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1 Samuel 23:1-29 by Robert Dean
How can we know if we are doing the will of God? Listen to this lesson to hear nine principles that can help us make biblical decisions. Learn about the different kinds of God’s will and how each impacts us. See that since the canon of Scripture was completed, God no longer gives direct revelation to people as He once did. As you contemplate decisions in your life, make choices from the standpoint of wisdom, which is the skillful application of the Word of God to your circumstances.
Series:1st and 2nd Samuel (2015)
Duration:55 mins 4 secs

Divine Guidance–Part 2
1 Samuel 23:1–29
Samuel Lesson #088
April 18, 2017
www.deanbibleministries.org

Opening Prayer

“Father, we are thankful that we have this time to come together, to study Your Word, to come to understand what You have revealed to us to better think in terms of how we serve You and how we make decisions in life in light of what You have revealed to us.

Father, we pray that as we study and reflect and think about Your will for our lives that God the Holy Spirit would help us to understand the truth of Scripture and to apply them, and help us to be able apply them in the decisions we make on a daily basis. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”

Slide 2

We have been studying in 1 Samuel, and in 1 Samuel 23 there are a number of circumstances where David, being pursued by Saul, seeks God’s guidance as to how to handle the rumors that he has heard about Philistine incursions and attacks on the cities.

This is during a time of special revelation when God spoke either directly to David—because remember, David is also a prophet even though his office is king; as well as through the high priest with the high priestly ephod, and the Urim and the Thummim, through which God communicates directly.

Passages from the Old Testament where there is direct revelation dealing with the will of God have often confused people who do not make the important distinctions between the Old Testament period and the dispensation of the Law, the Age of Israel versus the Church Age in the New Testament, the time of a completed revelation in the Canon of Scripture.

There is a lot of misunderstanding as I pointed out last time and I summarized some basic things we need to know about the will of God and some basic things that are misconceptions about the will of God.

Slide 3

Briefly summarized:

You’ve heard it said that God has a perfect will for every decision that we make in life. “Every” is the key word there. Every single decision is either one that’s in the center of God’s will or not. That’s the idea that is often presented.

We have to live in the “center” of God’s will and God reveals to us precisely what that will is in every decision. I pointed out last time that if you follow that to its logical conclusion, then every day we make thousands of decisions. I know from things I have heard that teaching school is one of the most stressful positions because a schoolteacher has to make about 15,000 decisions a day whereas most people make about 5,000. Some people make less than that, and every decision is supposed to be a stress producer. If every decision has to be made in light of “God has one perfect decision,” then that makes decision making extremely rugged.

How do we go about decision making and the will of God? You’ve heard it said perhaps that one of the keys to discerning this will is a state of inner peace or tranquility when that decision is made. As I pointed out, that is a problem which comes from a mystical viewpoint of Christianity.

Slide 4

My point is that it is not biblical. It’s a form of mysticism and it’s very confusing and distressing for most believers.

Slide 5

We’re looking at the Doctrine of the Will of God. First of all, we have to define terms.

Slide 6

The term “will of God” is used a lot of different ways. Sometimes we will see an event that occurs and we’ll say, “Well, that’s God’s will.” Subtext: “it’s God’s fault.” How many times do we hear that? Or we’ve done that ourselves? “Well it’s God’s will,” and we’re really just blaming God for the situation.

Other times we’re just using it in a dismissive way, rather than thinking about personal responsibility or accountability. Other times we may be talking about the will of God and we’re seriously looking for guidance from the Scripture as to how to make a wise decision.

The term will of God is defined by theologians in basically three ways. Now there are a lot of different terms that are used to describe each of these so I’m going to pick three ways that I want to talk about this in their subcategories that I’ll mention that are synonyms.

The term “will of God” describes three aspects of divine volition, or God’s will in relation to His creation. God’s will is expressed towards what He desires His creatures to do.

