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God’s View on God’s Will

November 22, 2015 Pastor: Don Green Series: Ephesians

Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Ephesians 5:17

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We come to a text this morning that reveals our high motivation as Christians and let's just go right to it in Ephesians 5:17. Ephesians 5:17 is our text for this morning and I have the sense and the expectation and the prayer that by the time that we are done here this morning, you are going to be profoundly encouraged and profoundly in awe of the greatness of God and his will for your life. Ephesians 5:17 says,

17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Now, I understand that in general terms, speaking in general conversation, a conversation about the will of God is likely to make people feel kind of uncomfortable and start to wonder, you know, "Am I in God's will in my life? What's God's will for my future?" The way that it's framed in modern-day conversations in broad Christian circles, it injects a sense of uncertainty into life and you say, "I don't know what the future holds. And I don't know what job I'm going to have. Or what person I'm going to marry. Or I don't know what God's will was for me ever," and all of that, and it is treated as if it is some kind of nebulous, abstract goal that God is hiding somewhere in a closet and you've got to search through the house and hope that you open the door and find it before you die. Well, that's not the biblical reality of it at all. When the command here says, "understand what the will of the Lord is," it's not suggesting that you have to go and find it because it's hidden, rather it's saying, "Understand what has already been made known. Understand what has been given to you. Understand what I have already been saying throughout this letter," speaking as the Apostle Paul.

The will of God simply refers to what God desires to happen, stated simply enough. And in all of the questions that we alluded to just a moment ago and perhaps in a way that some of you have thought about God's will in the past, certainly I have in the past, you and I, we tend to be small and we tend to be self-centered in the way that we think about this topic because we approach it this way, we say, "What is God's will for my life? What's in it for me? What should I do?" and the first person singular is right at the core of what we're talking about and the way that we approach it. Well, what I want to do today is for us to see it differently. I want to completely change the way that you think about God's will here in this service. I'll just be right up front with you. That's the lofty goal that we have from God's word here today. I want you to set aside the thought and the question, "What's God's will for my life?" I want you to set that aside for the next 45 or 50 minutes. There is plenty of time to come back to that later. Let's look at it differently. Let's frame the question differently and let's ask and answer this question: what is God's view of God's will? Isn't that more important than what you and I think about it? Isn't what God thinks about his will more important than anything that you and I as sinful mortal creatures could think about it would be? Isn't it more important to have a sense of what the enduring omniscient mind of God thinks and has said about his will rather than what you and I try to do in our puny efforts to ascertain it for the narrow window of our 70 years on earth?

You see, our whole thinking about God's will has been conditioned over time in a very wrong and bad direction. We've put ourselves at the center even while we're talking about God's will. That gives you an idea of how twisted and distorted the sinful heart of man is, that we could talk about God's will from a reference point of our own perspective, and I know that you've been conditioned to think that way. There is another aspect of this that we won't get into too much but I want to address and maybe some of you do this. I'm not mindful of anybody in the room that actually does this so I'm not correcting anyone consciously by name here, but there is a tendency in the Christian world, Christian teachers that have big, big followings to want to talk loosely about how, "God spoke to me and God told me what I need to do today. Rr God told me what he has for you today." That's really manipulative, isn't it? And rather than pointing you to something in the pages of Scripture, they simply describe their mental impressions and ascribe the will of God and the word of God to that. I don't know how you're supposed to measure that. In times past, you say, "Well, you know, you get this feeling in your stomach and that's the Holy Spirit speaking to you in a soft, still voice." Well, do you know what? If that was the way to do it, whenever I eat Mexican, God is going to be speaking to me through what's happening inside my stomach.

You know, and it's just foolish. It's just foolish that we would ascribe to the Almighty, eternal God his seal of approval on the subjective changing flow of what happens inside our mental processes in our creaturely, sinful minds. That's the wrong way to think about God's will. God does not speak to you that way. None of us should ever say, "God spoke to me and here's what he said," because God doesn't speak to us like that. Where God has spoken once and for all is in his Scriptures, in the word of God, in the 66 books contained within the covers of our Bibles.

