Monday, December 2, 2013

"It seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit."

One more word on maturity. A mark of maturity is how a person discerns God's will.
You know those Russian wooden dolls that fit inside one another? For me, discerning God's will for my life is a little bit like starting with the biggest Russian doll first, and then fitting the smaller ones into that. Henry Blackaby said it like this; "Don't start by asking what God's will is for you. Just ask what God's will is and begin with that." That's maturity.

There is enough in God's revealed will to keep us busy for the rest of our lives. Begin with God's overarching will, which I would suggest is to reconcile all things to Himself through His Son and to restore His rule upon earth. Ask Him to help you to order your life according to His will rather than try and get His blessing for your will for your life.

Within that overarching will, there are also some clear and  practical instructions on how to live in a way that pleases God. We don' t have to ask God about them because He's revealed His will in His Word. For instance, we know that it's God's will for us to worship Him, to love our neighbor, to serve our church,  to give generously, to work diligently, to forgive, to pray, to witness and many more. The wrestle is not in finding His will. It's in being willing to do His will. It's the doll within the doll.

There are times though, that within God's clearly revealed will, we need to discern God's specific will for us. Romans 12 talks about knowing the 'good, pleasing and perfect' will of God. We may be within His good and pleasing will, but we are needing to know His perfect, or specific will. We all want to know God's will for our lives.  For instance, the Bible tells us how to live, but not where to live. It tells us how to be married, but not whom to marry. This requires that we discern God's will by the Spirit's wisdom. Paul said that those who are children of God are led by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit. So how did this work out in Paul's life? To be honest, it often seemed quite messy.

In Acts 16:6 he wanted to go to the province of Asia Minor to preach the Gospel but he said that the Holy Spirit forbade him. Paul saw the peace of God as a means of discerning God's will. A 'check' in his heart was reason enough not to go in. In the same chapter, Paul had a dream of a man from Macedonia calling him. He concluded that it was the Lord and left the next day for Macedonia.
So he saw the prophetic as a means of discerning God's will too, but it was by no means an exact science. When he arrived in Macedonia it wasn't a man, but a woman called Lydia who welcomed him. God saved her and she opened up her home to Paul and a church was started. Paul had to be flexible with the prophetic. In Acts 21 a proven prophet called Agabus did a prophetic drama, tying Paul's hands with his belt, and warned him not to go to Jerusalem or he would be imprisoned. Paul did not deny the prophecy, but went to Jerusalem anyway, saying that the Holy Spirit had already warned him that in every city trouble and hardship awaited him. So the prophetic did not bind him on this occasion. He weighed it according to God's overarching will of preaching the Gospel, and decided the 'doll would fit inside the doll.'

In 2 Timothy 2:12, Paul says that he went to Troas to preach the gospel, because the Spirit opened a door for him, but because he did not find Titus there, his spirit could not find rest. For Paul, healthy partnership was important enough that he was willing to walk away from a door that the Spirit had opened. He was certainly no lone ranger. God's will is to work through team, and healthy partnerships are vital to Gospel fruit.  I have seen plenty of great open doors slammed shut because of toxic teams.

Probably my favorite Pauline saying on discerning God's will is, "It seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit."Acts 15:28 It says two powerful things. Firstly, it seemed, says that Paul sees himself as fallible in hearing God's voice. It allows for the mystery, the seeing through a glass darkly. Second, it seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit is a statement of prophetic accountability. Paul was not a solo sky pilot.
He valued the perspective of others and he valued consensus even though he wasn't a yes man, as is clear in Acts 11.

Let's aim for this sentiment as we seek to discern God's will. I believe it is one of the most significant marks of Christian maturity.





 


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