Slide 7

The first category is called God’s sovereign will. God’s sovereign will is directed towards all of His creation, both sentient and not, and it describes the idea that He brings to pass that which He wills to take place, and/or what He has decreed.

That’s how it is usually expressed. Sometimes this is also called the decretive will of God from the word “decrees.” It’s called the sovereign will of God. It’s called the secret will of God, emphasizing the fact that we don’t know what it is.

God has in His sovereign will that which He will allow or determine to take place, depending on how you emphasize things, tomorrow. We don’t know what they are. We will not know what He allows to transpire tomorrow until it happens. It’s secret, we can’t know it, we’ll never know it.

We can’t say “I need to know what God wants me to do tomorrow” in terms of His sovereign will, because it’s never revealed. When we say, “What’s God’s will for me tomorrow?” we can’t be referring to the sovereign will of God.

Sometimes we refer to this as the permissive will of God because within His sovereign will He allows His creatures to make sinful, immoral, wicked, evil, foolish decisions. Permissive will is within what He allows to take place. That is a part of the definition, part of understanding the sovereign will.

The concept of sovereign will includes His permissive will and that includes the acts of sinful creatures which God allows to take place during a temporary period of time in order to demonstrate the principles of His will and His nature and His grace throughout human history.

The permissive will of God means that God allows human beings to make decisions that are wrong and to experience the consequences of their own failures and bad decisions.

God does not coerce human volition to some degree. Now, there are times I think that God creates, as it were, a situation where we’re boxed in and can’t make any other decision and it becomes obvious that that’s the direction that God takes us.

But that doesn’t involve our eternal destiny decisions related to salvation or the spiritual life. So, God’s sovereign will is a hidden secret will of God that is only known in terms of what happened. We only know it after the fact.

Slide 8

The second category is God’s moral will. Sometimes this is also called His revealed will because He has expressed this through special revelation of the Word of God. It’s not expressed through general revelation. It’s only expressed through special revelation.

These are the commands to do, or not to do, thou shalt not, or thou shalt. Those are the commands that express the moral will of God. I will refer to this as either God’s revealed will or God’s moral will. Sometimes it’s referred to as God’s directive will because He directs us specifically through the commands of Scripture.

Slide 9

Another term that is sometimes used is the idea of God having specific will, that God does have specific will in certain situations. Those are expressed in Scripture. God has a functional or operational will or geographical will. Those are some other terms, but these are all, in the Church Age, expressed through special revelation.

God tells us. God’s not playing a shell game with us. He’s not playing hide and seek with His will. God wants us to do what He wants us to do. Whenever God had specific missions in mind for anyone, either in the Old Testament or New Testament, God specifically told them what to do.

There are times, as we’ll see, that people said, “I’m not going to do it.” We can think of Gideon. We can think of Jonah, and probably think of some other people. Balaam would be another example where God was disobeyed.

Slide 10

In Judges 6:14–16, we have an example of this. The Lord said to Gideon:

“Then the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?’ ”

What is God’s will for Gideon? Go deliver your people from the Midianites. It’s the clear, specific, revealed will and Gideon sort of balked at this as we can see his resistance in Judges 6:15, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’ ”

Judges 6:16, “And the Lord said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.’ ”

That is a specific statement of God’s will. It’s revealed, this is what I want you to do.

As I pointed out last time, later in the chapter when it gets right down to the situation were Gideon’s going to have to go into battle, he tried to avoid God’s will. That’s how I understand that. He put out the fleece and he prayed, “God if this is what you really, really, want me to do, I want the fleece to be wet in the morning with the morning dew and everything else dry.”

Gideon thought that would be impossible, and so he would avoid what God told him specifically to do. It is very clear what God wants him to do here, and later on in the chapter. Then when God did that, the next morning he got up and the fleece was wet, everything around it was dry, Gideon said “Well, maybe God really didn’t get the point, maybe this was an accident.” So he said, “Let’s do this again God and if You really want me to defeat the Midianites, I want the fleece to be dry and the ground surrounding it to be wet.”

So the next morning that happened and it was pretty clear that Gideon wasn’t going to be able to come up with something that was too hard for God. God would make it clear to him. It was already clear to him.

That’s a problem with a lot of questions that believers ask. We’ve all done this. I want to know what God wants me to do, but we really don’t. It’s clear in Scripture what the Lord wants us to do in many, many, cases. We just want to do something different.

Slide 11

We have another example of the will of God in Ezekiel 4:1, “You also, son of man, take a clay tablet and lay it before you, and portray on it a city, Jerusalem.”

God is speaking to Ezekiel and He wants him to do something, to create a visual aid that is going to predict what’s going to happen to Jerusalem. It is a specific revelation, exactly what He wants Ezekiel to do.

These are examples where God has specific things in mind that He wants people to do.

Slide 12

Another example, this one from the New Testament in Acts 10. This is when Peter is having his time with the Lord, and he’s given a vision. There’s this big tablecloth that comes down from Heaven and there are all these unclean animals, unclean food, that’s laid out. And God says to him, take and eat.

And kosher Peter says, “Not at all. I’m not going to touch it.” He’s very self-righteous at that point, and God is directing him to do this. But he hasn’t quite processed this yet because in the Law he’s been told not to eat these things.

But he hasn’t processed the dispensational shift that has occurred: that Christ on the Cross is the end of the Law. Now God is making it clear to him that that which was unclean under the Mosaic Law has now been made clean, because these were ritual distinctions, not distinctions related to an inherent problem.

Just as a side note, that passage is one that is really important to understand that this didn’t have anything to do with diet. Every decade somebody comes out with a “what would Jesus eat” type of diet. And they think that if you eat according to the Mosaic Law, you’re going to be healthier.

Well, in some cases that might be true, it may not be true, but that had nothing to do with why God gave the Mosaic Law. Between the time of the giving of the Mosaic Law, don’t eat treif—treif is a word for non-kosher food—don’t eat treif, don’t eat shellfish because they’re scavengers, don’t eat pork because of what pigs eat and all this, people say, oh, this had to do with health and they couldn’t cook it right. That might apply to pork.

Well, wait a minute. In Acts 10 God didn’t say, “okay, now it’s clean because I taught you how to properly prepare it to cook it.” God did not say that. The point is that the Cross is what makes the difference. Not a new understanding of how to cook certain kinds of food, it had absolutely nothing to do with that. It’s all spiritual. It’s all training aids for teaching certain spiritual truths.

What happens in Acts 10:3 is that an angel appears to Cornelius who has been praying about the ninth hour and he sees a vision, an angel ...

Acts 10:4, “And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, ‘What is it Lord?’ So he said to him ‘Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.

Acts 10:5–6, “ ‘Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.’ ”

You know, it’s interesting, I’ll read a passage like that and suddenly I see something new. Here’s direction from God. This is God’s will for Cornelius’s life at this point; send somebody to go get Peter.

I just talked about the background. Peter sees the vision of determining what’s clean and what’s unclean, and he’s making this case that I’m not going to eat the unclean Lord, I won’t touch it. Who is he living with?

He is living with Simon the tanner. A tanner is somebody who’s working with dead animal skins. A tanner would be almost perpetually ritually unclean. Living in his house would render you ritually unclean.

We almost see a level of hypocrisy here, or confusion, on the part of Peter, that he is living in the home that’s always got this cloud hanging over it because of what the tanner does, he’s ritually unclean.

And yet, when God says he can eat the treif, Peter won’t eat the treif. Little things like that pop out of the text for you.

That that has to do with the fact that God does have specific things at specific times for people, but it’s always given as a result of direct special revelation.

Slide 13

The fourth category is God’s overriding will, and this to me is very comforting. I’ve prayed many, many times in my life as I’ve had important decisions to make. Lord, don’t let me make a foolish or stupid decision here. I don’t want to regret this.

