It does not matter which theological persuasion you come from, you have a view on Free Will. It is a term that has received much debate over the years. Are you free to choose whatever you want or not? Are there some limitations in what we are free to choose? If we are not free, does that mean everyone is simply a robot programmed from the beginning of what will happen?
As I was studying this week for my sermon, there was an extensive quote that I came across from James Montgomery Boice. It is a quote that said much more than what I wanted to say in my sermon this week. In fact, I'm not even addressing this topic in my message. But this quote was very helpful as he gives helpful illustrations to explain this concept of Free Will.
"We will never understand the doctrine of god's working to form a person's will until we realize that apart from the work of God in his or her heart through Jesus Christ a person does not have free will where spiritual realities are concerned. I know that someone will want to reply, 'What! Do you mean to tell me that I cannot do anything I want to?' My answer is, 'Yes, you cannot.' You have free will to decide certain things, but you do not have free will to decide all things. You can decide whether you will go to work on Monday morning or pretend you are sick. You can order turkey over roast beef at a restaurant. But you cannot exercise your free will in anything that involves your physical, intellectual, or spiritual capabilities. By your own free will you cannot decide that you are going to have a 50 percent higher I.Q. than you do or that you will have a gift for dealing with quantum mechanics. You do not have free will to make a billion dollars. You do not have free will to run the 100-yard dash in eight seconds. You do not have free will in anything intellectual or physical.
More significantly, just as you do not have free will intellectually or physically, so you do not have free will spiritually. You cannot choose God. Adam had free will, but he lost it. And all people since are without it until it is recreated in them by the Holy Spirit. Let me give you an illustration. It is as if a person were standing on the edge of a muddy pit with slippery sides. As long as he is on the edge he has free will; he can either stay on the bank or jump in. But if he decides to jump in, then his free will is lost as far as getting out of the pit is concerned. He has free will to walk around on the bottom or to sit down. He has free will to try to scramble up the side or to accept his plight philosophically. He has free will to cry for help or to be silent, to be angry or complacent. But he does not have free will to be again on the edge of the embankment.
This is what happened in Adam and Eve. They were created on the edge of the pit. God said, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die' (Gen. 2:16-17). This was a test case, and Adam and Eve had free will to obey or to disobey the commandment. When they disobeyed it they fell away from God. They lost the free will to choose God, and they proved it by running away from God when God came to see them in the garden.
Since Adam and Eve, all people are born with the same inability to choose him. Some are complacent; some are angry. Some are silent and philosophical. Some are resigned; some are anxious. But all are unable to come to God. No one does come to God until God reaches down by grace into the mud pit of human sin and impotence and lifts him up and places him again on the bank and says, 'This is the way; walk in it.'
This is what God does in salvation. The Bible says, 'There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God' (Rom. 3:10-11). The Bible says we are born again 'not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God' (John 1:13). Jesus said, 'No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him' (John 6:44).
We must face this truth. Even if every generation of mankind and every city and village on earth had a John the Baptist to point to Jesus Christ and to call us to him, apart from the supernatural work of God in human hearts no one would come. If God rearranged the stars of heaven to spell out, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved,' no one would believe. If God sent his angels with the sound of a celestial trumpet to call us to repentance, no one would repent. If you have come to God, it is only because God has first entered your life by his Holy Spirit to quicken your will, to open your eyes to his truth, and to draw you irresistibly to himself. It is only after this that you are able to choose the path that he sets before you." (Boice, Philippians, 144-145).