Obey God and Do What You Want
Exploring Decision Making and God’s Will
God’s Guidance and the Bible
Believers have always understood that God has promised to lead, guide, and teach His people. This knowledge is the source of great comfort for Christians everywhere and in sundry circumstances. A sampling of texts:
NAU Psalm 31:3 For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name's sake You will lead me and guide me.
NAU Psalm 73:24 With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory.
NAU Isaiah 42:16 "I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them And rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone."
NAU Isaiah 48:17 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go.
NAU Psalm 23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.
NAU Luke 1:79 TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, To guide our feet into the way of peace."
NAU John 10:3 "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
Pretty amazing isn’t it! Thus, the question is not, “will God guide us?”, but rather something like, “how does God guide us?” So, surely we are right to believe that God can help us with decisions whether large or small. This is where it gets sticky! Let’s begin with the doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture.
The Sufficiency of Scripture
The issue of sufficiency is whether or not the Bible alone is an adequate tool that enables the believer to act and do rightly. Therefore, when it comes to decision making or knowing the will of God the question is whether the Bible contains what we need in order to make decisions. The answer is, “yes.”
I am committed to the simple notion that the Bible plus the Holy Spirit is all the believer needs in order to live a life pleasing to God that is marked by godly decision making.
NAU John 16:13 "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. (Compare John 14:26; 15:26)
- Definition of Sufficiency. Wayne Grudem offers an easy-to-understand definition: “The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.” (Systematic Theology p 127).
- Scriptural Claims of Sufficiency. The Bible contains specific statements about itself.
- 2 Timothy 3:14-17. “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” We learn:
- The Bible contains all we need to be saved (vs 14-15).
- The Bible is uniquely a Word from God. It is “inspired by God” (v 16a).
- The Bible teaches us what God requires from us. (“teaching”16b)The Bible convicts us when we do not meet God’s requirements (“reproof” v 16c).
- The Bible shows us how to meet God’s requirements (“correction” v 16d).
- The Bible helps us make God’s requirements life habits (“training in righteousness” v 16e).
- The Bible outfits us with all we need to live the Christian life (“equipped” v 17)
- So…. The Bible is sufficient to sustain us during any and all times of life so that we may live godly lives. It is the final authority for both our belief and our practice.
- 2 Peter 1:1-11. “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” Thus, we learn:
- Salvation is a product of God’s sovereign grace - God gives us all we need to be saved (vs 1-4).
- “received” a faith (λαγχάνω means to choose by lot) (v 1)
- “granted” everything pertaining to life” (life = eternal life) v 3
- “called” by means (dative) of His (probably Christ cf Mayor p 87) glory and excellence (v 3)
- How does this salvation come to us? Answer: NAU 1 Peter 1:23 “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” This is huge!
- Not only does God give us all we need for salvation He also gives us all we need for daily life (v 3a).
- everything pertaining to “godliness” = piety and morality as a way of life
- note the “just as” ( or “seeing that”) transition - godliness is a normal expected result of God’s sovereign investment in us! (ESV doesn’t translate this phrase.)
- note that the all things “pertaining to” is really all things “unto” (πρὸς) or motion toward godliness. Godliness is our goal and He has given us all we need to get there
- Psalm 119 makes it clear that the divine power God uses to grant us all things pertaining to godliness is His Word. The opening of the second stanza is an example: NAU Psalm 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. 10 With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. 11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
- The Bible is the wellspring from which all these things proceed (3b-4)
- Here is how this flows: the gift of all things necessary for salvation and daily life comes through (διά) knowledge ( ἐπίγνωσις) of Christ and His majestic character; from which He gives the promises ( ἐπάγγελμα = proclamations that are probably the gospel promises); through (διά) which comes regeneration (the divine nature probably referring to being children of God (John 1:12) or the indwelling of Holy Sprit or Christ living in us (Gal 2:20).
- Now watch this: the knowledge of Christ and the promises of the gospel are only known to us through the Word (written or spoken)! This conclusion matches what we have noted from other passages above as well as passages such as Romans 10:14.
