A Surrendered Will is a Free Will


This past week I finally got around to reading Disciple: Getting Your Identity from Jesus by Bill Clem. While the book didn’t have me at “hello” as they say (more on that when I eventually review the book), the further I read it, the more impressed I become. Clem gets the tension that we all feel in our discipleship journey well and he’s able to articulate it well.

For example, how many of us haven’t been frustrated at one time or another about the idea that God does indeed have a determined plan for all of creation—one that cannot and will not be hindered. We wrestle with questions of free will, choice and (as some have put it), whether or not God gets what God wants. Some camps have, in an effort to respond to the tension, wound up subscribing to peculiar ideas about God that suggest that He grows and changes in His understanding—that, in effect, He is not as all-knowing as He claims.

Check out Clem’s response to this tension:

Most of us wrestle with the legitimacy of God’s having a preset story line, and we experience much drama as we seek to exercise our will. One of the main reasons for such a faith-challenging struggle is that we define choice or free will as “the ability to determine an outcome between two or more options.” We reason, “If God already has the story line established, I must not have a free will.” But this is not the model Jesus gave us in the garden (Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42). Jesus did not need the power of contrary choice to join God in his story as a willful participant. Jesus modeled that a surrendered will is a free will. His free choice was to do what he most wanted to do; that is, Jesus most wanted to do what the Father wanted him to do; he surrendered his will to the Father’s will. (pp. 80-81)

There is a lot of wisdom in these words that is well worth considering: what would our lives look like if we shifted our mindset from “free will” being about choosing between options to recognizing that a heart given life from the Holy Spirit, despite the tension of our ongoing battle with sin, has one primary desire—to do the will of the Father.

Would we look at our circumstances differently? Would we perhaps grumble less? Would we find more reasons to rejoice throughout the day?

What would it look like for you?

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.

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One Reply to “A Surrendered Will is a Free Will”

  1. Our wills are bound to sin.

    That is the picture that Scripture paints of us. When it comes to choosing the things of God, we are bound not to. But God’s will is to save sinners who are dead in their sins and trespasses.

    His will can always be trusted. Our’s…not so much.


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