What is God’s will for my life?

Guidance is a hot topic in Christian circles.  People ask about guidance in a variety of ways.  “What is the will of God for my life?”  is a common way in which this question is asked.  I think Paul answers this question in 1 Thessalonians 4, but not in the way that we would expect.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;  that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. – 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Paul seems to have said it quite plainly.  It is the will of God that we pursue holiness because He has not called us to impurity but to holiness. I would like to suggest that thinking about God’s will in this way shapes the way we make decisions and how we live.  What God wants for us is our sanctification: that we grow to be more and more like Christ as His Spirit convicts us every day about the areas in our life that displeases Him.  Which means that God is not only interested in what exactly we do with our lives (because it must not be something that brings dishonour to Him), but also how live our lives.  This affects things like how we interact with family, friends, work colleagues etc and also how we go about making the little decisions that make up our day.  Our lives must be characterized by the pursuit of a life that pleases God and when we fall His grace is sufficient to pick us back up.  We cannot be living outside of God’s will if that is our focus. And always in hindsight we always marvel at how God has used seemingly insignificant decisions we have made to further His purposes in our life.

A very wise pastor gave me these guidelines in making decisions which I think shows how we practically seek God’s will when making decisions.

  1. Is the choice I’m about to make sinful or not? – That is the obvious first step.  If the choice means doing something that the Bible explicitly condemns then it is a definite no go area.  It is an obvious step but worth mentioning since there have been quite a few examples of people justifying sinful actions by claiming they were directed by the Spirit.  The Spirit will never contradict what He has said in Scripture.
  2. Is the choice I’m about to make wise or unwise? – There are some things that are not sinful but definitely unwise.  Generally speaking the counsel of mature Christian brothers and sisters can point us towards wise path.  That is part of the reason why we belong to family of Christ so that we can learn from the experiences of those more mature in the Christian walk than we are.  I personally think it is good to have a mature Christian brother or sister that we can seek advice from when making decisions.  Someone that we trust can be truthful with us and help us think biblically about the decisions that we make.  Also this is a far more difficult step since it is very easy to see things that are explicitly condemned Biblically but much harder to figure out whether something is wise or unwise.
  3. Flip a coin! – What I mean is that if the decision to make does not lead towards a sinful path or is not unwise then we have the freedom to make that decision.

The idea is that after taking in mind these three steps we are left with choices that are in line with God’s will i.e. living a life of purity.  I take it that we are praying through all the steps.  I don’t think prayer is an additional step that is added at the end but part and parcel of who we as Christians are; so we are constantly praying through everything that we do.  If we live life in this manner we will be used by God to accomplish His purposes no matter what decisions we make.

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Seeing the Bible as a whole

The Bible is made up of 66 books and connecting those books together and seeing how the tell one story is an extremely helpful tool when it comes to studying the Bible.   Justin Tayler provides Graeme Goldsworthy’s summaries on the main divisions in the Bible here.  

Too many times, we think of the gospel as a story that jumps from the Garden of Eden (we’ve all sinned) right to the cross (but Jesus fixes everything). On its own, that works fine in communicating the systematic points of our need for salvation and God’s provision in Christ, but from a biblical theological perspective, it doesn’t do justice to what’s actually in the text. Once a person becomes a Christian and cracks the Bible, they’re going to wonder what the big deal is about Israel and the covenant, since that storyline takes up roughly 75% of the Bible. Getting people into that story is important. As D.A. Carson says, the announcement is incoherent without it.

 

Every story has a main character. The Bible does too. It’s God. Specifically, it’s God as He reveals Himself to us in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Here’s what happens if we learn individual Bible stories and never connect them to the big Story. We put ourselves in the scene as if we are the main character. We take the moral examples of the Old and New Testament as if they were there to help us along in the life we’ve chosen for ourselves.

But the more we read the Bible, the more we see that God is the main character, not us. We are not the heroes learning to overcome all obstacles, persist in our faith, and call down fire from heaven. We’re the ones who need rescue, who need a Savior who will deliver us from Satan, sin, and death. It’s only in bowing before the real Hero of the story that we are in the right posture to take our place in the unfolding drama. Bearing in mind the big story of Scripture helps us keep our focus on Jesus, and off ourselves.

