Sermon: Holy Spirit & God’s Will

Written by Timothy

Holy Spirit And God’s Will
Year 2002

Ephesians 5:15-16 Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

We have to realize that each day passes by quickly, and we have a choice whether to live for the will of God that day or to disregard the will of God. We need to get up each morning and say, “This day is an evil day because it passes by so quickly.” The time that we have to repent and be in communion with God passes by very, very quickly. You can wake up and your life is over with in an instant before you realize it.

Ephesians 5:16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

I often think about when I was in my sin and really young in the Lord. I didn’t have a relationship with my children. It took so many years for God to break me and change me. I can never replace those days that were lost. Though they can be redeemed and God can pour out all kinds of love and mercy and still bring a relationship with my sons, I still look back with regret knowing that all that time was wasted. All the joys that I could have had in the Lord and with my children are gone. There’s nothing I can do about all the wasted time. What about the people we should reach out to, love, and lay our lives down for? The days are indeed very evil.

Ephesians 5:17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

I am amazed that people can live outside of God’s will and not even be concerned with His will especially among those who call themselves Christians. The only time we come to God is when we want to make a large decision, and we don’t want to make a mistake. Then we cry out to God and ask for His guidance. But we think the rest of the time God leaves us to ourselves to decide what’s Godly and proper to do. We can pick and choose what God’s will is. I’m impressed with how little we value the will of God. How foolish we are to be so unconcerned about the will for God for every moment and instant. That’s why verse 17 says, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Our Christian lives should have a tremendous amount of understanding and should be able to say; “I know this is God’s will for this moment in this place.” Yet, most of us seem to walk around with a different kind of questioning. Each hour shows that we do not understand what God’s will is and we are in a total state of confusion. I am not saying you will understand everything about God’s will. There should be, however, a major part of your life as you commune with the Father that you understand exactly where God wants you to be and what he wants you to do. You ought to be able to understand by the Spirit exactly what he wants you to do. Most of us go through our daily routine, yet we can’t say with a confirmation, “This is what God wants me to do, and I am following him exactly.” So we get tossed back and forth by all kinds of other plans and things that are not important. We are weighed down by the dissipation of this life with all of its cares and concerns because we don’t understand the Lord’s will. We are fools.

You ought to begin to live your Christian life in communion with the Holy Spirit. At any moment you should be able to say; “This is God’s will and this is why it’s God’s will.” Whether it’s baking a cake, going to work or whatever you are doing, you should be able to say, “I have the Holy Spirit in this situation. I know exactly what God wants me to do and I am doing that by the power of the Spirit.” It might be an everyday event that everybody else does yet it’s not the same as everyone else, because you do it by the Spirit, not because it’s the thing to do. Romans 12:1 is the crux of being able to know God’s will. We come back to surrender. It really does come down to saying, “Ok, God, whatever you want me to do for this hour, I will do it, and nothing else.” While we say it with our lips, we do not really mean it in our hearts. We live our lives with a carefree attitude toward God. We do not cry out to say, “God, what is your will.” We don’t wrestle, test, and approve God’s will. We are not even like a scientist in a laboratory who tests, re-tests, and examines until what he has established is proven to be fact. When it comes to God’s will we have to test, refine, and examine so that we can affirm and say, “This is God’s will.”

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy

This might seem impossible and way beyond us, yet it’s God’s mercy that calls us to live it. It’s God’s mercy that causes us to say, “Ok, I’ve lived and constantly taken my life into my own hands, but at this moment I will live for God’s will and be surrendered to what he wants me to do.”

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices,

God’s will comes out in terms of action, not just talk. We are offering our bodies, our hands, and our feet to say, “Ok, God, this will perform your will.” So I understand what God’s will is and then I set out to do it. I understand clearly what he wants me to do and my body proves that I understand what His will is.

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God this is your spiritual act of worship.

This is true worship of God. It’s not just coming to church, lifting your hands up, and singing some songs. Multitudes of people worship in that manner. But how many people do you know that offer their bodies as living sacrifices to God? This is the first act of worship that a Christian should perform, before the regular worship service is accepted in God’s sight. All week you must be offer your body to God as a living sacrifice. If you begin to do that you will be placing yourself in a position to test and approve what God’s will is, but not before. You are out in limbo land. You don’t know what you are doing.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will ishis good, pleasing and perfect will.

You have to test. There will have to be some real effort put forth to determine God’s will. It won’t happen in a snap. Sure, sometimes there will be moments in your daily life where things come instantly and you know exactly what God’s will is. But that’s only because you test His will to approve of it.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.

There is not anything that we are not to test and know whether it’s from God. It comes down to the food we eat and the activities we do. You are to test everything. Especially when it comes to the matter of God’s will. How do you know it’s not your voice or Satan’s that you’re hearing? How do you know it’s really the voice of God? If it is His voice, then how do you carry out His will? How does He want it completed? All of those things require fear, trembling and testing. It won’t come easily or quickly, but it will come to those who are willing to test, sacrifice and have God’s will above everything else. People do not test or put forth the energy to know God’s will because they don’t really want to know. It’s not worth the effort to cry out to God. We do not test and respond because we are unconcerned about God’s will at the moment. We are satisfied and comfortable and we really don’t want to know God’s will. But if that’s what we live for and if that’s all that we want then at every single moment and every instant of our lives, we will test to find out. We should be consumed with one thing only what is God’s will at this moment in time? Nothing else. We don’t test because we don’t care. We don’t care because we don’t love. If we loved God then we would be consumed with one passion knowing His will.

So how do you know God’s will? That would be like trying to tack Jell-O to a bulletin board. You could even read all through Scripture and still not know exactly how it is to be applied to your life. We won’t examine every situation in which God spoke. Sometimes you will hear God directly and know exactly what you need to do. Sometimes it’s dreams and visions. Sometimes it’s just a peace and other times it’s a whisper. It can be a thunderstorm. There are times he doesn’t speak at all but just hems you in and you have a peace knowing you are where you need to be.

Acts 16:6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.

I can remember when I first saw this passage. I was involved in the Church of Christ and the big push was to preach the gospel. What we were supposed to do was go out and make disciples. But there was no concept of any leading from the Holy Spirit. If I had said: “The Holy Spirit did not want me to share the gospel today,” it would have caused the leaders to fall out of the pews. It’s unthinkable that God would tell you not to preach the gospel. Yet what we find in verse 6 that the Holy Spirit kept Paul out of the province of Asia. Other times Paul would say, “Satan kept us from coming.” The point is Paul was able to test. He knew that the Holy Spirit was keeping his mouth shut and he was not allowed to preach the gospel.

Acts 16:7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.

I would like to see every Christian have the desire to go and preach the gospel, but the Holy Spirit must stop them. Most of you are just the opposite. You wait for the Holy Spirit to send you to go preach and you wait for God to open your mouth. That’s not what we found in Paul. He was so zealous that the Holy Spirit had to shut him up and keep him from going to certain areas. That’s the kind of heart God looks for. If we have that kind of heart then He can guide us but not before. When we are bubbling over with the gospel, when our bones hurt because we want to preach the gospel, when we hunger to say something, we are then in a position for the Holy Spirit to say; “Shut up and don’t say a word.”

Acts 16:8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.

You can see Paul is confused, wondering what God wanted him to do.

Acts 16:9-10 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 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.

Concluding” means that Paul had to reason, test, and think about whether or not it was really God telling him to go to Macedonia. Just because he had a dream or vision doesn’t mean he should automatically go to Macedonia. So we see Romans 12 again reflected right here in Acts. We see Paul tested, examined, and finally came to a conclusion that this was God’s will. You also sense that as he headed in that direction he was open to wherever God would lead him. It’s great when God speaks to us directly and we know exactly what he wants us to do. But we see here that Paul was left in all kinds of confusion. Why didn’t God tell Paul long before the dream where he needed to go? If God is such an omnipotent God and in total control of our lives, why did he let Paul try to enter Asia and then Bithynia? Why did God let him be in confusion and then give him the dream about where he needed to go? Paul then had to conclude that that’s where he needed to be. I don’t know. I don’t have an answer. That’s not the point. The point is you have to learn, test, and approve. It won’t always come quickly or easily. But let me tell you, it’s worth finding out.

