“And if you offer a sacrifice of a peace offering to the LORD, you shall offer it of your own free will.”
Free will: now there is a topic for some heated debate in theological circles. There are lots of very logical arguments about whether or not God has predetermined who shall be saved and how much personal free will we have in the matter. There can be no doubt that it does take an act of faith in Jesus Christ to bring us salvation and eternal life (John 3:16-17), but the debate rages because other parts of the Bible allude to God knowing and selecting the saints beforehand. (e.g. Romans 8:28-30) So, which came first: our faith or God’s selection of us? The answer is…none of the above. In that question we are missing one crucial element: God’s grace in even making salvation possible. He need not ever have done that, and the very fact that we can debate the source of our faith speaks more for God’s mercy than for our own precious free will.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
God’s love and His offer of grace precede our free will by miles. But that is not to say we must sit back and not make a choice at all, that we should just relax and let God choose for us. The choice must still be made to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The choice must still be made to love Jesus Christ. The choice must still be made to set aside our pride and to repent and humble ourselves before God.
6 With what shall I come before the LORD,
And bow myself before the High God?
Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,
With calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
Ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you,
O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
In today’s verse, the Lord has Moses instruct the Israelites about the laws pertaining to the tabernacle and to offerings, and here we see that our desire to have peace with God must be of our own free will. The impetus to make peace, to repent of our ways and to seek His face once again, must start with US. The offer from God to HAVE peace with Him still stands; that covenant was never broken by the Lord, only by men. And so the promise made to Abraham, the promise made to Moses, the promise made to Solomon, the promise made through the prophets–that same offer of salvation is still in force, still open for those willing to accept it. BUT, the offer DOES have a time limit: when Jesus returns to judge the quick and the dead, then it will be too late to accept Him as Savior and Lord. At that point, as they say, all bets are off.
The free will offering we must make involves sacrifice–a sacrifice of pride, of sovereignty, of earthly desires, of worldly ways, of family and friends, and perhaps even of our lives.
37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
What can we offer the Lord but our own lives? “The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness,” says the Psalmist. (Psalms 24:1) What then can we offer that He does not already possess? Only the free will REPENTANCE of a heart that desires the peace with God, only the free will SACRIFICE of our own freedom to be in bondage to the Lord God of heaven and earth.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart–
These, O God, You will not despise.
If you don’t know that verse by now, then now would be a good time to learn it. The Lord does not ask for myriad sacrifices and petty following of rules. (Isaiah 1:11-17) He desires genuine repentance, genuine integrity of thought and action, genuine love for Him and His ways. Our desire for peace with God must start in our own free will to LOVE the Lord so completely that we MUST repent and believe.
Of course, there are some who have fallen prey to Satan and his demons. Satan comes to steal from the Lord those whom God has called, to kill us by turning us away from the path leading to eternal life through Christ, and to destroy our very souls as Satan himself will one day be destroyed in the eternal fires of the abyss which God has prepared for him and his followers. (John 10:10, Matthew 25:41) Demon possession is not something to be taken lightly, since it removes from us our capacity for free will, thus preventing us from making the choice for God. It is not so simple as comedian Flip Wilson’s old line–“The devil made me do it!”–which supposedly lets us off the hook. It is a very grave circumstance when a man or woman has been seduced and cannot turn aside from their deep sin. But God is gracious and merciful, and through His disciples–you and me–He can cast out those demons and return to men their free will. (Mark 16:17) Some will choose Satan all over again, but many will repent and be saved. But they must be given the choice.
How can anyone be given the choice? I think you know:
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
17 “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;
18 “they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
We preach the gospel, make disciples, allow the Holy Spirit to stir up God’s gifts of prophecy, knowledge, healing, and other things. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11) We take up the Word of God, which is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17), to do battle with the adversary Satan. We prepare not to wage war against princes and politics but to go into spiritual battle with Satan and demons. (Ephesians 6:12) We seek to restore free will to men so that they may make the choice to sacrifice and find peace with God.
13 For “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Being born again in the Spirit means that we are no longer bound to the old ruler of this world, Satan. In our regeneration, we are now bound to God in the liberty of the Spirit. (Romans 8:13-15) And in our liberty, we now seek the righteousness and kingdom of God. In our liberty, we not only choose Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives, we also choose to live as He lived.
1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,
Because the LORD has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 “To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 “To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
We act to set others free, so that they, too, may come before the Lord contrite and broken and seeking peace with their own offering of humility and service. Our free will is not simply a liberty to do anything we like under the promise of grace, but to act under that grace to help others make the free will choice to find God while He may be found.
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Under the authority vested in us by the Lord of lords and King of kings, under the power of grace supplied through the Holy Spirit, under the liberty of our service to the Most High God, we are therefore called to go and make disciples, to preach the gospel, and to open the door for Jesus to break the bonds of sin and corruption that prevent men from making the free will choice to love the Lord God with all their being. Let that be our free will offering of peace before the Lord our God.
Amen and amen.