Discovering and Doing the Will of God Part 1

Scripture: Matthew 7:21, Matthew 12:50, 1 John 2:15-17
Date: 05/15/1999 
What is the will of God? How do you discover God's will and carry it out in your life? This sermon looks at what the Bible says about God's will and especially why it is important. Jesus prayed, "Thy will be done." Knowing God's will must go beyond understanding it but taking action.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Good morning church! Well, it’s good to see the house of the Lord filled. You know, that always happens when you’re involved in active evangelism. The Lord blesses people. When you’re preaching the Word, people will come, because they’re hungry. What did they say? “The sheep go where the grass is. Feed the sheep, they’ll come.”

This morning I’m going to begin what will probably be a two-part series. We’ll see how the Lord leads, it might be more, but at least two parts in what I think of as a very important bottom-line bible study. Dealing with the subject of God’s will. God’s will. Now, I read a quote from Robert Ashcroft and it says, “All heaven is waiting to help those who will discover the will of God and do it.” And that’s where I got the title for this series. The will of God; Discovering and Doing the Will of God. Now the Bible has quite a bit to say about the will of God. There’s a war going on between the will of the world and the enemy and our own flesh, and God’s will. There is an enmity; they are opposed. It’s like trying to press the positive side of two magnets together and they repel. And there’s this war of wills that’s going on between the will of the Lord and the will of the world. Why else would Jesus ask us to pray, “Thy will be done”? Because it isn’t normal in this world for God’s will to be done. But a Christian is supposed to be someone who is more interested in God’s will than the will of the multitude or the will or the world or their own. Now that’s where the battle is. Wanting God’s will more than your own.

Why is it important? Incidentally, let me tell you how we’re going to divide this up. Next Sabbath I’ll be talking specifically about ten points how you can determine God’s will in specific decisions we might face. How do you know the will of God? This week, more in particular, we’re going to focus on why is the will of God important and why is there this war that’s going on between our will and the will of our Creator.

First of all, why is it important? Well, it’s important if you want to enter the Kingdom. How many here want to enter the Kingdom of God? Listen to what Jesus said, “Not everyone that says unto me, ‘Lord, Lord,’” Matthew chapter 7, verse 21. You might want to write these things down. Matthew 7, verse 21, “Not everyone that says unto me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of God, but they that do.” Not just know, not just hear, “but they that do the will of my Father which is in heaven.” So, doing the will of God, is it clear to everybody, if you want to be in the kingdom you cannot just be a hearer of the word, you need to be a doer of the will of God. Say amen if that’s clear. It’s very important.

If you want to be part of the heavenly family. Matthew chapter 7, I’m sorry, Matthew chapter 12, verse 50, Jesus said, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” And then again Christ told that parable about a man who had two sons and he said to his boys, “Go work in the field today.” And one of the boys said, “On my way, Dad.” But he never went. The other one said, “I’m not going.” Had other plans. But he repented and he later went. And then Jesus asks this very basic, but penetrating question, “Which of the two did the will of their father?” And they said, “Well, the one that said he wasn’t’ going, but he actually went.” And then Christ is telling us that if he’s our father we will do his will. So being part of the family means doing the will of the father.

If you want to abide forever. How many would like to abide forever? Now this is a very important scripture. I John chapter 2, verse 15-17. You ought to try and memorize this. I think I have. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. For if any man loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. For all that’s in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the father, but of the world.” Now here’s the part I don’t want you to miss. “And the world passes away and the lust thereof, but he that does the will of God abides forever.” So if you want to be in the kingdom, if you want to abide forever, if you want to be part of that heavenly adoption, you need to do God’s will.

Finally, He tells us we are created to do His will. Revelation chapter 4, verse 11, the heavenly beings declare, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for you created all things, by your will they exist and were created.” You could not take another breath if God did not allow it. You and I exist by God’s design, but we cannot be saved unless we’re willing to conform our wills to His. That was our scripture reading, “that you might prove what is the perfect and acceptable will of God. Not being conformed to the world, but being transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Now, the will of God is not a simple issue. And you can divide it several ways. I’m sure that some of you will find new categories I maybe have forgotten. But I’ve kind of divided different aspects of the will of God with four P’s to help us remember it a little better. You’ve got the Perfect will, the Permanent will, the Providential will and the Permissive will of God. Now let me elaborate a little bit. What do I mean by the perfect will? Firs of all, are you aware not everything happening in the world today is God’s will? Some people are very fatalistic. They say, “Well, it happened, it must be God’s will. I know all those kids got shot and killed there in Colorado, must be God’s will.” No, it’s not. Automatically some people assume because God is big and in charge, “Large and in charge,” as Pastor Jim used to say. That means everything that happens must be His will. No. If that was the case why else would Jesus command us to pray that His will be done? It’s because His will is not being done. That’s why He invites us to pray that His will be done.