Most churches today would have thought it was Satan trying to stop them from entering Asia. They would have rebuked Satan, which would have really been rebuking the Holy Spirit. They would have entered Asia, set up a missionary society and done work there, when all along they should have been in Macedonia. How many of us are in places where we should not be, doing things we should not do, thinking it’s God’s will? We think Satan is opposing us, when all the time God is telling us not to go there. We blame Satan and continue preaching and thinking we are doing God a favor in our work. How many of us think where we live, work, or all the things we do, are in God’s will? It may not be God’s will at all but we just kept forcing the issue time and time again. We haven’t offered ourselves as living sacrifices and so we are out there where we should not be.

Acts 21:10-14 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’“ When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

Think about this scripture in terms of your own life. Somebody comes to you with a prophesy about your life and what they tell you will cost you your life. They say you will be sent to prison. How many of us would immediately recognize and affirm it as God’s will? So many of us would say, “I’ll go back and pray about this. I need to test it with the Lord.” Why? Because we are not surrendered. We don’t want to hear this kind of message. On the other hand, if somebody has a prophecy that you will have a grand ministry, be blessed and exalted with all kinds of gifts you would say, “That’s from Jesus Christ.” But when Jesus says your hands and feet will be bound, and you will be drug away to prison, you don’t want to hear those crucifying prophecies. So you put those people off and say you’ll pray about it. But Paul wasn’t like that. He had learned to test and approve. He had learned to say immediately on the spot that he recognized the Spirit of Jesus speaking through someone.

The real test is when someone brings sin to us. The sin is obviously there and it’s apparent that the Lord has brought someone to tell us about that sin, but we say we must go back and pray because we can’t recognize whether it is of the Lord or not. How quickly we can recognize God speaking to us about everyday situations will determine how much we can hear God speak to us about things that will cost us our whole life. If you can’t recognize God bringing conviction in your life and it takes all this effort for you to see it, you won’t be able to hear God. No wonder God doesn’t speak or bring a prophecy.

All the people tried to keep Paul from doing God’s will. Imagine if you had a prophecy predicting disaster for your life and everyone in church said, “No, you should not go.” Would you think they were speaking by the power of God? Would you immediately say, “I recognize you are not speaking by the power of the Spirit and I need to go die for Jesus Christ,” or perhaps you would say, “I am really needed here so I don’t need to go down there and die.” How many times have we been told to do something by the Spirit of God but we don’t do it because everybody else objects to it? We don’t want to lose our lives. We haven’t offered ourselves as living sacrifices, so we are pulled aside by other people.

Acts 21:13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

He states to them what his life is about. Remember, each of you are bound in Jesus Christ. This is no big prophecy for Paul to hear the Holy Spirit to say, “You are bound in Jesus Christ,” because everyday of his life he was bound. He was a slave for Jesus Christ. He was in prison for the Lord whether he was physically in prison or not. Don’t get up and do what you want with your hands. Don’t get up and do what you want with your feet. Offer yourself as a living sacrifice to do what God wants you to do with your hands and feet.

This was no big prophecy or conviction for Paul, because this was his everyday life. This was nothing more than the grand time Paul had been waiting for, when God would finally take his hands and feet and put him physically in prison. The surrender of his heart would soon become an outward, physical reality. We are laying down our lives for Jesus everyday, therefore to go and die for Jesus is no major prophecy. What is significant about the prophecy is that God was telling him how it would take place, not that it was something new in his life. Do you understand the difference? God may come along with something for your life that you may think is new. It shouldn’t be anything new; it should just be the way that God will work it in your life. Everyday of your life you wake up and are being put in prison for Jesus Christ. You are a slave. You belong to him. Your hands and feet are tied. You are dying for Jesus Christ and laying down your life for him. It’s now just a question of the way that God wants to work in your life. If I am put in prison tomorrow, it should be no different than it was for me today being free. I count myself as a prisoner for the Lord, someone surrendered and captive to his will. Again, in reference to God’s will we are not talking about praying about major things. We are talking about being concerned about God’s will every second of every single day.

John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

Just put your name in there. Tim can do nothing by himself, he can only do what he sees the Father doing. Think about that kind of Christianity for a moment. You can only do what you see the Father doing. Do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is. If Jesus Christ goes to work, you go to work. If Jesus Christ doesn’t go to work, you don’t go to work. If Jesus Christ says something, you say it. If he doesn’t say it, don’t say it. The goal of the Christian life to be that surrendered in everything. If Jesus Christ doesn’t think it, don’t think it. If he thinks it, then you have the same thought.

