People – including Christians – like to talk about free-will. However, free-will is not a Biblical term.
A dog roams where it pleases, but not by free-will. It seeks out food and water, wanders for shade and companionship, all motivated by its nature, not by freedom. Everything that dog does is because of its base instinct, its natural passions.
There may come a time when the dog is trained to behave in a certain way. It can be put on a leash and taught to go in the same direction and at the same pace as its master. As the dog is brought into obedience to the master, the leash is put away. It’s at this point, and only this point, that the dog is truly free. It may give in to the base instincts to which it is by nature bound or it can obediently follow the new path taught by the master.
By nature, we are all sons of Adam, fallen and corrupted by sin. Through one man’s offense judgement came to all men, resulting in condemnation (Romans 5:18) … you were slaves of sin … (Romans 6:17) … dead in tresspasses and sins … by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1, 3). There is no free-will for the unsaved one whose heart and soul and nature are bound tightly by sin in death.
In the new birth, however, we are given a new nature. It’s what the Apostle Peter calls the divine nature, having escaped the depravity that is in the world through passion (2 Peter 1:4). In Christ we become a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things become new. Now all things are of God … (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).
We are predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29), transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2), not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).
In salvation we become “free” to follow Christ, trained by the Master, no longer bound by the power of the sinful nature and its passions. Free-will is the experience of the redeemed alone.
He whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36).