October 21: Freedom and God’s Will

Read Romans 14:1-23

In these twenty-three verses, there is much more at stake than a first-century conflict between vegetarians and carnivores. No, this has everything to do with the proper use of or restriction of freedom.

But let’s understand the context first. Some of the “weak believers” had been so influenced by their past exposure to Old Testament laws regarding “clean” foods, they chose a vegetarian diet in order not to violate the law. Other “weak believers” had been so influenced by their past exposure to pagan sacrifices and worship that they abstained from meat just so they would avoid inadvertently eating meat offered to idols. Unfortunately, these people did not understand that they had been set free from those demands of the law. They did not realize that there are no real gods behind the idols.

In some ways, then, their abstinence from eating meat was unnecessary. Even though they didn’t know it, they had the freedom to enjoy a hamburger.

Meanwhile, others in the church understood that God’s will gave them latitude in this area. They enjoyed meat.

Over time, this use of freedom and lack of understanding of freedom created tension. Those who ate meat looked down on those who abstained . . . and vice versa! But rather than sternly correcting the abstainers or coming to the defense of the eaters, Paul encourages them to be sensitive to each other. That is an interesting thought. Although God’s will allowed them freedom to continue to indulge, there was another principle at work. Both were to pursue peace.

This can be a very difficult thing. Depending on your background and understanding, it can be hard to recognize freedom. Or if you enjoy freedom, you may find it difficult to grasp how others could have a more restrictive view. In these areas of freedom, there is something bigger at stake than whether or not you personally choose to restrict or enjoy the freedom. There is the impact that your decision has on others in the body of Christ! In those areas, you must choose wisely and pursue peace.

sbk

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

October 20: Our Plans and God’s Will

Read James 4:1-17

We have all done it. It doesn’t matter if you are a business executive charting out a course for your division that will keep things moving up and to the right. It doesn’t matter if you are a person making arrangements for your annual vacation. It doesn’t matter if you are a “list person” who writes down every single thing you plan to do tomorrow. Every one of us has, at some point (and probably regularly), made plans for the future.

Do you incorporate the Lord into that process of making plans? Do I? Ouch! Guilty as charged.

The imaginary person in the last verses of James 4 somehow looks similar to the person I see when I look in the mirror. This business person had developed a clear plan. Perhaps his colleagues and his boss even applauded him for it. His departure and return were pretty clear. His strategy for doing business was in place. The profitable outcome seemed guaranteed.

But there was one thing he had not included in the planning . . . God’s will. That is one thing that we can easily overlook. We make plans for tomorrow’s tasks, next year’s vacations, and even what retirement will look like while often forgetting that we do not really know what tomorrow may bring. We make plans for the future without factoring in the truth that there is but One who knows and holds the future.

So what needs to change? Do we give up all planning and strategizing? Certainly not. That is not the point that James is making. Instead, we should seek to incorporate God into the planning process. And, even once we have arrived at a tentative plan, we must hold onto it loosely. We must remember that it is only “if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (v. 15).

So what plans do you have for today? How about tomorrow? What about next week? Later this year? Years from now? Do you need to surrender all of those things to the Lord and to His will? Now is a great time to begin to do that. And the rest of life will provide a great opportunity to continue to practice that surrender.

sbk

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

October 19: Fleeces and God’s Will

Read Judges 6:1-40

As a child, I used my own share of “fleeces” in attempts to discern the outcome of future events or to determine God’s will for my life. I can remember standing in front of our house waiting for a ride to a Little League baseball game and saying to myself, “If the next car that passes by is red, that is a sign that we will win.” There were also times when I prayed, “God, if you want me to ________, then You __________.” In the end, I guess I didn’t place much value on these thoughts and prayers, because not a single outcome really stands out . . . only a few of the bargains and requests.

But Gideon did it. He used a fleece . . . twice. First it was, “God, if you are in this, then make this fleece wet and the ground dry.’” And God answered with clarity. But Gideon wanted further confirmation. Next it was “Make the ground wet and the fleece dry.” Once again, God answered with clarity.

Now, before you go out and buy your own patch of sheepskin and corresponding wool, take note of two things:

  1. God had already clearly spoken. He had already clearly expressed to Gideon the fact that He wanted to use him in the upcoming conquest. And He had already guaranteed a victorious outcome. God had already communicated with Gideon in miraculous and spectacular ways. In that regard, Gideon’s “fleeces” reflect a lack of faith that God was really going to follow through on His promises.
  2. God did not reprimand Gideon for the fleeces. That is important to note. Even though God had made Himself clear, He did not express displeasure with His servant. Instead, He gladly responded to Gideon’s requests and confirmed and reconfirmed His original statement.

So what should we glean from this story? First of all, when God speaks, we can trust Him.  He won’t change His mind or back down on His promises. We can trust Him and act in faith. Secondly, He seems sensitive to our doubt. While we need to be careful in declaring to God our terms for how He should make His way clear, we can cautiously read and reread His promises and His will. We can sensitively seek His leading through the Holy Spirit.

sbk

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

October 18: Submission. God’s Will

Read 1 Peter 2:1-3:7

While individually unique aspects of God’s will may differ from person to person, certain facets of His plan apply to all people and/or to all Christ followers. Already we have seen that His will is that every person comes to faith in the Son, Jesus Christ. We have observed that His will includes the sanctification or setting apart of His children from the ways of the world . . . especially with regard to sexual purity. But today we also read another clear “it is God’s will that” statement:

“For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people” (2:15).

If we isolate that verse from the context, we discover a general principle . . . a morally upright life is like a Teflon skillet. That’s true, you know. When we do right, accusations of wrong don’t stick. It is God’s will that we live that way.

