Wisdom and Decision Making Part 3. Genesis 31
NKJ Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
We have been covering divine guidance, decision making, and the knowing the will of God for two weeks. So far I have developed 9 points. If you don't have those first 9 points, that's okay. You can get the DVD or the tape and you can pick up on them. The ninth point is pretty much what we covered last week. That was examples from the Old Testament and some from the New Testament on how decision making was done. We looked at the example of Gideon as someone who was told what the will of God was when an angel of the Lord appeared to him and gave him specific direction as to what he should do. Then he goes through the episode of putting out the fleece. That wasn't to find out what God wanted him to do. It was to try to trip God up so he could avoid doing what God told him to do.
Then we had the example of Jonah - again, another negative example. Jonah heard what God wanted him to do. God specifically told him to go to Nineveh. He decided that he wanted to exercise his volition to go in the opposite direction. So he took off and headed west instead of east and God prepared a special aquatic taxi for him to bring him back to the right location. He had to put a little pressure on him to get his will in the right direction. You see God doesn't manipulate the will. He just knows where the pressure points are that get us to respond freely to His motivation. Either that or I guess he would have spent the rest of whatever few days he had in the belly of the fish. Then we looked at some examples in Abraham.
We looked at some examples in the New Testament, in Acts 15 specifically, that we will come back to again tonight. That is such a crucial paradigm in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem Council. Here you have the apostles gathered together to make a crucial decision in relationship to whatever mandates were going to be placed upon the Gentiles that were now coming into the church. We lose sight of what a radical thing this was for these people. You have the 12 Jewish apostles now because the Apostle Paul has joined their ranks. You also have Barnabas and a few other church leaders and pastors and they all gather together to deal with this doctrinal issue that they have never had to wrestle with before because up to this point whatever organization of believers that they were familiar with had always just included Jews. God has been working through Jews all through the Old Testament since the call of Abraham. Now there is this new organism that has come into being known as the church. It has been obvious to them since Acts 10 when God revealed the vision to Peter to take the gospel to the gentile Roman centurion Cornelius and to give him the gospel that the gentiles were coming into the church on equal footing with the Jews. That had never happened before. So now these leaders of the church have to make decisions.
"What do we do? Do they need to be circumcised? Do they need to follow any of the Mosaic Law? What requirements should we place upon these Gentiles?"
Paul will later call them in Romans 11 "these wild olive branches".
"What are we going to do with them?"
So they had to make some momentous decisions. You would think that a decision that is that important, that is that crucial is a decision that they go to prayer and wait for God the Holy Spirit to reveal His will to them. But that is not how it works. It is not an overt revelation from the Holy Spirit that takes place in Acts 15. We looked at the way it is described in the Scripture that they argued all day back and forth. They weighed the issues. They talked about what the Scriptures taught in the Old Testament. They talked about what had been revealed to Peter. Peter reviewed the revelation that God had given him in Acts 10 and what had transpired with the household of Cornelius. They go back through all this doctrine and look at the pros and cons and weigh out the different sides and then they came to a conclusion. They expressed that in the verbiage, "It seemed good to us". In other words, once they laid out the parameters of doctrine, then they realized where that was leading them in terms of the kind of decision that they should make. They didn't need to require circumcision. They would have said that circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. They aren't under Abraham so they didn't need to require that. But there are some other problems here. Coming from a Gentile background and a pagan background, they had some other issues that were related to some things in the Noahic Covenant which of course was for all of mankind and so they wanted to make sure that they stayed away from eating meat that was sacrificed to the idols of the temple and that they stayed away from sexual immorality. It was that encouragement. It is a conclusion that is reached from looking at doctrine.
So I pointed out last time that this is what we call a wisdom approach to decision making in contrast to what is often presented as the way to learn God's will - the idea that God always has a specific thing for you to do, a specific place for you to be, and a specific job for you to have that you need to be living in the center of God's will.
