We have studied the sovereign, holy and individual wills of God, although I have solely emphasized the holy will. I provided many reasons why the individual will is not taught in Scripture. Last week, we saw the freedom you have in Christ to choose the holy will of God.
How do you make decisions? Here are suggestions on choosing the right college.
- Choose one school to be school A and the other to be school B. Then, go to the mall and throw a fun sized candy into a crowd of people. If it hits a girl, go to school A. If it hits a boy, school B. If you’re not sure, then try again.
- Choose the school with the least amount of letters, words and syllables. Trust me, after a while of saying you went to Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary, you’ll regret your entire college experience.
- Flip a coin once. No, best of three. Have at least two people present to keep you accountable.
- If possible, do one last campus visit of each of the schools. On a notepad, jot down the number of attractive people you see in a 30 minute period. After doing this, it will be clear which school to attend.
- Send an email to a random professor at each school. Whoever gets back to you first, attend that school.
- Go to a parking lot and one by one, jot down the letters of each license plate. Once you get all the letters of one of the schools, then you have your decision.
- If it’s sunny tomorrow, you’re going to school A. If it’s cloudy, school B.
- Go to a restaurant and ask what the specials are. If the first special has chicken in it, go to school A. If it has another kind of meat or no meat, go to school B.
Did you identify with any of those? Okay, they are all ridiculous. Some make decisions based on a feeling or an impression. Was it the Holy Spirit or some other source? The impression might be a feeling, sense, or a hunch. Did it come from God, Satan, an angel, a demon, emotions, hormonal imbalance, insomnia, an upset stomach, or medications? Impressions are just that –impressions. They come and go. But people want to sound spiritual, as if they have a special “in” with God. “God told me to do this or God called me to that.” And according to the Traditional view of the “dot” mode of deciding God’s will, people “drop” God’s name and expect others to be impressed with their impression. How did Paul decide?
Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, 2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, (1 Thes. 3:1-2 NKJ)
Paul didn’t use spiritual lingo. He “thought it good” to be left in Athens. He made the decision in God’s holy will. Also, in Philippians 2:25,
25 Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; 26 since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. (Phil. 2:25-26 NKJ)
Paul “considered it necessary.” He did not say, “God called me to do this.” He acted freely in God’s holy will. Now some people who use the spiritual lingo, will at times be blessed. When people venture out by faith, God blesses actions, because they are trusting God by faith, not because they had an impression or claimed that God gave them a special revelation. How do you decide?
1) You can restrict yourself for God’s holiness Num. 6:1-8; 1 Cor. 9:19-22
There were restrictions in the Old Testament. Leviticus 11 restricted what foods Israel could eat. For example, Moses wrote,
3 `Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud– that you may eat… 7 `and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. (Lev 11:3,7 NKJ)
But today you can eat bacon! Why? Was God a micromanager in the Old Testament? Did He finally grow up and relax for us in the New Testament? No, He is always holy and He tested His people for holiness’ sake. They could eat sheep, goats, cows and other foods! Today, you can eat freely, as long as you do not probe the host,
27 If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake. (1 Cor. 10:27 NKJ)
We have restrictions today. I remember down at Hilton Head, SC, there was a sign on the beach posted with regulations. There were certain restrictions, but not whether you went wading, surfing or building sandcastles. It didn’t restrict whether you buried someone horizontally or vertically in the sand, but I’m sure it assumed you wouldn’t bury a person permanently! You could fly a kite or sun; you just couldn’t drive a car on the beach. There was great freedom in what you could do. There were certain things I would not do that would question a Christian testimony. That is a voluntary restriction.
For example, Moses provided an example of a voluntary restriction,
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: `When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD, 3 `he shall separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. 4 `All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin. 5 `All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. 6 `All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body. 7 `He shall not make himself unclean even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head. 8 `All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the LORD. (Num. 6:1-8 NKJ)
No one had to make that choice, but those who did had to follow it. A person could restrict himself for the purpose of holiness. It was by faith and if there was a failure, then God had a procedure to restore him to holiness. This is very similar to New Testament voluntary restrictions for love, as Paul modeled,
19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. (1 Cor. 9:19-22 NKJ)
Voluntary restrictions are specifically in the holy will of God for measurable steps to seek a closer walk with the Lord in holiness. Above all things there is freedom.
2) God gives you freedom to choose within His holy will Rom. 14:1-5
When Adam and Eve were in the garden, God told them they could eat freely of any tree. There was one restriction. Was God a tyrant or micromanager, because he said they could not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Are parents micromanagers, because they restrict children from playing around a pond or the neighbor’s pit bull? Are leaders micromanagers because they try to keep people within the boundaries of a vision statement? No, of course not.
