Knowing the Will of God

 It seems to me that there are two extremes when it comes to the will of God. One extreme is demonstrated by the Charismatics who are willing to let their experience trump the Word of God. The other extreme is the position that the only way God speaks to man today is through His word. It seems to me that those who place the emphasis on experience quite often wind up following their own feelings and blaming God for living after their own desires. On the other hand, those who believe that God does not speak through His Spirit to our spirit leave no room for individual guidance.  To them, I would ask the question: “Why does the Holy Spirit indwell us?”  What is His function and purpose in the life of the believer?”  In either case, the extreme position leaves man in charge of his own life. Granted that those, who believe God speaks only through the Bible, will limit themselves to those behaviors which are not contrary to Scripture.  But if I follow their position, I could leave Michigan and move to Florida because I like warmer weather. I could give less than I give because after all, the Bible only commands a tithe and a gift, and I am going far beyond that – and God has no individual will about how much money I place in His work.  Both extremes leave man to be more in charge of his life than God intends.  Here are four simple Scriptural steps to knowing the will of God.

 

 A Commitment to Do His Will 

(John 7:17 – “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”)  The idea of this verse is that a man must determine to do the will of God.  In other words before God has any obligation to reveal His will to me, I have an obligation to submit to it, even while not knowing what it is.  God doesn’t have the responsibility to tell me His will so I may examine it, discuss it with Him and decide whether or not I wish to follow it. God shows me His will so I may live in compliance with it.

 

Consistency in the Word

(Psalm 119:105 – “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”)  Most of the decisions I need to make in life are given to me in the Word of God. The Bible tells me how I should treat my spouse, how I should raise my children, how I should deal with my enemies, and how I should handle my money. It also tells me what kind of a friend I should be, what my relationship should be to the local church and its pastor, and on, and on, and on.  It’s interesting that the analogy of the Scripture as a light unto our path is misunderstood by most of us in twenty-first century America.  We think of a flashlight shining some distance down the trail.  However, in Bible times, the reference was to an oil lamp worn on the ankle of the traveler which would only illuminate the path enough for him to see where to put his foot for the next step.  God doesn’t always tell us His long-range plan for us.  But He will let us know, step by step, day by day, what He wants us to do.  He has promised this in Psalm 32:8.

 

 Counsel from Wise Men

(Proverbs 15:22 – “ Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors they are established.”   Proverbs 24:6 – “For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.”)  These verses do not teach that we should run from person to person until someone agrees with what we already thought. They do teach that we should have godly, Spirit-filled, Biblically-based counselors who can give us insight to the Scriptural approach for the decisions we are making.

 

Conviction from Within

(Colossians 3:15 – “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”)  The word rule here is the same as umpire. It’s very important to note that this verse must only be applied after the first three points have been practiced thoroughly. Those who tend to say, “The Lord led me . . . God wanted . . .” etc. and haven’t been faithful in the Word of God and had a commitment to do God’s Will, will usually make a mistake.  However, having followed steps one through three, God does promise to give me an inner peace that will help me know the path He wants me to take.

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Spiritual Homeostasis

Homeostasis has been defined as the tendency of a body to maintain internal stability.  The temperature of the human body is 98.6º.  If you stand outside in -10º weather with 30-mile-an-hour winds, your body temperature will be . . . 98.6 º.  If you work in 110 º weather with 90% humidity, your internal temperature will be . . . 98.6 º.  Your body will automatically shiver in the cold and sweat in the heat to maintain homeostasis.  If you consume fat and sugar, eat a diet that lacks protein and complex carbohydrates, you will maintain homeostasis.  But at some point, things will break down. Stay in the cold long enough and you will develop hypothermia. Work in the heat long enough and you may have a heat stroke.  Eat enough fat and sugar and you may develop clogged arteries, high blood pressure, and end up with a heart attack.

 
It seems to me that there is a spiritual parallel to homeostasis.  All of us have been exposed to compromise and wrong ideas.  Most young men have found some New Evangelicals appealing and some of their ideas intriguing. Many have read their books and taken some insights and information which they have used in their independent Baptist churches.  I had a pastor who encouraged me to attend John MacArthur’s Shepherds Conference. Many of my friends became enamored of his preaching and his writing. They shared with me some of his sermon tapes and expressed to me their admiration for him.  My encounters left me essentially unchanged (I did not attend the Shepherds Conference).  By the grace of God, I practiced the same standards, kept the same godly mentors and examples, used the same Bible and preached the same message of separation from the world as I had before I came in contact with New Evangelical influences. I maintained spiritual homeostasis. But not all of my friends did. Some are no longer Baptists. Some use corrupt Bible versions. Some, having left the intolerant ranks of Fundamentalism for the tolerant realms of New Evangelicalism, now find independent Fundamental Baptists intolerable.  They did not maintain spiritual homeostasis. I’m sure I don’t know all the answers as to why, but I trust the Lord will use these thoughts to help us encourage young men and to help young men stay on the right track.