That view is diagrammed in a chart. There is a circle that defines the parameters of God's will. If you really want that blessing, that happiness and want to make sure that your decisions don't fall apart on you, then you have to live in the center of God's will. So there is a tremendous amount of soul searching that goes on in this process. If you bought into this view of decision making; then you sit around and spend a lot of time in prayer, contemplating your naval and waiting somehow for God the Holy Spirit to move you in terms of some kind of vibration or some kind of inner peace or however it is expressed. Let me tell you that evangelicals have gotten good in expressing this in ways so it doesn't sound as egregious as it really is because what they are doing is waiting for some kind of special revelation to occur. We live in an age when there is no special revelation. God has been silent since the close of the canon in 95 AD. There is no more special revelation. That is not something that is unique in history. Malachi was the last prophet and that closed out the Old Testament canon. God was silent.
There is a great book by Sir Robert Anderson who wrote a classic work on the coming prince that had to do with Daniel's prophecy in Daniel 9. A little known work that he produced was one called "The Silence of God" in which he showed that once God finished His purpose in providing revelation, He is silent. It focuses primarily on the period of silence from God that occurred from 420-430 BC when Malachi wrote up to that revelation by an angel to Zacharias that his wife Elizabeth was going to have a child. That preceded the announcement to Mary and the announcement to Joseph. That was the first time there was any special revelation for a period of about 400 years. God was silent.
There is a reason that God was silent. He had given the information. It is now the opportunity for believers to utilize that information, to learn that information, to meditate on what God has revealed, and take that and apply that to whatever circumstances, situation, decision making that is present in their lives That is what God wants us to do. It is to know that Word and to take it and extrapolate principles from it to apply to our lives, to think about it and to be engaged intellectually with His revelation so that we can then make decisions. What we want to do in intellectual laziness is let God make the decision for us. Then when things go sour, well it is just God's will. What did you just do? You blamed God for your lousy decision. You don't want to accept the responsibility for making a bad decision if indeed it was a bad decision.
But on the other hand we have to recognize that God often allows us and it is often actively God's will for us to go a certain course and the consequences are not going to be what we would hope them to be. It may be God's will for you to take a certain job. Every door closes. There is no other alternative. You lose your job here or whatever they are going to offer you, you know that it is not what you want to do. Yet another job opens at another company or another job opens up in another city or another state. You know that there is nothing else you can do so you go that direction. You pray about it. You seek counsel from friends. You go through the whole process of sound decision making. It's a good decision. Then a year later you lose your job. You are stuck half way across the country from your family and friends and the church where you grew up. You don't have a job. You see that it was God's plan. That's the test. We often evaluate decisions on the basis of what happens later on.
We think, "Well, if it doesn't work out or there is a problem or things fall apart; then I must have missed God's will. I am not in the center of God's will."
I remember when I was going through the process of making the decision as to whether or not to move back to Houston from Connecticut and come down here and pastor this church. I had gone through process of looking at the clear mandates of Scripture related to various responsibilities. For example, I felt very strongly about my responsibility to be close at hand because of family responsibilities not only for my family but also for my in-laws. They are getting older and have health problems. It is very difficult when you are 2,000 miles away to deal with that. That last year before I came down here I think I made 15 trips to Houston. So you begin to weigh all of these different factors. I am going through the pros and cons and just what is a wise decision here. I discussed it a lot with my good friend Jim Myers and we would go through the pros and cons. I laid out my case.
He said, "What you have to remember is that you have made the decision from the right motivation for the right purpose. You have worked through all the factors and even if you go down there and things don't work out, it's a good decision."
See people often have problems with that because we think of good decisions as one that produces prosperity and greater apparent stability in our lives and those kinds of things rather than the fact that God may be testing our whole decision making process. We passed the test. We made the decision according to all the right canons of decision making. We pray about it. We put it in the Lord's hands. We take counsel from mature believers. We take into account every factor that is possible that we can possibly learn. Then things go sour. It doesn't mean that it's a bad decision. It has put us in the next place God wanted us to be in order to give us a further test. We have to recognize that God is not there to be a magic genie to take the place of our personal decisions and responsibilities so that we can make easy decisions and not have to go through those tests. The decision making process is as much part of the test as anything else. Are we going to learn to sift through the Word, to meditate on the Word, and to pray to be in an attitude of dependence upon God and His direction in our lives? Or, are we going to sit back and hope that somehow God is going to short circuit the thought process and give us the answer? Too often that is what happens. We looked at this in terms of the problem that is often presented in terms of living in the center of God's will. We talked about different kinds of will that theologians talk about. God's sovereign will includes everything that He has decreed that will take place in history. This does not absolve man of human responsibility. We don't know what those decisions are. God's sovereignty clearly includes the free exercise of volition on the part of His creatures. It is not a fatalistic concept that usually comes across in various forms of Calvinism. God's sovereign will is unknowable.
Then we have a second category – God's moral or revealed will. This includes all of the statutes, the mandates, and the prohibitions that we find in Scripture – all of the imperatives that we find in the Bible. This is what God has revealed that we should do. And we have looked at a number of those. That defines the parameter of God's revealed will. Sometimes we are living outside of God's revealed will because we are making bad decisions based on living according to the sin nature. We are in God's sovereign will but we are not in God's moral will. So when we confess our sins and back in fellowship and basing decisions on God's Word then we are living in that overlap zone where we are walking by means of the Spirit and we are in fellowship and applying the Word and giving thanks for all things and praying without ceasing and loving one another as Christ love the church and all those different things that define God's moral will and it is also within God's sovereign will. So we are in that shaded area between the two circles.
So there are three things that focus on what we have covered so far. First of all the specifics of God's decreed will are secret, unrevealed and unknown. God hasn't told us what is going to happen tomorrow. So when you face the decisions tomorrow you are not being affected by God in any way other than God the Holy Spirit is bringing doctrine to bear in our thinking. It is our volition – are we going to apply it or not? Whatever happens is what God has permitted to happen or allowed to a happen. The only way we can know God's decreed will is what happens in history. Once it happens, then we know what God's will was. We can only know the specifics of God's moral or revealed will - what He has told us to do, what He has mandated. So His moral will includes all the precepts, mandates and prohibitions that are in the Scriptures,
Conclusion: Since we can only know the specifics of God's revealed or moral will before the fact questions about the will of God - How do I know God's will? Should I do this? Should I do that? Should I buy this? Should I buy that? Should I marry this person or that person? Should I get married at all or stay single? These questions which we often bring up – how do I know God's will - are really questions related to wisdom because they don't relate to revealed information.
God hasn't told you that you need to you live in Bellaire and not in Spring Branch. Of course there are ways that God tells you things like that. You know when you look at your bank account that it's not God's will for you to live over in Bellaire because you can't afford to pay $500,000 for a lot. That is one of the ways that God channels us along is what He provides for us in terms of jobs and finances. That all has to be factored in to the equation that we use to come to a conclusion in decision making.
The idea that I am presenting here is the idea that we are to live in God's revealed will. That means that we have to know what that revealed will is. We have to know the Old Testament. We have to know the New Testament. The Old Testament is so often overlooked and untaught. But the Old Testament gives us the flesh and blood life stories that illustrate the principles that are so clearly expressed in the New Testament. When you bring the two together, then you can look at the Old Testament and gain a greater understanding of how the doctrine is applied in different circumstances and different situations.
So the circle describes all of the parameters of God's revealed will - the prohibitions, the mandates, the encouragement that the Word has that we should do certain things and not do other things. As long as we are operating inside the circle then we are in the will of God. We have to recognize that many decisions have no right or wrong answer. They don't take us outside the moral or revealed will of God. The decision is determined through wisdom and prayer. What underlies and wraps around the whole decision making process is that promise in Proverbs 3:5-6 that we trust in the Lord with all of our heart and lean not on our own understanding in all our ways acknowledge Him and He will direct our path. As we look at a circumstance, we evaluate all of the pros and cons in decision making. We commit it to the Lord. We trust in the Lord and make a decision based on what appears to be the wise course of action.
