“...I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him...” ~Deuteronomy 30:19-20
One of the aspects of God’s love for us, which is so wonderful to me, is how He has given mankind the freedom to choose whether to follow Him. In today’s Bible verse, we read that He told Israel to choose whether to serve Him. He did not make the choice for them. Joshua told Israel the same thing when he said, “Now fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness...And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve...But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15).
Yet some believe the opposite about God. A prevailing doctrine in religious circles is that humanity is completely incapable of achieving any sort of morality on our own due to supposedly being born in a completely depraved state of sinfulness due to inheriting Adam’s sin. As a result, we would need God to do everything which needs to be done in order to save us. This is why some teach that God chose some of us before we were born to be saved unconditionally and provided atonement only for them through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. According to some, if you are part of the group God predestined for unconditional salvation, you have absolutely no choice in the matter. Due to you being totally depraved, you cannot have the ability to choose good or evil. Rather, the Holy Spirit would directly and miraculously influence and take control of your heart and life.
In other words, they say you have no free will because God has total control over absolutely everything, including us. Yet if such is the case, why did He tell Israel to choose whether to serve Him in the Deuteronomy passage cited above? Why would Joshua tell Israel to choose whether to serve God? After all, Joshua was a man who spent his entire life following God’s commands (Joshua 11:15), including His commandment to speak the truth (Leviticus 19:11). Joshua would not have been dishonest with Israel by telling them to do something God had made impossible for them to do.
Years later, Elijah asked Israel, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow Him” (1 Kings 18:21). Was Elijah wasting his breath? He would have been if his listeners did not have the capacity to make a decision about their allegiance. In fact, the entire effort to convert Israel by miraculously showing them the power of God at Mount Carmel would have been meaningless (1 Kings 18:20-39). Why would God have bothered to miraculously send fire from the sky to convince Israel when instead He could have just “re-programmed” them to follow Him instead of Baal? Come to think of it, why would they have turned to Baal in the first place if their will was not their own but instead was God’s?
It is true that Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). Yet Jesus is not saying that it is impossible for us to come to God unless God “draws” us by making it impossible for us to say “No” to Him. We know this because Jesus then said in the very next verse, “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:45). God doesn’t drag us to Him. He calls us through the teaching of the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14). Those who hear the gospel and believe in it are those who come to Him and receive salvation (Ephesians 1:13; Romans 1:16). They are the ones whom God draws to Himself.
Not everyone who hears the gospel believes it. This is because God gave them free will to choose. Some make the wrong choice. May that never be said of you or me!