Indicators

Here are some indicators that a person may be in danger of not maintaining spiritual homeostasis.

  • When they become critical and disdainful of the truth and positions which they have been taught from the word of God.
  • When they uncritically accept information from those who have compromised truth.
  • When they speak more in defense of compromise than of those who take a stand (how easy it is to become more critical of the ungodly disposition of one who nonetheless stands for truth than it is of the ungodly position of the one who maintains a genial and positive demeanor).
  • When they become infatuated with leaders who are New Evangelicals and find themselves more interested in reading their blogs, listening to their sermons, and doing their materials than they do those of independent, Fundamental Baptists.

 Inoculation. 

It is impossible to avoid all exposure to error.  Thos who go into the world to win the world to Christ will often end up with dirty feet (there is, of course, a special protection promised to those who are spreading the Gospel message – Matthew 28:19, 20).  How then can we inoculate ourselves against the inevitable exposure to the germs of compromise?

  • Know the truth.  Those who know truth instinctively recognize error.  “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” (Colossians 3:15)  I am told that Chinese banking families never give their children counterfeit money. They instead let them play with large sums of real money from all denominations from the time they are young. Having been thoroughly exposed to that which is real, they instinctively recognize that which is counterfeit.
  • Correct error.  One of the most helpful statements I ever heard was made by Dr. Wayne VanGelderen Sr. at my Baccalaureate service.  He explained that in the world we will be constantly bombarded with error – through billboards, magazines, newspapers, television and radio (this was before much of today’s technology had become widespread in its usage or I suspect he would have mentioned blogs, Twitter accounts, and Facebook as well).  He said, “The only way you will keep your mind right is if each time you hear something wrong you immediately, mentally correct it.”
  • Make a deliberate decision to limit your exposure to those who have compromised truth.  Bro. Steve Chappell told me recently that so much information comes to us that we do not have to “decide to look, we have to decide to limit.”

 In our diet, there is room for some fat and some sugar. But there had better be much more protein and complex carbohydrates or we will soon have health issues.  Repeated, uncorrected exposure to error will likewise dilute our position, diminish our discernment and destroy our defenses. May God help us to continue in the things which we have learned and have been assured of, knowing of whom we have learned them (II Timothy 3:14) and maintain spiritual homeostasis.

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The Christian and Homosexuality

To our great shame as a nation, President Obama recently became the first sitting president in US history to publicly endorse gay marriage.  This is an issue we will have to face more and more as our society continues its trend toward secularization and turns its back on God and His Word.  The gay community is particularly aggressive in targeting those who dare to disagree with them. We must be careful not to be intimidated into silence or to allow the world to change our understanding of truth.

 

Our Position

 Homosexuality is now, always has been, and always will be, a sinful behavior.  It is condemned whether it be a random behavior  as in the San Francisco bathhouses of a decade or two ago, a temporary “hook-up”, or a “committed relationship.”

  It is intriguing to read those who try to promote the homosexual lifestyle as not only acceptable in today’s society but in Scripture.  They make ludicrous arguments and end up with ridiculous conclusions.  They claim that there are “only a few” portions of Scripture which condemn homosexuality; that one must “hunt” to find them; and that they are “difficult to interpret.”  Well, try these on for size:

▪ Leviticus 18:22 – “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

▪ Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

▪ Deuteronomy 23:17 – “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.

▪ Romans 1:24-27 – “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”

▪ I Timothy 1:10 – “For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;”

 When confronted with such Scriptures, proponents of gay marriage will make interesting comments. Lee Jefferson, writing in the Huffington Post, said, “The Bible is a complicated collection of documents that was never meant to ‘speak’ to our contemporary situation.”  Really, Lee?  How about, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,” (Romans 15:4)?  Or, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)   What about, “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)  How about Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . .”  or Psalm 119:105, where we are told, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”?    These arguments are silly, shallow, and grossly inaccurate. Were the subject not so important, they would be amusing.

 Marriage is a Divine institution.  Here again, our opponents show their total misunderstanding of Scripture in the absurd arguments that they make. One says that Genesis 2 tells us about Divine distinction of gender, not anything about marriage. Of course, the problem is that the Scripture tells us that God brought the woman to the man.  We are told in verse 18 that His intention was not to make simply a different gender of the human species but a “help meet” and where we are told in verse 22 that He “brought her unto the man” and where in verse 24 we are told “therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife:  and they shall be one flesh.”

 Marriage began with God.  These verses are quoted by our Savior:  “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;  And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.  What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:6-9)

 This institution was blessed by being the setting for our Lord’s first miracle.  It should be abundantly clear that if homosexuality is condemned, homosexual marriage could never be condoned.

 Our Practice

 We must clearly declare the Biblical position. I was careful after his disclosure to, in both the morning and the evening services, to mention my disappointment with, and opposition to, our President’s pronouncement.  While it was Mother’s Day, not an appropriate time for an entire sermon about gay marriage, I did devote several minutes to the subject and said, “I’m glad my mother wasn’t gay.”

 I believe it will be increasingly necessary for us to teach our young people that homosexuality is wrong and why it is wrong. They will be bombarded by secular media and our worldly society with propaganda to the contrary. They will be told that anyone who opposes gay marriage is a homophobe, that gay marriage hurts no one and that only antiquated dinosaurs could think otherwise.  We must do a good job of teaching what the Bible says about this matter. I believe it will also be necessary for us to revise our church constitutions (if we have not already done so) so that there will be no questions as to our position on this matter.

 We must with equal clarity declare our willingness to reach and ministry to homosexuals.  There is no sin beyond the reach of God’s grace.  There is no sinner who is so far gone that God’s Spirit will not convict them, God’s love will not draw them and God’s mercy will  not forgive them.  As we minister to alcoholics, drug addicts, thieves and others who violate God’s commands, so we must reach, teach and disciple the homosexuals.  I often fly on airplanes where the flight attendants are obviously homosexual.  I heard one man describe in great detail his relationship with his boyfriend to another flight attendant. On another occasion, I watched a man look with great longing at pictures of himself in drag . . .  In each case, I spoke kindly to the individual, offered them a Gospel tract, and treated them like I would if I had assumed they were straight.  A pastor friend told me a while ago that he thought he might have homosexual neighbors. When he asked how I would handle them, I said I would be the best neighbor they had. I would bring their trash cans back to the house, offer to get their mail when they were gone, offer to let them use my yard equipment, bring them baked goods, etc. I would never pretend that I approved of their behavior, nor would I fail to keep the door open for me to witness to them and tell them of Christ.

 A little over a year ago, a lady visited our church. She happened to be the supervisor where some of our members work.  She came with her lesbian partner. While we did not – nor would we ever – compromise truth, we shook their hands, greeted them with warm smiles and told them we were glad they had come.  Not only did one of them raise her hand to indicate a desire for salvation, the boss told those working for her the next day that she had felt more accepted than at any church she had attended. Obviously, they have a long way to go. Obviously, I cannot approve of their wrong behavior. But it should be equally obvious that our job is to first present the Gospel to them, then to teach them the truths of the Word of God – not to make them feel unwelcome in our church.

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The Wooden Leg Theory

Have you ever been disappointed as you learned the faults of great Christians? When you discover the flaws in a well-known Christian leader are you tempted to discount the truths they have preached? I think all Christians go through struggles of this nature. I have been helped by a little theory God gave me which I call the “Wooden Leg Theory.”

Suppose I go to the track meet and watch from high in the stands as a young man wins the hundred-yard dash in 10 seconds flat. I cheer for him. I am so impressed that I walk down from the stands to congratulate him. As I get close, I discover that he has an artificial leg. Is my response, “Well, I’m not cheering for you any more, you’ve got a wooden leg! Here I thought everything about you was as it should be and now I find you have a handicap.” Of course not. My response would be, “Wow! It is amazing that you ran the race you did with the handicap you have!” It is important to note, however, that I would not cut off my leg. Cutting my leg off would do nothing to enhance me as I run the race.

So if I discover a problem in the life of a well-known Christian, I do not imitate it. Many people I know excuse their failures by pointing to great men who have had similar failures. If you live like that, you’ll be come a collection of the worst attributes of the best men in the world.

Neither do I fail to appreciate the greatness of the man once I discover his flaw. I say instead that he must have some tremendous offsetting strengths to run that kind of a race with that kind of a handicap.

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Where the “Solomons” Went Wrong

     In two previous blogs I have dealt with the issue of Rehoboam’s refusal to heed the excellent advice of older counselors and the massive accumulated wisdom of the Proverbs, written particularly to and for him.  In this blog I will attempt to address some of the reasons that Solomon’s excellent advice was ignored.  I shall also endeavor to make an application to the “Solomons,” that is the older leaders of this generation and their relationship to some young men who are turning away.  Of course, these are general statements and do not apply to every older independent fundamental Baptist leader. In fact, I would argue that most of them do not apply to most leaders. I’m simply attempting to expose some of the errors that have been at least partially responsible for some young men ignoring good and godly counsel.

After giving such wonderful instruction to his son Rehoboam, why was it that the wisest, and in many ways, most blessed man of his generation, ended up failing to keep his son on the right path?  The answers for Solomon seem obvious.

