I can NOT say the following things as if I were some paragon of virtue, nor that I'm always willing to exercise personal discipline in spiritual matters. I speak by the fact of painful personal experience, having stumbled over my own bad decisions, many times.
I'm well into the second half of my seventh decade of life, and I find myself increasingly moved to share lessons learned, as God continues to encourage me. I hope that others might find the personal will (as in personal determination) to avoid many of the sins that I failed to avoid. Without posting a specific list, let it suffice to say that God knows I've often been too fond of many sinful human tendencies. Sadly, I have found that most people think that similar things cannot, or shall not, happen to them, so they usually proceed on their way making the very same errors in life. Wise people, who seek to overcome sin, God's way, are the exception to human nature, and therefore, hard to find.
I dreamed, last night, that I had walked into a school classroom, somewhere. As I was walking briskly, I entered quickly from the hall. I noticed three men in the room. They appeared to be in their mid to late twenties or very early thirties. One was seated by the doorway, facing it, working with or shuffling papers. Two were sitting off to the left, on the far end of the room, one of which was bent over and snorting lines of white powder off some of the children's work papers. The third man's back was fully toward me. I could not see whether he was working, ignoring the snorting that was within arms' reach, or if he were participating, also. The timing of this was after school, evidently, as I saw no children in the room or halls.
This dream raised some interesting thoughts and questions, as I wakened. How could someone have the gall to do drugs on school property, especially with the potential of non-participants or administrators walking in? What were the other two men doing, that they should allow such dangerous behavior in their midst, and so jeopardized their jobs, if they even worked there? Why perform such risky behaviors in such a public place?
In the dream, I was looking for someone other than the three men, so I turned back out of the doorway, having swept the room with my eyes and commenting that I did not see the person for whom I was looking. None of the three men seemed the least disturbed by my quick appearance or departure. The guy by the door had only half smiled.
Why did I not say anything to them about doing drugs on school grounds? Should I have done a Citizen's Arrest? I walked away, formulating whom I should notify first, and how to catch them in the act. I tried to fix in my mind the best possible description of the three.
The events, though a dream, demonstrated several things to me, immediately. First, the three men were each performing their own personal acts of free will in their interrelated functions within that room, whether their actions were active or passive. Second, though I had become an accidental observer of fraction of their activities, I, too, exhibited several acts of personal will as I reacted to the situation, some active and some passive. Third, it has become obvious to me, that, in the events leading up to, during, and after my observations, within the dream, a collision of unbridled, undisciplined personal and social wills can and should have consequences, lest worse things be allowed to happen. The exercise of one's free will is the key, either responsibly, for good, or irresponsibly, for evil. In either case, we are accountable.
The free exercise of personal will was demonstrated in the dream, quite precisely. The three men had allowed themselves to depart from normal school rules and common sense, that people should not be doing or allowing the use of drugs on school property. They participated in facilitation or acceptance of drug use, just by being there, even if one or two of them were not using the drugs. Even though I was contemplating whom to notify about what I saw, as I walked away from the door, yet, I had not chosen to actively stop the drug use while I was at the room. Some folks would eagerly or quickly argue that one must pick one's battles, which can be true sometimes, but the dream was not clear as to why I made the choice the way that I did. In the dream, I felt as if I were confused about how to best handle the situation, to be sure that everyone involved was held accountable for their actions.
The dream ended as I was pondering how to report the incident, and it blended into my waking questions. Seldom do I remember my dreams, but this has challenged me to take a harder look at the way I do things in life, not the least of which is how I relate to what God says about me/us needing to live by His standards.
Free will and the exercise thereof was obviously the main theme in my dream. I think that free will is a great thing. I bless God for it! God gave it to us that we might choose Him and His way of doing things. Free will can be a blessing in those areas of life where God allows us a number of positive choices among actions or preferences. But, being as it is free will, all too often, as in the dream, we lead ourselves into actions that go against what we should be doing, or we confuse ourselves about how to act, because we do not accept God's clear picture of how things should be done, or we simply ignore what we know to be true and right because we want to go ahead and do what we want. Too often, we ignore what we have been told about the consequences of our chosen decisions or actions.
Yes, biblically speaking, bad means sin, and sin means missing the mark or failing to achieve the goal that God sets in front of us. Free will is the ability to personally select among options, irrespective of whether the options are good or bad, or lead to good or bad consequences. Our motivation and our choice of action, by our free will, tells us a lot about ourselves, and about our relationships with God and our fellow man. Every choice we make is an act of our free will, whether we say, "Yes", to God or, "Yes", to sin.
