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Siguiendo Su senda

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Siguiendo Su Senda presenta una de las pocas publicaciones para facilitar el cumplimiento de La Gran Comisión. Jesús dijo, “…enseñándoles que guarden todas las cosas que os he mandado…” (Mateo 28:20). Este Devocional Diario fue escrito como una herramienta para ayudar las Iglesias a equipar discípulos como mandó Jesús.

Lea y medite sobre un mandato del NT cada día. Jesús dijo, “Si me amáis, guardad mis mandamientos.” (Juan 14:15) Cada discípulo debe recibir entrenamiento sobre los mandatos del NT, los cuales fueron da­dos a nosotros por medio del Espíritu Santo bajo la inspiración divino.

Cada estudio examinará el contexto del mandato, el significado original, tanto gramático como lingüístico, de las palabras y el sentido de los tiempos de los verbos. Luego muestra la aplicación utilizando otras escrituras y da sugerencias para nuestras vidas diarias.

Este libro es ideal para el estudio personal, para utilizar en grupos pequeños, para enseñar a nuevos crey­entes, para enriquecer el ministerio y para la meditación en cómo mejorar su caminar con el Señor. Los mandamientos se pueden categorizar según la siguiente lista:

Cada creyente debe saber estos mandamientos para tener “la mente de Cristo” para poder caminar en harmonía con nuestro Salvador. Aprendemos a vivir como El espera que vivamos.

  • Pages: 384
  • ISBN:978-1981563364
  • Binding: Perfect
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Meditations on the commands of Jesus

Why meditate on the commands of Scriptures? Doesn’t this lead to a legalistic mindset? The author has been amazed at the reluctance of many believers to take seriously the need to know and understand the commands in Scriptures that God expects us to practice.

The primary way that we can “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31) is to know thoroughly what He tells us to think and to do, which essentially means the commands that He gives us.

Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commands” (John 14:15). He expected us to know what He taught us and to practice it in our lives, yet few Christians can even state the Ten Commandments, much less the hundreds of commands in the New Testament. It seems in Jesus’ way of thinking, that He is no more important to us than His commands are important to us.

Many modern Christians refuse to submit to rules or regulations (like covenants in church constitutions or standards of conduct in Christian universities or Christian ministries or businesses) under the argument that they are legalistic, therefore to be avoided. This attitude leads some to an antinomian (no-law) lifestyle where they believe that all is or will be forgiven anyway, so it does not matter what we do. When grace is used as a license to sin, wrong beliefs will lead a person to self-destruct.

Legalism has two major errors. The first error is when the unsaved believe that by being perfectly obedient one can become holy enough to be acceptable to God. Every religion in the world teaches this false notion. Sinful man can never become holy, regardless of the discipline attempted. Man is selfish, self-centered and proud to think that he can be righteous enough for a holy God. We are warned that our “righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6) and that we are saved “not by works of righteousness which we have done” (Tit 3:5), but by His “grace we are saved through faith. Not of works lest any one should boast” (Eph 2:8-9), that is, to think proudly of himself. Legalism is self-deceiving. The truth is that no one is good enough to be acceptable to a holy God. Man’s only hope is a forgiving and righteousness-granting God who can make us acceptable to Himself.

The second error of legalism occurs when believers think that they can become “more acceptable” or spiritual by avoiding certain sinful practices (however defined) and by doing spiritual acts, especially before others. In the first place, our standing before God as believers is clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, which can never be improved upon. Nothing we do can make us more acceptable to God or loved more by God. He accepts us and loves us as He does His own Son (we are “accepted in the Beloved” – Eph 1:6). This is a subtle error that perverts the Christian life into a competition to see who is the most “spiritual.” Some symptoms of this error are the pride of being more “godly” than another believer, or a critical spirit of other believers who may not practice the same rituals or behaviors. Pride and self-righteousness is always a symptom of false beliefs and spiritual legalism.

On the other hand, a correct view of the commands have nothing to do with what we can acquire or attain before God, but rather does become a statement to our God that we value His opinion and His Word. Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”(John 14:21). The first verb is to “have” (echo), which means to “have in hand in the sense of wearing, to have possession of the mind… to hold ones self to a thing, or be closely joined to a thing.” The second verb is “keep” (tereo) which means to “attend to carefully.” This shall be the scope of this study and meditation: to understand the clear meaning of the commands and be encouraged to make practical applications to our lives.

No one is born with the right way to live; rather it is quite the contrary. We are told that our natural tendency from childhood is foolishness: “A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away,” Prov 22:15 NLT. This foolishness is evident in the child’s attitude toward instruction or correction: “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but he who receives correction is prudent”(Prov 15:5 ). When a fool gets older his attitude does not change, it just becomes more sophisticated. When a fool becomes a Christian a major transition is necessary.

The believer’s transition begins with a change in attitude about himself and his sinfulness before a holy God, which means that he must exchange his love for sin for his love for Jesus and his false notion of being good enough to being totally unworthy in himself of acceptance before God then to a utter heart-trust in Christ’s payment for his sins to make him acceptable to God. This trust in the promise of His Word, when genuine, extends to a trust in all that He says.

The measure of foolishness that remains in a believer is evident by how he responds to correction. “A fool despises his father’s instruction”(Pro 15:5), which is an attitude that can be extended to how he responds to God’s instruction or commands as well.

Once a person becomes a believer he is told, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect”(Rom 12:2 NLT). The key to a successful Christian life is to think biblically and learn God’s will through His commands. Paul wrote, “we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ”(2Co 10:4 NET) as He has commanded us.

Foolishness is overcome by consciously deciding to trust in, and to commit to practice, the will of God as expressed in His Word. The quest of the believer’s transformation is to “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”(Phi 2:5) which follows a series of His commands (see Phil 2:2-4 practical instructions, which describe His mindset).

If we love Him and believe that He is the most fulfilled, realized, and complete Person in the universe, then we will want to be as like Him as much as possible. He is God, and our Savior as well. Whatever He tells us to think, believe, value or commit to, we will obey gladly. We’ll take whatever correction or exhortation we read or experience as God’s instrument to transform us from foolish people to be more like Him in attitude and actions.

Throughout this meditation we will learn the meaning of each command, then be challenged to incorporate each instruction into our daily lives. This is the process of meditation: wrestling with the meaning and application to our personal lives. Nothing can more profitable than to be transformed into His likeness. Follow them daily at www.obeythecommands.com.

 

Warning: you may lose your rewards

People tend to panic when they are about to lose something valuable. Some will go to any extreme not to be a loser.   It is one thing to lose in a sport because someone else was better than you, but it is humiliating to lose because you violated one of the rules of the game.

Athletes who think they can get away with using performance-enhancing drugs to gain an advantage over an opponent eventually get found out.  They lose all their previous medals, awards, trophies, and financial benefits, often forced to return their prize monies won under false pretenses. Their performance was excellent, but their motives and secret methods brought them down.

Clear indicators

Most Christians have no idea that God has set certain rules in place that, if violated, can equally eliminate the possible rewards one could have received. God never bends His rules (commands).  Only a fool plays a game (especially one that has serious consequences) and has no idea about the rules, yet many Christians live this way.

Let me be clear: this is NOT a discussion about the salvation of a believer.  Salvation is NOT a reward for good service or living.  It is granted to undeserving sinners by grace through personal faith in God’s promises of forgiveness and His gift of righteousness.

