It is always a joy to be able to turn to the word of the living God, in fact, the living word of the living God, to be instructed from the mind of God for our own blessing and for His glory.
One of the subjects that is at the very center of Christian experience is the matter of the will of God, the will of God. Throughout all of my life, I have heard people tell me they were looking for the will of God, searching for the will of God, trying to find the will of God. In fact, many, many years ago, I wrote a little book called The Will of God is not Lost, because it seemed to me that so many people were acting as if it was lost, as if God had placed His will in some obscure place, as if God were some sort of a divine Easter bunny who had stashed the golden egg in some bush and all He did was sit in heaven saying, “You’re getting warmer,” or, “You’re getting colder,” as we meandered through the shrubbery of life trying to find the egg.
There are people who think that the will of God is the most undesirable thing, that it’s like a diet; if it doesn’t taste good, you can eat it; that the will of God is everything that you don’t want to do, that God is sort of a cosmic killjoy who says, “There’s one having fun, get him,” as if God wants to make life painful and somber and sorrowful and hard. There are those who think that the will of God is sort of like I guess you could say a serendipitous, traumatic experience, like you’re running down the street trying to catch a bus, your foot slips on a banana peel and you land on a map of Argentina in the gutter, and, “Ah, I’ll go to Argentina as a missionary, this is a divine calling.”
There are people who approach the will of God in those ways. Some people think the will of God is like a lottery ticket. Not but a few are every going to get one, and if you get one you become really, really blessed; and most of us just throw away old tickets and never know what it is to win the will of God.
Then there is the dot spot idea that the will of God is this specific dot, and only that dot that there’s one man for you and woman for you and one house and one car and one career and one school and one this and one that, and you’ve got to go through life trying to connect the dots, because if you miss the dots, you’re going to be off track, and when it’s all done, the picture of your life won’t make sense. And so there is this dot theology; and that really doesn’t come across very easily to the people trying to find the dot, because just as soon as you think maybe this is the right, let’s say, girl that you ought to marry, you wonder whether there isn’t a better dot somewhere else or a more specific expression of Gods will, and are you really right and are you really wrong, and all your options and alternatives, and you go through life trying to find the specificity that is way beyond anything God ever intended.
What is God’s will for your life? That’s really the big question. It’s really not the question about purpose, it’s a question about the will of God. It’s not about what should you be based on your skills and your gifts and all of that, it’s really about what is God’s will for your life. That’s a very foundational question. And we all, as Christians, ask it. And it has to do with everything in our lives. All our relationships, all our choices and directions in life need to be guided and directed by a compelling desire to do the will of God. In fact, I would say that’s probably the most foundational and essential pursuit in Christian living: doing the will of God.
In Psalm 143 in verse 10, David prayed that prayer. Listen to what David said. He said, “Lord, teach me to do Your will.” He didn’t say, “Teach me to understand Your will.” He didn’t say, “Teach me to know Your will.” He didn’t say, “Help me find Your will.” He didn’t say, “God, please disclose Your will, reveal Your will, manifest Your will.” He said, “Lord, teach me to do Your will,” which carries the presupposition and the assumption that it was not a matter of information, but it was a matter of obedience. It wasn’t a matter of knowing it, it was a matter of doing it. He doesn’t ask God to reveal His will, he simply says, “Empower me to do it,” which assumes that he knew what it was.
Our Lord set the example for a life devoted to doing the will of God when even facing the horrors of the cross and the wrath of His own Father in divine judgment heaped up Him as He bore the sins of all who would ever believe. He said this, “Not my will, but Yours be done,” Luke 22:42. He was totally and constantly and singularly devoted to His Father’s will. He lived His life on that commitment. In John 4:34, He said, “I am come to do the will of Him that sent Me.” Twice again in the gospel of John – chapter 5, verse 30; chapter 6, verse 38 – He put it this way: “I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
And then our Lord went on to extend that beyond Himself when His disciples said, “Teach us how to pray.” He said, “Pray like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Your will be done.” Pray in the direction of God’s will. Set your life in the direction of God’s will.