But God does have a perfect will. Let me give you an example. There’s a number of things in the Bible that reflect God’s perfect will. First of all, II Peter chapter 3, verse 9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but he is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish.” Now, if you want to understand the perfect will of God that’s a perfect example. God is consistently unwilling that anyone should perish. Some people who believe in predestination think that God’s up there going, “Eenie, meenie, miney, moe. I’ll save this one. Eenie, meenie, miney,” and that He’s predetermining who He wants to save and who He’s not going to elect. You’ve heard of it, “the election” and “predestination” and “foreordained.” Some people think that God is arbitrarily up there deciding who He’s going to choose to save and who He’s not going to choose. The Bible’s very clear, He is not willing that any should perish. Can you say amen? The Bible tells us that God “would have all men to be saved.” That’s His perfect will. It doesn’t change. It’s part of His perfect plan. His perfect plan in the beginning was everything was, “good, good, very good.” Now those things are not altered by circumstances. There’s nothing the devil can do to change that aspect of God’s perfect will. He wants everyone to be saved. That’s why Jesus came. Amen? And that’s why He says, “Whosoever will.” God’s not arbitrary. He’s not fatalistic. That’s the perfect will.

Then you’ve got the permanent will of God. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.” All right. We’re lost, we’re in a sinful world, but something remains constant about God’s will for you and me. I mean, you may not know whether the Lord wants you to wear a blue dress or a pink dress, but one thing you can know about God’s will is He wants you to be holy when you put that dress on. Right? Sometimes we’re more concerned about the dress the woman wears than the woman that wears the dress. And God is concerned with not so much the house you live in, but who lives in the house. Right? He wants you to be holy. “This is the will of God,” I Thessalonians 4:3, “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” You know what sanctification means? The process of becoming holy. God’s permanent will is for you to be going through the process of sanctification. I threw in a quote by Oswald Chambers, “Sanctification is not a question of whether God is willing to sanctify me. Is it my will, am I willing to let God do in me everything that has been made possible through the atonement of the cross of Christ?” God is always permanently willing that you should be holy.

Then we’ve got the permissive will of God. And that word permissive might in itself communicate something that is not really part of God’s nature. God is not a permissive Heavenly Father, but He does permit certain things by our choice. His will will allow things that you may want by virtue of your being a free creature. He lets us make choices. Are you aware of that? Part of good parenting is you don’t decide everything for your children, right? As they get older you loosen the leash a little bit and you allow them to make more and more of their own decisions; to use the power of choice. You always guide them between good choices, right? You don’t say, “Do you want to be a mass murderer or do you want to be a doctor? These are your choices.” You say, “Do you want to be a doctor or a lawyer?” No, that’s not a choice. “Do you want to be a doctor or,” sorry, Brian. I’m just kidding. I thought of you, I saw you there. We needed to loosen up a little bit.

The permissive will of God. Let me give you an example. Psalms 37, this is a great Psalm, verse 4, “Delight yourself also in the Lord; and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Now, when your heart goes through the sanctifying process your desires will be in harmony with His will. Amen? But He permits, in His will, certain choices you might have. Here’s another example, where Paul is praying. Romans chapter 1, verse 10, “Making request, if by some means now at last I might find a way in the will of God to come to you.” In other words, Paul was saying, “I’m trying to work it out where I can come and be with you, in God’s will.” And God in His providence, in His will, often makes, gives us latitude to make choices. Right?

