Will of God, the Conclusion – Judges 6:14
We have been studying Judges and we are taking a mini diversion from Judges as we are in the midst of looking at Gideon to look at the doctrine of the will of God. So we're not actually looking at the text itself but I want to go back to Judges 6 to see why it is that I have taken this brief diversion. In Judges 6 we see the fourth cycle of discipline in the history of the judges. The Israelites are under the oppression of the Midianites and the Amalekites who are sweeping through on an annual basis, wiping out the crops, the agricultural produce, in fact stealing it, stealing what they don't destroy, and producing famine in the land. According to Josephus it took about three years for the Jews to realize this cycle and what was going on and by then they had been basically kowtowed by the Midianites and the Amalekites and there is no hope in the land. It took seven years before they finally woke up to the fact that they needed to turn to the Lord for aid and that the gods of the Canaanites, their god was Baal in the Hebrew, and the Asherim who were, basically to bring it into a modern context, these are the gods and goddesses of the financial prosperity and material success according to the Canaanite pantheon.
What happens is that the Jews have failed to realize that the cause of their calamity is their spiritual rebellion against God. We have made the point again and again as we've gone through this that as we look at Israel that their military failure, their financial failure, their family breakdown, the breakdown of all of the values in their culture and in their society is a result of their core problem. Those are simply symptoms, the same thing we see in our own culture today, problems that we have, family problems, the breakdown of marriage, the high rate of divorce, problems in criminality, problems with various government philosophies and political philosophies, whatever it may be and whatever things seem to concern you the most, these are just symptoms of an underlying spiritual problem and that spiritual problem is the rejection of God, the rejection of doctrine. The same thing happens in our individual lives; once we get on the path of reversionism, that is reversing our spiritual growth where we're not just out of fellowship in carnality but we are staying there over an extended period of time, what happens is that things begin to fall apart in our life. We begin to make bad decisions because we're operating from motivation that flows from the sin nature, and even though they may appear to be good decisions at the time, ultimately they will come back to haunt us. And these decisions over time have a cumulative effect, and it might be 10, 15, 20 years down the road when suddenly you look around and you realize that you have made a mess of your life.
Now that applies to someone who goes through immoral reversionism; I need to take some time and develop out our categories on reversionism because there are really two categories of reversionism. There is immoral reversionism and then there is moral reversionism. Immoral reversionism leads to immoral degeneracy and that is normally what we associate with someone who is in reversionism, someone who's given themselves over to free reign of the sin nature, overt sins, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual immorality, pornography, whatever it might be, these things are what we associate with a reversionistic lifestyle. However, there's also the moral reversionist; now his life doesn't appear to be such a wreck, like the Pharisees at the time of Christ, instead of operating on immorality flowing from their sin nature they're operating from a trend towards asceticism and legalism and self-righteousness, and rather than emphasizing personal sins there's an emphasis on human good but the core value, the underlying value is still arrogance, and arrogance always ends up in fragmentation of the soul and self-destruction. It is just that the self-destruction of the arrogant self-righteous person is, shall we say less flamboyant than that of the immoral reversionist who flames out on drugs or alcohol or sexual problems or whatever the case might be.
So you have to address both of those because they both produce self-destruction and they eat away at the core fabric of any culture and any society. And if you don't address the core problem and the core problem being the relationship with God, then it doesn't matter what you try to do to fix the overt symptoms, all you're doing in many cases is simply trying to whitewash the devil's world, or as J. Vernon McGee said, you're polishing brass on a sinking ship. And that's unfortunate, in the lives of most people, they end up in a position of collapse and then they turn to whatever seems to solve their problems at the moment, whatever will promise immediate relief, sometimes that involves sin, sometime it just involves just another good but wrong influence or solution to problems. They may go into psychology, they may go into some kind of personal counseling, they may get involved in just trying to solve their problems by changing their job, changing where they live, changing their marriage, changing whatever they decide needs to be changed in order to solve the problem without ever addressing the core issue which is a personal walk with God and making doctrine the number one priority in life. And when doctrine is not the number one priority in life and your relationship with God is not the number one priority in life then sooner or later life will start to fragment.
That's what's happened in Israel and after seven years of this discipline from the Midianites coming in the people finally cry out to God. Now God sends a prophet to them, an unnamed prophet in verse 8, to remind them of God's faithfulness and His grace historically, because they have forgotten who God was, which is the standard cry in the book of Judges, is they have basically decided that God no longer has a place in their life. They may talk about God, they probably remember a few things about doctrine and they may give lip service, but there is no real relationship with the Lord. And this happens in lives, I've seen it happen in the lives of many believers and somehow they get the idea that if they simply confess their sins then everything is going to be okay. Well, confession of sin does mean that you are forgiven, you are back in fellowship with the Lord and you are a place where you can go forward. But it doesn't mean that you go forward automatically.
