God lets us choose Him: “But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” But that isn’t the beginning of the story – or the end of it.
God chooses us. He gives us the right to become children of God[i], and He made that choice before the foundation[ii] of the world. We become the children of God not by blood descent, not by the will of parents or anyone else – maybe not even by our own will – but by God’s choice.[iii]
I do not have a systematic theology. I am not a theologian, and my understanding of systematic theology is limited, but free will has always seemed self-evident to me. It also seems eminently biblical. God created us in his own image[iv], and a primary characteristic of God is agency. We see in the story of Adam and Eve that God gave us agency too, by giving them dominion over the animals of the earth and in the choice to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The freedom to choose is also a necessary condition of love. God is love[v], and he created us in His image to reflect Him, to glorify Him and to love Him.
The point of an image is to image. Images are erected to display the original. Point to the original. Glorify the original. God made humans in his image so that the world would be filled with reflectors of God. Images of God. Seven billion statues of God. So that nobody would miss the point of creation. Nobody (unless they were stone blind) could miss the point of humanity, namely, God. Knowing, loving, showing God.[vi]
God created us to love him. Therefore, we must have agency/free will in order to be able to reflect back His love as He intended.
But there is another side to this. There is not only what we call faith; there is grace. There is God’s unmerited favor. God chooses us. We call this predestination and attribute it to God’s sovereignty
In Finding Jesus Part I (Seeking God: When God Does Not Answer), we explored the idea that God is near us at all times, but we cannot connect with Him because of us. We are the problem; we get in the way of “finding” God, and in order to “find God”, we must get out of the way (lose ourselves).
I will explore getting to the end of self where we can find God in this piece and follow it up with a look at Finding Jesus Part III (Seeking God: Different Paths and the conclusion: Finding Jesus Part IV (Seeking God: Finding Jesus)!
But first, I want to relate a conversation I had with my daughter. She told me that she has called out to God in the past, but he was not there. He didn’t respond, and she was discouraged.
I have been there too. I’ve called out to God at times in my past, and God didn’t respond. One time in particular, it was as if I was talking to the clouds, and my words were bouncing back at me.
I distinctly remember that time. I was perplexed, not knowing which direction to go. I had life choices ahead of me that were mutually exclusive. They were widely divergent paths, and I was torn. I was either going to go back to college for my senior year, or I was going to drop out.
Imagine, if you will, a God creating a creature in his own image, a God who “naturally” exists outside of time and space, who is infinite. The creature, however, could not be infinite, regardless of the image of the God she bears. The creature would be limited to time and space, but the creature would have the capacity to create like God and to choose, including the choice to go its own way.
Giving this creature choice is dangerous, but it’s the only way for the creature to be able to understand love and to be able to return that love to its creator. This God loved the creature and desired to give love to this creature and receive love in return.
This is the divine experiment.
And, the very fact that we can reject God is proof that God loves us.
“[H]e chose us in him before the foundation[i] of the world….” (Eph. 1:4) God foresaw and foreknew us and had plans for us from the beginning.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. (Ps. 139:16)
God has brought you to this place; or more accurately, God foreknew you in this place. Whether you feel like you have been following God, God has been leading you, or you are just wandering in the wilderness, you are where God knew you would be from before the creation of the world when God chose you.
We think in terms of home and destination, but the fact is that we are on a journey. We are not home, and our destination is not a place that we can get to on our own.