Then you’ve got the providential will of God. And I could take this a long way, but let me give you an example. John chapter 6, verse 40, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that every one who sees the Son, and believes in him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.” “Now, Doug, why are you picking that?” All right. Was it God’s will that Jesus should die? Not initially. God did not say, “Hey, I have nothing to do today. Let’s see the schedule. I think I’ll die. I’ll send my son to suffer, become a human.” No, God adjusted His will. Now, don’t misunderstand. God knows everything that’s going to happen. But it was not part of God’s perfect world [that] this planet should rebel. You understand that? “He is not willing that any should perish,” the Bible says that. That means it wasn’t His will that this planet rebel. Which means it was not His will that His son should die. But since they did rebel, in His providence He made a plan. It’s not His will that you should die the first death. But He made a provision here. He said, “But if you die I’ll raise you up.” In His providence He makes the best out of a bad situation. Did you get that? The providential will of God is that will which makes the best out of what otherwise would seem a bad situation.

Now there’s a wonderful promise in Romans chapter 8 that defines this. What is it? “All things work together,” Romans 8, verse 28, “We know that all things work together for the good,” it doesn’t say for everybody. Some people misquote that. They say, “All things work together for good.” No, it doesn’t say that. All things don’t work together for good. The scripture says, “All things work together for the good of those who love God.” Amen? “And are called according to His purpose.” Case in point. Joseph. Not God’s will that his brothers should be jealous. That’s not something the Lord inspires. And should throw him in a pit. Beat him up. Take away his robe. Sell him as a slave. {It] was not God’s will that Potiphar’s wife should try to seduce Joseph. God’s not up there saying, “Mrs. Potiphar, why don’t you see if you can seduce him.” No. But when that happened, and Joseph spurned her invitation, and he was thrown in jail, and he was sold by his brothers, God took all of those normally bad situations and He worked them together for great good. He was able to save and to feed and provide for the whole world and save his own family through the providential will of God. You see what I’m saying? And so a lot of things that happen, you’re going, “Why did God let that happen?” Well, it may not have been His will. But if you love God, He knows how to take what normally looks like a bad situation and work it out for good. Amen?

I could just name a number of times in the Bible where it looks like, “Oh no! Daniel’s going to the lion’s den. That’s bad.” That would be our initial reaction, right? But God worked it out for good. God did not inspire those men to lie and connive and get him thrown in the lion’s den. “Oh no! Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are going to get burned to death. That’s not good.” But God in His providence worked what would have been bad, because they loved God, for good, right? He delivered them and it became a testimony to the whole history of the world. So that’s the providential will of God. He can take what normally will be bad and make it good.

Now we all have a problem. We’ve discovered so far that only those who are willing to do God’s will will be saved. Isn’t it enough to go to church and say, “Lord, Lord”? Jesus said no. In the judgment there’s going to be a whole lot of people who are going to say, “Lord, Lord” and He’ll say, “Sorry, you’re disqualified.” Why? They do their own thing. They’re very religious. They cast out devils. They do cures. They’re in church every week. But they’re not doing God’s will. They’re doing their own thing. You got that? So, we need to know what is the will of God and how do I do the will of God? Now, again, I’ll spend more time next week talking about determining the specifics of God’s will. But I want to get to point number one. You can’t escape it.

The single most important element in knowing the will of God is: are you willing to do it. Most of the time we’re preoccupied with trying to find out the particulars of God’s will when we are surrounded with neglected duties. And it doesn’t make any sense for us sometimes to say, “I don’t know whether to part my hair on the right or the left.” Your kids, you know, approach you before school in the morning and you say, “You’re not even dressed yet. Your bed isn’t made.” Anyone relate to this? You know, we can’t decide God’s will in some minute thing and God says, “You’re neglecting the weightier matters.” So the first and single most important thing, if you want to know the will of God is: are you willing if He shows you to do it, whatever it is. Are you so committed to following God that whatever He might reveal you say, “Not my will, thy will be done.”

Now, we’ve got a problem. Naturally we do not want to do God’s will. It’s not in our natural fallen nature. I Peter 4:2, the apostle here says, “That we should no longer live the rest of our time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” In our flesh we normally go with the lusts of the eyes and the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life. It’s when we’re converted in our mind we’re willing to do God’s will. Otherwise it’s not normal.

Now, I want to take some time going to probably one of the most controversial passages of scripture in the Bible. Romans chapter 7, please go with me to verse 14. Romans 7. We’ll spend a moment here and talk a little bit about the particulars of this war that goes on between the will of God and our own nature. Oh incidentally, the best expression of God’s will is in the Ten Commandments. “Yea, I love,” Psalm 40, verse 8, “Yea, I love to do thy will. Thy law is within my heart.” The law of God is the most concise expression of His will. Paul was alluding to this a couple of times here in Romans. “For we know that the law is spiritual,” the law meaning the will of God, “but I’m carnal,” fleshly, “sold under sin. For what I am doing I do not understand: for what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” Anyone felt this struggle before? Doing that which we don’t want to do.

How many have resolved to have more control not only of what comes out of our mouths, but what goes in? And you wonder why you cannot do what you want to do. You put so much on your plate and you say, “That’s it. But there’s still just a little bit left on the spoon I could lick off.” And then, you know, they’ve got just a few leftovers. And you know that adage, “Too much to save,” what is it? “Too little to save, too much to dump. That’s what makes the housewife plump.” I heard someone say that’s what makes the husband plump. That’s not the way I first heard it. Next thing you know you’ve eaten two plates of food. One on the plate the other out of the casserole dish. And you think, “I didn’t want to do this!” Why are we so weak? Why is there this battle between the spirit and the flesh? The will of God and our own wills. Let’s keep going here.

“For then I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it’s good.” Problem isn’t that the law is bad. There’s something wrong with me. “Now it’s no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” Paul is not saying here that we are not responsible. He’s saying, “The spiritual side of me is not wanting to do that. It’s my lower nature that’s at war with my spiritual side.” “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh,) nothing good dwells.” The heart in our natural nature is desperately wicked. “For to will is present with me.” You know our cerebral mind knows what’s right and wrong. “But how to perform,” how to do the will of God, “I do not find. For the good that I would to do I do not: but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it’s no longer I who do it, but the sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that, evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.”

You know, those who are consigned to following the world don’t experience this struggle. One of the first signs that you are on the path to heaven is that you experience a battle between your lower nature and this spiritual element. Some people think that means, “You know, I wanted to be a Christian; I thought everything was going to be great. Now I’ve decided to be a Christian, I feel there’s turmoil inside. I must be doing something wrong!” No, you’re doing something right. For the first time you’re swimming upstream and you’ve noticed the resistance, right? When you’re willing to just go with the flow you don’t experience that battle. You just go with the mass of people like lemmings that are sweeping off the precipice into eternity. And so you just flow on your way to destruction happy. But if you want to be a Christian you’ve got to go against the crowd. You’ve got to go against trends. You’ve got to go against the world. You need to resist what’s popular. And the hardest part, you’ve got to go against in you naturally. That’s the struggle that Paul is describing here.

“For I delight in the law of God,” I’m in verse 22, “according to the inward man.” You know what he’s saying here? “I delight in the law of God.” He’s quoting Psalm 40, “I delight to do thy will. Thy law is in my heart.” And so in our hearts the will of God is attractive. We know it’s true. We delight to do it. “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me in captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” How many here have felt that battle? If you did not raise your hand you’re flowing downstream. Because if you want to do God’s will you’re going to notice a battle.

Now let me see if I could simplify this. Forgive me if it sounds too simplistic. Our will is centered in selfishness. We are preoccupied like animals with our comfort, our convenience, our pride, the lust of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, the pride of life. That becomes the, that becomes the foundation for our decision process. For our will. When you’re converted you become preoccupied with loving God and your fellow man and His will. Instead of making you look good you’re preoccupied with what’s going to make Him look good. Those two attitudes cannot dwell at peace in the same heart. There is a war that’s going to rage until one gains the victory. The only way you can ever have peace is to execute (that sounds pretty abrupt, I know), but to execute that lower nature that’s fighting against the will of God.

I’d like to read a quote to you. I’m going to come back to Romans, but I want to read a quote to you from, I think this is also from Oswald Chambers. Yes, it is. “Have you had your white funeral? Or are you piously deceiving your own soul? Has there been a point in your life, which you now mark as your last day? Is there a place in your life to which you go back in memory with humility and overwhelming gratitude so that you can honestly proclaim, ‘Yes, it was then, at my white funeral, that I made an agreement with God.’ This is the will of God, your sanctification. Once you truly realize this is God’s will you will enter into the process of sanctification as a natural response. Are you willing to experience that white funeral now? Will you agree with Him that this is your last day on earth? The moment of agreement depends on you. “He that is dead, Paul says, is free from sin.” That’s Romans chapter 6.

The secret is, you take up your cross, you follow Jesus. Where did Jesus take His cross? To a crucifixion. You don’t just carry a cross around, all your life. I remember meeting a fellow in Ukiah, California. I was wearing a Christian t-shirt. He said, “Are you a Christian? I’m a Christian.” He says, “I go across North America and I carry a cross.” And after we left K-Mart, he went outside and, where I do all my finer shopping. We went outside and he showed me this aluminum cross. Had a vinyl pad right in the crux of it where it rested on his shoulder. He said, “Yeah, it gave me blisters at first. I do this so I can witness.” He had a poster hanging down on some grommets from the long part of the cross. And he had a little wheel on the end. He said, “I was dragging one for a while, but the aluminum, I wore it right off on the pavement.” So he had a little aluminum, wheeled cross with padding that he was walking around America with. And just going down the road witnessing for Jesus, forever bearing his cross. He never went to a crucifixion. Now I’m not recommending you literally do that.

You know in the Philippines every Easter there are people, I heard this last year there were six of them that did it. They did it on TV. They volunteered, the government does not, and the church does not, officially endorse this, but they don’t stop it. These people volunteer to have themselves crucified. And they’ll hang up there for varying periods of time hoping to, one man has done it several years in a row. And he tries to lengthen his stay on the cross each time. And he says he does this so people will know how much Jesus suffered. Other people do it because they’re trying to atone for their own sins over the sins in their family. And they think by torturing themselves like this, and they actually, they drive spikes through their hands and their feet. They’ve got ambulances there and everybody’s watching and the video crews and they crucify half a dozen people. I don’t’ think that’s God’s plan either.

So what does Christ mean when He says, “Take up your cross and follow me.”? You follow Him to His crucifixion. You know what? It would be easier for most of us to die on a battlefield with our pride than to spiritually lay down our will on Golgotha and say, “I am now dying with Christ.” To have that white funeral and say, “I am not going to live for myself anymore. I am going to do your will no matter what.” Now you know what the key is? We don’t really believe we’re going to be happy if we do God’s will. The great lie the devil has mesmerized the world with is that real happiness comes from doing your own thing. If you do your own thing you will self-destruct. God is not asking you to do His will to rob you from happiness. God is asking you to do His will because His will is better. He designed you to do His will.

They’ve got an airplane that crashed in one of these South Pacific islands and the pilot died, but the plane wasn’t in that bad of shape. It was; this was many years ago. And years later when this plane was discovered the missionaries found the natives were worshipping the plane. And they put flowers there for the plane and they’d dance around the plane and they had a little shrine for this wrecked plane in the jungle. And here was this mangled plane and they’re worshipping it. Well, the plane was not meant to be a mangled shrine in the jungle. It was meant to fly. They deified this wreck. And you know, that’s what a lot of us do when we think we’ll be happier doing our own thing. We’re worshipping a wrecked plane in the jungle. God says, “You were designed to fly. You’ve got to do my will if you really want to be happy.” The big lie is that we’ll be happier doing it our way.

That’s what Judas thought. Killed himself. That’s what King Saul thought when he kept refusing to obey God and he did his own thing. He killed himself. Doing your own will is the path to self-destruction. A lot of these people who think, “I’ll be happier with drugs and alcohol,” what happens? They self-destruct. Real faith, you know what real faith is? Believing, even though you don’t feel like it. Even though maybe your intellect doesn’t tell you. Even though you believe it’ll be terribly hard that if I do God’s will I’m going to be happier. And doing it in spite of your senses, in spite of your feelings, because you know it’s His will, you do it, unquestioning. That’s the secret to happiness, friends.

Back to Romans. “But I see another law,” verse 23. I want to repeat this. “But I see another law in my members, warring,” there’s a war, “against the law of my mind, and bringing me in captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Don’t you wish you could be delivered from this selfish nature that we’ve got, this condition, chronic, terminal condition that we’ve got called selfishness and sin? Then, and some people stop right there. They say, “Now, Paul is talking about his saved, converted, happy experience here.” I don’t agree. I think Paul is describing the struggle before he found victory.