So what is God's view on God's will? That's what we want to get to. We want to get away from a self-centered perspective that just ties it up and is only focused on me and what it means for me over the course of my life or tomorrow or whatever. We want to get away from these subjective, ascribing to our subjective mental processes the mind of God as if we needed to once God has spoken to me, well now there's a book 67 at the end of the Bible and let me write down what God said to me because it's like that. It's all foolishness and none of you should ever be drawn into that mindset to practice it or to be drawn into it to be influenced by it by teachers who assert themselves that way.

Now that we've swept the floor off and the floor is clean, let's move forward here. What is God's view on God's will? If we truly understand God's view on God's will, we will better see how it applies to us. We will better understand but, beloved, the idea is for you to see that what it means in your life is secondary. It is a residual effect of the greater will of God, the greater way that he has expressed it for us to know and that's what we are to understand in obedience to this command in Ephesians 5:17. And what we're going to find, what you're going to see as we go through this time together this morning, is that through the whole book of Ephesians, Paul has been speaking about the will of God already. When you come to this verse in chapter 5, verse 17, it says "understand what the will of the Lord is," if you only saw that, if you only looked at that as one verse in isolation, you'd say, "Well, this doesn't tell me anything. It commands me to do something and then how do I know what that will is?" Well, we're going to answer that question with a very simple interpretive principle that you can readily affirm and see that it must be true. Paul here when he speaks in Ephesians 5:17, "understand what the will of the Lord is," it must be important, it must inform our understanding of what he means in this verse by, watch this, what he has said elsewhere in the book of Ephesians about the will of God. If he has been saying things about the will of God throughout the book of Ephesians, then certainly that is informing what he says at this point in the book of Ephesians. Basic biblical interpretation 101. You don't need a theology degree to understand that that makes perfect sense, that what a man has said in the context about a particular topic would inform the way we understand a specific statement that he has made about that topic later on in something that he has written.

Here we go: Paul in the book of Ephesians has given us five principles about God's will for us to understand. He addresses this theme more often than you might think and what we want to do is we want to say, "What's God's view on God's will?" by looking at what God said through his appointed servant, the Apostle Paul? That puts us on rock solid foundation to know that we're understanding the will of God rather than speculating about decisions that we should or should not make or speculating about the subjective impressions that I have or that you have or that somebody else out there has. Let's just go to God's word on the assumption, on the sure foundational assurance and conviction that God has spoken clearly in his word and let's go from that and see where that conviction leads us, and where it's going to lead you is a place where you can readily obey Paul's command.

Understand the will of the Lord. What can we say about God's will? I love this. I'm so excited to share this with you. Point 1: God revealed his will in Scripture. God revealed his will in Scripture. God's will is not found by intuition. It is not found by subjective mental processes. It is not found by slavishly praying over every little decision that you might ever make, "Oh God, what's your will for my parking space here on Black Friday? Please direct me to your will, O God." It's trivial, isn't it? It's not found by chanting words in prayer in contemplative prayer or anything like that. No, let's just sweep all of that aside. If you could picture a table that was full of stuff, I'd like to just take that table and just shove it all off to the side, clear off the table and serve you a clean nutritious meal from God's word. That's what we're going to do today.

God has revealed his will in Scripture. In fact, it frames, that thought frames the entire book of Ephesians. Look at Ephesians 1:1 as we go to God's word now and we'll have to cover all of these things rather quickly. This is a summary view that we are giving here today. Ephesians 1:1, "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God." Right there you see a framing statement about the will of God. It tells us, first of all, that Paul was an apostle which means that he was the appointed representatives of Jesus Christ to speak on his behalf after the Lord ascended into heaven. Jesus Christ, by an exercise of his will, appointed the Apostle Paul to be his apostle, to speak with authority on his behalf so that when Paul speaks and what we have recorded in Scripture, we find what the Lord himself is saying to us.

God's will is the starting point of Ephesians. He appointed Paul to be a vessel of revelation to the church. It was God's will for Paul to speak God's revelation to the people of God and for that to be recorded for us to study today. That was God's will. He has made it known in the Bible and we have it by the preservation process over the centuries. We now have God's word for us sitting on your lap. God's word is revealed to us in Scripture and you must understand that as Paul wrote the book of Ephesians, he was writing with God appointed authority. What God desired to happen was for Paul to be an apostle of Christ and as an apostle of Christ, what God wanted Paul to do was to write his word down on paper, on papyrus, so that it would be recorded for the people of God to have in front of them as an objective basis until Christ returned. That was God's will. God has revealed it in Scripture.

