Regardless of your theology, if you believe that Scripture is to be read and understood literally, then it is impossible to conclude anything other than the fact that a believer’s spiritual victory hangs upon many choices that he is free to make. Though God is both omnipotent and sovereign, He has included within that Divine framework a marvelous liberty for His redeemed children to exercise their wills positively or negatively. Two of the myriad examples available, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament, will illustrate this truth regarding the exercise of choice.
The choice when circumstances impact us. “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you” (Psa. 56:3). David was a man of great courage. Whether killing a lion and a bear that threatened his flock, defeating Goliath, or refusing to kill Saul who had sought to kill him, the evidence of his courage appears time and again on the pages of Scripture. But David was not beyond experiencing fear. In fact, he seems to hint that, even for the most dauntless, some fear is inevitable. “When I am afraid,” he testifies, not “If . . . .” Are we doomed, then, to wallow in fear, be overcome by dread, or defeated by anxiety? No, David says, so to speak, “I have a choice.” “I will put my trust in You [God].” David will not be overcome by his natural response to some trying circumstance. Instead, he will choose to put his faith and confidence in the One who has proven His absolute faithfulness and trustworthiness. The principle remains constant regardless of what follows the adverb and pronoun: When I fear, when I doubt, when I am confused, when I question, when I hurt, when I am sick, when I sorrow, when I suffer, whenever or whatever “I will put my trust in You.” We may choose to be overwhelmed by the flood of circumstances that sweeps over us, or we may remember the character of the Lord and choose to put our trust in Him. David acknowledges that he has a choice and has determined what his choice will be.
The choice when sin plagues us. “Let us also lay aside . . . the sin which so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:1). Just as believers have a choice regarding how we respond to difficult circumstances, so we have a choice regarding sin. An unbeliever is a prisoner to sin and under the dominion of Satan and his own fallen nature. But the believer has been delivered from both. Though we still have a fallen nature, still experience temptation, and are still prone to sinning, we need not sin. When temptation arises, we need not succumb. The writer of Hebrews does not live in a fairy tale world where all is ice cream and roses; he acknowledges the reality of our existence: sin easily entangles us. Whether “the sin” he mentions refers to some specific sin peculiar to each individual believer, some universal sin, such as unbelief, or a generic statement regarding the fact that sin “besets” all of us, the remedy is the same. We have the ability through Christ, Who has redeemed and delivered us, to lay it aside. The choice is ours; we need not fall prey to sin. In fact, the foregoing terminology does not apply: we are not victimized by sin. Just as we choose to sin, we may choose (in the power of the Lord) to refuse to sin at any given moment as well as moment-by-moment.
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