In Acts 21:14, there was some concern on the part of some believers about what was going on among the apostles, and their response was this statement: “The will of the Lord be done!” The apostle Paul says to the believers at Rome in chapter 1, verse 10, “I want to come, but I want to come to you by the will of God, that is if is consistent with the will of God.” He says the same thing at the end of Romans 15:32, “that I may come to you in joy by the will of God.”
Jesus lived his life in the pursuit of the will of God. Paul lived his life in the pursuit of the will of God. We are told to pray that God’s will will be done, not beyond us and outside of us, but in our own lives. Peter says believers are to live the rest of the time in the flesh, the rest of your time on this earth for the will of God, 1 Peter 4:2.
And the goal of all apostolic ministry is that believers would, quote, Colossians 4:12, “Stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.” And so the very essence of the Christian life is to do the will of God, to be obedient to what God wants, what God desires, and what God requires, out of love, out of gratitude, out of worship, out of honor, out of holy aspiration and desire, out of the pursuit of blessing and usefulness. For every reason we pursue the doing of the will of God.
I think the most magnificent treatment in Scripture of the heart of a true believer longing to do the will of God is Psalm 119. In Psalm 119 there are 176 verses, 175 of them are heartfelt longings by the psalmist that God would enable him to do his will. He says it 175 different ways, but it’s all the same longing and desire: “Enable me, O God, to do Your will, to follow Your paths, to keep Your commandments.” This is why we live and for what we live: to do the will of God.
Now just what is this concept of the will of God? I want to give it to you in two parts, because there are two ways that you must understand it. Open your Bible to Psalm 33. Let’s look at Psalm 33 for a moment. This will help us to see one perspective on the will of God, and that is that will of God which God Himself fulfills, that will of God which God Himself accomplishes, that will of God which God Himself does.
In verse 6 of Psalm 33, we read this: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; he lays up the deeps in storehouses.” This is picturing God, of course, as the Creator of the entire universe, the entire universe – the heavens all the way down to the earth and the water that is on the earth.
And therefore, in verse 8, “Let all the earth honor the Lord,” – or fear the Lord or worship the Lord as the source and Creator. “Let all the inhabitants on the earth” – that is those of the world – “stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done. He commanded, and it stood fast.” This, of course, calls us to give honor to the Creator of the universe and everything that is in it.
And then comes verse 10: “The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.” That is introducing us to God’s sovereign will, that will of God which He sovereignly does Himself. He will set at naught all the plans of people, He will set aside all the counsel of nations, and He will do exactly what He has planned to do in every generation and forever. This is the sovereign will of God. It is the, as some theologians call it, the decretive will of God, He decreed it; or the determinative will of God, He determined it; or the absolute will of God, it is inviolable, it is inflexible, it is unalterable. God said He will do it and He will indeed fulfill what He has said.
Turn to Isaiah 46. Here is another magnificent summary of this aspect of God’s will, Isaiah 46, and perhaps we can start in the middle of verse 9, Isaiah 46:9, “For I am God, and there is no other. I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’” Simply said, “God determined what He would do at the beginning and He will do it all the way to the end. His purpose will be established, and He will accomplish all His good pleasures.” Simply, “God does exactly what He wants.”
In fact, Psalm 135:6 says, “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does. Whatever the Lord pleases, He does.” He is the sovereign of the universe. Whatever He has purposed, He will do. Whatever He has willed, He will accomplish.
In Daniel, chapter 4 and verse 34 and 35, when Nebuchadnezzar, who had been judged so severely by God, came back to his senses, he offers praise and worship to God. Verse 34 of Daniel 4, raises his eyes toward heaven, and Nebuchadnezzar says that “I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever.” And here is how he describes God: “His dominion is an everlasting dominion. His kingdom endures from generation to generation, and all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’” God does exactly what He wills to do in heaven and on earth.
In Ephesians, chapter 1 and verse 11, we read this, that “God does according to His purpose, working all things after the counsel of His will.” You will draw the right conclusion from all of those verses, and that conclusion is this, that there is a will of God which He brings to pass perfectly. He works all things after the counsel of His will.
There is a will of God which belongs fully to Him in which no person can bring about any consequence, any event, any circumstance that would change that eternal purpose. It is the will of God which belongs fully to Him, is determined in His purpose, and executed by His power. It will be done, it will always be done, and nothing other than it will be done. And so, in the big scheme of things, history of the created universe moves from a divine beginning to a divine end, and God controls absolutely everything, and He will do exactly what He desires to do.
But on the human level, God has a will for man, and that will is not done, for the most part. What is God’s will for man? He has revealed it in His holy law. God’s law is simply the revelation of what God desires from man; and for the most part, we do not do it.
The amazing reality is, however, that our failure to do the will of God for us on our part has no negative effect on God accomplishing His own will as predetermined in eternity past. God will providentially, providentially overrule all those contingencies and all those choices, and synthesize them perfectly in the accomplishment of His will. This is called divine providence. This is a massively significant description of the character of God who can take the infinite number of human choices and contingencies, and work them to His own glorious ends.
So we’re not talking in our discussion today about the will of God which God Himself will do, we’re talking about the will of God expressed toward us, which we will or will not do. Nothing that I do or don’t do will alter the end of the plan, but everything I do and everything you do will have an effect on our blessing, our joy, our obedience, our usefulness now and forever. So it’s important to me to know God’s will. I want to do it, I don’t want to be in the dark. And I can’t trust my own intuition, because I don’t have any apparatus. I don’t have any physical apparatus; I don’t have any buttons or buzzers or lights that go on when I’m doing God’s will, I can’t trust my own intuition. I don’t live in the sign age.
So where am I going to go to find God’s will? How do I know what God’s will for my life is? Where can I find a reliable indication of the will of God for my life? Well, I’ve already given you a hint; and now I’ll expand on that a little bit.
God has a will for your life, we know that. If God has a will for your life, He wants you to know it; that’s obvious. And if He wants you to know it, then be sure of this: He didn’t hide it. It’s not tucked obscurely under some convoluted interpretation of Scripture. It’s not left to some transcendental experience of intuition. It’s not dependent upon some private, personal angelic delivery. It’s not even dependent upon some serendipitous coincidence.
If God has a will, and He does; if He wants you to know it, and He does; and He holds you responsible for it, and He does; then you can be sure He didn’t hide it. He would place it in the most obvious place; and the most obvious place would be His word, His word. You can know the will of God for your life from Scripture; and it’s unmistakable, absolutely unmistakable.
I’m going to give you six things to think about. Okay? Number one: God’s will is that you be saved. God’s will is that you be saved – delivered from sin and death and judgment and hell. That’s what the word “saved” means, that you be rescued from eternal damnation, eternal punishment. God’s will is that you be saved.
First Timothy chapter 2, verse 3, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God’s will is that you be saved.
Listen to 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” God is willing that you be saved. God wills that you repent. It is God’s will that you be saved from eternal destruction. This is the will of God. So much is it the will of God that He planned the plan of redemption. So much is it the will of God that He sent His Son to become the sacrifice for our sins, to make that salvation possible. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost, because the salvation of the lost is the will of the Father.
In fact, in a number of incidents in the New Testament this becomes clear as an expression of the will of God. In Mark chapter 3, Jesus is teaching in a particular place. His mother and brothers arrive. They stand outside the place where He’s teaching. They call to Him. But the multitude is around Him, and so the message comes filtering finally to Him through the crowd.
Verse 32, Mark 3: “Behold, Your mother, Your brothers are outside looking for You.” And answering them, He said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” In a sense He’s saying, “I don’t recognize earthly relationships. I don’t recognize family.” And looking about on those who were sitting there, the crowd, He said, “Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he’s My brother and sister and mother.” He is saying, “There are no more family relationships with Me that have any spiritual value. The only relationship with Me that matters is that you do the will of God.”
And what was the will of God? God Himself said it: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him.” God’s will is that you embrace Christ. God’s will is that you put your trust in Christ. That’s the will of God. That’s the will of the Father.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus essentially said the same thing: “Many are going to say, ‘Lord, Lord, we did this and we did that in Your name.’ And He’s going to say, ‘Depart from Me, I never knew you,’ because not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father.’” And what is the will of the Father? That you embrace the Son, that you put your trust and saving faith in the Lord Jesus. That’s the will of the Father.
