On Deception, Free Will, and Obedience

Genesis 3

Eve is deceived by the serpent. The serpent, who is Satan, tempts her by denying that death and decay are the result of disobedience. He tells her basically, “no, you can do whatever you want, there will be no suffering, there will be no penalty for following your own will.” He also tempts her by telling her that she can become like God, thereby appealing to the seed of pride which was in her. But, what she failed to understand is that we become like God by the very obedience that the enemy renounces. Consider in our own life, who is more like Jesus, the one who obeys Jesus’ commands to care for the poor, to heal the sick, to be willing to sacrifice their lives for others; or the one who walks following their own desires, the one who seeks to acquire great wealth while turning a blind eye to the plight of their brothers and sisters in need? To become like Jesus, we must look to the example that He sets for us and follow His commands, which He Himself obeyed during His life. Consider that Jesus never once told His followers to do one thing while He did something contrary. Thus, we can either learn His commands and obey them, or simply follow the example which He has given to us in His humanity.

See, this very free will which is given to us by God was the first thing that was damaged in the fall. Eve had the will to make the decision to obey or disobey, and, in exercising her freedom, she chose disobedience. And then she gave the fruit of the tree to Adam, who also chose to do that which was contrary to God’s command. Even this one smallest command, the only one that they had been given, they chose to disobey, and rather gave into the passions.

And to this day, so often we continue this cycle. We will proclaim that we are followers of God, and yet by our actions, we deny Him. We will argue that action and obedience aren’t necessary elements of our faith. We will choose our own will over the will of God, thinking that we are exercising our “God given freedom,” when in reality, we are handing ourselves over to the slavery of our passions. The world teaches us to “follow our hearts,” to do whatever brings us temporal happiness. We read the story of Adam and Eve and scoff at their inability to control their desires, and then the Church tells us to fast and we argue against it. Much like the serpent, we respond to the command to fast with statements like “it will never bring us closer to God if we fast. Jesus didn’t warn that we would perish if we eat whatever we wish.” Jesus, contrary to what the world, and even the world influenced Church, teaches us that “whoever would be His disciples must deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Him.”

We can never hope to bring the mind into obedience if we can not first learn to control the body; and the way that we do so is through surrender, through obedience to the Lord and to His Church. One of the reason that the Church has so many different disciplines, such as fast, prayer rules, etc, is that it help to free us from the slavery of our own passions. Attending a Saturday evening vigil while the rest of the world is indulging goes against what our bodies desire that we do. Awakening early on a Sunday means that we must rest earlier on a Saturday than we would normally seek to do so. I’ve met people who were able to break free of alcoholism merely by obediently keeping the prayer rule set forth by their spiritual father, because they couldn’t pray while intoxicated. And the ultimate obedience, especially in the West, is fasting. We base so much of our culture on indulgence, that every part of our culture is either fascinated or amused by our adherence to this discipline. When great Lent comes around, I’ve had people say, “I could never do that,” to which, by the grace of God, we can graciously say, “we can.”

It’s this idea that when we exercise our free will in disobedience to God, then we become slaves to other things. We become slaves to our hunger, to our possessions, to alcohol or sex, to whatever vice we give our hearts to. Adam’s free will was the first thing to become corrupted in the fall, and thus becomes the first thing that needs healing in man. To crucify ourselves and our passions, to die to the world and be alive to Christ, we must tame those passions through obedience to Christ and His commandments. To truly become like Christ, rather than seeking to distance ourselves from Him, we must humble ourselves in obedience to Him, understanding that each time we give ourselves over to the passions, we take another bite out of the fruit of the tree.

Adam and Eve, we see now with a fallen will, seek to hide themselves from God. See, it’s the natural tendency for the fallen will to seek to hide itself from God. We see this when people hide behind man made religions like science, either seeking to disregard the teachings of God completely, or, more often, to scoff at and openly mock them. But the grace of God is always able to heal the will of those who return to Him through repentance, through confession; so that they might freely pursue His will and His righteousness. And, through that grace, obtain it to some degree, always seeking to repent each time they miss the mark.

My brethern, let us all crucify these passions which hold us captive. Let us break free from the bonds of this iniquity and instead return to seeking after the Kingdom, not seeking instead to justify wickedness. Jude warns us against those who turn the grace of God into lewdness, and in so doing, deny our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us turn away from disobedience and seek rather the humility to truly deny ourselves of our own fleshly desires; abiding in His commandments and seeking His will in our lives.

Christ is in our midst

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