Beloved, what God's will for you is, what God's will in general is, has been made known in the 66 books of the Bible as we have them now in English. You find what God wants right here. No mystery. You don't have to rely on the intuition of somebody else. You don't have to take, this is so liberating, you do not have to take some fancy teacher up on a platform in a big arena saying, "God spoke to me," you don't have to take their word for it, in fact, you shouldn't. God in his grace to all of the church, has made his will known and you and I can read it together; we can read it alone; we can find what God's will is by opening a Bible and reading it. It's incredible. God didn't hold it back from you and then just give it to a man or woman with a fancy hairdo who could afford a good dentist. I've said that in the past. No, what God willed is revealed right here in Scripture.

Look at 1 Corinthians 14. I want you to see this verse, 1 Corinthians 14:37-38. What is God's will? Well, the Apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians and he said in 1 Corinthians 14:37, he said, "If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized." Paul says, "In my apostolic writings, I am expressing to you the Lord's commandment. I am expressing God's will authoritatively. Why? Because God appointed me as an apostle. Christ appointed me as his representative and because of that appointment, I speak with the authority of God." And we have what God said through the Apostle Paul recorded for us in his word.

So this teaches us to go to the Bible primarily, first of all, as our source for what God's will is. Martyn Lloyd Jones, a great Welsh pastor said this and I quote, he said, "The will of the Lord does not mean that you seek a special guidance about everything that you do and say." There are people who interpret it like that and they never move without praying and waiting for some immediate guidance, but you don't need to do that. Continuing the quote, he said, "Read your Bible instead. Read the 10 Commandments. Read the beatitudes. Read the Sermon on the Mount. That is the will of the Lord. To know the will of the Lord, you have to read your Bible."

So, let's apply this rather than thinking about what might or might not happen in your future over the coming days, let's think more practically. Let's think more immediately. Let's think about something that is actually objective to measure, that matters now as opposed to about some speculative future. Let me ask you this question: are you truly interested in God's will? The reality of the answer for you, beloved, you can only answer this for yourself. I can't answer if for you, but this searches out your heart like nothing else will. You say you want to know God's will, good for you. That's good, but understand that it's not what you say that really tells the truth about that answer. What you do, every one of you, what you do with the Bible reveals the real answer about your desire for the will of God. God has spoken in his word and a person who can easily let the Bible sit on his shelf week after week and never crack it open is somebody who is not interested in God's will. Whatever else you say about them, let's not talk about wanting to know God's will if this book isn't open and your nose in it on a consistent basis. Let's not talk that way. God has revealed his will in the Scriptures, that's where it's made known.

Likewise, on the counter side of that, beloved, if you hunger after God's word, if you read God's word, you study God's word, you want to hear it preached, you want to read it, you want to know it, you're growing in the knowledge and understanding of Scripture, well listen, you're growing in the knowledge of God's will. Your attitude of seeking after God's book shows forth the fact that you're truly interested in God's will even if you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. What happens tomorrow is not nearly as important as your attitude toward God's word because that's where God has made his will known. What you do with the Bible reveals what you really want about God's will.

So that's the first point: God has revealed his will in the Scriptures. Secondly, what else can we say about God's will? Secondly: God revealed his will in salvation. God revealed his will in salvation. He expresses his will in his work of salvation in the elect. That is central to the will of God is the fact that he has a people that he is saving for his own purpose. Look at Ephesians 1, let's start at verse 3. Ephesians 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself." And why did he do all of that? Why is he blessed? Why did he choose us? Why are we to be holy and blameless before him? Why did he adopt us into his family? Why? Because, look at verse five, because it was "according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace."

