We Are Not Controlled by the Spirit
Published on: Nov 12, 2008
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17).
Life and salvation as given by God is one of freedom. I have heard statements like these many times in the past.
“We are either controlled by our self-centered flesh or by the Holy Spirit who indwells us.” (Bible.org)
“Spirit-Controlled Temperament , by Tim LaHaye, examines the four basic temperaments and discusses how Christians can live Spirit-controlled lives.” (Young Ladies Christian Fellowship)
“Acts 13:52, from The New Testament by Kenneth S. Wuest reads, ‘And the disciples were constantly filled with joy and CONTROLLED by the Holy Spirit.’” (One Thing Blog)
The examples are numerous but you can see the common opinion that God should control our lives. But, frankly, this is a lie. God did not create us to be robots or marionettes on strings. He created all life to be free, and He controls no one.
The problem with this thinking is that it sets people up to sin. They assume that God will interfere and stop them from sinning. But no where in the Bible does it say that He will do such a thing. God did not stop Adam and Eve from sinning. He does provide ways of escape from temptation (1 Cor 10:13), and gives us space to repent (Rev 2:21), but He does not stop us from sinning.
One passage that is assumed to mean that we can be Spirit controlled is Galatians 5:22-23 on the fruit of the Spirit. Notice, however, what the last fruit is:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (NIV)
This verse is mistakened to mean that this is the Spirit Himself functioning through you. But fruit means by product not the agent. It means that the influence of the Spirit’s presence to those who desire to please God will result in their choosing to behave in this way. Self control is our choice to control our selves, not the Spirit controlling us. It is the same understanding that the Founding Fathers had in setting up our country of self government. That did not mean representative government, but individuals governing themselves. And this is the heart of the gospel. Salvation means that we are given the gift of repentance, which is self judgment. If we judge ourselves as guilty of sin, then God does not have to judge us.
The very fact that God does not control us is evidenced by the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom 14:10) and the White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:1) of the lost. Both courts of judgment require our ability to choose to obey or to reject Christ. If we are controlled by the Spirit, there is no choice, which negates the need for the Judgment Seat of Christ for believers. Likewise, if we can not choose to reject Christ when lost (and even saved), then there is no justice in the White Throne Judgment. We are always given the freedom to judge and to control ourselves.
This could sound like self effort. It is not. But it is self governance and self determination. When we choose to follow Christ, He gives us the ability to obey Him and will direct us in His plan for our lives. But until we ask, He does not give it. Jesus died for all people. But not all people accept that gift of salvation. Only those who ask for it and believe it (Rom 10:10) benefit from it. We also know that the Lord is not willing that any should perish (2 Pet 3:9) yet billions perish. And just as salvation is not automatic, but must be asked for, so, too, all that salvation consists of: healing, deliverance, and the gifts of the Spirit, although they are all included in salvation. But they must be asked for and one must believe that one has received them.
God does not violate our free wills. You can sin without God stopping you. He will warn you. He may even make it inconvenient and difficult, and will always provide a way of escape, but you can ignore Him and still sin. And that sin will bring consequences. And if you ignore God enough He will chastise you. But He will not stop you.
The Holy Spirit never controls us. We are not robots and always have our freedom of choice with God. So why would we choose to follow Him? Because He is right and good. God lets us see His goodness for ourselves. He lets us know the death that sin brings by allowing us to experience death. He always helps us in every choice of righteousness. We learn first hand that the goodness of the Lord leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4).
Wayne Jacobsen once pointed out that the 10 Commandments are poorly named and that they should be called the 10 Promises. He asked the question, “Can God really command us to love Him? Can love be commanded?” The answer is, no. To force love is rape. God does not rape us. But when you know God, and how good He truly is, you naturally love Him. Genuine love is its own motivator for obedience. Because I truly love my wife, I want to please her. When you truly love God you want to do those things that pleases Him. This is why God said of Jesus that in him He was well pleased (Matt 3:17). So if you truly love God, then you shall have no other Gods before Him. You shall not have idols. You shall not take His name in vain. You shall abide in His sabbath rest. You shall honor your parents because it pleases God. You will not murder, commit adultery, steal, lie or desire anything that belongs to your neighbor. Genuinely loving God is the fruit of the Spirit that brings self control. For if you love God you will also love all that He loves. And He loves people.
So don’t make the mistake of wishing that God will control you. He will not, because He does not want to. He wants us to love Him by our own free wills. And this is the Kingdom of God. No one is to control anyone else. If God does not control us, what right does anyone else have to control us?
Of course, God does draw lines in the sand. When people choose wickedness, there reaches a point when He must make judgment because they are not judging themselves. But those people do not have the Spirit within them for the Spirit to control them anyway. And, as I said before, if we, who do have the Spirit, do not exercise self control, then there is a line for us, too, that when crossed becomes the point when He chastises us. But my point in this post, is that for believers who want to obey God, He does not control us. Rather, we voluntarily obey Him because of our love for Him.
Comments to Original Post
Submitted on 11/26/2008
I never thought about this before. Thanks for bringing up the topic.
Submitted on 11/27/2008
In light of our discussions on delusions, this is one reason why people become deluded. God is involved with our lives and is working in our lives to accomplish His purposes for us, but He does not do so by direct manipulation, but according to the working of our free wills.