Notion of Being Freed
e are free because we inwardly know we are free. All humans intuitively feel, and later experience, a link between our freewill choices and the consequences of those choices good or bad. We do not feel preprogrammed. Our inward feelings of conscience and guilt is further evidence that assumes moral free will. Theological arguments concerning choice and responsibility do not generally focus on moral choice but make an attempt to reconcile the concept of determinism with the personal choice to accept or reject salvation. The doctrine of Divine Sovereignty has been the focus of such debates. In recent generations the focus with whom we converse usually argue from the position of John Calvin's Predestination, or John Wesley's ideas about God's Foreknowledge that allows for human freedom of choice.
Wesleyan Free Will without denying God's Grace has generally squared better with philosophers and with popular logical arguments. Most of us have learned to avoid theological arguments at family reunions, and other groups, and to simply talk about how we discovered in the preschool playground that we somehow possessed the inward ability to think cognitively and to defy the same. We might say that the understanding of free will hinges on the reality of bad choices. For example, I logically knew that it was a bad idea to defy the playground bully, but I made that bad choice, albeit a free choice, and suffered the consequences. If my big brother had not chosen to intervene I would have been the favorite daily victim of the bully's free swinging attitude.
Our text today is the story about Jesus carrying free will to another level as he frees a woman from her longtime back problems by saying, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." Sometimes several types of freedom connect to cause us problems. Free will is the modus operandi of destiny. It may be natural principles or genetic predisposition that causes back problems. It can be caused by our choice to climb up on the roof and then accidentally fall off. However, the "accident" would not have happened if the decision had not been made to climb up on the roof. Also, evil comes from the misuse of free will. In Jesus' statement the woman is freed from whatever situations may have caused her bent back. Additionally she is freed from past sin and bad choices she may have made. Most of us have made bad choices along the way. We may still be living under the burdens caused by those bad decisions. It has become politically correct for politicians to state nonspecifically that they have not always made the right choices in regard to their personal lives. Evidently, most people are likely to identify with that and in turn forgive. The broader question is whether we can trust such people to make decisions about the Federal Budget.
In trusting our elected representatives we are giving up a portion of our power of choice. In a similar manner, when God granted His creatures freewill he limited His own control. However, in so doing He created us with the capacity to attain another level of freedom as sons and daughters; thus, coheirs with Christ.
God seems to have made it a rule for himself to never alter persons' character by force. He can bring us up to a new and higher level, but only if we are willing. The drama of life requires that if we are going to follow God's plan that we must first find it and then jump into the drama. It is assumed that the woman whom Jesus healed of the bent back did make a decision to allow his miracle to occur, at least she did stand up straight. Who knows, perhaps later on after the ascension of Jesus back into heaven, some of the leaders of the synagogue did like Paul and chose to allow Jesus to begin to redeem them for himself and for themselves.
Most of the religious leaders probably just kept on enforcing the rules. However, Jesus intent was to set them free. As Paul wrote to the Romans, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the Law could not do... God did..." (8:2-3). In this age of Grace whereby God is attempting to take spiritual evolution to a higher level of a new creation we are each challenged to allow God to do his best with our lives.
While visiting my Aunt Frances this week she gave me a copy of the famous prayer of Francis of Assisi. You perhaps have memorized it, but as you hear it anew think of how many choices you would have to make to become all that was Saint Francis' desire:
me an instrument of Thy peace.
Eternal life awaits as another level of an even higher creation that God has in store for us. We do not know now all of the unseen mysteries of heaven, but we do know that through Glorification we will be made perfect as He is perfect and in so becoming we will finally arrive back at the point of our original creation and live in a new garden.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor