Knowing God's will and Decisions – Judges 6:14
Open your Bible to Judges 6. Judges 6 is the episode of Gideon which is the favorite story of many people and it's used to teach many different doctrines some which are in the text, some of which are not in the text. This is the fourth cycle of disobedience and deliverance that we see in the book of Judges. We've studied Othniel, we've studied Ehud, we saw the deliverance of Shamgar, we saw the judgeship of Deborah, and Gideon is next. Gideon is not presented to us as a man of particularly stout spiritual stature. We find him in the opening verses hiding away from the enemies of Israel who are described as the Midianites and the Amalekites who are coming in on an annual basis, sweeping through the land, down through the valley of Shephelah, which is a north south access valley that runs through the central part of Israel and it's an extremely productive area and as they come through there they are just stealing all the crops, raiding all the storehouses and basically leaving everybody with hardly enough to live on for the next year, until the next harvest comes in. So that the people have been run from their homes, they're hiding in the hills, Gideon is hiding out hoping to thresh out some wheat, just enough to maintain and keep body and soul together for the coming year.
It's in that context that the angel of Yahweh, that is the preincarnate Jesus Christ, appears to Gideon. This is a time of tremendous depression in the land, economic recession, and the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and begins to instruct him. And in verse 12 which is about where we stopped the last time, "The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, "The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior." Now there is a hint of prophecy there but also a hint of sarcasm. Some people have trouble with the fact that the Lord is sarcastic, but the Lord has a tremendous sense of humor. He has a lot better sense of humor than many Christians do and sometimes He tries to make His points simply through the use of humor. You can really make some great points through humor as opposed to hitting somebody over the head with the truth sometimes and so the Lord is very relaxed and He just kind of chuckles a little bit looking at Gideon hiding out there and calls him a valiant warrior. Of course, that got Gideon's attention, why are You calling me this and what do You want me to do?
So Gideon responds and we see that he has a lack of understanding. He does not have historical perspicacity, he has very little doctrine in his soul and because of that he doesn't understand the dynamics of his situation. I'm pointing this out because too often we want to paint these judges as if they are spiritual giants, and the point that I continue to make through this study is that they are not spiritual giants. In fact, they are products of their culture and the culture in Israel during this time is increasingly influenced by the pagan thinking of the Canaanite culture surrounding them and that's because they failed to obey God's command to annihilate the Canaanites, man, woman and child, the command seems harsh to us but the purpose was in the plan of God to remove the negative influence of the negative concepts of the Canaanites as well as to bring discipline on a nation, a group of people that had been in continuous rebellion against God and had a culture that was steeped deeply in demonism.
They failed to obey God, they compromised and as a result they were continuously plagued and defeated by the thinking…see, the military defeats, the economic defeats were the consequence of spiritual defeats. The ultimate issues in life are always spiritual, they are always theological, they may have various sociological, psychological, economic and political ramifications and there may be those influences as secondary influences but the primary causes in history are always spiritual. How a people responds to the truth of God is the determinative, causative factor in history. Everything else is secondary; everything else is symptomatic as opposed to the root problem. And that is the problem in Israel, is that they are so apostate that even someone like Gideon does not know much about doctrine.
Notice Gideon's response sin verse 13, "Then Gideon said to him, "O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us?" See, he doesn't understand the Torah, he doesn't understand the concepts in Leviticus 26 that explain that if Israel gets into idolatry God is going to take them through five successive stages of divine discipline, so he doesn't understand the five cycles of discipline, he doesn't understand anything about God's covenant relationship with Israel and so he can't understand, he can't properly interpret the events around him. See, doctrine is what gives us the objectivity to properly interpret our historical surroundings. Just as today in our culture we can evaluate what is going on only from an objective framework of doctrine. If you're living in a culture and all you have is relative standards that are part of that culture, you cannot look at that culture objectively. That's why you have, with the rise of relativism and postmodernism in America today you have people coming up with all kinds of solutions and all kinds of analysis as to what the problems are. Only when you can stand above and outside of the culture, from a position of absolutes, so that you have a basis, a basis of evaluation for the culture, can you honestly and accurately look at the culture.