Presented with all sorts of options and choices, in life, I've often heard myself and others say, "I can't", BUT, all too often that really means, "I won't"... especially when it comes to choosing between doing right or wrong. Can and can't refers to one's ability to effect change in something. If you've fallen off a cliff and are accelerating through mid-air toward the ground, then you really can't stop yourself. But, to say that we can't stop ourselves from choosing to sin? Not so. We choose to sin instead of doing what is right, because, by nature, we want the temporary payout that sin offers to us. So, we elect to do wrong, instead of doing right. We vote against God, against ourselves, and for the enemy, whenever we exercise our free will to choose that which is unholy, forbidden, or is otherwise bad for us or those around us. We're talking temporal and eternal consequences, here, not just temporal pleasures and conveniences. In all these things, I, too, am convicted whenever I allow myself to succumb to the temptations and snares of my flesh and the world.
There is something else about free will that is interesting. It carries with it, or is, a sort of contagion. Look at what happened with the serpent, Eve, and Adam: the first sin, the prime historical example of free will choices that led to great damage and suffering among all people throughout human history. Look at how many times we have allowed ourselves to be talked into choosing something (against our better judgment or conscience), or we have talked others into choosing what we want to see them do. Whether we actively or passively choose, we have still exercised our free will to make that passive or active choice. Making good or bad decisions is an obvious action on our part, but, our inaction is also a choice. When we passively allow events to drag on, or cease, without our active participation, we have passively contributed to their enhancement, or passively fostered their cessation. There is no such thing as no consequences for our actions or our passivity.
The exercise of our free will always result in active or passive consequences for us, and for others. Furthermore, the exercise of our free will always has an impact on the rest of life around us, even as a stone that is dropped into a pool generates waves and ripples, or if no stone falls into the pool there are no waves. The closer or farther we are, to or from what God says our actions need to be, the more immediate and profound our passive or active impact will have on those around us. The more profound the evil is, related to our decision, the worse off we and others shall be. The more profound the holiness or godliness of our choice, the better off we all shall be.
Think of this in terms of the physical contagions rabies and brain worm. As with making decisions, these diseases have exposure and incubation periods. Like thoughts, feelings, and decisions, rabies and brain worm can be transmitted to other creatures. Much like our bad free will decisions, both diseases can kill, and do so quite horribly. Unchecked, like bad thoughts and decisions, the consequences of rabies and brain worm can infect a myriad of creatures via their modes of transmission.
It does NOT matter that hungry innocent animals are only trying to survive by eating infected meat. The diseases are there waiting to take advantage of the next victim's eagerness to partake of a seemingly bountiful meal. The crazy thing is that, whereas animals do not know that they are eating rabies and brain worm infected meat, virtually all people, on the other hand, make sinful decisions all the time, as God says, continually, and that we are without excuse. What animals do by instinct and for survival without knowledge, we humans do by free will to spite ourselves, God, and others around us. Amazing!
We know the difference between good and bad meat for our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls, yet we choose the bad over the good, all too often. We have the evidence of Creation, the Bible, our consciences, the Holy Spirit, and even other people, pointing us away from sinful choices, yet, we personally choose to sin. And, furthermore, just doing the sin ourselves is often not enough for us. Too often, we, then, want, like Eve, to get someone else involved in our sin. Now, THAT is contagious, destructive, and it is NOT good! God is constantly reminding me to fight off my natural inclination to love sin and the world, and, instead, to choose good things that He wants for me. Last night's dream was one more reminder of my own need to base my choices more on God's Bible and less on my flesh or the world.
If I do not adhere to the Principles and Standards that God sets before me in His Word, then I am relying on the sinful tendencies of myself and other humans, leaving myself open to the wiles of the devil.
Relying on God's Word and Spirit, I shall overcome the rabies and brain worm of natural human choices. If I rely on natural tendencies, then I shall be guilty of spreading and encouraging sin in all who are in my sphere of influence.
I bless God that our Lord Jesus Christ can and shall overcome the weakness of my flesh, as I exercise my free will to elect and follow more of what God says, as I reject and do less of what the world says and does. The human epidemic of mind-numbing, glittering, life-destroying sin can only be fought, and the battle won, through personal faith in the blood and finished work of Jesus Christ.
I hope you WILL answer God's personal call to you! Come join me in this war to overcome sin (our mutual ailment), that we might rejoice eternally with Jesus Christ in Heaven.