Where do we get wisdom? There is the rub. Don't confuse wisdom with common sense. The common sense that you picked up through your life is a hodgepodge of human viewpoint as well as divine viewpoint. It is a mixture of old wives' tales and cultural concepts and your own experience and a little bit of the Word of God thrown in there and popular religious notions. It is not necessarily the same as divine viewpoint wisdom.
The Jews in the Old Testament understood the importance of wisdom. When they divided up the Old Testament canon they split it up into three parts. There was the Torah or the instruction for life. Torah really doesn't mean law in the same sense that we think of law. It includes that, but it is more than that. The word Torah at its root, core meaning has to do with instruction. It is the instruction for life. So you have the Torah, the first five books of Moses that are the foundation of the Old Testament. Then you have another set of books, the prophets – the former prophets and the latter prophets. They deal with the history of Israel and the application – how the law was applied by God in the outworking of history in Israel in terms of their obedience or disobedience in relation to the blessing and cursing promises in the law.
Then you have another set of Old Testament books that were called the writings. These were wisdom books because they addressed very practical areas of life. For example you have two books that deal with the whole issue of undeserved suffering and how you as a believer should respond to undeserved suffering and God's sovereign role in the background in undeserved suffering.
And you have the book of Ruth which deals with the fact that you start off with Naomi. She loses her husband and her two sons. She has cursing in her life. There is judgment. Her life is miserable. It is "woe is me". At the end of the book Ruth her daughter-in-law now has a new husband Boaz who is the kinsman redeemer. It is a picture of redemption. Redemption is what turns cursing into blessing. At the end of the book Naomi is blessed and she has children that are raised up in her husband's name through the concept of levirate marriage with Boaz. You have all of the different generations that come from Ruth and Boaz leading up to David who of course is the great king. The whole of Ruth is about cursing being turned to blessing.
Job deals with what is going on in terms of the angelic conflict and the background behind suffering. We often don't know and will never know why we go through the tests or the crises or the suffering that we go through because our finite minds can't factor all the data. We just have to trust God.
Then you have the Psalms. In many of the psalms you have wisdom psalms that express wisdom in the living of life. Proverbs and Song of Solomon deal with wisdom in love, sex and marriage. Then you have Ecclesiastes which points out the failure of human wisdom.
Then you have Daniel. Daniel is also a wisdom book because it is dealing with how these young Jewish boys who have been trained up as orthodox believers following the Mosaic Law are now living in a pagan culture and they have to learn to apply what they know in a world that is completely encased in paganism. They are being told to eat different kinds of food and do different things. They have to learn to apply doctrine.
Wisdom is not common sense. Wisdom is learning how to take the Word of God and produce something of value, something that is skillful in life, and to produce a life of beauty that glorifies God.
So last time we looked at point 9. The ninth point was these examples of God's specific individual will.
10 Knowing God's will is based on what I call the grace learning spiral. God the Holy Spirit teaches us doctrine. Through the doctrine He guides and leads us. It is never apart from the objective Word of God. It always through the Word of God.
We have this confusion that I am dealing with on Thursday nights. This concept is - is the leading of the Holy Spirit the same as divine guidance? Where we are going to go with that is - no, it's not. It is something different. Yet too often in popular Christianity when we see the words "the leading of the Holy Spirit", we automatically think of divine guidance. There have been many theologians and many Bible teachers who have taken that position. That is why I want to take a lot of time to look at the context that surrounds the two uses of that phrase in Romans 8:14 and Galatians 5:18 to show that neither passage is dealing with divine guidance. It is talking about the whole methodology, the whole mechanic, the whole procedure of living the Christian life on the basis of the supernatural ministry of God the Holy Spirit in our life which is not divine guidance. It has to do with the dynamic of the spiritual life and spiritual growth itself. But what under girds this is understanding this process.
So I have some verses to lay out here and then we will look at a chart.
This circle pictures what is going on in your head, in your mind. The Greeks called it the nous. There are a couple of different words that the Greek texts used to describe what is happening inside the thinking part of the soul. The nous describes the thinking as a whole. At the core of your thinking the Scripture uses the word cardia. Cardia is never used in the Scriptures to talk about that thing that is beating in the middle of your chest. There is not one use in Old Testament or New Testament where it refers to the physical organ that is pumping and circulating blood in our body. It just isn't used that way. Not ever. If it is never used that way physically or literally in the literature, then when it uses the heart as a metaphor for what is going on in your soul you can't use it metaphorically to describe something that there is no example of in the Scripture. If you are going to say that the core issue here has to do with beating and circulation then you have to be able to show that some where that is a concept used in the literature. It is never used literally that way.
So we have to look and say, "What is the analogy here? What does the metaphor mean?"
The metaphor is that heart is used in the Old Testament and New Testament to describe fundamentally the core of the soul, what is at the center of your thinking, or what is driving your thinking. The Scripture talks about the heart as the center. We use it that way all the time. We talk about the heart of the matter. We talk about the hearts of palms. We use it all the time to refer to the center of something – that which is most significant. About 90% of the time in the Old Testament the word lebh in the Hebrew refers to thinking, not emotion. Yet what happens so often today is that people think that heart has to do with emotion. There are a few places where the word heart has to do with volition in choosing. There are a couple of places where it is clear that it does have to do with emotion, but in 90-95% of the uses of cardia in the New Testament and lebh in the Old Testament it refers to the thinking part of the soul. So the heart has to do with what is going on inside your cranium, what is going on inside your head when you are thinking about something and making decisions and applying doctrine in life. We all make hundreds and hundreds of decisions everyday.
How do we get the Word of God into the center of our thinking? The pastor teaches and through the ministry of God the Holy Sprit who fills us with doctrine. When we look at Ephesians 5:18, we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
NKJ Ephesians 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
NKJ Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
That is the operation that He is doing. He is filling us. But what is He filling us with? We compare that to Colossians 3:16 and we realize that the results in Colossians 3:17f and the results in Ephesians 5:19f are the same. So if these two different mandates produce identical results then those two mandates must be related to one another. The mandate in Ephesians 5:18 is to be filled by means of the Spirit.
The mandate of Colossians 3:16 is to let the word of Christ richly dwell within you.
So what are you being filled with? You are being filled with the Word of God, not with more of the Holy Spirit. It is the idea of taking a pitcher that is filled with some content. If you are talking about getting more of the Spirit - that is people take filling of the Sprit – you are going to get more of the Spirit. But see you are already indwelt with the Spirit. You are not going to get any more of the Spirit. You already have all you are going to get. But now He is going to operationally fill you up with something. So you can be filled by means of the pitcher or you can be filled with water. Water would be content. The way the Greek expresses the content of the filling is that it usually uses a genitive. We don't have a genitive in Ephesians 5:18; we have a dative. Dative describes what you are using to fill something up with. So when you get up in the morning, you fill your coffee cup by means of the coffee pot. The coffee pot is the means getting the coffee into your cup so you can get it into body so you can wake up. It is means. It is the instrument.
God uses the Holy Spirit to fill us up with the Word. We can't learn the Word apart from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn't operate apart from His Word. They work in tandem. You can't separate them. You don't have one without the other. If you learn the Word without the Holy Spirit, you just have a lot of academic knowledge. There are a lot of people that have a lot of academic knowledge about the Bible and they aren't even saved. There is a ten volume work that is often referenced in Greek studies edited by Kittle and it's called "The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament". I would say that probably 70 % of the Greek scholars that wrote articles in there are not saved. They are 19th century and early 20th century classic liberals. They don't believe that Christ died as a substitute for their sins. They don't believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but this is their field. In Europe it is a respected occupation and profession to be a biblical scholar. So a lot of people go into the field of biblical scholarship and they die without knowing anything about the grace of God. But, they do some helpful work in places, but you have to be careful. So the Holy Spirit fills us up with His Word.