Sometimes we make decisions that are contrary to God’s sovereign will. This happened with Jonah. God’s sovereign and directive revealed will was for Jonah to go to Nineveh.

It was His revealed will and because Joan eventually made it to Nineveh, we know that it was God’s sovereign will. But Jonah says I’m not going to do it. He is going to hop a ship and he’s going to go to Tarshish, which is in the opposite direction.

It’s like God is coming to you saying I want you to go take the gospel to Washington, D.C. and you said no I’m not going to do it and you hopped on an airplane to go to Los Angeles. He just went completely in the opposite direction. But God overrode his decision so that eventually Jonah ends up right where God wants him to be.

That’s the way it is with us. If God has a specific geographical will or some other specific thing for us to do, then He is going to override whatever decisions we make. We can’t miss it.

Slide 14

If we’re believers and we’re trusting in the Lord, Proverbs 3:5–6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”  

If you’re walking with the Lord by faith, trusting in Him, then you really focus, you want to make the right decision. God is going to direct your paths. He may not do it overtly. What we want is something overt. I want a sign.

I want God to tell me to go to this college or that college. Last lesson I used an example of somebody who God wanted them to go to Texas A&M and all the Aggies probably said “gig ’em” because as far as they’re concerned, that would be the only place God would ever want anybody to go.

And they were going to go to University of Texas, and God said no, and He wouldn’t ever let that happen. So all the Aggies were happy, but it would happen the other way, too.

If God wanted you to go to University of Texas and you said, “No, I’m going to go to A&M.” God is going to prevent you from ever bringing that decision to fruition. He’s going to work out the details so you end up at University of Texas.

God is going to direct our paths covertly so that even if we start off making the wrong decisions, or are desiring to go in the wrong direction, God is eventually going to shut things down and we’re going to end up doing exactly what God wants us to do. He is going to bring that about.

Slide 15

Let me put this diagram up here for understanding God’s sovereign will and His moral or revealed will. We have two overlapping circles: God’s sovereign will on the left. That circle describes God’s sovereign will. All the things God has determined will happen or He will allow to happen in human history.

The circle on the right is God’s moral and revealed will. These are all the thou shalt and thou shalt nots that are in Scripture.

They will overlap because part of God’s sovereign will allow people to do that which God has revealed for them to do; that is the overlap. But what happens in human history is what’s in the left circle, and what God requires of us is over in the right circle.

When we asked the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” We can’t determine His sovereign will, so we have to focus on the revealed will. What has God revealed that I should do?

And if I am doing what God says to do, and avoiding that which God prohibits, then God is going to direct my paths. It will bring about what God desires for me to do.

Slide 16

In this chart the circle here is that moral/revealed will of God that is specifically stated in Scripture. The boundary line is defined by all of the mandates, the imperatives, and the prohibitions that are in Scripture. The thou shalts and the thou shalt nots. That’s how we know God’s will, we have to know what God’s Word says.

Things like, “Husbands, love your wives”. Things like, “Pray without ceasing”, “Walk by the Spirit”, and “Give thanks for all things”. That’s the parameter. So if we’re not grateful, then we are outside of the revealed will of God.

If husbands aren’t loving their wives, they are outside the revealed will of God. If we are not praying without ceasing, if we’re not developing our prayer life, then we’re outside that line, we’re not living in God’s will. And that is defined by God’s revelation.

It is the objective Word of God that gives us the answer to the question, how do I know God’s will? Anything else is asking God for some kind of special revelation, and we believe that God’s special revelation ceased at the end of the 1st century.

A lot of people balk at that idea and say, “Well, can’t God still reveal His will to us?” Yes, He can. But that’s not the question. The question is, ”Does the Bible reveal that God has ceased revelation, and further, why would He do that?”

Yes, the Bible clearly teaches in 1 Corinthians 13:8–13, that God is going to cease the revelatory gifts. Why would He do that? Once we have a complete Canon, the issue is, “Are we willing to trust it?”

