Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Mystery of God's Will

Part 1 of the series The Will of God

You can listen to this sermon here.

“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” (Deut. 29:29). 

What's God's Will for My Life? 

We are most concerned with God’s will when we face the big decisions of life.

One young man was desperate to know God’s will for his life—so desperate that he decided to use the Random Verse Method. He closed his eyes, opened his Bible, and put his finger on a random verse. It was Matthew 27:5: “[Judas] went and hanged himself.”

He thought, “I should probably give it another try.” This time his finger landed on Luke 10:37: “You go, and do likewise.” “Third time’s a charm,” he told himself.”

The third random verse was John 13:27: “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

I don’t recommend the Random Verse Method.

Difficult Questions About God's Will 

The will of God is an important subject in the Bible.

  • “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matt. 10:29). 
  • “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9). 
  • “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Prov. 16:33). 
  • God “does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none cay stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Dan. 4:35). 
  • God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). 
  • “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15). 

There are many difficult questions about the will of God. Two common questions: (1) If God controls everything, does it really matter what I do? (2) If everything happens according to God’s will, is God responsible for the evil in the world? These questions are impossible for us to answer unless we understand that “the will of God” has two meanings.

The Two Wills of God 

Based on what Deuteronomy 29:29 says, there is both a secret will of God and a revealed will of God. God’s secret will is his sovereign will. His revealed will is his moral will.

1. God’s sovereign will is what he determines to happen. 

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God” (Deut. 19:29a). We don’t know God’s sovereign will until it happens. This will always comes to pass. The verses above (Matt. 10:29; Prov. 16:9, 33; Dan. 4:35; Eph. 1:11; James 4:13-15) refer to God's sovereign will.

2. God’s moral will is what he commands us to do. 

“The things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29b). We know God’s moral will because he has revealed it to us in the Bible. This will can be broken.

Understanding the difference between the two wills of God helps us better understand why many people reject salvation through Christ even though God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4; cf. 2 Peter 3:9; Ezek. 18:32). God’s moral will that people put their faith in Christ can be broken. (For more on divine election and the will of God, see John Piper's "Are There Two Wills in God?")

God's Unbreakable Sovereign Will 

Obviously, God’s sovereign will is accomplished when his moral law is obeyed. But what about when God’s moral law is disobeyed? Joseph said to his brothers who years earlier hated him and sold him as a slave, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20).

God has given us the ability to break his commands, but he doesn’t approve of our sin. Joseph’s brothers were responsible for their evil actions even though God used what they did to accomplish his sovereign will. 

The crucifixion of Jesus is the best example of God accomplishing his sovereign will through the breaking of his moral will.

  • Jesus “fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). 
  • It was the will of the LORD to crush him” (Isa. 53:10). 
  • “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). 
  • “Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28). 

Do the Will of God that You Know 

Many Christians are obsessed with finding the will of God for their lives. We must remember that God has revealed to us his moral will but has hidden from us his sovereign will. John Calvin said, “When God closes his holy mouth, we should desist from inquiry.”

“The true mark of spirituality is seen in those seeking to know the will of God that is revealed in His [moral] will. It is the godly person who meditates on God’s law day and night. While we seek to be ‘led’ by the Holy Spirit, it is vital to remember than the Holy Spirit is primarily leading us into righteousness” (R. C. Sproul, "The Will of God").

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