Charismatic Confusion Over Knowing the Will of God – Part Two

22 03 2012
Truth Matters Newsletters – March 2012 – Vol. 16 Issue 3 – Charismatic Confusion Over Knowing The Will of God – Part Two

Part Onehttp://discernmentministriesinternational.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/charismatic-confusion-over-knowing-the-will-of-god-part-one/

Discernment Ministries International

Charismatic Confusion Over Knowing The Will of God

Part Two

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Last month we began to consider a common belief that there are degrees of being in or out of God’s will. It is also commonly taught that God has His own unique personal “perfect” will for each of His children. This belief is held by thousands of sign-gift devotees and Christians of every evangelical stripe.

We specifically considered the false teaching that it is the will of god for all His children to be financially wealthy. However, we also learned that God’s will simply does not come to pass by His divine fiat. In order to enter into His will for one’s prosperity there are various laws which the believer must work in order to be blessed financially. The dirty little secret is this; these blind guides are promoting nothing less than a Ponzi scheme with their names at the top of the pyramid. People who have been donating to these frauds and their SINistries faithfully for years are not any more finically prosperous than the rest of us who do not work their laws.

Copeland has however (as the “top” of the Ponzi scheme) raked in an estimated one billion dollars over the last forty years because of televangelism, books, tapes, investments. When you add the financial take from Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Fred Price, Benny Hinn it is billions of dollars. What have they done with the money they have siphoned off from the Church? Where are the schools, hospitals, the feeding & clothing programs, orphanages or other visible expressions of the love of Christ for a dying world? The reality is, these people suck in huge amounts of money and yet a very small percentage is ever given away (most ministries these folks support are run by volunteer staff with little overhead).

As a pastor I know this false belief about God’s will is very destructive to the spiritual wellbeing of Christ’s people. The very concept of law keeping and/or doing some works in order to receive (merit) something from our Lord is a horrid and retched belief which can, at its fullest foul flowering lead to the damnation of the individual due to a reliance upon their own works (pride) to merit salvation. Others are led to despair and some become destitute after giving their last farthing in “faith.” After being slavish workers of the various laws, principles and Kingdom rules for prosperity they believe they have failed to enter into God’s will and they fall away, discouraged and usually angry at the Church in any form. Thus Satan wins, he has gotten these deceived sheep to give sacrificially and pour their hard earned money into to these dry wells, wells that never produced the promised results.

It is not just this view on financial prosperity that is wrong, it is the faulty foundation of God having a specific will for each of our lives and that it is up to us to enter into it by our conscious efforts. The other insurmountable problem is that their endeavors are all attempts at uncovering the hidden will of God.

Because God is sovereign He does have an overarching plan for all of His creation, much of this plan is “hidden” from our knowledge. On the micro-level, how our individual lives exactly fit in to His macro plan is not revealed in Scripture to us.

This obvious fact (one only has to read) has not stopped people from teaching that we can and should know God’s hidden will for our lives in spite of the deafening silence of the Scripture. There are many methods people use to try to discern God’s hidden will for their lives. Some hidden areas that people commonly try to bring into the “light” are issues such as who should one marry, what school to attend, which job to take, where to work, buy a home, which local church to attend, etc. See if from time to time you have relied on the following techniques in the past (I admit I have).

Putting out a “fleece” we piously base this on the example of Gideon’s fleece in Judges 6:33-40. The problem with us using Gideon as our example as we put out our “fleeces” of prayer, weather, circumstances or whatever we are using to divine what the Lord’s will is that this example was an unrepeatable event. Another instance of making an “event” a doctrine is seen in the example of the Apostle Paul use of prayer clothes (Acts 19:11). There is no biblical support for such a doctrine or practice in the Church.

I was guilty of doing this when I first met Tracy. After we met, had gone out a bit, I went before the Lord in prayer and said “Lord if You want her to be in my life have her call me.” that was my fleece, the phone call – - – I was dead serious about it, I was at the time one of a small group of self-named brethren “the intense brethren” and was one of “the bachelors till the rapture.” God had mercy on my foolish ways and Tracy did call me within fifteen minutes of my prayer and we have been very happily married for almost thirty years. This is an example of God’s mercy, not a method to determine His will! What if she had not called me? What if my phone went on the blink? I guess we will never know (but I do know this, I would have chased Tracy to the ends of the earth).

