Exploring God’s Will

We often want to know God’s will—especially for us. His will is what He wants to do, primarily to keep us from destruction through our transformation and eventual salvation from His wrath. It is His plan for humankind. In the process, He desires us to be obedient, rejoice, pray, and spread the good news to others. Although we tend to think God’s will is some glorious plan for our individual lives, we should instead focus on helping God see His plan for creation through to completion. That’s all well and good. But what exactly does ‘will’ mean?

The word in the ancient language implies choice, desire, pleasure, or an inclination. So, God’s will can be something He desires (as in Matthew 18:12-14) or His plan for humanity (i.e., Matthew 26:42 or John 6:37-40).

Here are some of God’s desires:

  • That all people are saved from His coming wrath (2Peter 3:9)
  • Obedience, not legalism (Matthew 9:13)
  • Our good works, done because of our faith (1Peter 2:13-16)
  • That we rejoice and pray continuously (1Thessalonians 5:16-19)
  • That we proclaim the good news of His Kingdom & make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)

What are some benefits of partnering with God to accomplish His desires?

  • Redemption and forgiveness; the reward of everlasting life (John 6:40; Ephesians 1:5-13; Hebrews 10:35-36)
  • We get His Spirit and intercession on our behalf (Romans 8:26-28)

How do we participate in God’s plan and accomplish His desires? First, we must obey His commandments to honor the Father and Son and be charitable to people (1John 5:3; Matthew 22:36-40). We must also abstain from sexual immorality (1Thessalonians 4:2-4). We are to imitate God (Ephesians 5:1-20), allow the Holy Spirit to lead us (Romans 8:14, Galatians 5:25). Making God’s priorities our priorities (Matthew 6:33) is critical, and we must obey our civil leaders and submit to them (Hebrews 13:17).

Whew! That seems like a lot of stuff! But, we can learn what we’re to do in accomplishing God’s will or discovering the answers to our prayers by doing these things:

•           Study the Bible, which teaches principles that help in decision-making (2Timothy 3:16-17).

•           Ask for wisdom (James 1:5-6).

•           Seek wisdom (from family, friends, spiritually mature, etc.) (Proverbs 13:10).

•           Pray!!!

But, we can hinder the accomplishment of God’s will or desires – even for us – through:

•           Bad motives (James 4:3).

•           Bad relationships (1Peter 3:7).

•           Unrighteousness due to disobedience and the lack of the Spirit (John 9:31).

Summary: God has a plan for humanity: salvation through Christ. He also desires fellowship and obedience from us in a pursuit of holiness. We can join in and help accomplish God’s plans or desires, or we can rebel and keep Him from using us or even answering our requests. Of course, this rebellion will result in death. Next week, we’ll take a look at demons with job titles & the ‘spirit’ of biblical abuse.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

In Loving Fairness!

In our feel-good Christian culture, I’ve often heard said, “God is Love!”

God IS love; however, this love is often misunderstood. And, the common misunderstanding of the love that God is and does lends itself to a dangerous and pervasive view that anyone in His excellent favor should never suffer and will have anything they want. The misunderstanding is based on 1John (1John 4:8 and 16 in particular). The first thing we must do is understand the context of John’s comments about God being love. The next thing we’ll do is explore the meaning of that ‘love,’ which we’ll find is consistent, appropriate action—not emotion.

The theme and context of 1John Chapter 4 are a fair and just God that will judge the world and save the righteous. This text serves as a reminder that our actionable love, which is obedience to Jesus’ commandments out of our faith, mirrors God’s just nature and is the basis for our coming salvation. Here’s a breakdown of the verses—you may want to read along.

Verses 1-6: Differentiating Christians from the world.

Verses 7-17: God is actionable love. He has promised a savior for humankind and kept His promise.  We should be like Him and love one another with action, not just emotion, because He has done the same for us first.

Verses 18-21: A sobering reminder that actionable love born of our faith is critical to salvationrescuing from God’s judgment to come. Being nice, feeling spiritual, believing alone, or having lots of knowledge about the Bible without action is useless to God, our Christ, and the Church.

I keep mentioning ‘actionable’ love. It’s the kind of love that equates to, “I’ll treat you right despite how I feel.” We’re to be fair, kind, patient, repentant, self-controlled, etc.  Hmmm . . . sounds a lot like the actions (fruits) shown by those who belong to God and, therefore, have the Spirit as they remain in a relationship with Him:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. —Galatians 5:22-23.

So, God is love because He has treated us appropriately and kept His promise to send a savior despite the way He has ‘felt’ toward humankind at times throughout history. As so many New Testament letters show, He is just to save and forgive when we are in a relationship with Him. Act fairly, justly, kindly, and consistently as our God also has done for us . . . and live!

Next week, we’ll examine the will of God: what it is and how to discover it.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Hooking Up With Wickedness

We live in a world filled with people who are ignorant of God’s ways or the gift of salvation Jesus offers. Some know the truth but resist it. Without our influence through relationships, they’ll likely never know these truths. But we must not let influence work the other way around, allowing ourselves to be lured into sinful behavior.

First and foremost, we’re to spread the good news of God’s grace and mercy through Jesus to those around us by word and deed. As the apostle Paul pointed out, how will people learn of the Gospel—that great news of God’s Kingdom—if no one tells them? We’re all called to proclaim that good news through our speech and actions. How can we do this if we don’t interact with others who need to hear the message or see us model it (Romans 10:13-15)?

We’re also to be a shining example—a light to those around us. There’s no way to be that light without being visible to the world.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”Matthew 5:14-16.

We can’t isolate ourselves and, therefore, shield our light from the world. We must be in the world to provide an example, but not of the world (repeating any of its ungodly values and behaviors). The apostle Paul explained that although we need to be flexible and enter into relationships to be Jesus to a lost world, we must be careful not to practice sin found in the world and give up the gift of salvation (1Corinthians 9:19-27).

Paul tells the same church that they must not have close relationships with unbelievers in other warnings too. Associate, yes—be bound together, no. The original language implies unequal yoking, which is vital to understanding Paul’s intent. Yoking together dissimilar creatures would be counterproductive and, while the act may help the weakest of the pair, may bring down the stronger (or more righteous in this case).

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? —2Corinthians 6:14-15.

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals. —1Corinthians 15:33.

Who are your friends and business partners? Remember to be a light to the world but take measures to avoid having your faith corrupted and, therefore, jeopardizing your rescuing from God’s wrath to come!

Next week: God is love. True, but how? Why?

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Yes, Judge—but who??

The idea of judging trips people up. We know our faults or sins and feel we have no right to judge others as a result. Conversely, some people behave as though they must inform everyone around them of every sinful act. The truth regarding judging others resides somewhere in the middle.

Who should judge whom? According to Jesus, God will judge the world – those people who aren’t His. Christ-followers will be evaluated for their works done out of faith and rewarded accordingly at the end of this age. Meanwhile, we must hold one another accountable for spiritual growth and moral positioning. For instance, the apostle Paul called out sexually immoral behavior in the Corinthian church and told them this:

… Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. . . . Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. —1Corinthians 5:6-13.

So, how are we to judge other followers of Jesus? We must be careful and gentle according to Christ’s commandments, not by what we feel. The goal must always be to help followers who are ‘sinning’ turn back to the truth and be reconciled to God (e.g., James 15:19-20). Jesus also reminds us not to tolerate the practice of sinful behavior inside the community of Christians.

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” —Matthew 18:15-17.

Now, I realize that some people will counter by quoting Luke 6:37, “Do not judge and you will not be judged . . .” But it and verses 38-42 deal with justice and mercy. And verses 41-42 remind us to become righteous before holding others accountable by God’s standard.

If you want to love your fellow Christians with the love of Christ, judge them according to His commandments with a sense of urgency before it’s too late for anyone practicing sinful behavior and earning a one-way ticket to God’s judgment! And let’s demonstrate God’s standard by not doing or condoning anything He opposes (such as sexual immoralities). Otherwise, we could be single-handedly responsible for leading the lost to their destruction.

Next week, we’ll look at healthy and unhealthy Christian relationships.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley