We live in a life governed by our nature, this is true, but our life is not without choices. When I get up in the morning, one of the first things I must do is use the restroom and I am not "free" to do otherwise - or am I? Well "nature" says I have to relieve myself, but "nature" does not dictate where! We are so conditioned (and rightly so!) to use the "proper facilities," but I could "choose" to use the sink, the tub - or step outside to the flower garden, but I choose the toilet. Or, like a baby or an incontinent adult, I may have no real "choice" in when or where. The point is, we are given the ability to reason and make choices based upon the reasoning we choose to use. We are then rightly judged based upon those choices. We all begin as babies, physically and spiritually; but there comes a time when we must put aside childish things.
Society is the "judge" when it comes to the example above. Society would frown upon us using a sink, the tub or even the flower garden; and would judge us accordingly. Now, on a bit higher level - when we are young and unable to reason, all we think about is our self. As we interact with others we "learn" how to share and please others - at least some of us do. Some do not "learn" these social interaction skills, perhaps never taught these skills by their parents, and continue to "learn" how to please themselves. Such is where bullies come from - a child who never learned to yield his/her own will in concern/caring for or about others.
Likewise, moving to the spiritual realm it is not much different! Left to our own devices, we would seek the hedonist path of pleasing our self. We must be taught about God in order to know, love and serve Him. The more we learn about God brings us to choices in our lives where we choose to either give up our will to His, or reject His Will and pursue self satisfaction in life. Each of us makes such choices all the time!
Just being raised in a "good home" does not mean every child in that home will make "good choices," or the choices which his/her parents would have liked to see them make. Children are influenced by parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, bullies, teachers, pastors and even physical/genetic things. Now "naturally" they would have no control over a physical or genetic trait which may affect their will, but for most of us - the influences are not so "natural." We can choose to be influenced by good or bad people in our lives. Sometimes a "bad" person can have a "good" influence too.
In my own experience, it took me standing up to a bully which dramatically changed the way I was treated by just about everyone else. That's a long story, but the point is I CHOSE to stop being picked on, I took a chance (which could have resulted in me getting beat up), grabbed that bully by his shirt collar, slammed him up against a wall and said, "LEAVE ME ALONE!" Instead of fighting me, he yielded - and from that day forward I was no longer picked on by any of the bullies at my school. What if I had "chose" to not stand up against that bully? I'm confident that my entire life would be quite different than it is today.
On a similar note, my family moved in the middle of my sophomore year of high school. At the new school the first group of people I started "hanging" with was what most parents would call "the wrong crowd." I saw myself actually becoming "one of them," but my mother had instilled upon me a true love for God and what is right - so one day I prayed, "God please get me out of this group of people I have been associating with." That weekend, my best "friend's" dad died and his mom packed up and moved to another part of town moving him to another school. Suddenly my contact with "the wrong crowd" was gone. I seized upon this as a new start - and I found new friends, leaving that culture behind forever. I can only imagine if I had not willed to get out of that culture and remained in it. I've seen others in my family affected by their choice to not get out of that culture and how it has ruined their lives and relationship with God too.
I hope you're seeing the point I'm making. Our lives are governed by our choices. God, in His sovereignty, GIVES us the ability to make these choices because we are made in His image and likeness. Determinists, primarily Calvinists, will argue that no one can choose God unless God first chooses and draws them. They will cite a few verses from Scripture which seem to bolster their position - while ignoring the main thrust of Scripture. So let me deal with these points.
First off, the "main thrust of Scripture" and especially the Gospel, is that God is LOVE and He wants us to know, love and serve Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength (Mark 12:30; Matt 22:37). Jesus Himself refers to this as the "first," or "foremost," or "greatest" commandment. When Jesus was asked what one must DO to inherit eternal life, well the story goes:
And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" And he answered, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE." (Luke 10:25-28 NASB).According to Jesus Himself, salvation is based in LOVE. And what IS love?
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13 NASB, emphasis mine).
When you love your wife, you aren't giving her something she already has, you are giving of yourself. The same is true of love given to God, we give of ourselves and likewise when He loves us, He is giving of Himself for God is love.
Back to the Determinist stating God must first draw one in order for them to respond to Him and love Him. This is truth! John 6:44 tells us that no man can come to Jesus unless he is first drawn to Him; so when does this drawing occur? Plainly stated by the same Gospel writer in John 12:32, when He is lifted up ALL MEN will be drawn to Him! The Determinist who equivocates the drawing with the coming errs here, for the two are wholly separate actions! Not ALL who are drawn WILL come to Him! As Matthew 22:14 tells us, "Many are called, but few are chosen." There is a difference between those called/drawn and those who actually heed the call and come to Him. Along with the context of Matthew 22:14 we see that even some who heed the call and go in to the Wedding Feast, if you do not put on the Wedding Garment (which was traditionally given by the Wedding Host, so there is no excuse not to be wearing it), even if you "show up" you are not guaranteed a spot in Heaven, for the one who showed up without the Wedding Garment was cast out into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth!
The point is clear... if "many are called, but few are chosen," then it is not God who fails - for that would be impossible - but man who fails to heed the calling AND properly prepare himself for the Wedding Feast.
The Determinist may cry out, "but St. Paul says we're predestined, even before our birth - even before the creation of the universe!" However, we must point out to the Determinist that this predestining is not done in a vacuum! In the "Golden Chain of Redemption" (which includes the statement of predestination) they tend to overlook and/or minimize the first "link" in that "chain." Let us look at it:
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30 NASB).The first "link" in that chain is God's FOREKNOWLEDGE. God is not limited by our linear view of time - He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and therefore He KNOWS us, even before we're born. He KNOWS what decisions we will make in this linear path of time - and based upon this FOREKNOWLEDGE ("for those whom He foreknew...") He also predestined. Predestination cannot, therefore, be viewed outside of His foreknowledge of us.
Strive then to know, love and serve God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength - for that is what He wills for us to do.