All of us long to know God’s will for our lives. How do we know the decisions we are making in life fit in with His larger plan for us? Should I marry this person? Should I quit this job? Should I invest in this stock? Should I move to this town? Should I go back to school? What should my major be? Should I have children? Should I stay married? All of us wrestle with one thousand questions like this every day. How can we know which answer God wants us to choose? How can we be sure we are doing what God is blessing? That’s what Pastor Greg speaks about in this 3-part series called “G.P.S. (God’s Positional System).”
Tonight is Part 3 of 3 – Road Signs and Mile Markers
Well, we’re talking about GPS – God’s Positioning System. We’re talking about discovering the Personal Will of God for your life. We said two weeks ago that there’s a Providential Will of God. That’s kind of like a guardrail on that journey, that there’s just some things God’s going to do just because he’s God. And it doesn’t matter if you want Him to do it. It doesn’t matter if you believe He’s going to do it. Doesn’t matter if you asked Him to do it. There are some things God’s just going to do because He’s God. We also said, there is another guardrail. That’s the Moral Will of God. It’s what God’s already revealed to us in scripture about good and evil, right and wrong. Here are some things you shouldn’t do. Here are some things you should do. Here are some bad, evil things. Here are some good holy things. And God’s already revealed a lot of that to us. As we try to discern God’s Personal Will for our life, one thing we know for sure is it’s got to be somewhere between these two guardrails. If I get outside of God’s Providential Will, then it can’t be His personal will for my life. If I get outside of God’s Moral Will, then it can’t be His personal will for my life either. It has to be somewhere in the middle.
And we said last week, well, I don’t want to spend my whole life sort of weaving around, back and forth, banging into guardrails constantly. How can I find the shortest distance? How can I find the path down the middle? How do I do that? And we said, well, the more familiar you become with God’s providential will and the more familiar you become with God’s moral will, the easier it is for you to discern.
And then we said, well, what if I’ve got a tough decision to make? What if it’s really urgent and I don’t have a lot of time to put into this and I can’t wait. I’ve got to decide tonight We said the shortcut is you go find somebody else who’s further along the Christian journey than you are. You say, how did you make it through that one turn? How did you get over that hill? And we said that the important thing there was to know the right people, to ask the right kind of questions, and then we’d be able to discern what’s the wise thing for me to do here. However, you don’t want to live your whole life like that. You don’t want to spend your whole life just having to ask other people constantly, what’s the will of God? You want to be able to know it for yourself. There’s only one way to do that. You’ve got to become a person who’s very familiar with the principles of God’s word. King David found counsel, understanding through the principles of God’s word. Look at Psalm 119:24
Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. ~ Psalm 119:24
Your principles are my delight; they are my counselors. They give me joy. They give me guidance. They give me purpose. They give me direction. They give me encouragement. That’s the way the Bible should function in our lives when we use it correctly. Unfortunately, there are a couple of ways that people misuse the Bible. And one of the ways people misuse the Bible is they deliberately twist scripture to match their own pre-determined agenda. They just deliberately twist it. They rip a small piece of Scripture out of its original context and they make it sound like it’s teaching something very different. And the Bible gets misused so often in this way that there’s a tendency for a lot of people to just avoid the Bible altogether.
Because people tend to avoid the Bible they don’t really know what it says and doesn’t say. So, when a very confident person comes along and fast-talks them about some Scripture they are twisting, often, most people can’t tell if it’s true or not. Many people know that so many people have misused the Bible and twisted it to their advantage that people just assume that’s what everybody does with the Bible and that the Bible is not reliable. You can’t depend on it. I hear people say “You can make it say anything you want it to.” Like it’s some kind of magic book. The truth is, if you don’t rip it out of context it is pretty clear what the Bible is saying most of the time. Still, most people, even most Christians, just stay away from it completely.