John 5:19-20 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.”

Before you say, “Well that was Jesus Christ, and it’s too far beyond us. We may be like that in heaven,” let’s read verse 21.

John 5:21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.

Jesus Christ wants to give us the same life that he has with God. Yes, we are far from it and imperfect. Ok, so we have concluded that matter. What will we do about it? We have come to the grand conclusion that none of us will be perfect in this world, so what? Then make me as perfect as a man can be perfect in this world. Make me as righteous and holy as a man can be by the grace of God. Give me the life that is hidden in Jesus Christ. It certainly has to be more than I am living now, doesn’t it? As the glory of God enters my life, it certainly has to be more than what we see at the present time. So let’s lay aside the excuses and ask Jesus to give us the life that is in him. If he can raise the dead he can fill me with his Spirit so that I know God’s will and can test and approve it. Do not go looking for something to do for God. Just offer yourself as a living sacrifice and begin to let God pour his will into your life.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

You were created to do good works, not to mope in sin for the rest of your life. It is not God’s will for you to be down and not able to do anything. God takes hold of you and works in your life so that you might do good works that he prepared in advance for you to do. Quit spending all of your time trying to find something to do for Jesus Christ. Get yourself surrendered and humbled and God will pour his will into you for that moment and time. He has prepared it in advance. When you plan ahead and try to discover something to do for God you just get in his way. Before you were even created and long before the world even began, God already had good works prepared in advance for you to do. All you need to do is surrender and discover what those works are that need to be done. Spend your time surrendering to God and the works will follow. The fruit will produce itself. In fact you will find that you have more than enough to do in Jesus Christ. But we don’t surrender. We would rather worship a God where we can manipulate our good deeds and do them when we want to do them.

In Acts 21:3 we find a different set of disciples. There is one group pleading with Paul not to go and die, and they are doing that in their flesh. Yet we find right here in Acts that these people urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem, but they are doing it a little different.

Acts 21:3-4 After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.

If you back up just a few passages you find a group of disciples who were not supposed to go to Jerusalem. Outwardly they were saying almost the same things. But one group was saying it by the power of the Spirit and the other was saying it in the flesh. One group says, “Don’t go and die.” The other group urges them, in the Spirit, to stay there for a while and teach them the gospel.

Acts 21:5 But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray.

So you see the Spirit working throughout this situation. Paul was able to discern what was happening. To one group he said, “Why are you breaking my heart? I must go and die,” to the other group he stayed and continued to teach the gospel. Think about this for a moment. If there are two people coming to you saying the exact same thing, how will you decide whether one is saying it through the Spirit or in the flesh? You have to be a living sacrifice. You have to be surrendered. There can’t be any mixed motives on your part. Then you will be able to test and approve and say, “This is God’s will and this isn’t God’s will.” How little testing and discernment there is about God’s will.

Acts 21:5-6 But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.

What a grand picture of peace. They understood God’s will so there was no turmoil. They were certainly sad that Paul was leaving but they rejoiced that God’s will was being done. There is much tension within the body of Jesus Christ because you are doing something in the Lord, but someone else does not understand what is going on. You have to spend half your time explaining to them what you are doing. What a grand joy it is when you have a church like the first church where everyone understands God’s will. There’s unity as everybody is saying goodbye and kneeling down to pray. Everybody is encouraged. How different that is from Paul rebuking them by saying he’s ready to go and die. He had to make them feel lowly and then leave. What a different set of circumstances. Now we see them contending as one man for the faith and being surrendered before God, thus understanding his will. Now everyone knows what the will of God is and can do it through the Spirit.

Luke 2:25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

Think about this for a moment. We have heard the term Holy Spirit so much that we get used to hearing it. We find so many people claiming that the Holy Spirit is speaking through them or giving them conviction that we take this word lightly. This was long before Pentecost, the New Testament, and even before Jesus started his ministry. This is when Jesus was a baby and it says that the Holy Spirit was upon him. What a devout man he was indeed. What a precious thing it is to have the Holy Spirit resting upon us.