- There is always a connection between what God has accomplished for us (v 3-4) and what we are to do (v 5-11)
- “Now for this very reason” (v 5) refers to the whole concept of God giving in vs 3-4. We are now to “supply” a list of virtues in our faith. It is a dual sided coin: true faith lives; yet we must make it come alive. Vs 10a, “making our calling and election sure”, picks up the same notion.
- In this way we will persevere to the end (v 10b-11)
The Christian life is not about discovering God’s perfect will for your life. It is about discovering what God says in the Bible and then acting in a manner correspondent with what you find. We are bound by Scripture - dreams, promptings, signs, and etc are not binding.
- Observations about Sufficiency.
- Ordinary believers can know all that that they need to know about any given issue of salvation or the Christian life - for example we could organize everything the Bible teaches about money. However, this is not to say that we can know everything about everything (origins for instance).
- Believers should possess a passion to uncover what God says about any given question or life situation. What God thinks makes every difference! However, God does not always speak specifically to every given issue - for instance the number of hours of sleep per night or the percentage of a church’s budget that should go to missions. (This idea will be discussed later under the topic of freedom and liberty).
- Believers should be content with what God has revealed in the Bible rather than longing for more information or direction. Often a fascination with subjective methods to find God’s will is evidence of a dissatisfaction with or an ignorance of the Bible. “Give me more” just may be the plea of an immature believer.
Discussion Question: Have you ever wished, or do you currently wish, that the Bible contained more information on a given issue? If so, what is that issue and why do you wish for more information?
- Believers must never add to, subtract from, or modify what God says to us in the Bible.Thus, all non-biblical sources of information must be weighed in light of their fidelity to the Bible.
- NAU Revelation 22:18 “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”
- NAU Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. 6 Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.
- Believers therefore, should enthusiastically embrace the Reformation motto, Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). This huge principle “…became a decisive point of division between Protestantism and Catholicism. It meant that the Scripture alone is absolutely authoritative for doctrine and practice, and following Scripture alone is sufficient to please God in all things.” Prior to the 16th century Protestant Reformation, the Roman church claimed, and still claims, that there were three sources of authoritative truth - the Bible (including the Apocrypha), church tradition, and teachings of the Pope and Bishops, called the magisterium. (ESV Study Bible article p 2614).
Thus, Grudem is right in concluding, “To be morally perfect in God’s sight, then, what must we do in addition to what God commands us in Scripture? Nothing! Nothing at all! If we simply keep the words of Scripture we will be “blameless” (Psalm 119:1) and we will be doing “every good work” (2 Tim 3:17) that God expects of us (p 128).
Or to pose the question differently, “what do we need to think rightly?” Answer, “the Bible.” Or, “what do we need to live rightly?” Answer, “the Bible.”
The bottom line regarding God’s guidance: The Bible is the key to God’s promised guidance of the believer in life.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Case Study: She marched into your office and immediately declared that she was certain that the Holy Spirit was leading her to leave her non-believing husband so she could marry one of the officers at your church. This, respected teacher of the 5th/6th grade Sunday School class wondered what you thought (in a tone that really said - “I dare you to defend my miserable husband and try to stop me”). You took a deep breath, prayed a silent prayer and dove in….
Evaluate this statement: “The circumstances of our daily life are to us an infallible indication of God’s will, when they concur with the inward promptings of the Spirit and the Word of God.” (FB Meyer “The Secret of Guidance” p16 as cited in Petty p 31)
Case Study: Jim’s thought-to-be good friend, Sam, with whom he was competing for a coveted position in the company, shared with two of the persons on the selection committee the inside information that Jim had fudged several key facts on his resume. After loosing out to Sam for the position, Jim inadvertently learned from a co-worker about what Sam did. Subsequently, Jim shares with you what happened as well his co-worker’s creative suggestion regarding a way to make Sam look bad in his new position. Jim is a professing Christian. He is expecting you to respond to his decision to implement his co-worker’s plan. How do you advise him? Does God have anything to say about Jim’s decision?
(The group might start with Romans 12:19-21 or Hebrews 10:30).
Assignment: Read textbook through p 84
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2016. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.
Posted on Sun, May 15, 2016
by Joe Flatt filed under