Quotes from http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2013/11/05/4-reasons-to-teach-the-bibles-storyline/

 

 

The Bible’s Big Picture

The opening chapters of the Bible clearly teach that, as Creator, God is the owner of all things (Ps. 89:11). All wealth therefore belongs to him (Ps. 50:10) and is to be used to rule the earth and bring glory to him through the worship of his Son and service to his people.

As the owner of all, God desires that we, his creatures and rulers on earth, desire relationship with him, rather than fixating on the things he created to serve us (Matt. 6:31-33). However, mankind has consistently worshipped created things rather than the Creator, and used material things for selfish purposes.

This has the been the norm throughout history, so it came as a huge surprise when God acted graciously towards Abram, promising him and the generations that followed a magnificent kingdom which he would bless materially, so that they could do what God intended for Adam: to rule over creation for the purpose of worshipping God and serving others, as well as being a light to the nations (Gen. 12:1-315:1-18). The nations were meant to look at Israel and see them as a wise and blessed people, and then turn to their God for inclusion amongst his people (Deut. 4:1-8).

To prepare them to be this light, and to prepare them for life in the Promised Land, God gave his people the Law (Ex. 19-20), after which he promised that those who submitted to his rule would receive material blessing, while those who rejected his rule would face his curse, often described in terms of material poverty (Deut. 28:1-68).

However, despite that warning, the prophets were still required to preach words of warning to those who chose to pursue their own wealth rather than being rich towards God (e.g., Isa. 5:8-10). Even after they suffered the punishment of exile for refusing complete allegiance to God, the people of God continued to choose their own comfort and pleasure over the glory of God (Hag. 1:4).

Throughout the Old Testament period the wisdom writers taught God’s people that there was no wisdom in choosing anything over the Creator. Wisdom, based on the character of God, dictated that generosity would have positive outcomes in the giver’s life, while self-centeredness would result in futility.

Only one man heeded the warning and had the wisdom to obey God’s call to obedient submission. Jesus, despite Satan’s temptations, lived in perfect obedience to the law of God (Matt. 4:1-11). As a result, he exercised perfect dominion over all creation as seen in his calming of storms (Matt. 8:23-27), healing of the sick (Matt. 8:14-17) and even by having dominion over death (Matt. 28:1-20).

Jesus’ call to people was, and is, that we act wisely and obediently and submit to God’s plan for our lives: repenting of sin and exercising faith in Jesus, God’s revealed King. His death on the cross offers the forgiveness that self-centered humanity so desperately needs and his resurrection assures eternal life with him.

The New Testament writers echoed Jesus’ teaching, who, by his perfect obedience had become Israel’s wise man and prophet. They warned of the love of money and urged God’s people to pursue contentment and generosity for the sake of the growth of God’s kingdom (1 Tim. 6:6-1017-19). Through their teaching, we know that those who gather around Jesus (the church) are promised God’s daily care and provision (Phil. 4:19). But this promise of material provision and even blessing is not assured in the same way as it was with Israel, who revealed that material possessions were not an indication of their faithfulness or obedience. In fact, Jesus taught that he may lovingly call the church to suffer for his glory as a witness to a self-obsessed world, by displaying its desire to treasure him above all else (Matt. 5:3-12). For any believer, this suffering will be a joy, for he knows that Christ is his treasure, and that nothing can ever separate him from Christ (Rom. 8:35-39).

For the believer, eternity is the enjoyment of Christ his treasure, which even surpasses God’s promise of great abundance and blessing being poured out on his people forever. …..

-Except from Prosperity Gospel and Biblical Theology

See also this video on the Big Picture of the Bible… Entrust: Bible Overview

Helpful resources for studying the Bible

I have been seeing quite a few helpful articles around that speaks on how we study the Bible.

Thats all for now 🙂

The need for theological preaching

I recently came across an article on http://www.thefrontporch.org  talking about “The need for theological preaching”.  Though its written from an African American context, I think the author, Tony Carter, makes some very valid points.  He writes that:

Churches do not suffer from a want of men to preach. They suffer from a want of men who preach sound, theological content. Today, preaching is still expected to be lofty and inspiring, but rarely is it filled with the weighty theology. Unfortunately, most preach with a mind toward moving people to dance, rather than moving people to think big about God, his person and purposes. Consequently, what we have in a great many churches is not preaching at all. We have an exposition of the preacher but not the Bible or the focus of the Bible, Jesus Christ.  Popular preaching today is filled with out-of-context promises but not the doctrine of the God of promises.

