Friday, June 29, 2007

Discerning the personal will of God (Part 2)

I want to pick up where I left off yesterday. I ended by saying, “I’m not searching for God’s will. I know I am exactly where God wants me to be. And, you are exactly where God wants you to be.” Someone could possibly misunderstand or misinterpret what I’ve written, so I’d like to elaborate and, hopefully, clarify what I mean.

Am I affirming that if, for example, you are living in a habitual pattern of sin, or caught in some kind of scandal or, like a person I read about in the newspaper this morning, are a cross-dresser who wishes to change his or her gender, you are exactly where God wants you to be?

No, you are not where God “wants” you to be, in terms of pleasing God and bringing Him pleasure. In fact, in relation to God’s revealed will in Scripture, you are, indeed, “out” of God’s will. Sin is not right and God doesn’t condone it. However, in terms of seeking God’s direction, or His personal will for our lives, I don’t think we can escape the reality that we are where we are by God’s providence—that is, according to His sovereign purpose and will. Our lives may be out of our control, but none of us is ever out of God’s control. Everything, visible and invisible—every being, every creature, every molecule, atom and particle in the universe—is under God’s absolute and sovereign authority.

Too many people treat the will of God for their lives as if it is some hidden and mysterious secret that we need to discover before we can get on with the business of living. I don’t think this is a wise or biblical way to view the will of God. There are two important points we should always keep in mind: First, we need to know and remember that God has already revealed Himself through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. If we want to know God, we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, we should never forget that God has also given His people a word of revelation. It’s called Scripture—the Bible—the word of God. If we want to know God’s will, we must read the Bible. The Bible is God’s word to us. Everything you or I need to know about God and the right way to live is already written down for us in the Scriptures.

But, what about God’s specific and individual will for us as it concerns career or marriage or ministry or any number of choices we must make in life? Again, I think the starting point must be Scripture. Does Scripture command or forbid any choice we’re considering? If there is a command in Scripture concerning how we should live, we’re obliged to obey. On the other hand, if the choice we’re considering is forbidden by Scripture, we are not free to pursue that choice. What about a desire or impression that we that we feel led to pursue? Again, it seems to me, if that desire is not sinful or will not incline us to sin, we are free to pursue it.

But, what about a desire to pursue a specific position of service within the church? Maybe we feel called to serve in some specific way. Certainly, it is always good to serve, so sin would not be the issue. Here, the issue becomes one of qualifications. The question we should ask ourselves is, are we qualified, according to Scripture, to hold this desired position of service within the church? A classic passage in this regard would be 1 Timothy 3:1-13:

1The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer [i.e., elder, bishop or pastor], he desires a noble task. 2Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

8Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

When it comes to the desire to pursue an office within the church, the issue becomes one of qualifications. “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” The desire is good, but the desire is not enough: “Therefore an overseer must be…” Ability is not enough, either. For the office of overseer, with the exception of the directive that the aspirant should be “able to teach”, Paul’s list is not primarily about the ability to do the job. Godly character is the major qualification for office, not ability.

Above all, when it comes to discerning God’s particular will for our lives, our choices must be objectively informed and guided by Scripture.

(To be continued…)

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