In other words, sometimes I am tempted to accept that we are locked into heaven or hell before we are born and have no real choice in the matter. I have seen the gospel preached with so much power with the presence of God being there unmistakably, and I have done that myself. Yet only some responded. I have prayed for many with tears, fasting, spoken words, etc., and have seen few results. Throughout history others have had similar experiences.
On the other hand, some seem to have no Godly influence, grew up in pagan families, pick up a Bible in prison or elsewhere (God bless the Gideons who place Bibles in prisons, hotels, hospitals, etc.), and get converted. I know Godly families who have ungodly children, and ungodly families who have Godly children. It is baffling. And who can resist the will of God? Saint Paul was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, so he certainly was not humbly seeking God at all. Yet he was thrown from his horse, blinded, and Jesus spoke to him and said he was chosen to be his disciple. Paul soon afterwards received his sight again through the Godly Ananias. Who would not follow Jesus if they had a similar experience?
So we know that God supernaturally draws some to him more than he does others. My parents were Godly Christians who lived out their faith and who prayed for me, and I am very thankful. How much choice did I have to choose or reject Christianity? I do not know. But I do know that I had to be drawn supernaturally to Christ in order to begin to follow him, and I had to accept that bekoning in order to become Christian. When we are offered a gift, it does us no good until we accept it!
“The secret things belong to the Lord.” No one knows exactly how or how much each person is drawn to the Lord, and no one knows the mind of God, except those parts he chooses to reveal to us. Two great themes run through the whole Bible- the fact that God reigns and that we have personal responsibility to choose to follow him. These currents seem contradictory at times, but that is only because we have limited minds as well as seriously flawed minds. Our names are written in the book of life before the foundation of the world, and at the same time God calls on each person to repent and to follow him.
There have always been those who were humble Godly followers of Jesus Christ (before his appearance on earth he was worshipped by Moses, David, etc.), and there were always those who preached the gospel under false pretenses, as Paul mentioned in Phil 1.18. But people are without excuse, for among the hypocrites there have always been sincere believers also. Even hypocrites are a witness that there is something better, a higher goal to which we should aspire. If no one is around to model Christ, we have Bibles everywhere, at least in this country, and we can go to God and hear his words there.
At the recent royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine at Westminister Abby in London, I was pleased that over 2 billion people got to hear the very powerful marriage vows. We all will have better marriages when we put those words into practice (love, honor….). The brother of Catherine read Romans 12- a wonderful addition to the ceremony (present your body to God as a living sacrifice, holy…). So at least 2 billion people have been presented by the call of Jesus Christ to follow him and to live for him. Whether the presenters were holy or not, the truth they offered is clearly for our benefit. Will all 2 billion who heard that repent of their sins and give their lives to Jesus Christ? Probably not. Why not? God in his power also gave us free will. We are all called by God to love and to obey him, but every one of us can say we do not do that always. Jesus Christ is a gentleman; he will not force us to walk with him either in this world or the next.