Luke 2:26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Think of the kind of communion that you too can have. Now that we are on the other side of Calvary and Pentecost, we understand what this man did not understand. We can have more than he had. It was revealed to him that he would not die before he saw the Lord’s Christ. We can now have even more. We can have more of God’s guidance if we will be a people of faith who come before God with the surrender that is so necessary.

Luke 2:27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,

You ought to be able to talk specifically about the movement of the Spirit in your life. Now I am not telling you that every single time and in every circumstance you will have a feeling and movement from the Spirit. I can’t cover all the ways God will work in your life. I can tell you that there will be an affirmation and confirmation. You’ll have the peace to be able to say, “That was God’s will.” You’ll know it. There’s been a lot of ways God has worked. He just hems me in backwards and forwards. I have nowhere else to go. I have that peace of knowing it’s God’s will. I have never had a dream, vision, miracle, prophecy, or anything else, but I have had the Spirit move and direct. I have gone through a doorway and turned and talked to somebody else. That turn made a chain of events that affected my whole life.

My first preaching job was offered while I was attending a convention. We were in a large crowded room and everybody was exiting in and out. Someone was walking by and she said, “Where are you working now?” and I said, “I’m not.” She half jokingly said that her church back home needs a preacher and I said, “I’ll take the job.” That’s all that was said. About a month later the church leaders called me, and the whole process began. That happened from passing someone in a hallway. You will be able to testify to many circumstances that God used to direct your whole life. Let us begin to recognize the movement of the Spirit. Let us not always have to look back and say, “Well, that was the Lord.” Let us recognize at the time that God is having us move in to meet the Christ. Many times God wants to move us, to turn us, to go pray or talk with someone, or do a service for him, and what we will meet there is the Christ. If we will let the Spirit move us and lead us, we will meet Jesus in a new way.

Luke 2:27-28 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God

We too can have the kind of life Simeon had. However, you may be going to Jerusalem to die. It may not always be a grand thing of picking up the Christ child to hold him and bless him. It will be God’s will in all of its different forms. There will be a joy and peace in all of that which the world simply cannot give.

I want you to look at this counsel of people here and what it is they say. I have met very few elders or committee members that can walk out of meetings like this and say those kinds of things.

Acts 15:25-28 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul—men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:

They bring the Holy Spirit to their committee meeting. Their minute notes came out with words of the Spirit. They had a seat set for the Holy Spirit and that’s who they were listening to. They affirmed that what was spoken was God’s will. “It seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit.” Our lives need to have that kind of fellowship with one another. When we do things in the Lord we should be able to say, “It seems good to us and to the Holy Spirit for these things to be done.” That should at least be the communion we want. We need not be satisfied with the “normal” kind of Christianity where people just plan their own courses, do their projects and are satisfied with doing some good deeds for Jesus Christ. If we don’t know if something we are doing is God’s, let us never, ever be satisfied with not knowing. Let us at least long for the privilege to say with confidence, “This is what the Holy Spirit wants to work in my life.” Let us never be satisfied with anything less than that. There are times I’ve had to walk with fear and trembling. I’ve had to walk in a blind faith and trust, but I’m never satisfied with that. That’s not pleasing or uplifting. I want to be in fellowship and communion. There are times when God will say, “Trust me and go forward,” and that must be done. Yet what I want is the fellowship above even just knowing God’s will. Let us be able to say, “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to me.” Think about how few of you say, “It seems good to me.” Most of you will talk about your crosses but not from a position of joy. Most of you will talk about the pain you have to endure, your sufferings or the people you have to deal with, but not from a place that says, “This is good and pleasing. This is what the Holy Spirit wants.” If you never find the cross to be a place of joy, you will never make it to heaven. Jesus Christ’s cross was his source of joy.

1. The number one rule when it comes to discerning God’s will by the power of the Spirit is that if you ever want to do anything, you can be sure it’s not God’s will. You can be 135% sure that if YOU want to do it, it is not God’s will. I don’t care how noble or holy it is. I don’t care how much prayer is involved. It is not God’s will if you want to do it. How many times people turn to me and say, “I prayed a lot about it,” and I say, “I don’t care if you prayed a lot about it or not, it’s still not God’s will.”

Romans 8:5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Again, we see the communion. We need to get up in the morning and ask, “What does the Holy Spirit want me to do today?”

Romans 8:6-7 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

It is impossible for Tim William’s sinful nature to submit to God’s will and perform it. That doesn’t mean my sinful nature can’t pray, give or serve. It can do all those things. Tim William’s sinful nature can even preach, but it can’t please God or be in accordance with God’s will. It can’t be with the affirmation and confirmation of the Spirit. So if there’s anything that I want to do, that is in my sinful nature, you can be 120% sure that it is not God’s will.

Romans 8:8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

I don’t care how much you pray about something. I don’t care how many scriptures you know. If it is YOU wanting to do it, I guarantee it is complete sin.

Psalms 127:1-2 A song of ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to those he loves.

You can build a house or church, you can do all kinds of projects, but if it is not by the power, grace and fellowship of God, you labor completely in vain. If you want to do it it’s sin.

  1. Forget appearances. Do not pay attention to outward appearance when it comes to deciding God’s will. I don’t care if it looks like God’s will. I don’t care if everything outwardly seems to be God’s will; you have to know whether or not it really is God’s will.

Joshua 9:3 However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai,

Take careful note of this passage, because God isn’t giving a geography lesson in this scripture. He’s not giving you the current events of the situation. He’s telling you that Joshua and the Israelites are rejoicing in the victories they just gained. They trampled all over Jericho. They walked away from that with shining victory and great joy in God. Yet now they had a problem conquering the town of Ai. There was some sin in the camp and they couldn’t destroy the town. Once the sin was exposed and dealt with they conquered Ai. Notice that when they are riding high on their spiritual cloud a tremendous trap comes their way. When you are feeling good, have triumphed over the walls of Jericho and have gained something grand in Jesus Christ in terms of your sin, a victory, or ministry, that’s when to be on your guard.

Joshua 9:4-7 they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. The men put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.” The men of Israel said to the Hivites, “But perhaps you live near us. How then can we make a treaty with you?”

They rely on their own logic. They said, “Maybe you don’t live far away, maybe you live close by.” They try to find the truth but they fail to do the all-important thing.

Joshua 9:8 “We are your servants,” they said to Joshua. But Joshua asked, “Who are you and where do you come from?”

First they appealed to the Israelite’s pride by saying, “We are your servants.” It’s like saying, “We are below you. We are meek, humble and come from a distant country. We have heard about what God did for you in Jericho and Ai. We’ve heard how he’s with you. We are your servants and we are here because we respect the Lord your God.” I have had a lot of people come to me with flattery, only to come in later with a trap.

Joshua 9:8-11 “We are your servants,” they said to Joshua. But Joshua asked, “Who are you and where do you come from?” They answered: “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the LORD your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, ‘Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; make a treaty with us.”’”

Do you see what they used get to the Israelites? Have you ever been to a church service where the preacher is a visitor and he puffs up the people who invited him? Then the other guy gets up and does the same thing back. All they do is flatter one another. It’s one large trap.

Joshua 9:12-13 This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.

“See how much we’ve traveled just to see you guys? We are your servants and you are so great.”

Joshua 9:14 The men of Israel sampled their provisions

They checked out all the outward circumstances. The joy that you have been wanting for so long comes your way and all the doors seem to open. Everything you prayed about seems to be taking place.

Joshua 9:14 The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.

They did not have communion and fellowship with the Spirit so they fell for the trap. They weren’t living sacrifices or surrendered, as they needed to be. All they wanted to do was hear God’s will, but they didn’t ask. We have all done the same thing. We have all sampled the provisions. But let me tell you from one who has sampled the provisions without inquiring of the Lord, don’t do it. Don’t learn the hard way. Don’t get yourself involved in things that you will be bound to for years and years. Let us be a people always inquiring of the Lord with surrendered hearts so that the voice we hear is not our own, but the voice of him who leads us down his paths.

Joshua 9:15 Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

He made a treaty of peace with sin.

Joshua 9:16 Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them.

Three days later (always after the resurrection, after the light dawns, when Jesus Christ finally gets to us) it dawns on us who we made a treaty with.

Joshua 9:17-18 So the Israelites set out and on the third day came to their cities: Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim. But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the LORD, the God of Israel.

They could do nothing.

Joshua 9:18-19 The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, but all the leaders answered, “We have given them our oath by the LORD, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now.”