 

The bane of the pulpit today, and not only in African-American churches, is “a-theological” preaching. What I mean by “a-theological” preaching is this: weekly proclamation that is weakly presented because it is void of theological content. A-theological preaching tells you what God will do for you, but fails to tell you who God is. A-theological preaching tells you what God did for the preacher, but fails to clearly tell you what God has done in the finished work of Jesus Christ. A-theological preaching is driven by the emotion and personal reflections of the preacher and fueled by similar mundane sentiments from the congregation. Robert Smith, again warns us:

Pastors who are comfortable with the members of their churches checking their minds in the vestibule and entering into the sanctuary mindlessly prepare the worship atmosphere for spiritual excesses and biblically unwarranted emotional experiences. Preaching becomes incessant testimonies given from the pulpit that are totally divorced from the text and becomes promises put on their lips without a “thus sayeth the Lord” certitude. Before one can confidently say, “thus sayeth the Lord,” one has to know, “what sayeth the Lord.”

You can read the rest the article here http://thefrontporch.org/2013/10/the-need-for-theological-preaching/

 

The Rise of a Parallel, Post-Biblical Christianity

My pastor when I was in the university, Grant Retief, just wrote a piece on the 9marks blog (http://www.9marks.org/blog) where he describes the prosperity gospel as parallel, post-biblical christianity.   He writes that,

A churched nation is not the same thing as a “gospeled” nation, and the massive growth of the so-called prosperity gospel in South Africa suggests that my generation may be observing the rise of “parallel Christianity,” a Christianity that is effectively post-Bible…

In such churches, there is talk of “sin,” “grace,” and “faith.”

But these words are no longer used according to their biblical categories and context. Instead, their meanings are vaguely assumed, or are informed not by theology but psychology. For example, “sin” might be described as the failure to achieve your goals, not as rebellion against an Almighty God.

Once you have redefined sin, it’s a short step to redefine salvation. Salvation is no longer the rescue from God’s wrath by the wrath-absorbing, vicarious death of Jesus for the forgiveness of sin; it is the rescue from the temporal effects of sin. Jesus will rescue you from poverty, depression, mediocrity, and so on.

In short—and using the nine marks—these churches offer motivational talks, not biblical sermons; proof-texts, not biblical theology; applications of the gospel, not the gospel; moral improvement, not conversion; calls to social justice and giving, not evangelism; status in the community, not accountability-affording membership; flattery, not discipline; lessons in getting busy, not discipleship; professionalism, not leadership.

All this produces nice people instead of godly people. They don’t come to read, mark, and learn the Scriptures, they come to learn self-help. They don’t encounter God in his Word, they encounter themselves. The Bible is seldom more than a stage prop, and atmosphere takes the place of a real redeemed community, grappling with the loving and wounding word of God.

These churches, as I say, are post-biblical. Their “Christianity” is a parallel one.

You can read the rest of the article here The Rise of a Parallel, Post-Biblical Christianity.

Helpful questions for studying the Bible

Found this very useful guide for Bible Reading and study.

Our desire was to create a simple, reproducible strategy that would facilitate this process. This led us to develop a simply strategy for small clusters (2-3 people) to meet together regularly and talk about the Scriptures and apply them to their lives.

The seven arrows of Bible reading were an attempt at developing a tool for proper hermeneutics to power these relationships. We did not want our people to simply talk about the Bible. We wanted them to understand the Bible and know how to apply it to their lives. Each cluster would read a predetermined passage of Scripture and discuss it using these seven arrows.

It is seven very helpful questions to ask and dwell on when studying a passage of scripture.

  1. What does this passage say?
  2. What does this passage mean to its original audience?
  3. What does this passage tell us about God?
  4. What does this passage tell us about man?
  5. What does this passage demand of me?
  6. How does this passage change the way I relate with people?
  7. How does this passage prompt me to pray?

I especially like how it not only ask questions that dwell on the original intent and purpose of the passage but also questions that aid in applying the passage to  one’s life.

Read more details here… 7 Arrows for Bible Reading.