Sunday, February 17, 2008

Discerning God's Will

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).

If our adoption experience has taught me anything, it is to be more discerning about God's will for our lives. Today, I got to thinking: When we Christians pray for guidance in our decision-making process, what exactly are we praying for? Are we expecting a sign? Are we waiting for God to speak to us? Are we asking for a feeling of peace? Are we looking for something that hasn't already been revealed in scripture?

No. Well, at least we shouldn't be.

Contrary to what some are teaching, we shouldn't be listening to some inner voice. We should be listening to God's voice in scripture.

Pastor John Piper has this to say:
    The Bible does not tell you which person to marry, or which car to drive, or whether to own a home, where you take your vacation, what cell-phone plan to buy, or which brand of orange juice to drink. Or a thousand other choices you must make.

    What is necessary is that we have a renewed mind, that is so shaped and so governed by the revealed will of God in the Bible, that we see and assess all relevant factors with the mind of Christ, and discern what God is calling us to do. This is very different from constantly trying to hear God's voice saying do this and do that. People who try to lead their lives by hearing voices are not in sync with Romans 12:2.

    There is a world of difference between praying and laboring for a renewed mind that discerns how to apply God's Word, on the one hand, and the habit of asking God to give you new revelation of what to do, on the other hand. Divination does not require transformation. God's aim is a new mind, a new way of thinking and judging, not just new information. His aim is that we be transformed, sanctified, freed by the truth of his revealed Word (John 8:32; 17:17).
That is my prayer.


Unknown said...

I think you are not taking into consideration all that the Bible speaks on this subject.

The experience of the man you reject and dismiss as hearing the voice of God is no different to a person suddenly getting a burden to pray for xyz missionary overseas in a particular way that they would have no idea in the natural to pray about.

I have heard testimonies of whole Muslim families coming to know Christ after dreaming of meeting him during the night...

To simply dismiss any such experience in saying God does not do this any more is to dismiss what the Scriptures actually warn about in not treating prophecy with contempt.

Instead I would be asking what is the fruit of this experience and does it conform to Scripture? You have also taken the story out of context as your post says we should not be seeking any external voice of God and using that as an example . Yet the story of the man shows that he was not seeking it, that it was outside of his normal experience and therefore your post is a little dishonest in its approach.

I must admit I am a little disappointed in this post as I have enjoyed reading through your blog so far.

Blessings craig

Lee Shelton said...

Sorry to disappoint. I guess that's bound to happen every now and then. :)

Granted, the man wasn't seeking an external voice, but he did say that he had taught for years that "God still speaks," and then he experienced it firsthand. What implication do you think people will take away from his story? Don't you think he's sending the message that it's something to be sought after?

He also never made an attempt in his account to discuss how his "conversation" conformed to scripture. He did, however, share with us how it fit with an old chorus from the '60s. Is that how we determine the origin of the inner voices we hear?

I'm left wondering what would have happened if he had disobeyed the voice. Could such a command have been ignored without consequence? If I hear a similar voice, and every instinct I have says it's God's voice, am I obligated to heed it without question? Are extra-biblical commands just as binding as those found in scripture?

Thanks for your comments. This is definitely one of those issues that deserves further study and scrutiny.

Unknown said...

Hi Lee, have you ever had a burden to pray for someone in a way that you couldn't have known they needed prayer for in normal circumstances?

Eg a missionary overseas? Perhaps a friend, pastor etc?

Did you ever find out later that the person needed that prayer in that way at the time? If so - who do you think prompted you to pray?

Lee Shelton said...

Praying for others is exemplified and called for in scripture numerous times, so I wouldn't put that in the same category as carrying on a conversation with some inner voice.

Unknown said...

G'day Lee,

Yet the external burden to pray for a specific person at a specific time was a real experience of the Lord leading you to pray.

We have many Scriptural examples of God speaking to people in Scripture to do specific acts, and those people arguing with God before they did it.

Take Peter and his vision of unclean animal.

Ananias who was called to lay hands on Paul and argued with God.

Paul who had many other experiences and visions that were not recorded in Scripture.

The many untold prophetic encounters and words that God spoke to individuals throughout the Scriptures both old and new that were not written as Scripture.

Scripture does not make it clear how God spoke all the time to the many individuals he spoke to. There were times of visions, dreams...voices, burning bushes, burdens and so if Scripture speaks of the ways God speaks, on what grounds Scripturally speaking can you say God did not speak to that man?

Lee Shelton said...

The difference is that we have the closed canon of scripture. That doesn't mean God can't speak to someone, but if we are to "test everything," then I think the burden of proof is on the one claiming to have been spoken to -- and in this case, I just don't see how his experience conforms to scripture.

Unknown said...

Lee, In what way don't you see it conforming to Scripture?

As to the closed cannon, I agree that no more Scripture will be written, yet have you noticed how none of the NT prophets ever wrote Scripture and yet Paul says those prophecies are the word of God...for that specific moment in time...for example we don't know what the prophecies were that spoken over Timothy, yet Paul told him to encourage himself by remembering them...

Lee Shelton said...

The closing of the canon doesn't just mean that no more scripture will be written. It also means there will be no new revelation -- other than the fulfillment of what has already been prophesied about in scripture (e.g., the return of Christ, the bodily resurrection, the final judgment). Everything we need is contained in God's written word.

Again, one of the biggest problems I have with people "conversing" with God is determining how we are supposed to respond to God's voice. If someone believes he is commanded to give away the proceeds of his book, then we must consider what would happen if he doesn't comply. Would there be consequences for his disobedience? Are such extra-biblical commands to be followed without question? Are they as authoritative as written scripture? If we answer "no" to these questions, then I don't see how it could be God speaking, because as believers we are obligated to obey God. If we answer "yes," then I don't see how Christians can claim to be much better than the Mormons, who believe that God is speaking and providing new revelation all the time.

Anonymous said...

Hooray! I am just starting to learn these lessons myself. After years spent attempting to sense "promptings" and "leadings" and "callings", I decided to see what Scripture has to say. The Bible doesn't teach us to make decisions based on subjective feelings.

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