It also applies to our own lives. The only way we can look at our own lives is from an external position of objective absolutes and that's provided for us in the Scripture. The sad thing is that so many of us get so immersed in subjectivity that even when the Word of God honestly reflects who and what we are we don't see it. We think oh, that applies to somebody else. It's very rare to find too many people who want to be objective about themselves because eventually that may call upon us to change. Well, that's what the Christian life is all about; it's changing from a pagan thought form and man operating on his sin nature to someone operating under the filling of the Holy Spirit whose character is transformed into the character of Jesus Christ. That's the whole process of Romans 12:2. But the only way you can understand what's happening around you, what's happening in your life, why things are happening the way they are in our lives, in our marriages, in our families, with our children, is to have that storehouse of doctrine in the soul which gives us the objective evaluation system to evaluate what is going on.
Gideon lacked that which shows that there wasn't much doctrine in his soul. He says, "Why did this happen to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about," sounds very contemporary, doesn't it? People in the modern church today are so enamored with the (quote) "supernatural" that rather than understanding that in history God did certain things 2,000 years ago and 3,000 years ago, that that's just as valid as if it happened right before our eyes today. But what has happened under the influence of cosmic thinking, the paganism if our day, since the enlightenment and the influence of philosophers like Immanuel Kant and Hegel, Kierkegaard, is that we have lost the concept of objectivity and absolutes. Once you do that it destroys history; history is no longer the objective record of what happened, it is simply subjective impressions and so you can change history and interpret it any way you want to for whatever fits the current standard.
So history is no longer important so miracles that happened in history are just somehow pushed off, that happened two thousand years ago, I have to have the same thing happen in my life today or it really isn't valid. Notice the arrogance that underlies that kind of thinking, and yet that is exactly what we see among many Christians today who are constantly seeking for God to touch them or for God to perform some miracle, or for signs and wonders or all of the different movements like that that have come along in the 20th century. It's a rejection of Scripture and it reflects an ignorance of doctrine, it reflects negative volition, it does not reflect positive volition. So often I've heard people say well, we just want a fresh movement of the Holy Spirit in our congregation, we want God to do something special. Well God has done something, He's saved people, He's regenerated those who have trusted in Christ as their Savior and that's the greatest miracle of all time, that God has taken spiritually dead people and has regenerated them and put His Holy Spirit within them. And yet rather than recognizing that they look for something of far less significance because they just don't know any doctrine. So they reject doctrine and look for something that tickles their ears, something that entertains them and something that stimulates them and gets them excited.
So this is what's going on here, Gideon has lost all historical perspective and he's focusing on if God did miracles in the past why doesn't he do some miracle to save us right now. And he goes back and he's crying, he's whining, he says if the Lord brought us out of Egypt but now the Lord has abandoned and given us into the hands of the Midians. He's whining and crying, he's full of self-pity all because he doesn't have any doctrine and he's lost all objectivity. Well, the Lord is gracious to us even in our rebelliousness, even in our stupidity, even in our misunderstanding of doctrine the Lord continues to meet us where we are and that's one of the greatest messages of the entire book of Judges is that these men are recorded as examples of faith in Hebrews 11; they are not great giants, they are not on the level of an Abraham at times or Moses at times or the Apostle Paul or the Apostle John at times. But they are men who are deeply flawed, men who know very little doctrine and men who are in their thinking are overwhelmed with a lot of false pagan concepts. But nevertheless God does not say to us you have to come up to a certain level of doctrinal understanding, theological orthodoxy, you have to get your life straight before I'm going to deal with you, God continuously meets us in grace. He deals with us not on the basis of who and what we are but on the basis of who He is and what Christ did on the cross. And so despite the fact that Gideon is ignorant of doctrine, is operating on subjectivity, self-pity and self-absorption, God still comes to him in grace and gives him a commission in verse 14.
Judges 6:14, "The LORD looked at him and said, 'Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?'" Now what comes up, if you're not familiar with the story, is that Gideon is going to question this command, do you really want me to do this? Eventually he's going to put God to the test and he's going to say I want a little confirmation to make sure this is what you want me to do and I'm going to put a fleece out before the door and in the morning when I wake up if the ground is wet and the fleece is dry then I'll know that this is what you want me to do. And of course the next morning he got up and the ground was wet with dew and the fleece was dry. And he said well, maybe that is what God wants me to do but maybe it isn't so we'll try another test. So he came up with the second test, Lord, I'll put the fleece out and in the morning if the fleece is heavy with due and the ground is dry then I'll know that's what You want me to do. And over the years many people have come along to this episode with Gideon and they have used this as a sermon basis for teaching the will of God, that somehow God leads and directs by putting out the fleece, by testing God. And see, that's not how you know the will of God.
We started last time with the doctrine of the will of God, how we know the will of God, how we can understand the will of God in our own lives and we need to review the first couple of points and continue with that, but the point is the will of God is known by Gideon because God specifically propositionally informed him of what He wanted in Judges 6:14. What was happening with the fleece was Gideon's attempt to avoid the will of God, not to find out the will of God. Gideon doesn't really like what God wants him to do and so he's trying somehow to justify disobedience but God won't let him squirm out from under it.
So we have to realize that fundamentally when we come to the question of how do we know the will of God for our lives, it starts and almost ends with know the Scriptures and do what the Scriptures say to do. For most of us, when we come to the question of the will of God we're in some sort of life crisis, major decision, usually related to something on the order of marriage, career, where to live, major decisions such as buying a home, where to go to college, what kind of a job to do, what do I do now, that sort of thing. And in many of those cases God may or may not have a specific will. Sometimes He does, sometimes He does not and we will look at that as we go through the doctrine.
Let's begin the doctrine of the will of God. Point number one: the term, "will of God" relates to three aspects of divine volition in relation to His creation. Often people think in terms of subjectivity as soon as they hear the term "will of God." They think what is the will of God for my life. This occurs because people tend to be subjective; we're all that way. We have that tendency from arrogance in our sin nature to think in terms of our own experience before we ever think of anything else. However, if we're going to understand the will of God we have to start with objectivity first and that means we start with the will of God in the person of God in relationship to His divine essence. So the first category of the will of God is God's sovereign volition with regard to His creation, where He brings to pass what He wills and what He has decreed. This is God's sovereign volition with regard to His creation where He brings to pass what He wills and what He has decreed.
God's sovereign volition relates to the doctrine of divine decrees. That means that at some time in eternity past when God the Father was planning, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, were in essence planning human history, God decided to give creatures free will, volition. As a result of that, God knew that some would choose disobedience and some would choose obedience and so in terms of God's sovereign will He includes aspects that are contradictory to His moral will. So God's sovereign will also includes what we call God's permissive will. He allows creatures to make bad decisions. Always remember this, that when you make bad decisions or wrong decisions that they will limit your future options. Most of the time, especially those who are young don't realize that, they think well, I'll have time to recover, but there are some decisions you make and you may not think it's a very significant decision at that particular moment and it may not be but little things can happen that have consequences that go on for the rest of your life.
So God's will includes those negative aspects; that's part of His sovereign will. As I said, it's also called His permissive will and it includes the acts of sinful creatures which God permits to take place for a temporary period in order to demonstrate principles about His nature, about His character, about His person, and to illustrate key principles in the drama of human history in the angelic conflict with otherwise would not be known. So that is God's sovereign volition. We could diagram it this way: the circle represents God's sovereign will; in that sovereign will He includes the evil that creatures choose to do as well as the God. The sovereign will of God includes all that actually occurs in history; not what might be, not what could be, not the potential but God's sovereign will includes all that actually occurs in human history. The only way we can know what God's sovereign will is, is after the fact. You can't know ahead of time what God's sovereign will is because God's sovereign includes the wrong decisions, bad decisions, sinful actions of His creatures. So we don't know what God's sovereign will is in relationship to tomorrow. We know what His moral will is, which we'll get to, but we don't know what His sovereign will is, what will actually take place. The only way we can know that is after the fact.
So when we ask the question, how do I know the will of God, we're not talking about the sovereign will of God; this is also called the secret will of God by theologians. You can't know it; it's what's decreed, not what is revealed. So this is the sovereign will of God, the first category of God's volition in relation to His creatures.
The second category is God's moral will. Sometimes this is called God's revealed will. These are the imperatives and prohibitions of Scripture, the "thou shalts" and the "thou shalt nots." God's moral will is sometimes also called His revealed will, what God says for us to do. Sometimes you'll find it called God's desired will, what God desires for us to do. But for our purposes we're just going to call it God's revealed will. And the only way we know God's revealed will is through the Scripture. That's the only place today that there is any form of special revelation.
Remember there are two categories of revelation. There is general revelation, which is the testimony or the witness of God's creation, "the heavens declare the glory of God." But the way the heavens declare the glory of God is through an illustration of His grandeur by what He has created; there are no words, there are no specifics, it's not propositional. That means there's no verbal statements, it's called nonverbal revelation. That's general revelation.
Special revelation is propositional or verbal revelation; it's what God has specifically said. Now some of God's special revelation is included in the Scriptures. The Bible is all special revelation. We refer to it as verbal plenary revelation; every word is inspired. That's what we mean by verbal revelation; every word is breathed out by God. The word "inspiration" comes from 2 Timothy 3:16, the Greek word theopneustos, which means God breathed. The first part of that compound word is from God, the second is wind or breath, pneuma, and so it means the breath of God, God breathes out, He exhales the information in the Scriptures into the mind of the writer of Scripture and the writer of Scripture then inhales that from God and exhales that through the writing of the Scripture. That's one category of special revelation.
But God revealed other things specifically to prophets in the Old Testament and to the apostles, to John on the Isle of Patmos that are not included in the canon. That is also special revelation but that was not deemed necessary by God to be revealed to the Church Age. So God's moral will is simply His revealed will, what He has said to do in the Scriptures. That's the only thing we can truly know for sure, what God says to do; all the things, to pray without ceasing, flee fornication, husbands, love your wives; wives be submissive to your husbands, fathers, raise up your children and admonition of the Lord. You ask the question, what's God's will for my life? It's real clear in those passages what we are to do and what we are to avoid. That is the revealed will of God.
And then the third category of God's volition toward His creatures is God's overriding will, thus God's decreed will includes the existence of sin and evil, but his desired will or His moral will does not include sin or evil. Now we might desire at times to fulfill certain aspects of God's plan. For example, David desired to build a temple, a house for God, a house of worship for God in Jerusalem but God said no, He overrode that desire. He didn't say it was an illegitimate desire or it was a wrong desire, in no way did He condemn David for having that desire or wanting to bring about that plan. But God said I have another plan and I override you. So in terms of any kind of evaluation David would get praise for that desire. But God overrode that. I think another way that you can think about it is there are things in our lives that we would like to do. They are good things, they are in conformity to the Word of God, they have to do with ministry perhaps, they have to do with supporting missionaries or the local church or whatever it might be, and yet God just doesn't give us the time, the talent or the financial resources to do that. I think that as we have that desire as part of our spiritual growth, as part of the production of God the Holy Spirit, then I think that we will be rewarded for that. That's part of the spiritual life but God overrides it and says no, I don't want you to win the lottery and give that money to the Preston City Bible Church because then they won't learn other tests that I have for them to learn, so you'll never win the lottery; that's called the overriding will of God.
So those are the three categories of God's will. We have sovereign will which is His secret will, what He has decreed. We have God's moral will, which is His revealed will. And then we have God's overriding will, when we want to do one thing and God overrides us. He doesn't mess with our volition; He just doesn't allow us to bring something to completion. Another example or a negative example would be Jonah. God gave Jonah a responsibility and said Jonah, I want you to go to Nineveh. And Jonah exercised his volition independent of God and said no, I don't want to go to Nineveh, I am going to go elsewhere, I hate the Assyrians, you know they are the worst people in the world and they've been our enemy for years and I am not going to go there. See, he exercised his volition; God did not reach down and tweak his volition from negative to positive to do what God wanted him to do. God used circumstances to do that but when Jonah eventually made the decision to go to Nineveh he did it out of his own free choice. He decided that was better than slopping around in the belly of a great fish. So God overrode Jonah's negative volition by sending a great fish to give him a little transoceanic voyage. Those are the three categories.
Now what are some key verses to understand these principles? Key verses for the sovereign will of God: Daniel 4:35, "And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He," that is God, "does according to His will" that's His sovereign will, "in the host of heaven" that's the angels, "and among the inhabitants of the earth," that's mankind, "and no one can ward off His hand, or say to Him, 'What hast thou done?'" There's no higher authority over God, He does what He deems best in human history and works all things after the counsel of His will. God's will is overriding. He is in control of His creation therefore we need not fear what man can do to destroy the earth, to destroy creation because we know that Jesus Christ controls history and works all things after the counsel of His will.
Proverbs 21:1, "The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD, He turns it wherever He wishes." This shows us that God influences human history and influences mankind but He does it without violating their volition in relationship to the gospel. See, sometimes we get the idea that God doesn't move our volition in certain directions. The key factors in the angelic conflict are our volition in relationship to salvation and our volition in relationship to the spiritual life. But other than that, especially if we're operating negatively, God can move our volition to do certain things and this is clear from the way the prophets talked. It doesn't mean that it's not our decision but God brings forces to bear, either externally or internally, to move us in certain directions, and He does this even to the king, so that no matter how mighty or how powerful a monarch might be or an executive might be, God still controls human history and brings things to pass that He has decreed.
Revelation 4:1, "After these things I looked, and, behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things." The only way that God can accurately tell what is going to happen in history is if God has control over it. This does not mean that our volition is somehow hindered. In the omniscience of God, God knows all the possible, all the potential, both the actual and the possible. But in His foreknowledge He determines from His omniscience what will actually take place and based on His understanding of the free actions of His creatures. So He determines it not in opposition to but in accord with the free acts of His creatures. This is why one of the first decrees in the counsel of decrees is that God determined that in human history God's sovereignty would work in conjunction with human volition. This is a key principle that we cannot forget. But when God says "I will show you what must take place" God in His sovereignty must have control over human history to bring those things about, otherwise He could not prophecy it with accuracy.
Now one of the interesting and alarming things that has happened in recent years, and I'm talking about developments in the last ten or fifteen years, is that there are a group of evangelical scholars, and I use the word loosely, who are beginning to teach that God really does not know all the knowable, that God really does not control things, that He's constantly reshaping His plan in accord with human volition. Oops, so and so just decided to do this, I'd better modify My plan. Now obviously God, within His plan has flexibility. That's clear from the fact that when God created the animal kingdom in Genesis 1 all the animals were created as herbivores, they were graminivorous, they all ate grass, man was a vegetarian and all the animals ate grass, there were no carnivores, and the serpent walked upright. Yet within the DNA of all of the animal kingdom God included enough flexibility to handle the chaos that was going to come as a result of sin. So that meant when Adam sinned and there was a judgment or curse on the animal kingdom and now you have the development of carnivores, which means that they have their dental structure changed, their gastrointestinal system changed, certain other aspects of their physiological makeup changed in order to move from being a docile tame grass-eating tiger or lion or tyrannosaurus, they became something much more vicious and their bodies changed as a result of that.
Now God includes within His plan flexibility; it's not so rigid that there's not room for flexibility where God can certainly have a plan that flexes within a certain framework of human decision. But God is not up there just constantly reshaping His plan to fit whatever His creatures decide to do. And the sad thing is that in almost every major seminary today, including Dallas Seminary from what I understand from at least one faculty member, that there is at least one, probably three faculty members of Dallas Seminary who are teaching this heretical view on the omniscience of God. The sad things is there's nobody that has the theological guts to fire them. And it's clearly in opposition to their doctrinal statement. But this is the state that we're in today and we all are influenced by postmodernism so men in this camp are saying we don't reject omniscience, we just believe in limited omniscience, and so they play word games in order to avoid the consequences of what they teach. But it's clear that God controls history and works things after the counsel of His degree, yet without negating the free actions, the responsible decisions of His creatures.
Ephesians 1:11, "Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose, who works all things after the counsel of His will." This is the sovereign will of God.
Proverbs 16:33, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD."
Romans 9:19, "You will say to me then, "Why does God still find fault? For who resists His will?" This is always the objection that is raised, well if God controls everything then why do I need to make any decision because He made it for me, and that misunderstands the other part of the issue in human history and that is that God has decreed things but God has also revealed responsible decisions man is to make and He has decreed that His sovereignty works in conjunction with human freedom in human history. So God does not force anybody to make a decision for or against Christ and He doesn't force anybody to make a decision, positive volition towards living the spiritual life. We can't resist His sovereign will; we don't know what that is. But we can and are responsible for carrying out His revealed will in our lives.
Point number three: The third point; the specifics of God's decreed will are secret, unrevealed, and unknown. This is God's sovereign will. The specifics of God's decreed or sovereign will are secret, unrevealed and unknown. They cannot be known until after the fact. Human history, once transpired, is the outworking of God's ultimate decree. So we know that that was God's sovereign will for something to take place. For example, with our recent election episode we know what God's will was after the fact but there were many times there when we did not know what the sovereign will would be. That just tells us that He is working out history, putting leaders in place. Whenever you see things happen, like when the wall came down in Berlin and the Soviet Union broke up and then you see other things happen in the Middle East where kings die, for example in this last year King Hussein of Jordan died. Obviously when things of that magnitude happen God is moving history along, He's moving the major pieces on the chess board, as it were, to align thigns for the eventual fulfillment of prophecy in Daniel and Revelation. So we only know God's decreed will once it transpires.
Point number four: We can only know the specifics of God's revealed or moral; since we can't know the specifics of the decreed will, we can only know the specifics of His revealed or moral will. When you ask the question, what is God's will for my life, the only way you can answer that is by looking at the objective propositions of Scripture, the mandates of Scripture, the teaching of Scripture, the prohibitions and the commands of the New Testament and Old Testament. That's why doctrine has to fill up our souls; only on the basis of having that doctrine completely saturating our soul can we then make decisions on a day to day basis that are in alignment with His will, and that's what's called "wisdom" in Scripture. That's why you have books like Proverbs, that's wisdom literature. And that is not talking about absolutes in Scripture but it's talking about the wise application of principles in every day decisions in life. And what you have is from a storehouse of doctrine, of epignosis in the soul, then you're able from that storehouse of doctrine to make chokmah, that's the Hebrew word for wisdom, you're able to make chokmah decisions and therefore live out your life before God in a manner that glorifies Him, because there are many decisions we make in life that are not necessarily issues that relate to God's moral or revealed will. We make all kinds of decisions during the day that don't involve a moral decision or moral crisis, that don't involve the spiritual issue but we have to make wise decisions as opposed to foolish decisions.
Romans 2:18 states, "And know His will," now if we said earlier that we can't know His decreed will, then if this were talking about His decreed will it would be a meaningless passage, but in Romans 2:18 we are commanded to "know His will," that is what He has revealed, "and approve," this shows a result of that, then by knowing His will we can then "approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the law." Now this is a crucial passage to understand. … [tape turns] "…His will and approve the things that are essential." Now "essential" is not a good versus bad concept. It's not an absolute evil versus an absolute good concept. There are many things in life that we can do that are morally acceptable, that are good. There are all kinds of activities that we can engage in in life that are fun and enjoyable and they're wonderful things. But Scriptures give us commands like Ephesians 5:17 to "redeem the time." We only have X amount of time on the earth. So many hours, so many days are given to us, how are we going to use the time, how are we going to use the money, how are we going to use the spiritual resources that God has given us.
There are some things that we can do, if we spend a lot of time on them they will ultimately distract us from doctrine, they will take our attention away from the ultimate and essential realities of the spiritual life. And as a result of that, over a period of time it can end up having devastating consequences in our life. So we have to know His will, which means we have to make doctrine a priority, which means we have to make attendance in Bible class and listening to tapes a priority in our life; we have to plan it and we have to make sure that we take it in, otherwise one day we wake up and we don't know anything and we won't be able to make wise decisions. Sometimes I have friends that I speak with and they say how come my life is such a mess and basically because you avoided doctrine for years and you made hundreds of tiny bad decisions and they've had a cumulative effect and now you're making immoral decisions and carnal decisions and you're out of fellowship all the time and you're life is a mess, but it started off with a lot of seemingly innocent decisions because instead of knowing the will so that you would focus on priorities and choose non-distractive things, focus on the essentials, then you end up doing things that are less than essential but end up becoming a distraction and a problem. So we have to know His will, that is our priority in the spiritual life, is to know the doctrines of Scripture.
1 Thessalonians 5:18, for example, "In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." So when we ask a question, usually in a crisis, what's God's will for my life, well part of God's will for your life is to be indeed grateful for the crisis. Gratitude is a barometer of your own spiritual maturity. When we whine and complain and get involved in self-pity as Gideon is in the midst of a crisis, then we're operating on our sin nature and we're not focusing on God's plan and God's purposes for our life. And it's only by having a divine perspective that we can have a gratitude in the spiritual life and that only comes from spiritual growth and using the stress busters so that we build spiritual strength in our soul.
