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The Will of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 17, 2024 12:01 am

The Will of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 17, 2024 12:01 am

Is it possible to know God's will for our lives? Today, R.C. Sproul helps us understand the important distinction between the revealed will and hidden will of God.

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Meet Today's Teacher:

R.C. Sproul (1939-2017) was known for his ability to winsomely and clearly communicate deep, practical truths from God's Word. He was founder of Ligonier Ministries, first minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine.

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Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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Renewing Your Mind is a donor-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Explore all of our podcasts: https://www.ligonier.org/podcasts

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We do have this ungodly desire to know the future. We want to know the end for the beginning, and that is none of our business.

That is God's business, and it's not for us to know the end from the beginning, and that's why God is so severe in His warnings in Scripture against those who try to find out the future through illicit means. Have you ever asked that question? That was the number one question R.C. Sproul was asked during his ministry. So if you're wondering who you should marry or what job you should take, I'm glad you're with us today as Dr. Sproul explains how to approach those important questions. Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and this is the Friday edition of Renewing Your Mind. Today you're hearing the final message that we'll feature this week from Dr. Sproul's Foundation Series, his 60-message overview of systematic theology. And as it's the final day, it's also the final time to request the special edition DVD and his book, Everyone's a Theologian, when you give a gift of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. So how do we understand the will of God, and how should we make day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year decisions as we seek to be faithful followers of Christ?

Here's Dr. Sproul. Several years ago we had a radio program, a little five-minute vignette, entitled Ask R.C., in which the whole format was my answering questions that people wrote in or called in during the taping of this program. And we kept track of the questions that people asked, and the number one question that we heard more often than any other was the question, how can I know the will of God for my life? So obviously, people who are earnest in their Christian faith and who understand that God is sovereign and who want to live a life in obedience to Him want to know what it is that God wants them to do.

And when people ask me that question, I usually go into a lengthy discourse on the various meanings of the term will of God in Scripture, and they say, when you want to know what God's will is, I want to know what will are you talking about. But before I go into those things, let me turn your attention to a statement that we find in the book of Deuteronomy, the 29th chapter, verse 29. And this is a text that I think we all need to be aware of, particularly when we're struggling over this question of the will of God for our lives. It reads as follows, the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all of the words of this law. Now, where this is found in Scripture is very important.

The book of Deuteronomy is the second book of the law, as it were, and there has been now a recapitulation of the entire law that has been delivered by Moses from God to the people. And at the conclusion of this account of the giving of the law, we find this text that makes a distinction between the hidden will of God and the revealed will of God, and let's take a moment on those. The Reformers, Luther in particular, talked about the difference between what was called the Deus Absconditus and the Deus Revelatus. Now, we've already talked about this in another perspective, saying with regard to our limits of our knowledge of God that we don't have a comprehensive knowledge of God. We talked about the incomprehensibility of God, saying that God has not revealed to us everything that could possibly be known about Him or about His intentions for the world. And so that which we recall is unrevealed, the hiddenness of God is called the Deus Absconditus, that which God has run away from and is hidden from us. And yet at the same time, we are not left totally in the dark to grope after our understanding of God. It's not like God has in fact run away and is completely in hiding and has not disclosed anything to us about Himself. On the contrary, there is also what Luther referred to, again, the Deus Revelatus, that part of God which He has revealed.

Now, that's incorporated here in this text. The secret things of the Lord our God belong to Him. That refers to what we call the hidden will of God. Now, usually when we're speaking of the hidden will of God, we have in our mind the decorative will of God.

And when people say to me, what is the will of God for my life? I say, remember that the Bible uses the word will of God in several different ways. The first way in which we talk about the will of God is what we call the decorative will. And the decorative will of God is that will of God by which God sovereignly brings to pass whatsoever He wills. Sometimes it's called the absolute will of God. Sometimes it's simply called the sovereign will of God. Sometimes it's called in theology the efficacious will of God. But normally we talk about the decorative will of God. That is, when God decrees sovereignly that something should come to pass, it must needs come to pass. The Bible frequently speaks about the determinant for counsel of God, where when God has decreed from all eternity that Christ should die on the cross in Jerusalem at a particular time in history, it must needs come to pass. It comes to pass through the determinant counsel or will of God. That's what we're talking about when we're talking about the decorative will of God, that will that God brings to pass by the sheer power of His sovereignties.

It's irresistible. It has to happen. When God calls the world into existence, it comes into existence. It cannot not begin. The lights cannot not come on when He says, let there be light. That's the decorative will of God. Now, we also talk about the preceptive will of God, and we understand that the decorative will of God cannot be resisted. The preceptive will of God not only can be resisted by us, but is resisted all the time. The preceptive will of God is a reference to God's law, to His commandments. This is the will of God that you not have any other gods before Him. Now, when people call me and they say, how can I know the will of God for my life?