Rewards are promised to those who “giving all diligence, add to [their] faith …” (2 Pet 1:5-6) a series of seven qualities, that will “keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive” (2 Pet 1:8) and “there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:11).  The rewards granted by our King and Savior should be the most important motive in our lives.

“Great reward” is promised to those who make His “judgments” or commands the directives of their lives (Psa 19:9-11). His rewards are so great that they will make any sacrifice seem insignificant and incomparable.

Be warned: whatever God promises He will do.  This is the “fear of the Lord.” We should be afraid that He will do exactly what He says.  Without this fear, we can fall into the trap that snared Eve when she began to doubt God.  Subsequently the temptation to ignore His command became irresistible.  She thought she could do what she wanted with impunity. When they disobeyed they immediately died spiritually and later died physically, just as God said they would.  We must learn to take His Word seriously.

John’s warning

John gave this warning, “Watch out, so that you do not lose the things we have worked for, but receive a full reward.” (2 John 8 NET)  He had just stated, “This is love that we walk according to His commandments” (2 John 6). To ignore his commands has a high risk: you could lose all or part of your potential rewards.

Promises of rewards

Jesus spoke more of our rewards than anyone. For example, “”Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:12 NKJ).  This means if you are reviled, undeservingly reproached, given hostile pursuit, harassed, or mistreated “falsely on account of Me” (Matt 5:11 NAS), then “great is your reward in heaven” (5:12).  Never be ashamed of Jesus.

The real question for us to evaluate personally is, “Are the rewards of heaven worth whatever sacrifice I might have to pay to be faithful to Christ?”

Misunderstandings clarified

While it is true that we are to love each other, there is no reward for just loving those who love you!  Jesus said, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they?” (Matt 5:46 NET). The reward is for living to benefit those you do not like; those you don’t think deserve to be loved.  As you demonstrate God’s love by caring for and benefiting those who do not like you, those actions have great reward.

How to lose your reward

Each of us tends to think we are better than others and deserving of fame and fortune.  Whatever we do, if we are motivated to be seen by others doing spiritual things, so they will think we are special, or spiritual, then there is no reward in heaven no matter what we may accomplish.

The test of one’s heart, in this regard, is being willing to do for others things that no one will ever know. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. (Luke 6:35 NAS)  Quality love is most evident by learning to love or benefit the unlovely without seeking personal benefit.

Even generous givers often want to be appreciated and thanked (as well they should be).  But how does a donor respond when there is little or no appreciation? Is there a sense of bitterness and a decision to never help that person again? Do you see the donor’s real motivation?

Jesus warned us that giving or any good deed, ministry or sacrifice done “to be noticed by” others, will receive no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matt 6:1)

In Matthew 6 spiritual ministries like prayer and fasting are illustrative of all kinds of ministry tasks, if done “to be seen by men” (Matt 6:5a) or to be in the limelight, appear to be important, powerful, respected or popular, there is no reward in heaven.  Jesus said, “They have their reward” (Matt 6:5b) on earth.

Once again in the text, the solution to prideful motivation is to do what you can in secret, believing that “your heavenly Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matt 6:4, 6, 18). Since this principle is repeated three times in a passage, we should pay close attention.

Basis of rewards

When Paul discussed the basis of our rewards he used a metaphor for ministries when he said,  “Now he who plants [evangelists?] and he who waters [servers, teachers, exhorters, pastors] are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor 3:8).  The reward is not according to the bigness or success of a ministry, in fact, we will not be judged at all by our ministry or organization. We will be judged by our “labor”  (kopos, “cause one trouble, intense labor united with trouble, toil, laborious effort”). It is not success achieved, but effort extended for His purpose that is rewarded.

The tireless pastor I met in Nepal who planted five or six small churches simultaneously scattered over the terraced mountain slopes of the Himalayas, trekking over twenty miles a week while facing fanatical Hindu persecution in every small town he passes will undoubtedly be rewarded beyond measure.

Day of rewards is coming

Paul warns us to “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it.” (1Cor 3:10 NAS). He laid the foundation of the gospel and biblical instruction to be used for building up the church. It is not as much “what” one builds on this foundation, but “how” he builds. If one’s methods and motivations are secular and selfish, the rewards vanish.

Paul uses metaphors for likening all our deeds as “gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay and straw” (1 Cor 3:12), which are then tested by fire to see what is genuine.  Then “each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear,” (1Cor 3:13a NET).

Metaphorically “it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind ofwork each has done. (1Cor 3:13b NET). The measure is not how big one’s work is or how important one becomes, but the quality, sincerity, transparency and God-focused motivation.

Good or bad

Paul was ambitious, but not for himself. He wrote, “So then whether we are alive or away, we make it our ambition to please him. (2Cor 5:9 NET). He was careful to keep motivated to please and honor Christ, not himself, in everything he did.  He then said why: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2Cor 5:10 NAS).

Some believe that if they are simply “good” moral people staying out of trouble, they will be rewarded, but that is not what these words mean.

In Greek there are several words translated “good” and “bad.” In English we use good differently, but in the context it makes sense. To say, “This is a good car,” means that it is efficient, useful, and functions well. There is no moral quality implied.  But if we say, “This is a good person,” we typically mean a moral, upright person.  In Greek these are two different words. The word for “bad” is likewise used in two different meanings, one morally bad and the other meaning useless.

The word for good is agathos, which means something “beneficial, useful, or serviceable,” especially when used in contrast with the word “bad” or phaulos, which means “worthless, unhelpful, careless, thoughtless, indifferent or of no account.”  The emphasis is not on our moral qualities or sinfulness, but on the usefulness or benefit of our lives to the purpose or cause of Christ in our world.

At the Judgment Seat of Christ we will not be judged for our sins or lack thereof, because all our sins were judged on the Cross of Calvary.

This Judgment determines our efforts to be useful for Christ’s kingdom. Did our life benefit the building up (evangelism and edification) of the Church of Jesus Christ? Were we useful in reaching the unreached peoples of the world? (Matt 24:14).

All of our rewards depend on the answers to these questions.  However, we are not even capable of judging ourselves in this regard (and certainly not anyone else). Paul was criticized by others, but he said, “I do not even judge myself” (1 Cor 4:3).  It is hard to be honest with ourselves. Paul added, “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right.  It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide” (1 Cor 4:4 NLT).  All we can do is to keep our motives pure and live to contribute to His purposes on earth every day. He will determine the value of our lives.

Praise from Jesus

One of the most dramatic pictures of this Judgment day is revealed in 1 Cor 4:5a, “So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time– before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives.” It must be reiterated: God is not looking for bad things to reveal, but He is searching for every pure desire and motivation that was for His glory, not our own.

Paul concludes, “Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.” (1Cor 4:5b NLT). This has to be the most dramatic moment in all history: God praising His creatures individually for choosing to follow Him and however much they invested their lives in His kingdom purposes.

This is everyone’s moment of truth: what was my life worth to God?

All that God says in His Word about His kingdom plans and desires should be taken with utmost seriousness, rather than merely an optional recommendation. Herein is the heart of God revealed: He wants to honor and praise everyone who lives for His purpose, His glory and His honor.  This is all He will recognize in that day, and He will not miss a single thing, even a cup of water given in His name (Mark 9:41).

The Skip-over Syndrome

When John Piper wrote one of his famous quotes the Christian world changed.

“The reason missions exist is because worship doesn’t.” (John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993/2003), 17).

Statements like this always have a strong basis in truth, but they seldom contain the whole truth-concept and can easily be twisted to mean something that was never the intent of the author.

There are few advocates more committed to “kindle a fervor for missions and recruit missionaries and stir up support in senders for missionaries” than John Piper (Piper’s blog, Desiring God).  Yet the enthusiasm for “worship” has consumed the church, especially the youth, overshadowing the reason for worship.  We could never deserve the benefits God offers, yet we came to hear and know the glorious gospel of our Savior.

Piper is saying that an abundance of evangelism and missions should result in an overflowing of meaningful worship.  The question is today: Is the sequence of evangelism and missions the reason for the exploding worship movement, or does it have a life of its own?

Sea captain metaphor

Ray Comfort gives the analogy of a cruise liner filled with people singing praises to the captain of the ship in the stateroom, while all around the ship there is a sea of people crying for help before they drown.  Every now and again someone leaves the stateroom and hears their cry. They make some attempt to save a few, but there are so many.  When these few rescuers’ attempt to recruit others to the task of bringing more on board, they are met with disinterest and apathy as the crowd continues to praise the captain (Way of the Master).

Perhaps this is a somewhat exaggerated metaphor, but the fact that enthusiasm for corporate worship today far exceeds the enthusiasm for evangelism and missions seems fairly obvious.

It appears that the church has skipped over the steps of evangelism and missions to make the primary objective of the western church today to be worship.

Phasing out evangelists

At one time there were 4,000 full-time evangelists in church campaigns in N. America.  Today there is only a handful of evangelists left.  In the 1960’s evangelism was one of the most popular ministry careers in Christian colleges, but today few are able to make a living in evangelistic campaigns.  Few Christians even know an evangelist personally.

The idea of confronting the unsaved with a gospel witness and urging them to accept Christ is increasingly seen as an uncomfortable and undesirable activity.  Some think it will hurt the reputation of the church to be overly evangelistic.  Soul-winning conferences are almost unheard of in the contemporary church. We are told to make friends and do something nice for them so as to attract them to the church…, where they can experience worship.

Missions have not fared much better.  The day of a weeklong missions conference is increasingly rare.  Today it is difficult for new missionaries to have any exposure to the congregation in many churches and few pastors understand missions enough to lead their churches into a meaningful involvement in global missions.

Often pastors perceive missions as an additional (if not unnecessary) expense to an already tight budget.

Church worship

On the other hand, worship conferences and church worship have exploded.  It is more beneficial to the churches to have large worship programs, than large evangelistic or missionary programs.  Worship creates church growth by attracting people.

The argument can be thought out as follows: if worship is the chief or ultimate purpose of the church (and it also attracts the most people), then this should be the primary focus of the church today.  Could it be that instead of it being the result of evangelism, it has become the substitute for evangelism… and thus missions.

Worship testimony

In my evangelism class, I once asked a student why she thought she was saved.  Her answer was, “I have discovered that I love to worship God.  Since only Christians can enjoy God in worship, I must be a Christian.”  Several others have voiced similar testimonies.  Did they miss the evangelism component entirely?

Worship is meant to be a heart-felt experience that comes from the reality of a believer who celebrates the cleansing work of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary. Can the music and euphoria of mass enthusiasm generate a substitute feeling of being touched by God, when there is no understanding of the gospel?

Worship as missions

It is certainly a lot easier to engage in a worship experience than to learn how to practice a regular evangelistic ministry or prepare for a cross-cultural career.  Electricity flows where the resistance is least. Worship is meant to be a wonderful experience that is easy to practice as we feel His presence.

Can we get people singing in rhythm to feel God without knowing Him?

Questions to ponder

What do you think Jesus is more interest in today: hearing large groups of enthusiastic people praising Him for His greatness and holiness or seeing an army of believers giving up their lives to tell a lost world about what He did on the cross for their sins? If you were Christ, which would you be more interested in seeing?

Of course, the question should be, why can’t we have both?

Balance

Certainly eternity will not be a time of evangelism and missions, but rather of worship and thanksgiving for who God is, and all that He has done; thus now, in this age, in our lifetime, it is the only opportunity in eternity to demonstrate to our Savior how much Calvary means to us by living to tell the unreached world.  Singing praises are not the same as sacrificing one’s life to bring the lost of this world to kneel before the Savior before it is too late.

This is not an either/or issue, but a both/and priority.  Just as we now desire to focus on worship, may we elevate anew our enthusiasm for evangelism and missions.  We cannot skip over the means and reasons for our eternal worship.

 

 

 

 

How God leads us – Inner urges Part 3

What about those “inner voices” or “leadings” that indicate something to do or say?  Does God speak to us today? We often hear people say, “The Lord told me to …” How do we know if those impressions or urges are from God or my own imagination?

Supernatural communication is not always from God

We are warned, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 NKJ). This implies that the “spirit” can communicate to our minds. These spirits can be demonic or suggestive ideas from other sources that deviate from God’s revealed Word. The only “test” to know if it is from God is a comparison of the idea or notion with what is already revealed in God’s Word. This evaluation presupposes a biblical knowledge sufficient for making a comparison. God never contradicts Himself. Without this background even believers can be deceived.

Likewise we are warned, “Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will desert the faith and occupy themselves with deceiving spirits and demonic teachings, influenced by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared” (1Ti 4:1-2 NET). The first indicator of a false notion is the tendency to “desert the faith,” which does not mean to become “faithless,” but to abandon the “faith” revealed in God’s Word to focus on new ideas, fresh “revelations,” deeper truths, or a higher spirituality that seems better than following the “old” Book.  (See also 2 Cor 11:3-4, 14)

These new ideas can occur in one’s mind as an epiphany, a revelation, a dream, a leading, a voice or a new “truth” that appears to be divine and spiritual.  When one is more inclined to listen to these impressions or voices than daily seeking to know the wisdom of God in His Word, these “deceiving spirits” can detect an openness and provide “demonic teachings” to one’s conscious mind.

As seen in earlier blogs on this subject, the Holy Spirit works primarily through the conscience, but when there is a predisposed commitment to follow whatever urge that occurs in one’s mind, or an attitude to be completely uninhibited or unrestricted by any sense of propriety or wisdom, then the conscience becomes “seared” and unable to discern between what is right or wrong. When convinced that these urges are “God’s Word for today,” one sees them as God’s revelation of His will regardless of what the impression may be.

Just because an idea or “leading” occurs to your mind, it does not necessarily mean it is from God.

God does reveal truth

The Spirit of God does work in our minds to keep us in harmony with His Word. Paul wrote,
Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you” (Phi 3:15 NKJ). God’s Spirit helps us to understand truth in His Word and to apply the implications of that truth to our lives. This is not revealing to us new truth, but the “renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2) by enlightening our understanding to the already revealed truth.  If one is not thinking biblically, the Spirit’s task is to make wrong thinking or disobedience evident to the believer’s mind.

God does create desires

In all of the passages that deal with the requirements for church leadership there is no emphasis on a special vocational “call.” The subjective element for church leadership grows out of a properly motivated desire.  Paul wrote, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Phi 2:13 NKJ). The word for “will” is thelo, “to have in mind, to be resolved or determined” to do something “for the sake of His good pleasure” (NET Bible). This desire is balanced with the ability “to do” (energeo, “put forth power”) and refers to the God’s gifting of individuals to do His pleasure.  He makes His will become your desire if you are listening. A Spirit-filled believer will want to do His will.