As we listen to the pastor we have to exercise our volition just to be there. That has to be a priority. Everyday we have to make those decisions. Is the Word of God going to be a priority today? Am I going to remind myself that I am a child of God in the family of God and I need to think like God? So we have to exercise our volition. As we do that, we learn the Word. It becomes first of all academic knowledge.
Everything is academic knowledge initially. You learned algebra. You learned geometry. You learned all of these concepts as academic information. Suddenly one day you had to balance a checkbook and you realized that all of that math had a practical value. Or you got into mechanical drawing when you were in junior high or high school. You suddenly realized that geometry had some practical application. Now all of a sudden it's not just academic anymore. It had real meaning and significance. That's what happens in the process of learning.
We learned things first as academic knowledge, then when we believe it under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit.
We say, "It's not just that I can regurgitate what the pastor said. I really understand and believe."
You can't believe what you don't understand. There are too many Christians running around who picked up all kinds of phrases and verbiage and jargon from various pastors of all stripes and kinds and they think they know something about the Bible because they use this jargon. That doesn't mean that they understand anything. It just means that they managed to learn the vocabulary.
But once you can express things in your own words, it's clear that you understand what was said. There are different levels of understanding. Every time I go back and study some doctrine that I have studied for years, certain things that I thought I understood… It is sort of like a light bulb goes off and there is another level of understanding. So this is progressive. This is how learning takes place. We believe it.
"This is the Word of God. I believe it."
God the Holy Spirit transfers it into our thought as epignosis [e)pignwsij]. EPI [e)pi] is an intensifier. It is a preposition in Greek. It is set as a prefix on the word gnosis to indicate it is a full knowledge. This is placed in the storehouse of the core of our thinking. So now it becomes usable, spiritual knowledge. The more we learn the more there is this storehouse of doctrine that creates a matrix of knowledge and doctrine that we can draw upon in various different circumstances. The more you learn; the more you know; the larger the storehouse. Then when you face various crisis all of a sudden God the Holy Spirit starts pulling these different things out that are stored there. You are able to make a decision, an application. That is where the concept of the Hebrew word chokmah meaning wisdom or skill comes into play. It has to do with the application of this knowledge that you have. Many of us have gone through this.
I don't know about you, but my mother had me taking piano lessons when I was 8 years old. I took piano lessons for about 8 years. I could sit down and read music and play the piano. I could play pretty well. But there are other people who have much more ability and they would take those foundational principles of music and they could really play. What they were producing was something that had tremendous beauty, skill and artistry because their level of application went beyond mine. I operated on academic knowledge and a lot of practice. Practice is key though before you can develop any kind of wisdom. You have to practice those spiritual skills and application. As you practice it more and more and it becomes second nature to you in any field of life, then eventually you are proficient at it. Then you get to the point that you can do something well and produce something of value and something of artistry. That is what application is when it comes to wisdom. The more you know in that storehouse of epignosis doctrine in your soul; then when you face issues, crisis, challenges in life then that is what you do.
In light of that, I had an email question this last week related to the application of these things that I have been teaching. Here is the question - when faced with a choice that has no clear biblical reference (In other words there is not a "thou shalt" or "thou shalt not" related to it. For example, which house should I buy? You have found two or three houses. They are all in your price range. You can get a loan. They are all acceptable. Now you have a decision to make. How do I decide which one I should buy?) will God's will be made clear by the subsequent elimination of all the wrong options. No. God is not going to make the decisions for you.
Now there might be if He has a specific place for you to live, then He will eliminate those other options. They will fall through.
You'll make an offer and the seller says, "No way. I have got another offer."
You may be 5 minutes too late with your offer. They have already accepted another offer. Something like that will happen. We have all experienced something like that. If God intervenes then you know that He is clearly channeling you in a certain direction.
If not the test is "Okay. I have to make a responsible decision. I have to weigh these options."