  • He married strange women (I Kings 11:1-3).
  • When he was old, these strange women turned his heart away from God to the worship of strange gods (I Kings 11:4).
  • He experimented, according to the book of Ecclesiastes, with worldly ways to find happiness.  He tried to fill up his head with perception (Ecc. 1:17, 18), his heart with pleasure (Ecc. 2:1-3), and his hand with possessions (Ecc. 2:4-11).
  • He broke most – if not all – of the commandments God gave for kings of Israel (Deut. 17:16-20).

In our own age our Solomons have, in some cases, been guilty of similar behaviors.  Here is a list, admittedly incomplete, of some of the ways in which this generation of young independent Baptists has been poorly served by some of their leaders.

  1. We have had too many Corinthians and not enough Bereans.  We have been eager to divide on the basis of men and institutions rather than on the basis of Bible principle. Please note that the Bereans were not cocky, rebellious, or hard to persuade.  We usually quote the second of their attributes and leave out the first. The whole text is “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind (emphasis mind), and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).    First, the Bereans received, and then they researched.  When I attended Bob Jones University, I was taught many things in the classroom that were contrary to what I had seen in my dad’s life and ministry.  On one occasion, when I mentioned them to him, he gave me a great verse.   It is a verse that I went through college with and have tried to use as I have gone through life.  He said, “Son, ‘Prove all things; hold fast that which is good (I Thessalonians 5:21).’”  Our focus must always be to lead people to the Word of God and its commandments and principles and then make application from those principles to current trends and philosophies.
  2. We have sometimes seen questions as an attack instead of an opportunity.  When a young man wonders if it is really scripturally forbidden to drink alcohol; or if the King James Bible is the only really legitimate translation for us to use; or if the Calvinists might not have a point, we sometimes become defensive. It is my own opinion that this is often because we did not know the answer but merely had adhered to what we had been taught. Unwilling to do the research and in some cases, afraid of what we might find, we responded by bursting with indignation, raising our voice, and wondering how anyone would dare question our established dogma.  I recognize that the verse (I Peter 3:15) has a primary reference to our salvation, but it seems to me that there is a legitimate principle that we ought to be able to defend from the Scripture those positions we take. We should be glad for the questions asked of us. Too many young men don’t ask us and don’t give us the chance to give them an answer. I fear that in some cases it is because they received such a poor reception when they asked earlier questions.
  3. We have been better at delivering a message than at being a model.  Too often powerful sermons have been preached with fiery denunciation of sin and wickedness, only to be followed by a meal at a local restaurant where questionable jokes are exchanged without so much as an eyebrow being raised in opposition.
  4. We have taught the “what” without the “why.”  We have developed our list of 20 or 30 or 40 “issues” that we oppose.  We have thundered against Hollywood movies, rock-and-roll music, dancing, alcohol, and tobacco.  (For the record, I oppose all of the above!)  Unfortunately, we have not taken time to teach the principles behind our positions.  Someone has well said that rules without reason equal rebellion. On two occasions I have taken over six months on our Wednesday evening services to teach a series on “Bible Principles.”  In each session I explained that a principle is a Bible truth we must live by, a conviction is a personal belief based on a principle, and a standard is a guideline to help me keep my conviction. I further tell our people, “I would rather you understand and live by the principles and agree with me on 80% of my convictions, than to follow all my convictions without understanding the principles.”  You see, I will not always pastor the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport. My voice will not always be heard. I will not always be alive. But even during the period I am alive, better-looking, more persuasive, more educated, more smooth, more charismatic, and more compelling speakers will come along than me. If people followed me simply because of personality and leadership, they may follow others into error. If I used whatever influence God gave me to lead them to understand the truth, they will be able to make wise decisions without my input.  How many independent fundamental Baptists would never darken the door of a movie theatre to watch any Hollywood movie, including Finding Nemo or Cars (again, count me among that number) but would rent a DVD which takes the Lord’s name in vain, filled with sexual innuendoes and nudity?  No wonder our message seems inconsistent to some of the younger generation.
  5. We have not been careful and thorough enough in preparing our young people for inevitable attacks. We try to teach the young people in our Christian school why we use the King James Bible.  I have on several occasions given a series of Chapel messages on why I disagree with all five points of Calvinism.  I have taught the aforementioned series on Standards in our High School Chapel.  I freely confess that these preparations have not had all the beneficial results I had hoped for. Nevertheless, I have tried to obey the Scripture which tells us, “The prudent man forseeth the evil and hideth himself” (Proverbs 22:3).

I want to be clear that I have been blessed to be taught, influenced, and encouraged by the great leaders of the past.  I have never seriously considered their flaws to outweigh their greatness or their errors to be an excuse for my disobedience.  I do believe, however, that each generation should build on the foundation that was given them by the previous one. I do hope that we can do a better job of encouraging our young men to stay on the right path by avoiding some of the errors we have seen in the past.

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