Dave asked me if I would speak to you this morning on the subject of the will of God. And everybody says, “Well, everybody talks about God’s will. What have you got to say that’s different?” Well, we’re going to find out.
How can a person know God’s will? How do I know God’s will for my life? Young people ask me that all the time: “I don’t know God’s will for my life. What school should I go to? Where should I live? What kind of career should I choose? What kind of job do I want? Who do I marry? What do I look for in a partner in life? What should I look for in terms of career opportunities? I’ve got these three things; how do I know what God wants me to do? What church do I go to? What about a ministry? I’ve got ten ministries in front of me, I’ve the paralysis of analysis; I don’t know which one to choose. It would be simpler if I only had one. Why are there so many options? How can I know God’s will?” And you know how it goes.
And there are some people, I think, who think God’s will is lost and they have to find it. You hear these people say, “Well, I’m searching for God’s will,” like, you know, God was sort of a cosmic Easter bunny, and He took His will and He hid it, and He says, “Now go find it,” and He’s up there in heaven saying, “You’re getting warmer, you’re getting warmer,” like this is some kind of a game that we’re supposed to play to find what God has hidden.
And there are other people who think God’s will is some kind of a trauma. You know, you’re running down the street in the rain, you slip on a banana peel, and your nose lands on a map of Africa: “And this is the call of God, this is the call. Africa it is; I’m going, Lord,” or a voice out of heaven in the middle of the night, “Go to India.” And you’re waiting for the voice, and all the voice is ever saying to you is, “Stop snoring,” or something like that.
There are other people who think that the will of God is something that you ought to be afraid of. I’ve had young people say to me, “I really am not asking God for His will because I’m not sure I want it.”
I remember an athlete asked me at Hume Lake one time, he said, “You know, I’ll be real honest with you; I want to know God’s will for my life, but I’m afraid of the answer. I mean, I’m an athlete and I love athletics, and my big fear is God is going to break both my legs and make me play a flute, you know, that God is sort of a – God is sort of a cosmic killjoy who goes around saying, ‘There’s one having fun; get him,’ you know, and that God wants to rain on your parade, and God wants to make you put on a pith helmet and tramp through a mosquito-infested jungle passing out tracts to people who can’t read the language in which they’re printed.
I think there are other people who assume that God’s will is sort of like the brass ring on the merry-go-round. I don’t know if you know what that means, but some places – I think Disneyland may still have brass rings on the merry-go-round. You ride around, and there’s this little deal that spits out these rings, and you try to grab them and you get a bunch of lead ones, but every once in a while there’s a brass one. And if you get the brass one you get a prize.
I’ve been on merry-go-rounds like that, and you get the brass one and you throw it through the mouth of a clown, a little further around the deal, and you win the big jackpot. And there are people who assume, “Well that’s God’s will, you know, you just grab for it, and grab for it, and grab for it; and if you’re lucky you get it, and you zing it through the clown’s mouth, and you win. But most of us will never get it; and if we do get it, we’ll miss the clown’s mouth, and we’ll have to settle for something less.”
And not everybody gets God’s will, you know. People who are big time missionaries or people who succeed greatly in life really are in God’s will, and the rest of us sort of mill around in the shallows, having missed the brass ring. And so go the theories about God’s will.
Let me see if I can’t help you by looking at the Scripture regarding God’s will. And just before we do that, just to give you a little logical progression, in answering the question, “What is God’s will?” we want to make several assumptions, okay?
Assumption number one: God has a will for your life. Is that a fair assumption? I think it is. God is sovereign, and God has a purpose for your life. That’s the first assumption. God does have a will for your life. He is not nebulous, He is not vague, He is not undecided, He is not without an opinion with regard to you; He has a specific will in mind for your life.
Secondly, if assumption number one is true, assumption number two must be true: He wants you to know what it is. Is that fair? I mean, why would God have a will for your life and frustrate Himself by not wanting you to know what it is? Of course He wants you to know what it is.
If that’s true, the third assumption is He would put it then in the most obvious place. It is discernable. God does have a will for your life because He has a will for everything and everyone, God would therefore want you to know what the will was so you could fulfill the purpose which He designed, and thirdly, you would expect then to find it in an obvious place.
Now the most obvious place I know to look for the will of God is in the place where God has revealed His will, namely the Bible. You say, “Now wait a minute, that’s not my question. I want to know who should I marry, where should I work, and et cetera, et cetera. I’m not worried about the spiritual part of it, I’m worried about the practical part of it.” And frankly, that might be the real problem, because we have to start with the Scripture.
Second Peter chapter 3; and here’s a familiar verse: “The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness.” In other words, the Lord is not slack or indifferent, or undecided, or unfaithful. In other words, the reason the judgment hasn’t come isn’t because God is impotent, or indifferent, or unfaithful. He’s talking about judgment here. The reason judgment hasn’t come is not because God is slow, but is patient. The reason God hasn’t yet judged the world is because He is not willing for any to – what? – to perish, but for all to come to repentance. Now there is the first component in God’s will. God’s will is that men be saved. He is not willing that they perish.
First Timothy chapter 2, verse 3, there’s a statement about God our Savior. In 1 Timothy 2:3, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” Then verse 4, 1 Timothy 2:4, “God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And that’s why in verse 5 He has provided the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time. Jesus Christ, God’s provision, a ransom for all, because God is a saving God who desires all men to be saved.
Now both 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:3 and 4 tell us the first component in God’s will: God is willing that men and women be saved. That’s where it all starts. Obviously, if you’re not saved, if you haven’t obeyed the will of God at step one, God is not involved in expressing His will for your life in any positive sense. God does not lead those who do not know Him.
I’ll say that again: God does not lead those who do not love Him. He leads people to salvation; but apart from that, for those who reject that salvation, God is not leading them. It is, according to Romans chapter 8, verse 14, that those who are led by God are those who have within them the Spirit of God. But those who do not know God are not led by Him.
Jesus described them this way: “They are multitudes of sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus said, “Nobody’s leading them, they’re really on their own.” So if you have never come to salvation, you are on your own. The only thing God has planned for you is eternal judgment, that’s the only thing. You’re on your own.
In John chapter 10 and verse 4, it says that Jesus said, “When he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” He leads His own. You can’t even get involved in being led by God without the step of salvation; and that’s obvious, or should be obvious to all of us. Without Christ, you are a stranger to God. Without Christ, you are an illegal alien, as it were, hanging around the fringes of a kingdom in which you don’t belong. Without Christ, you are a rebel. Until you know Christ, you’re not even involved in the process of God’s unfolding purpose and will.
Let me give you an illustration of this. Look at Mark 3; quite a fascinating account of our Lord and His human family. Jesus was teaching here in a house, and just to kind of make the long story short, verse 31 of Mark 3 says that His mother and His brothers arrived, and they were standing outside, and they sent word to Him and they called Him.
He’s in a house; the thing is just jammed packed with people, and He’s teaching. In fact, He’s been teaching about Satan. And all of a sudden His mother and His brothers show up, and they send word to Him that they want Him. So some message comes up to the front, and Jesus is teaching multitudes, and somebody says, “Hey, Your mother wants you.” “The multitude” – verse 32 – “was sitting around Him, and they said, ‘Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.’”
And here’s an amazing response, verse 33: “And answering them, He said, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?’” You say, “Wait a minute; doesn’t He know?” Sure He does. It’s a rhetorical question. Verse 34: “And looking on those who are sitting around Him, He said this, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers.’”
What? What’s He saying? Well, verse 35 tells you: “Whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” He’s saying this: “Earthly relationships only go so far. To be truly connected to Me you must do the will of My Father.” And what was the will of His Father? Listen, He expressed it when He said this: “This is My beloved Son; hear ye Him.”
The will of the Father is that you believe in the Son. The will of the Father is that you love the Son. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema,” 1 Corinthians 16:22 says. God’s will is that you commit your life to Christ.
The gospel is a command, isn’t it? It’s not an option. We always say – we say, “Well, I invite you to come to Christ.” The Bible never invites anybody to come to Christ, the Bible commands people to come to Christ. It doesn’t invite them, it commands them.
And it’s the command of the Father: “This is My beloved Son; hear Him. This is My beloved Son; follow Him, believe in Him.” That’s the gospel. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead and you will be saved.” Those are all commands.
And so, what Jesus is saying here is, “Temporal relationships, external relationships don’t mean anything. If you really want to be related to Me, you must do the will of My Father; and the will of My Father is that you believe in Me.” So God’s will is that people be saved by faith in Jesus Christ.
In 1 John 2, John says, “If any man loves the world, the love of the Father’s not in him.” You can’t serve God and the system. So God’s will begins by affirming Christ as Lord and Savior. That’s the first step. If you haven’t taken that step, Jesus says, “You’re not even in My family; you’re not My mother, and you’re not My brother. You have no association with Me. You are a shepherdless sheep, you have no leader, you’re on your own. The only will I have for you is eternal hell.”
There’s a second element of God’s will in the Bible that is basic and that’s in Ephesians chapter 5. Let’s look at it, familiar text: Ephesians chapter 5 and verse 17. Now this is kind of a hard-hitting verse, so hang on a little bit: “So then do not be foolish,” and the old King James said “unwise.” What’s another word for foolish that starts with “s”? Stupid. Good. That just seems to have a kind of a ring to it, doesn’t it? Stupid. “Do not be stupid, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Now let me ask you a question: If you don’t know the will of the Lord, what are you? What are you? Stupid. You say, “What do you mean?” Well that’s what it says: “Don’t be stupid, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” If you don’t understand the will of the Lord, you’re stupid. You say, “But I’m looking, I’m looking.”
It’s here, it’s been here all the time. “Well, what is it?” Verse 18, just keep reading: “Don’t get drunk with wine, for that’s dissipation, but be” – what? – “filled with the Spirit.”
Second thing in the will of God is that you be Spirit-filled. First thing, you be saved; second thing, Spirit-filled. If you don’t know this, you’re – what? – hmm, amazing. He says, “Look, I want you to know God’s will, and God’s will for you is that you not get drunk with wine, that’s dissipation, but that you be filled with the Spirit.”
You say, “Well why in the world do they compare those two things? Like those are the only two options, you’re either a drunk or Spirit-filled? What kind of a comparison is that?”
The comparison comes out of the ancient religious system. Any of you who have traveled in the Middle East to any of these sites in the life of Paul and the early church or in even the Arab world such as Baalbek, where I have been, and seen the temple of Bacchus and all of that, you will know that when you go visit these places, they tell you that when ancient religious worshipers came together they believed that they would commune with the deity through two means primarily. One was sexual immorality with a priestess who was a temple prostitute; and that in the euphoria and the ecstasy of the sexual experience, there were being lifted to commune with the deity. And the second thing was in drunkenness. They believed that as they became inebriated and drunk that that lifted them beyond themselves. Drunkenness was a state of religious euphoria that translated them into the presence of their deity.
Back in the sixties when the hippy movement was born, a very influential guy by the name of Dr. Timothy Leary was saying this; he was advocating taking drugs as a religious experience because those drugs would elevate your level of consciousness. This is also true in the eastern part of the world, in eastern mystical religions they believed that certain kinds of self-hypnosis and certain kinds of drug-induced stupors elevate you to the level of communion with a deity. In Latin America they do it with a drug called peyote. They do it in South America with a drug that’s been used as an anesthetic in our hospitals in America called curare, a form of that. They have a number of different things like that around the world. They’re telling us in Somalia that these rebels that are massacring all these people all these people are able to cope with the killing and the lifestyle because they chew a certain drug that makes them in a complete state of stupor detached from reality.
Well, people have associated that kind of stuff with a religious experience. And Paul is saying, “Look, if you want to draw near to God, if you want to be elevated and transcendent and get out of the norm of life and reach the level of deity, don’t do it by getting drunk, do it by being filled with – what? – with the Holy Spirit. That’s how you commune with God, the true God. Don’t be stupid. You know what God’s will is, and His will is that You be Spirit-filled; that’s God’s will.
Now obviously you’re going to ask the question, “What does it mean to be Spirit-filled?” Well, let me see if I can just give you a very brief answer.
First of all, know this, that if you’re a Christian, the Holy Spirit lives in you, right? Romans 8:9, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Conversely, if you have Christ, you have the Spirit. First Corinthians 6:19, “What? Don’t you know your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which you have of God, you’re not your own? You’re bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit which are God’s.” Your body is the temple. First Corinthians 12:12 and 13 says that we have all been baptized into one Spirit. Everyone who is a Christian possesses the Holy Spirit, but that doesn’t mean we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
What do we mean by filled? Well, we mean, first of all, a very simply understood: controlled by, controlled by. The word plēroō has the idea of total influence. For example, in the New Testament gospel accounts you very often read about someone being filled with anger, filled with fear, filled with wonder, filled with amazement. And what that basically means is that that is a dominating influence.
For example, in life generally you balance things off very well. Let’s take joy and sorrow, that the phrase “filled with sorrow” is also used in the New Testament. Let’s take joy and sorrow. You could go through life and you can fairly well balance that off. There’s enough stuff in your life that’s positive, you pass the test, and you’ve got some nice friends, and pretty soon you’re going home, a vacation, you’re going to get a Christmas present from your parents, you know, and all that stuff, and you’re going to take some trips, you won’t have to study, and that’s a happy deal.
On the other side, you know, you’ve got your old aunt whose got cancer, and the world isn’t getting any better; and maybe there’s a certain anxiety in your heart because you’ve got to have an attachment to somebody you’d like to have a nice relationship develop, but he’s not interested in you, or whatever it is; and that’s how life goes, you know, that’s how life goes. And you just kind of juggle it, and you’re not filled with fear and you’re not filled with sorrow, but you’re not filled with joy, you’re just sort of – you know, you have your moments.
Then all of a sudden what happens? Your old aunt dies and leaves her entire estate to you – millions. And the scale goes “whoa” on the joy side – right? – and you are filled with joy. And all of a sudden joy becomes the controlling influence. Or, on the other hand, you’ve fallen in love with somebody, and they leave you, and “whoom” on the sorrow side; and the balance is gone and you can’t maintain it, and you are controlled by the dominating influence of that emotion.
That’s what it means to be filled with the Spirit. It means to be dominated by the force of the power of the Holy Spirit in your life so that there’s not, “Well, I know how I want to live my little Christian life: a little for You, Spirit, and a little for me. I’ll do my little deal a couple of hours, and then You do Your deal on Sunday, and maybe a few days during the week; and we’ll work this baby out and we’ll kind of keep this thing balanced.” That’s sadly to say what most Christians do. Being filled with the Spirit means the scale tips totally in favor of the Holy Spirit, He becomes the controlling influence.
One other use of that word in the Gospels that’s very interesting is the use of the word pléroó to express the wind that fills the sail that moves the ship. The same thing happens in your life. When you become totally influenced by the Holy Spirit He becomes the moving force. He begins to propel you in the right direction. He becomes the force that fills the sails that move the ship.
So understand this: you possess the Holy Spirit, but you are not necessarily under the dominating influence of the Holy Spirit at all times, therefore you are not being moved along by the Holy Spirit such as 2 Peter 2:21 describes – or 1:21, all the time. Being filled with the Spirit is allowing the Spirit to dominate your life and move you in the direction that God would have you to go.
So you don’t have to ask for the Spirit, you possess the Holy Spirit. Don’t let anybody come along and say, “You need the Holy Spirit. Pray for the Holy Spirit.” No, you already have the Holy Spirit living in you; you need to be totally controlled and influenced by His power.
It’s sort of like – you know, it’s like an Alka-Seltzer, in a sense, to give you an analogy. If you have an Alka-Seltzer, you want to take an Alka-Seltzer, you drop it in a glass of water. As long as it sits in the bottom it doesn’t do anything. All the power is there, all the force is there, all the value is there, it’s all contained in that little tablet; but until it is defused into the rest of the glass and it puts equal parts in all the water, it’s not going to have its proper impact.
It’s the same with the Holy Spirit. The power compact in the Spirit of God resides within the life of the believer; but in order to be effective, it has to be defused through the whole life of the believer. And that’s essentially the issue.
Another way to illustrate it would be to say take a glove; and if I have a glove lying here and I say to this glove, “Okay, glove, go play the keyboard over there. Go ahead, glove, just play a tune,” a glove can’t do that, it’s just going to lie there.
Now a glove has five fingers, but a glove can’t play the keyboard. Now if I put my hand in the glove and play the keyboard, what happens? Chaos, because I can’t play very well. For the sake of illustration, the glove does what my hand does. The glove doesn’t say, “I’m sorry, finger, I’m not going to cooperate.” No, no, the glove just – gloves don’t talk, they just do what your hand does.
The same thing would be true in the life of a believer. When I become totally influenced by and moved along by the Holy Spirit, I become like a glove with the Spirit of God being the fingers that move, and I am simply responding and moving under the complete compulsion, choice, will, volition, direction of the Holy Spirit of God.
Now let me take this a step further, understanding what the Spirit-filled life is by an analogy. Let’s take Peter. Everybody loves Peter, the apostle with a foot-shaped mouth. Everybody can identify with him. He blustered and blumbered his way along, and we all love him because of it. But Peter had some amazing abilities and I think sometimes we underestimate. Let me see if I can’t take this from another angle.
Peter did some absolutely incredible things. I mean, perhaps the most incredible of which was to walk on water. Remember that? You remember the record of Matthew chapter 14, the disciples are out there in a boat and the storm is tossing the boat. And the storms can be very bad on the Sea of Galilee, I’ve been there. It’s ringed by mountains, and swirling winds come in and they spin in there and they spin the water and it’s whitecaps, and it can be real rough on a little boat. And the disciples are very, very afraid.
And all of a sudden they look off in the distance in the middle of this storm and here’s Jesus walking on the water. And Peter who is hopelessly impetuous, without thinking what in the world He’s doing, jumps out of the boat and starts walking to Jesus, and gets out a little ways, and takes a look down and realizes what he’s done and starts to sink. The Lord lifts him up and the two of them walk back to the boat.
Well, you know Peter well enough to know that as the two of them are approaching the boat he had a smirk on his face, you know, like “How do you like it, fellas; it’s not bad, is it, to be able to do this.” But here he is walking on water. As inept as he was at some things, he was walking on the water. He did some miraculous things.
Secondly, he said some miraculous things. In Matthew chapter 16, “Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Who so men say that I am?’ And the disciples said, ‘Well some say You’re Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets.’ But Jesus said, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ And right out of Peter’s mouth comes, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” And I’m sure he grabbed his mouth, “Where in the world did that come from?” because Jesus said to him, “Flesh and blood didn’t reveal that unto you, but My Father who is in heaven.” God opened his mouth and spoke through his mouth the words, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This humble man Peter did miraculous things and he said miraculous things.
Not only that, he had miraculous courage. I love it, in the garden in John 18, when the soldiers come to take Jesus captive, and they come marching into the garden, and Peter is standing by Jesus; and as they approach Jesus to take Him captive, remember Peter pulls his sword out. He wants to start a revolution. This is the initial act to start a revolution: “We’re going to fight.” And he takes a shot at Malchus, the high priest’s servant, and whacks his ear off. You know, he was going for his head; the guy just ducked and lost his ear. This is great courage. I mean, he’s looking at the whole Roman cohort there staring him right in the face loaded to the teeth with weapons. He’s going to fight the whole Roman government. Tremendous courage.
Now what is the common denominator? I’ll tell you what the common denominator is: he walked on water when he was standing next to Jesus Christ. He said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” when he was standing in the presence of Jesus Christ. He took a sword and was ready to fight the whole Roman army when he was standing next to Jesus Christ. The common denominator in Peter’s life is in closeness to Christ he found tremendous power, right? In being close to Christ he found tremendous power.
Now, follow the story of Peter just a little further. They took Jesus prisoner. Peter’s told to put his sword away: “If you live by it, you’re going to die by it.” They took Jesus captive. They take Him into a trial. Peter is outside maybe a hundred feet away, you remember, warming himself by the fire. And what did he do three times? Denied Christ, right? Cowardly, lost all his bravery, all his courage, all his heart, all his integrity, all his credibility, denied his Christ, weak, vacillating. He even denied Christ to some little servant girl, and he did it with profanity, he cursed – really unlike the man we just described. What was the problem? He wasn’t near Christ. Christ was over here, Peter was over here and no power.
Now follow the thought. The next time we see Peter it’s the day of Pentecost – in our little scenario – and on the day of Pentecost, Jesus by this time is where? He’s in heaven. We ask ourselves, “If Peter was a coward at a hundred feet, what’s he going to be with Jesus in heaven, right? What’s he going to be like with the Lord completely out of the picture?”
Interestingly enough, in Acts chapter 2 it says in verse 14 that he stood up on the day of Pentecost and he preached Christ, and he preached boldly, and he told the Jews they had sinned in killing the Messiah. And he preached the powerful gospel; three thousand people were converted.
The next time we see him isn’t in chapter 2, the next time we see him he’s in the temple, and there’s a lame guy there, and he says, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I unto you: rise up and walk.” And what are we seeing about Peter again? He had the power to speak marvelous things. He had the power to do marvelous things such as raise a lame man. He had incredible, marvelous courage. They called him into the Sanhedrin, they hauled him before t he Sanhedrin, they told him to stop preaching, and he said, “You judge whether we should obey God or men,” and they went out and preached Christ more boldly.
Now follow the thought. All the same things: he said powerful things, did powerful things, had powerful courage. The difference is Christ is in heaven. You say, “Wait a minute; where did he get the resource for that?” Here’s the answer, Acts 2:4, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Now let me draw a conclusion. Being filled with the Holy Spirit made Peter act the same way he acted when Jesus Christ was in his presence. What’s the conclusion? That the Spirit-filled life is living in the consciousness of the presence and the power of Christ.
It can be reduced to Christ-consciousness. How do you get that? Well, Colossians 3:16 is the parallel verse to Ephesians 5:18, and it says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” As the Word dwells in you richly, as you feed on the Word of God, as you saturate yourself with the Scripture, it becomes, as it were, the presence of Christ because it’s His Word. It’s the Word of Christ; and as the Word of Christ dominates you, the Spirit controls you. That’s the key.
It’s nothing mystical. You don’t lie around and hope somehow you get zapped. Living every moment in the full conscious presence of the ever-near Christ is the issue. And that happens to people who are saturated with Scripture, saturated with Scripture, so that the Word of Christ dwells in them, and Christ is alive and real to them. And His influence becomes the controlling element in their life.
God’s will is that you be saved. And God’s will is that you be Spirit-filled, which means that you be controlled by, totally influenced by the Spirit, which happens when the Word of Christ dwells in you so that you live in the consciousness of His presence.
Let me give you a third principle, 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, this is very practical, 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, verse 3. Now you don’t need to stumble around trying to find God’s will, here it is, verse 3: “For this is the will of God.” Now is that too tough? Pretty straight. “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” God’s will is that you be saved, Spirit-filled. What’s the third one? Sanctified. What does it mean? Set apart from sin, set apart from sin. Your sanctification, that’s God’s will.
Now he gives you four principles here of what he means. Principle number one, there in verse 3, “Abstain from sexual immorality.” That’s number one. What does it mean? Stay away from sex sin. Stay away from sexual sin. Somebody says, “How far away?” Far enough away to be separate from it, far enough away to be pure.
“So what are you saying? Are you saying I can’t hold my girlfriend’s hand? Are you saying I can’t put my arm around her? Are you saying I can’t kiss my boy? What are you saying?” What I’m saying is not a negative thing, what I’m saying is a positive thing: stay away from sexual immorality. How far away? Far enough away to be totally separated from sin.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” There is nothing wrong with somebody’s epidermis touching somebody else’s epidermis scientifically. If you put your lips on somebody else’s lips, that in itself is sort of anatomical. But what happens inside of you is not. And so you don’t want to do anything that’s going to bring you under its power.
