Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What is the will of God?

 Lately we've been asking some fundamental questions like "What is the Gospel?"  And "What is God like?"  And  "What is love?"  And "What is salvation?"

Sometimes we can skip over the biggest issues within the faith, and end up entirely missing the point of what we do everyday.  This time we ask the question: What is the will of God?  

It's a theme often repeated within the scriptures.  The will of God comes up again and again.  What does God want from us, his people?  What is his purpose for us?  What is his will?

Let's start at Romans 12:2 (ESV) which states "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." 

This is a good place to start.  The will of God can be understood as something we can discern.  The scriptures urge us to "test" to discover what the will of God is.  Further along in Ephesians 5:17 (ESV) it says "Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."  

It is clear that we ought to know the will of the Lord.  What does the phrase mean "the will of God"?  It could be described as God's desire for his people.  God wants us to live a certain way, he wants us to make certain decisions and choices. 

Paging through the scriptures, the will of the Lord is revealed throughout the books of the Old and New testament.  While studying this topic of the will of God, it seemed to me to be interconnected at times with sanctification, closeness to Jesus, and the phrase "abide in Christ."  

1 Thessalonians 4:3 (ESV) says "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality."  In connection to sanctification, one aspect of God's will is the process by which we are changed into the likeness of Christ.  

John 6:40 (ESV) says "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  This is of course the largest positioning of the will of God.  The will of God is that we come to his son Jesus for life.  That's why I tell people at the homeless shelter where I work to call upon Jesus Christ for help.  I tell the, "when you are at rock bottom, call upon Jesus."  God wants us to come to Christ.  That is his will.

The third area, abiding, is an interesting area.  I haven't seen much teaching on the topic of "abiding in Christ."  Yet the word "abide" or, in ancient Greek "Meno" occurs in the NT 102 times.  The definitions of "Meno" or the semantic range is...

  1. to remain, abide
    1. in reference to place
      1. to sojourn, tarry
      2. not to depart 1a
    2. to continue to be present 1a
    3. to be held, kept, continually
    4. in reference to time
      1. to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure 1b
    5. of persons, to survive, live
    6. in reference to state or condition
      1. to remain as one, not to become another or different
  2. to wait for, await on
What's interesting about the Greek word "meno" is it's highest usage is by far in the Gospel of John and 1 John.  It was an understanding of life with Christ favored by the apostle John.

The secret to abiding in Christ, as mentioned in John 15 and other areas of the gospels and NT letters is revealed in 1 John 2:16-17 ESV which states "For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." (bold added for emphasis)

The key here is that the will of God is an action.  We do it.  Resting faith is great, but faith itself is often an action.  To do the will of God means we will abide forever and keep our lives for life eternal.

Hebrews 10:36 (ESV) For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 

As Hebrews 10:36 says, we have great need of endurance.  To do the will of God means to endure the journey of faith in Christ, one day at a time.  It's not always easy.  But with God, all things are possible.  

What do we say about a man or woman who is an inspiration to us in their dedicated faith?  For me, I would say that person is one who is led by the Spirit of God.  

Similarly Romans 8:24 (NIV) says "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God."

The will of God seems to be linked to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  
John 14:26 says "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

For all followers of Jesus Christ, those who have truly been reborn and embrace the new life... the will of God is that we obey God.  The will of God is that we incorporate the teachings of the Bible intently upon our souls, until we think in biblical terms and live in biblical terms.  The will of God is that followers of Jesus Christ be led by the Spirit given by Christ. 

How can we be lead by the Spirit?  We listen for the leading of the Spirit.  We pray to the Lord for guidance.  We study the scriptures.  We love our neighbors.  We share the gospel.  That is how we follow the Spirit.  

The will of God for the non-believer is simple: Come to Christ for life.  Call on Jesus for life.  

The will of God encompasses many areas... justification, sanctification, and perseverance.  The will of God the Father is that we first come to Jesus Christ.  His death on the cross is something called "penal substitutionary atonement."  We believe and know, that Jesus Christ took the penalty for our sins on the cross.  He paid the price that we should've endured.  God's will is that we come to his son for life and accept that offering.  Second, God's will is our sanctification.  Sanctification is the process by which we grow into a flourishing follower of Jesus being made into a better and better person in measures of selflessness, love, caring for the poor, serving the needs of others, and sharing the gospel with the unsaved.  Finally the will of God is our perseverance, or that we "abide in Christ."  God wants us to rest our faith in Christ for our eternal salvation.  He then wants us to pursue healthy Christian living and the transformation of our old lives into the new life of holiness.  Perseverance is the process by which we remain in close communion with Christ and abandon ourselves more and more fully to his purposes and ways of living.  

Through justification, sanctification, and perseverance does a follower of Christ live out the will of God for their lives.  God bless you, and have a wonderful rest of your day.  Amen.