This is what you do. We are all familiar with this. When we think about how we are going to invest money for retirement. What stocks are we going to buy? We go in and we do all of our homework. What mutual fund should we put it in? The way we go about it is not to sit in the closet and pray and meditate and wait for liver quiver to take place. We have to investigate all of the options and learn as much as we can so that we make a wise and informed decision. What envelops the whole decision making process is that we commit it to the Lord in prayer and we trust the Lord and we do the best we can and make a decision and go forward trusting that God will direct our paths in the process of decision making.
So there are many areas of life where God may not have a specific will. Whether you live in Bellaire, in Memorial, in River Oaks, in Katy, in Sugar Land, or in Jersey Village - as long as the decision that you are making is done on the basis of sound responsible decision making related to finances it is a good decision.
You may decide, "I could live in Bellaire, but I am going to live out in Sugar Land and I want to use the extra money to support the missions, to support a missionary, to support Chafer Seminary, or to support the church."
"I want to live in this area because it is closer to church and therefore I am not going to have the problem of traffic and all of these other things."
Different factors will enter in. That is not saying that it is wrong to live 30 minutes away instead of 5 minutes away or that it is wrong to utilize the financial resources that God has given to put into a house that is nicer or larger.
You could say, "It is more than I need but I can use the extra space so that when missionaries come in or we have a pastor's conference I would have a place to put people up. I could use this for hospitality."
You make the decision based on the doctrine in your soul, then commit it to the Lord and go forward. There may not be any center of God's will in that issue. There is no specific thing there. If there is, then God will close the doors. If there's not then go ahead and make the best decision based on the information that you have in your soul.
The basic issue that under girds all of this is that we need to utilize the doctrine that God has provided for us.
NKJ Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
More and more I realize what a central verse this is for everything in the Christian life. It doesn't say to transform your emotions. It says to transform you mind. You have to think about it.
I started developing an analogy a few weeks ago about culture. As I thought more about this, I realized that we have shifted cultures. The instant you were saved you shifted your culture. You were living. You were born and you have been living in a human viewpoint pagan culture. You have been born again into the royal family of God and you have been transported into an eternal divine viewpoint culture. What Paul keeps telling people is that you keep living like you are still in the old culture and you have to learn a whole new set of norms and standards and values and thinking within the framework of this new culture. It would be as if you were suddenly transported from Houston, Texas and dropped down in a village of 300 people in some northwestern province of China and you weren't ever going to see another American or English speaking person again for the rest of your life. You would have to learn a whole new language, all new customs, all new sets of etiquette. You would have to learn different skills for work – everything. The better and more time you gave to it and the more you concentrated on it, the better it would be.
If you sat there and said, "You know I am living over here in some backwater village in China but I want to do things like I did back in America.", what is going to happen? You will have all kinds of turmoil in your life. That is what happens with Christians. We resist learning to think in terms of this new divine viewpoint culture. It is a major overhaul of everything in our lives. That is what Romans 12:2 is talking about. So the key issue is to have our thinking renewed. That happens according to a process outlined in the grace learning spiral.
NKJ Ephesians 5:17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
What is the next verse?
NKJ Ephesians 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
So that is how we understand the will of the Lord - through the study of the Word and the right relationship to the Holy Spirit. He makes it clear to us and we go through that process.
NKJ Ephesians 6:6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,
This is talking about the work ethic of believers. Even if you are working for some no good rotten irresponsible boss employer who is operating on some form of paganism and even though there is a lot of conflict and even though he may not be as competent as you are, we don't ultimately work for whoever that human boss is. Whatever you are doing, you are working for the Lord in that job. This gives you a doctrine of labor that you can apply to whatever your job or career or profession is. You ultimately think of going to work everyday, not for yourself; but you're serving the Lord in that particular role. That is God's will for your life.