Let's put our diagram up that we're so familiar with. At the point of salvation we enter into an eternal relationship with God; we are placed "in Christ." Now this is what applies to the New Testament believer, not the Old Testament saint but I'm making application to us in this Church Age. Secondly, we have a relationship defined by time, by our day to day walk with the Lord. We call this the filling of the Holy Spirit, or walking by means of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:16. When we are in fellowship with the Lord then we are being filled with doctrine by means of the Holy Spirit and we are walking by means of the Spirit but as soon as we sin we are out of fellowship. What happens is that when you get out of fellowship, we know that to return to fellowship all we have to do is use 1 John 1:9 and we're returned to fellowship, but the point is not simply gaining forgiveness, the point is, in a sense, a passive thing, we have nothing to do with it, it's not based on works, it's not based on anything we do, it's not based on impressing God, it's all based on the work of Christ on the cross, it's an operation of grace, so we have forgiveness and we're back in fellowship.
But now we have to do something active; we have to walk by means of the Spirit, it is a present active imperative in Galatians 5:16 which means, as a present imperative it means that it is to characterize our life continuously, as an imperative it means that it is a mandate, it is not an option, and that does not mean it's legalistic. I heard something recently that just floored me; somebody told me that they heard from someone that they thought I was a bit legalistic. The problem is, some Christians have gotten to the point where they define legalism as saying that you have to do anything in the Christian life. Well, if that's your definition of legalism, number one it's certainly not Biblical; number two you just throw out over 3,000 imperatives in the New Testament.
See, legalism is not insisting that God says you have to do certain things in the Christian life. Legalism is saying that our relationship with God and blessing from God is dependent upon our obedience to those. That's legalism. Legalism in salvation means that salvation is not based on faith alone in Christ alone but faith plus something. There's two options in legalistic salvation. One is what I call frontloading the gospel, this is from groups who say you have to believe and be baptized; more subtle forms are believe and repent where they add something up front to faith; it's not faith along it's faith plus joining the church, faith plus baptism, faith plus repenting of your sins, some of those things. And it's amazing how many gospel presentations you will see where they say the first thing you have to do is recognize you're a sinner and repent of your sins. It never says that in the Scripture. In fact, as we have studied in the Gospel of John one of the purposes of John was that "these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you might have life through His name." So the Gospel of John was written for the purpose of explaining how we can acquire eternal life, by faith in Christ. Not once in the entire Gospel of John does John use the word repent, metanoeo in the Greek, which means to change your mind. It's not there; therefore anyone who says that you have to repent is biblically ignorant and is adding something to salvation. Well, that's legalism in salvation, one kind, the up front or frontloading the gospel.
The second way in which people to the gospel is a more subtle form, what I call back loading the gospel. This is what's evident in Lordship salvation. In Lordship salvation they may say its faith alone in Christ alone but the hidden agenda is that the faith that you have that saves will eventually work itself out in certain changes in your life, and the reason you know that you have saving faith is because there is this marked change in your life, there is the fruit that is the result of repentance, they'll say, and 5, 10, 15 years down the road if you look at your life and you don't see the kinds of changes that they think you ought to see, then the response is well, you didn't have the right kind of faith, it wasn't saving faith. And so faith once again, you can't know you're saved unless you have certain works in your life, it's a very subtle form of works salvation.
Now in the Christian life you get into a lot of legalism as well, that you can't have a relationship with God if you commit certain sins or if you are involved in certain activities and of course we know that sin does break our fellowship with God, it quenches the Holy Spirit and grieves the Holy Spirit, but there is recovery through the use of 1 John 1:9, but the reason we receive blessing in the Christian life is not because, that's the key word, it's not because of what we do, it's not because we respond to the commands of Scripture. It operates like this. This is something that is rarely taught and even more infrequently understood. The believer, or every human being is born minus R (-R), we lack righteousness. Jesus Christ was born, because of His deity, He possessed absolute perfect righteousness. In His humanity He was born without a sin nature, therefore there was no home for the imputation of Adam's original sin and by virtue of the virgin birth He is born with a genetic home for Adam's original sin called the sin nature so He is born sinless; He possesses perfect righteousness and He never sins. He never sins because He possesses perfect righteousness and although He, in His humanity, has volition and could sin because He is deity He will not sin. If He had sinned in His humanity it would have changed His deity. An illustration would be if you weld a copper wire to a steel beam the copper wire can still be bent but because it is welded to the steel beam it will not be bent. And in His humanity He would not sin but because it was linked to His deity He could not sin. That's what's known as the impeccability of Christ. He was able not to sin and He was also not able to sin.