I want to say to them, what will are you talking about? Are you talking about the decorative will of God? Are you talking about the hidden will of God? If you're talking about the hidden will of God, the first thing you have to understand about the hidden will of God is that it's hidden. And when people say to me, you know, what does God want me to do in this sort of case, I said, how do I know? I study theology, but I can't read God's mind. All I can do is read God's Word, and what God's Word does for me is give me His revealed will. And that's enough of a task to last me my lifetime trying to sort out everything that's in this book that God has revealed.

And if you're asking me about that, I can help you with it. But if you're asking me about His hidden will, you're asking the wrong person because I have no earthly idea what is in God's mind where He has not revealed Himself. Now Calvin made his comment at this point. He says, where God closes His holy mouth, I will desist from inquiry. Say that again. Where God closes His holy mouth, I will desist from inquiry.

Now to translate that into modern nomenclature, we would say something like this. The hidden will of God is none of your business. That's why it's hidden. It's a marvelous thing, and it's a virtuous thing to want to know what God wants you to do. He may have a secret plan for your life that's absolutely none of your business, but He may at the same time lead you and direct your paths. Again, there's nothing wrong with seeking what we call the illumination of the Holy Spirit or the leading of God in our lives.

And usually that's what people are concerned about when they call me. They're not trying to deal with the fortune telling, those things that are prohibited by Scripture, but we do have this ungodly desire to know the future. We want to know the end for the beginning, and that is none of our business. That is God's business, and it's not for us to know the end from the beginning. And that's why God is so severe in His warnings in Scripture against those who try to find out the future through illicit means, Ouija boards, fortune tellers, tarot cards, and that sort of thing.

Those things are considered off limits for us as Christians. But what does the Bible say about His leading? In all our ways, if we acknowledge God, what? He will direct our paths. But it all keeps coming back in this concept of acknowledging God to a way in which we are encouraged by Scripture to learn the will of God for our life. And that is by focusing our attention not on the decorative will of God, but on the preceptive will of God. If you want to know what God's will is for your life, let me say what the Scripture does say. The Scriptures say that this is the will of God for you, even your sanctification.

But you say, I already know that. I want to know whether I'm to take this job in Cleveland or in Sandusky or in San Francisco, or if I'm supposed to marry Jane or Martha or Helen. What's God's will here for me? I say, well, God's will for you is your sanctification.

And they say, wait a minute. You sound like a broken record. I just told you I understand that. But what I want to know is whether I'm supposed to take the job in Ohio or in California, and whether I'm supposed to marry this girl, that girl, or this girl.

I said, let me tell you how you determine which of those girls you marry, if any of them, and which of those jobs you take, if any of them. What you do is you study closely the preceptive will of God. You study the law of God, and you learn the principles by which you are to live your life from day to day. Why does the psalmist say that the godly man meditates in the law day and night? Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, or standeth in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of God. His delight is here on the preceptive will of God. And on that law does he meditate day and night. And it's that person who will be like the tree planted by rivers of living water, bringing forth its fruit in its season.

But the ungodly are not like that, but are like the chaff which the wind just drives away. Now, again, if you want to know which job to take, you have to master the principles, and you may discover, for example, that the revealed will of God tells you that you're to make a sober analysis of your gifts and talents. And then you look at this job that you've been offered, and you make a sober analysis of what? Of the requirements for that job. And under God, you realize that that job's job description does not meet your gifts soberly considered.

So what do you do? What's the will of God? The will of God is that you should not take it. The will of God is that you should look for something else. The will of God is that you match your vocation, your calling with the job opportunity.

Now, that requires a lot more work than pushing a Ouija board around a table. That means applying the law of God in the details to all the various things in life. Now, what about, which woman do I marry? Well, you look at everything that Scripture says about marriage, everything that Scripture requires with respect to God's blessing on marriage, and having done all that, you may discover that you have three ladies, all of whom meet the biblical requirements. So, which one are you supposed to marry? The answer to that is easy.

Which one do you want to marry? Because as long as they are all within the approval of the precept of will of God, then you are free under God to do what you want. You have complete liberty here now to act according to whatever it is that pleases you, and so you don't need to lose any sleep about the will of God. Because if you're worried about the hidden will of God here, and you're saying, am I in the middle of God's will? Am I maintaining the hidden will of God? If you're asking about the decreed of will of God, you can't be out of the decreed of will of God.

But again, that's none of your business. And the only way you're going to know the hidden will of God for you today is to wait until tomorrow, and tomorrow will make clear to you what the hidden will of God was for you today. But you are not going to know tomorrow what the hidden will of God is for you for the day after tomorrow, because it's the hidden will of God. And again, we want to know the will of God in terms of the future when the emphasis in the Scripture is the will of God for us in terms of the present, and that has to do with His commands.