If we are still going to rely on God continuing to give us the specific direction then we are not trusting what is revealed to us, and that’s one of the big tests in the Church Age—to trust what God has said.

Even in the Old Testament, even in the period when God was still giving special revelation, how many people did God reveal Himself to on a day-to-day basis? Not many, not many.

It was pretty much restricted to those who had specific roles and responsibilities in leading. Especially during the period from the Age of Israel from Abraham to the Cross, specifically in terms of the prophets, the priests, the kings, the leaders of Israel.

It wasn’t the everyday person that had the access to this kind of special revelation because they had a partial or incomplete revelation in the Old Testament that was sufficient for giving them guidance. We have to understand those dispensational distinctions in relation to God’s revelation.

All that defines our terms: God sovereign will, God’s moral will, what we do with the concepts like operational, geographic, the specificity of God’s will. And then God’s overriding will.

Slide 17

The second point is to go over some specific verses on God’s sovereign will. God rules, that’s what sovereignty means. He rules from the heavens because He is the Creator. This takes us back to understanding Genesis 1 and 2, that God is the Creator and there’s a distinction between Creator and creature and as Creator, God makes the rules.

A lot of people don’t like that because after the fall they are antagonistic to God, Romans 1:18–23, they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.

But God rules, He determines what is.

Slide 18

Daniel 4:35, “and all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth;”

Who are the host of Heaven? The term host is an antiquated English word that means army. In the Hebrew it’s Sabaoth, which means the armies of Heaven—that’s the angels, all of the angels.

He does according to His will among the angels in Heaven. That would include both the fallen as well as the elect angels, and among the inhabitants of the earth, not making a distinction between believer and unbeliever,

“And no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast thou done?’ ”

He’s not accountable to anybody, that’s the sovereign will of God.

Slide 19

Proverbs 21:1 shows that God directs the thinking of people including leaders. That doesn’t mean He makes their decisions for them. But He guides in a covert way.

Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD.”

That would be any king or ruler or president or prime minister or mayor or someone in leadership, that God directs them. God rules from the heavens as to what He is going to bring about in history.

“He turns it wherever He wishes.”

This is not about salvation or spiritual growth. This is unrelated to that. This is related to other factors in terms of human history

Slide 20

Revelation 4:1, the beginning of the prophetic section of Revelation, from Revelation 4 to the midpoint of Revelation 22 we have a prophetic section that is yet to be fulfilled. It’s all in the future.

John writes that after he’s been given the visions of the second and third chapters he says,

Revelation 4:1, “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard,—this would be an angelic voice—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.’ ”

Notice the language there, what must take place, the sovereign will of God. This is what will take place in the future. Some things have been revealed to us in terms of God’s sovereign will.

Slide 21

Ephesians 1:11 is another key passage.

“Also we have we gave obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

Let’s start at the end—“after the counsel of His will.”

His will is the ultimate determiner in God’s sovereignty. It’s His will. He works all things after the counsel of His will, which means He has a sovereign plan, and He’s going to bring to fruition His plan. This isn’t talking about salvation.

The word predestination is used there, and a lot of people think that because of the influence of Calvin, you are either predestined to Heaven or you are predestined to Hell. That’s not how it’s used.

Romans 8:28–30, “We are predestined to conform to the image of His Son.”

The concept of predestination is to create a destiny or a goal ahead of time. What is God’s destiny, or design for each believer according to Romans 8:28–30?

We are to be conformed to the image of His Son. That’s the destiny that God has for every believer, and He is working in our lives to conform us to the image of His Son.

That’s the destiny. That’s the end game in God’s mind. And so He is working in your life, in my life, in order to conform us to the image of His Son.

In the past God said this is the destiny of every believer in Jesus Christ, to be conformed to Jesus, and so this is what I’m working in their life. That’s what Paul is describing here. We have been in the past predestined.

God has identified this as our destiny and that’s His purpose to bring this about and He “works all things after the counsel of His will.”