When you ask what the will of God is, beloved, again, I'm just going to repeat myself over and over again, don't start with a speculation about your uncertain future and treating the will of God as if it were some psychic's crystal ball that you were looking into trying to get an idea of what the future holds. Don't do that. Don't denigrate God's will that way. Step back and look at it from his perspective. Step back and look at it through what he has said in his word. He has expressed it in Scripture and he says in that selfsame Scripture that the will of God is expressed in the salvation of his people. God wanted, God desired, God willed to save a people for himself in Christ. That was his will and that is what he has been carrying out across the ages and for the ages yet to come. This is where we find God's will, it is in his saving work, his saving purpose amongst a people being called out of the world and he saves them and causes them to be born again so that they serve him and follow him and they belong to him; they belong to Christ and become instruments of returning praise and glory to his name. That's God's will. It's stated right there in Scripture. You can read it for yourself. Do you know what? There wasn't any audible voice that told me that. You don't need me to say, "God spoke to me." That's not it. You can read God's will for yourself right here in Scripture and it is right there to be found. So God wills to save a people to be holy and to belong to him now and forever and it was his will for that to take place before the foundation of the world. His will is this majestic force energized and informed by his love and his holiness and his omniscience and his omnipotence and he is moving forward with power to complete his will which he determined before the foundation of time that he would save a people to belong to him. That's God's will.

Now, we saw this in Titus a few years ago. Turn over to Titus 2, a few pages to the right in your Bible, just after 1 & 2 Timothy. Titus 2:14. Why did Christ save us? Why did he appear? And keeping in line with the theme of what we started earlier this morning as we talked about God being a giving God, Titus 2:13, "our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." What did he do? Verse 14, he "gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed." That was his purpose, that was his will. He gave himself on the cross of Calvary to redeem us. To save us. To deliver us from sin and Satan and our own darkness. That was his will. To redeem us and, verse 14, "to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good works." What was God's will? What is God's will? God's will is being played out in the advance of the true church. Being played out as men and women under the influence of the Holy Spirit are brought to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ so that they would be set apart; so that they would be sanctified; so that they would live a holy and blameless life to the glory of the one who saved them.

That's the will of God and look, that is so far more transcendent, so much greater than asking a question, "What job does God want me to have? What does God want me to do? Where does he want me to move or live?" It's not that those questions are illegitimate, what's illegitimate is to define the will of God in terms of how it affects your present-day circumstances as if that were the only consideration in play. That's the problem. It's the whole way we think. You and I need to completely overturn the way that we have been conditioned to think about the will of God and think about it from his perspective. We're just momentary bit players on the stage and our act will be over and there will be others coming up behind us. We're going to come and go. Well then, apparently what matters then is the eternal will of God and what he thinks about what matters, what he wants, what he is doing. That's what we care about.

So our starting point on God's will is to begin with his view on it. Now, that has a very practical implication for you. This is all intensely practical as well as being intensely theological. While you wrestle through questions about what comes next in your life, you know, we all work through those, "What am I going to do? Where am I going to live? Who am I going to marry? What is going to happen tomorrow? What should I do?" All legitimate questions. I'm not dismissing those as I say that but, beloved, what you have to do is you have to hold them in the right perspective. You have to assign them the proper place and to realize that all of those questions that tend to preoccupy us as we consider God's will understand, beloved, they are utterly secondary. They are secondary to the greater purpose of God. When you ask the question, "What is God's will for my life?" as a Christian, you should understand that redemption is at the center of God's will for your life. That personal holiness and blamelessness was the reason that he saved you and that is to be the aspiration of your heart that you shape after the will of God.

You don't even have control over your circumstances anyway. Things come and go. People live and die and you can't build your approach to God's will around any of that shifting sand. What you can do is understand that God set you apart in Christ for salvation from the beginning of time and that the reason that he did that was so that you would live a life of holiness and blamelessness that would reflect back on his glory and that is central. Your character, your heart affections, your priorities are shaped by that and God's will for you is for your heart to be conformed to his saving purposes far more than you would do with your career because, think about it, it has to be that way.