Now, I maybe don’t, you know there are two extremes in the church on this. Some of you right now are going to phase out because I’m talking about the meat of the word and you don’t know what I’m talking about. Some people believe that Paul is describing here the state of a person totally before conversion, the lost person. I don’t believe that because a lost person has no desire to do the will of God. Then other people take the position; Paul is describing a person who is walking with the Lord. This is to be your experience. The whole time you walk with the Lord you’re to have this struggle. I don’t agree with that either. You know why? You keep reading. “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with my mind I myself serve the law of God’ but with the flesh the law of sin.” Notice there; don’t stop. “There is therefore now no,” now what he means there, some Christians take this they say, “Well, I’ll serve God with my mind, but my flesh is going to serve the world and sin.” You know what that is? That’s called the doctrine of the Nicoliatians. Just serve God spiritually. Live for the devil. The body doesn’t matter, it’s going to die anyway so go ahead and live for the body, serve sin with your flesh. Just love God with your mind. Sorry, friends, you can’t separate the two. That’s not what Paul is saying. Paul is saying, “I in my body am going to be drawn towards sin. I can’t help that, but I am going to choose with my mind and my will to serve God.”

Let me read something to you here. This is a quote I pulled this morning from the book Steps to Christ, page 47 and 48. A wonderful secret weapon right here. “Many are inquiring, ‘How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?’” Have you asked that question? Very important. “You desire to give yourself to Him, but you’re weak and moral power, in slavery to doubt, controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You can’t control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you.” How many here can echo those sentiments? Those are the ones that are swimming upstream. “But you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man. The power of decision or choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men. It is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart. You cannot of yourself give God its affections, but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will.” Did you catch that? That’s the key, friends. You give Him your will. “He then will work in you to will and do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the spirit of Christ. Your affections will be centered upon Him. Your thoughts will be in harmony with Him. Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they might go, but if you stop here they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. Why? They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians. By the right exercise of the will an entire change might be made in your life. By yielding of your will to Christ you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast and thus through constant surrender to God,” to what? “constant surrender to God.” Paul says, “I die daily.” He had that white funeral every day. “through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live a new life, even a life of faith.” Can you say amen?

That’s a wonderful quote. That’s Steps to Christ, page 47 and 48. I recommend it. I want to go back to Paul again real quick. Romans chapter 8. Now Paul left us saying, “Oh well, with my body I’m going to serve the flesh and with my mind I’ll serve the Lord.” And some people misunderstand if they don’t keep reading. “There is therefore now,” Romans 8, verse 1. Remember no chapters and divisions and verses in the Bible. This was a complete thought. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” When you surrender your will you’re in Him. “who do not walk according to the flesh.” The walk is what you’re doing with your life. “they do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the,” what? “the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin, He condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” That means that you can have an experience where you are doing God’s will, you’re not living according to the flesh. That was good news. You missed it. That’s the gospel, friends. That He can give you victory over that battle. Where you don’t need to be controlled.

Where does it come from? You crucify yourself with Christ, say, “Not my will, thy will.” You yield your will to God. Confess you’re helpless. He already knows it. You know, I had to finally come to the place where I said, “Lord, I tried to,” you’ve heard me say this. Mark Twain says, “Quitting smoking’s easy. I’ve done it a hundred times.” That was me. I kept quitting and it’d never last. And I went two months once and then went back to it again. I was so discouraged; I thought I was never going to make it. Finally I said, “Lord, I’m helpless. You’ve got to take this from me. I cannot do it myself unless you take over. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Amen? He took it away from me. And then who gets the credit? Now I don’t smoke anymore. You got the point? I don’t walk that way anymore. He gave me the victory over it. He gets the credit, but I had to yield my will to Him to do His will. That doesn’t mean there was never a temptation. But no temptation came stronger than the help and grace available.

Oh, here’s a quote I like. I don’t remember where. We had this, sometime, there’s a plaque on a wall somebody gave me. “The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.” If God tells you to do something He’ll help you do it and He’ll keep you in the process. Amen? I’ve got several good quotes here I didn’t know if I’d have time to share with you. “I’d rather,” David Livingston, “I’d rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God than on the throne of England out of the will of God.” Can you say amen to that? Frederick Faber said, “There are no disappointments to those whose wills are buried in the will of God.” If you put your will aside and say, “I’m going to do His will,” you’ll never be disappointed. “The will of God is either a burden we carry or a power that carries us.” Corrie Ten Boom. A.W. Towser, “No man should desire to be happy who is not at the same time holy. To seek happiness without holiness is sinfulness.” I threw that in. “He who should spend his efforts in seeking to know,” “He should spend his efforts in seeking to know and do the will of God leaving to Christ the matter of how happy he is.”

We are so selfish in this age. We’re constantly bombarded with the theme, “Your happiness is the supreme object of everything.” Well you know, that should not be the supreme object. Jesus said if you make that the supreme object you’ll never be happy. Jesus said, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it.” If you make your goal my happiness you’ll never be happy. If you make your goal His will you’ll be happy. Did you get that? We’re preoccupied with the idea, “Well I’d do this, but how am I supposed to do this and be happy?” Well that’s not the issue. You’re not supposed to even ask that. You’re supposed to say, “Lord, what to you want?” And I’ll get to that in more detail in just a minute here.

Martin Luther King, Jr., “The end of life is not to be happy, nor to achieve pleasure and avoid pain, but to do the will of God come what may.” We’re always preoccupied with, “Well, is it going to make me happy? God, convince me it’ll make me happy and I’ll do it.” You’re a baby Christian when you’re thinking that way, right? It’s like the parent who’s trying to get the baby to eat the mashed up peas and say, “Open your mouth. We’re going to put the plane in the hangar.” You tell the kid to eat it. We always try and make everything a joke, you know. And make everything fun. We’re raised that way that if it’s not an amusement park then we’re not supposed to do it. We are completely entertainment programmed. Everything’s got to be entertainment for us in this age. Am I right? Is that where we’re at now? Otherwise we’re not supposed to do it. We want to constantly be charmed and tickled and enthused and excited and if we’re not we’re not happy. Our problem is if we’re not we come to our senses for a minute. “The essence of true holiness is conformity to the nature and will of God.”

Now here’s a point that I hesitate sharing with you. Doing the will of God does not always guarantee things will be easier. I’ve already touched on that. I Peter, here’s some more scripture. I Peter chapter 3, verse 17, “For it is better,” I want you to say that with me. “It is better.” Ready? “It is better, if it be the will of God, to suffer for doing good, than for doing evil.” You mean it might be the will of God that you suffer for doing good? What did Jesus say we should do if we’re persecuted for righteousness sake? Rejoice and be exceedingly glad. Sometimes we suffer for doing good. I Peter 4:19, “Wherefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” You may suffer for doing the will of God. Ultimately you will have peace and be happier. It’s like David Livingston said; he’d rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God than on the throne of Britain out of the will of God.

Now here’s an example of that. Turn in your bibles to Acts chapter 21, verse 10. I’ve read this several times and it always made me wonder. Doesn’t God, don’t the prophets of God when they foretell the future do it to help us know how to change our course? The prophet Elijah, no, no; the prophet Elisha told the king of Israel, “Don’t go down that road because there’s an ambush there.” So he changed roads. The prophecy of impending trouble was there to warn him to change his course. The prophet Miciah told the king, Ahab, “If you go to battle you’re going to die.” He didn’t listen. He went. He died. And then there’s this story about Paul. Acts 21, verse 10, “And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.” They’re in Caesarea I believe. “When he had come to us he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet,” with Paul’s belt, “and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.” Now that’s really troubling because that’s exactly what happened to Jesus. He was bound by the Jews and handed over to the Gentiles and then crucified. “Now when we heard these things,” Luke is writing, “both we, and those from that place, pleaded with him not to go to Jerusalem.” Here we’ve got a prophetic warning from a good prophet. Agabus had also foretold the famine that came. He was a good prophet, trustworthy. “Don’t go! We’ve got a warning, a prophecy, something bad is going to happen.” And you know what Paul said? “Paul answered, What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? for I am ready not only to be bound, but to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.”

