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Discovering God’s Will: Practicing Wisdom, Part 2

Various   |   Shaun LePage   |   June 29, 2008

Discovering God’s Will: Practicing Wisdom, Part 2

Various   |   Shaun LePage   |   June 29, 2008

I.       Introduction

A.    In 2008 self-help projected to be $11B industry. I haven’t figured that out yet—reading someone else’s book about self-esteem is “self-help”? But, $11B shows people are looking for answers—everything from healing relationships to home maintenance. The hard part is figuring out who has the answers. When a book cover announces that the author will help you solve your self-esteem problem or manage your anger or improve your sex life, how do you know their methods will work or whether they won’t create more problems? What we need—what we truly want—is an all-knowing, all-wise, all-loving person to help us solve our problems and make good choices. We want an Author whose book has been on the best-selling list a long time so His methods will have been proved over time. Fortunately we have just such a self-help book. It provides the answers for emotional, psychological and spiritual health. The problem: usually overlooked even by those who agree with me that it was written by the all-knowing, all-wise, all-loving God and Creator.

B.    In 1992, the Associated Press evaluated four thousand self-help books that had been written over the last year. They concluded the best self-help manual was not penned that year or any year recently. AP put the Bible on the top shelf for self-help. AP, 9/14/1992

C.    Last week: Overview of Way of Wisdom: 1) Thoroughly obey God-breathed Scriptures; 2) Wisely use God-given freedom—Recognize God-given freedom and Use God-given Wisdom; 3) Humbly submit to God-directed plans—Decide based on God’s moral will then Submit to God’s sovereign will—trust Him to cause everything to work out right.

II.     Body—More about steps 2 $ 3 later, but today—revisit first step—Thoroughly obey the God-breathed Scriptures. In other words, if the Bible is clear, just do it. 2 basic steps: study the revealed will of God then obey the moral will of God. In other words, you’ve got to know it before you can do it. Let me give you three straightforward directives for using the Bible:

A.    Appreciate what the Bible is. Revealed/moral will of God! God has spoken! 2Ti 3:16-17

1.     What it is: The moral will of God (not sovereign will of God; no promises)

a)     OT Laws: generally accepted that it contained

(1)  civil law: only for Israel; e.g., property rights, treatment of servants, punishments for various offenses; many proven to be very wise—uncleanness of person due to skin disease, uncleanness of house due to mold, food restrictions, etc., but not binding today—Jesus declared all foods clean, etc.; helpful to people of all times, but specifically for people of that time

(2)  ceremonial law: fulfilled in Christ, no longer required; e.g., sacrifices such as Passover lamb/scapegoat/first fruits; all those laws pointed forward to Christ (shadows)—temple veil torn so tabernacle worship not necessary; direct access

(3)  moral law: e.g., 10 commandments—don’t worship false gods, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery (and other sexual sins); these laws are timeless! These are affirmed in the NT because they are an expression of the character of God—absolute truth for all people, all places and all times.

(4)  E.g., gay marriage in CA—often hear Jesus did not condemn homosexuality, but Mt 19:3-6 (Bibles in pockets on backs of chairs): affirmed moral law of OT as a timeless moral standard, reserving sex and marriage for 1 male (a man) and 1 female (his wife); no need to condemn every type of perversion

b)     Moral will (again) reflects who God is—an expression of His character; created in the image of God to imitate His character: Ep 5:1-2; 1 Jn 4:7-11; one of most frequent motivations for godly/righteous living is reminder of what God is like: e.g., 1 Pe 1:16 (from Le 11:44-45)—also righteousness, purity, love, forgiveness, compassion, endurance, submission, kindness, generosity, humility, obedience

2.     It has proven itself to be the ultimate self-help book: e.g., Bible League: 2 Villages in Nigeria—missionary reports 1st village full of sickness, livestock roam freely; alcoholism, children neglected; next day village few miles down road, 1 young man went away to school, someone gave him a Bible; returned, shared, people loved each other, various ways to improve lives—missionary heard singing, laughter, saw a healthy, joyful village; clean sanitation, orderly and welcoming; can’t deny this book changes lives? Why? Because it is from our Designer.

B.    Consume what the Bible teaches. Much trouble caused by not knowing what’s here!

1.     Why consume it? As it relates to decision-making we need to remember moral will (Bible) governs more than external behavior—touches every aspect of life: what we do, why we do it and how we do it! Actions, goals and attitudes. 3 helpful questions:

a)     Ask: What does it tell me to do? These are God’s direct commands: Honor parents, love wife, submit to husband, etc.; First and foremost, His will is that everyone believe and receive eternal life: Jn 6:40; many decisions strictly governed by Bible: Should I steal a car? divorce wife? give to poor? worry? Lust over another man’s wife? Join a church? Leave a church? Sex outside marriage?

b)     Ask: What does it tell me my goals should be? There are many principles that reflect God’s purposes—glorify God, equip/encourage/build up Christians, proclaim good news to the world, be good stewards of time, talent and treasure, serve others, etc. Many decisions governed by these purposes even though specific decision not directly addressed in the Bible: Which job/college/church/vacation choice would best help me fulfill these purposes?

