“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’.”
Matthew 16:24-25 ESV
Just recently we held our first church-wide fellowship night, and the devotional passage we looked at was from Matthew 16:24-25, the passage above. We had some good thoughts related to that passage, what it meant to the disciples gathered there, and what it means for us today. There is to be a definite humbling of ourselves, and submitting ourselves to Christ in order to truly follow Him. My thoughts later that night, and into the next morning ran into another line of thinking related to the difficulty man has in submitting himself to anyone else, whether God or man.
Even in theological circles we argue the validation of our free will against the election or predestination by God. Some would say that God cannot override man’s free will. But stop and think for just a moment about what that would mean if it were true. If God was not sovereign over the will of man, his own creation, would He then truly be sovereign at all. Could not other aspects of creation overrule the will of God? Even if one small aspect of God’s creation could overpower the power and authority of God, it would make Him not sovereign, or all powerful, and thus susceptible to other threats on His power. Would He then have power over the devil who wants to destroy us? Does He truly have the power to save us?
The answer to this is that while man has a measure of free will, that free will is completely subject to the power and authority of God. Think if it this way. In a family, at least as God has designed the family to function, there are parents, and then if so blessed, there are eventually children. As those children grow, while they are given room to grow, and an increasing ability to make their own decisions, those children are still subject to the authority of the parents. We can very easily see the results of what happens when a child is given autonomy, or complete ability to make decisions, and even override the authority of the parents. Children grow up to have no respect for authority whatsoever, because they’ve never been forced to be subject to any authority. But when a family operates under the pattern God has established, the children are subject to the parents, but by the time they are nearly adults, they have learned to make wise decisions, they have learned what it is to respect those in authority over them, and can relate in a world where there is always some balance of free-will and submission to some form of authority.
Autonomy and free-will are not synonymous. R.C. Sproul writes, in Chosen by God, “If God is sovereign, man cannot possibly be autonomous. If man is autonomous, God cannot possibly be sovereign. These would be contradictions… We are free, but there are limits to our freedom. The ultimate limit is the sovereignty of God…God is free. I am free, but God is more free than I am.”
This is why Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” A follower of Christ is someone who has willingly submitted themselves to a Sovereign God, accepted his way, and has determined to make pleasing Him the focus of their lives, despite all the influences and attractions the world throws at us. It is His incredible love for us that motivated Him to save us and set us free from the weight of our sin. “In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will.” Eph. 1:5
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen