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"Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)


Dec 7, 2016

Have you ever wondered about what God's will was for you? What's the difference between presumption and the Holy Spirit's leading? Can you do the right thing in the flesh? Can God lead you contradictory to His Word? Brother Jonathan looks at these issues from the scriptures to bring clarity to this common question.

Here are the notes for this episode:


How to know God's Will

  1. Intro
    1. This is one of the most relevant and important questions that a person can ask. We can break down the answer into two parts:
      1. The will of God which has already been revealed in His Word.
      2. Special leadings by His Holy Spirit
    2. There are a lot of things we could cover, but we will keep things simple; because this really is a simple matter.
  2. The Revealed Will of God: His Word
    1. Every commandment of God shows His will for us in a particular area of life or situation (e.g. how to treat others, deal with lost people and family, who not to marry, etc.)
      1. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Ti. 3:16-17)
      2. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;” (John 8:31)
      3. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word…Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. “ (Psa. 119:9, 11)
    2. Before anything else, we should bring our lives into conformity with His Word. (e.g. “The Bible says not to marry lost people, therefore, I won’t date a person who is not a zealous Christian.”)
    3. This is the LEAST a Christian should be doing. If you are not seeking in the Bible how God wants you to live then you need to examine yourself. “As newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the Word that ye may grow thereby.” (1 Pet. 2:2)
    4. Men in the Bible were commended by God for doing what He had already proclaimed to be good and right. God gave commandments, these men obeyed them, and God blessed them. Listen:
      1. David, “…and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes.” (1 Ki. 14:8)
      2. Asa, “And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father.” (1 Ki. 15:11)
      3. Jehoshaphat, “…he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD:” (1 Ki. 22:43)
      4. Jehu, “And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” (2 Ki. 10:30)
      5. Also: Joash, Amaziah, Hezekiah, Josiah*.
    5. These men were blessed because they looked into the Word of God and saw the things that God had commanded: and DID them. That, in essence, is faith.
    6. We don’t have prophets like them of the OT did, at least not in the same manner. If any man proclaims himself to be a prophet, the NT makes clear that we are supposed to JUDGE that person’s words anyways (1Cor.14:29-33). Prophets weren’t supposed to be dictators.
    7. If God has given a commandment regarding something, paying attention to context of course, you don’t need to ASK God again if it’s something we should do. We usually do this because it’s just something we don’t WANT to do. (e.g. Church discipline)
    8. God will NOT contradict Himself. We are told that He is truth (John 14:6), and that He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). He cannot even conceive of a lie (Tit. 1:2). Since God’s Word is truth (John 17:17), and the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13), the Holy Spirit will NEVER lead contrary to God’s Word. In order to do so, He must deny Himself (Truth), and lie: because no lie is of the truth (1 Jn. 2:21). Think about it: if it contradicts God’s Word, which is truth, then it MUST be a lie, because God’s Word IS truth.
    9. Simply put, God will never lead you to break even the LEAST of His commandments. If God did so then He could not apply the same standards to all men. Objective truth would be out the window. All that would be left then is a divine course in situational ethics, which is subjective moral relativism. There is no difference in saying, “The spirit is leading me contrary to the letter,” than to say, “What’s right for me is not what’s right for you.” If God can lead contrary to His Word then there really is no point in having it at all, because it would not be an objective standard by which we could measure all things as to whether they were true or not. Without God’s Word being absolute ALL the time for EVERY person then there is no way that we could point to any other person and say that what they were doing is wrong. No one on earth could be definitively called lost, because who are you to say otherwise if God can do some “new” thing different than His Word?
    10. According to the Pietistic view of scriptural interpretation, we must wait on the “spirit” to send a bolt of lightning to zap our brains with understanding. There are plenty of spirits that will do that for you, but it doesn’t mean that it’s God. I’ve heard people contradict every plain doctrine of scripture simply because they sought for extra-biblical understanding of what the Bible means. They believed that God was simply “explaining” the scriptures to them. Words mean the same thing to God that they do to us. God does not have “special” meanings for words. Now we must make sure that our definitions match, because language today has been corrupted. Simply put, if the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense. Otherwise, it all becomes nonsense.
    11. People have a tendency to “spiritualize” scripture. “No it’s not saying don’t lie at all: It’s really saying don’t lie on Tuesdays!” “No it’s not adultery: God wasn’t in my first marriage!” This is Gnosticism at its best. They would take away the plain sense of the words to insert something contrary to what the plain sense of the text means. This is the result of believing God will contradict Himself. You will inevitably do this. If you don’t begin right in understanding scripture, then you certainly can’t end right. God’s not trying to hide what He commands men. He makes it plain so that they may do it.
    12. The Spirit of God is the one that will give you understanding of the Word of God. But understand it’s not only by dreams, visions, or “words”. We are told to study. We are told to give attention to teachers and preachers. The book of Proverbs is filled with verses that tell us to receive correction and instruction from men. “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto Him that teacheth in all good things.” (Gal. 6:6) If someone tells you that what you are doing is contrary to scripture you are to always be ready and willing to be corrected: if it is true. The problem is that most people are not willing to be corrected.
    13. I had to go off on that seemingly large tangent, but it is necessary today. Everyone feels that they are somehow “special” and that God will deal with them “specially”. Well, God is no respecter of persons and you will be judged by His words one day. His words are spirit and they are life (Jn. 6:63). Remember, you ARE special…just like everyone else.
    14. There may be many members, but 0ne body and head: Jesus Christ. There may be many creatures, but one Creator. Many opinions, but one Lawgiver and Judge; and He is the one who sets the standards. And He has said He will judge you by His Words. That means that His Word is absolute, and unchanging, for all men.
  3. It’s not hard
    1. The majority of the Christian life is not hard to discern from the Word of God. Those who are truly born of the spirit of God can read the Word and understand at least God’s commandments that are in it. If they couldn’t, then He could not rightly expect them to obey Him.
    2. For example, listen to this passage:
      1. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:” (1 The. 4:3-5)
      2. This passage says clearly that it is God’s will for believers to not commit fornication, that’s sex outside of marriage, at ALL. Even “the lust of concupiscence” can be shown to include masturbation. The only reason that someone could not interpret this passage clearly is: (1) they aren’t born again; (2) they aren’t willing to hear it because they want to commit fornication or masturbation; or (3) they don’t understand what the words “fornication” or “concupiscence” mean.
    3. In essence, it comes down to owning a good dictionary to look up words you may not know (I recommend the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary that’s regularly sold), being a Christian, and having your heart right before God. That’s generally all that’s necessary to begin understanding God’s revealed will in His Word.
  4. Special Leadings: What is not revealed already
    1. Everyone wants a calling. A vision from God telling them something special for them to do.
      1. Such things are rare.
      2. If you’re not seeking to live completely in accordance with the revealed will of God already, then God’s not going to give you anything “extra”. If you’re not obeying God’s Word already, then God is not going to give you some special calling, vision, or special leading. The only thing that God would tell you is to repent, and begin obeying His Word.
    2. The Great Commission is an example of a COMMANDMENT that God has given all believers. (It also covers a lot of the “should I do this” type questions)
      1. “Go ye into all the world” pretty much covers praying about missions.
    3. ANYTHING the Lord has said is good and right in His sight is okay to do when you want, as long as the situation doesn’t contradict the manner in which God said it.
      1. Praising God, praying, fasting, witnessing, living a Holy and separated life, reading and studying His Word, and giving for the furtherance of the gospel are things you don’t have to pray about: God has already given us commandments to do these things. Therefore to not do them is rebellion against God, or, at the least: negligence of duty.
    4. Where the Word of God doesn’t speak is things like, “Should I get married?” or “Does God want me to start a ministry?”
    5. While the specific answers to these questions may not be addressed in scripture, (“John Smith I command you to marry Susie Summerset” cf. 2 Opinions 2:2), there are principles in scripture about the type of person you should marry. Likewise, there are qualifications to being a pastor mentioned in scripture.