But now pause and consider it in the broader context of what Peter was writing. This challenge to do good is specifically planted in the soil of submission “to every human authority.” It is God’s desire that we willingly yield to others around us.

We can demonstrate that in how we relate to government regulations and elected officials (2:13-17 cf. 1 Tim. 2:1-7; Rom. 13:1-7). Do you gladly abide by their requests? Do you pay the taxes to which you are obligated? Do you demonstrate respect for the people in the offices, even praying for them? All of these are a reflection of God’s will.

We are to yield to others in your work relationships (2:18-25 cf. Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22-24). As supervisors, we are to treat your employees fairly. As employees, we are to serve as if serving Christ Himself. Again, this is part of God’s will for you and for me.

That kind of submission is also to characterize life at home (3:1-7 cf. Eph. 5:21-33; Col. 3:18-21). How husbands and wives and parents and children should interact is outlined by God.  He has expressed His will for us.

In short, we do God’s will when we do the right things in relationships! And, as a byproduct, we eliminate any grounds for accusation.

sbk

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

October 17: Sanctification. God’s Will.

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

At times, discerning God’s will isn’t nearly as hard as we might think. We don’t have to spend long periods of time in prayer and fasting in hopes of discovering the obscure. We don’t need to seek the counsel of others who we think have insights unavailable to us. It isn’t necessary for us to ask for some kind of miraculous sign that will point us in a direction we couldn’t have otherwise known. No, sometimes God makes His will abundantly clear, and He does so through His written Word:

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God . . .”  (1 Thess. 4:3-5).

God desires our sanctification . . . that we are set apart from sin; especially regarding our sexuality. Meanwhile, here are other clear passages:

“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality . . .”  (Eph. 5:3a).

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away” (Matt. 5:28, 29a).

God’s will is clear. He wants you and me to live lives of sexual purity. He wants our actions to be characterized by self-control, holiness, and honor. His plan is that we steer clear of passionate lust.

But while His will in this arena of our lives is clearly expressed in His Word, it is clouded by our culture. Even innocently searching the web can lead to invitations to view pictures of singles right here in Wooster. Try standing at the check-out at Wal Mart, and the magazine covers will invite you to compromise. Television and the movie industry seem to pepper even “good” entertainment with suggestive language and scenes that can be burned on the hard drive of our minds.

Before we place God’s call to complete sexual purity under the category of “impossible,” we must ask ourselves:

  • How committed do I really want to be to God’s will?
  • What radical steps am I really willing to take?
  • Which thought patterns do I really need to take captive?

sbk

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

October 16: Salvation. God’s Will.

Read 2 Peter 3:1-18

As we move from our teens into our twenties, most of us wrestle with burning questions like:

  • What career should I pursue?
  • Should I attend college?
  • Should I marry? If so, whom?
  • Where should I live?

During that time, many people earnestly desire to know God’s individual and specific will for them. But there are dimensions of the will of God that are even more fundamental than these. Although the need for answers to these aspects of God’s will may not be felt as intensely, they are arguably much more important. And rather than being unique to an individual, these are universal for all.

In these first few days of the study of God’s will, we want to explore these more universal expressions of God’s will for people. The first of these is captured in the words of 2 Peter 3:9:

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

God wants all people to repent and spend eternity with Him.

The reality is that everyone has sinned. Each one of us has violated God’s moral plan for mankind. The consequences of sin are vast. As a result, we are spiritually dead, separated from God. And we deserve eternal punishment. Turning over a new leaf, however, just won’t resolve this problem. As a result, reconciling our relationship with God represents a human impossibility, and it marks the biggest need of our lives . . . bigger than the understanding of what job to take or what person to marry.

But God has made that possible. Through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, He offers to reconcile our relationship. His desire for all is that we experience that through repentant faith in Christ.

Thankfully, He is patient with us. He gives each of us an entire lifetime. He brings circumstances, messengers, and reminders of His powerful glory into each person’s life. All of these prompt individuals to surrender to Christ in repentant faith.

That is His will for you and for everyone you will encounter today!

sbk

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

October 15: God’s Will and You

Read Acts 16:1-10

Two times the Holy Spirit told Paul, Silas, and Timothy, “no.” Next came a voice and a vision. Clearly, God was directing the three of them according to His will.

Although I don’t know exactly what it was like to experience those promptings of the Spirit, part of me yearns for the kind of indisputable clarity that I read in those lines. If only knowing the will of God was that simple and that obvious — a diagram on the wall in which there is an arrow pointing and words written, “God’s will for you – this way please!” That sounds pretty inviting. A dream in the night in which Jesus tells me, “Here’s what I want you to do . . .” that is pretty appealing.

Instead, most of us find ourselves gravitating towards one of two ends of a continuum. The first is the person struggling and wondering. He or she wrestles with the Lord over decisions like:

  • What should I study?
  • Where should I go to college?
  • Should I marry? If so, whom?
  • Which job should I take?
  • Where should I live?
  • Which car should I buy?
  • What about kids? Should we have any? How many?
  • What should I do in retirement?

Even though this person genuinely seeks God’s will, she is never quite certain that she has found it or is living it out. There is always an element of doubt.

Meanwhile, the second is the person who just plans and heads out. There is little or no concern about God’s will.  He just charges ahead, doing what seems best or most desirable.  If pushed into a corner, this person might say that it must have been God’s will because He didn’t intervene and prevent the course of action.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we will explore more about discerning God’s will. It requires that we yearn for it, that we look for it. But will it always be as illusive and uncertain as many of us think it to be? Those are good questions!

May God grant each of us better understanding about His will through this time in His Word!

sbk

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment