God created everyone with a free will to choose between good and evil. No where in the gospels is there any example of Jesus trying to force a person to go against their individual will. Jesus knew that a person convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. All Christians have the responsibility to present the facts of Christ and His gospel to their neighbors. Yet, the choice to decide for or against Christ’s offer of forgiveness and eternal is left with each person. Many believers become overly concerned about why people act the way they do. Jesus taught the disciples that each one is only responsible for their own decisions, not of their neighbors. Great worry can be lifted off of our shoulders when we truly embrace the truth and consequences of individual free will.
1. Jesus taught the disciples that the most important choice was to help each person believe in Him to gain eternal life. John wrote, "To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:12) Christ knew that without an individual decision to accept Him as Savior there would be no salvation. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6) All the religions in the world, except Christianity, are doomed to failure unless they choose to give Christ the control of their decisions.
2. Jesus extends polite invitations to people so that they can make up their own mind about the merit of His propositions. Christ knew how to encourage people to move up the ladder of faith. One day Jesus saw Simon Peter and his brother Andrew fishing and He said to them, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men… At once they left their nets and followed him." (Matt. 4:19) The Lord practiced the principle, "The more one obeys God, the more He will reveal truth." Jesus knew that growing as a believer involves a succession of correct choices to follow Him in a life long transformation into His likeness. No one ever reaches a level on earth where they are not faced with difficult choices.
3. Jesus stresses individual responsibility in decision-making. The Lord did not have much sympathy for the Pharisees who had to face the consequences of poor decisions. One day Jesus said, "No servant can serve two masters… You cannot serve both God and Money. The Pharisees sneered at Jesus and He said to them, You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight." (Luke 16:14-16) What people allow themselves to be obsessed by becomes their master.
4. Jesus knows that someday everyone will have to give an account for his or her decisions. One day Jesus told His disciples, "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer?" Later, when the manager proved himself to wise enough to recover part of the debts the Master commended him. He said, "Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." (Luke 16:1-9) We all can learn to use wisdom in using the means available to us to plan for our future well being. We should all be alert to make the most of our opportunities, talents and resources for eternity. We can help many people in need today who will welcome us as their benefactors in heaven. Make the most of every opportunity.
5. Jesus recognized that many great decisions are made through persistence. Jesus told a story about a widow who kept coming to the home of the judge who did not fear God nor cared about people. "Grant me justice against my adversary," cried the woman. For a long time the judge refused until he said, "Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she would won’t wear me out with her coming." Jesus used that to teach, "Will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?" (Luke 18:1-8) How much more willing is God to grant what believers’ request when they decide to be persistent in their prayers.
6. Jesus knew that some people would not be willing to pay the price to make the right decisions. A certain ruler asked Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said, "You lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the man heard this he became very sad because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus said, "It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle." Christ wanted to rid the man of his obsession – a love for money. Sadly, millions are unwilling to surrender certain attractions to follow Jesus Christ. Be confident that whatever you decide to give to God, He will replace with something far better!