Think about it. Think about it. Suppose that there is somebody who is a professing Christian and all he talks about is wanting God's will for his life. We start out and say, "Oh, that's great, man. That man's on fire for the Lord. Praise God, let's make him a church officer." Whatever. We don't do that here. But say that it's like that and he's talking about God's will, "I'm pursuing God's will so that I can be," whatever, whatever his career choice is. But in the midst of that, in the midst of that, the man is a hot tempered man; he is driven by lust; he is a flirtatious man and borders on adultery as he's married; doesn't manage his household well; known to drink and curse, but he talks about wanting God's will. And let's say a door opens up and his career choice manifests itself and he gets what he had been talking about. "Now God's will has been manifested and I got what I wanted." Knowing what you know about Scripture, knowing what you know about the holy and blameless purposes of God that are at the center of redemption, would any one of us under the influence of God's word in this room or over the live stream, would any one of us say that that man was in the heart of God's will? You'd never say that now, would you? You'd say, "He's not in God's will at all. He's a sinful, carnal man who is a disgrace to the cause of Christ and an embarrassment to his family. His very character is a denial of what he says he believes."

Well, that little bifurcation, opening it up like that, helps you see what the priority of God's will is. The priority of God's will in your life is your holy character; that you would be sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The other things are incidental by comparison. You know, as we look back over church history and we see the young men whose lives flamed for the glory of Christ for a short time but their lives were cut short as a martyr or through whatever, we don't see a failure of God's will because they didn't live 70 years and have a prosperous career. We see the will of God on perfect displayed by the fact that they loved Christ, that they were devoted to his word, and they gave themselves to his glory for the time that God gave them here on earth.

Now, this is what Scripture says. Redemption and holiness are at the center of God's will for your life and his plan far transcends you and me. Keep that central. Keep central the fact that God's will is expressed in this great eternal plan for the church that he is carrying out through time. The salvation of men from every nation and tongue. Relentlessly marching forward according to the plan of God though sometimes it's hidden from our eyes. That God is driving all of this to accomplish a great eternal purpose, to give a bride to his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And that God's will is operating at that great high transcendent level. Start your thinking there about God's will and let that humble you and realize that, "What God's will is is bigger than my life. God's will will be great after I'm gone. God's will was great before I was born." And we view ourselves humbled under the greatness of his will because he has revealed it in Scripture and he has revealed it in salvation.

Yet, as we go on, I just feel myself shrinking and becoming smaller and smaller in light of these themes that we are looking at here today. This humbles the preacher as much as anyone else. God's will is greater than individual salvation even. Point 3: God's will rules over all. God's will rules over all. Understand that God's will is more than just a matter of what's happening right now. Look at Ephesians 1:9 and you can see how Paul has made the will of God central to this whole opening chapter. As he has laid the foundation for everything that is to come, the foundation that he has poured has been an understanding of God's will and then everything that's built in chapters 2 through 6, builds on that foundation. What a travesty that human will gets injected into this chapter. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ephesians 1:9, "God made known to us the mystery of His will," meaning that it was something that was hidden before but now has been made manifest. Not that it's something mysterious that can't be understood through an appeal to the human mind. He made known and you know that because he made it known to us. He made known to us the mystery of his will, "according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance," watch this, "having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of," what? "His will." This passage which we are only going to touch on, we studied it in the past. You can go to our website and study it in greater detail. This is just a little summary look. Everything, watch this, everything anywhere at any time is under the direction of the providential hand of God to accomplish his purposes. How great is the will of God? He is at work as the defining force in world history. The rise and fall of nations, the rise and fall of men, the rise and fall of human life and everything that they do down to the numbers of hairs on their head, down to when a sparrow falls to the ground, none of that happens apart from the will and the hand of God our Father, our Lord Jesus said in Matthew. God's will is triumphantly powerful over all. He is at work in everything that happens guiding it to accomplish exactly what he wants, even overruling the sin of men to fulfill his purposes. Theologians often call this aspect of God's will his secret will, that which has not been revealed. The idea that by his hidden decree God determines everything that happens in the universe. He works all things after the counsel of his will. That's what it says.

