A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)
Chapter 6: The Will and Discernment
- This is a quote from later in the chapter, but I thought it was a good summary: "Discerning God's will . . . is the skill of understanding and applying God's Word with the purpose of separating right from wrong." (Page 117)
- When he started talking about two kinds of will, I was not anticipating what was coming. I was expecting the difference between His general will (for all) and His specific will (for an individual). Definitely the author's Reformed Theology comes out strongly in this chapter.
- I think we all would disagree with it, but I want to be careful to say that I disagree with some of his explanation of God's "secret will." He said, "It is the will through which God has decreed all that will happen." (Page 110) About this: (1) I do believe that everything God says will happen will happen. (2) I do not believe God has decreed all that will happen- He knows all that will happen, but He has not decreed it to be. If, by "decree," he just meant that God says what will happen, that would be one thing. However, it seems clear that he is saying God decrees it and causes it to happen. I do not believe tht is true about everything. (3) I find it interesting that throughout the book he has pointed us to God's Word, but after making this statement, he referenced the Westminster Shorter Catechism. (4) He did also quote Isaiah 46:9-11, part of which states, "I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning." My perspective is that God know what the end is from the beginning and that He will bring that end to pass. However, I do not think it implies that God has decreed every little thing from beginning to end. (5) I do not believe God's sovereignty is limited by my explanation. God is sovereign, but that does not mean that He makes everything happen that happens. (6) Saying that Jesus was slain before the foundation of the world and saying that "He [God] does decree that evil will take place" (Page 111) are worlds apart in my mind.
- After all that disagreement, I do agree with the thought that part of what God does or allows is off limits to our speculations. I think we often try to figure that out when we should be working on living what is clearly revealed as His will in His Word.
- He lists three specific things that are definitely God's will- the more I look at them, the more humbling they are: 1) Be filled with the Spirit, 2) Be sanctified, 3) Be thankful.
- "Today it [God's will] is given to us in its full and final measure in the Bible the Word of God." (Page 113) Amen!! I also like the following quote on the same page: "The life of discernment is, therefore, a Word-focused and Word-directed life, which develops a Word-saturated mind." May we all long for and work towards having a "Word-saturated" mind!
- He talks about the need for discernment especially in the areas where the Bible does not speak explicitly. I agree wholeheartedly. It seems to me that one of the problems with our modern-day Evangelicalism (broad view which includes us) is that so many come to these areas requiring discernment and use their own thinking or the thinking of another man instead of seeking out God's mind and applying truth from His Word to the situation. (I feel like this has been said multiple times in the previous chapters, but I think we must keep this in mind that most people, yea, most believers are using this kind of reasoning. We must confront them with the Scriptures and exhort them to search them out themselves.)
- His statement "when we are living in God's will, obeying his will as it has been revealed to us, there are no right and wrong decisions" was a little definite for me. (Not saying I think it is definitely wrong, just made me cringe a little.) However, the older I am the more I see there are certain decisions like this in life. We knew God wanted us to come to Moldova. We believe he would have us pick a missions agency to help us and our church. We came down to two- we agreed with both in doctrine and philosophy. We needed to make a decision. We told the Lord just that and went with All Points. We are very happy with our agency, but I cannot look back and say that to choose the other one would have been "wrong" or "against God's will." Maybe the statement above seems too definite because so many would use this reasoning for things that are clearly outside of God's will based on the principles of His Word.
- I did appreciate his step-by-step approach to get to this discussion of God's will. He first covered that truth and error are delineated in the Bible. In this chapter, he is showing that and understanding and application of that truth to the situations in our lives helps us to see what God's will is.
- I'm glad that he pointed out that while everything is not mentioned directly by the Bible, everything does tie into God's plan for His people, and therefore is dealt with in Scripture.
- Despite reservations from elsewhere in the chapter, I really appreciated something he said near the end: "Our spontaneous thoughts and actions are a sure measure of our spiritual growth, our spiritual maturity, and our spiritual discernment." (Page 120) When I look at my spontaneous thoughts especially, I see that there is much room for growth. I don't believe the Lord would have us continually beat ourselves up over those flaws, but simply use them as a reminder of His great grace in our lives and as teachable moments to grow in Him.
I've had my say, what say you?