Now what happened? What happened here? Was Paul ignoring a warning from the prophet? God told Paul, “Go to Jerusalem.” The prophet said, “I’m letting you know in advance, when you go you’re going to suffer.” He said, “I am ready to do God’s will come what may.” Paul showed his willingness to do God’s will even if it meant that he was going to die. Did Jesus know in advance when He went to Jerusalem that last Passover week what was going to happen to Him? Sure. He was His own prophet. He told the disciples, “I’m going and I’m going to die and I’m still going because it’s God’s will.” Am I right? So, does doing God’s will always mean that things are going to be easier? Sometimes when we have a hard time we might get counsel from a misguided Christian who says, “You weren’t doing God’s will. That’s why you’re suffering. You know, there’s prosperity preachers out there. If something goes wrong and you get sick or you have a financial reversal you must be out of God’s will; don’t have enough faith. That’s why these things are happening.” That’s not biblical. Sometimes we get sick because we do God’s will. Right? So you get crucified. You get persecuted. Sometimes ???? take away your houses and lands and you’ll be expelled because you are doing God’s will. And so, this notion that because you’re doing God’s will it’s always onward and upward and prosperity and health, it’s not biblical. Sometimes you do God’s will, you suffer.

Let me give you another example of that. Jeremiah chapter 7, verse 27. How’d you like to have this as your job description? Jeremiah 7, verse 27, “Therefore you shall speak all these worlds to them; but they’re not going to obey you; you shall call to them; but they’ll not answer.” I mean, I’d be a little discouraged if God said, “Doug, I’ve got a message for you to share with the church. Nobody’s going to listen to you. They’ll all go to sleep. Matter of fact, they’re going to throw hymnals at you. But I want you to preach it.” That’d be hard. You know, I always hope everything I say is going to be well received. When it’s not well received I wonder if I said it right. But that’s not biblical either, is it? Here God says, “I want you to say it.” Jesus said he wants us to preach the gospel in all the world, Matthew chapter 24:14, “as a witness.” Not because the whole world’s going to be converted. Matter of fact, most of the world wont’ believe. How’d you like to have that as your battle plan? Preach and be rejected. Look at Noah. Preach 120 years and not have anybody outside your family. Talk about bad statistics.

John chapter 21, verse 18 and 19, Jesus said to Peter, “Most assuredly, I say to you, When you were younger, you girded yourself, and you walked where you wished: but when you are old, you’ll stretch out your hands, and another will gird you, and carry you where you do not wish. This he spoke, signifying what death Peter would glorify God with. And when he said this, he said, Follow me.” Jesus foretold to Peter, “You’re going to be crucified.” Now you know, I think there is a spiritual underlying lesson in this passage here. “When you were young you girded yourself and walked where you wished.” When we’re baby Christians we have a tendency to want to do our own thing. We put on our own righteousness. We go our own way. As we mature, “another girds you,” we put on the Lord’s robe and we maybe don’t go where we would choose. But Jesus then closes by saying, “Follow me.” “Do my will.” It’s like that prayer of the man in the Congo who said, “Lord, you be the needle, I’ll be the thread. You lead, I’ll go wherever you lead me.” That’s what it means to be a Christian.

The bible tells us that Christ was willing to do God’s will. Psalm 40, verse 7 and 8. You know, the bible describing the Messiah; I want to read verse 7. I already quoted verse 8. He said, “Lo, I come:” this is the Messiah speaking, “Lo, I come:” Old Testament foretelling the future. “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: thy law is within my heart.” There’s only been one person who came and completely, perfectly fulfilled the will of God in His life. Who was that? Do you realize how mammoth the battle was in the Garden of Gethsemane? Christ felt the struggle that you and I feel. Christ felt the struggle that Paul described. Everything in His human nature was revolted by the prospect of the physical and emotional and spiritual suffering that He was going to go through. Anyone here ever sweat blood before? That’s a lot of agony that brings forth that kind of perspiration. And He in the garden, Luke chapter 22, verse 41. “He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and he knelt down, and he prayed, Saying, Father, if it is your will, take this cup away from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours be done.” That is probably the most difficult prayer for any of us to pray consistently and mean it. “Not my will, your will be done.”

This is what Paul was describing when he said, Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ: it’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh,” I’ve still got this body, “but the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” In other words, Paul said, “Even if I go to Jerusalem and I’m bound and I die,” which he ultimately did die, but it wasn’t in Jerusalem, it was in Rome, “Whatever your will is, Lord, I’m going to do your will because I’ve been crucified and I’m not living for myself anymore. I’m living for you, for your glory.” Is that your prayer, to have that experience? It’s very important, friends, if you want to have eternal life, be part of God’s family, to enter the kingdom. The Bible says we must know what it means to do God’s will. It’s not enough to say, “Lord, Lord.” We must be doers of His will.

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