That is very similar to the wording of Romans 8:28, that “God works all things together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

The language is very similar. God has a sovereign will to bring us to this point. That doesn’t exclude our volition in the process.

Slide 22

Romans 9:19. The only part of this that I want to talk about is the last phrase, “Who resists His will?” We can resist His moral will because we can all sin and we can all disobey Him, but we can’t resist His sovereign will.

God has decreed certain things and we can’t resist that. We just don’t know what it’s going to be. That doesn’t mean that God makes the decision, but He allows certain things to happen as a result of giving us personal freedom.

Slide 23

The third point. The specifics of God’s decreed/sovereign will are secret, unrevealed, and unknown. We can’t know it, it’s secret. It’s unrevealed. It’s unknown, it’s hidden. He is not going to tell us what it is.

Tomorrow we will discover it and it will be a surprise. We may think we know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but we don’t. God’s sovereign will is secret, unrevealed, and unknown.

It can’t be known until after the fact. Human history, once transpired, is the outworking of God’s sovereign plan. That’s the only way we are going to know what it is. Once it happens; after the fact.

Slide 24

We can only know the specifics of God’s revealed moral will that includes all the precepts, mandates, and prohibitions of the Scriptures.

God’s moral will is commands like don’t eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He tells Abraham go and leave your family behind, leave everyone behind and go where I’m going to take you. Go to the land I’m going to show you.

He commands the Israelites to enter the land and to completely annihilate the Canaanites. That’s God’s moral will. That’s His revealed will. That is what He has told each of these individuals to do.

Then in the Ten Commandments, do not murder. That’s God’s revealed will.

Then you have God’s sovereign will. His permissive will. He told Adam and Eve not to eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. That’s His revealed will, but what did they do? They ate. He allowed them the freedom to disobey Him, so that’s God sovereign will, He allowed them to eat.

Second, He told Abraham to leave His family behind. Abraham disobeyed Him and he took father and his nephew Lot with him. Abraham disobeyed. That’s part of God’s permissive will. His sovereign will allows for human disobedience.

The Israelites were told to go into the land of Canaan, but they were afraid of the Canaanites. They failed to trust God and so God took them through a disciplinary procedure for the next 38 years before He allowed them to go into the land.

He says do not murder, but God used the illegal execution of Jesus to bring salvation to the whole world. It violated Roman law, it violated Jewish law, and it was murder. He was totally innocent, but God used that to bring about the salvation of the world.

Slide 25

Fourth principle. We can only know the specifics of God’s revealed moral will. We can’t know the specifics of the sovereign will. We can only know the precepts, mandates, prohibitions of Scripture.

For example, in the New Testament, there are 565 imperatives. That includes prohibitions. Positive commands, “Pray without ceasing.” Negative commands, “Don’t commit adultery.”

Those are 565 commands. But there are other ways, grammatically, to express commands. They are somewhat more difficult to identify. The imperatival participles, and hortatory subjunctives also express commands.

All of those together draw that circle. As long as we stay inside that circle of obedience, we are in the moral will of God. When we sin, we are outside the will of God.

Slide 26

Romans 2:17–18, part of Paul’s indictment of the Jews for failing to obey God. He says, “Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law [Torah], and make your boast in God. And [y’all] know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, [because you are] instructed out of the law [Torah],”

They were relying on obedience to the Law for salvation. They know His will. Sovereign will or moral will? Moral will. They don’t know His sovereign will. They know what God has revealed. They know His revealed will; they can’t know His unrevealed will.

Slide 27

1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

When you ask, “What is God’s will for my life?”, God’s will for me is to be grateful for everything, not just the good things, not just the things you like, but also the things you don’t like.

Be thankful, give thanks in everything.

Slide 28

Then in first 1 Thessalonians 4:3, another specific statement of the will of God, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;”

That is a broad term. That includes every kind of sexual activity outside of the bonds of marriage: premarital sex, homosexual sex, every kind of sexual relationship outside of marriage is prohibited in this statement. That’s not God’s will.

