Recently ordered a copy of this inaugural Puritan systematic theology. Looking forward to having it on hand!
”Let us therefore bear in mind, that the entire Gospel consists mainly in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so that we must direct our chief attention to this, if we would desire in a right and orderly manner to make progress in the gospel – nay, more, if we would not remain barren and unfruitful.”
John Calvin Commentary on I Corinthians
“Believing, therefore that there is such a thing as truth, and such a thing as falsehood, that there are truths in the Bible, and that the Gospel consists in something definite which is to be believed by men, it becomes us to be decided as to what we teach, and to teach it in a decided manner. We have to deal with men who will be either lost or saved, and they certainly will not be saved by erroneous doctrine. We have to deal with God, whose servants we are, and he will not be honored by our delivering falsehoods; neither will he give us a reward and say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast mangled the gospel as judiciously as any man that lived before thee’.”
C.H. Spurgeon Lectures to My Students 2.3
I promised last week that I would address the topic of how to know what God’s will is and I would like to briefly give an answer. There are many layers to this subject, but I want to just touch on a foundational principle that I hope will bring freedom and motivation to live a life devoted to God’s revealed will.
I have many times heard people in exasperation declare “I just want to know God’s will for my life.” Other sit still, claiming that they will just do nothing until God tells them what to do. Many are waiting for a calling and then grow frustrated when that calling they receive doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Did they hear God right?
What these people, and I have been included among them, fail to realize is that God has already told them what to do. Every believer has sufficient information from God to know his will. II Timothy 3:16-17 says “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” This verse teaches that the Word of God is sufficient for the man or woman of God to be complete. Now that is not to say that you will ever in this life be complete, but we can be confident that in this life we will never reach the end of our sanctification as there is always room to go deeper in the Scriptures. But this does give us a clear message from God that his Word is enough.
The problem with seeking a subjective calling or extra-biblical inspiration, is that it is not Scripture, which according to this verse is what we need if we desire to be complete. The Bible is full of things that are God’s will for you, but the problem with us is that we often want God to be like a fortune teller who will make decisions in life easier for you by telling you where to live, what to major in, who to marry, etc. Doubtless the Bible speaks into all of these things, but God does not give us many specifics regarding every-day life. Does this make what He has revealed insufficient? We of course can say no!
Much more could be said about this, but let’s get to nuts and bolts. How then do I know God’s will for me in where I should live, whom I should marry, and so forth? A sufficient answer can be found in the Word. We want God to tell us what to do because he knows the future and we don’t, in fact he has ordained our days and where we will live (Acts 17:26). Yet he does not tell us the details of how he brings these things about or what things we should do in detail in most cases. But he does tell us what we need to know. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.“(Deuteronomy 29:29)What does this all mean to this point? It means that is each situation that arises we can make decisions in keeping with God’s revealed will (the Scriptures) and have confidence that in and through those decisions he is bringing about His secret will leading to the good of His children and the glory of His name.
Here is a great example that is not my own, but is helpful: If a girl is being pursued romantically by two men and she thinks they are both great, how can she know what God’s will is? Who should she say yes to? What does God want her to do? Biblically speaking if both men a clearly born-again, growing in Christ and submitting to His Lordship, then she is free to marry either. Therefore, as crude as this may seem, if one guy is tall and the other is short, and she likes tall guys, then she should marry to tall guy. It’s not rocket science, it is about submitting to what God has revealed about His will in the Scriptures and not becoming petrified by your inability to know what God’s secret will is!
Now what this does not negate is seeking wisdom which God freely gives to those who ask (James 1:5). God is able to give you wisdom and insight through the Word, through other people in your life, to give you the ability to be discerning of situations, and numerous other ways in which the exercise of wisdom can help illumine the path before you. To go against wisdom may lead to some head-aches and even trials, but as long as it is not disobedience to God’s revealed will for you in his Word, then it is not sin per se. Avoid ruinous decisions then by taking what God has told you as far as it goes in the decision process, confident in its sufficiency, and then pray for wisdom and move forward. The girl in the example above may have decided to employ wisdom over preference and when considering her desire to eventually be a missionary she realized that tall guy had a desire to take over the family business and that short guy shared her desire. Thus she allowed shorty to pursue her instead. (Crude and cheesy but it works).
However, if she held the view that many people do on walking in God’s will as a mystical exercise, what would have happened if she married tall man? She probably would eventually become disillusioned and would question if being married to Tall Man was really “God’s will”. But if she instead came to realize that she married Tall Man in keeping with the revealed will of God, she could then be free to pursue her evangelistic desires wherever she is. Perhaps soon she would be meeting with a group of refugee ladies in her small American town, sharing the love of Jesus with them; doing the will of God as revealed in Scripture.
My desire for this post is that many people would come to have a greater appreciation for the Bible –God’s Word. And that many would experience freedom to walk in obedience to what God has revealed his will to be, wherever they are. If you want to know God’s will for your life, then spend a lot of time in the Word. Recognize His sovereignty over your situations and then pray each day for wisdom. Just as God was faithful to lead his people in the wilderness with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, so now God holds before us in this land of our sojourning the pillar of Scripture so that we may with confidence walk in the path before us.
How can they sit and hear of the infinite height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus, of His giving of His infinitely dear Son, to be offered up a sacrifice for the sins of men, and of the unparalleled love of the innocent, and holy, and tender Lamb of God, manifested in His dying agonies, His bloody sweat, His loud and bitter cries, and bleeding heart, and all this for enemies, to redeem them from deserved eternal burnings, and to bring to unspeakable and everlasting joy and glory – and yet be cold and heavy, insensible and regardless! Where are the exercises of affections proper, if not here?
Jonathan Edwards Religious Affections