Another way people misuse the Bible is they take some very specific situation in Scripture and assume it automatically applies to them as well. Daniel survived the lion’s den so God must want me to hop the fence next time I’m at the zoo. Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego survived a fiery furnace. God wants me to walk into a burning building. No. That’s very dangerous to assume what one person in the Bible did is what you are supposed to do. On the other hand, one of the ways to study your Bible and not go wrong is to understand, memorize and apply the recurring principles or what David calls the statutes. You can think about these principles as road signs or mile markers. After maps, but before GPS on every phone, we used to have to print out directions on paper from a program called MapQuest. It worked just like GPS but someone had to read it off the paper. Go sixteen point two miles straight. Look for exit 7, take a left, then go twenty-six point three miles to reach your destination. It’s was all spelled out for us. GPS does the same thing, reading it to you as you drive.
It is better though because it knows exactly where you are at all times and it tells you when you make a mistake and reroutes you to get back on the right path again. You’re watching for the roadsigns and the mile-markers that have been carefully laid out for you, That is just like the principles in God’s word. Think of principles as a great big road sign on your journey to discover God’s Personal Will for your life. For example, God, through the prophet Isaiah, says,
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. ~ Isaiah 55:8-9
God tells us right upfront. We don’t think like Him and we don’t act like Him. What seems naturally intuitive to us may actually lead us astray. Our logic, from God’s perspective, can be very illogical. Sometimes we can’t trust our hearts, we can’t trust our own ability to correctly reason. We can’t trust our own intuition. God thinks differently than we do.
We all have three major limitations that make it difficult for us, if not completely impossible for us, to successfully navigate God’s Personal Will for our life on our own. The first one is 1) Our Context. Remember, context is everything right? So what we know and what we’ve experienced about the world and the universe and how things work, that’s really limited compared to what God knows. As smart as we might think we are, compared to what God knows about it, our context is super, super limited. So our upbringing, our time, our location, our friends, our job, all of these things, this very microcosm kind of view of the world in the universe, that’s who we are. That’s what our total context is. We need to keep that in mind as we study the word of God.
The second limitation is 2) Our Perspective. Our perspective is impacted by our fears and our desires. This isn’t always objective facts or absolute truth at all. This is very subjective for us. It’s not related to the world at large. It’s just from our own very limited point of view. We are concerned with what do I want to happen? What am I looking for? What’s best from my personal point of view? At best we might be thinking about what is best for me and my family, me and my limited circle of close friends. I’m not making every decision on the basis of what is best for every human in history.
The third limitation we all have is 3) Our Outcome. Most of the time, let’s be honest. It’s a total guess. We say, “Well, I think if I do this, this is what’s probably going to happen. I hope this is what will happen and I think the odds are pretty good.” So we go through most of life, really, if we were honest, just kind of winging it and hoping for the best. A lot of the decisions we make are just guesses. Educated guesses maybe, but we’re still just winging it. We don’t really have any idea of what the long-term outcome of our decisions is going to be. We hope that we will win more often than we lose, that we will be right more often than we’re wrong. That’s the best any of us can really hope for on our own. Right? We have such limited context, perspective, and outcome understanding. But listen, what if we had an opportunity to have a context as big as all of human experience? And what if we had the opportunity to have a perspective that stretched all the way into eternity past, came right through the middle of our time, and continued on into eternity future? What if we had the opportunity to peer into a mind that knew the outcome of every possible decision and every situation that we would ever face in our entire life?
If we had the advantage of knowing those three things, life would be very different for us, wouldn’t it? If we had access to infinite context and infinite perspective and infinite outcome knowledge, it would be very difficult to make a wrong decision, wouldn’t it? Sure, we could still misunderstand, mishear, we could still slip up and make a wrong turn but again, we could quickly retrace our steps and fix where we went wrong. We’d have the whole journey mapped out like GPS. Now, here’s the good news today. Don’t miss this. Are you ready? Don’t miss this. Listen. In scripture, God has given us a slice of His thinking. God has given us a slice of the infinite context, perspective, and outcome of God. It’s right here in this book called The Bible. God’s given us a slice of his thinking, a piece of His mind, so to speak.
It’s just a sliver of who He really is and everything He knows but still, in this book, He’s given us more than we could ever possibly fully and completely comprehend in ten lifetimes. There is so much amazing stuff in here. God gave us His word, full of His principles and He says, “I want to broaden your context. I want to expand your perspective. I want you to learn to trust me for the outcome I am guiding you toward. In here are pages and pages and pages of examples of men and women who trusted me. And here’s what happened to them. And here are pages and pages and pages of examples of men and women who didn’t trust me. And here’s how things turned out for them. We are to study the Bible to discover God’s Personal will for our life.
God wants you to figure Him out. He wants you to learn His thoughts. He wants you to learn His ways. He wants you to think like Him. He wants you to know His rules and when and how they apply to certain situations. He wants you to get to know Him and figure out what He would say or what He would do in a given, random situation so that more and more, as you grow and grow in your faith and in your understanding of God as a Christian, less and less do you have to say, “Gosh, I have no idea what to do here. I better go ask a wiser, older Christian.” You can become that wiser, older Christian who knows the will of God and advises others. We shared this last week as well. God wants you to know His will even more than you want to know it. Let me say that again. God wants you to know his will even more than you want to know it. That’s the truth. God wants you to know what He’s up to. He’s not hiding it. God wants you to know how the world works. He doesn’t want to make it difficult. The Bible is packed full of road signs and mile markers – principles for living and knowing the will of God.
Listen to what Paul the Apostle says in Romans 12:2 he says,
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may approve what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. ~ Romans 12:2
Paul gives us a powerful principle. In two brief sentences, Paul tells us exactly how to discover the Personal Will of God for each of our lives. It’s that easy. It’s that simple. It’s that direct. So let’s spend a little bit of time on these two sentences, because this is big, big, important stuff, right? statutes, First, Paul says, do not conform to this world pattern. We talked about this a couple of months ago too. This word conform can be understood by wrapping tinfoil around something. You are the tinfoil.
You now look exactly like whatever you conform to. Paul says if you want to think like God, quit doing ungodly things, quit thinking ungodly things, quit participating in ungodly situations, quit acting just like ungodly people. Stop conforming to their image. You look, act, talk and think just like them now. Paul says stop conforming. That’s never going to lead you to know the will of God. Instead, be transformed into the image of Jesus. Remember a few months ago we said transformed comes from a Greek word that is the root of metamorphosis. Immediately we think of caterpillars becoming butterflies. That’s exactly it. That’s metamorphosis. And so Paul says, don’t be conformed to the world’s ungodly patterns. Don’t be happy being a little green caterpillar your whole life. Instead be transformed into this big, beautiful butterfly of what God really has in store for your life and what God really intended for you to do. Don’t be conformed, be transformed.
How do I do that? Paul says by the renewing your mind. We say, “Oh, that’s cool. I’ll renew my mind. How do I do that?” And the answer is you constantly fill it with new information. That’s how you renew your mind. That’s how you renew a prescription. That’s how you renew an empty water bottle. You fill it with more water and it’s renewed. Right. That’s how you renew your mind. You constantly are filling it with new information. What kind of information? God’s information. God’s thoughts. God’s ways. Paul says is IF you’ll stop conforming to the world’s pattern and instead be transformed by the renewing of your mind into God’s pattern, THEN you’ll be able to test and approve what God’s will is. That’s how you do it. How do I know God’s will? I stop conforming to the world’s pattern. I start transforming into God’s pattern.
I daily renew my mind with His ways and His thoughts from His word and then I’ll know what His will is. And then Paul says, and by the way, His will is always good, and pleasing, and perfect. So you really ought to know it. It’s good for you. We need to enter all of our decisions seeking the will of God with this idea firmly in our minds. “His ways and thoughts are higher than my ways and thoughts .” We need to pray, “God, please, through this book, through Your word, through Your statutes, through Your principles in this book. Show me Your ways. Teach me Your thoughts. Help me begin to anticipate what You would do in this situation. Make me wiser.” Now, listen, don’t miss this. You’ve got to move beyond the way some of us have been taught to read the Bible.