At the cross all of our sins are poured out upon Him and He pays the price as our substitute. When we trust Christ as our Savior His perfect righteousness is imputed to us so that now we are clothed, that's the image the Scripture uses which I think is a great image, we are clothed in His perfect righteousness, so that when God the Father, in His perfect righteousness looks down upon us, He sees the perfect righteousness of Christ. We are still sinners, we still possess a sin nature, we still continue to sin, but that is not the issue because the sin has been paid for on the cross. The issue is our possession of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. So because we possess the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ God's justice can now approve us and the door is opened for His blessing. He blesses us because we possess the righteousness of Christ; He never blesses us because of personal righteousness.
Now in eternity past God decided that he would bless each of us, we'll use variable X, X number of blessings; those are set aside in our account, as it were, with our name on them. Those are ours because of God's decision to give them to us, not on the basis of who we are or what we do, but on the basis of who He is and what Jesus Christ did on the cross. That's what makes it grace. Now some of those blessings are what we call logistical blessings or life support blessings, blessings related to jobs, so that we can have income, so that we can have a house, a place to live, buy a car, have a certain amount of food to keep body and soul together, as well as the provision of the teaching of Bible doctrine so that we can grow and advance spiritually. Then we have advanced grace blessing which come to us and are distributed to us as we grow. Now growth comes as a result of spending a maximum amount of time in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, walking by means of the Holy Spirit, so that the Holy Spirit can, on the basis of the doctrine in our soul, produce spiritual growth, which culminates in character transformation, into the character of Jesus Christ which is called the fruit or production of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.
As we advance spiritually we develop capacity for blessing; as we develop the spiritual capacity for those blessings, God then begins to distribute them to us, not because we have done certain thins but because now that we have grown we have the capacity to enjoy and appreciate those blessings without them being a cause of destruction in our life. The same thing would happen if you were to give your 8 or 9 year old son, or 14 year old son, the keys to a brand new Ferrari; he has no capacity for appreciating the value of the car. If you could afford such a gift you would wait until…hopefully you would wait until they were old enough and mature enough to be able to handle that responsibly. You see this happen many times, especially in Hollywood, we see this happen with many film stars, is that all of a sudden when they are 17, 18, 19 years of age they are cast into a position where they make tremendous amounts of money and have a tremendous amount of celebrity and they can't handle it and the next thing you know they're in drugs and alcohol and they're going to the Betty Ford Center or prison and they've made an absolute wreck of their lives because they have no capacity to handle the prosperity that's come their way.
So God does not distribute to us those advanced grace blessings until we grow, not because we grow, not because we do certain things; that's legalism. But because He is not going to give us things that would be destructive to us, and in some cases I think there are logistical grace blessing, there are distinctions in logistical grace, if we're not advancing and if we're in reversionism the level of logistical grace which God bestows upon us to keep body and soul together may be much less that we would have if we were walking by means of the Spirit, exercising positive volition and advancing in spiritual maturity. That's what legalism is, legalism is saying my decisions are the cause of God's blessing.
What I am teaching has nothing to do with legalism whatsoever, it's simply stressing the fact that if we're going to go anywhere in the spiritual life then we have to do what God says; we not only have to do what God says, we have to do it the way God says to do it. A right thing done in a wrong way is still wrong. That's what's wrong with morality as a basis for the spiritual life. Most denominations and most churches do not emphasize the role of the Holy Spirit in spiritual growth today. As a result of that, their method of spiritual life is nothing more than simply preaching morality. Now there's nothing wrong with morality but it's not the spiritual life in the Church Age. Spiritual life in the Church Age is uniquely based on the role of God the Holy Spirit and the believer being filled by means of the Spirit and advancing by walking by means of the Spirit and it is the Spirit who in turn takes the doctrine that we learn and that we have stored in our soul, brings it to mind, we apply it, and He is the One who produces the internal change in our lives. We don't see big changes day to day but we look back in our lives over a period of 5, 10, 15 years and we see that if we have stayed with the Word and doctrine has been a priority and we're applying doctrine that we'll see a tremendous amount of growth that's taken place and a real transformation that has occurred, not because we have set out to… and gotten up every morning and applied principles of the latest self-improvement technique, set out our goals, I'm not going to be impatient, I'm not going to be angry, I'm not going to steal any more, I'm not going to be undisciplined, and every morning we read through our list of ten priorities and then w e sort of pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We don't do it ourselves, we do it through God the Holy Spirit and the priority is the Word of God and Spirit of God produces that spiritual growth, it's not something that we do.