In 1 John chapter 2, verse 17, “The world is passing away in its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” The one who does the will of God has eternal life. What will of God? The will of God to believe in the Son. The will of God to put your trust in His Son. God’s will is that you be saved.
In John chapter 6 and verse 38 there’s just a statement along this line, running down through verse 40: “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. I came to do My Father’s will.” Then verse 40: “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life.” God the Father wants you to behold the Son and believe in Him, that’s His will; and then have eternal life.
So no person who has rejected Christ, no person who does not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ can ever know the will of God. It’s pointless to seek the will of God in a marriage or a relationship or a job or a career or a life decision of any kind. If you’re not saved, then you don’t even have the right to ask God to disclose His will. No one who has not come to Christ in true repentance, no one who has not come to Christ in true saving faith has any claim on knowing God’s will about anything else.
Listen to 1 Corinthians 2:9. “Just as it is written,” – borrowed again from Isaiah – ‘Things which eye have not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man.’” There are things that people can’t see, there are things they can’t hear, there are things they can’t know all that God has prepared for those who love Him. What God has for those who love Him the people who don’t love Him can’t know.
God’s will starts then with being saved, which means committing your live in repentant faith to Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior. That’s God’s will, that’s where it starts. If you’re asking other questions and you haven’t done that, you’re not in a position to receive anything from God whatsoever.
Secondly, God’s will is not only that you be saved, but Spirit-filled. Turn to Ephesians chapter 5. God’s will is that you be Spirit-filled. Ephesians chapter 5, verse 17, “So then do not be foolish.” Do not be foolish, aphrōn, phrēn from the verb phroneō, which is “to think,” a-, the alpha privative, “to be unthinking,” “to be ignorant,” “to be destitute of knowledge,” “to be simple-minded.” That’s the idea.
Don’t be ignorant, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Now if you don’t understand the will of the Lord, what are you? Foolish, ignorant; might even say stupid. You say, “That’s pretty strong language.” It is, because the will of God is not lost, it is not obscure, it is not hidden. If you do not understand what the will of the Lord is then you are just simple-minded, you’re just ignorant, because if you keep reading, He’ll tell you what it is. Here it is, verse 18: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation,” – asōtia, excess – “but be filled with the Spirit.”
Alright, secondly, His will is that you be Spirit-filled, Spirit-filled. First of all, God’s will is that you be saved; that is clear, that is crystal clear. The Father sent the Son to do His will, because His will is that all who believe in the Son will have eternal life.
His will, secondly, is that you not operate in ignorance and foolishness, but that you understand that God’s will is that you be filled with the Holy Spirit, rather than being drunk with wine and conducting yourself in a dissipated way. Why is that comparison there? Because the issue here is control. The issue here is control.
“Filled” is plēroō in the Greek, and it has the idea of filling in a controlling sense, not filling in a static sense, like wind filling the sails of a ship moving it along. A way to translate this would be “allow yourselves to be controlled by the Holy Spirit.” I can give you a number of illustrations of how this word is used that carries that meaning.
In John 16 and verse 6 the statement is made, “Sorrow has filled your heart. Sorrow has filled your heart.” What that means is sorrow has taken over control. If you say someone is a little bit sad, that’s one thing. If you say they are filled with sorrow, you simply mean that they have lost the ability to balance out their sorrow with positive thoughts or good thoughts or hopeful thoughts, and they have literally succumbed to the dominating power of sorrow.
In Luke 6:11, it talks about being filled with madness. Being filled means totally controlled by and dominated by madness. You’ve lost all ability to balance off the experience and emotional response with some sense of reason, and you’re filled with madness. Or in Luke 4, verse 28, talks about being filled with wrath. You no longer can control your anger, and have a moderation of hostility. You’ve lost it completely, and you’ve gone off into a rage. Or in Luke 5:26, you have the idea of being filled with fear where fear so totally dominates you that your ability to find hope and sanity in the midst of a terrifying situation is forever, or for that moment anyway gone. And so to be filled with fear or anger or madness or sorrow, or to be filled with the Holy Spirit means to be so dominated by that force, as to be under its complete control; that’s the idea.
He compares it to being drunk. Alcohol is a controlling substance. When a person becomes drunk, they have abandoned sanity, they have abandoned reason. They have lost the ability to control their behavior, their speech, their emotion, their mind. They have come under the control of that drug.
And by the way, in Ephesus they did this on purpose. In the ancient world, this is one of the ways that they worshiped the false gods – through drunkenness, gluttony, and sexual orgies. They thought that as they lost themselves, they transcended the temporal world and ascended into communion with the deities; the more debauched and the more drunken, the more transcendent and the more likely to contact the divine. The truth of the matter is they were drunk and contacting the demonic.
The apostle Paul says that is not the right approach to religion. A Bacchanalian Feast – that’s the way they did in the Temple of Bacchus. I’ve been there in Baalbek by Damascus. All the artifacts are still there to demonstrate this kind of approach. This is what they did in the worship of Dionysus in Ephesus. Paul says, “You’re not going to get to God that way. But you are, if you’re filled with, controlled by the Holy Spirit.”
What does that mean? Well, we all possess the Holy Spirit. “If any man have not the Spirit, he’s none of His,” Romans 8:9. We all possess the Spirit. We’ve all been given the Holy Spirit. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who came to dwell within us at the time of our salvation. But we’re not always controlled by the Holy Spirit; that’s the critical thing to understand. Let’s look back at Ephesians 5 and see what it means.
As I said, there aren’t any lights that go on, there aren’t any buzzers, there aren’t any sort of manifest feelings of the spirit-filling in your life, so there’s nothing you can look at physiologically or experientially to identify this. But there are some results of it. “If you’re filled with the Spirit” – verse 19 – “you speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. You sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord.” All of a sudden you’re lost in wonder, love and praise and dominated by worship.
Not only that, you’re heart is thankful. Verse 20, “You’re giving thanks for everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” You’re just overwhelmed with thankfulness no matter what’s going on in your life. You’re just literally filled with praise.
Also, verse 21, “You’re subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” There’s a dominating humility that comes into your life that makes you submit yourself to those around you. If you’re a wife, you’re subjected to your husband willingly and gladly. If you’re a husband, you’re loving your wife. And he goes on to describe that.
Chapter 6, verse 1, if you’re a Spirit-filled child, you’re obeying your parents. If you’re Spirit-filled parents, you’re not provoking your children to anger. If you’re a Spirit-filled slave or servant or employee, you’re obedient to your masters as if to Christ. If you’re a Spirit-filled master, then you’re going to do the things to your employees that honor the true master, the Lord Himself.
These are all the behaviors that flow out of being controlled by the Holy Spirit. And this is very interesting and very important: a life of worship, a life of humility, a life of joy, a life made right in the family, a life made right in the environment of the world where you work and serve. Everything finds its appropriate place when you are totally controlled by the Holy Spirit.
And that’s not mystical. Let me show you a passage, Colossians 3:16, it’s so important, Colossians 3:16. This will give you a comparison that’ll explain what it means to be filled with the Spirit, or controlled by the Spirit. Verse 16, Colossians 3:16, Paul writes, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you,” plousiōs in the Greek, extravagantly. It’s a big word; it’s a lavish word. “Let the word of Christ extravagantly, lavishly dwell within you.”
Now watch the results: “with all wisdom teaching, admonishing one another, psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Exactly the same results come from this as came from being filled with the Spirit, only this is, “Let the word of Christ lavishly dwell in you.”
And what’s going to happen? Worship and praise and gladness and thankfulness. Whatever you do, you’re going to do in the name of the Lord Jesus. You’re going to give thanks to Him, verse 17. Wives are going to subject themselves to their husbands. Husbands are going to love their wives. Children will obey their parents. Fathers are going to not exasperate their children. Slaves or servants are going to obey their masters. And chapter 4, verse 1, masters are going to be just and fair.
You see, you get the exact same results – two causes. Ephesians, “filled with the Spirit.” Here, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” The conclusion: same thing. What does it mean to be controlled by the Spirit? It means to be dominated by the word. The word is inseparable from the Spirit. The Spirit is the author of Scripture. He is the author. He is the interpreter. He is the applier. He is the enabler of His own word.
So when we talk about being Spirit-filled, we’re talking about being controlled by the Spirit. The Spirit controls us when we’re saturated with the truth, when we’re saturated with the word. When the word dominates us, the Spirit controls us. The word takes hold of our mind, the word takes hold of our emotions, and the word takes hold of our will.
Nothing mystical. This isn’t something that happens to you when you have an esoteric experience. This doesn’t come because you spoke in tongues or somebody laid hands on you and you fell over backwards. Being filled with the Spirit means being controlled by the Spirit, and the Spirit will control you by applying the word of God to your life; and you cannot apply what you do not know. And so you become lavishly enriched with divine truth, which then becomes the controlling truth by which the Spirit directs you toward the will of God.
God’s will, what is it? That you be saved and Spirit-filled. Before you say, “Oh God, what girl should I marry?” or, “Oh God, what guy should I marry?” or, “Should I go there?” or, “Should I go here, or do this or do that?” these are the questions that are more foundational. God’s will is that you be saved and Spirit-filled.
Thirdly, turn to 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. If you don’t know God’s will what are you? Foolish, because it’s there for you. And here is another blunt and straightforward statement, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God.” Wow. Doesn’t leave much to speculation, does it? It’s not hard to figure out. It’s not obscure. “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” Big word, means “separation.” Separation from what? From sin. To be separated from sin. God wants you saved, He wants you Spirit-controlled, and He wants you separated from sin. It’s exactly what it says.
“You ought to” – verse 1 – “walk and please God. You ought to excel more at that. And you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. You know what it is to live a holy life. It’s revealed in the word of God, which is where the Holy Spirit gains control of your life, when the word dominates you. You know all of this, and so the will of God is that you obey it, and separate yourself from sin by obeying God’s holy law.” God’s will is that you be sanctified.
Now what does exactly that mean? Let’s get real practical. Four things he says. One, “that is,” – i.e. – “that you abstain from sexual immorality.” Now we’re getting real practical. Stay away from sex sins. Somebody says, “How far away?” Far enough away to be separated from all sexual sin. Very practical. This is God’s will.
Sometimes you have a couple come in and they want to get married, and they sit in the office, and you say, “Tell me a little bit about yourself. When did you meet?” so forth, and so forth. And through the years, I’ve always asked a question somewhere on the line, “Are you engaged in sinful sexual behavior?” It’s a direct approach. And then you see these sometimes shining faces saying, “No, you know, we’re waiting until marriage.”
Sometimes these faces fall, and sheepish looks. And my response is, “Well, if you’re conducting yourself knowingly out of the will of God and are unwilling to obey the will of God which is revealed, then why would you assume that it’s the will of God for this relationship to go on?” Sometimes they’ll say, “You know, we think it’s God’s will for us to get married.”
The first question is, “Are you committing sexual sin together? Because if you are, you’re not in the will of God now. You’ve got to back up. Go back, reestablish that relationship on a pure level. And when you have been obedient to that which is known to be the will of God, you’ll be in a position for God to disclose to you pretty clearly what is His will about what is not revealed.” Stay away from sexual sin. And, of course, it’s ubiquitous, it’s everywhere, it always has been. There’s nothing new under the sun, just comes in different forms. Stay away from sex sin.
And he gets more specific, verse 4, “Each of you should know how to possess his own vessel” – that’s body – “in sanctification and honor.” Handle your body to honor God. Handle your body in a pure way. Keep your body pure.
He goes further in verse 4, “not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God.” Don’t act like godless heathen. Don’t act the way the world acts. Stay away from sex sin. Handle your body to honor God, like 1 Corinthians 9, beat it into submission if necessary. Don’t act like godless pagans.
Fourthly, he says, “that no man transgress” – go cross the line – “and defraud his brother in the matter.” Wow, what does that mean? Don’t take advantage of other people. Don’t take any advantage of any other people for any reason, particularly in the sexual area. I tell young people, especially girls, “You beware when some guy comes along and says, ‘I love you, I love you, I love,” and then wants to steal your virginity. That’s not love. That is lust, lustful passion that has nothing to do with love. Love is much nobler than that, much more glorious than that, much grander than that; and a true and a pure love says, “I love you so much that I would not do that. I love you that much.”
This kind of defrauding that goes on is not the will of God. It is the will of God that you be separate from sin. Stay away from sexual sin. How far away? Far enough away to be completely separate in all forms. Handle your body to honor God. Don’t act like the godless heathen around you act. Do not take advantage of other people for your own gratification, your own lustful fulfillment.
In 1 Peter 4:2, Peter says, as I quoted earlier, “We are to live the rest of the time in the flesh” – listen – “no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” It’s not about lust anymore, it’s about the will of God. God’s will is that you stop lusting: the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, pride of life. Stop lusting and start pursuing sanctification.
The will of God’s so important because, verse 6, “The Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.” You don’t get away with that, there’s a price to pay. Verse 7, “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.”
By the way, verse 8, “He who rejects this is not rejecting man, but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” You reject this, you’re not rejecting me, you’re not rejecting the man who wrote that, you’re rejecting the God who gave you His Holy Spirit so that you have the power to be pure.
So what is God’s will? To be saved, to be Spirit-filled, to be sanctified. That’s the will of God. Start there. Number four – and we’ll look at this briefly – that you be submissive, submissive. In James chapter 4, it says in verse 7, “Submit therefore to God.” That’s the first point of submission: “Submit therefore to God.”
Also, Ephesians 5 says, “Submit to one another. Submit to one another.” This is talking about humility, folks. Be submissive. Be submissive to God. Be submissive to one another. Wives, be submissive to your husbands. And husbands, be submissive in the sense that you love your wives and you seek that which fulfills their desire.
Hebrews 13 tells us in verses 7 and 17 to submit to those that are over you in the Lord, to submit to the pastors and elders of the church who lead and direct you. First Peter chapter 2, verses 13 – and you can look at 1 Peter chapter 2 for just a moment. It says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, to kings, ones in authority, governors,” et cetera. Verse 15, “For such is the will of God.”
It is God’s will that you submit to the government so that you never, ever cause the gospel to bear a reproach. He says, “By doing this, you will silence the ignorance of foolish men.” By being a good citizen, submitting to the authorities that God has placed over you in human government, you will silence those who criticize the Christian faith.
You submit to government. You submit to the authority in the church. You submit in family. You submit to one another. You submit to Christ as Lord. You submit to God. Humble submission. Your life should be characterized in all things by humility, submissiveness, on all levels. That’s the will of God. Humble yourselves, humble yourselves, and in due time God will lift you up. This is His will.
Number five: His will is that you suffer. While you’re in 1 Peter, look at chapter 3, if you’re in 1 Peter; if not, you can look there, 1 Peter 3:17, “It is better,” – writes Peter – “it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” God wills our suffering; that’s right. God wills our suffering, because He knows what it does for us.
Back in chapter 2, verse 20, he says, “If you do what is right and suffer for it and endure that suffering, this finds favor with God.” God is pleased when we suffer and we endure it. Chapter 4, verse 19, “Let those who suffer according to the will of God,” – that’s what it says – “let those who suffer according to the will of God” – 1 Peter 4:19 – “entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” So you’re doing what is right. You keep doing what is right. You start to suffer for doing what is right, and you endure that suffering, and trust in your soul to a faithful God. And you are, in a sense, following the example of Christ, who being perfect still suffered.
Suffering is part of what God wants to do in your life. Suffering is what perfects you. Not talking about sinful suffering, suffering for doing what is wrong, that’s discipline. God wants you to face this hostile world in such a godly fashion, living such a godly life, that it will bring reproach and scorn and difficulty and alienation from family and friends and who knows where. And all of that suffering will cause God to perfect you. “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, they have a perfect work.” First Peter 5:10, “After you’ve suffered a while, the Lord make you mature, perfect.”