So it’s very clear, the boundaries for the will of God.

Slide 29

Another passage with clear prohibition:

2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.”

The context is very clear. It is talking about marriage, and I’ve seen this violated time and time again over the years. My parents were drilling this into me very young.

Parents need to teach children a lot of advanced concepts or start laying the foundation long before they’re really able to comprehend what they’re being told.

I remember from a very young age. Once I was a believer I knew when I came home and I had some new friend, the first question out of my mother’s mouth was going to be what? You all know this. “Are they a believer?”  

I knew that question was coming from the time I was six years old. That was going to be the question that laid the foundation. So, when I came home when I was 16 years old and said I have to have a date for this function and I’m going to ask so-and-so, my mother would say “Are they a believer?”

That was drilled into me from childhood, and I knew that if I came home, as I did one time when I was in junior high. I had a friend, my mother said she hadn’t heard me mention him before, “is he a believer?” I said, “No, he’s Jewish.” She said, “Have you given him the gospel yet?”

That’s how parents train children, you don’t wait till they’re 18 or 19. If you do it’s too late. You start when they are 2, 3, 4. You drill these things into them so that they know.

When I was in high school and college if I came home and I wanted to date somebody, I knew. When I got older, I don’t think I ever knowingly went out with an unbeliever.

But when I first became a pastor, I had a lot of older people in my congregation whose children were still in the community who didn’t come to church. I’d ask why and they would say, “Well, so-and-so married somebody.” “Are they a believer?” “No.”

Nine times out of ten the reason the children didn’t come to church was because they had married an unbeliever or somebody who was a liberal Christian or legalistic Christian, something like that. It was a major problem.

Believers need to marry somebody who is going to have a similar spiritual momentum as them. I’ve seen some mature believers marry immature believers. That’s also a source of problems. There needs to be a similar spiritual trajectory there and when this doesn’t happen, it creates problems.

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Fifth point. Therefore, God’s sovereign will includes His moral will, but His moral will, “thou shalt not” clearly is not always His sovereign will.

He allows or permits sin to take place. The difference is His permissive will, what He allows, because He allows creatures the freedom to fail, to make bad choices.

I don’t about you, but I’ve learned more from my failures than I probably have from my successes. Fortunately, that’s grace and God forgives us and we move on.

The conclusion of this point is that when the creature does what God has prohibited, then His revealed will is outside His decreed will.

What I’m saying there is that when we disobey God, we are outside of the revealed will of God, but we are inside the sovereign will of God. He permits that. He allows that.

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Sixth point. Usually we become concerned about the will of God in the midst of some momentous decision. You may become unemployed. What am I going to do now? What is God’s will for me?

Obviously when somebody lets us go, God is in the middle of doing something that is shaking up our lives. There may be several reasons.

I find that most of the time God is multitasking and He’s trying to accomplish two or three things in my life. But I have this decision to make. What am I going to do next? I might go back to school. Am I going to try to change jobs? Am I just going to retire? These are momentous decisions.

God’s will really affects every decision, from what car to buy and what clothes to wear, to what school to attend, or how we perform our jobs. Now wait a minute. Now wait a minute, you’re saying, “‘Robby, I thought you said God doesn’t have a specific will for you.”

But let’s take an example: you are going to buy a car. How much are you going to spend on that car? Is that a responsible amount of money in light of your income? Are you purchasing that car because you’re trying to have a certain status symbol?

Are you purchasing that car for some wrong motivation, or are you purchasing that car because it’s fully within your budget and you just enjoy that particular kind?

There’s nothing wrong with having fun, having a good car or an expensive car that you just have fun with, as long as you can afford it. If you can afford it, as long as you’re not saying okay, this is some kind of status symbol for me, and it makes me somewhat better.