Inner-Witness of the Spirit

After a (short) period of time Tracy acquiesced to become engaged to be my wife. This caused no little ripple among the members of our congregation (not to mention my family), where I was serving as the Associate Pastor. Another sister was positive she had heard from God and that I was out of His will because I was supposed to marry her. She shared her belief among the congregation and so I was faced with a decision, had I missed God? This is no small charge when considering marriage coming from the strong belief that you only get one bite at the marriage apple. Was Tracy the one, or this other one? In all honesty I could have chosen either handmaiden of the Lord, but which one was God’s perfect will for my life and here? If I choose wisely then I will have a good life with a loving mate. Miss God and I am (1) out of His will, (2) thus out of His umbrella of protection and subject to demonic attack, (3) open to the possibility of divorce since I/she am out of His will, (3) open to the possibility of divorce since I/she am out of His will. Let me stress the divorce aspect, many evangelical Christians we know have sadly gotten divorced, some will blithely say “well he or she was not God’s will for my life.” So due to this false teaching, they actually believe that their divorce was pleasing to God since now they are united with His best choice for them!!

Faced with a decision like any good charismatic extremist I turned within. Is not my body a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) and as such I am filled with “God” and I can thus expect that He will lead me (Romans 8:14). Since I am one of Jesus’ prized sheep I will hear His voice (John 10:27). Having already had my fleece answered previously, it was not too hard to discern His voice regarding who should become my smoking hot wife, giggity giggity giggity. Naturally the other sister was sure we had missed God, but she did attend the wedding and gave us a nice frying pan that Tracy and I have used for years.

When it comes to using our inner-witness as the means to determine the will of God is that 99% of the time the Spirit” seems to lead us in the direction we had already pretty much determined to go in. Also, is there anything more subjective than listening to a voice only you can hear? People end up with arguments going on in their minds, sort of like the cartoon figures with an angel and demon on each shoulder whispering in the ear of the listener. You respond one way and it is a path of blessing, go with the wrong voice and become cursed. The inner-witness of the Spirit is tricky at best and potentially fraught with danger. That still small voice (1 King 19:12) many rely upon is in no way representative of how God leads His people. Here is an example of how wrong people can be following that inner-voice:

The Findhorn Community was begun in 1962 by Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean. All three had followed disciplined spiritual paths for many years and had been specifically trained to follow God’s will. Eileen received guidance in her mediations from an inner divine source she called ‘the still small voice within’. Peter ran the hotel according to this guidance, following to the letter the instruction of the “voice” in complete faith. In this unorthodox way – and with many delightful and unlikely God-guided incidents – Cluny Hill swiftly became a thriving and successful four-star hotel.

Where did this inner-voice lead these people? Findhorn became one of the world’s leading centers of New Age occultism mixed in with some heretical esoteric form of pseudo-Christian concepts. This particular inner-voice did not lead them closer to Jesus Christ, but they are in fact are His enemies.

Open or Shut doors

God can open a door that no man can shut (Rev. 3:8). You got the job? Great, God opened the door!  Did not get hired, then He closed that door, look for an open one somewhere else! This is sort of a pragmatic approach to God’s will. Sometimes it is required of us to knock (Matthew 7:7) and keep knocking on a “door.” Work is something god has given man to do, it is honorable to work and whatever we do we are to do to the glory of God in Christ’s name (Col. 3:17). There is nothing in the bible which indicates that god has a specific dead-center of His will “job” for you or I. Sometimes persistence is required of the saint. Daniel’s answer to prayer was withheld by a demonic struggle in the heavenlies (Daniel 10:2) for three weeks, sometimes repeated knocking is required (Matthew 7:7). An example of this would be in my own life, I am still “knocking” at the Synod’s door for a call.

Dreams & Visions

Yes God revealed His will to Abraham, Joseph and Daniel and several others through dreams and visions. Is there any promise where God has said He will reveal His will for your life to you via dreams and visions (please don’t abuse poor Joel)? If you do have a dream or a vision how do you know it was from the Lord? Often the divine dream required someone else to interpret t for the dreamer (Genesis 41:8). Regarding important decisions there is nothing wrong with “sleeping on it,” as long as it is for simple mental quietude and refocusing versus seeking God’s will in a dream. Many cults have been founded on dreams, visions or apparitions of demons appearing as angels of light (2 Cor. 11:4). Any dynamic or seemingly prophetic dreams in/for your life demands a thorough biblical examination and virtually all of them can probably be traced back to some tainted mushrooms on that Domino’s extra meat pizza you ate the night before.

Personal Word from the Lord

One of the huge draws to the prophetic wing of the diffuse sign-gift movement is that these men and women claim emphatically to be in direct communication with the Ancient of Days. This is a “field” ready to be harvested financially by the wolves due to the endless stream of people seeking God’s hidden will.

We live in uncertain times politically, socially and economically things are not good and the future is unclear. People want to know the future and more specifically they want to know their own personal future and how it fits into God’s plan.

{An Aside} – It has always amazed me how the evangelicals decry the belief in the need for Mary or deceased saints to pray for the living (understandable) BUT they wholeheartedly believe in spiritual mediations in the form of the living, such as the need for Benny Hinn to lay his hands on you, an Oral Roberts to pray for you, or how you MUST be at the next meeting, etc.

Prophetic conferences are scheduled with the guaranteed promise that those who attend the prophetic breakfast or dinner (for an extra cost) at the conference will receive a word from the prophet or prophetic hosts who are there! Profit E. Bernard Jordan can be seen on cable television with his school of the prophets lying over people regarding their future marriage, jobs, income, family members, vocations, etc. Christians people pay BIG MONEY to hear from these blind guides. Although it would come as a shock to some of these Christians, but this is really nothing less than giving a fortune teller some money and having her read your palm.

The whole idea of “personal” prophecy being a means to determine where one works, whom one marries, what church to attend, how to “save” your loved ones is a fairly recent addition to the biblical concept of a prophetic utterance. It should come as no surprise in our “me” centered culture that the words flowing from darkened hearts and through the seared lips of these liars that their words would mirror our fallen culture (Luke 6:45). Great spiritual harm has come to many lives through following these revelations of God’s hidden will.

Perhaps all of us have fallen into using one of the methods in the past trying to distinguish what is and is not God’s will for your life. The problem again is in misunderstanding the concept of the will of God. As I have already alluded to earlier in this article first and foremost God’s will is sovereign. He is God and as God He is in control of all of His creation and He is under no obligation to explain His way to us. Nothing exists outside of His sustaining power. As a former Presbyterian I would cite question twelve from the Westminister Large Catechism:

Q. 12 What are the decrees of God? A. God’s decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of his will, whereby, from all eternity, he hath, for his own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men.

As a Lutheran I can say “this is most certainly true” regarding the tapestry of history I can attest that God is indeed in complete control, He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), nothing takes Him by surprise. This aspect of His overreaching will is often referred to as “the hidden will of God.” God has not revealed everything to us, but what He has revealed to us belongs to us and to our children (Deuteronomy 29:29) that we may fulfill His law, in the Christian’s case, fulfill His law of love (Romans 13:10). Examples of His sovereign will can be seen in Ephesians 1:11 and Job 42:2.

Before moving on in all fairness to our Reformed brethren an important distinction must be made regarding the Reformed catechism – - – it is not saying that God “causes” everything that happens to happen; if this were the case then God would indeed be the Author of sin, which he is not {James 1:13, 1 John 1:5} A succinct way to put it follows:

Rather, it acknowledges that because He is sovereign, He must at least permit or allow whatever happens to happen This aspect of God’s will acknowledges that even when God passively permits things to happen, He must choose to permit them, because He always has the power and right to intervene. God can always decide to either permit or stop the actions and events of this world. Therefore, as He allows things to happen, He has “willed” them in this sense of the word.