The first requirement to become a pastor is that he “aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a good work” (1 Tim 3:1 NET). To “aspire” something (oregomai) means, “to stretch one’s self out in order to touch or to grasp something, or to reach after” and to “desire” (epithumeo) means “to have a desire for, or long for.” In a negative context it means “to lust after, or covet.” Both verbs are strong emotional inner drives to be responsible to God as an “overseer” of other believers, helping them mature in their Christian lives. The desire stems from a passion to nurture, protect and expand the church, which belongs to our Savior (Acts 20:28). This desire is certainly an inner urge from the Spirit, but it must be backed up with maturity, wisdom, knowledge and godliness (1 Tim 3:2-7) to become a reality.

The meaning of “led by the Spirit” (Gal 5:18 and Rom 8:14)

In the context of Gal 5:18 the flesh leads one to sin, selfishness, self-indulgence; whereas, the Spirit leads one away from sin. The word “lead” (ago) means “to take with one, to lead by laying hold of, or to bring to a point of destination.” The Spirit always leads away from fleshly expressions and the flesh draws one to it.

How do you know if the Spirit is leading? Are you inclined to move toward or motivated inwardly by “sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasure, idolatry, sorcery (pharmakia, “use of drugs or spells”), hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outburst of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties (“orgies”) (Gal 5:19-21)? Any and more such symptoms indicate the flesh is leading your desires and urges. Do not believe the lies you will think of to justify these leadings.

The Spirit compels us to avoid all such selfish behavioral motivations, rather to follow godly principles. If we feel urges towards any of the foregoing, they do not come from the Spirit.

The same function is fulfilled by the conscience, which is now “energized” by the presence of the indwelling Spirit to guide us toward Christ-likeness (Gal 5:22-23). The work of the Spirit in us is primarily an ongoing transformational process: “the Lord –  who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Cor 3:18 NLT).

The way this leading takes place (in this context) is by removing the “veil” (2 Cor 3:16) from over our minds, which blinds our understanding of Scripture (2 Cor 3:14). This gives us “liberty” (3:17) to know and live in the knowledge and light of the Scripture with an “unveiled face,” that is, clearly visualizing from Scripture the character, holiness, nature and will of Jesus Christ into which we are being transformed “by the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (3:18). The work of the Spirit is to open our minds to the Word He has already revealed in the Scripture and lead us into how to apply it.

The “mind of Christ” leads

An integral link to this understanding is learning how the “mind of Christ” becomes our mind-set. Philippians 2:2-5 commands us to have “the same mind, maintaining the same love (i.e. commitment to benefit others rather than our self), being united in spirit, and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.” (Phil 2:2-4 NET). Then we are commanded to “have the same attitude [mind] toward one another that Christ Jesus had” (Phi 2:5 NET). These are the motivations that should drive (or “leads”) our lives as they did His. Ideas will occur to us for how we should practice these biblical principles.

Inner urges and self-talk

In the light of the forgoing paragraphs, any momentary impulse or inner urges to our conscious mind to do something, change directions, say a word to an individual in your path, help an individual or give something to meet a need, could come from any number of sources.

If the urge is away from sin and selfishness, and fits within the scope of a wise decision, then it can be followed.  It is either your conscience bringing conviction of something right or wrong into your thoughts, or it could be an idea that just occurred to you from your sanctified mind.

Remember: if you have transformed your thinking into the “mind of Christ” then your thoughts are similar to the way He would think.

When thoughts persist concerning a choice that fits His kingdom purpose (It may or may not be convenient to your ambition), then it merits further investigation or a step of faith.

“Being on the way, the Lord led me…” (Gen 24:27)

We have great assurances that when we have given our lives completely over to Him, He will make sure we stay on His track for His purpose.

When Abraham sent his eldest servant (24:2) to find a bride for his son in a distant land, God made sure he arrived at the right place, at the right time to meet the right person from the right family for Isaac. He may not have been conscious of God’s leading along the way, but it became obvious at the end. Abraham and Isaac trusted in God’s providence to guide their servant.

As Paul was in the midst of his second missionary journey in central Asia (Turkey) he made a decision to head southwest into the province of Asia, an unevangelized territory.  Until this point Paul had been making decisions on the basis of wisdom and strategy to fulfill the Great Commission. He was “being on the way…”.

Now apparently a correction was needed to keep Paul on God’s timetable.  “They were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6).  This was a strange leading of God, but Paul did not hesitate to make another decision.

With no indication of any additional “word” from God they decided to head north through dangerous territories en route to the Black Sea and the provinces of Mysia and Bithynia, likewise unevangelized territories. When he had arrived at Mysia, “the Spirit did not permit them” (16:7) to enter. How this prohibition was made evident is not clarified. These could have been circumstantial, prophetical,  or a sanctified intuition that stopped them from proceeding.  In both situations Paul recognized the hand of the Spirit of God changing the direction for his team. Again without apparent hesitation or clear direction from God they changed direction to the west until they came to the coastal town of Troas, running out of land options.

By this time in the Second Missionary journey to Troas in modern-day NW Turkey they had covered approximately 850 miles of rugged terrain covered at a best-possible rate of 20 miles per day. The trip from Troas to Neapolis, Macedonia was about 130 miles, which would take 2 days sailing in good weather (or up to 5 days in bad weather). God’s leadings are often through difficult situations.

How and why the Spirit “forbid” or “hindered” them from entering Asia or did not “permit” or “allow” them to enter Mysia we do not know. If there had been a spoken word Luke would have recorded it as he did on other occasions (i.e. Acts 18:9; 22:8; 23:11). There are many ways this prohibition could happen, but it only meant a change in direction for Paul’s team as the continued to evangelize and make disciples.

God’s will for evangelizing both regions

God’s plan for Asia to be evangelized was fulfilled a few years later by the disciples of Paul when he taught for two years at Ephesus (Acts 19:10), and the region of Bithynia was likely a later ministry of Peter because he wrote his first epistle to the believers there (1 Pet 1:1). Bithynia would become a major stronghold of the Christian church and the site of significant church council meetings (e.g., First Council of Nicaea (AD 325) and the Fourth General Council of Chalcedon in AD 451).

When God is in control He is responsible to make any changes clearly evident. Until that crossroad point is reached we are to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31) where you are presently applying God’s Word to your life. When time comes for a change it will always be evident, often seemingly inevitable.

Macedonian vision (Acts 16:9)

When guidance was needed it was always provided; however, it was usually on a “need-to-know” basis. If it was not necessary, the believers and apostles could make plans and trust God to guide them and/or change their plans (Prov 16:9).  Let God be in control. Would Paul have thought of going to Macedonia had he not seen the vision of the Macedonian?  We’ll never know.

This vision was not a command, nor was it directly from Jesus.  Paul, however, took the vision as direction from the Lord and immediately set into action.  After two closed doors of opportunities (Asia and Bithynia), finally an open door from the Lord. They must have been excited.

In Acts 16:10 the sense of the phrase that the Lord “called us to preach the gospel to them” (in Macedonia) refers to God’s purpose in calling Paul and his team to Himself in salvation, which had the eventual purpose of spreading the gospel to Macedonia. God has a purpose for everyone who is “called” to Him in salvation.

Visions in the NT

There are four contexts in the NT where visions occurred: first, to Ananias to encouraged him to seek out Paul and heal him of his temporary blindness, then a vision to Paul to accept Ananias (Acts 9:10-16). The second vision was also in two parts, first to unsaved Cornelius to send for Peter (Acts 10:3-7), then the second part to Peter to encourage him to go to the Gentile house of Cornelius and preach the gospel (Acts 10:10-17).  A third vision appeared to Paul at Troas (Acts 16:10) to encourage him to go to the Gentiles in Macedonia. A fourth vision appeared to Paul in Athens (Acts 18:9) to encourage his next step in the missionary journey to go to Corinth.  In each case it was a strategic crossroads that Paul might not have chosen, but was essential for the advancement of the church.

Each of us has strategic moments in our lives to touch another person or take the gospel to a person or even to an unreached people group where we will need, and can count on, His timely guidance as we take the initiative to accomplish His desire for this lost world. We know what He wants. If we start to fulfill it He will guide us as we are “being in the way…” to accomplish His plan.

Conclusion

The mystery of how God leads us, and what His purpose is for our lives, will always intrigue us, but if we do not rebel, but rather begin the quest to obey all His revealed will in all the commands, while living to make Him known as He deserves, then His providential guidance will keep us on track to complete the “good works that [He] God prepared beforehand so we may do them” (Eph 2:10).

The four-fold life pattern recorded by Solomon 3,000 years ago in Proverbs 3:5-6 is still valid today:

  •  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” means to be “carelessly confident,” without reserves. as walking into a dark room holding someone’s hand who knows the way. Warning: He delights in getting us into situations where we have to learn to trust Him completely.
  • Not depending on your understanding,” rather than depend on our intuition, perspectives or opinions we must follow His values, wisdom and commands. We have to make sure our ideas or urges reflect what we know about Him in His Word.
  • Acknowledge Him in all your ways,” means to “know or notice” God in all your situations, how He is with you, and why He permits all your circumstances (good and bad as in James 1: 3-8), while never doubting He is trustworthy and makes no mistakes. His way is always worth it.
  • He will direct your paths” or “show you which path to take,”(NLT) means that He will (metaphorically) make a seemingly twisted path to straighten out, or to be pleasing or right in the end.  This is often more evident after the fact, than before or during life’s situations.

The subjective or mystical area of God’s leadings is the most difficult to analyze and is where most of the false ideas and erroneous teachings originate. False leadings derived from misapplications of Scriptures can lead to false notions and poor decisions. Great care must be given to analyze ideas that occur to us. Do they conform to the biblical revelations and God’s wisdom? Do my decisions advance God’s kingdom or my own? We must develop biblical criteria for discerning Christ-honoring leadings and urges. Its an adventure to let the Spirit of God guide your path.

How God leads us – Guidelines for initiatives Part 2

All that we know about ultimate truth and about God has been revealed to us mainly through the revelatory work of the Spirit. When Paul was questioned about his message in 1 Corinthians he explained “but God revealed it to us by his Spirit (1 Cor 2:10). Later he reiterated, “the things which I write to you are the commands of the Lord” (1 Cor 14:37). The Spirit revealed the revelation of God’s Word and His will to the apostles and prophets who were then “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 pet 1:21) resulting in the precise record of the revelations for the inspired Word of God.

Guided into all truth

In John 14-16 Jesus told his disciples on the eve before his crucifixion that the coming Spirit would “guide you [them] into all truth” (John 16:13).  This was an encouragement to the Apostles that the Spirit would cause them to remember what Jesus had taught and additional truths for the church to come.  This was not a general promise to all believers, but the assurance that what the Apostles would write under inspiration would be “all truth” that we are to learn from the biblical text.  This is not a promise for all believers of all ages to be miraculously led into biblical truth. Rather it was an assurance that the apostles and prophets would accurately give us the “foundation” on which the church would be based (Eph 2:20). We learn His words as from His lips that are recorded precisely in the biblical text.

Conviction of sin

The Holy Spirit reveals the Father to the mind and heart of men.  He does “not speak of himself” (Jn 15:13 KJV), but “will testify of” Jesus (Jn 15:26) and “will glorify” Jesus (Jn 16:14), rather than glorifying himself.  The Spirit did not originate the divine message, rather He clarified and reiterated the message from Jesus and the Father (Jn 16:14, “he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you”).

What the Spirit passed to the apostles was given to us by their inspired biblical texts as the very words of Jesus (1 Cor 14:37).

The present-day working of the Spirit in the world begins with convicting sinners of their guilty condition before a holy God: “When he has come, He will convict the world of its sin” (Jn 16:8).  This is part of the power of the gospel (Rom 1:16).  When a person is asked “Are you a sinner?” or “a good person?” and responds, “I’m not a sinner, though I may have made a few mistakes,” etc., one can know the Spirit has not begun his convicting work in this sinner’s heart.

John wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8). Before the gospel can be understood the sinner must recognize his sinfulness.  This is the work of the Spirit in the unbeliever.  Paul wrote, “the law was our tutor [paidagogos, from which we get the word pedagogy] to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24).  The Spirit uses the OT law on the conscience of the unsaved to reveal his sinfulness and guilt requiring a Savior and unmerited forgiveness.  This awareness of sin is how the Spirit leads a sinner to come to Christ in the gospel.

The comparison

Paul wrote, “As you, therefore, have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him” (Col 2:6).  As the Spirit brought conviction of sin through understanding His Word and you responded in faith believing it to be true, so live your life letting the Spirit guide you to understand all the commands in the Word, then respond by faith in living obedience to each one.  Paul added, “as you have received instruction from us about how you must live and please God (as you are in fact living) that you do so more and more” (1 Thes 4:1 NET). Keep learning more commands to obey.

“Listen to counsel and receive instruction that you may be wise in your latter days” (Prov 19:20). Just as we listened to God’s Word about salvation and responded in faith, so we must continually learn from God’s Word about how to live to “please God” and respond in obedience. This is how the Spirit led us to Christ and leads us to walk with Him now.

Guidance of the Spirit

The convicting power of the Spirit will indicate to us when we transgressor “miss the mark” of obeying his “instructions.” This is not a transgression of some new material or “freshly revealed” will of God, but rather when we willingly or ignorantly violate His revealed will in His commands He will give us a sense of guilt. Before coming to know Christ we could pretty much sin with impunity, but not now.

This conviction can be unpleasant, so the natural tendency is to “quench the Spirit” (1 Thes 5:19), convincing ourselves how to ignore His conviction.  When His Word is ignored, we can not expect that He will hear our prayers (1 Pet 3:7), or give any direction in our lives.

Gary Meadors wrote, “The Spirit’s role in guidance is to do an internal work that correlates with God’s Word rather than going beyond that Word with extra-biblical communication.  If we do not absorb God’s Word into our reasoning process, we rob the Spirit of what He needs to do His work of conviction and persuasion” (Gary T. Meadors, Decision Making God’s Way, Grand Rapids, Baker Books: 2003, p. 175).

Led by the Spirit

Too many expect God to tell us every decision we need to make every day, so we seek for visions, voices, signs or a word from God for today. This kind of revelation is supposed to reveal to us what He wants us to do now.  With no such revelation, we can flounder or do nothing. This miraculous intervention can occur at critical moments, but it is never sought nor is necessary. God does not tell us the future.  He expects us to know how to live daily and integrate His global purposes into our plans.  If we have truly given Him our lives, then He will keep us on His schedule through the guidance of His Word and His Spirit’s conviction.

Paul wrote, “Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom 8:14). In this context, we are instructed to follow the Spirit’s leading concerning the works of the flesh and leave them behind. To be led by the Spirit means to walk in the light (instructions) of what the Spirit has already given to the church in the Word of God. There is no hint of the Spirit telling us the future in this “leading.”