NKJ Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
NKJ Proverbs 3:6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
It is talking not about generating some sort of emotion here. It is talking about trusting believing that God is involved in my life and in my decision making so that He is working covertly. Come back to the analogy I used a couple of weeks ago. It is like the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life and my life is analogous to a program on a computer that is running in the background. You have got this running in the background. It is doing certain things. For example like some of the virus protection devices running in the background and constantly checking things. You don't see it. You don't observe it. You are doing other things, but it's there in the background always guarding and protecting. That is what the Holy Spirit is doing. It is not an overt thing so you are talking to the Holy Spirit. You are not waiting for the Holy Spirit to give you vibrations or move you in a particular direction. You know that if you are in right relation to the Holy Spirit that Holy Spirit program is running in the background and is taking care of things in an indirect manner.
If you decide to go to Dallas instead of Denver, and God wants you to go to Denver He will straighten that path out. Dallas will disappear and Denver will be the only option.
NKJ Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.
This is direct revelation. It is through the Word of God. All of that relates the importance of the process of the grace learning spiral where doctrine becomes the foundation in the soul.
11. As we learn doctrine, the Holy Spirit operates in this covert manner like a program on a computer running in the background. He does two things. The first is retention. He is the one who is taking that doctrine and storing it in your soul. You may forget things consciously. But then something comes up and you hit some situation all of a sudden some verse or some principle pops up into your head. That is the Holy Sprit who is bringing that up so that you are reminded of principles to make a decision. He brings it to your thinking in recall. It is you decision to apply doctrine here or just do things your own way. The Holy Spirit the divine retrieval agent who constantly reminds us of the truth and application.
12. Along with specific doctrine for specific situation, there is also the accumulation of doctrine in the soul which produces skill as a result of practice. It is practice, practice, practice. Practice doesn't make perfect though. Perfect practice makes perfect. If you practice it wrong all the time, you will do it wrong. What do we practice? We practice the basic spiritual skills. When we sin we keep short accounts. We confess our sin to the Lord. We walk by means of the Holy Sprit tantamount to abiding in Christ and living in the Spirit. We will tie all of these things together in our series we are doing on Thursday nights. We live according to the Spirit. We walk by the Spirit. That is the second spiritual skill or problem solving device. Then we have the faith rest drill where we take the promises of God and mix them with faith in our soul and apply those to specific situations. Then there is grace orientation and doctrinal orientation, having a personal sense of our eternal destiny, personal love for God, unconditional love for all mankind, occupation with Christ and personal happiness. We have studied them many times and will study them many more times. Those are the basic skills. You practice them over and over and over again. In the military you practice certain skills over and over again. In music you play those techniques over and over again. You hate them; you resist it. It is mind numbing. Then when all of a sudden you need to perform in that area; you can do it because you practice, practice, practice. As you do it the right way then it produces skill. God the Holy Spirit is working in the background building strength in your soul. That is referred to as edification in the Bible.
It is the process of building something in your life that strengthens your soul. So the process is studying the Word and making it a priority. The God the Holy Spirit takes over from there. It's that stored doctrine that gives us the discernment to recognize when some decisions may involve a distinct geographical will from God and when they don't. It is discernment. We are going to hit this in the paragraph we are dealing with in Hebrews 5:11-15 on Thursday nights. What has happened there is that due to spiritual regression those believers that the writer of Hebrews is addressing have had their sense dulled. They have to go back to basics because they haven't been practicing the basics. So they no longer have the ability to exercise discernment. It is specifically stated in that passage. So what has to happen? They have to go back through the process and retrain themselves in terms of the basics of the spiritual life.
So we talked about these terms – geographical will, operational will, God's permissive will. We have seen examples of Jonah in Nineveh and Paul in Rome. I have one other example that I want to bring up. That is going to be with one of the strangest episodes in the Old Testament. We will stop a little early tonight because I can't get started in Balaam when we have so much to cover in three chapters in Numbers. We will cover the will of God in Balaam and see examples of Gods revealed will, God's operational will, and God's overriding will. All of these are evident in this really bizarre episode with Balaam. That is the guy with the talking ass in Numbers.