You Have Free Will (A Christmas Message)

Photo by Tsaone Raymond Nthebolang:

Luke 2:1-5 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

I guess the most frequent question I’m asked as a Pastor is “If God is good, why is there so much suffering in the world?” I think it’s a fair question asked by sincere people. The heart of our suffering comes down to two words:

Free Will

When God made us, He created us “in His own image and after His likeness” (Genesis 1:27). Animals have a free will, but are not in the likeness of God. It is not immoral to enslave an animal, or to kill it and eat its flesh. It is immoral to enslave a person. It is immoral to eat a person’s flesh. Humans are not animals, and animals are not humans. We see this in the order of creation.

When God created the animals, He brought each creature to Adam to see what he would name them (Genesis 2:19). The animal did not name itself. Animals can be owned, bridled, ridden, farmed, sold, caged, forced into slaughterhouses – and there are no repercussions or penalties from God for doing so. Animals have free will, but are lower creations. They are not in God’s image.

Adam and Eve have both free will and the image of God. God told Adam that he was free to choose to eat of any tree in the Garden BUT the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). Someone asked me once, “Why did Adam have ONE tree that he could not eat of? Why did God even put that tree there?” Again, this is a fair question.

Free will assumes a person has a choice.

If I went to the market to buy bread, but say, only one type of bread – white Wonder Bread – was the only bread available. If that’s all you can get, there is no free will. Free will means a choice. If you had a Garden where absolutely everything is edible, you have no opportunity to exercise your free will. Free will would just be a blank concept, but would never be practically expressed. God gave man free will, then gave humanity a choice. Choose to do your job, and never suffer. Choose to disobey God and do the forbidden, then choose death over life (Genesis 2:17).

You know the story. Adam chose to disobey God. When you disobey God you lose His blessing. God has free will too. Humanity could enjoy the Garden while they obeyed the Owner of the Garden. But once they chose to reject God’s directive, they lost God’s blessing. God said to Adam:

Genesis 2:17-19 … cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground…

Man was creation’s caregiver. Because Adam fell into sin, creation fell into sin. The ground previously brought forth only fruit bearing plants. Now the ground is cursedthorns and thistles along with other weeds come up. Man never had to use his sweat glands. But now he does, for “in the sweat of your face you will eat bread”. God said to Eve:

Genesis 2:16 …. I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children…

This is what sin brings. It brings suffering. Free will that rejects God’s directive brings pain. The child that touches the flame when warned by the parent gets burned. It is not the parent’s fault. It is not God’s fault. Adam chose the pain. The Bible says:

Romans 5:12 … Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned

The Bible tells us “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). It is your choice. You choose life by choosing to follow God. You choose death and suffering by choosing to follow yourself. Just as it was with Adam, your sin effects others.

Adam sinned, and he became the doorway by which both spiritual as well as physicaldeath entered the world.

The sin of one effects another. When free will turns away from God, it brings bad things with it.

God Has Free Will – And Wants Better For Us All

As we have gone through the Christmas story, last week we saw that Gabriel came to a young virgin named Mary. God wanted to use Mary as the vessel by which He would bring Salvation to the world. God proposed – and Mary agreed. She was given a choice. She said:

Luke 1:38 … Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.

So she has surrendered herself to the Lord. Over eight months pass, and we read

Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days

Look at the phrase it came to pass. This phrase occurs 452 times in Scripture, and often precedes suffering in the Bible. When Cain was jealous of his brother Abel we read:

Genesis 4:8 “it came to pass” that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him …

it came to pass later shows up in Genesis 6 when God decides to destroy the world by flood. The phrase it came to passillustrates humanities bad choices in free will. Sin always brings suffering. But God is loving. We have free will, but God has free will. The Bible tells us that God in love persists in reaching out to us. The Apostle said:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Why is this pregnant woman traveling to Bethlehem on a donkey? Because God is love. God of His own free will promised to save the world from sin. God promised that He would be our Redeemer.

God promised “redemption for His people; He ordained His covenant forever”
(Psalm 111:9)
God promised to “sweep away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22).
God promised “put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with Him is full redemption” (Psalm 130:7)

God promised to send Redemption through a virgin. God promised He would come down from Heaven miraculously:

Isaiah 7:14 the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel …

God would come to this earth through a virgin birth. The Son of God would be born of a woman (Luke 1:35). The Son of God would also be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:4-6). The Son of God would be God the Son. How would God send His Son to this earth? Will He come through a royal family, as is His due? Will He be born in a Palace? No, the Bible says:

Luke 2:4-5 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

God the Son would not be born in an easy way. Joseph would have to take Mary his wife on a week’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Why does Jesus have to be born in Bethlehem? Because God said so. Mary is great with child. Joseph is suffering, because he must carry the woman he loves on a horrible trip in the last days of her pregnancy. Mary is suffering because she is great with child. They are having to go to Bethlehem because the Roman Ruler Caesar Augustus has ordered it. Why did Caesar do this? The Prince of Preachers C.H. Spurgeon notes:

A little tyrant, Herod, by some show of independent spirit, offends the greater tyrant, Augustus. Augustus informs him that he shall no longer treat him as a friend, but as a vassal; and albeit Herod makes the most abject submission, and his friends at the Roman court intercede for him, yet Augustus, to show his displeasure, orders a census to be taken of all the Jewish people, in readiness for a contemplated taxation, which, however, was not carried out till some ten years after.”

The puppet king Herod in free will offended Caesar. Caesar in free will ordered that people return to their home towns. There was no exception to the rule. It didn’t matter that Mary was pregnant. Suffering, she had to go. Yet on the other side of that suffering God was still in control. God lowered Himself down into our suffering. God did not take the easy path, but the path of self sacrifice.

There is only one God, and He is not you or I. There is only one God, and He is in control of all things! His hand is on the donkey that Mary rides on, and His hand is on the heart of those who suppose themselves to be gods. Caesar may order the census, but it is the Almighty God Who controls all things. He is in control now, He has never not been in control. What God has said, that He will do. We may make a god of ourselves, of our wills, of our abilities, of our powers, of our might. Yet it is God Who oversees all things, and controls all things according to the good pleasure of His Will.

The Free Will Of God And The Free Will Of Woman
Brought Redemption To Us All

Luke 2:6-7 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

No mere man can bring redemption for sin. Sin is a terrible affront to the Unchanging and Eternal God. We can no more seek redemption from God by our works than can an ant please a human by its works. The Bible says:

Isaiah 64:6 …. we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Solomon said “the plowing of the wicked is sin” (Proverbs 21:4). We cannot make ourselves right before God. God must make a way. God made the way of righteousness through faith in Christ. Note that the text tells us first:

Luke 2:7 {Mary} brought forth her firstborn son

Mary did not bring for THEIR firstborn Son. Joseph had nothing to do with this Child, other than acting as a surrogate Father or a Stepfather, if you will. God told Mary that:

Luke 1:35 … The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

This is not Joseph’s son, but God’s Son. Jesus is Mary’s Firstborn, but He is The Only Begotten of the Father. The Apostle said that …

John 1:14 … the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

And you know John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Jesus Christ – the Eternal Word of God – was with God from eternity. Jesus became the only begotten of God. He became God – Man, God in our midst. Like Man Jesus had all the failures we have:

A temporal body
A flesh that was weak
A carbon based life form
Jesus hungered, rested, slept

But Jesus had one thing that we do not naturally possess. Jesus was born into this world without sin. He had no old sin nature. The Bible says:

1 Peter 2:22 (ESV) {Jesus} committed NO SIN, neither was deceit found in His mouth.

Hebrews 4:15 (ESV) {Jesus was} in every respect tempted as we are, YET WITHOUT SIN.

1 John 3:5 (ESV) {Jesus} appeared to take away sins, and IN HIM THERE IS NO SIN.

Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3). He looked like any other Jewish baby Who had ever come into this world. But Jesus’ birth bypassed Joseph, and therefore bypassed the sin inherent in each and every one of us. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). Jesus Christ came as the Lamb of God, without spot or blemish” (1 Peter 1:19; John 1:29; 1:36).

There have been “good men” who followed the Lord in the Scripture. But they were all flawed by sin.

Noah built the Ark by faith (Genesis 6:9),
but leaving the Ark got drunken and cursed his family.
Abraham, the Friend of God (2 Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23)
laid with Hagar then cast her away with her child.
Moses led Israel faithfully till he came to Meribah (Numbers 20:24),
and there he denied God before the Rock that was Christ.
David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22),
took another man’s wife then murdered that man.

We are all flawed – all but this Baby, this Child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. This Child is Mary’s Firstborn, and the Father’s Only Begotten. This Child is Eternal God in a small but sinless package.

Luke 2:7 {Mary} wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

This is God the Son, Who

Philippians 2:7-8 … took upon Him the form of a Servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (8) And being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Mary In Free Will Bore Christ. God In Free Will Sent Christ. Christ In Free Will Lowered Himself. What Will YOU Do?

God has done His part. The Lamb of God is in the Manger. God has lowered Himself, and become Man. So what will YOU do? It is no coincidence what comes next:

Luke 2:8-9 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

Imagine yourself a shepherd abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. All of a sudden to your darkness accustomed eyes the Angel of the Lord appears in all his brilliance. It had to be blinding as well as frightening. I find it interesting the God comes to the shepherds first with His Messiah. Jesus is the LAMB OF GOD, so who better to see Him first but shepherds.

The Bible mentions shepherds and shepherding over 200 times.

We see in the Scripture that Abel, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Jacob’s twelve sons, Moses, King David, and Amos were all shepherds. But we also know that God is the Shepherd of His people (Psalm 23:1; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 79:13). The Lamb of God is in the Manger. Who better to see the Lamb of God than the Shepherds. Gabriel tells the Shepherds:

Luke 2:10-11 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Fear not”. Put away your fear. This is the first preaching of the Gospel. Bible teacher Ray Stedman writes:

It is striking that the human emotion that was first encountered by the angelic messenger was that of fear. Men were afraid in that day. They were afraid of many things, as they are today. There was Herod the Great on the throne. Herod was cruel, and was able to accomplish his wrath upon whoever was the object of his disfavor. He had personally put to death many, even in his own family, because of their antagonism to his plans. Also there were the Romans, too, with their proud legions, marching up and down across the face of the earth, holding everything in a severe and iron bondage. Many wars broke out and the economy was uncertain. The people were afraid.”

I think we’re afraid today. People are awash in fear. We had the fear of the Pandemic. We had the fear of tyrannical Government. We have the fear of Antifa, of armed militia and militant groups, of cancel culture, of far left or far right extremes. I remarked to my dear wife the other day that it seems as if there are fewer Christmas lights this year, fewer “Merry Christmas” declarations, or even “Happy Holidays”. We have, as a nation, depended on politicians to fix the sin problem. Even in Jesus’ day politicians are not fixing anything. The reason a pregnant virgin is on a donkey to Bethlehem is because of a politician.

Fear not.

Why Angel? Why should we not fear? There are fearsome things all about. The second witch of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Acts 4, Scene 1) says:

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes!”

Or as the comic strip Pogo said,

We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Human solutions will not fix the human problem. We need the Lamb of God. We need to come out of the dark night that surrounds us, and go to that Manger where Jesus is. The Angel said:

Luke 2:10 I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people

Jesus did not come for just the Republican or just the Democrat. Jesus did not come for the elite, or the common. Jesus did not come for the drug abuser reusing needles in the street, or the rich alcoholic getting drunk on 12 year old Scotch whiskey. Jesus did not come for just the heterosexual sinner, but for the homosexual as well. Jesus came for ALL. If you are PEOPLE, Jesus came for you. He lowered Himself to a Manger. What does this little Lamb offer us?

Luke 2:11 … For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Jesus Christ came to be the Savior of whosoever will. Someone once asked Jesus:

John 6:28 … What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

How can we have peace with God? How can we please God, Who is holy and without sin? Jesus replied:

John 6:29 … This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom {God} hath sent.

How can we find our way out of the cesspool we have made of humanity? We can – in free will – turn to Jesus Christ as Savior. The Angel said:

Luke 2:12-17 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

The shepherds heard the Gospel, and leaving all they had, went to where Jesus was. They believed, and went to tell others what they had seen. What will you do? God has given you free will. It is your choice. Realize, dear one, that you will have to live in the choice you make. May God lead you to make the right choice, to choose Jesus. Amen and amen!

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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