What Does God Say About The Unexamined Life and Free Will?
The Bible is a beautiful tapestry, with many threads woven through it, one of those threads being the nature and fruit of free will.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” This quote is attributed to Socrates. Was Socrates correct? Prov 4:26-27, “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” Apparently, God thinks we need to examine our lives, and He wants us to use the free will He gave us to choose to do good rather than evil. Why? And, what makes a life worth living? Side note, He did not say ponder the path of others, only our own path.
If this life is all there is, we might want to get all we can get out of it. Or, as Henry David Thoreau expressed it, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…” However, if this life is about choosing whether we want to spend eternity with God or live this life only, we might want to do a little more pondering. What is the purpose of this life, and how can we get the most out of it while preparing for eternity?
If our life ends at our first death, what can be gained by examining it? Thoreau believed life is precious, and he did not want to waste any of his on the unnecessary routine activities other people would call him to do. He was engaged in finding the fulfilling parts and living them to their utmost. But, is this the life we were created to live? It seems a rather selfish proposal. God did not create us to be selfish, He is pure love and He created us in His image, Gen 1:27, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."
God tells us we cannot serve two masters, Matt 6:24, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Our actions reveal the master we have chosen to serve. We cannot serve God and anyone or anything else, including ourselves. God asks us to choose, Deut 30:19, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” This choice leads us to either choose a selfish life, which leads away from God, or that perfect life God saw for us, before He even began creating, Jer 1:5, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." and Rom 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” It appears God’s will for our lives leads us to Him and the expected end He has seen for us, Jer 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” and He designed everything to work together to produce this end, Rom 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
Here is how we begin the journey God has laid before us, Rev 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” and Is 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” God is not demanding our obedience; He calls us to sup on His Word and reason with Him. He wants us to know there is a better way to live, and our mistakes can be left in the past. To this end, He has supplied us with the textbook for life, the Bible, 2 Tim 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
One lesson Jesus teaches us in the Bible is that it is hypocritical to look for the flaws in others instead of examining our own imperfections, Matt 7:3-5, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” He asks us to allow others to use their free will to examine their own lives, without our constant criticism, without our creating laws that limit their freedom, without judging. If we do not allow others to use their God-given free will, we become hypocrites, refusing to examine our own lives, but limiting the free will of others.
Once we accept Jesus as our Savior, we begin to transform into the people He wants to live with for all eternity. We can witness this transformation process by seeing more and more of our lives align with the fruit of the Spirit, Gal 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Are we becoming more loving, peaceful, kinder, and gentler? Eph 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” Of course, God knows not only what we do, but our thoughts and intents, Heb 4:12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” So, we cannot pretend and fool God.
Acts 4:19, “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” God tells us that each of us must judge for ourselves, and ultimately, if we are honest, we will learn He has given us His Word for our benefit. He wants us to think for ourselves, He wants us to challenge everything, including what He tells us in the Bible. God is not worried, He knows we will find the truth if we are honestly searching for it, Jn 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” and 1 Thes 5:21, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” and Jn 4:1, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
Leo Tolstoy unwittingly leads us to Jesus and the Bible, “You think that your laws correct evil - they only increase it. There is but one way to end evil - by rendering good for evil to all men without distinction.” When we are honest about reasoning with the truth, we will always be led back to God, Rom 12:21, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” God wants us to be treated fairly and given every opportunity to choose eternal life with Him.
Winston Churchill said, “If you have ten thousand regulations, you destroy all respect for the law.” This is why God only gave us only Ten Commandments, and then, only after we refused to love as He does.
Horace Greeley tells us about the power within the Bible, “It is impossible to enslave, mentally or socially, a bible-reading people. The principles of the bible are the groundwork of human freedom.” Jn 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” God has allowed us to make mistakes along the path to Him and given us an eternally bright future. Nothing on this earth can take His peace away if we do not choose to give it away. Paul wrote from prison and John from imprisonment on Patmos, yet both found God’s peace. They were able to do this because they believed God had planned an eternal life of ever-increasing joy and peace. After we have found that eternal life, we learn this life is about helping others see it, as well.
Charles R. Swindol, “God gave laws to His people to bless them, not to burden them. Every rule either elevates the quality of human life or restores one's relationship with God after a breach. He makes no extraneous demands, and He is never capricious.” God did not create extra laws that can be abused. In fact, He tells us if we live the fruit of the Spirit, we need no laws, Gal 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
The very moment all of our ideas become fixed, one of two things has happened, we have stopped growing, or we have become perfect. Our transformation to perfection will not end with our own efforts, so we need to keep reasoning with the truth to continue to transform, thus allowing our ideas to continually improve. Being open to discussing, and honestly evaluating, different ideas is part of our transformation; and reasoning with the Bible is the best place to test new ideas before we make our final decision, Eccl 12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”
Our free will is a demonstration of God’s love. He will bless those who follow the perfect law of liberty, Jam 1:25, “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
Dear heavenly Father, give us the courage to live the freedom you purchased for us on the cross and teach us to be lively stones, 1 Pet 2:5, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
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