The failure that we have today is the same failure they had back in Gideon's time and that is a failure to make doctrine the number one priority and to try to make life work apart from dependence upon God and trusting Him exclusively. They were going after the gods of the Canaanites, thinking that they would solve their problems and that they would bring them success and happiness and financial security. The result was they lost it all, and now God is going to…they have finally called to the Lord to rescue them from the oppression of the Midianites and God comes to a rather unprepossessing individual by the name of Gideon and gives him a commission in verses 12-14.
There are two things we're going to focus on here that have to be in place in Gideon's life. God's going to take him through a crash course in spiritual growth to get him ready because obviously, if you look at his response in verse 13 there's no doctrine in his soul, he doesn't understand how God works or the plan of God; that means there's no doctrinal orientation. So before Gideon can get anywhere there's got to be some doctrinal orientation and before there can be doctrinal orientation Gideon has got to get some grace orientation, understand it's not based on him, it's not based on his family, it's not based on how much he has in his bank account, it's not based on his military training or expertise, it's based on the power of God. "It's not by might nor by power but by My spirit, sayeth the Lord," and Gideon's got to learn grace orientation and doctrinal orientation before he can fulfill the mission that God has for him. So verse 13 reveals that Gideon has the same problem that his culture has. We're all products of our culture to some degree or another and it's only through the sanctifying transforming power of the Word of God and the Spirit of God that that changes.
So we see Gideon's frame of reference and his mentality in Judges 6:13, "Then Gideon said to him, "O my lord, if the LORD is with us," and he's thinking He can't be with all this going on, "why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles," that sounds rather modern today, people saying well if God exists how does He let all this sin and suffering go on? Where are His miracles? Why doesn't He do something about it? Because they don't have any understanding of how God operates because there's no doctrinal orientation. "…And where are all His miracles, which our fathers told us about, saying, 'Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian." It's not our fault, it's God's fault. Doesn't that sound modern?
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?" This is his commission; this is God's will and God's plan for his life. See, that's part of doctrinal orientation, understanding God's will and God's plan for our life. When God says "go in this your strength," the "this" refers to the last statement in that verse, "have I not sent you?" His strength is that God has sent him; his strength is not his own background, his own training, his family or any other human factor, the strength is the power of God and God's solution. The strength is not his solution. But before he can get anywhere he has to learn some things about both grace and God's gracious provision, and doctrinal orientation.
Now orientation is a word that means to align yourself with something. I remember when I was in college ROTC, the first time I really understood the word orientation, and we had to go through map training and compass reading and we used to what was called orienteering and we would learn how to read topographical maps, and we would go out, they'd drop us off in some area out in the woods, we were surrounded in east Texas by all these vast tracts of land owned by paper companies, eight, ten thousand acre tracts of land, so the lands were opened to public use sometimes and we would go out there are run these orienteering…we'd be dropped out there in the middle of nowhere and be told to go from wherever we were, try to figure out where we were on the map and then get to a certain destination. The first thing you do, and you do this whenever you go into some strange city, you pull out your map and you try to figure out how the map fits the reality of what's around you. You have to line it up right so that north is north and south is south and east and west are in their respective positions and then the map represents reality and gives you an objective guideline. If your map is not oriented correctly then instead of going north you're going to go east or west or southwest and you're going to be in trouble because you're not properly oriented to reality, so the decisions you make from a position of disorientation are going to lead to failure and confusion and getting lost.
That's what happens to most people who are not oriented to doctrine; their thinking is not aligned with the objective reality of God's plan. That's what doctrinal orientation is and grace orientation is aligning our thinking with God's grace plan and God's grace system, that God works in our lives not on the basis of who we are and what we do but on the basis of who He is and what Christ did on the cross, and working out the implications of that. If you don't understand grace you can never really understand the concept of love because the concept of love is a concept defined by Scripture and is exemplified by the work of Christ on the cross, John 3:16 states that "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life." It was a love that was not based on the value, the attractiveness or anything in the life of the object of the love but was totally based on who God was, on His character, and if you don't understand that you can't ever understand love, husbands cannot understand the kind of love they're supposed to have for their wives; wives cannot understand love, there cannot be the right kind of understanding between parents and children, and love becomes something that is self-centered and is selfish and is based on what you do for me and how you make me feel about myself as opposed to what is right. Love, in other words, loses all objective bases and becomes something that is purely subjective and emotional and therefore it vacillates with the circumstances and the times. So one year there may be love and the next year there's not love. And that ends up in marital failure.
So in order to understand anything in life we have to orient our thinking to two great principles, grace and doctrine. And in order to orient to doctrine, we'll come back to grace orientation, grace orientation logically precedes doctrinal orientation because it is foundational to doctrinal orientation, but here Gideon has to learn both and first God is teaching him something about His plan. So that is why we got into the study of the will of God. Gideon has to understand God's will and it takes him several tries before he finally gets the point. So let's review what we've covered on the doctrine of the will of God.
The term "will of God" as I'm using it relates to three aspects of divine volition or God's will in relation to His creation. What do we mean when we ask the question and its subjective in its orientation: what's God's will for my life? Normally you hear younger people say that or you hear people in crisis say that, sometimes you hear it from people who have just been laid off from a job or whenever you have major life decisions the question comes, what's God's will for my life? Let's try to understand what we're saying here and be a little more precise.
First there's God's sovereign will, God's sovereign volition with regard to His creation. God's sovereign will with regard to His creation where He brings to pass what He wills and what He has decreed. This refers to the council of divine decrees in eternity past when God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit set forth the outline of human history. Now we don't know what God's sovereign will includes. It is secret, so that is not the question that we are asking when we say what is God's will for my life. I've stated before that it includes the acts of sinful creatures, it includes good and evil and we can chart it out with a circle; inside that circle we have good, evil and all that is. And by "good" I mean that which is positive righteousness. It includes everything, it includes sin, it includes human good, divine good, the plan of salvation; it includes the sovereign will of God, it's also called His permissive will because it includes the fact that God has created creatures with volition, with free will, who are going to choose to disobey Him. And God has allowed that to take place in history so it includes everything that is. That's God's sovereign will.
The second category is God's moral will; sometimes we call that His revealed will, what He has said to do and not to do, it includes His mandates and the prohibitions in Scripture. This is also called God's desired will but I like the term "God's revealed will." He tells us what to do; over 3,000 mandates and prohibitions in the New Testament define the circle of God's revealed will. Then there is God's overriding will; there are things that God has told us to do and we may aspire to do but in God's overriding will He's not going to allow us to do. For example, Paul at different times had wanted to go to different locations, yet God had another plan for His life and he never got the opportunity, not that what he wanted to do was wrong or sinful, it just was not what God wanted him to do at that particular time.
Daniel 4:35; Proverbs 21:1; Revelation 4:1, Ephesians 1:11 and Proverbs 16:33 are all passages that define the sovereign will of God.
Point three; we said that the specifics of God's decreed will are secret, unrevealed and unknown, therefore to ask the question what is God's will, in reference to sovereign will, we can't know. It's secret, unrevealed and unknown. The only way we now God's sovereign will is after the fact. Human history is the outworking of God's sovereign will.
Point four; we said that we can only know the specifics of God's revealed or moral will. This includes all the precepts, mandates and prohibitions of the Scriptures. Where we have statements like Romans 2:18 we are to "know his will," know the Word of God, know what we are supposed to do, how we are to live, what our priorities are supposed to be; "know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law." It's interesting there, the emphasis is on things that are essential; that means that there are some things, it's not that they are wrong, it's not that they are sinful, it's not that they're immoral but they are distractions to the spiritual life and so we can get involved in things that are good and moral, fun and enjoyable, worthwhile but they are distractions to our spiritual life and rather than choosing the best we have chosen second best and to know the difference is a result of spiritual growth.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 gives us a precise statement, "In everything give thanks," gratitude, whether things are going well or things are not going well, whether we are in adversity or prosperity, we are to give thanks because we know that God is working all things together for good to those who love God and if we are advancing in God's plan then we fit the category of those who love God. It may be the love of a baby as opposed to the love of an advancing mature believer but God is working all things together for good to those who love Him.
1 Thessalonians 4:3, "This is the will of God, your sanctification, that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality." That includes fornication between those who are not married and adultery between two parties who are not married to one another but at least one is married to someone else. 2 Corinthians 6:14, "Don't be bound together with unbelievers, for what partnership has righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness." It's not God's moral will for a believer to marry an unbeliever. Does that mean if you are married to an unbeliever that you need to confess your sin, go to divorce court and end the marriage? No, that's not what Paul says in the remainder of the chapter; he discusses what the options are but the point that he is making is don't go there, don't make that mistake because it will put you in an even worse situation and create even more problems.
