Monday, October 05, 2009

How Do I Know God's Will For My Life?

On Thursday, 24th of September, Rev. Angus Stewart gave a lecture entitled, “Guidance: How Do I Know God's Will For My Life”. This included a robust and comprehensive defense of sola Scriptura over against all the insane notions of various kinds of fanatics, charismatics, pentecostals, Arminians, etc. It began by examining all the wild, wacky, and wonderful ideas about guidance that abound today, and which are utterly false and lead people into all kinds of difficulties. I remember as a young Christian in the Methodist church hearing all these ideas about guidance and seriously desiring to be led by God – especially as regards what career to pursue (I had heard no small voice in my head as a call such as the Methodists seemed to speak of, and thought it very easy to fall into being guided by my own desire or pride). I would ask people about it and at various youth conferences I would go to the lectures/workshops on “guidance”.

I guess I heard a few useful things, like letting the Bible fall open randomly and blindly putting your finger on a verse is downright stupid, but I think I knew all those things already - the inituitive Christian hermeneutic militates against it. It all really caused me to despair about what to put on my CAO form for a college course to go to after writing my Leaving Certificate exams. Why? Because I had not heard any “voice” telling me what to do – I did not have the kind of subjective, supernatural, experiential “calling” like the Methodists so often spoke of, and so I assumed that either they were just talking trash or God was determined not to guide me. In the end I made a decision, hoping that I would receive some special supernatural revelation later eventually. This of course seriously harmed my assurance too. If I do not receive such guidance in such a manner, does God really love me? Of course, biblically speaking, to receive a direct revelation from God is to be a prophet, and the prophets, along with the apostles, are laid in the foundation of the church with Christ (Eph. 2:20).

Once the coffin had been nailed firmly shut (and a few more planks hammered on top) on all these unclean spirits of “guidance”, the meat of the lecture was expounded. The all-sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work is the answer to how we are to know God's will for us. A careful distinction was made between God's commands and God's purposes (since these can both be referred to ambiguously as His "will"), and it was highlighted in view of this, that while we can certainly be outside God's will of command by walking in disobedience (in which case we ought to repent), we cannot be outside God's good and perfect purposes. Rev. Stewart proved a number of crucial principles from Scripture, and how God guides us as we apply these wise biblical principles to our circumstances:
  • How does God guide Himself? First of all, is His own glory, and His own glory in Christ, and His own glory in Christ in the salvation of His elect church (Col. 1:16ff).
  • This model is given in the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13), so we are admonished to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:31-34).
  • We are aided by the Psalms by which we teach and admonish one another to be guided rightly (e.g. Psalm 23, 25, 37, 73, 119, 143).
  • It is hypocrisy to claim to seek God's guidance if we are not obeying His commandments – of which the ten commandments are a summary, and include the 4th commandment (Exo.20).
  • We are guided by many biblical examples, both positive and negative; the patience of Job; the longsuffering of Joseph; and the folly of Jonah.
  • Luther famously contended that the Spirit guides us by the Word and prayed that he may be content with this alone – and prayer cannot be a substitute for diligent study of Scripture and thinking biblically, but rather, in prayer we ask that we may be given the ability and willingness to do these things.
  • Advice from others is also not a substitute for the above, but ought to be sought in order that we may benefit from the experience and knowledge of others to make more informed biblical decisions (Prov. 11:14; 24:3-7).
The lecture was finished with a few concrete examples of how to apply biblical principles to various key areas of decision-making; dating, church, and employment. See here also concerning work (I Cor. 7:17-24). Finally, Rev. Stewart mentioned decisions in which we cannot clearly see which is better either way, sometimes it is needless to devote much thought to it, such as what brand of beans to purchase, and in others, at least if the more difficult option is taken, it will work for our sanctification (Jas. 1:3). In all these things of course, we must trust that God works all things together for good (Rom. 8:28), even when we make foolish decisions (as sadly we often do - Prov. 24:9). Thank God for another fabulous lecture, soon to be available on Youtube!

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