God has not called His people to grope about trying to determine what He has plainly hidden from us. God has revealed to us in the Bible what His will is for our lives and yet apparently this is not good enough for the Pharisees in our midst, they need to peer behind the veil. It is this type of seeking that has caused so many people great confusion in their Christian lives. Why not examine what the bible does teach is God’s will for our lives and seek His grace to enable us to be doers of what we have heard and not mere hearers only (James 1:22). In doing so what we will discover is that the false teachers proclamations, such as; “God’s will is prosperity” or “God’s will is healing” are not mentioned as part of God’s revealed will for all His children. One way to easily “spot” a false biblical teaching is when it declares a promise to only Christians who attain to it by their efforts; such a notion of a works based system is antithetical to the Gospel. Fundamentally people err in two ways regarding the will of God. First they teach that we can know and walk in the hidden will of God, others err in teaching things which are not God’s will for all His people, such as financial prosperity, physical healing and divine health.

The Revealed Will of God

I could start with the Ten Commandments (Deut. 10:4), as a revelation of God’s will, but for the sake of space, let’s accept them as a given. Any of the laws given by God in the Old Testament are examples of His will for His people. We know that the Israelites could not keep it, that in fact, no flesh will ever be justified in God’s eyes by working the law (Romans 3:20, Gal 2:16). We also know that our Lord Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law for us (Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4). With this understanding we know that walking in the revealed will of God does not involve trying to fulfill various O.T. laws. Theologically speaking we always begin with the “plain” texts and use them to help determine the meaning of more “obscure” texts. In the case of God’s revealed will al the texts are “plain” texts, easily understood by anyone who can read. Let us focus on what we know for sure.

For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to posses his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not god; That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter; because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy spirit.

Here is a perfect example of an in-your-face truth – - – God’s will for ALL Christians is that we ABSTAIN from fornication. Fornication in the Greek is which we transliterate into from which we derive our word for pornography. Naturally, Christians should abstain from viewing pornography but the term has a wider meaning. It coves all manner of sexual activity outside of marriage, not just looking at sexual images. Abstaining from fornication entails all of the mental activity that precedes the actual sexual activity. It encompasses what we think about, what we read, what movies we watch, and our verbal conversations with others (Ephesians 4:29). “Christians are to avoid and abstain from any and every form of sexual practice that lies outside the circle of God’s revealed will; Christians are to avoid adultery, premarital and extramarital intercourse, homosexually, and other perversions.”

The walk that pleases God is first defined with the words, “the will of God,” and then as “your sanctification.” With the statement, “This is the will of God,” Paul brings into focus the constant battle and a key issue going on in the hearts of men. “Will” is thelema, “what is will.” It points to the sovereign will and plan of God for the Christian. But all men by nature tend to follow the desires, thelemata, of the flesh and mind which are opposed to the will of God (see Eph. 2:3) and which can never please God (Rom. 8:8). It is not that all of those desires are evil, for many of them are God given. Sex is not evil. From the beginning God created marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman and sex was to be a part of the union for the continuance of the race and for pleasure in marriage. What makes many of man’s desires (thelemata) evil is his self-centered commitment to follow those desires contrary to God’s will (as in adultery) and at the expense or exploitation of others. The specifics of God’s will are clearly set forth in many places in Scripture, even though Christians often seem to have a great deal of difficulty applying it in everyday decision-making (cf. 5:16-18; 1 Peter 2:15). Nevertheless, Paul describes this in general terms as “your sanctification.

In our sexually obsessed culture God’s will for His people is sexual purity before and during marriage period.

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not ever be named among you, as is proper among saints. Ephesians 3:8

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you sexual-immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5

How many para-church ministries are devoted to setting people free from pornography within the Church? Immortality among some of the best known televangelists and revivalists is scandalously well known in the world. The divorce rate within the Church mirrors that of the world, when we ought to have next to zero divorce among us if the love of Christ indeed rules and reigns in our lives. It is painfully obvious that this seemingly simply aspect of God’s revealed will takes great faith, patience and grace to walk out daily. The Holy Spirit via Paul given us further revelation of God’s will for our lives.

Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Chjrist Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. I Thessalonians 5:18

Sandwiched in between “pray without ceasing” and “quench not the Spirit” is the clarion call to give thanks in every thing. Why? Because this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us! Note that the verse says “in” and not “for” everything which makes all the difference in our lives. Nowhere are we told to be thankful for the evil, wicked and sinful things that we bring on ourselves or that befall us. However, it does take faith true biblical faith to look up to the heavens and give thanks to God in the midst of the fiery furnace. It is easy to be thankful when things are going very well in our lives which is why I believe the Holy Spirit had Paul write in “every thing” knowing our tendency towards being only partially grateful some of the time. This is not “deep” present day truth received through praying in other tongues, but it is the stuff that sets us apart from the world; it is also a sign of spiritual maturity to exercise child-like-faith.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind; that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

As we saw last month, this is the text that is often cited as proof that God has three levels of His will. Without laboring the point again, the Greek simply does not support this assertion; it is an example of hyperbolic speech. One of the points of this pericope (there are several really) apart from presenting our bodies to God as a “living sacrifice” a conundrum in Paul’s day; we are as God’s people not to be conformed to this fallen world age. How? Through the practice of renewing our minds by the power of the word of God. As we feed regularly (hopefully daily) on God’s Word, hearing it proclaimed from the pulpit as well as personal study our minds begin the process of transformation. Our minds will not be fully “transformed” into the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16) until we receive our glorified bodies, however we are to start the process now in this life as disciples.

The entrance of God’s Word gives us light (Psl. 119:130) and as God’s Word renews our thinking we are enabled to deal wisely (Matthew 10:16) in this fallen world. To know God’s Word is to know His will (but (but you have to know it before you can do it, right?). Obviously the bridge between “knowing” and “doing” is the grace of God, as our Lord said “apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5) yet let your heart rest assured in the fact that Jesus also promised to “never leave or forsake you” (Deut. 31:8; Matthew 28:20).

In Christ Jesus we are now the children of God (1 John 3:2) and we have freedom in Christ, for it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1) – - -you are free to make the choices you want to make. God has given us His Word and the Great Teacher (John 14:26) has come to dwell within each of our hearts and we are free in Christ to either deal wisely or unwisely in the affairs of this life. I suggest you take the path of wisdom which can only be gained through the fear of the Lord. (Psl. 110:11) this golly reverence will unavoidably lead to the study, contemplation, ingestion and incorporation of the Word studied.

Brothers and sisters God has not revealed to us in His Word the specifies for our individual lives, not because He does not “care” about you individually, but because we are free to choose. Out of His great love He has given us His Word and Spirit, what more do we need to walk in God’s will? Jesus had paid the price for our sins on the cross. Now through faith in Him, He is not ashamed to call us His brothers (Hebrews 2:11) and He ministers before our Father as our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14) ever living to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25) so we do not have to live in fear of making the “wrong” choice. It is not called a walk of faith for nothing (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Let me close with another personal example. Tracy and I just purchased our first home last month. Many people are having mortgage problems, losing their homes, loan money is tight etc. Buying a home is a big decision with a ton of variables, such as the neighborhood condition currently and potentially in the future; type of homes, distance ot our church and work, utility cost, monthly mortgage payment on and on. How did we decide?

First, we prayed and asked for God to grant us wisdom (James 1:5), we’ve never bought a home, what do we know? Secondly, we researched the different variables. How much house can we afford? What do we really need in our home? What style? Then we found a Realtor who then showed me over sixteen homes. Of those I narrowed it down to 2 or 3 possibilities. Next Tracy visited the homes selected and then we decided on the one we wanted.

God did not speak to us and say “thou shalt buy this home and not that one,” nor did we have any visions or dreams. We did not “fast” over our decision. We took it to the Lord in prayer and then we stepped our trusting our Lord and purchased our home.

There is tremendous liberty in Christ, don’t let the false teachers and false brethren place you back into bondage. Allow the principles for wise living as found in the bible to be incorporated into your study and live in the liberty of our Lord.

Copyright © 2012 Robert S. Liichow

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