    6. Outside of what the scriptures specifically address, it is up to the person to prayerfully make a choice.
      1. I am not commanded to marry. The Bible says it is a good thing, and there are qualities I’m told the Lord is pleased with in a spouse. If someone meets the scriptural criteria, the question then is, do I want to be married?
      2. I am not specifically commanded to start a ministry. The Bible says it is a good thing, and there are qualifications given to be a pastor. If I meet the qualifications the question then is, do I want to start a ministry?
    7. It is NECESSARY to KNOW the Word of God to even consider things such as these.
    8. It is NECESSARY to be DOING the revealed will of God to even consider things such as these.
    9. After these things, there must be seeking God in prayer for wisdom. And God will direct those who are seeking Him and doing His will.
    10. (Pastor Salliby’s testimony)
    11. Whose idea was it for David to kill Goliath? (1 Sam. 17:29, 32)
      1. “And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?... And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”
    12. Whose idea was it for Peter to step out of the boat and walk to Jesus? (Mat. 14:28-29)
      1. “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.”
    13. The one thing that keeps us from doing more for the Lord than anything else is the fear of presumption.
  5. What is Presumption?
    1. King Saul spared the livestock and King Agag after God told him to destroy them all. “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
    2. King Uzziah offered incense in the temple, which was contrary to the Law of Moses. God smote him with leprosy. (2Chr.26:16-21)
    3. What was it that these men did wrong?
    4. They presumed to do something that they thought was good in the sight of God, but it was contrary to the revealed Word of God.
    5. How do we know about things that may NOT be God’s revealed will for us but it is not contrary to the Word of God?
      1. Listen to this verse which is describing the Apostle Paul and his fellows on one of their missionary journeys, “After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.” (Acts 16:7)
      2. “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Pro.3:6)
      3. “If any man will serve me, Him will my Father honour.” (John 12:26b)
      4. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17)
    6. If we are reading His Word DAILY, seeking His face in prayer DAILY, keeping His commandments, and trusting Him: He has promised to direct us.
    7. “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph.5:17)
    8. “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;” (Col. 1:9-10)
    9. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Mat. 7:21)
    10. “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (1 Jn. 2:17)
    11. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Rom. 12:1-2)
  6. Can the flesh desire to do God’s Will?
    1. A question that would continually come to me when I was younger, and it occasionally does now, is, “Am I just desiring to do this in my flesh?”
    2. In other words, can our old man, a carnal mind, put into our hearts to do God’s will?
    3. Listen to this passage:
      1. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:5-8)
      2. Paul said that the carnal mind cannot be subject to the law of God. It is impossible for the flesh to please God.
    4. Now here’s a passage that is good to memorize:
      1. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Gal. 5:16-17)
    5. The flesh lusts, or desires, against the Spirit. We are told that they are contrary to each other. There is no overlap! Your old man, the carnal mind, cannot desire to do the will of God.
    6. Many times we think, “Should I witness to that person?” Do you really think that Satan is wanting you to tell someone about Christ? Often times we allow the enemy to use our fear of man to keep us from obeying God’s simple commandments. As long as the reason you want to do it is in accordance with the Word of God then believe it’s good.
    7. We may wonder then, why do some labor more than others? Aren’t they “special men” raised up at certain times? Well, they may be; but God is the same God to all believers. It is more simple than that: Labor according to the measure of faith that you have, and according to your faith be it unto you. It doesn’t mean you’ll be Spurgeon or Finney, God makes men what they are in this word, but ALL believers can labor for God.
    8. Walking in the Spirit is simply being yielded to do the will of God from the heart. It’s not a list of do’s and don’ts. A believer has the Spirit of God dwelling in them that works in them both to will and to do of God’s good pleasure (Php. 2:13). As the Psalmist wrote, “I delight to do thy will O God!” (Psa. 40:8)
    9. It is your task to remain committed to the Lord. Abide in Christ, spend much time in the Word and prayer. Begin by doing the revealed will of God which is in His Word daily, and the Lord will guide you in other things AS you obey Him. If something is not God’s will, then He will make it manifest to you.