Point five; therefore God's sovereign will includes His revealed will but His revealed will, "thou shalt not," or "thou shalt" clearly is not always His decree. The most obvious example of this is He said "thou shalt not commit murder," it doesn't say thou shalt not kill in the Ten Commandments, it says "thou shalt not commit murder," it is a prohibition of homicide. Homicide is what God used to bring about our salvation. The death of Christ on the cross was illegal according to Jewish law, illegal according to Roman law and therefore it was the greatest miscarriage of justice in human history and it was murder but God used that to bring about our eternal salvation. So His revealed will, "Thou shalt not commit murder" was clearly different from His decreed will. But that does not make Him responsible for the commission of immorality. Then I put this diagram up, the sovereign will of God includes good and evil and all that is in human history and His revealed will includes all of the precepts of Scripture revealed by the prophets, the Holy Spirit and Scripture. There is an overlap but there are clearly areas that are distinct.
Point number six; usually we become concerned about the will of God when we are concerned about some momentous decision, however, God's will affects every decision we make to some degree. It provides a framework. We need to learn to think within the framework of God's plan and God's provision, which is the Word of God. That's what doctrinal orientation is; as we advance in our understanding of Scripture we begin to think about life as God thinks about life; once we develop that framework then within that framework we begin to make wise decisions. This is one of the three categories of the Old Testament was wisdom literature. And in wisdom literature the issue often was not something that was moral versus immoral, good versus bad, but that which is good and that which is better. Wisdom, chokmah in the Hebrew, and the only way you develop chokmah is by living within a framework and growing and advancing spiritually, living within a Biblical framework and advancing in doctrinal orientation.
Point number 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 moral issue or a specific will of God statement in relation to either geographical will or operational will.
Point eight; since we can only know the specifics of God's revealed and moral will before the fact, questions about the will of God relate only to revealed information. Since God is no longer involved in giving revelation, the issue is understanding the revelation that God has given and living consistent with it. That's doctrinal orientation, that's the only way we can know God's will. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding," the proverb says, "but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight." If we are filled with the Spirit, walking by means of the Spirit, making doctrine the number one priority in our life we're going to make certain decisions in life and yet God in His overriding will is going to move us along the path that He wants us.
He's not going to violate our volition but if, for example, God wants us in a particular geographic location and somehow we make a wrong decision we're not going to ruin our lives because oops, I move to Sacramento instead of New York, God just will somehow override things to that we never end up going in the direction of that wrong decision and he gets us routed through circumstances right where He wants us. So the point I'm making is that you don't end up in some sort of hyper subjectivity contemplating your navel about what's the right decision. Unfortunately what I find happens is that the issue for a lot of people isn't so much making the right decision, they really know what the right decision is, it's just not the decision they want, and so now becomes the…trying to figure out how to change God's will so that it's my agenda and not His agenda.
Point nine; often it is taught with respect to the will of God that God has a specific will for our lives. This is sometimes said to be living in the center of God's will and usually is expressed in terms of a geographical will or the operational will of God. Those are two categories that are important to understand. God sometimes has a specific place for us to be at a specific time; that's God's geographical will. He wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh; sometimes God has a certain thing He wants us to do operationally, sometimes He does not. He doesn't always have a specific geographic will. We know that times, with looking at the lives of different people, for example, Moses, after Moses left Egypt God probably didn't have a specific will as to whether he was in the northern Arabian Peninsula or the southern Arabian Peninsula or whether he headed up to Syria with the sheep or not, during those forty years God was training and preparing Moses but He didn't have a specific geographical will until the end of those forty years in the wilderness and then God gave him specific geographical instructions.
So there are times when there's specific geographical will and times when there's not. And if we are walking by the Spirit and we are walking by the Spirit and we are making doctrine the number one priority in our life, then we don't have to worry about whether or not I'm going to miss the signal and somehow end up outside the geographical will of God and therefore out of fellowship and never have God's highest and best for my life. That produces such a guilt trip on people. If God has a geographical will He makes it clear to us; He may make that the only possible option so that there are no other decisions to make in life, it just becomes obvious that that's what we are to do. A key example is Jonah, Jonah tried to avoid the will of God by running off to Tarshish but he ended up in Nineveh. We looked at Acts 10 where Peter was told to go to Cornelius.