Again, let's go back to Deuteronomy 29, 29. The secret things belong to the Lord our God. Now, I don't want to be flip when I say they're none of your business, but one thing we can say with certainty, they're none of your possession. They belong to God. And that which belongs to Him in this regard does not belong to you, and it does not belong to me. That's why these things are not our business, because they are not our property.

They're His. But those things which are revealed belong to us, so that God has taken something of the secret plans and the secret desires of His mind, and He has removed the secrecy. He has taken the veil away. That's what revelation is. Revelation is a coming out of hiding, a disclosing that which once was hidden. Now God has been pleased to give this unspeakable blessing to His people to share with us, not to share with us in the sense of communicating information. We use the term sharing in that regard. If I give my testimony, I say, let me share something with you, and I then share my viewpoint, which you may or may not want to share in from the beginning.

Nobody's investing in it heavily on the stock market anyway. But in any case, when God shares His knowledge with us, that means to share in the sense of giving it away, letting somebody else participate in it and use it. And so God gives to us that which properly belongs to Him. This knowledge that is ours through revelation, again, properly belongs to God, but God says, here, it's yours.

I'm giving it to you. And that's what the author of Deuteronomy is saying here. Moses is saying that the secret things belong to God, but that which He has revealed belong to us, and not only to us, but to our seed or to our children. Now, go back in the book of Deuteronomy and see how concerned Moses is that that unspeakable, blessed possession, that property of knowledge that God has taken from His own mind and given to His people is given not only for us, but for our children, and the priority of passing that on to our children is one of the main emphases here in this book.

And again, why? That we may do all of the words of this law. You see, again, God's revealed will is given in and through the precept of will, and that this revelation is given that we may do something, that we may be obedient.

Now, let me just recall the context in which I've said this. I started off by saying I get all these telephone calls and letters from people saying to me, how can I know the will of God for my life? Why don't they call and say, how can I know the law of God? People don't call me and ask me, how can I know the law of God, because they know how they can know the law of God. They just look it up in the Bible. They can just study the law of God.

But that's not the number one question I get. In fact, nobody says that, how can I know the law of God, because it's so manifestly easy. Now, it would be a different question if somebody said, how can I do the law of God?

And there are people who are concerned about that, although not too many. But again, what most people are asking about when they say, how can I know the will of God, they're asking about a knowledge of the future, which is closed for them. And if you want to know the will of God in the sense of what God authorizes, what God is pleased with, what God will bless you for, again, it keeps coming back to the perceptive will, which is clear, and that is His law. And you say, but wait a minute, we live in the New Testament, the law is in the Old Testament. This is one of the chief values that the Old Testament law has for the New Testament Christian, is that whatever else the law applies to, and there are obviously parts of the Old Testament law that don't apply to the New Testament Christian, we understand that. But remember that in the Old Testament, the law reveals the character of God, and the law reveals to His people what is pleasing to God. And so, as a New Testament Christian, I study the Old Testament law when I'm trying to find out what pleases God.

And even though some of that legislation is not repeated in the New Testament, the unveiling of the character of God continues in the New Testament. And I have the great value of having that law, which is the what? The lamp under my feet, the light onto my path.

So again, if I'm looking for my way that I'm groping in darkness, and I want to know the will of God for my life, and I need a lamp to show me where I'm supposed to go, if I need light to show me the pathway where my feet should take, where is it? It's in the law of God. It's in the preceptive will of God. Again, the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us, to our children forever. Why that we may do all the words of this law. The will of God is that we obey every word that proceeds forth from His mouth.

That was R.C. Sproul, and you're listening to the Friday edition of Renewing Your Mind. As you heard today, theology is immensely practical, and when it comes to the will of God, without a biblical understanding of theology, it would be easy to be led astray. So I do encourage you to take your time to work through all 60 messages in this series to aid you in your Christian life. You can request foundations, both digitally and on a special edition DVD, along with its detailed study guide when you give a gift of any amount at renewingyourmind.org, when you call us at 800-435-4343 or by clicking the link in the podcast show notes. And to thank you for your generous support of Renewing Your Mind and the global outreach of Ligonier, which is now actively serving Christians in 17 of the world's top 20 languages, we'll also send you R.C. Sproul's book, Everyone's a Theologian. This is the final day of this offer, so give your gift now at renewingyourmind.org. Many hours remain. As you look around the world, as you consider the state of the church, are you encouraged? Next week, Stephen Nichols will be joining us to remind us that this is a time for confidence. So be sure to join us Monday here on Renewing Your Mind. God bless you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-17 02:29:40 / 2024-05-17 02:38:20 / 9

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