The same focus is seen in Gal 5:18 how the Spirit leads us away from the works of the flesh to the obedience of Christ’s commands for daily living. Making Him some sort of living horoscope is nowhere suggested in the Bible.

“Walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:16, 25) is a similar phrase that refers not to a mystical communication of new instructions, but a commitment to obey the instructions concerning the flesh (5:19-21, 26) and to walk in obedience to all the commands of the Spirit given in the recorded Word of God (Gal 5:22-24).

The proof of genuine conversion is being “led by the Spirit” (Gal 5:18) where the Spirit convicts and motivates believers to live in harmony with the divine standards in attitude and actions for His kingdom.

Three lessons from the Gospels

  1.  No longer servants but friends (John 15:15). Jesus told His disciples their new relationship in the kingdom, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant, does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”  Servants have to be told everything they have to do; friends know each other such a way that they meet each other’s needs or interests without having to be told. Jesus wants us to always act on the principles and objectives God has already revealed to us in His Word.  Any act of obedience to His Word is the will of God.  We are His “friends” if we commit to knowing all He has told us to obey, then commit to fulfilling His revealed will.
  2. The unprofitable servant (Luke 17:10).  Jesus described the unprofitable servant as one who had to be told what to do, saying, “So likewise you when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say ‘We are unprofitable servants.  We have done what was our duty to do.’”  The unprofitableness has to do with the lack of personal initiative to anticipate the master’s desires, and waiting to be told what to do, but nothing more.  Christ gives us general global directives then expects us to commit to making it happen.
  3. The parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-28).  A talent was an ancient unit of mass equal to 26 kg or 57.2 lbs of silver (@ $23/oz this gives an approximate value of $21,000 today, but adjusted for inflation it is a fortune). A talent was equal to 6,000 drachmae.  A skilled worker was paid one drachma (Geek) or denarius (Roman) per day’s labor (see Matt 18:24; 20:2, 13). Thus it would take a common laborer 100 weeks to earn one talent.

In the parable the master had great confidence in the three servants in Matthew 25, giving them a significant capital in silver to invest for him. What is lacking from the story is whether there was any special or ongoing instruction. This seems left out for the sake of the story. The lesson illustrates that the master has given each a special opportunity to take initiatives for the absent master, trusting him to recompense or reward them for their labor. Trusting the master’s character two of the three did their best, but the third was apathetic, fearful of failure, distrustful of whether it would be worth risking everything so he decided to do nothing. This was not a good decision.  If this is how Christ is operating today, He expects us to know Him and trust Him well enough to be willing to pour out our lives for His purpose.

Conclusion

Unfortunately the Bible does not give us any secret access to the future plans God has for each of us; however, He does have a plan: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord” (Jer 29:11), but just as He did not reveal them to Israel, nor does He tell us beforehand what we are to do.  He has chosen to keep it a secret (Deut 29:29), which we will only discover as we walk through it.

Paul wrote, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10).  As we walk in obedience according to how we have been made, taking initiatives for His glory (nor ours), for His honor (not ours) and for His purposes (not ours), we find ourselves fulfilling His purpose and will for our lives. May this be our passion and goal in life.

How God leads– the conscience Part 1

Our minds are a challenge to understand at times.  As believers we want a clear understanding of God’s will and how He can lead us throughout the day, but so many thoughts enter our minds that we can get confused as to which thought is from God or from another spirit, or just our own self-talk about our situation.

Our minds are constantly active as we try to comprehend about our environment and situation. We may feel guilty for saying something that hurt another or guilty for not responding when we should have taken a stand for Christian values or for not sharing the gospel in school or work.  We can allow our internal conversations to lead us into critical, sensual or egotistical thoughts, which we do not want anyone to know about. Good or bad thoughts often repeated find acceptance and eventually lead to acting them out with a free conscience.

Where do these thoughts come from?  How are we to understand them and how should we respond to them? Are we talking to ourselves or are we listening to an outside source speaking to our conscience?

Importance of the conscience

Conscience is an internal sense of right and wrong. It is like a computer that responds to what has been recorded in its memory. It can become “seared” (1 Tim 4:2) by repeatedly listening to lying or deceiving spirits in the mind (4:1).

The conscience is always taught or programmed by one’s worldview and accepted set of values, whatever they may be. The conscience gives a positive response to situations that fit our value system and a guilty or negative response to what is contrary to our beliefs.  As a result, the absence of a sense of guilt can be misinterpreted as “peace” or a “clear” conscience yielding a “green light” to a behavior that may in fact be a wrong signal to follow leading to disaster.

Limitations of the conscience

Paul wrote “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide” (1Co 4:4 NLT). Even a clear conscience for Paul was not adequate within himself to be certain he was right. The conscience is not the voice of God assuring us of His will; that is, the absence of guilt by itself does not justify an action as being right or God’s will.

A person may be convinced he has no guilt about pre- or extra-marital sex, but that does not mean that it is acceptable before God.  Our conscience is submissive to the value system we have come to believe.  If our beliefs or values are contrary to God’s Word, we will not be convicted about wrong doing; rather we will naively assume it is okay to commit even immorality because we no longer feel guilty.

Conscience merely reflects our worldview values

In 1 Cor 8-10 Paul uses a practical situation in the Roman Empire to illustrate the importance of keeping the conscience sensitive and guided by biblical principles. Paul dealt with the issues of what believers should do about food, drink and practices related pagan temple practices. (Missionaries face similar problems today).

Paul demonstrated how our knowledge (worldview, values and beliefs) controls our conscience (8:7, 10; 10:25, 27-29).  The designation of “weak” or “strong” was relative to the degree their biblical beliefs and worldview had changed in regard to the temple practices.  If their knowledge of God’s Word and new perspective was flawed or not yet clear, their conscience would be likewise defective and misleading.

The “strong” believer had the right perspective to guide his conscience: the believer knows there is no other god, rather merely empty idols (8:4).  In this context, however, the “strong” believer lacked the additional selfless commitment to give up his biblical rights and freedoms to eat things sold by the temple, so as to not encourage the “weak” believers to violate their sensitive consciences.  They still believed that any association with pagan temples was contaminated with false gods or demons they had always believed to be there.

A new believer might believe everything associated with his former unsaved lifestyle to be evil by association, i.e., playing pool or yoga.  In time the believer learns that not all associations are sinful and idols are not gods to fear, but this can take time.  It is one thing to know a truth and another to have the truth affect our conscience. It is a process.

The “stronger” or knowledgeable believer is to be patient and not encourage others to violate their consciences until the new biblical perspective changes the understanding of the “weaker” brother, lest his conscience become seared and he loses this vital “tool” for walking in obedience. Everyone’s conscience is important and we must help protect it in each other.

Categories of values and beliefs

The conscience will help us remain consistent with the new perspectives and beliefs we learn as the Word of God begins to transform our values and convictions.

First, we must learn the universal obligatory moral values communicated in the commands of the NT.  Jesus told us to “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” (Mat 28:20 NLT). Since there are hundreds of these commands we must constantly be reviewing them so our conscience can help us walk in this way.

Second, each of us lives or works in a community, ministry or institution that has values and moral beliefs that may not be explicit sins, but they are important for the testimony of the community. For example: wine drinking may be technically permissible, but many ministries forbid the practice for the sake of influence. For the benefit of the community and the avoidance of being a “stumbling block” (1 Cor 8:9) one foregoes his biblical rights.