Secular people have long acclaimed the Code of Hammurabi as a great legal document. It preceded the Mosaic Law by 200 years, but was based on exhaustive details, in contrast to the relatively simplistic approach God directed through Moses. It was like the difference between the Pharisees and Jesus. The Pharisees regulated everything from clothes to how to pray. Jesus’ main principle was to be separate from the world and to the holiness of God. That would look different to different people as Paul affirmed,
Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. (Rom. 14:1-5 NKJ)
There was freedom to choose in God’s holy will. Some will say, “If it is not in Scripture, then we won’t do it.” But if we restrict people only to what Scripture clearly commands, then we could not have a church building, an order of service, or styles of music, because those are not specified in Scripture.
Let’s go back to the college choice discussion. You can go to any college you want, unless the purpose of the college is to worship Satan. You are gaining an education, and God doesn’t address colleges, so make a decision based on a host of your preferences in His holy will.
I remember in seminary, especially in the upper level Greek and Hebrew classes, we were directed to write papers and were given great freedom on what to write. There were guidelines given, like ten to twelve pages, 12 font, on a subject from the class, provide footnotes or endnotes, and turn it in by April 1. The professor didn’t direct what kind of paper to use, where to put the page numbers, what sources could be used, or how to develop the subject. There was great freedom within those parameters. That is a picture of God’s freedom.
And that freedom requires responsibility and accountability to the Lord Jesus.
3) Freedom requires responsibility and accountability Rom. 14: 7-10,12
7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ… 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Rom. 14:7-10,12 NKJ)
You have heard it said, “Pray that I’ll choose the right college in God’s will.” Then they say, “It was God’s will, because I grew so much.” The problem is that the New Testament has no examples of those principles or expressions. My friends, God can use any situation to grow you up! There are advantages and disadvantages to any decision and God can work them out. There will be some who say, “God has called this man to be our pastor.” You do not know that before you all come to terms. You might feel subjectively and very strongly a particular man is the right man, but you will only know that after you both agree and he starts. Otherwise it’s subjectivity. Finally, pursue wisdom from God’s Word.
4) Pursue wisdom from God’s Word by His Spirit Jam. 1:5-8
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (Jam. 1:5-8 NKJ)
Ask for wisdom from God, not Oprah, or Dr. Phil, or the Simpsons! He will give you wisdom from His Word and His Spirit will guide you into it, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13 NKJ)
The challenge is that many do not take time in the Word and don’t want to grow up. They make comments like, “The pastor speaks over my head,” or “Why can’t he speak at my level?” Often they resort to wanting pabulum,
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb. 5:12-14 NKJ)
They should be teaching and discipling others, but they are still dependent on the milk or spoon feeding from others. How utterly sad!
What about Gideon’s fleece? That was an invalid practice. Recorded in Judges 6:36-40, the fleece event revealed several things. First, it did not provide guidance, but merely confirmed guidance given. Secondly, it highlighted Gideon’s doubt rather than belief. God was gracious because of Israel’s dire circumstances of 120,000 Midianites. Thirdly, it displayed God’s power and Gideon’s immaturity.
The point is to pursue the Lord with the right humble attitude and choose the right action based on what you know and trust Him to guide you.
The Lord Jesus gives you freedom within His sovereign, holy will!
- God’s sovereignty does not exclude your need to know His word.
- Wisdom from Scripture will guide you to His holy will. A fleece is an invalid practice that may work when it is really wisdom.
- God gives open doors for service, not specific guidance. If he gave specifics, you’d depend on the circumstances instead of on Him.
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) How does the world teach people to make decisions? How well do you perceive that they work?
2) Is there a difference between legalism and voluntary restrictions (cf. Num. 6:1-8; Rom. 14:5-10? _________ How would you describe the differences? How does one become the other or become confusing to young believers? What principles should you consider?
3) Was Gideon directed by the Angel of the Lord on what to do? __________ What were the directions (Judg. 6:7-14)? Why did Gideon ‘fleece” the Lord? Did God give Gideon the answer he requested? Why is that an invalid practice today?
4) Does God direct the Old Testament believers to give a free will offering (cf. Lev. 22:18)? _______________ When an Israelite made a vow before the Lord, does the person still have the option to keep it (cf. Deut. 23:21-23; Ecc. 5:4-5; Num. 30:2)?
Making application from the message to life:
5) Indecision is often difficult for people. How would you disciple them to understand God’s freedom in making decisions?
6) How would you disciple a young person in choosing a mate in order to understand how to choose within God’s will? What five considerations should be made regarding general understanding and specifics?
7) How much should a person study Scripture before making a decision? How would you disciple someone to not become parallelized from fear in making the wrong decision?