DISCLAIMER! This post no longer accurately reflects my theology. But I am keeping it here for posterity. Of great concern to me is the Arminian notion of free will which I claimed was bestowed on us at salvation, whereas the truth is, my will is still not free, and I am entirely dependent upon the Holy Spirit to keep me walking in his steps.
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
And that malarkey about “God is a Gentleman”– I’m so embarrassed…
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:13-17, NKJV)
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15, NIV)
Some Christians can mistakenly get caught up in a view of God’s sovereignty that says that, if God is in control, then His will is going to happen in my life, just by my continued existence, so I can sit back and relax and do what I want. But as justified, regenerated believers, He has bestowed upon us a free will. There are now two wills at work in us, the will of the old man (the flesh) and the will of the new man (led by the Spirit). We have to actively decide which of these we are going to let govern our lives. That is, God, as the Gentleman He is, will not force His will on us. His will is something we need to choose for ourselves.
God’s word tells us over and over again that we need to do His will. In Matthew 7:21 (ESV), Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” See also Mt 12:50; Mk 3:35; Jn 4:34, 7:17, 9:31; Eph 6:6; Heb 10:36; 1 Jn 2:17. If it were not required of us to choose to do His will, then we would not have to be told.
We are also told to seek His will, to know His will, and to choose His will over our own. Jesus said, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30, ESV). See also Mt 26:42; Lk 12:47, 22:42; Jn 6:38; Acts 22:14; Rom 12:2; Eph 5:17; Col 1:9; Heb 10:7; 1 Pe 4:2-3.
There are two imporant points here. First: His will is in fact knowable, and second: His will is EMPHATICALLY not the same as our will. If we believe that God’s sovereignty means that, because He’s in control, we can just follow our every whim and thereby produce God’s will in our lives, we are wrong. And many of us have learned this the hard way (for Biblical examples of guys to do it the hard way, look at the life of Jacob in Genesis, and the life of Solomon in 2 Chronicles and Ecclesiastes).
Our will is bad; God’s will is good. We have to actively choose to submit ourselves to God (James 4:1-10). So, how do we know what God’s will is in order that we might choose it? Read the Bible and pray. Those are the two primary means through which God reveals His will to us: through His word, and through prayer.
Through His word, He tells us directly what His will is. First of all, it is His will for us to be saved: “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Mt 18:14, NKJV). See also John 6:39-40, Gal 1:4, Eph 1:5, 1:9-12, Heb 10:9-10. Scripture also tells us in several places that His will is for us to be sanctified, to abstain from sexual immorality (1 Th 4:3), to control our bodies and honor our spouses as well “in sanctification and honor” (1 Th 4:4), to not be a slave of your own desires like those who do not know God (1 Th 4:5, see also Eph 2:1-7), to be thankful in all things (1 Thess. 5:18), and to do good and silence the ignorant (1 Pe 2:15). Each of these verses contains the phrase, “This is the will of God.” But we can be sure that wherever there is an imperative in the Scripture, and the context of the passage makes it applicable to all believers, that is God’s will for us. We should always read God’s Word in such a way that we’re seeking how it can be applied in our lives.
As for the subject of prayer, the relationship between prayer and God’s will is multifaceted. First of all, we pray for His will to be done: Mt 6:10, Luke 11:2. Also, we pray for His will to be revealed to us: Col 1:9, 4:12. And we can pray in the confidence “that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). Again, remember that His will is different from our will. We do not pray for our desires, we pray for His desires in us (see James 4:3). C.S. Lewis, as portrayed in the movie Shadowlands, says, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”
Prayer actually “bends our wills to God’s will” (Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, 83). E. Stanley Jones said, “If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God” (A Song of Ascents, 383).
Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb 13:20-21, NKJV)