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Chapter 42 - Knowing Godís will
Many Christians struggle with knowing the will of God. This can seem strange when one considers all the ways God has established to communicate with us.
1. His word. The bible is the first place to start when beginning to understand what God expects, desires, and hopes for us.
2. God in us. As Christians, we have the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwelling in us. As we allow their work in us, we begin to discern and appreciate their direction.
3. Nearness. As we mature in our faith, we drawn nearer to God. This proximity is a measure of the degree to which we are becoming Christ-like.
4. Prayer. The bible is Godís primary way to communicate with us. Prayer is our primary way to communicate with him. As we draw nearer to God, our prayers reflect greater earnestness and intensity.
5. Spirit leading. The Holy Spirit is specifically cited as acting to direct our path.
When we consider how distant humans have become from their creator, it should not be surprising that for new or immature Christians God also seems distant and remote.
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. - Ephesians 2:12-13
There is a distance from God that produces in us ignorance of him and his will. We have in Christ the opportunity to draw close to God and in such close proximity be able to more clearly see that which God would have.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. - Romans 12:1-2
The phrase 'reasonable service' is similar to what one might consider the typical or routine religious duty of a pagan who would offer a sacrifice at the temple of his god. In comparison, the Christian is expected to similarly offer this routine service to his God. While the pagan would offer an animal (the bulk of which he would get back to consume or sell), the Christian is expected to give himself and hold nothing back. As a result, the Christian will then be able to prove (dokimazo - test or discern) the will of God.
There is that in Godís word that directly shows us some of his will.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. - 1 Timothy 2:3-4
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. - 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7
We can see much of Godís will in the laws he gave to the nation of Israel. Some of it is specific to the function of the nation of Israel, however, much of it contains that which can apply to all.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's. - Exodus 20:3-17
There is so much available to us through Godís word that one lifetime is not enough to take in what it can supply.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: - 2 Timothy 3:16
From the word of God we can receive that of Godís will such that we can see the path he would have us take.
NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105
God in us
The radical Christian is not one to settle for an incomplete or immature Christian life. With God dwelling in us and us abiding (living) in God, we have access to the source of wisdom, the source of eternal life, as well as light in darkness. It is this illumination that helps a Christian see what Godís will is for him both generally and individually.
I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. - John 12:46
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: - 1 Corinthians 1:30
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. - John 15:4
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. - Philippians 2:13
Nearness to God
Our salvation (faith and trusting in Jesus) is our first step in drawing near to God.
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. - Ephesians 2:13
The process of drawing nearer to God is described by James as being parenthetically bracketed by humility.
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. - James 4:6-10
But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works. - Psalm 73:28
For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. - Hebrews 7:19
One might expect that nearness to God is also accomplished through communication. While initial Christian communication with God is often centered around requests, as we mature we often find that increasingly greater time is given to thankfulness and adoration as we come to understand more of who God is and his love for us.
Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: - Isaiah 55:6
The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. - Psalm 145:18
Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. - Jeremiah 29:12-13
We sometimes elevate our will over Godís such that our prayers are like a 'to do list' for God. When we ask in the name of Jesus (by whom we have access to God), we are making a request consistent with the character (name) of Jesus.
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. - John 15:16
Jesus gives us an example of yielding in prayer to the will of God.
Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. - Luke 22:42
We are not limited to only praying for ourselves to increase in knowledge and understanding, but also for others. It can be a powerful ministry to be in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ that they also would grow in the knowledge of the Lord.
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, - Ephesians 1:15-18
While we know that when we become Christian God himself comes and lives in us, it is the particular work of the Holy Spirit that is emphasized as active within us to direct us, change us, and help us become more like Jesus (this would include knowing the will of God).
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. - Romans 8:26
We also receive instruction in spiritual matters from the Holy Spirit.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. - 1 Corinthians 2:12-14
We need to make sure that our path through life does not impede the work of the Holy Spirit is us.
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. - Ephesians 4:30
Quench not the Spirit. - 1 Thessalonians 5:19
The Holy Spirit aids us in knowing things of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. - 1 Corinthians 2:12
The radical Christian begins to recognize that there is that in the conduct of his life and the choices he makes that can aid in his nearness to God and his being able to receive clarity in how he should speak and act.
Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. - Colossians 4:6
And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say. - Luke 12:11-12
The Christian life is not about being clever enough to discover Godís will. It is not about being strong enough to contend for Godís will. It is about being humble and faithful and walking by Godís Spirit in truth and love. Just as a child grows to know his father and his fatherís will, we grow to know God and his will.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. - Romans 8:14
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. - 1 John 3:1
And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. - Galatians 4:6
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