Suffering for righteousness’ sake, living such a righteous life in and unrighteous world, that the unrighteous world reacts when confronted by such virtue and such devotion and such truth, as we live and proclaim for Christ. “All who live godly in this present world” – 2 Timothy 3:12 – “will suffer persecution,” some more than others. It is the will of God that you suffer for doing what is right, that you might thereby be humbled and strengthened.
In 2 Corinthians chapter 12 the apostle Paul tells us that he had embraced his suffering. He embraced it because he saw in it the hand of God. He says he was given a thorn in the flesh. He said, “I asked the Lord to remove it three times. He said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ Power is perfected in weakness.” God knows that your spiritual power is dependent upon your weakness, and your weakness is the product of your suffering.
“Most gladly,” – writes Paul – “I would rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. So I’m content with weakness, insults, distress, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I’m weak, then I’m strong.” I’m not talking about suffering from doing wrong, but suffering from doing right. Take that suffering, and be bold and be courageous, and let God do His perfect work.
And finally, there’s one other thing. God’s will for you, this is His will for your life, that you be saved, that you be Spirit-filled, that you be sanctified, that you be submissive, that you be suffering, and finally, that you be saying thanks, that you be thankful. Listen to 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything, give thanks; for this is” – what? – “God’s will for you.”
A constantly grateful heart: rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks – constant joy, constant prayer filled with constant thanks. Is that what your life is like? Is that you? Are you just overwhelmed with thanks? Are you just pouring up thanks? This is the will of God for you. There’s no mystery here, folks, no mystery at all. God’s will is that you be saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, suffering, and saying thanks all the time; that’s God’s will.
You say, “Ah, come on. You’re cheating me. I thought I was going to get an answer about the girl I’m supposed to marry.” Oh, I’m going to give you that. I’m going to tell you exactly what to do. You say, “I want a specific answer.” Well, that’s good. There’s one final principle, and you’re going to like it, you’re going to like it.
If you’re saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, suffering, and thankful – you ready for this? – do whatever you want. Do whatever you want. Marry whoever you want. Go wherever you want. Work wherever you want. Choose whatever you want. You say, “Whoa. Are you sure?” Absolutely. Because if this is true of your life, guess who’s controlling your wants. Do whatever you want.
People say to me, “Why did you come to Grace Church?” I wanted to come. There wasn’t nothing mystical; I didn’t hear voices in heaven. Did I know all this would happen? No, I just came here because I wanted to come. I said, “That’s a good place. They want me; nobody else wants me; I want to go.” It wasn’t like I had a lot of options; still don’t.
People say, “How did you decide to decide to marry Patricia?” That was easy; I wanted her and no one else. And I said, “God, that’s the one I want right there. And I believe You’re controlling my wants.”
You say, “I need a verse for that, that’s way out there.” I’ll give you a verse. I know, you’re used to getting a verse. Here’s a verse: Psalm 37:4. You ready for this? “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” That doesn’t mean He’ll fulfill yours, it means He’ll plant His. You delight in the Lord – saved, Spirit-filled, submissive, all of those things. You delight in the Lord; and He will plant His desires in your heart.
Why am I in the ministry? Because I wanted to be. Why am I at Grace Church? Because I wanted to be. Why do I go here and do that? Because I want to. And I just want to make sure that the wants that are coming out of my heart are the reflection of the desires that God would have for my life. And so, if I follow what I know to be God’s will, then what I don’t know to be God’s will is simply a matter of following desires that God has planted in my heart because I’m delighting in Him.
“I, being in the way,” – Genesis 24:27 – “the Lord led me.” Just get in this path and the Lord will lead. Another way to say it is: “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He’ll do it, He’ll fulfill it. He’ll actually fulfill His will if you just delight in Him and commit to Him.
Father, we thank You for the wonderful word given to us. May we be faithful to do Your will like the psalmist. Lord, teach us to do Your will. Now the God of peace who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep, who, through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing, to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
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