Point ten; knowing God's will is based on the grace learning spiral, that God the Holy Spirit teaches us doctrine and through that He guides and leads us, Galatians 5:18. As we walk by means of the Spirit the Spirit leads us, and there we've seen that because of the Greek word that's involved there, it's like following a path so that the leading of the Spirit is done objectively through the Word of God. It is always the Word of God plus the Spirit of God. A couple of examples of this in Scripture, Colossians 4:12, Paul writes, "Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect," that is the word telios which means complete and is a word for spiritual maturity, not perfection, "that you may stand spiritually mature and fully assured in all the will of God." What he is praying for is that you would advance in the plan of God to spiritual maturity; that is the objective will of God. He is not praying that somehow you will know God's will for your life, whether it be carpenter or plumber, or whether to live in Rome or live in Jerusalem, but that you may be assured in the will of God which is objective and clear in the Scripture, revealed in the Scripture.
Romans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world," that means that we are to not have our thinking to conform to the thinking of the cosmic system, the world around us, but we are "to be transformed by the renewing of your mind," that's the starting point, that's doctrinal orientation, "be transformed by the renewing of your mind," that is learning doctrine so that you think about reality the way God thinks about reality, "that you may prove," that you may demonstrate "what the will of God is. Now here it's talking about the moral will of God, that you may demonstrate in your life what God's will is. The statements that I read earlier, that you are thankful in all things, abstaining from sexual immorality, praying without ceasing, you demonstrate what the will of God is and that it is good, acceptable and perfect so that as we reach spiritual maturity our lives become a testimony to God's will, that it is what is right and good.
Ephesians 5:17 says, "So then, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the LORD is," and then in the very next verse we have a double mandate, a prohibition and a mandate, "Don't be drunk" but "be filled by means of the Spirit." So that is the will of the Lord. See, the will of the Lord statements in Scripture are clear and objective, they're not based on some sort of shell game where God is playing hide and seek with the pea and you have to somehow guess what God's will is for your life.
Ephesians 6:6, relates to our work life, "Not by way of eye-service as men-pleasers," this is related to how you deal with…it's addressed to a slave obeying his master but it has application to anyone who works for an employer, that you don't serve the employer by way of eye-service just to please them, "but as a slave of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart." This is building a doctrine of work and a work ethic, that the believer should be the best worker at the work place because he is doing his work there not for the boss, not for the human employer, but serving the Lord in that capacity. So whatever your job is, whatever you do on a day to day basis to bring home the money to keep body and soul together, you are not ultimately working for that individual, you are working for the Lord and that should characterize how you perform on the job. We have looked at Proverbs 3:5-6. Psalm 32:8, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go," God promises, so that's clearly objective and that's the Word, "I will counsel you with My eye upon you." So God promises us that He gives us a clear instruction as to what His will is.
Point eleven; as we have learned doctrine and the Holy Spirit stores the doctrine in our soul, then the Holy Spirit recalls it to our thinking so that we can apply it. That is the grace learning spiral. As we grow and advance in the doctrine that we learn it produces a reservoir of doctrine in our soul that in turn produces what the Bible calls wisdom. Wisdom, so that we're able to make good decisions in life's situations, choose the better and not just the good, and to make decisions that ultimately produce a life that is of value and beauty spiritually. That's the concept of wisdom; it's a skill, and skills are developed through practice. That's why we emphasize the stress busters, the spiritual skills. A skill is something you do over and over and over again until you're tired, till it's tedious, till you're fed up with it but anything in life that you become good at you practice it over and over and over again until you excel at the skill and then when you have excelled at the skill you do it without thinking, it just comes automatically, it's in muscle memory for example in dance, or in athletics, and then you do things that are just absolutely incredible and beautiful and that's what happens in the spiritual life as you go through the practice of continuously confessing sin, walking by means of the Spirit, being grace oriented, doctrinally oriented, using the faith rest drill.
Point thirteen; the geographical will of God relates to operating in a specific location. For example, Jonah needed to go to Nineveh, Paul was supposed to go to Rome, and we know that if God wants us in a specific location we will get there.
Point fourteen; the operational will of God includes using both your spiritual gift and your natural talents and abilities to the glory of God. That is why God has given them to us. So this has to do with how we work out the application of doctrine in our lives. For Gideon the operational will of God is going to be to engage the enemy in combat and to destroy the Midianite armies and he is going to do that in such a way that never again in history are the Midianites a factor in Israel's history. He is going to wipe them out and with this small army of 300 he is going to destroy 150,000 of the enemy, and that is what glorifies God. So point 13 defines the geographical will, point fourteen defines the term operational will.
