we don’t have the cognitive ability or brain power to understand certain things.  For instance, when I hear statistics about our universe, I often find myself in a state of awe and wonder, utterly unable to comprehend the magnitude and greatness of whatever cosmic thing is being described.  and 2) God is infinite and has no limitations, and we are dealing with His truth which, at times, stretches beyond our limits – humbling us and serving to remind us that we are just ‘creation’ and He is ‘Creator”…may questions like these not scare us away, but lead us into more fervent prayer to God for more grace and wisdom to understand Him beyond our natural ability.

Let’s go…

“Freedom”:  the power to determine action without restraint; exemption from external control, interference, and regulation.

Our actions are dictated by our desires and our desires are dictated by our natures. Our greatest desire in any given moment dictates what we do.  That is to say, we do exactly what we want to do, what we most desire to do – at all times. No one can act contrary to their desires.  That is to say, no one can do something they don’t desire to do. That may sound strange, I know.  Let me explain by way of illustration:  Why do you get out of bed in the morning?  Because you have a stronger desire to get up and start your day than you do to remain in the bed.  Why do you eat breakfast? Brush your teeth?  Drive to work?  Go to school?  Do your homework?  etc…because you have a stronger desire to do those things than to not.  And if you don’t do them, then you have a stronger desire for that.

So is the will free? Yes and no. “Yes” in the sense that you are free to do what you desire. In fact, at any given moment, you will only choose to do what you desire – you cannot act contrary to your desires. The strongest desire always wins!  (Another brief example – because this point is so important to understand in order to rightly grasp the “free will” concept – Let’s say you are confronted by a mugger on the street.  He points a gun at you and says, “Give me your wallet or I’ll kill you!”  You respond by saying, “Sure thing!” And react by quickly pulling out your wallet, full of all the money from your recently cashed pay-check, your ID, your credit cards, your insurance cards, and your social security card! He takes the money and leaves you alone.  Now why did you give the mugger your wallet?  Because your desire to live in that moment was greater than your desire to keep your wallet and all your personal belongings contained within it! Again, your desires always win!)  So, your will is free to choose whatever it wants, based on what it wants. You are free in the sense that you can do whatever you desire to do – but (and this is important) you cannot do what you don’t desire to do.

So is the will free? Yes and no.  “No” in the sense that it cannot act contrary to its nature. We cannot change our nature.  And remember what I said earlier, “Our actions are dictated by our desires and our desires are dictated by our natures.”  Before Christ, what kind of nature do you have?  Answer:  ”fleshly” natures.  Romans 8:5-8 says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit (true, born again Christians), the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Wow!! You see? Before Christ saves someone, they are dead in their sin (Eph. 2:1), they are “fleshly”, not even capable to please God (vs. 8).  They have a “stoney” heart (Ezekiel 36:26“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh [spiritually speaking] and give you a heart of flesh.”)  The “heart of stone” is resistant to the things of God, unmoved by the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, naturally prone to hate God and His commandments, and they need a “fleshly” or “living” heart that is respondent and sensitive to the things of God, hypersensitive to the delicious truth of the gospel, desirous of Him and of glory for His Son (and don’t be confused by the terminology, in this particular case in Ezekiel, “fleshly” simply means “living” or “renewed” – it is used differently in our previously quoted text from Romans 8).

And what is the result of this new heart that God promises to give His children? New desires! God-pleasing desires! Ezekiel further explains vs. 27 by saying, “And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” See, when God saves someone, He gives them a new heart (spiritually speaking). And that new heart is filled with new desires! So that now, the regenerated (fancy word for saved) man will desire the things God delights in, thusly bringing Him glory and us joy – why? – because we are doing exactly what we want to do; but the things we now want to do are the God-glorifying things He has designed us to do and created us anew to do.

So…God doesn’t control my every action. I am not a puppet on a string or a robot being controlled by a remote. I am simply regenerated.  Whereas, before Christ my desires resulted in action against God in displeasing ways, my new desires result in action for God in very pleasing ways!  The work of God in salvation is not the changing of my desires, it is the exchanging of my nature – old for new.  Therefore, God doesn’t specifically give me desires – that is, God doesn’t make me love Him.  He simply gave me a new nature and so now I, because of my new nature, freely choose to love God because that is what I naturally desire to do.  Again, He gave me a new nature.  And that new nature has in it the ability or potential to desire and love God.  So is my will free?  Yes and no.  It is free to do what it desires but it is not free to choose what it desires. God changed my nature and gave me His Spirit when He saved me and in so doing, gave me the ability to desire Him.

Last thing – How do I cultivate a deeper desire for Him?  Three distinct ways: through His Word, through prayer, and through fellowship with His people.

I hope this has proven to be helpful.  Feel free to ask questions at your leisure by commenting on this post!
Here are a few supplementary passages to take a look at for further study:

Gal. 5:16-25;  Ezekiel 36:26-38;  Duet. 30:19-20;  John 6:29, 37-39, 44, 63-65;  John 8:42-47

Desiring Christ,


Welcome to our new blog!  Thanks for reading.

Why blog?  Technology is a neutral thing.  It has potential for evil or good, for blessing or cursing, for the building up of one’s faith or the destruction of it.  Our beautiful Savior can be glorified through the prayerful use of it or defamed, assaulted, slandered and reproached through the improper use of it.  I see blogging as a tool given to us by God as a means of first and foremost glorifying Christ, and secondly of maximizing our joy in Him and growing more in our likeness to Him.  This is why you exist friend – to show the world the unparalleled richness and blessedness of worshipping God (1 Cor. 8:6).

It is my prayer that through this blog you would be enriched in your worship of your Savior through a growing knowledge of Him, that I pray will result in an intensified love for Him (1 Cor. 8:1) and a more deeply satisfied and contented soul for you.

Do you believe this is possible?  If not, I pray you will soon.

What I hope to do through each new blog post is answer your questions.  At first, I will simply pose my own questions and do my best to answer them as prayerfully and biblically as possible.  But hopefully, as you read and as you live and as you learn, you will find yourself having questions of your own that I have not covered, so feel free to post comments and ask…  I would love for this blog to be a means of correspondence between myself and those of you who have similar affections for Jesus and similar questions about Him.  I do NOT claim to have all the answers…but I will do my best to fearfully and reverently answer what I can from God’s Word for His glory.

Again, thank you for reading.  If you feel so led, please do pray for this project, that it would accomplish “what [God] desires, and succeed in the matter for which [He] sent it (Isaiah 55:11).”


Because of Christ’s love,


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