How to Know the Will of God
Two young ladies came to me. I was raking leaves in my huge yard. They wanted a job and promised to help me get the job done. I put them to work. But I quickly found out they had a different concept of work than I did. They believed they should have fun while working. Not a bad idea! So they stopped raking occasionally to dive into a pile of leaves they had raked - - just for fun, you know. One of them had a cell phone she insisted on using while working. She also wanted to smoke near the house and the pile of leaves. Later she lost her cell phone in the leaves, and we had to find it. After a couple of hours of trying to correct their concept of work, I told them we're quitting for the day. I paid them much more than they had earned and told them I would not need them tomorrow.
They missed some essential concepts. I had hired them to do some actual work. And since I was the boss, it was my prerogative to decide how the work was to be done. And I expected genuine work to be accomplished.
Christians sometimes approach knowing the will of God and Christian service with the same attitude as these young girls: "Lord, I want to serve you. Here's what I will do, and this is how I want to do it. And it had better be fun!"
I would like to show you a better, Biblical approach to knowing the will of God.
Knowing and doing the will of God can be fun, exciting, and satisfying. God's peace and joy will accompany it. But it will also be hard work, self-discipline, hardship, and sometimes persecution. But it will be worth it all when we see Jesus.
The first step in determining the will of God is to recognize who He is.
He is the Creator
Most Twenty-first Century Christians, in daily living, have forgotten who God is. Since He designed and engineered the creation and building of the world, the sun, the moon, the stars, the universe, animals, fish, birds, and plant life, it is evident that He knows a lot more than I do. He is more powerful than I. God is the Creator and Sustainer of everything. He is sovereign over everything that exists. He is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He is a God of love and, simultaneously, a holy God who cannot tolerate sin.
He is God. He is superior to our parents, teachers, policemen, and government officials. He is superior to every human being that ever lived. He is God. And since He is God, He has the right and authority to set the rules and to direct us in everything we do. He is loving, but not Santa Claus or some doting grandfather.
He is the Holy God who judges sin.
We see God as the holy Judge who punishes evil in the universal flood story in Genesis 6-9. He brings devastating destruction to Sodom and Gomorrah for their immorality and wickedness in Genesis 18. God opens up the earth to swallow the rebellious families of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in Numbers 16. Achan and his family were stoned to death for their covetousness in looting forbidden treasure in the conquest of Jericho in Joshua 7. Israel and Judah were conquered and brought into bondage throughout the Old Testament many times for their wicked departure from the Lord. Ananias and Sapphira died instantly for their
hypocrisy and lying concerning giving in Acts 5.
He is the God of love.
We see the loving God desiring fellowship with Adam in the Garden of Eden, in the stories of Noah, Enoch, and Abraham. God demonstrates His love and nourishment of Joseph in his imprisonment and then his rise to power in Genesis. God, in love, provided food, water, and safety for the Israelites in the wilderness. He forgave and restored David after he repented for his sin with Bathsheba. Many times in the history of Israel through the Old Testament, the Israelites forsook the Lord, and God judged them. But when they cried out to the Lord in repentance, He loved, forgave, and restored them.
But the most incredible demonstration of God's love is Jesus dying for our sins on the cross. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8 KJV). "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son." (John 3:16). No wonder the songwriter, Charles Wesley, penned these words in the first verse of the song, "And Can It Be." "Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me." Did you catch the meaning of those words? The Eternal, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Holy God died to pay for our sins so we could be forgiven and live eternally with Him.
So, the first step in finding the will of God is for us to recognize who God is.
The second step answers this question: Do you genuinely want to know the will of God?
Jesus in John 7:17 said, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." Jesus was combatting the unbelief of Jews in Jerusalem. If you truly want to know who I am and if I am telling the truth, do the will of God as written in the Scriptures. Then you will know whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.
The principle is this: if you want to know God's personal will for you, do what you already know to be God's will. Why should God show you something new about His will if you have already refused to do His revealed will? If you are unwilling to do what the New Testament commanded, why should God show you anything else? I will illustrate this with three basic commands in the Scriptures for Christians.
1. Baptism: Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:41; 8:36-37; Romans 6:3,4 . Baptism (by immersion) after conversion is clearly commanded in Scripture. Baptism identifies you with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. If you are not willing to do this first step of obedience, why should God trust you with any further revealing of his will?
2. Daily Bible Study and Prayer I Peter 2:2 "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." Acts 2:42 "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine (teaching) and fellowship."; II Tim. 2:15 "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
3. Church membership and service. Acts 2:41-42 "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." Please note that these newly saved Christians were immediately baptized and added to them – the church, whose membership was already 120 persons in Acts chapter 1. The first public step of obedience after baptism is church membership.
In the New Testament, the local church is essential and extremely important. The word church is translated from the Greek word ekklesia, meaning "called out of." It has the meaning of assembly. In that sense, on a few occasions, the context indicates it is a gathering of a body of citizens discussing state affairs. In Acts 19, it is used to describe a riotous mob. In most New Testament usages, it applies to local churches.