So he says stay away from sexual sin. How far away? Far enough away to stay separate from sin. And you know, you know when you can do things that are a proper expression of love that is not sinful and when you do things that lead you down the path to sin.
Second principle, verse 4: “Each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor.” There’s an often discussed debate about what the word “vessel” means. I take it that it means “body.” I won’t take the time to defend all of that. Suffice it to say for the moment, the second principle is control your body: know how to possess, own, control your body for purposes of sanctification and honor. Control your body.
You see, Paul knows that this is the problem, see. The problem in sanctification is one, staying away from sexual sin; and two, keeping your body under control. First Corinthians 9:27 Paul says, “I beat it into subjection to keep it under control. I give it a black eye,” he uses the word “buffet.” “I hit it in the face. I punch my body to keep it under control.” He’s talking there about outward acts. “I don’t do anything with my body that is in any sense going to dishonor God.”
After all, 1 Corinthians 6:17 says, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” So whatever I do with my body, I’m joining Christ to that. That’s why Paul says if you join yourself to a harlot, you’ve joined Christ to the harlot. Whatever you engage in you engage Christ in, because you’re one with Him. “So I control my body,” Paul says. This is sanctification. God wants you to keep your body under control for the purposes of sanctification and honor.
Thirdly – and we could talk more about the details of these things, but don’t have time this morning. Thirdly, verse 5, “Subdue your passions, not in lustful passion like the pagans who don’t know God.” You have to control your passion. Now the controlling of your body is outside, the controlling of your passion is inside. You control your body, you don’t let your body do things that lead to sin. You control your passions by not letting your mind see, hear, and contemplate things that lead to sin. You control the body by controlling the mind. You control the imagination. James says, “Lust when it conceives in the imagination brings forth sin.”
So Paul says, “God’s will is that I be sanctified,” – and then the fourth principle he gives in verse 6 – “that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter.” What does he mean by that? Don’t take advantage of other people. One thing about sexual sin, it takes somebody else for most people to fulfill their fantasies or their lusts. And the point he’s making here is you, if you follow your bodily desires and your passions, are going to wind up defrauding somebody else, some other girl or guy. If you’re chasing the path of sexual sin you’re going to wind up defrauding somebody else. Control your body, subdue your passions.
Just last week I was told about a pastor who was arrested last week – pastor of a church not in this area – because he raped a woman at 9:30 AM in the mall before six witnesses. And they went to his car after arresting him and they took out his briefcase, and in it was a Bible and a stack of pornography. If you don’t control your passion, it’s only so long before you can’t control your body, and then you’re going to rape somebody. That’s how far gone you are at 9:30 AM in a mall before six witnesses, out of control beyond belief.
You say, “Well, you know, these are pretty tight, tough rules. I mean, stay away from sex sins, control your body, subdue your passions, don’t take advantage of others. Well, that’s not what the world is saying.” What is the world saying? The world is saying enjoy sexual sin, let your body go, let your passions run wild, and grab whoever’s near and have at it. That’s exactly opposite.
And somebody says, “Well, I don’t know if I like these rules.” Well, verse 8 was written for those who don’t like these rules: “Consequently he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives” – what? – “His Holy Spirit to us.”
Boy, if you reject this, you are not rejecting some manmade system, you’re rejecting the God who gave you His Holy Spirit as the source of power to give you strength to avoid these sins. Verse 7 repeats the principle: “God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but sanctification.”
Now let me make some practical sense out of this, okay? I could give you some more points, but I’ll cut it at this point. It is God’s will in 1 Peter 2 that you be submissive. It is God’s will in 1 Peter 4 that you be suffering because you’re an effective evangelist. But let’s just take these three things, okay? Saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, right? That’s God’s will for your life. Now let me give you something that is going to wrap this all up.
You say, “Wait a minute, you didn’t tell me anything about what I want to know. I want to know who to marry, what to do. I want to know about next semester. I want to know this, I want to know that. How can I know these details that aren’t in the Bible?”
Are you ready for this? Listen to this. This is a verse that you should really learn to love – I’m going to read it to you – Psalm 37, verse 4. Listen to what it says: “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.”
Now listen to this: “Delight in the Lord; and He’ll give you the desires of your heart.” Now let me ask you a question: If I’m saved, if I’m Spirit-controlled, and if I’m sanctified, am I delighting in the Lord?” Sure, sure. And if I’m delighting in the Lord, He will give me the desires of my heart. Do you know what that means? That doesn’t mean He’ll give me what I want simply, it means He’ll make me want what He wants for me. Did you get that? He will give me the desires of my heart. He will give me His desires.
You say, “Where are you going with this?” Just this: if I’m saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, do you know what God’s will is? You know what it is? Whatever you want. You say, “Wait a minute, whatever I want? Whatever I want is God’s will?” Right, because who is controlling your wants?
People often say, “Why did you go to Grace Church?” And through the years I’ve said, “I wanted to.” “You wanted to? How did you know it was God’s will?” “Because I wanted to; and I believe that if I delight in the Lord, He’ll give me the desires of my heart.” God may move you as you go.
One time Marty Wolf came to me and he says, “I don’t know where God wants me to serve as a missionary.” I said, “Well, Marty, tell me what you would want to do if it was you, if you had your choice.” He said, “Well, I’m Jewish, converted Jew, I speak fluent French. If I had my way I’d go to Paris as a missionary to the Jews in Paris.” Huge population of Jews.
I said, “Marty, you saved?”
“Yeah, as far as I know I’m walking in the Spirit, He’s the influence of my life, I’m in the Word.”
“Sanctified, living a pure life, staying away from sexual sin, control of your body, your lusts, not defrauding somebody else, everything’s right in your life?”
“You want to go to France, see ya.”
Came to the mission board, we raise the money to put up a sign, “Marty Wolfe goes to France.” Six months later he was in Montreal, Canada. You say, “What? What’s he doing in Montreal?” French-speaking Jews in Montreal, he had the right idea, the Lord had another city, that’s all. It was easy, the Lord just “whoosh” detour, you see, once he was moving, following the desire of his heart.
See, it’s the same way with an elder in a church. First Timothy 3 says, “If a man desires the office of an elder, he desires a noble thing.” How do you get called into ministry? By a heart’s desire? It’s the screaming of your heart that wants to do this if your life is right.
So when you’re looking for God’s will for next semester or the partner for life or whatever it might be in Christian service, you want to be sure that the known elements of God’s will are right, or you’ll never find the unknown, right? I mean, if you’re not a Christian, you’re just playing a game at it, or if you’re not allowing the Spirit of God to control your life and being saturated by the Word, and you’re not living a pure and sanctified set-apart life, you don’t really have much chance to find the unknown part of God’s will. But if your life is right, you can follow the desires of your heart, because having delighted in Him, He will give you the desires of your heart.
Father, thank You for our time this morning. And I know that it’s the desire of the hearts of these young people to be in this place and study here and to serve You. And I pray, Lord, that You’ll refine that desire, that You’ll refine it down as specifically as each individual life, and that You’ll give it to them by way of their own passion, their own longing, their own desire. But, Lord, I know they’re not going to have the desire for Your will about those unknowns until they have begun to live out in their lives the known expressions of Your will.
I pray that if there are any here that are not yet saved, that have not yet come to know the true Shepherd, to follow Him, that they might be saved. I pray for those who are walking in the flesh and not in the Spirit, and so who are fulfilling the desires of the flesh and not of the Spirit. I pray for those who are not sanctified and pure and set apart unto holiness and honor. Lord, I pray that in every life there might be salvation and a Spirit-filled power and sanctification; and then delighting in you they will know Your desires, because You’ll give them to them. They can follow their own heart as their own heart follows You into the very perfect place of Your will. I pray that for everyone, everyone, and give You the glory for what You will accomplish if we will be faithful, in Christ’s name. Amen.
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