c)     Ask: What does it tell me my attitudes should be? Our heart attitudes should reflect God’s values—not selfish, not prideful, not greedy, not impure, not lazy but selfless, humble, generous, pure and hard-working; many decisions not specifically addressed in the Bible will be guided by what our attitude should be: Which car/house/clothes should I purchase? How much should I give? What should I do with my free time? Should I watch that movie? What should I say/not say to my jerky boss? How should I treat my parents/wife/husband/elders/weaker brother? The heart is of supreme importance in Scripture: 1 Sam 16:7—many decisions easily reached when we consider the spirit of the law (love for God and people); sometimes direct commands, often principles to guide us

2.     Another key question: How do we “consume” it?

a)     Most self-help books are simply not read. Statistics show that on average, we read only the equivalent of one chapter, or about 10 percent, of a non-fiction book. True of the Bible as well—statistics also show Christians don’t know their Bibles! Like the little boy home from VBS, Mom asked him how he liked it—okay but didn’t want to go back. “Why?” “I learned enough.” Positive Living, July/Aug. 1998, p. 8

b)     Picture a huge circle: inside all commands/principles make up moral will of God; outside is sin—we must know the perimeter of that circle!

c)     How? No mystery: Joshua was told to meditate on it day and night, David said he hid it in his heart, “Ezra set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach it,” the first church devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, Peter told us the prophets made careful searches and inquires, Paul told us to read it, diligently study it and learn from godly teachers, Jesus Himself modeled study and memorization of Scripture by quoting it frequently and encouraged us to “consume it” by teaching that “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). 

d)     Ps 119 (all about God’s Word): What do we do with it? (NKJV) 41 things:

§              Walk in it. vv. 1, 3, 35§              Keep it (29 times). vv. 2, 4, 5, 8, 17, 22, 33, 34, 44, 55-57, 60, 63, 67, 69, 88, 100, 101, 106, 115, 129, 134, 136, 145, 146, 158, 167, 168§              Look into it. vv. 6, 18§              Learn it (“teach me”). vv. 7, 12, 26, 33, 64, 66, 68, 71, 73, 108, 124, 135, 171§              Heed it (“live according to it” NIV). v. 9§              Hide it in our hearts. v. 11§              Declare it. v. 13§              Rejoice in it. vv. 14, 162§              Meditate on it. vv. 15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148§              Contemplate it. vv. 15§              Delight in it. vv. 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174§              Not forget it / forsake it. vv. 16, 53, 61, 83, 87, 93, 109, 139, 141, 153, 176§              Long for it. vv. 20, 40, 131§              Understand it. vv. 27, 34, 73, 104§              Put it before us. v. 30§              Cling to it. vv. 31, 98 (ever with)§              Observe it. vv. 34, 117§              Incline our hearts to it. v. 36§              Hope in it. vv. 43, 49, 74, 81, 114, 116, 147 §              Seek it. vv. 45, 82, 94, 123, 155§              Speak of it. vv. 46, 172§              Lift up our hands to it. v. 48§              Find comfort in it. vv. 50, 52§              Not turn aside from it. v. 51, 102 (not depart), 110 (not stray), 118, 150, 157§              Turn our feet toward it. v. 59§              Be blameless toward it. v. 80§              Consider it. vv. 95, 128§              Take it as a heritage. v. 111§              Live by it / Be revived by it. vv. 154, 156, 159§              Stand in awe of it. v. 161§              Trust it. v. 42§              Remember it. vv. 52, 55§              Sing it. v. 54§              Believe it. v. 66§              Know it. vv. 79, 125, 152§              Perform it. v. 112§              Fear it. v. 120§              Choose it. v. 173§              Do it. v. 166§              Love it. vv. 97, 113, 119, 127, 140, 159, 163, 165, 167§              Praise God for it! vv. 164, 171 

C.    Live what the Bible commands.

1.     W. C. Fields on deathbed, friend came to visit, “What are you doing reading the Bible? Are you looking for answers?” W. C. Fields said, “No. I’m looking for loopholes.”

2.     Remember Jn 13:17; “believe + obey = blessed

3.     Key to successful living—first step in way of wisdom—is to know and obey the moral will of God as revealed in Bible (best and surest compass through life)

III.   Closing:

A.    Dr. Alan Redpath; ministry or stay an accountant; list on paper of reasons for staying in business, prayed, “Lord, I want to know your will.” Later wrote: “Day by day I turned to my Bible. Almost every day a verse seemed to speak to me and I began to write that verse against one of the arguments. At the end of a year, every argument in favor of staying in business had been wiped out. It took over a year, but I was not in a hurry. I was willing to wait; I wanted it to be in God’s time. Too much was at stake to dash into the thing. I wanted to intelligently find the will of God. And I found it as I sought the Lord through my daily reading and meditation” of the Bible.

B.    The “self-help” you’re looking for (actually God-help) is right here.

C.    Next time: what do we do when the Bible does not give a command or principle?

D.    Prayer

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