Humanity was created perfect and in the very image of God, according to the Biblical story. Humanity, however, chose to separate itself from God by succumbing to the temptation to become its own God. Our embrace of this temptation led to a cataclysmic break in our original relationship with God. We are constantly tempted by Satan to crumple and discard our trust and dependence upon God and instead rely upon our own self-effort and humanistic delusions of a divine-like grandeur. Satan persistently lures us into believing we are capable of becoming our own God. Jesus was not exempt from Satan’s chess game. Jesus was sorely tempted in the wilderness just as Adam was tempted in the Garden. The temptation was eerily similar in both cases. Satan’s goal, in both cases, was to convince his targets that they could in fact be their own God. Adam succumbed to this temptation and the world was changed; Jesus held tight to God and defeated Satan and the temptation. The world was changed again. Humanity, in Adam, failed; Jesus set things right. Humanity, in Christ Jesus, has salvation; just as in Adam we have Sin.
Sin is separation from God. Sin manifests in our social, political, and religious actions performed and enacted apart from God and God’s way. Sin is a social and individual phenomenon. It negatively affects all that we do. It negatively affects our relationships, our work, our motives, and our leisure. There is no aspect of life and living that Sin does not infiltrate, skew, and destroy. Sin leads us away from God and God’s best plan for our lives and living. Ultimately, Sin leads to death. Death is the final consequence of Sin.
Pervasive as Sin is, human beings still retain free will. We instinctively know when we cross the line etched by basic morality. Something deep within each of us alerts us to a boundary breached. The heavy self-consciousness and unavoidable guilt we naturally experience when we sin act as built in metaphysical alarms that warn us of some sort of behavior that is not in our own best interest or the best interest of others. This conscious self-awareness forces us towards a very real choice: we can either choose to repeat the behavior that produced our existential crisis, or we can determine to cease behaving in such a way and thus relieve the conviction. Free will permits us to act in such a decisive and moral manner.
This exercise of free will in choosing the moral act over the immoral has its limits. Individuals can and in fact do use their free will to choose not to commit adultery, murder, or robbery. Many of these individuals have nothing to do with church, Jesus, or Gospel redemption. It is obvious that some people who are living far from Christ act more morally than more than a few of the Church’s most notable and recognizable leaders and representatives. Clearly, free will is an option many, many people implement in the common, everyday journey of making right and wrong choices. Making right and wrong decisions is a part of the redeemed life too, but it is not an exhaustive aspect of it. The need to choose right over wrong is a symptom of a much larger, fallen state of human existence. Said differently, the very real struggle between right and wrong exists because reality itself is skewed as a result of the fall. Therefore, it follows, that merely choosing right decisions over wrong ones does not solve the problem of the existence of a moral or immoral choice, even if the right decision is chosen. Free will only takes us so far. We need rescued from the condition that places us in the midst of the struggle and choice. This rescue does not relieve us from the need to make moral decisions, so long as we live in this world. It does, however, equip us by freeing us from the larger struggle and inclination towards poor decisions. Will we be tempted? Yes, so long as we live in this world. Will we be ruled by temptation? No. Free will itself is redeemed and sanctified by God when Jesus Christ is embraced as Lord and Savior. If free will can be used to make good decisions by people who live far from Christ, how much more can free will be leveraged for righteousness when sanctified by God?
A Christian can indeed fall from grace. Said differently, a Christian can totally remove him or herself from the center of God’s will and best plan. So long as we live in this world, temptation and struggle will come. While the Christian is no longer bound by Sin, Death, and Devil, his or her free will can still be used in a detrimental manner. Redemption neither removes us from this world’s temptation, nor does it replace our natural free will with a robotic obedience. Redemption and its sanctified free will equip us for a life lived in this world. We are free and responsible for this life lived. Therein, we can choose to remain obedient or stray. This is the price paid for authentic relationship with God. We are equipped to conquer, but we are free to fail. The life of Christian discipleship is a daily adventure dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s power, conviction, encouragement and guidance. In this, Christians can be victorious in this world.