Third: believers develop personal values and beliefs as they mature. For example: how one spends his time, Bible study, prayer time, acceptable music, hobbies or contribution to the kingdom of God.  These personal convictions program our consciences to keep us disciplined.

The conscience does not discriminate.  It seeks to hold us to our personally chosen values, even if those values are wrong or a violation of a command or ministry value. We can thus convince ourselves we are in the right, when, in fact, we might be wrong. This is why we need each other and continual exhortation and biblical teachings.

Discernment necessary

The conscience does not create our beliefs or values – we do.  These depend on what we tell ourselves is true in our own mind.   We must be careful that what we repeat in our minds is truly biblical.  The conscience seeks to guide us to live consistently within our beliefs. To violate the conscience can eliminate a major tool for God’s guidance in our lives.

Our understanding of God’s Word and His expectations of us must be accurate or our conscience will be defective and lead us into moral chaos, often without remedy.

Paul described this process of programming our beliefs as developing a “transformed mind” (Rom 12:2). This begins with a thorough awareness and trust in the commands of Christ for the believer.  By learning to think biblically we train the conscience with the tools to lead us into His will and the way to consistently live with Him.

 

Dying to self for the love of God, my goal

When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set at naught, and you sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ — that is dying to self.

When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient loving silence — that is dying to self.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, or any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus endured it — that is dying to self.

When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any attitude, any interruption by the will of God — that is dying to self.

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown — that is dying to self.

When you see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances — that is dying to self.

When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart — that is dying to self.

John MacArthur, Ephesians (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996).

Heart Peace Principle for determining God’s will

How does God guide His children? Many have used the principle of “heart peace” as an indication of God’s will saying, “I have [or do not have] peace” about a decision or direction in life.  This is a subjective, emotional guidance principle that has some problems with its foundation.

This concept is commonly expressed and becomes the basis of virtually every major decision in the lives of many Christians.  Almost everyone seeks the peace of God for decisions ranging from whom to marry, to where to invest your life’s ministry, to what car or house to purchase.  It is thought that if you do not have peace about it, it cannot be the will of God.

The basis of this common practice is derived from an interpretation of Col 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

Many today do not know the origin of this practice, nor the biblical basis from which it is derived.  The practice of praying for peace to know the will of God seems so spiritual and is so common today that anything less seems carnal. First, we will look at the origin of this teaching, then examine the biblical basis and finally, propose an approach for living in the will of God.

Origin of the peace formula for discerning God’s will

During the late 1800’s George Mueller, who trusted God to provide for thousands of orphans in England, developed a sequence of steps for discerning the future will of God for decision-making.  Other writers exaggerated some of his steps to sense a discernible peaceful spirit or doubting spirit as the clear indicators from God for being assured of His will.

Mr. Mueller taught that the first step was to develop a heart attitude without any will of its own; that is, to be totally open to whatever God would indicate. Then he would seek the will of the Spirit in connection with the Word of God (though it is not exactly clear how this was done). He recognized the danger of possible “delusions” from simple impressions.

Specific prayer was made to perceive either a sense of peace in his spirit if it was His will, or a sense of doubt or uncertainty if it were not His will.  He stated that after praying two or three times over a period of time a sense of one or the other would reveal His will.  If there was a sense of peace, then the decision was assumed to be God’s will and to be pursued.

Does God promise peace as an indicator of His will?  The basis of this teaching was derived from Colosenses 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts.”  The word for “rule” is the word for “umpire or arbiter in the public Greek games.”  It is said that if one perceives a sense of peace, then God is ruling in the matter; therefore, it must be God’s will. It is assumed that no one can sense a doubting spirit if it were the will of God.

Multiple sources of peace in the believer

In the NT there are a multitude of different levels of peace that the believer enjoys and experiences, some all the time.  There is the “peace with God” (Rom 5:1); the “peace of God” (Phil 4:7); we are “fill[ed] with all joy and peace in believing” (Rom 15:13); God has “called us to peace” (1 Cor 7:15); the “fruit of the Spirit is … peace” (Gal 5:22);  if you are praying with thanksgiving “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds” (Phil 4:7); and Peter said “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Pet 1:2).

With all this experience of “peace” how can we be expected to discern the lack of peace if the decision is not His will? What if the peace we sense is merely the peace of our gracious relationship with God through Christ our Savior?

Correct understanding of Col 3:15

What does it mean for the “peace of God” to rule in our hearts?   The number one rule for understanding the Scripture is to examine the context before jumping to a conclusion.

Context deals with peaceful relationships

In this context Paul is describing the new nature that all the believers in Colossi had received: “a new nature” which was constantly “being renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him” (3:10 NLT); “as the elect of God, holy and beloved, [they were to ] put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering [toward one another in the church]; bearing with one another , and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another [in the church], even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (3:12-13); “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (3:14).

If the body of Christ of Christ practices what the Word of God commands, then it will experience a bond of peace and harmony that is a foretaste of heaven.  This is a relationship that is to be protected and enjoyed by all participants in the church.

One peace for all believers in church together

Peace is to rule in the congregation (each reference to “you” or “your” is in the plural). Paul is not commanding an individual “you.” This is a mandate for the church as a body to make sure that peace and harmony dominate all the relationships in the church.  Anything that disrupts this peace is to be dealt with immediately so as to return to a state of peace among the brethren in the church.

Nowhere is there any hint in the context or the passage that “peace” is to be used as a sign or means of indicating the future will of God for an individual.

Only by this understanding does the remainder of the verse make sense: with reference to all “your [plural] hearts, to which also you [plural] were [all] called in one body.” This body of believers is to be characterized by peaceful relationships. Then all of you all “be continually being thankful.” If believers practiced this principle we would all be thankful. Who would not want to be part of a church like this?

Follow a model

A major key to living out the will of God is to have leaders and mentors who live out the passion of the Apostle Paul for winning the lost to the Savior. “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me– everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Phi 4:9 NLT)  Peace comes to the believer when he is putting into practice all the instructions that Christ and the NT writers gave us to live by and to live for. No where is there a hint in the Word of God that peace is used for determining the will of God for future decisions.

Is there a way to know specifically what God wants us to do?

“What” He wants us to do is detailed in Scripture, but “when” and “where” are left to be decided by each believer.  My next blog will deal with the “promptings” or “leadings” of the Spirit, which tend to answer these questions after we are obedient to the clear instructions in the Word.

The will of God

Most Christians want to know the will of God, but do not know how to find it.  Some want to know it before they have to choose it, in case it means going to Africa.  If it is too difficult, they’ll take a pass and do their life their own way.

Some want to know God’s will because they think it guarantees prosperity and an easy life.

Some have the idea that the will of God only has to do with the big decisions like whom should I marry, where should I go to college, what major should I study and where is God’s will for my life to be spent.  Actually, these may have more to do with the leading of God, rather than the revealed will of God.  He is not in the horoscope business.  He is in the wisdom business. He gives us enough wisdom and principles, in addition to His commands, to make excellent decisions if we pay attention to His revealed will.

Formulas for God’s will

Some people have the idea that God reveals His personal will tailored to every individual by a mystical or subjective communication. There are about a dozen formulas for determining the will of God that range from signposts to special revelations.  There is the “Random Finger Method” where one closes his eyes, flips open the Bible and blindly points to a verse, which supposedly indicates God’s will. There is the “Gideon’s Fleece Method” which requires testing God with a special sign to indicate His will. There is the “Open Door Method,” which says any opportunity that appears is God’s will; or the opposite sign, the “Closed Door Method,” in which an impossible circumstance indicates what is not God’s will. The “heart peace” formula is promoted as a subjective means of determining God’s will. All of these are fraught with biblical problems and conflicts.

Many want to take some inner promptings as just as authoritative as the inspired Word of God. Whatever one feels is “God’s calling” should be obeyed lest he be disobedient to God’s will. My next two blogs will deal with discerning these inner leadings.

There are a number of biblical principles that need to be considered before making major decisions by these inner promptings, and more important, before ignoring the clear indications of God’s will.  Why should God show us any more insights into His plan for our lives when we are only slightly interested in discovering all that He has so carefully revealed in His Word?

Don’t be a fool

We are warned that we are playing the “fool” if we do not “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:17). This implies that God’s will is something that can be learned by anyone then applied to “be careful how you live” according to His recorded wisdom (Eph 5:15).

Help each other by prayer

To begin with, we are all in this search together to continually be learning His will and we should pray for one another to perceive what God has revealed. Paul wrote, “since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way” (Col 1:9-10). “Spiritual wisdom and understanding” refers to the application of God’s Word to life’s situations.

This goal of knowing all that He expects of us is not an easy one, so we need to be encouraging and exhorting one another to be in the Word daily, but especially praying that we each have the courage and commitment to live out His will.  We are a team of believers helping each other follow His instructions. Epaphras was “always struggling in prayer on your behalf [the church at Colossi], so that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God” (Col 4:12 NET).

The Holy Spirit is undoubtedly praying the same thing for each of us: “He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27).  No one is more interested in showing us His will than the One who inspired the NT authors to write all that God wants us to follow every day.

Obey the NT commands

The first thing that must be accepted is the fact that all the applicable commands in the NT are the clear will of God for our lives.  This sometimes is called the Moral will of God, but it is not to be brushed over lightly.  There are over 365 commands that can be categorized in thirteen areas we are to master.  These are commands regarding salvation, separation from the world, the judgment seat of Christ, witnessing for Christ, how to suffer persecution, how to worship, rules of personal relationships, dealing with temptation, how to think and what to value, how to deal with finances, patterns for marriage, how to pray and guidelines for discipleship.  All of these are detailed and explained in “Walking His Way” a daily devotional Bible study by Don Fanning (see also www.obeythecommands.com).

The emphasis of the Apostle Paul is consistently on the inspired revelations of the NT that we are expected to learn and apply.  “Finally then, brothers and sisters, we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received instruction from us about how you must live and please God (as you are in fact living) that you do so more and more.” (1Thes 4:1 NET) The will of God is a set of instructions that we are to live by that honor and please God by our willingness to live His way.

Believers often treat the commands as an optional lifestyle for the super spiritual, rather than the normal Christian life, yet Paul warned, “if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed”  (2Thes 3:14).

To make it explicitly clear that Paul was not merely expressing his opinions he wrote, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor 14:37). The commandments of the Lord are delivered to the church by inspiration through the Apostles and writers of the NT as the will of God.

Some may have warm feelings about the Lord, especially in worship experiences, but have little interest in seeking out all that Jesus has commanded for His followers. They misinterpret their “loving feeling” as a genuine relationship and consider worshipping God as the goal of the Christian life.  Yet Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments”  (John 14:15). It is not what one “feels” about Christ, how wonderful His is, but how seriously we take every instruction He has painstakingly given to us in His Word so we can learn how to walk with Him in full harmony.

There are clear statements that declare what the will of God is:

  • Be thankful for everything: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1Thes 5:18)
  • Avoid all sexual immorality: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality” (1Thes 4:3)
  • Submit to civil ordinances: For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men– (1Pet 2:15)
  • Suffering for Christ may be God’s will.  “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1Pet 3:17). Paul adds, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2Tim 3:12). This does not mean to seek out suffering in order to be in God’s will, but rather suffering is inevitable to those who choose to obey God’s instructions in His Word.

The attitude of the believer is to emulate a slave who is attentive to every word that comes from his master: “As bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph 6:6).  If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, then we should search out every command that He has given us in His Word, because we love whatever He commands us to do or think. David said it this way: “Therefore I love Your commandments More than gold, yes, than fine gold!” (Psa 119:127).

Pay attention to what He says

Proverbs 2 describes a series of attitudes for a seeker of God’s wisdom: “if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding… If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God”[His will] (Pro 2:1-2, 4-5). His wisdom is not mystical but already revealed in His Word. If we want it, then we must seek it out to find it.

Peter wrote the goal of how we should live:  “no longer should live the rest of his [our] time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1Pe 4:2).  Make it a life-goal to pursue the knowledge and application of how God wants us to live with Him.

Paul did not know the future will of God

Most people are interested in the will of God to know what the future holds, but God is more interested in how we live today. Professional golfers have to learn to “stay in the moment” and not think about what could happen in the future, lest they make a costly mistake.  All the biblical references to the will of God are present time oriented, not future oriented.  Following the will of God daily will lead a person to fulfill His will for tomorrow.

Paul made plans to travel to Rome but he did not know how, when or if he would get there.  He was praying “making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you” (Rom 1:10).  Later by the end of his Epistle Paul was still hopeful that his plans to come to Rome were God’s will when he wrote, “that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, (Rom 15:32).

Paul lived preaching the gospel where it was not known in obedience to the Great Commission. Twice in Acts 16 Paul attempted to go to a region that the Holy Spirit stopped him from pursuing (16:6, 7). He launched out in a direction that made sense to him but God stopped him, then Paul made another choice with no inner direction from God to go to Troas.  There God gave him the vision of an invitation from a Macedonian man. The next morning Paul sailed the Aegean Sea to Macedonia. When we are doing what He commands, He will make sure we are in the right place at the right time. That is the beauty of His will.

Whatever transpires is God’s will

Our trust is placed in a God who guides and controls the circumstances of our lives for His eternal purposes, not necessarily for our selfish desires.  In His graciousness He can grant us far more than we deserve, but He can also bring disaster and persecution to those He loves (i.e., His Son was crucified and all His Apostles were martyrs). “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1Pe 4:19).

We are part of a much bigger picture of His purposes that we cannot see, but His plan is perfect. He wants us to trust Him through whatever our circumstances might be.  Just to be a participant in His plan is a privilege, whatever the price we have to pay. His grace is sufficient for us to honor Him, whatever might be our experience (2 Cor 12:9).

Means of realizing God’s will

The will of God is a new way of thinking and conforming our minds to His wisdom and commands revealed in Scriptures.  This is not mystical, but is acquired by learning from His Word all that God has instructed us to practice in our lives.  Romans 12:2,And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

This “renewing” (Gk., “renovation or complete change for the better”) means a change of presuppositions, beliefs, values and convictions based on new insights and instructions given by God in His Word. By adapting to His way of thinking our lives will be a living proof that His will is “good and acceptable and perfect” (12:2), which honors Him and glorifies Him.  To “glorify” means “to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged.” As we value the will of God revealed in His Word, and prove its worth by applying it to our transformed lives, others will gain confidence and appreciation for His Word and thus for Him as a Person.

Paul told the Thessalonians how to live and “please God” (1 Thes 4:1) by excelling in all Paul had instructed them: “for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.” (1Thes 4:2).  This is the will of God.

God so values those who seek to live out His will that, in spite of many failures, He will remember forever His servants: “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep” (Act 13:36). May it be said of us, we “served [our] own generation by the will of God.”