I want to challenge you today to begin to read the Bible in a new way, looking for principles, not promises. Look for principles rather than promises. There’s also a difference between a commandment and a principle. A commandment just says, do this or don’t do this. It’s the thou shalt and thou shalt nots, right? Now, what are principles? Principles are the way God has put the universe together. Sometimes they describe a cause and effect relationship, an IF-THEN relationship. IF you do this, THEN this is going to happen. IF you don’t do this, THEN this is what’s going to happen. Sometimes they predict the outcome of behaviors and attitudes. IF you do this, THEN this is how you feel about it. IF you do this to somebody, THEN here’s how they’re going to treat you in return. Gravity is a principle. It doesn’t matter if you believe in it or not. It doesn’t matter if you try to obey it or not. It’s still going to act like gravity is going to act. No matter what you try to do, gravity is still going to exist. It’s still going to affect you the same way, even if you decide to ignore it.
Like a cartoon character running off a cliff, hovering in midair, thinking they have beaten gravity but then they fall. The same thing is true for God’s principles in our life. Sometimes we run right past them, runoff that principal cliff, and we think, hey, I don’t have to obey God’s principles. This is working out all right for me until it pulls you down. You realize, “Nope. I can’t break a principle. I can break a commandment, but I can’t break a principle.” A principle is going to be true, it’s going to apply, no matter what I do. The challenge for us as we open the Bible is to root out God’s principles and to say, “God, I want to learn how you put this world together. I want to begin to see, as you see, I want to begin to think as you think. I want to reason as you reason. I want to understand your ways. And then I can know your will from my life.”
Even if you don’t believe in God’s principles, they’re still going to be true. They are still going to impact your life. The good news is the more principles you know, the more familiar you are with the thoughts and ways of God. The more familiar you are with the thoughts and ways of God, the easier it is to discern the Personal Will of God for your life. Now, let me tell you how to recognize a principle. There are three types of principles you’ll find in scripture, and you can think of these things as like road signs or mile markers that tell you you’re on the right track. The first one is STATED PRINCIPLES. As you’re reading scripture, you’ll come across stated principles. Here is one in Job 4:8
8 According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity And those who sow trouble harvest it. ~ Job 4:8
In other words, you reap what you sow. That’s a stated principle. Jesus says it again in the New Testament.
We see the same principle, worded slightly differently again and again. Maybe you write down, whatever you put into this life, that’s what you will get out of this life. That’s a stated principle of God. You might say, “Well, sheesh, big deal, Greg. Everybody knows that.” Why do you think everybody knows that? Because it’s a principle that God put in action thousands and thousands of years ago. That’s where it came from. You reap what you sow, you get out of life, whatever you put into life. Here’s another Stated Principle. Look at Proverbs 13:20 –
He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. ~ Proverbs 13:20
That is another stated principle of Scripture that occurs, again and again, worded differently each time. How might we write this principle? The people you spend the majority of your time with are going to impact you. The more time you spend with somebody, the more they’ll impact you and the more they will change you to be conformed to them. If you want to change your life really quickly, change who you’re spending most of your time with, hang around with people who are going to help you transform into the likeness of God.
Scripture has all kinds of principles that are Stated Principles. Their meaning is crystal clear as you read them. Proverbs are a big example of that. Here’s another kind of roadsigns or mile marker on the journey to discover God’s Personal Will for your life. We call them Implied Principles. These aren’t as straight forward but they are still clearly implied by the context. For example, all through the Bible, you see this implied principle of God’s unconditional love. It is implied that unconditional love is the most powerful force in the universe on the human soul.
It is implied that massive doses of unconditional love have the power to reshape and heal the human spirit. It is implied that if you want the heart of a prodigal child to eventually come home, keep showing them unconditional love, just like God does for you and me. It’s never explicitly stated that exact way but it is recurring all through Scripture. Here is another Implied Principle. Purity now leads to intimacy later. If you really want maximum intimacy with your future spouse at some point in your life, then practice purity now while you’re dating. Otherwise, you will damage your ability for intimacy later in life. The implied Principle all through Scripture, purity now paves the way for intimacy later.