How many things have we compromised and made treaties with but found out later it was something we were to attack and take captive for the Lord? Then we have to let it live. The situation is passed. It is too late. How many times have you wanted to go back and rebuke somebody and tell them what they did was wrong in God’s sight, only the find the situation is gone? The impact is over with and there’s nothing you can do. You might go back and redeem it and the truth might be revealed, but it doesn’t have that convicting impact that the Spirit was originally trying to work. You compromised. I want you to notice that the people grumbled against the leaders. But it doesn’t turn into the grumbling like they did in the wilderness where it turned into death and misery for the camp. The leaders admit that what they did was wrong but God still works and redeems. Joshua still dies a mighty man of God. The people still worship God. We’ve all made treaties with people we should not have made. This shows how much the congregation should pray for the leadership in the body that the decisions they make are the right decisions. Pray for them to always inquire of the Lord and be a people seeking after God. It is your responsibility to see that the leaders seek God. Even when a situation comes about where they didn’t make the proper decision, just continue to move on and worship God. He redeems and works good even in the midst of our sin.

Another thing to remember is you can’t even count on Scripture. Think about it for a moment and you’ll agree. You can’t count on Scripture to know God’s will. The Mormons have scripture.  They will acknowledge Jesus is a teacher. Everybody claims Scripture. Every church says they follow the Bible, don’t they?

Matthew 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.

So we’re going to church. Again, we see Jesus lifted up to the highest point of the temple. It’s similar to the Israelites after their tremendous victories over Jericho and Ai. We see Satan lifting him up to the highest point of the temple.

Matthew 4:6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’“

Satan quotes scripture to Jesus. Test and see whether the person bringing the scripture comes by the power of the Spirit, from the devil or from the man’s own mind. When you test scripture and begin to examine God’s will for your life, you can’t go on a certain scripture. Sometimes we just flip open the Bible and think it must be God’s will. Of course we pick and choose until we find a scripture we want. I am not telling you the Spirit will never lead you to do that. You could open the Bible and he could speak to you with the answer. But you have to ask, “Is this God’s will? Is this what He’s speaking?” Satan will always seek to lift us up. I know people who are almost bribed into being baptized and coming to Jesus Christ. “God has a great plan for you. You will have such a tremendous ministry.” Other “Christians” just bribe and drag them into the kingdom. They lift people up on the temple and say, “Oh how God will use you. You are so mighty and close to God.” When is the last time you heard someone say, “You will be nothing in Jesus Christ. You will be in the dust. You’ll die next week and be of no significance of all. You’ll just be saved.” You must test every scripture that is brought to you and you can only do that by the Spirit of Truth.

3. You must have fear and trembling. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it. I do not like fear and trembling when it comes to discerning God’s will. Yet I seem to live 80% of my life in that state. That’s God’s will and it’s the Word, so I can rejoice in it.

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Why did he say to work out your salvation with fear and trembling? Because it’s God who takes hold of you, his workmanship, and begins to will, act and work through your life. Test the quality of the working of the Spirit with fear and trembling. Begin to say to yourself, “Is this God’s will or not?” Start to wrestle, examine, test, and approve. But all of this requires effort, sacrifice, and a great deal of fear and trembling so you don’t get off the narrow road. How easily people say, “This is God’s will,” or “I heard this from the Lord. God spoke to me and I know this is what he’s working.” Where is the fear and trembling of asking if it’s really God’s will or not?

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

What does God do in you first? He “wills.” What does it mean for God to will in you? It means you begin to receive the Spirit and mind of Christ and then the thoughts or will of God begins to happen in you. You no longer do your will as you begin to sense the will of God. The sinful nature cannot submit to God’s will, but the Spirit can. The Spirit lives in me to will God’s will. The sinful nature doesn’t want to pray but the Holy Spirit wills that I will pray. Scripture then goes on to say, “to act according to his good purpose.” So I have God living in me willing that something be done, and then I have the Holy Spirit acting that out through me as I offer myself as a living sacrifice.

