Identity's Featured Video
I want to talk today about something that is just a big question in my 15 years of being a professional Christian, of working on stuff and churches, and working in student ministries, camp pastor, when someone makes an appointment says hey can we talk about something, this question that I want to explore today, is the question exceedingly more than any other question, that I have been asked and on the other side of the coin, this is the question, in my own life personally that I have asked and wrestled with more than any other question. What is my identity?
Is the question I wrestle with, for many many years, this question I continue to wrestle with, this question I will continue to wrestle with, I'm sure as long as I live. It's just a big question. And chances are pretty good today, that you're wrestling with this question in some areas, of your life as well.
Voice of God
You probably want to know the question. Here's the question. What is God's will for my life? You've asked that before, maybe you're asking that right now, in terms of raising kids, in terms of managing finances, in terms to maybe a big career change or some big decision your family is facing, just a unique set of circumstances you really want to know what is God's will, in this situation in this area of life and how do we know, how in the world do we know, when we're listening to God and we hear God's voice.
Because I believe that God is communicating, God is speaking to us and how do we know when it's God? And how we know it's not just something we ate this afternoon that kind of is making us think better? Or how do we know, and maybe you're here and you're not a Christian you are just checking this church thing out, but you've heard Christians say before, when it comes to making big life decisions about who they married or, where they moved that they felt like God told them, to do it and you are like me when Christians say that, you are thinking can you drill down on that a little bit, how did you know? Was that written on a piece of toast was that, in the sky how in the world do you know, that it's God speaking? I do believe God communicates and God is speaking to us and God wants us to know, what we are supposed to do why we are down here on planet earth, but how do we know, and just for the record I have never heard the audible voice of God, between you and me I'm not so sure I want to hear the audible voice of God, I think that will totally just freak me out, when that happens in the Scriptures people's eyes blow out of their sockets all kinds of will so, and I don't know how it will work, you wake up walk down to breakfast there is God sitting there, hi, how are you?
Oh! Enjoy your omelette this morning God, that's good you have a cold, I'm sorry God bless you, you bless you, however that works for you, I don't know. I just, I don't know how that would even begin to happen, but I believe God speaks and often times as Christians, we feel like we are playing this cat and mouse game with God, left to our own devices to try to decode or decipher is this God's will? Is this what I'm supposed to do? And if you're anything like me there's been moments where I have put a tent down, at the brossroads of life.
I thought God I'm not going to move, I'm not going to do anything, I'm not going to make any decisions until you give me some sort of sign and some sort of way to know, that what I'm doing is really your will, and is that how God wants to communicate with us? And what is it then, how do we know that we're actually operating, within the bounds of God's will and what He wants us to do, with our lives.
So we're going to answer all of that today, and it's going to be great, you're going to know exactly what you're supposed to do. But if you have a bible you can open up with me the 1 Thessalonians 4, is where we're going to begin. 1Thessalonians 4, and if you're in a Life Group, we've been studying the book of 1 Thessalonians in Life Groups, and we're studying that again today if you've been in Life Group, and so there's a lot of overlap today which is great.
1 Thessalonians 4 and we're going to start in verse three. Now, when we begin the discussion about the will of God, we begin the discussion with this idea of what's God's will for my life. Often we enter into the conversation because we've got a deadline. I need to know by Friday. I need to know, what is it that God wants me to do, in this particular in this situation. But when the Bible talks about the will of God, it frames the discussion much differently, and actually when the Bible talks about the will of God, you can kind of see, these big mega themes, of the will of God and three in particular.
The first is this. When the Bible talks about the will of God, it talks about the moral, will of God, the behavioral will of God, in other words the Bible over and over again, re-read the Bible and you begin to study the Bible, you begin to realize there are just these things that keep re-occurring, in terms of our behavior, and what God expects for us to do, as disciples of Jesus.
In fact its helpful when you read thee the Bible, just have a highlighter and just a pen circle things and highlight things and say this is what God, when you read Proverbs it's, a great book to do this, or you just see specific things that this is what God wants me to do, and this is how God wants me to behave.