In several Scriptures, the word church applies to all born-again believers since Christ founded the church. It is described by the terms "body of Christ" (I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, Colossians 1) or the bride in Revelation 21 and 22. The church is pictured as the bride in Ephesians 5, although the word bride is not used. In Hebrews 12:23, the words "general assembly" and "church of the firstborn" are connected as the entire church assembled in heaven with the Old Testament saints.
The divinely inspired authors wrote eight books to specific local churches; Paul wrote three books telling preachers how to conduct church work. "Church" is written about or referred to in 17 of the 27 books of the New Testament. The word "church" in the New Testament appears 77 times in 76 verses; the word "churches" is used 37 times in 36 verses. Hebrews 10:25 commands, "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together." Christ founded the Church in Matthew 16:17; Christ died for the church – Eph. 5:25 "Christ loved the church and gave himself for it." The New Testament focuses on the local church. It is crucial. The Scriptures command us to assemble together. That's where we get our training, fellowship, mutual support, and opportunity to serve. The apostle Paul spent his entire missionary ministry planting churches and writing instructions to local churches. Why would he expend the time, effort, sacrifice, and suffering if the local church was not essential for the Christian life?
With this emphasis on the local church in the New Testament, how can anyone assume that church membership and attendance are unimportant?
Some promote the 'universal' or 'invisible' (not scriptural terms) church. Yes, believers are part of that one body in Christ. But the only time that one "universal" body can assemble is in heaven after the rapture (Hebrews 12:22-24). And, at that time, they are visible. Until then, we are commanded to meet regularly in the visible, physical, local church.
So, to review:
If you want to know the will of God for your life, have you obeyed these three
essentials: Believers' baptism, daily Bible reading and study, and church membership and attendance? After that, as you study the Bible, be quick to obey the other clear commands given to Christians. There are several clear statements in the Word of God saying, "This is the will of God."
1. Moral purity: I Thessalonians 4:3 "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication" (sexual immorality – sexual relations outside of marriage): "that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor." Sexual relationships outside of marriage prevent you from knowing and being in the will of God. The only remedy is repentance and forsaking that sin.
2. Thankful heart and attitude: I Thessalonians 5:16-18. "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. This same passage continues in verses 19-22: "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings (preaching). Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil." If you are an ungrateful griper or complainer, you cannot expect God to show you His specific will for you.
3. Well doing: For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: I Peter 2:15. Combat ignorance and foolishness with well doing. Live the life and demonstrate love as far as you know to do so God can show you your next steps.
So, after all this discussion, do you really want to know the will of God? Are you already doing the things the Bible has spelled out specifically as the will of God?
It is undoubtedly true that no one is perfect. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (I John 1:8). But if you are sincere in your desire to give your life to the Lord and to know His will, confess and forsake all known sin BEFORE you seek God's specific will for your life.
The Key Passage
Turn in your Bibles to Romans 12:1,2. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God."
Our Motivation: the mercies of God
1. God's mercy is the fact that He didn't give us what we deserve – judgment. "He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities." Ps. 103:10
"The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Ezekiel 18:20
"He that believeth not is condemned already" John 3:18
"And in hell, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment." Luke 16:23
2. Instead, He gave us grace – something we didn't deserve.
"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich - - - II Cor. 8:9 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8,9
"And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise, grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise, work is no more work." Romans 11:6
The command: Present your Bodies
1. Your Body is the temple of the Holy Spirit
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." I Corinthians 3:16,17
"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." I Corinthians 6:19,20
"And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." II Corinthians 6:16
What you do with your body is critical to your spiritual condition and growth. God is concerned with what you do with your body, how you dress, and how you act with your body. In I Thessalonians 4:3,4, Paul writes, "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor." Fornication includes every type of sexual sin. If you are not willing to bring your body, your physical lusts, into submission to the Lord, you cannot determine the will of God.
But we are not only talking about sexual sin. Your body, as the temple of the Holy Spirit, requires that you bring every activity of your body under the control of the Holy Spirit.
2. Your body contains your soul (mental, self-conscious) and spirit – the part that relates to God.
"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." I Thessalonians 5:23. Your mind and spirit need to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. So, what you think, what, and whom you love must come under His control. When Paul writes, "present your bodies," he is talking about everything that is you, everything that is about you. This is a total submission.
The Character of your presentation: How to present your Body
1. A living sacrifice: When you give it, it is no longer yours to take back. You give it all to Him. It is a living sacrifice. You don't die when you give it. As in the O.T. Sacrifices, the offering to Him must be perfect and unblemished. It is not to be a leftover, a cull, not something you wouldn't want for yourself. It is to be the very best that you have. The way you live your life is your sacrifice.
2. Holy: Sanctify or separate yourself from all that is sinful, impure, or morally imperfect. You will constantly pursue holiness and righteousness because you want to be pleasing to Him. This separation is not to be self-righteous behavior. We are in the world but not of the world. We do not present ourselves as better than others. We are friendly. We love others and reach out to help. But we do not join with them in their sinful activities. Micah 6:8; II Cor. 7:1; Gal. 5:24,25; Col. 3;5; I Thess. 4;3,4,7; II Tim. 2:19; Hebrews 12:14: I Peter 1:14-16; I John 3:3,6,9,10;
3. Acceptable unto God: It must be pleasing to God, not us. We are not in this to please ourselves. Our life is to be for Him, not for the pursuit of our pleasure. Jeremiah rebuked the people of Judah and Jerusalem, saying, "To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me." The people of that day were wholly given over to idolatry, immorality, and covetousness. They ignored all messages from the Lord. Yet they brought sweet-smelling incense and sweet cane to offer with their burnt offerings. God rejected their offerings. Their behavior and actions contradicted and made worthless any offering they gave.
God was expecting their lives to match their offering, as described in I Peter 2:5, "Ye also, as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
4. The Logic of your presentation: Reasonable: He is our Creator and our Redeemer. We are bought with a price, rescued from hell, and we belong to Him. Everything we have and are belongs to Him. Without Him, we are nothing.
The Activity of Your Presentation
1. Be not conformed to this world: To conform is to fashion or shape one thing like another. If we look like, act like, and live like the world, there is no difference between us and the unsaved world.
Paul was adamant in declaring the necessity of being different from the world. In Colossians 3:5-7 he writes, "Mortify (put to death) therefore your members which are upon the earth" – and then he lists several sins of the flesh. In 3:8-9, he goes further to say "But now ye put off all these" and then lists several sins of the attitude and the tongue. Our lives, attitudes, and speech are to be clearly different from the lives of the unsaved people around us.
2. Be Transformed by the renewing of your mind. As we renew our minds (filling our minds with the things of God), reading, meditating, memorizing, and applying His Word in our lives, we are progressively changed into the image of Christ. It is a change on the outside that comes from the inside. This transformation (a metamorphosis – a transliteration of the word "transformed" in the Greek N.T.) is the goal of Paul's ministry to new Christians. "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you." (Galatians 4:19).
This is like putting on clothes. In Colossians 3:12-17, Paul admonishes believers to "Put on therefore," and lists a godly Christian's attitude and behavior characteristics. We are exhorted to walk with God in the following Scriptures: (I John 2:6; Col. 2:6; Gal. 5:16; Eph. 5:15-16). When we walk with God, we agree with Him. We are interested in the same things, have the same goals, and work together for the same purpose. Amos 3:3 declares, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" In II Corinthians 3:18, Paul states, "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." We look into the glass, the mirror of the Word of God. We see Him and His glory and are changed into the same image. The more we are with Him, the more we are like Him. We are transformed into the image of Christ. This is all about your personal relationship with God.
Do you love Him? Do you love His Word? Do you want sweet companionship and fellowship with the Lord?
As you probably now realize, this is not just an act of walking the aisle in a church service and dedicating your life, although that can be part of it. This is a life-changing decision that will change the entire direction of your life. You are giving your life as a sacrifice: body, soul, and spirit. You are no longer your own. You give up your rights. From now on, God directs your life path. You don't decide. He decides.
Whether God wants you to be a janitor or the CEO of a corporation; a Sunday School helper or a preacher – or a missionary; a construction worker or an engineer; work at a desk or outside in physical labor; as captain of the team or just one of the players; a housewife and mother or a career woman in business or medical; whatever it is, you are willing and happy to be exactly where God wants you to be.
This applies to location also. If God wants you in a hot or cold climate, in America or in some foreign country, living close to your family or far away, you are willing and happy to be exactly where God wants you.
The Proof of your Presentation (Experience it)
1. Good Romans 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to them that
love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
2. Acceptable - Pleasing to God: Ps. 19:14 "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer."
Lev. 22:20 But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you.
3. Perfect (complete, finished) will of God for you. The plan comes together.
a. God gives peace in your decision. "Let the peace of God rule (umpire, decide) in your hearts" Colossians 3:15. This does not always mean everything will go smoothly. In the will of God, Paul preached in Antioch of Pisidia. Crowds gathered, and many believed, but opposition arose, and Paul and Barnabas were expelled from that region. (Acts 13:14-52). They preached in Lystra, and Paul was stoned. When Paul had determined the will of God to go to Macedonia and preach, they were thrown in jail in the very first city of Philippi. (Acts 16) But there will be peace, quietness, and contentment from the Lord because you are walking in His way.
b. Ability to do the will of God from the heart. "Not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men" Ephesians. 6:6-7.
As we conclude this study, here are some personal questions.
1. Do you recognize that this is a transaction with the Eternal God, who
is the Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign over everything?
2. Do you recognize and acknowledge that He is both Holy and Loving?
3. Are you willing to do His will for all Christians, as revealed in the Word
4. Do you acknowledge His mercy and grace in saving you?
5. Will you present your body to the Lord as a living Sacrifice? (body,
soul, and spirit)
6. Are you willing to be different from the world (not conformed)?
7. Will you let God transform you into His image through diligent study
and application of the Word of God?
8. Are you willing to go anywhere He tells you and do anything He asks
you to do?
Then tell the Lord your answers to these questions and commit to doing whatever He asks.