Posts Tagged 'discovering God’s will'

Who Is God, Part 5

We’ve been looking at some aspects of God’s character and nature, not because He is mildly interesting, but because understanding God is absolutely essential if you, as a Christian, want to have the fullest, most meaningful, most honest relationship with Him as possible. And it’s not like God is a mystery! If He is a mystery as some think He is, then the Bible is full of lies. Here’s what Paul thought about the issue of whether or not God is a mystery:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:18 – 20 | TNIV)

Those three verses are either comforting or scary, depending on the spiritual state of the person reading them! In truth, these verses deal with people – Gentiles, not Jews – who didn’t have the Scriptures. For the Jew, things were a little different; they were the custodians of God’s Word, in which God revealed Himself to them. But the Gentiles were a completely different story. How was God dealing with people who never heard the Gospel or saw a copy of the Scriptures? This section of Romans 1 is just as relevant today as it was when Paul wrote it. We are living in what has been called the “post Christian world,” a time unprecedented in world history. For the first time ever, the majority of those living in the West have no knowledge of the Bible. Others prefer to think of this modern era as “the twilight of Western thought,” and that’s a good label, too. Young people today – from the so-called Millennials on down – have no clue how the Bible has shaped the Western world. From the arts to education to governance to science to even warfare, the pages of the Scripture have shaped Western attitudes and philosophies.

Where once the Bible was taught in public schools (oh, the horror!), now not only is it ignored in public schools, but it is disparaged. One time, not so long ago, a young person with a very limited knowledge of the Bible, knowledge gained in school, understood that he was a sinner who needed God; he had a sense of morality and ethics. We’ll never know how many seeds of salvation planted in elementary school through the most casual of references to the Bible took root that resulted in salvation later on in life.

In Romans, Paul brilliantly explains how God revealed Himself to people who have never had even a glimpse at a Bible. He explains that some people may wonder why they need to be saved. You probably know people like that. They’re good citizens; good parents; decent and as honest as the day is long. They’ve never read the Bible so they have no idea they’re doomed for Hell. For people like that, God’s solution is simple: His wrath is revealed all around them; they are literally living under God’s wrath. But they deny the truth. For example, every living thing all around such a person is dropping dead. Plants, animals, friends and family members. Such tragedies invariably cause a person to think about themselves and their future. But, as Paul wrote, they deny the truth – they refuse to think too much about it. Like the person who keeps putting off making a will, the sinner who doesn’t take notice of what God is revealing all around them, may find out one day it’s just too late.

Paul’s point is clear: Because God has always been revealing Himself to the world, specifically His wrath, people are without excuse. The Jew is without excuse because they had the Scriptures, and Gentiles are without excuse because His wrath is all in the world all around them.

So far is this series, we discussed that fact that God is holy; that God is love; that God the Father and the Son are the same; and that God dwells in all believers as the Holy Spirit, who empowers them to serve Him. And now, we’ll take a look at an aspect of God’s character that some people find surprising. It goes along with what Paul was writing about in Romans 1 and it deals with the revelation of God’s will. Just like God’s character is no mystery, God’s will isn’t really a mystery, either. In Hebrews, we read this:

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20, 21 | TNIV)

Presumably, if God is going to equip you to do His will, then His will must be knowable. Let’s take a look at what that means, from the perspective of the one who wrote this letter to some Hebrew Christians.

Perspective

It frequently surprises Christians when I say that God’s will is no mystery, but it really isn’t. That, of course, doesn’t mean it’s always easy to discern. In fact, often it’s not. God’s will in a general sense is a piece of cake: Christians should live lives that glorify God and help their fellow man. But the specifics of God’s will take a little work to figure out. Maybe that’s why the author of this letter wrote this:

Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. (Hebrews 13:18 | TNIV)

The “us” refers to the writer of the letter and those with him (or her). No serious believer engaged in the work of God can do so without knowing God’s will, and sometimes you need the prayers of others for that. Their consciences were clear. They were doing their level best to live according to the will of God. Not only that, they genuinely wanted to live honorably in every way. For the believer, that necessarily means living in accordance to His will.

That request, “pray for us,” should never be taken lightly. Believers ought to be praying about and seeking after God’s will and they ought to be praying for other believers that they may discover God’s will for them and live it.

Power

The benediction, which begins with verse 20, is one of the best in all of Scripture. The writer of Hebrews has discovered that, in spite of it all, he served a “God of peace.” That’s a beautiful way to describe our Lord. The word is shalom, and means much more than just the absence of strife. The peace that God give us permeates our whole being; it’s a restful mind, a quiet confidence that informs the soul that no matter what’s going on, things will be fine because, after all, God’s got everything under control. Of this amazing peace, we are told that is “the peace that passes all understanding,” because it doesn’t make any sense. When everybody around you thinks you should be angry or sad or frightened and you’re not, it doesn’t make sense to them. But it makes sense to you because God has given you His shalom.

The peace that we enjoy is guaranteed by the work of Jesus Christ. Or in other words, God’s peace depends on HIM, not on us; not on anything we do – like taking a vacation or getting pumped up on one drug or another. He is described as a shepherd and we are the sheep. No wonder we can live in peace with the world around us! Unlike those sheep without a shepherd, we have the Great Shepherd keeping watch over us. This is not an empty metaphor; it’s a statement of unassailable fact: Jesus Christ IS our Great Shepherd. He watches over us. He knows what’s going on in our lives. He knows ours needs. We are safe and secure because our Shepherd has shed His blood, making an eternal covenant with His sheep. Part of that covenant looks like this:

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”. (Hebrews 13:5 | TNIV)

The writer of this letter is quoting from Deuteronomy, and a look at the whole quote will show you the context. Joshua was about to lead the people into the Promised Land, and here’s what God said to him:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”. (Deuteronomy 31:6 | TNIV)

That was God’s word of encouragement and promise to Joshua, and it’s for us, too. And we have it better than Joshua ever did! We have the Great Shepherd; he didn’t. We not only the word of God’s promise, but we have a guarantee to that promise: Jesus Christ.

But our Good Shepherd does more than just keep watch on the sheep; He actually empowers the sheep to do God’s will. That’s an amazing statement. Leaving the metaphor, what the writer of Hebrews is getting at is really quite profound. God enables His people to carry out His will. He gives them all the resources necessary to live a life completely in accordance to His will. For the Christian, knowing God’s will and doing God’s will are the most important things.  Whatever else may be happening in your life, nothing is as important as the will of God. That’s why, for example, the Lord’s Prayer includes, “Thy will be done.”

But here’s the thing Hebrews is teaching. It is essential Christians do the will of God. Yet even as they go about doing God’s will – which is way more than just doing good works, although good works are part of it – it is God who is working with the Christian to get it done. We work, and God works in us to do His will. It’s a win-win for believers. I have no idea why so many Christians find God’s will onerous. It isn’t. It’s not difficult to know, and it’s not difficult to do when we understand it’s God enabling you to do so. We do the work, but it is really God working in us. It’s the amazing concursus of grace. Another passage makes it even clearer:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12, 13 | TNIV)

Even as God expects us to live according to His will, He creates within us the ability to do it, and sometimes He creates the conditions around us to bring about His will. Just imagine what the world would look like if Christians – all Christians – took seriously this issue of God’s will. Just imagine what your life would look like if you took seriously God’s will.

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