Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Discerning God's Will

It seems to me that God, being sovereign, will accomplish what He desires whether people are seeking out His will on a specific issue or not. Genesis 50 is proof of that. Even when people intend to do what they know is wrong on the grand scale of Right and Wrong, as well as the specific circumstances they are currently involved in (ergo: Wrong to throw people in pits and sell them to slave traders, in general; and specifically wrong to throw my own brother in a pit and then sell him away; neither of these things could be considered in keeping with God's moral will, or His desire, or His specific will for each of those individuals). God sovereignly works out all human decisions and activity according to what He intends to accomplish.

So from the aerial view, it seems to me that many people are comfortable with having what is currently termed "a personal relationship with God." This personal relationship includes conversation, action and response on both sides, and specific discussion about specific circumstances. The council in Acts 15 seemed to think they could bring a specific issue to God for direction, and they seemed satisfied that God had given them some very specific instructions in response.

It seems uncharitable to dismiss the reality of this form of relating with God as being "unbiblical" when, in fact, scripture does speak of this kind of relationship. So what if the people featured in these passages are "movie greats"? Their stories are given to us anonymous followers of God for our encouragement and for us to learn from.

Continuing with the aerial view there also are clearly many others who do not believe such a personal, individual dialogue exists, or even can exist, between God and a human being. Instead it is believed only general guidance, already published in the Bible, is given. God is no less sovereign, or hampered in any way, in accomplishing His ends with these people, either.

Is it the concept of freedom that seems at stake?

Is it maybe this idea that one group is "right" and the other is "wrong" (and I don't want to be in the "wrong" group)?

Is this truly a question that can be answered with scripture alone? And if the answer to that query is yes, then the next question is: in what way? Are we looking for a definitive verse that will settle this question once and for all (the systematic theology approach, which is admittedly very attractive)?

Or can this question be answered by scripture in the studying of a person's whole life experience with God? We all agree Moses had a unique relationship with God, but what kind of unique? Unique in that God didn't want to hang with anybody else quite like that ever again? In the case of the 70 elders (Numbers 11), God was going to give those men what He had given Moses. Presumably they would also be able to commune with God as Moses did. The high priest had the Urim and Thummim, a method used to get a specific answer from the Lord on a specific matter.

Teleport to the New Testament, and you have God pouring His Spirit out indiscriminately on everyone who would believe, and methods for discerning God's specific will in a specific matter (casting lots was one of them, since Proverbs 16:33 says the decision for every cast of the lot is in His hands; but also prayer, visions, dreams, others' words when spoken in the Spirit and so on).

What's the purpose of God's Spirit, then? Apparently the Holy Spirit not only seals us to God in salvation, He also intercedes through us and testifies to our spirit. Only for salvation? I think the Lord is nonplussed by whatever answer one gives to that. You can either look for His direction, or you can be guided without looking for it or even sensing it. People who nothing of God -- such as the slave traders in Genesis 50, the person who bought Joseph, the jail keeper and other inmates, and so on, and so on -- were all guided by God's will, whether they asked for it, sensed it, knew of it, or even cared.

And still, those who have been given God's Spirit, what a luscious condition.

As to the "dot" that many speak of as representing the center of God's will for an individual. It seems to me, if we are going to believe God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, all-good...then doesn't it seem possible that He can keep track of 6.6 billion people at one time, and make sure they follow His dots? It is simply a more enjoyable experience, and a fuller one, and a more fruitful one, if we can have some sense of cooperating with what God is doing.

Personally, since I am a mother, I believe God is intensely interested in every detail of every aspect of every person He's ever made. What's more, I believe He is available and interested in providing direction for every single thing any of His children bring to Him. I recognize the tension that exists between God's sovereign will, His moral will (as published in the Bible) and His desires, which He has also made plain. And I still believe that God can and does give specific direction when asked.

At the same time, I don't believe there is a "wrong" group and a "right" group, or a more scriptural or a less scriptural way in decision-making. I believe that these are tertiary issues and can comfortably coexist under the great banner of God's love.

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