Understanding the Bible
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HOW DOES GOD GUIDE US?
1. THERE ARE TWO PARTIES TO THIS QUESTION:
Us - (You), and God. What can we say about each in this context of making choices or decisions?
(a) Us (you)
Let us ask some important questions:
Is it, as far as we know ourselves, our sincere desire to seek God’s will and to honour him by our choices, and by our life, whatever is the outcome? Are we prepared to pray continually about the issue asking God to lead our thinking and over-rule our circumstances? If this is not true then we need to pull our Christian life together by serious Bible reading and advice from a Christian we respect. Otherwise we shall seek guidance in vain.
We know that despite our best efforts, our knowledge and wisdom are limited. We make mistakes. But do we believe that God can over-rule those limitations and mistakes, and honour His name through us in the end? This is the assurance that will lead us to knowing what God wants.
What does the Bible say about guidance? Will God guide us? What is God like and what is His attitude to us and the choices we have to make?
I want to take some time to show you just a part of what the Bible says about what God is like and His attitude to us and our lives. The Old Testament (Yes, I did say the OLD Testament) is the greatest source of teaching on this matter - although, of course, the NT has much to say as well. To make our search more straightforward I am going to limit our OT research to the Book of Psalms. So let’s work our way through some of the most helpful scriptures. Look them up.
Psalm 18:25(God responds to our sincere desire to serve Him with complete faithfulness) 23:all of it Psalm 25:10 (again there is a requirement for us to be faithful to the covenant partnership)
27:11 (enemies = materialism, hedonism etc) 31:14-17b
32:8 and 10 33:4,5 36:7 48:12-14 52:8(and 9) 73:24 86:5,15 108:4 119:105 139:9,10 143:8 145:8,9
Now to the New Testament:
John 10: 7,9,10,11,14,15 John 15:5,9
Romans 8:38,39 2 Thess.3:3 1 John 3:1,2a
And finally: Hebrews 13:20,21
Question: Can you trust yourself to this God?
If you are a believer, it is because God, in His Grace, has justified you by the death of His Son, through your faith in that and declared you not guilty and fully acceptable to Him. Can you seriously think that He will now desert you? He is 100% on your side!
God has not released from the burden of our sin, only to replace it with the
burden of guidance! We are free: the truth has made us free.
Let me quote from ‘Go Free’ by Bob Horn (IVF, ISBN 0 85110 384 7 highly recommended)
“God is God and He is for us. He is not a celestial careers bureau, able to help only when we ring Him up. Our whole life is in His hands. We do not have to persuade Him to guide. He has been guiding, every minute - as our justification proves. He is guiding right now. He will guide all through. We do not have to ask God to step in. He is IN already. We need rather to ask for discernment to grasp His will and grace to do it. We may not always be able to see His way, but without doubt He has His way and is leading us to it. It is preposterous to think that He went to the length of justifying us, only to leave us our own devices.”
[An interesting story: Before this section by Bob Horn, here quoted, he tells the story of hearing a talk on guidance to students at which the speaker spent his whole time expounding the character of God; explaining God as the Covenant God and the great Shepherd of His flock. Then the speaker stopped: he never mentioned guidance. They had all felt cheated. They thought ‘Why all this theology and no practical help?’ But later Bob Horn realised that they had been given the best practical help possible, because the speaker had shown them convincingly that they could expect God to guide them - there was no doubt about it whatever.
Soon after reading Bob Horn’s book I was asked to give a talk on guidance to a church youth group. So taking the pattern of what he had described I spent my whole talk telling those young people what God was like - and then stopped. One of the members came to me afterwards and bitterly complained that I had not given them any help. But some time later he came to me and said he now realised what I have been doing and thanked me for it!]
2. SO HOW DO WE EXERCISE DISCERNMENT? HOW IN PRACTICE DOES GOD GUIDE US?
1. By the teaching of the Bible (Ps.119:105 ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.’)
- is what you are thinking about against its teaching?
- is it likely to dishonour the name of God?
- will it harm your (or anyone else’s) witness or growth as a Christian?
- is what you are thinking in line with what you understand God’s general Will to be?
2. As we pray, by the conviction of our minds.
- does it make sense, at this time?
- why do I want to do it?
3. By the considered advice of Christians we respect
- do they think it is right or advisable?
- we should never make serious decisions alone
4. By circumstances
- is God showing the way?
- is He opening or closing doors?
If the answer to all these supports the idea that what you are thinking of may be right for you, then take a first step after praying that God will open or close the door to further action in that direction.
God will often be far more concerned that we live as convinced and witnessing Christians, than where or in what capacity we do it!
Let’s close with Joshua’s words to the Israelites just before they were to cross Jordan into the Promised land (Joshua 1:7-9) “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you * ; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law * shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous **, and then you shall be successful **. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord you God is with you wherever you go.’
(* in both cases this is a reference to the Book of Deuteronomy: for us in the Christian era it means the whole Bible.
** these are to be understood in their spiritual sense: the Scripture does not promise the believer worldly wealth; rather it promises conflict and/or suffering because we are believers - see, for example, Jesus speaking in Matt.6:11,12 and 10:22, and John 15:19, or James in 1:2-4 or Paul in Eph.6:10-18.)
Have a great time serving God!
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