“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Because we are made in the image of God, we have the freedom, and indeed the responsibility, to choose. Where there is no freedom of choice there can be neither sin nor righteousness, because it is in the nature of both that they be voluntary.
Sin is a voluntary act known to be contrary to the will of God; if there is no moral knowledge there can be no voluntary choice, so there can be no sin. It is the knowledge of right and wrong that imposes the necessity for us to make a choice; because of the fatal decision of Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we must all choose; sin became inherent in man when our first parents made the decision to eat of the forbidden fruit. It was the wrong choice.
Lucifer became Satan when he made his fateful choice; “But you said in your heart, ‘I will go up to heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14).
Here a choice is made against knowledge and against authority; here, sin was conceived and death brought forth, even as James said;
“But each one is tempted by his own desire, being dragged away and enticed into wrongdoing; then, the desire conceiving, it gives birth to sin, and the sin being brought to completion, it brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).
On the other hand, Jesus Christ revealed the nature of holiness and righteousness when He cried out; “Not according to My wish, Father, but Yours” (Matthew 26:39). Here is a deliberate choice made with the full knowledge of the consequences. On the face of it, the wish of the man who was God, seems to be in conflict with the higher wish of God the Father in heaven, but that is to misunderstand what is taking place. Jesus wishes to fulfill the Messianic scriptures by going to the cross and offering redemption to mankind, but here, on the face of it, He is dying in the garden instead, thus failing in His prophesied mission. Nevertheless, He yields to the Father’s wish, even if it means the plan of redemption is not carried out; and, we are told, His prayers were listened to because of His “reverent submissiveness” or “reverent compliance” (Hebrews 5:7), the same quality with which we are urged to serve God (Hebrews 12:8).
These examples show us the vast difference between Christ and Satan and that difference divides saint from sinner to this day, and heaven from hell for eternity. The secret of righteousness is not the destruction of the will of man, but the yielding up of it into the wish of God.