There’s a third kind of road sign/mile marker/principle in Scripture. We call it Illustrated Principles. Here is one I’ve learned. You have to be under authority to gain authority. Now for us in our mind and the way we think and our ways, that seems backward, doesn’t it? Well, if I want to have authority, I can’t be under somebody else’s authority. I want to get out from under their authority so that I can have more authority. Right? That’s the way our human mind thinks. God doesn’t think that way. The life of Jesus shows us this. Jesus had more authority on this earth than any other human being who had ever lived or will ever live. He had maximum authority on this earth for a human being. And yet here’s what He always said. I’m under the authority of the Father. I’m only here to do what the Father tells me to do. I’m only here to say what the Father tells me to say. The reason Jesus had the kind of authority in His human form on this earth was because He placed himself under the authority of the father. The Illustrated Principle is there for us as well. If you want to have a lot of authority in your life, then you need to place yourself under the authority of the Father.
You need to do what the Father says to do and say what the Father says to say. Here’s another illustrated principle. Maximum freedom is found under God’s authority. That’s not the way our human mind works though is it? The Garden of Eden shows us this and Lucifer’s fall from heaven shows us this, and the demons that followed Lucifer shows us this. They wanted freedom from God’s authority. They stepped out from underneath God’s authority thinking that would get them all the freedom they wanted. Instead, they lost all the freedom that they had. It all turned out exactly opposite the way they hoped. Jesus tells us the first will be last and the last will be first. If you want to gain your life you have to lose your life. All of that is this same Illustrated Principle we see over and over again in Scripture. Maximum freedom is found under God’s authority. Our father knows what’s best for us. If we trust his authority will experience maximum freedom in life.
Here’s another Illustrated Principle that we see spelled out over and over again in Scripture. I write it this way. You dare not replace what God has put in place. This one’s big. This one’s important. You dare not replace what God has put in place. Let’s look at an example from the life of David. He wasn’t King David yet. He was just David. When he was a young man, had been anointed by Samuel the Prophet who had said, “You’re going to be the next king of Israel.” The problem was Saul was still king of Israel and he was planning on keeping the job. When Saul found out that David had been anointed he decided to kill David. David and his men are running away from Saul, through the wilderness, hiding in caves, trying to stay alive. Saul is closing in on them. So they decide to hide in some faces until Saul’s army passes by them. Then they will sneak out and run away.
So they’re all sitting in a cave, being real quiet as Saul’s armies pass by. Right that moment, Saul decides he has to go to the bathroom. So he picks a cave to use for a bathroom. Out of all the hundreds of caves that so could have picked, which cave do you think he picked to go to the bathroom in? David’s cave? So here’s David and his men. They’re all sitting in this cave hiding out. Here comes Saul to go to the bathroom. And the men look at David and they say, “This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us be glad and rejoice in it!” Right? They are like “David! Whoah! Look! Here is your enemy. Not only has he picked your cave out of all the hundreds of caves he could have chosen, he is now in the most vulnerable position he could possibly be in. He’s trying to kill you, you’re the rightful king, you’ve been anointed as king, you’re supposed to be king, he’s a bad king. He’s trying to kill you. Could it possibly be any more clear what God’s will is in this situation? David, here we are. God obviously wants you to kill him. Go do it.”
So David’s looking at this and I mean, yeah, it does seem obvious from a human perspective. All the circumstances have been lined up. All the emotions, all the circumstances, all the situations, all of it looks like this is God’s will. But David was a man who understood God’s principles. He looks to God’s word for his counsel, not emotions, not circumstances, not human advisers. David says this. Look at 1 Samuel 24:6
6 So he said to his men, “Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord’s anointed.” ~ 1 Samuel 24:6
We can shorten that to “I will not lift my hand against God’s anointed.” This is a principle we see repeated in Scripture. Do not lift your hand against God’s anointed.