All throughout the Scriptures God has spoken clearly, in other words there are certain things you don't even to pray about. There are certain things you don't need to go, I'm I supposed to cheat on my wife with this lady at work, you don't have to pray it's just God's will, He's given specific instruction over and over again, in the Bible, on what He wants us to do, He's drawn very clean specific boundaries, on how we are supposed to behave. Here is an example.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 . " It is God's will, that you should be sanctified, that you should avoid sexual immorality.
That each of you should learn to control your own body, in a way that is holy and honorable." This is just God's will. This is what God wants you to do, He wants you to be sanctified in your mind, in your thoughts, in your body, in your actions and your relationships. That you would begin to take seriously the commands of God.
He says this is God's will for you, this is what God wants you to to do. Here's another example just the next page, in the book of 1Thessalonians it says this, verse 15 of chapter five. 1 Thessalonians 5:15, "Make sure, that nobody pays back wrong for wrong. But always strive to do what is good for each other, and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances."
Why? For this is God's will for you, in Christ Jesus that in terms of your behavior God is saying here's what I want you to do, don't repay evil with evil. In the same way that Christ Jesus has forgiven you of your sins, I want you to go into the world forgiving other people, when someone has wronged you caused you pain, no matter what it is how bad it hurt, doesn't mean you have to become best friends with him, but I don't want you repaying evil with evil, I want you to give thanks be praying continually, these are the things that God has said in terms of how you behave, that I want you, to do.
It's God's moral will. Now when you begin to read in the Scriptures you will notice that other times, there are other sort of big themes that God talks about, all throughout the Scriptures. This would be called, God's Sovereign will, and sovereign is kind of a big church word you don't use that word in your everyday language, you don't remind your kids, I'm sovereign over this house, you might I don't know, if you're strange, but this is God's providential will is another way to say it, this is God's overarching will, that when you begin to read the Bible you begin to realize, that God is never surprised when something happens in fact, He's ordaining things, the Scriptures teaches that, the crucifixion of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, that God was aware, God knew, God has seen His son into this world, all of this was part, of the Sovereign will of God.
And God is taking history somewhere. You think of it this way, that God doesn't just have a will for your life, God has a will for God's life! He has something in history that He is accomplishing, that He's not just out to forgive some racist, He wants to destroy racism all together, He's not just trying to crash poverty and some pockets around the world, He wants to destroy poverty all together.
He's not just calling to people in North Texas into a relationship with Himself, He's calling all people, into a relationship with Himself. And He has a plan and a purpose, and He doesn't give us access to His heart into His sovereign will, for the sake of information. In other words you're not just going OK I just want you to know are you're down there in planet Earth having fun, here's what I'm trying to do with God.
He gives us access to this, not for the sake of information but for the sake of participation. That we'll begin to roll up our sleeves. That what breaks God's heart will begin to break our heart. That we will begin to participate in the things of God. He makes this clear. His moral will, His Sovereign will, the things that He cares about, is God. God has a will, for God's life, something that He is up to, in human history in the world. This is an example from Romans, Paul says this way in Romans 14:11, it is written, "as surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before me and every tongue will acknowledge God." You don't even have to pray for that to happen, you can, but its just going to happen.
This is something God has said, "I have ordained, and as God, this is my sovereign will, and I want you to participate in it, I'm not just giving you that for the sake of information, I'm giving it to you for the sake that you begin to participate in what breaks my heart. What breaks my heart will begin to break your heart as well."
If you're anything like me these are all, finding good you read that in the Bible you go OK that's interesting, that's nice, but this is what we really care about, and the Bible actually talks about this as well, the individual will of God, the personal will of God, that in other words, God actually cares about the things that stress you out. That He actually wants you to know, He's not trying to play cat and mouse games with you and me, He actually wants you to know and when you find yourself in a situation going, God we don't know what to do, are we supposed to move to, Wichita or Houston, we don't know actually neither one of those are ever God's will for you, and scratch those, if you're trying to figure out your own God we don't know what to do, we just need, just give us to sign, when you find yourself in that situation, God cares. God cares more than you do about you discovering, His will for your life.
The Solomoners, strategist they that Proverb writer. Solomon says it this way in Proverbs chapter 3:5, this is a great passage of Scripture, to memorize. It says this, "Trust in the Lord, with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight."
In other words because God really cares. When you find yourself in that situation going God, I will do it if you just tell me, if you just make it clear I'll be glad and we find ourselves making all kinds of deals with God, and going, God I'll go to church for the next six years in a row, I'll do whatever, just make it clear, just let me know, what I'm supposed to do.
And the Scriptures say God really cares, about you knowing and discovering the path, that you're supposed to walk down, and this will cast all your anxieties on me, all the things that bag you down, and if you are anything like me, this is where we get bagged down. God what am I supposed to do with my life? What is your will, for my life?
Now, if you're anything like me well, we tend to ignore these two, but these are primary to God, and we tend just to focus on these, and we begin to read the Scriptures, here is one of the things that we discover, that we begin to figure this out, through paying close attention, to this, and to this. That the more we pay attention to this in case you fall asleep or leave early here's kind of the message, this I'm not talking to anybody specifically I didn't see you, but if you begin to pay attention to this and to this, it begins to point you in the direction that you are supposed to go.
Identity in Christ
You see this in the life of this guy named Paul, Paul has written a majority of the New Testament, and Paul writes letters and one of the things that is fascinating, about this guy named Paul you've been hanging around church for a while, you're probably really familiar with the life of Paul, but Paul, he gives us over and over again in his letters, what the moral will of God is, in fact, much of what we do as Christians, comes from the Letters of Paul, and God gives Paul, some kind of special divine revelations where he has access, and he writes down to the Romans, to the Corinthians, what the sovereign will of God is, that Paul is is one of the primary writers, it's giving us an insight and a window into what the sovereign, and what the moral will of God is. But here is one of the things that's fascinating in the Scripture, you get to see over and over again, how the individual will of God plays out in Paul's life. In the Book of Acts, in the Book of Philippians, over and over again you see and one of these is fascinating, is that Paul is not writing these letters in the loudest position underneath an olive tree. He's often shipwrecked, he's often in jail, things are not going well, which means if you are really confused about what you are supposed to do, or you find yourself in a situation going, I must have missed God somewhere along the way because if God was really telling me to do that, I wouldn't have ended up here. If you've ever felt that way apparently you are in really good company, because Paul over and over and we have this myth often times that if we do exactly what God is telling us to do, it's all just going to work out and we are going to know exactly what we are supposed to do, and everything is going to be great, that we see from the life of Paul over and over again, that it doesn't work that way.
If you have a Bible, Acts chapter 16, starting in verse 6, forward back ,a couple of books, to Acts 16:6 is where we will begin. Paul has experienced the resurrection, he is now traveling the world announcing the resurrection, and saying this is good news for everybody, it's not just a Jewish things, this is good news for everybody, and he is inviting all people to acknowledge, the good news and so he's traveling around the world, with a crew of his friends and this is how it works, Acts16: 6, "Paul and his companions travel throughout the region of Phrygia in Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia," so the the Holy Spirit apparently tells Paul to make a detour, when things aren't working out for him.
It's like, you're not supposed to go there. The Holy Spirit detours him, verse seven," When they came to the border of Mysia they tried to enter Bithynia, but the spirit," they were a very clean people, "But the spirit of Jesus would not allow them to." So now Jesus has gotten involved and essentially where Paul is he's around where modern day Turkey is, Asia minor, he is kind of in the Middle East region, and he's trying to take the gospel to all these specific locations, and then it says he does this in verse eight, "So they passed by Mysia, and they went down to Troas," and so Paul's just kind of looking at a map, just trying to figure out where are we supposed to go, what are we supposed to do, and it says verse nine," During the night," I'm assuming Paul is asleep, "Paul has a vision, of a man of Macedonia, standing and begging him, come over to Macedonia and help us." Verse 10, "After Paul had seen the vision ,we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel, to them."
One of the things I love about this story is if you became a Christian in America, or you became a Christian in Europe, you can trace your faith in Jesus back to the story. Because Paul was a sentually he was in the middle East, he is Turkey and that region, and then he sets sail, God told him through this vision, to go to Macedonia around where Greece is, and that's where Europe becomes a Christian place essentially, becomes, has access to the gospel, because of this vision that Paul has which obviously leads to the gospel arriving on the shore lines of America, and so you can trace your faith back to this vision, that Paul has and another thing I love about this story, is that the entire Trinity is involved in making sure Paul doesn't go to the wrong place.
The Holy Spirit says, no you're going the wrong direction, Jesus says I don't think so, and then finally God says Macedonia, this is where you're supposed to be. And he gets this vision when he is asleep, apparently God will only speak to Paul when he is unconscious. And there is this sense from the people that are traveling, I guess this is where, we are supposed to go.
But one of the things I love about the story, is that if you're anything like me, we tend to focus on the Macedonia moments. The moment when it's written in the sky, the moment he has the vision, where God says this is what you're supposed to do, this is where you're supposed to go, but notice for Paul, he's already on the move, before he receives the vision.
The sails are already hoisted. He's already headed down a path, and this is not out of disrespect for the will of God, this is in obedience to the will of God. That Paul is moving, before he has the vision to go to Macedonia. That essentially for Paul, he knows he's become intimately aware, of what the sovereign will of God is.
Then all people God is inviting all nations, all people, and so for Paul he's going it doesn't if I go to Mysia, it doesn't matter if I go to Galatia, it doesn't matter I if I go to Troas it doesn't matter where I end up, I know what I'm going to care about when I get there. I know my heart is broken for what breaks God's heart, wherever I am whatever piece of territory my feet end up on, I'm know what I'm going to be doing.
I'm going to be announcing the good news of the resurrection, I'm going to be announcing life for all people. Whenever I get, wherever I'm going to go, and the vision is just sort of his bonus, he's not even expecting it, he's not even praying for it. But Paul is on the move. His sails are hoisted. Before he has a vision.
Before the Macedonia moments occurs. We tend to want, God writing in the sky. But Paul, through knowing the sovereign will of God, here's the amazing thing, through knowing the sovereign will of God, and being intimately aware, of what God cares about. It allows him to know the individual will of God, and what he's supposed to do, with his life wherever he ends up, and wherever he goes.
And no where in the New testament, are we commanded, to search out science and wonders. No where in the New testament are we expected or supposed to as Christians, to wait on a sign or to play some Hocus Pocus, cat and mouse kind of game with God, or He's going to reveal it through a bumper sticker, He's going to tell you who you're supposed to marry through some kind of game that you're supposed to play that you didn't even know you were supposed to play,
no where in the New testament, is God said that's how I'm going to work with you as my children. In fact he says you've been given more than enough information, you've been given the Holy Spirit of God,you've been, what's been revealed to you is the sovereign will of God, and the moral will of God, so that you know what you are supposed to do, while you are down here, in this world.
I remember several years ago, my wife and I we'd just gotten married, and we were living in Los Angeles at the time and I had a job offer to move to Atlanta, which is where I'm from originally, and we're thinking what are we supposed to do? We're praying through this, we're trying to figure it out, and there is a time limit on it,
and we are so stressed out, it was the first six months or so of marriage, and it was one of those things where some of you have experienced this where, my wife was hearing one thing that we're supposed, to do I was hearing another thing that I really thought we're supposed to do, in fact it got to the point where, at dinner we just kind of go, we can't talk about this, if we're going to have some peace tonight because we just know that we're going to hear different things and believe different things about what we're supposed to do.
And I remember the first six months of marriage just being so stressed out, I wondered, God would you just write on the wall, through a bumper sticker, just let me know, what I'm supposed to do. And I remember going to lunch with a friend and he said something that just cleared away the clutter, and just wiped the mud off the windshield, because I was telling this, and said Tom, I'm so stressed out. I don't know what we're supposed to do, I don't know if we have this job offer, or some opportunity here, we're just not sure what were supposed to do, and he said have you ever thought about this script, that didn't really matter what you do? No, that though has not occurred to me. It's a bigger deal to God, when you get there, if you stay, what kind of person are you going to be, when you get there.
But He didn't have signs and chairs and all that, but He's essentially was just saying, when you get to Atlanta, if you stay in Los Angeles, no matter what you do, no matter where you go, you have tremendous freedom in this choice. But what God cares about, is when you get there is your time, your money, your passions, is it going to be obedient to the sovereign will of God?
In your marriage, and your attitudes in your actions, in your behaviors, in your thought life, are you going to be obedient to the moral will of God? Pick something, do something, don't just put a tent down tat he brossroads. What God cares about, is what kind of person you are, when you get where you're going to go.
And if you're anything like me, we want God to operate like a GPS. To whisper to us or scream at us, what direction we're supposed to go, and specific instructions, turn left in 4.2 miles. In six years I want you to marry this person, seven years, you're going to transfer to Phoenix and eight years I want you to.
We want God to operate like a GPS giving specific instructions to us, and He's not. God chooses to operate more like a compass, and He's given us specific direction, in which He wants us to go with our life. And we have freedom to make decisions, we have the Holy Spirit of God living inside of us taking up residence, we have the sacred words of God and he says, "I've given you more than enough direction. " So begin to move forward, in this life.
I have given you, I have made more than enough available to you, and He is not going to operate like a GPS, writing it in the sky saying here is what I want you to do, He is going to operate like a compass, that has revealed a direction that is God our father, He wants us to move forward. I was talking with somebody recently and they had a job offer in Boston, and they were trying to fit igure out, because their kids are in high school here, and the kids really love it they are going,
"are we supposed to move? There is a lot of opportunity." Apparently when it comes to these kinds of decision, there is tremendous freedom. God is more concerned, with when you get there, are you going to care about the things? That is God, I care about. And if you're anything like me you go that's all fine and good but, I want a sign. In fact we'll do anything to get a sign.
God, if you just write in the sky you, the next person that calls, that's who I'm supposed to marry, it's risky. Grandpa. Oh, no! Is just constrained. Don't play that game. It's a weird game, but we'll do anything God just give me a sign, in fact we'll try to manipulate God. I'll go to church longer, so you even tried fasting before, thinking I'll fast, I'll do whatever it takes.
And all things that are finding good, trying to manipulate God into giving you clarity on a choice. And through out history, the activity of doing something to try to manipulate God or the gods into giving you some sort of answer, through out history that's been the activity of pagans, that's not the activity of Christians. In fact surrounding nations and surrounding Israels is one of the things that God got mad at Israel for, was that surrounding nations, they believed that livers, this is kind of gross but they believed that livers of animals were sacred .
In Syria, a lot of nations did this, they had entire theologians and philosophers that studied animal livers believing gods will reveal their will, through the livers of animals, and so there is a war, a big decision to make as a nation, the kings of Syria would call all the liver experts, say what are we supposed to do?
Astrology came on the scene around the sixth century BC where people started looking up at stars and thinking, or maybe the god's and God or whoever, is out there is communicating to us through the alignment, through the patterns of the stars in fact many people, still in the back of newspapers, many people believe this is how it works, this is how you figure out what you're supposed to do with your life, and here is the good news for you, and here is the good news for me, the God of Israel, the God of the Scriptures says, that's not how I'm going to operate with you. I'm not trying to play some kind of Hocus Pocus game.
I'm not David Copperfield up here waiting for some grand revealed to you. I'm a father, and I've made a direction available to you, just like a good father does, that I want you to head with your life, and you have more than enough information, you have the Holy Spirit of God inside of you, I have given you a direction with your life, that I want you to go, and you have tremendous freedom, as a disciple of Jesus, as you begin to move forward, but don't just pitch a tent down at the crossroads of life, begin to move forward in the direction that God, has revealed in His word, to go and we still go I want a sign, give me a sign, and God goes, no, no, no.
You know what happens to people in the Bible, who get a sign, they ask for another sign. And you do the same thing and I would do the same thing and I talk to people all the time, if God were just to do a miracles, if He just did a miracle in my life just a quick little short miracle, I would believe in God.
No you wouldn't. You know what people in the Bible do when they get a miracle? They ask for another miracle. It's never enough and so God hasn't left us to our own devices, to try and decode and decipher was that God or was that something else, God has said, in my word and through my spirit and through the church of Jesus Christ, I have made available to you, the direction that I want you to head in, with your life.
The apostle Paul says it this way in Philippians chapter four as he's concluding this letter and I love how he wraps this letter up to the church, in Philippians, because the letter is pretty short and I am imagining he's getting to the end thinking, I got to use this space well, and so he says this in Philippians chapter 4;8 he says," Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praise worthy, think about such things," put your mind there.
And he says this verse 9, "Whatever you have learned, or heard, received or seen in me, do it", just put it into practice . And the God of Peace will be with you. You want peace when making decisions, making choices, Paul say's this. Begin to think and dwell, about whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent plays really true noble right, begin to put your mind there.
And then just begin to do something. Apparently God trusts this connection between your mind and your feet so strongly he says, just think about whatever is good, lovely and pure, think about my sovereign will begin to dwell on my moral will, begin to put your mind there, and then just begin to do something. Therefore Paul, we just get concerned I'm going to do wrong thing or I'm going to make the wrong choice, apparently for Paul the concern isn't that you do the wrong thing, the concern is that you'll do nothing at all. That we will just stop at the crossroads of life and go I'm not sure, I just want to sign, I just want God to reveal something to me , He has given you, more than enough, to begin to make decisions, you have had access into the windows into the heart, and into the mind, of God, and what I care about, so that you can know what to do with your life.
Thomason Martin said it this way, long time ago, and this is just a beautiful thought, just want to have and to remember he said this receive enlightenment, or we receive enlightenment, only in proportion, as we give ourselves more and more completely to God, by humble submission and love. We do not first see and then act.
We act and then we see, and that is why the man who waits to see clearly, before he'll believe, never starts on the journey. In other words it is through beginning to see God, with the little bit I have, with the window that I have, what you've made available to me, I'm going to begin to move forward, in this direction, and as we begin to move down that path, we begin to discover more and more, the individual will of God, and He hasn't just given you the freedom to make decisions, He's given you the responsibility, as a disciple of Jesus, to not just stop not just camp out at the crossroads of life, but to begin to move forward, with what we know and with what has been made available, to you, and to me.
This is how it has worked in my life and I imagine it might work, this way in your life as well. The more I have strived and struggled and tried to be obedient to this, and the more I've struggled and strived and tried to be obedient to this, the clear and the clear this has become. That in moments where I go God I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do.
The more and more, that I have tried to be obedient to this, with my thoughts, my actions, my attitudes and the more with my finances, my money, my heart my passions, I say God break my heart for what breaks your heart, and the more I have prayed to see this and be familiar with this, and the more I have prayed to know this and to do this.
This is has become clear and clear. But the times in my life where I have ignored this, and ignored this. This is clear as mine, and the more we become obedient to this, and the more we become obedient to this, the clearer this will become. What's God's will for my life is a fantastic question nothing wrong with the question, but the bigger question is in your life are you being obedient to God, in terms of what the He has already revealed, because this is how we begin to discover, what it is that we're supposed to do with our lives.
Let's pray together. God I thank you that through your son Jesus, you have made yourself, available to us, your spirit lives inside of us, and God I pray for somebody that's here there's is just a major life decision, I pray that today, I pray that this week may we just feel tremendous freedom, God I pray for somebody here who's in a crisis that they just don't need to be in,
and it doesn't matter where they go, what they do, you do care God, but when they get there that's what you're concerned with, when they stay or whatever it is, and so God walk with us guide us, reveal to us, more and more, your moral will, your sovereign will, so that we care about the things of God. And I thank you God that you are personal God,
and you do invite us to cast all our anxieties, and cares upon you, and you invite us in this thing called life, to move forward with confidence, while we're being obedient, to your will. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.