MSG: God’s Will: The Way of Wisdom – Ephesians 5:15-17

This is the fifth message on God’s Will.

Do you remember the story of Ruth? Naomi was married to Elimelech, who left Israel because of a famine and they moved to Moab with their two sons Mahlon and Chilion, who married Orpah and Ruth. Well, all the men died in that foreign land and Naomi heard there was bread again in Israel, so she told her two daughters-in-law that she was going to return to Israel. Orpah and Ruth wanted to go with Naomi, but Naomi gave a logical, humanistic response, “Why come with me? I can’t provide you husbands. Stay here with your families.” Orpah chose to do the logical thing and kissed Naomi good-bye. Most people would. It made sense, because her other relatives were all in Moab.

Ruth chose to go with Naomi against common sense. There was something about Naomi that intrigued Ruth. Something about the God of the Israelites that made sense. Something that bonded them by faith, instead of just common sense.

It is natural for us to base our decisions on logic. We are human and our flesh thinks according to logic, not faith. Why? Because God gave us five senses and those are more real to us, especially when we are young until we learn to trust God by faith. God wants us to make decisions based on faith, not logic. What is God’s model for you to make decisions? 

Logic is often based on the senses. The senses are great, but not what please God. The sense of sight helps us get a glimpse of the grandeur of the Almighty’s creative ability. The sense of hearing helps us receive encouragement in the valley of the shadow of death. The sense of taste helps us enjoy the banquet table of God’s provisions in life. The sense of smell helps us enjoy the fragrance of God’s presence. The sense of touch helps us respond to God’s mercy exercised in our lives. But we live by faith, not by our senses.

1) Make decisions according to God’s holy will Rom. 1:8-13

We know God’s Sovereign will as it unfolds and He is always in control. God’s Holy will is what is defined in Scripture on how to live holy lives and the alleged individual will is God-directed specific choices for individuals at specific moments, which we have seen is not supported by Scripture. It is not normative, or normal, that God gives supernatural guidance by voice, dream or revelation in this age. Why? Because He has provided the sufficiency of His Word.

God’s holy will is revealed through commands and directives in Scripture. For example,

3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; (1 Thes. 4:3 NKJ)

Another example is,

18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, (Eph. 5:18 NKJ)

We have to know His word to know His holy will. Did you know that most young people do not know that sleeping around before marriage is sin? Many Christians do not know that. They and others say, “What is so wrong? It is just the same as what animals do and they have no marriage certificate. What’s the problem?”

Godly decisions are based on God’s wisdom revealed in His Word, the leading of the Spirit, wisdom from other people, circumstances and personal strengths and weaknesses. Here’s an example of how Paul made decisions,

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established– 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. (Rom. 1:8-13 NKJ)

Paul planned, he did not wait for a voice from heaven. He prayed about the plans (1:8-10) and presented those plans before God’s sovereign will. His purpose was to provide spiritual ministry, not promote a personal agenda. His plans also included several attempts to join with them. In Romans 15:20-29, Paul had priorities to reach Spain after he reached Greece. As far as we know, he never made it to Spain. Did he waste the ink to write that? Was he not in God’s will?

Your plans may be in God’s holy will, but they may not be come to pass. Secondly, God’s model is total dependence by faith, not dependence on the five senses.

2) Make decisions by faith in your relationship to the holiness of God 2 Cor. 5:7

 

Some will say “God made it clear I should do this.” The Traditional view relies on an impression or feeling. How do you measure feelings? Most people feel good when they are in good health, good company and good finances. Most people feel bad when they are in bad health, bad company and bad finances. So how do you judge feelings or impressions when it comes to God’s will.

Feelings can be influenced by many other things like fatigue, medications, diet, hormonal challenges, the news, stress, hostility or pressure from others, the weather, etc. How many have heard a fellow employee frustrated by the boss’ pressure and make a comment like, “I know in my heart that God wants me to quit my job and He has something better.” Was it the hostility he felt at work that made him feel a certain way? What was the impression from?

Impressions are impressions:

  • There is no indication in Scripture that the HS leads by inner impressions.
  • It is impossible to judge with certainty the so-called message of impressions.
  • The need for confirmation from other signs discredits the genuineness of the inner voice.
  • Impressions are not revelation from God, so they lack the necessary authority to compel obedience.
  • It is impossible to determine with certainty the source of impressions.
  • So how does wisdom respond to impulses? Wisdom recognizes impressions can come from a multitude of sources; God, Satan, the flesh, immaturity, past experience, gastric upset, euphoria, stress, insomnia, a TV commercial, and so on ad infinitum. (Friessen, Decision-making and the Will of God, p. 274)

Elijah had a great victory over the false prophets of Baal, but when Jezebel threatened him, he ran. He found a cave, but he could not hide from God. God spoke to him. This was not an impression, but a quiet voice of God speaking to Elijah’s weakened soul. It was an actual voice, not an impression. Impressions may come from the emotions of a person who wants to hear something so badly. Emotions put us on the turmoil of seas driven and tossed by the wind (Jam. 1:6) Faith does not depend on emotions, but the objective Truth of God’s Word. If you think about the Traditional view of the bull’s eye of God’s will, it is highly subjective, or emotional. The way of wisdom puts emotions in their place as a checkpoint.

Have you ever faced hostile people? And you wondered if God was in control, or you were in God’s will, like Elishah’s servant who saw the Syrian Army surrounding him? He was immediately afraid and I’ll bet would have run if Elishah had not requested the Lord to open his eyes to the spiritual forces surrounding them. Trusting emotions during times like that is not wise. And are not emotions very similar to our five senses? Something that we feel?

Praise God for our senses, for they truly can be helpful. However, Scripture says to be mindful more of Scripture, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7 NKJ) So walk by faith – your relationship to holiness of God.

3) Trust God’s wisdom in making decisions Eph. 5:15-17

Those who follow the bull’s eye approach (Traditional) realize they cannot pursue this for every decision, because they would never be able to get dressed. Should I wear my black or blue socks? Should I put my left foot on first or right? Should I wash my face before I shave or brush my teeth after my shower or before? And there can only be one correct decision with the Traditional view. So they save their view for “significant” decisions. But, I ask, who decides what is significant? That is very subjective. Certainly choosing steak or hamburger is different than choosing a mate, but it may be significant to indecisive people! I mean, do I get the filet mignon or the T-bone or the Rib-eye! What is God’s will?

The key is what is holy and what is wise? Instead of looking for impressions, be grateful to God for the choices and make a choice based on your preferences. You can’t lose if it is holy and wise. The way of wisdom says you can defend your Biblical choice, whereas the Traditional hides behind “The Lord led me…” For example a young man (or a foolish older man) might say, “I believed God wanted me to have this 2014 mustang convertible 6.2L 426h V8 2SS. I got an impression from God I could afford it. It really looks great where I work at Arby’s and they are promoting me to cashier next month! I had the 7000.00 down payment and the 1000.00 monthly payments, which will only last for 72 months!

Listen, trust God for ordinary decisions,

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5:15-17 NKJ)

 

Exercise good judgment and don’t waste time. When you have equal options, thank God for the options and choose your preference. If you are unsure, gather data and base decisions on sound reasons. Finally search for objectivity in your decisions. God is not willy nilly in His choices.

4) Search for objectivity, because that is measurable

  • Look for wisdom signs, not road signs. You may not be confident of the perfect choice, but you can make a wise choice in which you will be dependent upon the Lord.
  • Look for competent advice, knowing it may not be perfect. If you are looking for a college, make sure the person has been to one.
  • Look for spiritual priorities over personal desires. You might like to watch a favorite show on television, but if you have homework to do, it’s wiser to do the homework to stay current in class and miss the show (or you could record it and watch it later) Your preferences must submit to your priorities.
  • Look to circumstances to decide how advisable a choice would be. There are advantages and disadvantages, pros and cons to circumstances, but often there are not “yes” or “no” answers.
  • Look to Scripture, not impressions.

Do what is best:

  25 “And now, here we are, in your hands; do with us as it seems good and right to do to us.” (Josh. 9:25 NKJ)

23 And Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him. Only let the LORD establish His word.” So the woman stayed and nursed her son until she had weaned him. (1 Sam. 1:23 NKJ)

4 Then the king said to them, “Whatever seems best to you I will do.” So the king stood beside the gate, and all the people went out by hundreds and by thousands. (2 Sam. 18:4 NKJ)

2 And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you, and if it is of the LORD our God, let us send out to our brethren everywhere who are left in all the land of Israel, and with them to the priests and Levites who are in their cities and their common-lands, that they may gather together to us; (1 Chron. 13:2 NKJ)

23 Then the whole assembly agreed to keep the feast another seven days, and they kept it another seven days with gladness. (2 Chron. 30:23 NKJ)

22 Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren. (Acts 15:22 NKJ)

16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts20:16 NKJ)

Decide based on God’s wisdom instead of personal subjectivity!

  • Don’t fall for the spiritually sounding declarations about God’s will.
  • Run to Scripture and make wise choices in wisdom.
  • Objective decisions most closely reflect God’s eternal decree.

Message Based Discussion Questions

1) What are the best conditions for you in order to make good decisions?

Digging Deeper:

2) Are there any indications that Paul performed certain practices in order to determine God’s will? _______________ What was the basis upon which Paul made decisions according to 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 and Philippians 2:25-26?

3) Should a Christian make decisions based on what he can see or by faith? ______________ How are the senses useful or not useful? How can they hinder your spiritual growth?

4) How restrictive is God in who you can marry? ______________ Is happiness permitted for marriage? ____________ As you might look at 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 and 7:39-40, what can you learn about “good” “better” and “happier”?

Making application from the message to life:

5) How would you disciple someone to understand how to make decisions according to God’s holy will? What passages and principles would you use?

6) How do you trust God’s guidance in Scripture.

7) Why is subjectivity, in contrast to objectivity, a weak basis for making decisions in God’s will?

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