Grad’s Day, June 22, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Amos 5:4; Habakkuk 2:4; Micah 6:8; Matthew 6:33; I Corinthians 2:10-12
Questions from the Street: “How Can We Know God’s Will?”
Author of all beauty, source of all wonder, You make the mountains sing for joy and the trees clap their hands with glee. Inspire us to join with all creation in jubilant praise and thanksgiving through our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom and through whom all things have their being. Amen.
Have you ever been in a position where you had to make a decision about something, and your biggest responsibility felt like it was trying to discover what God’s will for you was? What is God’s will for my life? Is this man the man God has chosen for me? Is that job what God wants me to do?
What are some of your “God’s will” questions?
I am going to say something this morning that will disappoint some of you; I will disturb some of you; I will cause some of you to wonder if I am saved? Are you ready?
I think we make too big a deal over trying to figure out God’s will.
Other times we make far too little over God’s will. Have you ever heard someone, probably trying to be comforting or consoling, tell a grieving parent or newly widowed spouse, “Well, this just musta been God’s will”?
This time I’m going to say something that will look like blame or accusation. Ready?
I think God’s will is a big a deal and we should not simply attribute life’s circumstances to the will of God.
We are in a series addressing questions people off the street might ask. We have had some fantastic questions from friends and neighbors who might not be believers, and we had had some pretty good questions from people who sit right here with us every week! Today’s question comes from one you, and I chose today to address it because we are honoring our grads, who tend to be the biggest population who seriously ask this question. Today’s question is: “How Can We really Know God’s Will?”
My neighbor and I have argued and debated about this very topic more times than I can count. His argument, which, by the way, I totally agree with, comes straight from the Bible. Let me share some of those Bible passages with you:
What is God’s will?
Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Moses, by the way, added slightly over 600 more “laws” to these 10 commandments. There’s the will of God.
Isaiah took those 10 (or 613), and narrowed them down to 6, Isaiah 33:15, “Those who walk righteously
and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes,
who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil—.”
Do that, and you’re doing the will of God!
The prophet Micah took those 6, and condensed them to 3, Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Those three, there’s the will of God!
Isaiah, again, sums those three with these two: Isaiah 56:15, “This is what the Lord says: “Maintain justice
and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed..”
Just two things, and the will of God is in the bag!
These two, the prophet Amos reduced to one: Amos 5:4, “This is what the Lord says to Israel:
‘Seek me and live.’”
How hard is that?! Seek God! That’s all there is to it!
Jesus said it like this in His Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” And then toward the end of His life on earth when the disciples asked Him which of all these commandment is the greatest, Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” (Matthew 22:37-40)
How can we know what God’s will is? Seek first God’s Kingdom, and love Him with everything you’ve got! That is God’s will. You will know when you are doing it when you love your neighbor as yourself!
For those of you who look at the Newsletter, and try to read ahead on what we’ll be talking about each Sunday, you will notice that I told you to read Habakkuk 2:4. It is on your Sermon Notes Page. Look at that single verse: “Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by faith.” Lest it might be supposed that God’s will can be found only in the fulfillment of the law, Habakkuk reminds us that the just shall live by faith.
We discover the will of God when we live like we believe what we say we believe.
This is the kind of thing my neighbor argues – and that I totally agree with. So why do we argue? Because he believes that what that means is that it never matter what you do, so long as you do it with a heart and mind set on serving God.
I add to his truths that sometimes God calls particular people to particular tasks – and while we cannot foil God’s ultimate plan, we can grieve the Holy Spirit by disobeying and/or ignoring His particular voice for us.
I believe we can still live godly lives that glorify God by our living by faith, no matter what choices we make – but imagine how much more if we actually paid attention to particular callings/vocations.
That’s what many high school graduates are asking. College graduates ask more particular questions about careers or jobs. What is God’s will for me today?! Do I take this road or that road?
In one sense, it may not matter, as long as we seek first the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, if you sense a nudging from God to go to Alaska – you’d be wise to answer that call!
So far I have thrown a lot of short Bible passages at you (the 10 Commandments being, by far, the longest). Look with me at one more, from Paul’s first letter to the Church n Corinth, chapter 2:
“ 9 However, as it is written:“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.Steven Furtick says that, you know when you go on an airplane you’re supposed to turn your phone off, or at least put it on airplane mode – this allows you play games on it, but you cannot make or receive calls. Furtick says we too often live our lives in spiritual airplane mode. Our faith is on, but we have disabled our ability to hear the Holy Spirit speak to us. Let’s take our lives off of spiritual airplane mode, and receive from God every revelation He wants to give us.] The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
James tells us that when we lack wisdom, we should pray for wisdom. God loves to give His people His wisdom.
Among the churches whose roots are planted in the Reformed teachings of the Protestant Reformation, the Westminster Confession has stood the test of time and trial as a faithful witness to what Scripture teaches. This was written in 1647 at the Westminster Assembly to set doctrine in a standardized format. But this is a long and difficult statement of faith, so the writers also wrote two catechisms – Qs & As designed to teach what the Confession says. Listen to Q1 of the Shorter Westminster Catechism: “What is the chief end of man?” (What is humanity’s main purpose?) A1: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”
In other words, what is God’s will for us? God’s will is to glorify Him – does your life, and your life choices, bring glory to God? And God’s will is that we enjoy Him – do you? Or is it just a big chore to try to live by faith? This is God’s will!
Q & A2: “What rule has God given to direct us how to glorify and enjoy Him? The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.”
Today we honor our graduates, and we gather around them with the charge to glorify God, and to enjoy Him – in whatever you do – this is living by faith! This is doing God’s will!
And when you hear a particular nudge – judge it by the Scriptures’ rule, and when it passes muster – obey that calling.
But this is not just for graduates – this is for all followers of Jesus. Choose today to rejoice and be glad in the day the Lord has made for you, and glorify God, and enjoy Him for all eternity. Amen.
Furtick, Steven; “Spiritual Airplane Mode”; ChurchLeaders.com; 06/02/14.
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 395-396.
Sittser, Jerry; the Will of God as a Way of Life; Zondervan; Grand Rapids, MI; 2004.