It is important that when we are talking about the Lord’s disciplining of us, His children, that we see that He never uses coercion. The Lord never seeks to control us like robots. We said yesterday that there are times when God uses hardship to discipline us. He can also use difficulties and trouble to cause us to turn back to Him when we have wandered off piste, as He did for the nation of Israel, time and time again, when they forgot Him or went after other gods. But always the choice whether or not to turn back to Him was there.
Choice is one of the most precious gifts that God gave mankind. It cost Him greatly. It meant that in Jesus He would go to the cross and pay the price for all our bad choices. Freedom to choose is something that the enemy seeks to destroy and take away from humanity. He does this in many ways, both on the world stage through political forces and oppression, and in individual lives through fear, through addictions, through making people into victims of their own or other people’s choices. Which is why, as a significant part of His ‘mission statement’, Jesus could declare that He had come to ‘set the captives free’. Luke 4:18, NASB.
We see Jesus demonstrate this freedom, when He lets the rich young man walk away, Luke 10:21,22. Jesus always invited people saying, “Follow Me”, as He walked by, Luke 5:27, He never threatened or even cajoled them. We can see too how, giving mankind this freedom to choose, cost Him greatly as He wept over Jerusalem, Luke 19:41, at their refusal to come to Him, Matthew 23:37. Even when Judas made his decision to betray Jesus, there was no attempt to control. Jesus warned him of the consequences, but made no attempt to dissuade or stop him. Mark 14:20.
It is important for us to know that Jesus didn’t set us free from ‘the law of sin and death’ Romans 8:2 or from slavery to sin, to bring us under His control. He set us free to restore to us the dignity, given at the creation of mankind, of having the freedom to choose to follow Him, listen to Him, serve and obey Him.
In making Him the Lord of our lives, as well as our Saviour, we are not surrendering our ability to choose but we are saying “Lord I want to live every moment in accordance with your will for my life”. And because I know that His plans for me are good, that He loves me completely, and that He knows far better than I do what is best for me, I want to make those choices that are in accordance with His will for me.
So how does this all now work for us, His beloved children. We have chosen to ‘follow Him’, we have ‘given our lives to Him’, and whatever expression we use to describe the decision we have made, we are now His children. He is committed to discipling us, training us and ‘growing us up’ and making us more like Jesus, but we still have our freewill, and we are still able to make our choices. He doesn’t control us, but loves to guide and lead us.
This freedom to choose can cause us some anxiety, if we see following Jesus as a bit of a tightrope. In that scenario, either I am going to make the right choice or the wrong one. It’s all a bit binary and I could go wrong at any moment. In contrast, the wonderful thing about the Christian life that it is about walking with Jesus, and we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us as we endeavour to do that. It’s all about relationship, not following the rules. He doesn’t just give us the map and tell us off if we make a wrong turn, He comes with us as our guide and helper.
Once again staying in an attitude of thankfulness is a big key. As I thank the Lord that He is with me and that the Holy Spirit, is my friend and helper, my ‘alongsider’ in all the decisions, big and small, that I have to make daily, I will find His life flowing through me enabling me to walk freely. I can make my choices and trust that He will help me should I be heading in the wrong direcction, in the same way that He promised the children of Israel if ‘you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying “This is the way; walk in it”’. Isaiah 30:21.
Everyday we are faced with myriads of choices, big and small, and staying in a place of thankfulness, for example, that the Lord is with me, that He loves me and wants me to make the best choices, keeps me in good relationship with Him. It also keeps my ear attentive to His promptings and checks. Taking a moment to give thanks, particularly when I am faced with a difficult decision also allows me to ‘pause a moment’ and it allows my spirit in partnership with Holy Spirit, to take the lead over my thoughts and emotions. Overall thanksgiving enables me to say with David, “He guides me in paths of righteousness for His names sake”. Psalm 23:3