So many of you are finding God’s will to be an impossible thing to live because you won’t let him will and act through you. You might let him will but you are acting because you can control it in your timing and plan. You don’t find the courage because you don’t let him will and act. You won’t surrender so he can live through you. That’s the place of power and rest. There’s nothing more grand than saying something bold or strong or being full of faith and then standing back amazed that you did it. It’s really his power that did it. It’s him that will give us the power to say to a dead man, “Come out of the tomb,” and he will come out, or to a blind man, “Open your eyes and see.” It’s him who gives you the faith because he wills and acts. That’s the place of power and rest. Granted it takes more of an act of God for me to share my Frosted Mini-Wheats with you than it does to raise the dead. But he can work and crucify my flesh so I will surrender all things and love even you guys. He will also give you a love for me. He wills, acts, and gives us the power. You just have to surrender. All of this is done with fear and trembling for his good purpose.

Again, come to God’s will with fear and trembling. This is a time of testing and approving. Do you get a general idea that God’s will isn’t all that easy to discover at times? Yet how many guys stand up at the pulpit and claim to hear God’s will for the next 33 years. They have it all down.

Proverbs 20:5 The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.

As a man with understanding examines what is being willed, he begins to understand what God is working in his life. There are deep things that you have to dig out, examine, and draw forth in order to understand what God is working. I honestly thought that when I was first in Jesus Christ that Carla and I would be house parents in a group home for the rest of our lives. I thought that was God’s will. I was so sure about it that we set out to build a group home. Now one event after another stopped that from ever happening, and I praise God to this day. We would have been tied to a church that we are no longer in unity with. They offered to buy a house and lease it back to us so we could start a group home. However I didn’t have a peace in the Lord about it. As you might imagine, they fell out of their pews at that one. All the circumstances were there and everything was right. This was the very thing we had hoped and longed for. We had wrestled in prayer about it for over a year. It was all laid out, ready to be done. There was a committee formed. We had formed a non-profit corporation with the state of Missouri. We were ready to move forward. This was no idle goal that we were moving toward. It was truly by the grace of God that we did not take that one final last step to establish that home or we wouldn’t even be here today. You test, approve, examine, and draw out deep waters. Move with fear and trembling when it comes to God’s will.

4. There will be times when you have the mind of Christ. Not everything is quite as difficult anymore as it used to be. There are some things that are extremely difficult for me to test in the Lord, and there are other things that come quickly. There are other times when I need the discernment of everybody else. There is always fear, trembling, and humility during this process. But I don’t want you to think that it will always be on the smallest of things. If you are still wrestling over whether or not to eat a Twinkie, you have problems. When you first begin, of course you ask God what to eat. But there comes a time when you should be growing up and can move on to things that are more mature. You don’t need a prophecy from everybody about what you will eat.

1 Corinthians 2:15- The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:

You are a spiritual man or woman in God and can make judgments about every single thing. Even the things you can’t make judgments about. This is your goal:

1 Corinthians 2:16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

You should be growing and maturing in God to the point where you have the mind of Christ to begin to understand God’s will quickly and instantly. Some of you are still struggling with the baby stuff. You can’t even figure out how to get out of bed in the morning and do the most basic things in Jesus Christ. You should be moving on making judgments about all things. If need be you can see that an Ananias is lying to you, or that a man has faith to be made well. You make judgments about all things, even the things he is not permitted to judge. The mind of Christ takes over as your mind is being crucified as you offer yourself as a living sacrifice. Then God can will, think, move, and act in you for his good purpose. This should be no mystery. It should be very much a reality of knowing what we need to move toward.

  1. Forget what others do.

John 21:15-22 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who will betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

We are a lot like Peter. Jesus asks us, “Do you love me?” and we get hurt because he asks us three times. He tells us what plans he has for our lives and what he wants to work and we ask, “What about him?” We don’t rejoice in what God has told us. We are concerned about God’s will for our neighbor’s life or someone else who claims to be a Christian. It’s not to me that you answer in glory. Even if I am doing something that you are not permitted to do, it’s to Jesus Christ you have to answer. Let each of you get your eyes off somebody else and get your eyes on Jesus Christ and what he wants you to do.

Let’s pray:

Father grant us your Spirit that we might know your will. Give us surrendered hearts and lives so we can know exactly what you want us to do. Will, work, and act within us, Father. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional. The original audio tape can be ordered free of charge by contacting Sound Doctrine Ministries.


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Host of The Consider Podcast
Examining today’s wisdom, madness, and folly.