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The Law Of Faith: 13. The Centrality of the Will

By Norman P. Grubb

      MAN'S freedom of will [1] is the central point of his creation in the image of God. It is this that makes him a son and not a creature. God has in him his "fellow" with whom He can have "fellowship", not a. relationship of mechanical compulsion, but the loving intercourse of free hearts and minds.

      Whose plate was to create man and then leave him,
      Able, His own Word says, to grieve Him,
      But able to glorify Him too,
      As a mere machine could never do. [2]

      But freedom involves self-consciousness. It means that its possessor knows himself and his own desires and opinions. He has a self-conscious ego, and the natural, basic instinct of self-conscious being is to please itself. Self-satisfaction, self-preservation, self-propagation, and self-expression are the only possible or conceivable instincts by which life can be preserved. "Love thy neighbor as thou lovest thyself," could be an extension of the words of Jesus. "No man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it," said Paul. Of God Himself, from whom our nature is derived, it is said: "Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created;" and of Christ the Son: "For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame." No natural desires or instincts, therefore, whether of spirit, soul or body, are wrong; but, on the contrary, absolutely right. Not only the natural appetites whose use preserves and propagates life, but also the instincts of pride, anger, ambition, jealousy, (e.g. 1 Cor. 1:31; Eph. 4: 26; 2 Cor. 11:2) just as much as the more usually applauded instincts of love, faith, hope; instances can be found in Scripture where every one of the former are attributed to God and to holy men of God.

      But God is Love; not self-pleasing but self-giving love. From all eternity He does find His pleasure and satisfaction (in that sense He is self-pleasing,) but He finds it in love; love of His Beloved Son, love of His creation, love even of the loveless. If we may reverently say so, God has been from the beginning the Sublimated Self, fulfilling in Himself the word of Jesus to men that he that saves his soul loses it, but he that loses it for Christ's sake finds it. Self-pleasing and self-giving are eternally joined in Him and form one perfect will; "The good pleasure of His will," as Paul calls it.

      That which is the eternal condition of the uncreated God has to become the fixed condition of man by an all-embracing choice. That choosing is essential as the only method by which man's powers are stirred to action. In everything there is an alternative, and a tension of choice between these alternatives; and the choice sets the wheels of action in motion along a definite course. I desire to go somewhere, for instance. I go here? Or I go there? Which? I choose. Right, that is settled. Now I am free to go as I desire, with all my energies centered in the one direction. But until that choice is made I am not free. I cannot act. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.

      So Adam and Eve had to choose. It was in the nature of things. Since they and the race they were to found were destined to carry out a vast program of human development, the first great basic choice had to be made as self-conscious beings. Would their self-pleasing take the form of lust or love; in other words, of selfishness or, self-giving? Would they choose the possible course of pleasing themselves in disregard of others, or of pleasing themselves in the service of others? And the "others" meant, in their case, first of all, their Maker, God. It was man's fundamental choice, implicit in its nature, the choice that decides the destiny of heaven or hell; the choice that fixes him on one road or the other. (Only, since that day, man has lost even the power of making this choice, so vitiated has his nature become, and God in infinite grace has replaced this too-high alternative by one within man's fallen reach, just to accept and believe in a Savior manifest in the flesh, who cleanses and changes the nature and renews the power to make and maintain the ultimate choice of man's spirit.)

      At this point there entered the one who had made that fatal choice before, the first in the universe to do so, the first one to discover that there is an eternal hell for those who choose the way of darkness, as much as an eternal heaven for the children of light-Lucifer, the devil. By subtle display of the attractions of the forbidden fruit, of the tree which symbolized the selfish God-denying choice, the kind of attractions which have since been the corrupting virus of the world: the lust of the flesh (a tree good for food), the lust of the eye (a tree pleasant to the eyes), the pride of life (a tree to be desired to make one wise); by subtle detraction from the goodness and love of God; by these means evil influences were brought to bear on the will of the two, and the fatal choice made.

      Since then man's will has been corrupted. He is born with a bias to lust, to selfishness, to hatred of God. And not only man himself, but the whole of nature has caught the infection. Peter speaks of the corruption that is in the world through lust. John warns of a world and the things in it which are not of the Father. The very animal creation shows the proof of it in tooth and claw and sting. Every touch of man on the world tends to display all that will stimulate lust through the eye, in the flesh, to the mind. The world is a monstrous instrument to temptation.

      Renewed in Christ, crucified and risen with Him by faith and inward witness, once again the choice has been fully made by some through the enabling of His Spirit, Who was spurned in that first garden. Our wills have become one with God's. Now God works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. Our set purpose with purified hearts has become to love Him with all our strength and our neighbor as ourselves. But we remain in a vitiated world. Almost all things around us, sights and sounds and influences, are charged with temptation. Satan remains the prince of this world, the god of this age. Our bodies, still in the bondage of corruption, were in the past given over to sinful habits and respond very often more easily to temptation along the lines in which they were overindulged. Most people have special sins that "easily beset" them.

      Temptation, therefore, remains the constant element in which we live, sometimes consciously, always there subconsciously in the very environment. But we are to understand that this is both our blessing and our battlefield. For it is by conquest over temptation, by the integration and invigoration derived from the struggle, that we both move forward decisively and definitely ourselves along a clear line of action and also release new redemptive forces in the world.

      1. An attempt at examining the origin, meaning and use of trial and temptation in the nature and destiny of man is made in Appendix I.
      2. Browning, Christmas Eve.

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See Also:
   The Law Of Faith: Preface
   The Law Of Faith: 1. A Personal Explanation
   The Law Of Faith: 2. Faith - A Natural Faculty
   The Law Of Faith: 3. From Natural to Spiritual Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 4. Inordinate Affection
   The Law Of Faith: 5. Undiscovered Self
   The Law Of Faith: 6. Undiscovered Self
   The Law Of Faith: 7. The Law of Transmutation
   The Law Of Faith: 8. From Elementary to Advanced Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 9. The Swaying Battle of Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 10. Full Assurance of Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 11. Two Testimonies
   The Law Of Faith: 12. The Varied Teachings of the Fullness of the Spirit
   The Law Of Faith: 13. The Centrality of the Will
   The Law Of Faith: 14. Temptation and Its Beneficial Effects
   The Law Of Faith: 15. Temptation Analyzed
   The Law Of Faith: 16. Faith in the Daily Life
   The Law Of Faith: 17. Speaking the Word of Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 18. What Is Clear Guidance In Major Matters?
   The Law Of Faith: 19. What Is Clear Guidance In Minor Matters?
   The Law Of Faith: 20. False Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 21. Strategy In Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 22. Unproductive Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 23. An Example of a Revolutionized Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 24. Harmonious Relationships With Things
   The Law Of Faith: 25. Harmonious Relationships With People
   The Law Of Faith: 26. The Underlying Law of Fruitbearing Faith
   The Law Of Faith: Appendix - The Dialectic of Life and Its Origin


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