One of the most glaring distinctions between God‘s creation throughout the universe, and His creation of mankind, is human volition.
Man was created with the ability to choose.
Everything else in God’s universe immediately obeys His instruction, but man has the choice to obey. The Bible is replete with examples of this, but possibly the book of Jonah is the most helpful. Jonah is essentially a story of a disobedient prophet, and an obedient universe.
Jonah heard the Word of the Lord, yet initially chose to disobey it (Jonah 1:1-3). However, “the Lord spake unto the fish” (Jonah 2:10), the Word of the Lord was communicated, and this great fish obeyed God.
In Jonah 1:4 “The Lord sent out a great wind,” and the wind obeyed Him, causing “a mighty tempest in the sea.“
In Jonah 4:6-8, the Lord prepared a gourd, a worm, and a vehement east wind. Each of those things immediately accomplished God‘s purposes.
Consider Matthew 8:27 referring to Jesus, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”
In Jonah, God’s creation; the great fish, the gourd, the worm, and even the wind, submitted to the will of their Creator without delay.
Yet, it’s not that simple with man. God created us with options.
We have the option to love God or not. Each person possesses the option to obey God or disobey God: the option to live for Him, or deny Him. He created us as volitional and relational beings.
Everything that’s relational must be volitional or it’s not love.
This is the choice in love.
If God pre-programmed us like robots, then commanded us to love Him, it would not be love. He included in us the aspect of choice.
Mandating love, and robbing someone of their ability to choose, does not produce sincere love.
A typical wedding ceremony includes the minister saying, “Since you, the bride and the groom, have freely and deliberately chosen each other as partners for life, would you please join hands.“
Intrinsic in love is choice.
After the honeymoon phase wears off, and the novelty and initial infatuation subsides, the choice to love one another becomes more evident.
Sadly, some couples quickly divorce after just a brief marriage, choosing promiscuity and immorality instead of loyalty and fidelity. They love themselves instead of their spouse.
Contrastingly, couples that have been successfully married for decades can easily explain the choice to love. Many happily married couples describe the evolution of a loving marriage. They explain the benefits of a love that grows deeper and more substantial over time, in spite of numerous imperfections and struggles, yet their love continues. (Consider 1 Corinthians 13:4-7) It’s a choice to forgive. It’s a choice to restore. It’s a choice to love.
The famous dialogue between Jesus and Peter, recorded in John 21, is a dialogue about Peter choosing what he loves, and then showing evidence of that love.
Jesus says, “Peter, lovest thou me?”
Essentially, God asks all of us the same question.
“Do you love Me?”
In relationship to God, our love for Him is always made evident by our sincere obedience to Him.
Not all submissive people are Godly, but all Godly people are submissive people.
Jesus said to His disciples, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
The command in Matthew 22 is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” but we get to choose to obey that command or not. (Jesus there is quoting the Shema of Deuteronomy 6.) Again, if we could not choose, it would not be love.
Sometimes, we choose to love God even in spite of severe opposition, or significant temptation.
In the old testament, Daniel understood the importance of the Shema and he chose to continue to pray to the Lord three times a day in spite of the opposition of a lion's den (Daniel 6).
The three Hebrew children also chose to love and obey God and faced the fiery furnace (Daniel 3). Thankfully they did not face it alone!
Joseph exhibited his love for the Lord by fleeing the temptation of Potiphar’s wife, and choosing purity.
Moses is recorded in the New Testament as, “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt…” (Hebrews 11:25-26).
Clearly, love is a choice.
The prodigal son of Luke 15 loved his inheritance and the adventure of riotous living more than he loved his father.
Jonah loved himself more than God and endured the chastisement of whale time.
David chose to follow the lust of his flesh instead of loving God, and literally people died as a result.
We get to choose what we love and what we live for.
God wants a loving relationship with us. He displays that through the cross of Christ. It’s amazing to think that the holy God makes a way for unholy people such as us, to have a loving relationship with Him.
Like marriage, mature Christian love is a process of growth that eventually leads a believer to love God, not just for what He can give us, but for who He is. (Consider 2 Peter 3:18)
God essentially says to us, “Do you love Me? The choice is yours.”
The above article was written by James C. Johnson. He is the Pastor of NorthStone Baptist Church in Pensacola. To offer him your feedback, find him on twitter, @JamesJohnsonSFL or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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