Point number fifteen; often decisions in life are not related as much to the final decision as testing the process of deciding. You see, there are two things that happen; number one is the ultimate decision, number two is how did you get there? What was your motivation? How did you go about the process? Sometimes the test is how we get to the decision as much as the decision itself. Sometimes there may be three or four options that are all within the operational will of God and several other options that may not be. But the Lord is concerned about how we go about it, do we go about it utilizing prayer, utilizing applying doctrine, recalling promises, being filled by the Holy Spirit, or do we just jump at it because it happens to be what we want to do or we think it will make us feel better or whatever. If we go about a right thing in a wrong way it's still wrong. So often decisions in life are not related as much to the final decision as testing the process of how we get there.
Numbers 12:22-26 is the episode of Baalim and his talking ass, that's his talking donkey and it reveals three categories of God's will. Baalim was a prophet who was reversionistic and the enemies of Israel wanted Balaam to curse Israel. So the king of Moab came along and wanted Baalim to come out and curse Israel and God said, in terms of permissive will, He said you can go but you are not allowed to curse Israel, you can go to Moab. So His permissive will allowed for Baalim to go to Moab and the overriding will of God is present in Numbers 23 where God overruled Baalim's decision to try to curse Israel and Baalim's mouth was shut. So even if you make the wrong decision related to God's geographic will or His operational will, His overriding will kicks in and if you're walking by the Spirit and you're making doctrine the number one priority God's overriding will, will make sure that you end up in the right place doing the right thing.
We see another example of the operation of decision making and wisdom in Acts 15:6-22. In Acts 15 the issue is the relationship of the Gentiles to the gospel and to Jews and the Law of Moses. Let's turn there and go over that passage. This is what's called the Jerusalem Council, the early stage of the Church and we see the decision making process of the apostles. Acts 15:6, "And the apostles and the elders" that's pastors, "came together to look into this matter." And the problem is, the "matter" is what is the relationship to Gentiles to Jews and to the Law of Moses, should they be circumcised or not; to what degree are they to observe the rituals in the Mosaic Law.
Acts 15:7, "And after there had been much debate," so they go through a decision making process of looking at the pros and cons on each side of the question, they get the facts; that's part of decision making, get all the facts you can, don't just make a visceral decision from the gut as to how you think God wants you to act; that's called mysticism. You get all the facts, so "after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe." So here we see Peter going to Scripture, what we now call Scripture, which was an event in his life, his taking the gospel to Cornelius who was a Gentile Roman centurion. And so he's going to a Biblical example from which to extract guidelines for the decision. "…God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.  And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as He also did to us.  And He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.  Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?  But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are also."
So he's going to the Scripture to find a Scriptural parallel. First they get all the facts, then they look through Scripture for a Biblical parallel, and then verse 12, "And all the multitude kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.  And after they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, Brethren, listen to me.  Simeon has related hot God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.  And with the words of the Prophets agree," and then he quotes from Amos 9, and then he gives his decision in verse 19, "Therefore, it is my judgment that we do not trouble those are turning to God from among the Gentiles,  but that we write to them they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.  For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.
Acts 15:22, notice the first phrase, "Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them send to Antioch," "…it seemed good," there's no direct revelation here, there's no necessarily right way or wrong way to deal with the decision they make. Now they've made a right decision, it's based upon revelation that God has given them, but how are they going to implement the decision. There's no specific right way or wrong way to do it; this is where wisdom comes in as a stage beyond the simple blacks and whites of the mandates of Scripture. You utilize wisdom, you bring to bear experience, you bring to bear what you have learned, the framework of doctrine from doctrinal orientation, and then you make a decision that seems best, choosing the best way as opposed to just any way, even though other ways may produce similar results. They don't sit down and say okay, let's pray to God and see what the right way is to implement this decision. See, that's how a lot of people handle it today, well let's pray about it. They prayed; it's not that prayer was absent here but when they get to this point, it's so we've made a decision, we've looked at Scripture, we know what's right, now how are we going to implement it. What seems best to us? That's wisdom. They make a wise decision and then they implement it.
So the conclusion in looking at the will of God is that though there are clearly times when God has operational will, God has a geographical will, there are other times when we make decisions where there is not a specific will but the issue is what is best and at that point we're making what is classified as a wisdom decision based on a framework of doctrinal orientation in the soul which is produced by God the Holy Spirit. This is where Gideon finds himself in Judges 6 because he just has not yet oriented himself to the plan of God and there is no doctrinal orientation, so God has to begin to explain this to him and make it clear to him and we will come back and look at those dynamics starting in verse 15 next time.