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How Can I Be Held Responsible if God is in Control?

How Can I Be Held Responsible if God is in Control?

Ephesians 1:4,5 He chose us in him before the foundation of the world… He predestined us for adoption to himself…

In my addiction and recovery, I became obsessed with the question of where God’s work meets my effort.  Am I responsible or is God?  If God is truly in control, then my sobriety is his job.  I am off the hook for my addiction and recovery because He is the puppet master.  If I am responsible though, then I am left on my own to recover from my addiction.  It has to be one or the other, right?  In my black and white thinking, I see the world this way.  It must be A or B.  It cannot be both.

There certainly are passages which explicitly state that God chose our destiny for us, independently of anything we think or do.  Today’s passage is one such passage, in which Paul said that God chose us before the foundation of the world.  In Romans, Paul seemed to say that just as God elected some to salvation, He also elected some to damnation (Romans 9:22).

Though this view has always offended my sensibilities, in my addiction, I found some perverse comfort in it.  If God was truly in control, I was off the hook, right?  If God made my choices for me, then I did not need to lose one minute of sleep over my destructive behavior.

There are however, many other passages in which we are instructed to believe, have faith, walk in the spirit, deny self and follow Christ.  These are all action commands which, by necessity, require a voluntary choice.  For Jesus to give such a command (Luke 9:23) would be completely useless if we were incapable of making a decision.

Paul insisted on both realities.  He said that God is in control and that I am responsible for the daily choice to deny my destructive flesh and follow God.  He said that God chooses me and I choose God.  How both realities can be true is a mystery to me, but if this passage teaches me anything, it is that God is not required to satisfy my sense of logic.

There are many such apparent conflicts in the Bible.  Paul insisted that I am saved by faith alone (not by works) but James pointed out that faith without works is no faith at all.  Jesus was somehow both God and man.  When I came to Christ, I was given a perfect spirit life but I still carry that in this defective flesh life.

In my black and white thinking, I want it to be simple.  I want it to be A or B, not both.  As I cannot see both sides of the coin at the same time, I reject the side that I cannot see.  This leads me to embrace half-truths, which are as destructive as lies.  If I insist that God is in control, then I do not have to do anything.  If I insist that I am in control, then I am lost in the mess of myself.

Back to my original question, Is God in control or am I responsible?  Yes.  Black and white thinking may satisfy my logic, but it will not lead me to the whole truth.  The whole truth is that somehow, God is in control and I am responsible to follow him.  I must daily, deny self and choose God.  In his sovereignty, God will continue to work his will in me.

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  1. Samuel Greene says:

    Your key verse from Ephesians reminded me of something shared in my Sunday school class two weeks ago. Have you ever studied the human protein laminin? A preacher has a quick 8 minute YouTube on it. I cannot help but think of how my Creator God placed a symbol of Jesus, from the beginning of Creation, inside my body to hold me together.

  2. Larry says:

    Always has been a difficult question to answer. I think you gave a good answer.

    • Scott says:

      As often as I try to wrap my head around it, I have to remind myself that I am not responsible to make sense of all mysteries. I am responsible for believing that God is in control and that somehow I am still responsible for my own actions.

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