I also remember it this way. You dare not replace what God has put in place. God knows how to replace what He wants to replace. Whenever He’s ready to replace it, you can bet He’ll replace it. That’s not up for me to decide. I dare not replace what God has put in place. I will not lift my hand against God’s anointed. His men thought what we often think when all the circumstances seem to line up, we say “OH! This HAS to be God’s will!” David says, I know it looks like that. But I know this is not God’s will because this is not God’s way. If it’s not God’s way then it can’t be God’s will. That’s another Illustrated Principle you can count on. David knew God’s will because David knew God’s way. He had learned some of the thoughts and ways of God. Instead, David creeps up and cuts off a piece of Saul’s clothing, waits until he exits the cave, and then confronts him and shows him that he could have easily killed him but chose not to. Saul is humbled and gives up his pursuit of trying to kill David.
Later a similar thing happens. Saul listens to his advisors and comes after David again. Again David is able to sneak up on Saul, this time while he is sleeping. David’s men want him to kill Saul but David again states I will not raise my hand against God’s anointed. He takes Saul’s speak instead and again confronts him later, making it clear that he has, once again, spared Saul’s life. Again, Saul is humbled and gives us his pursuit of trying to kill David. That’s the power of principle. Understanding a principle allows us to see clearly through the fog of emotion. It allows us to see clearly in spite of the bad counsel we might receive. It allows us to see around our circumstances, to see past our experiences, to see beyond our inability to know all the context and to have the proper perspective, and to predict outcomes and all these things.
Seeing the principle allows you to get above all that stuff so that you can look down and see clearly what God really wants you to do, the Personal Will of God for your life. As we wrap up this morning, I challenge you to immerse yourself in this book called The Bible. Learn the principles that God has carefully recorded for you here. Sometimes people say, oh, man, I’ve tried that Bible thing. When I was a kid, I tried to read that Bible and I just couldn’t hang with it. It drove me crazy. Thou shalteth goeth downeth the roadeth and picketh thee a plumpeth appleeth. Thou shaltest eateth thine appleeth with-eth thrust teetheth. I had no idea what it was talking about and it would take me forever to read one page. I can relate. King James English is tough. That is not our language.
The original Scriptures were written in Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew. Most people today don’t read those languages either. Along the way, some people said, I don’t speak Aramaic, Greek, or Hebrew. Maybe we could translate this into a language I do speak. They rewrote it in King James English because they all spoke King James English. We don’t speak King James English any more than we speak Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrews right? French people read the Bible in French. German people read it in German. Chinese people read it in Mandarin. Russian people read it in Russian. Why some backward Americans think it has to be read in King James’ English is mind-boggling. Fortunately, there are all kinds of modern English translations out there for us to read and study. Get yourself a modern English version and I’ll bet you anything you can understand it a lot better than you remember when you tried the King James Version in the past.
Immerse yourself in this book called the Bible and begin to make a list of every principle you find in it. As you study this book, say to yourself, I’m getting the mind of God, I’m learning the ways of God, I’m learning the thoughts of God. Remember? Those ways and thoughts that are higher than ours? You won’t learn it all at the level God knows it but even a tiny portion of that is a huge game-changer for human life. Every time you find a principal, stop and write it down. Keep a list of it and then periodically go back and review that list and renew your mind with the principles from God’s word that you’ve already found. I’ve been doing that for years now, and I have a list of dozens of these principles. Now, when I said that, the first thing that went through some of your minds is, “Wow, really? Can I get your list?” No, you can’t have my list. You’ve got to make your own list. That’s part of God’s principles as well. Here’s why you need to make your own list. The process of discovering them is as valuable as actually discovering them. God might show it to you differently than He showed it to me. You might write it down in a different way than I did, in a way that more personally connects with your experience and God’s Personal Will for your life, which is not the same as God’s Personal Will for my life.
~~~~~ LET’S PRAY ~~~~~