We always have to look at our motives for whatever it is that we are doing. What we’re doing may not be a matter of God’s will, doing certain things: buying a car, buying a house, living in this part of town, that part of town, may not have anything to do with God’s revealed will.

But maybe our motivations might have something to do with God’s revealed will. So, we always have to think about whether we have some mental attitude sins that are slipping into it in a somewhat hidden or covert way.

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Seventh. If we’re doing all things to the glory of God, then even the most minute decision demands some attention in terms of our motivation. Am I doing this to glorify God or am I doing it to glorify me? A lot of times we can overthink that, too.

I have to put that out there because there are some people whose weakness of their self-absorption and their sin nature is to over analyze every decision down to its most minute component.

There are some people who, just for some reason, they’re afraid to just have fun. God has blessed me; I have the money to spend $80,000 or $90,000 on a car and I can do that and just have fun with it.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Then there is somebody who is going to say, “Well, I think you should spend your money somewhere else and go support a missionary.” Well, maybe they’re doing that, too.

We don’t know what kind of money other people make. I know people who God has richly blessed and they can enjoy many material possessions. Nothing wrong with that, and they give enormous amounts of money to missions, churches, and spiritual things.

We can’t know, it’s not our job to judge or evaluate it, but it is our job to evaluate our own motives and to make sure that if we’re purchasing certain material things that we’re doing it for the right motives.

The goal of the Christian life is to glorify God and to walk within that circle of moral will. Not every decision necessarily involves a moral issue, or a specific will of God in relation to geographical will or operational will.

As long as we are walking by the Spirit, as long as we are staying inside that circle that’s described by the revealed will of God, as long as we can say, “Yes, I’m doing this for the glory of God,” then fine.

Having a little fun in life and enjoying the wonderful things that God may bless us with is not contrary to the will of God. Some people think that way. That’s your caveat for the evening.

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Eighth point. 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. So, when we asked this question, “How do I know God’s will? What’s God’s will for my life in this situation?” we often are asking God to somehow tell us the right thing to do.

We want Him to lift the curtain on the future, so we don’t make a mistake. But the problem is that we’re not looking at decision-making correctly.

How we make the decision to do X or to handle situation Y is the test. It’s not are we going to pick curtain one or curtain two or curtain three. The test is how are we going to think our way through the decision-making process to choose curtain one or curtain two or curtain three.

Are we going to use the Word of God, are we going to pray? Are we going to do all the things the Scripture says to do in the process of making that decision? And sometimes we might be surprised.

We may choose curtain one and if we got a chance to look at curtain two and curtain three, they reveal the same thing, too. God is as concerned about the process as option A, option B, option C, because if option A, B, and C are all within the moral will of God, and they all bring glory to God, God’s more concerned about the process than He is about the final choice.

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Proverbs 3:5–6

If we’re trusting in the Lord with all our heart and not leaning on our own understanding and we’re acknowledging Him in all our ways then He is going to direct our paths, and He is going to bring about the right thing.

We have to focus on that process to think it through.

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Point 9. The question is, is there one and only one will for every decision, or is the issue in many decisions, biblical wisdom for living?

If there’s a title to the way I’m approaching the will of God, it’s called wisdom—making choices from the framework of wisdom.

That’s what Proverbs is all about. It is skillful application of the Word. So, this is the focal point: that decision-making is the skillful application of what we’ve learned from the Word of God so that we can build in our lives that which honors and glorifies God and is a testimony forever.

We will come back next time, pick up here and start going through some examples where God does have a specific individual will as well as some other examples of wisdom in the Word of God.

Closing Prayer

“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study, to think about how we make decisions, why we make decisions, and making decisions that glorify You. Recognizing that in some decisions there’s a specific will that You stated in Your Word and in others there’s not.

“And we must apply the Word and make wise decisions and it doesn’t necessarily involve some choice between that which is moral or that which is immoral, but involves that which is the best for glorifying You. Father, we pray that You would help us to think through, understand, this very important doctrine. In Christ’s name. Amen.”