So Scripture presents before us this unimaginably great God who in his unimaginably great mind of omniscience has determined beforehand what he wants to happen as the world unfolds and in his unimaginably great power, everything that happens under the scope of his creation is under his guiding eye, the influence of his providential hand, so that he will most certainly work out every action of man or beast, obedient or disobedient to his will, he will work all of that together to accomplish exactly what he wants. Everything that is unfolding before our eyes somehow God is working out his will through that. You say, "What about the sin of men?" Well, Scripture says that sinful men nailed the Lord Jesus Christ to the cross. They were guilty for that act and yet Scripture says in Acts 2 that they were doing what the hand of God had previously determined would happen. I can't explain how he does that. Scripture declares that he does. Scripture says that he rules over all. God's will is so comprehensive that it is at work in everything that happens. God's will is so profound that he has the ability even to turn the sin and rebellion of man to accomplish his eternal purpose. That's God's will.

You want to just kind of take off your shoes and bow low, don't you, in response to this. In response to this great display of the greatness of the sovereignty of God, you want to bow low because it's so humbling. It's humiliating for us to be put into our place by the word of God. And I say put in our place, not in a dismissive derogatory sense, but just to realize the essence of an uncreated sovereign God is so far beyond my sinful creaturely existence that what am I to think about that? Thank God that he sent a Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, to bridge the gap between us and him. So God's will is vaster and greater than anything that we could imagine. That's God's view on God's will as it comes to us.

Now, for those of you that are struggling with life decisions, maybe say a little bit more of this at the end. What I want you to see is this: it's not that God's indifferent to the course of your life, God is at work in every detail of your life because he's at work in every detail of the universe. But what this does is as you're facing those uncertain times and that uncertain future, what this does for you is it takes all the pressure off. You can throw yourself back on the will of a sovereign God; you can throw yourself back on the greatness of his purpose; you can throw yourself back on his seeing, omniscient, providential hand and say, "Do you know what? God is going to take care of this. God has me in his hand. I belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have trusted that Mediator. I have trusted his shed blood to reconcile me to a holy God. I'm under his hand now and he works all things according to the purpose of his will." Therefore you can rest. The weight has just been taken off your shoulders. "Ah, this is wonderful to rest and abide under the hand of a sovereign God who knows all things. This is the greatest thing in the world."

Scripture welcomes you to rest in that. To rest in the wonder of a great will of God being worked out by his sovereign power. To rest in that when death strikes unexpectedly. To rest in that when the boss says, "You're fired." To rest in that when your finances collapse. To rest in that as a single person longing for a life mate and not having the opportunity for that to take place. To rest in that when you find yourself in a marriage situation that was not at all what you expected on your wedding day and instead of joy it has brought sorrow and conflict and hardship. To rest in that. You see, when you understand what the will of God is, you understand why this is such an urgent command from the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:17, you rest in that because it changes everything and allows you to trust and rest in Christ.

But there is something for you to do, it's just not what we typically think of when we think about God's will. Let's go to point 4: God addresses his will to your mind. God addresses his will to your mind. Go back to Ephesians 5:17 now in light of everything that we've said so far. By the time that you get to this text, Ephesians 5:17, Paul has already given you an expansive view of God's will that totally redefines and reorients the way that you relate to it. Now it's not about God fitting himself into your circumstances, it's about you fitting yourself into the will of God which far transcends you before time and after time ends. This totally redefines the whole reason we exist. By the time you get to Ephesians 5:17 you say, "Well, how should you then respond?" Well, let's start back at chapter 5, verse 15, just to give a little context. Paul says, "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil." Okay, God has this great salvation. He calls us to a great walk therefore as we saw last time, we want to be careful how we respond to that. We want to be wise in the fact that God has appointed a life for us at this time in history; that God has appointed salvation for us and brought us to Christ. We want to be wise in our response to that. We want to make the most of the time that we have because we live in an evil environment that arrays itself against God.

So with all of that in mind, now in verse 17 Paul says, "So then," let me draw out an implication for you, "do not be foolish," foolish being a word that means don't be ignorant. Don't be senseless. Don't go on in life unaffected by everything that's been said about the will of God here. If the true reality of the existence of the universe and the existence of your life is defined by the will of God, then don't be so foolish as to ignore that and neglect it as you go through your daily life. That would be ridiculously unwise. That would be so foolish. Rather than disregarding God's will and acting as if you were your own master or simply trying to force the greatness of God's will into a single narrow lane of how it applies to your circumstances, don't be foolish like that anymore, beloved. Think great things. Think great thoughts about the will of God, not because he's going to do great things with you and you can be whoever you want to be. That's not what we're saying. That's not the point. Surrender yourself. Submit yourself. Embrace the greater reality of God's will and live your life accordingly. Rather than disregarding God's will or distorting it, Scripture calls you to understand it. It's addressed to your mind, to your mental faculty, for you to rationally contemplate and draw conclusions from. To understand what God has said in Scripture. To gain insight into it and to ask this question, "Okay, now we're at a point where we say, okay, what does this mean for me going forward?" But you ask that question now because you framed it properly to begin with rather than starting at the secondary point. Always start with the primary point before you get to application.

What can we understand about God's will? Oh, this is cool. The reality of God's sovereign will places on you a moral responsibility to work it out in your daily life. God's sovereign will, the reality of his control over everything that happens for you to belong to Christ and to be accountable to him, means that you have a responsibility to live this out. What does that look like? What does God's will look like for a person who is seeing God's view on God's will? Well, beloved, you're not going to find in here the answer to the question of whether you should be in Toledo tomorrow or not. There is something far more significant than how this affects what you do tomorrow. Paul throughout this letter, remember this, Paul has been expounding the will of God from the very start. He is writing this letter as an expression of the will of God to his people, to you and me as Christians.

And what does he say, then? Watch this, follow the way this works out: God's will is great. God's will is manifested through the Apostle Paul in this instance. Paul has been writing and defining God's will and what has he been talking about in that great context as he is advancing God's will as God appointed representative? Be unified in the church. Live a pure life. Be imitators of God. Love as God loved you. Don't be unwise but wise. That's what he's been talking about. As he pivots, as he's about to pivot after this statement, do you know what he goes on and talks about in really broad terms? He goes on and he talks about life in the church, life in the Spirit, verses 18 through 21. As he's talking about God's will and instructing you on how you are to respond to it, those of you who want God's will, look at life in the church. Look at life in your family. Husband to wife and vice versa. Children to parents, parents to children. Slaves to masters, masters to slaves. There is something really profound wrapped up in that. Paul didn't stop talking about God's will when he finished verse 17 and then move on to an unrelated point. No, everything that he says in those passages that we know so well in the rest of Ephesians 5 and Ephesians 6, are an expression of God's will for your life. It is a defining detail. He's working out in detail what God's will means for your life. Wives, submit to your husbands. Husbands, love your wives. Children, obey your parents. Parents, don't exasperate, don't provoke your children to anger. Slaves, be submissive to your masters. Masters, do good to them.

Do you know what that means? We're all naturally curious about what's going to happen next. We like to baptize our curiosity with an expression of interest in God's will, but as I'm standing here thinking, let me put it this way: rather than thinking about God's will as something remote about what's going to happen down the line, understand that God's will is right in front of you today right now in your present existing relationships and responsibilities. God's will isn't found by contemplating, "What am I going to do next? How can I get out of this job into the next job and what's God's will for that?" and looking at it that way. No, that's not the point. God's will for you is to be humble and to be sanctified in your present family relationships, in your present friendships, in your present marriage, in your present family situation, in your present job. It's right there in front of you.

It applies right today and, beloved, watch this, I understand that that sounds a lot less dramatic than, "Hey, God is sending me to Africa." I understand that that sounds a lot less dramatic than, "I'm making a big move in pursuit of the will of God." But do you see, tender, humble believer in Christ, do you see that your responsibility is to let God define his will for you according to his terms and what he wants? And that his will isn't expressed in unattainable future things that may or may not happen and you're just kind of in a holding pattern until you get around to the thing that's really God's will for your life. No, that's not it. God's will for your life, look to the person sitting right next to you, look to the person that you go home to, there is the realm of God's will for you. He wants you to be sanctified right there in your present life and while that's not dramatic, while that's humble and hidden and private and no one is going to congratulate you for it, do you know what? As a true Christian you don't care about that at all. You don't care what men see. You don't care what kind of applause or direction you get from men about this. What you care about is the fact that you would be living out your life to an audience of one and that audience of one has made his will plain for you in Scripture and his will is expressed to you in Scripture in the common ordinary duties and relationships of life and that you would live out that with humility.