1 Thessalonians 4:3, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification, that is that you abstain from sexual immorality." Not just one form but all forms; "for this is the will of God," so it's specifically stated what the will of God is in terms of sexual purity.
2 Corinthians 6:14, "Do not be bound together with unbelievers," so this relates to the will of God in terms of marriage and let me suggest that this further relates to the will of God in terms of dating for those of you who are not married. And for you parents, you need to be drilling this into your kids, that you don't date unbelievers, you don't get involved socially with unbelievers because the first thing you know you're out with some unbeliever you find is attractive, you find that you enjoy being with, they have a great personality, you have a lot of fun together, and all of a sudden spiritual priorities are no longer at the forefront for your life. 1 Corinthians 16 says that bad company corrupts good morals. And what happens is a believer is usually dragged down and the next thing you know you've fallen head over heels in love with some unbeliever and you're walking down the aisle and you are a child of the kingdom and they're a child of darkness and you've got major problems in life because your ultimate realities aren't the same and it will always end up in compromise and in devastation. If you want to guarantee misery for your kids, then you just let them choose their friends without paying attention to whether or not they're saved.
I always thank the Lord, I didn't at the time, but I always thank the Lord that my parents made this a priority when I was growing up and I remember by the time I was about 12 or 13 that if I was going to start getting involved in a close friendship with somebody my parents would always say well, are they a believer? I don't know. Well, you'd better find out. So if you're going to maintain the friendship you have to start witnessing a little bit, find out who's a believer and who's not, and then all the way up through college if I'd come home and say well I had a date Friday night, well who was it, were they a believer. I always knew that was coming. So if you practice that from an early age, parents, then your kids are going to know that when they come home they're going to get drilled with that question so became a priority in my pre-dating investigation because I just didn't want to go through the hassle with my parents if I was going out with somebody who wasn't a believer. It will always end up in tragic consequences.
That is the will of God in relation to marriage, is not to marry an unbeliever. But if you are a believer and you are married to an unbeliever, Paul clearly mentions in 1 Corinthians that you are to stay together unless that unbeliever kicks you out. So just because you wake up one day and you're a believer and you realize you made a mistake, it wasn't God's will for you to marry the unbeliever, well it is God's will for you to stay married to them unless they kick you out. You've just chosen a difficult path; bad decisions limit future options.
Point number five: therefore God's sovereign will includes His revealed will. God's sovereign will includes His revealed will but His revealed will, that is "thou shalt" or "thou shalt not," clearly is not always His decree. Now I've confused you. His sovereign will includes all that is, both good and evil so a subcategory of His sovereign will is His revealed will which is when He says "thou shalt not" but we do, when He says don't we do, and so His sovereign will includes the doing even though His revealed will did not. So we can graph that like this: the sovereign will includes evil, good and all that is. Then there's the revealed will which includes all that has been spoken by the prophets, the Holy Spirit and Scripture. There is an overlap. What happens in that overlap area His sovereign will clearly includes His revealed will. But there are aspects of His revealed will, when God said "thou shalt not lie," and you lie, you are operating in His sovereign will, even though that part of His revealed will was not included in His sovereign will. So there's an overlap; not all of His revealed will is included in His sovereign will. God clearly reveals certain things to Israel to do; they fail to do it, so they were taken out of the line and disciplined so that portion of His revealed will, such as the acceptance of Christ as Messiah at the First Advent, was not included within His sovereign will. Nevertheless, His mandate to accept Jesus as Messiah was still legitimate and real and they're held accountable for disobedience.
Reviewing the point, therefore God's sovereign will includes His revealed will but His revealed will, that is, the "thou shalt's" and the "thou shalt not's" are clearly not always His decree, His sovereign will. When the creature does what God has prohibited, then His revealed will is outside His decreed will.
Point six: Usually we become concerned about the will of God in the midst of some momentous crisis decision. The younger you are the more this involves you. Those of you who have a few great hairs you don't have too many of these crisis decisions left in your life; you've made your mistakes or you've made good decisions, one way or the other, but it's usually the younger ones that have these major crisis come up. I don't get too many questions about the will of God from older people. When you get into your 60s and 70s maybe the question is well, what's the will of God, should I invest in this or that, how should I handle my retirement plan but aside from that you've already made all your major decisions in life.
So usually we become concerned about the will of God in the midst of some momentous decision, however God's will affects every decision we make to some degree. It's not just a matter of big decisions. It's a matter of every decision, we are to bring every single decision under the light of God's Word, whether or not its human viewpoint or divine viewpoint, what does the Scripture say, how does the Scripture impact the way I make decisions in life.
Point number seven; if a man is to do all things to the glory of God then even the most minute decisions demands attention to some degree. I'm not talking about whether or not to wear a blue suit or a gray suit today; you see, if you take this to its logical conclusion you end up in absurdities; I'm not talking about getting up in the morning and saying well, am I going to have bacon and eggs for breakfast this morning and then take a shower or am I going to take a shower and then have bacon and eggs. Those are not the kinds of decisions that we're talking about here. We're talking about more momentous decisions, but everything involves doing something to the glory of God so that means that you need to get up in the morning and say yes, indeed, I do need to take a shower just so that I don't offend anybody today with my body odor, that means I need to take a shower, put on clean clothes when I come to church because I don't want to have a zone around me where nobody sits. We've had that happen once or twice so every now and then I have to give the hygiene speech and make sure people understand that yes indeed, you have to pay attention to hygiene. That glorifies God. It does not glorify God to walk around looking trashy, dirty and smelly. So even the most minute decision involves something ultimately related to the glory of God and we always have to give it our best as believers because it reflects upon God. That is why I firmly believe that in all the decisions we make in relationship to the ministry of the church that we do our best, that we need to emphasize excellence in everything that we do. Now that doesn't mean we're necessarily going to do it at the same level as some other group or some other church. That's not what I mean by excellence but that we can do something that clearly is something we can be proud of and not something where we might hang our heads in a little bit of shame or embarrassment just because it ought to be done or some other church does it and not do it well. So if we can't do it well we ought not do it. I don't think it's God's will for us to do something just for the sake of doing it. I think we ought to do it and do it well or not do it at all.
So to review the point, point seven, if man is to do all things to the glory of God then even the most minute decision demands attention, but not every decision necessarily involves either (a) a moral issue, or (b) a specific will of God in relation to geographical or operational will. So we recognize that clearly a lot of decisions we make aren't moral and they don't involve a specific geographical or operational will factor.
Point eight; since we can only know the specifics of God's revealed or moral will before the fact, questions about the will of God relate only to revealed information. When I say well, is it God's will for me to go to work for this company or that company, go to this college or that college, marry that woman or this woman, whatever it might be, we have to realize God is not going to reveal the answer to us. We can't put out the fleece and expect God to tell us what to do. God has given us Scripture to clearly specify what to do in the moral issues. But on the other issues it has to come from a pool of doctrine that's in our soul that gives us wisdom to make the right decision. It ultimately comes from what's going in the soul related to doctrine. This is the point in Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart," that is every aspect of your thinking, "and do not lean on your own understanding," that is human viewpoint; you have to have a mind that is saturated with divine viewpoint and doctrine. "In all your ways acknowledge Him," this is positive volition here in the believer who is growing and advancing in the spiritual life and the result is given in the last phrase, "and He will make your paths straight."
That means that even if you somehow make a wrong decision, not out of disobedience but just out of some sort of mistake or if you just missed the boat, God straightens things out, so we don't have to worry that if I make a choice to go in one direction and God really wants me to go in another direction that God's going to let me screw things up. God will make your paths straight and He will work things out and shut doors when necessary. Sometimes God allows us to make bad decisions and to go somewhere and He's going to turn it around and use it, Romans 8:28, "All things work together for good to those who love God," so the growing believer is going to still learn something in that situation. The Word of God or the plan of God clearly includes a certain amount of flexibility, but if God does want you in Nineveh and you head for Tarshish, for whatever reason, guess where you're going to end up? You'll still end up in Nineveh. And that's what this is saying, God will make your paths straight.
That's the first eight points, we have about six more to go and we are out of time so we'll have to come back and continue to understand the principles of God's specific will next time.