Knowing the Will of God

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

Sometimes this passage is taught in such a way that it means the believer must be at the center of God’s will---His perfect will. It is our responsibility to some how find that dot of His will and be on the dot. This passage, nor any other teaches this.

The renewed mind is one saturated with and controlled by the Word of God. good … acceptable … perfect. Holy living of which God approves. These words borrow from OT sacrificial language and describe a life that is morally and spiritually spotless, just as the sacrificial animals were to be (cf. Lev. 22:19–25). (The MacArthur Study Bible)

The passage refers to submitting to God’s moral will-the Holy living of which God approves.

“His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He hath foreordained whatsoever come to pass.’ Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q.7

God’s preceptive will is also called His “decreed will’, ‘secret will”, or sovereign will.”

The sense of this is that whatever God sovereignly decrees comes to pass, which is everything because he is sovereign but it’s also secretive because it cannot be known in advance and is always seen in retrospect.

“God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever come to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of circumstances.” Westminster Confession of Faith, III,1

Non-reformed Christians struggle with the extent of God’s sovereign and decreed will. I think it’s the result of the pitiful state of teaching in many evangelical churches. The weight of Scripture is overwhelming in teaching the reformed view of God’s sovereignty and decreed will.

On the applied level, God’s sovereign and decreed will means he is not surprised by your circumstances nor those of your counselee’s. He ordained them, in some way we do not understand this side of heaven uses them to bring glory to Himself and to conform His children to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29).

The term “preceptive” is an old term from the basic word “precept.” It means instructions from God’s Word. We call this his moral will because it’s based on His commands and it’s revealed quite clearly in His Word.

Author Dave Swavely put it like this: “The moral will of God, on the other hand, is not what he has planned to occur, but what he commands and what brings him pleasure. Whereas the sovereign will includes everything that happens, the moral will expresses what should happen.”

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; Colossians 1:9-10

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29

This passage shows both aspects of God’s will. His decreed will is a secret to us and we see it in retrospect. His moral will is clearly revealed in His Word and it needs to be obeyed rather than discovered. All the spooky stuff regarding God’s will comes from misunderstanding God’s decreed will, how God interacts with us now, in the church age and an overemphasis on the personal relationship with have with Christ, at the expense of our sense of community one another.

We’ve all heard he old saying, “consider the source.” It’s a call to discernment when making a decision. Certainly the counsel we can get from others can be jaded, mean-spirited, manipulative, controlling and a host other things that would cause us to weigh very carefully what they are saying and why. It is not uncommon in the counseling ministry for people to reject your counsel and seek another opinion more favorable to their axe to grind.

Job’s counselor’s for example misunderstood what happened to Job. They kept insisting it was a result of some sin. They misunderstood God’s purposes so they were not really helpful most of the time. Job’s wife was not helpful at all!

So, it’s biblical to consider the source when making a decision and considering the counsel of others.

In Swavely’s book he gives another example of a guy from the mission’s trip who asked his Bible study leader if he should go. This is not necessarily bad, but it is wrong to have the leader make the decision for him and it’s a little scary to go on a mission’s trip because a Bible study leader tells you, you should.

On the other hand the Scriptures are full of exhortations as to the value of receiving counsel-especially in regards to making major decisions. This cuts down on impulsiveness and recklessness, even the type people try to sanctify with their God told me mentality.

I think there are lots of applications here and most are obvious to us. Usually, when we are honest with ourselves and really want counsel we’ll be open to heeding it! But if we have our minds made up it really won’t matter. We usually ask for counsel in areas where we perceive another has greater expertise or a knowledge base. My investment guy is a Christian and a friend-I trust his judgment and he works my “low risk” mentality with savings and balances it with good counsel with a diversified portfolio. By the same token, a spiritual counselor can help us as they have our interests in mind as well as other factors. A fool indeed is one who ignores counsel like that and does what they desire any too anyway.

Conclusion. Consider the source, but heed godly counsel and beware of the pride of “doing what you want’ no matter what.