I say this in love, beloved, I really do and I say this not to scold anyone but just to lay a principle out there for you to take and think through in your life as you contemplate whether you really care about God's will or not: your desire for God's will in future circumstances rings hollow if it is not accompanied by an equal desire to obey his word today in the mundane relationships and responsibilities that now constitute your present life. Your present life today is the life that God has given to you. Your present life today is God's will for you. How you respond to life today is what he desires to happen and what he defines that is not so much in bringing new activities for you to do, but for you to relearn principles of godliness and integrate them into your life as they exist right now.

As you do that, I've got great news for you. As you do that, do you know what's going to happen as you respond to God's will faithfully in the little things day by day? God's big picture will for you unfold over time in his timing so you can relax. You don't have to be uptight, "Am I missing God's will?" You're not missing God's will if you are applying it to what's right in front of you today and being obedient in those unseen hidden areas. But sanctify your desires, watch this, beloved, it sanctifies your desires when it is private, when it is hidden, when it is in the course of your family and just day to day ways that you interact, for example, and no one is watching. It conditions you to love God's will for the simple sake of it being God's will rather than whether men applaud you for it. All of a sudden you don't need a public platform to put on display or to be doing something dramatic that people see and applaud, "Oh, he's doing God's will." You don't need that anymore because you've been conditioned by daily life to simply be satisfied to live it out in the presence of your Father without sounding of trumpets for your giving, without calling attention to the way that you pray on social media. All of those things go away and you're left with a purified, simplify desire to honor God with his will right where you're at.

Now, final point. I promised you five. We said that God has revealed his will in Scripture; God revealed his will in salvation; God's will rules over all, that's point 3; God addresses his will to your mind for you to understand rather than subjective impulses. Finally, point 5: God addresses his will to your heart. To your heart. To the fullness of your inner man. To the total engagement of your whole personality. The defining force in your affection and priorities would be yielded to and aspire after the implementation of the will of God in your life and the further advance of it in history and time. With such a great God and a great salvation given to us, we respond with joy.

Ephesians 6:5-6. This comes in the context of the workplace, but it shows us an insight into God's will that is important for us and that we'll close with. "Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart." Right there in that verse, although it's in the context of the workplace, you see how God calls us to operate; to respond to his will not by getting the approval and applause of men, but rather as those who are doing it as unto the Lord. And God requires this wholehearted response, doing the will of God from the heart with all of your heart, soul, strength and mind, given over to a joyful obedience in the life that God has given to you. For some of you, you're on the tail end of time on that. For some of you, you're right on the front end and that's a pretty exciting place to be. But wherever you're at on that, understand that you are to give yourself to understand God's will. You are to give your heart to embrace it with your highest allegiance, with your highest affections, and that is something that goes so far beyond, "What does God want me to do with my career?" This is about you. This is about the soul. This is about the whole man responding to the whole God as he has revealed himself in Scripture.

That is God's view on God's will and we give it a great response. Paul said in 1 Corinthians, "Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God." Revealed precepts, obeyed from the heart, done to the glory of God. That's God's will and, beloved, if you give yourself over to that, God's will in your circumstances will take care of themselves over time. Trust him. Rest in him. And rejoice.

Let's bow together in prayer.

Our Lord, in Gethsemane you prayed, "Father, not my will but thine be done." When you taught us in prayer prior to that in your earthly career, you taught us to pray, "Your will be done, our Father, as it is in heaven." As it is done unquestionably around the throne, so also may it be expressed that way here on earth. Father, help us to love you for your greatness. To love you for your mercy and to respond to the will of God from our hearts, thus giving forth the one complete soul response of which you are worthy. Help us to do that. And for those, Father, who are here who are indeed in the midst of a legitimate questioning, "What does my life go to from here?" Father, would you meet them with your providential assistance as they respond in obedience to what you have revealed in your word? Give them the comfort, the assurance, the blessing of the certainty of your ultimate direction, that their situation is not lost on your omniscient eye. And, Father, be faithful to carry out your leading for all of us as we look to you and seek to obey your will and understand it. We pray in the name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.

 

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