Currently listening to: “The Fisherman Song (We All Need Love)” by Mae
I really think that Mae has finally outdone their sophomore record ‘The Everglow’. No small feat. The recent EP’s entitled ‘(m)orning’ and ‘(a)fternoon’ are excellent examples of sprawling pop rock infused with all manner of savvy and sensibility. I can only assume the forthcoming ‘(e)vening’ EP will follow the same pattern.
God’s will for us – what an utterly important thing to grasp! Yesterday, I introduced the topic here. Be sure to check that out if you haven’t already.
Here’s where we left off – thinking about God’s will in practical terms:
1 Thesselonians 4:3a ESV
For this is the will of God, your sanctification.
Seriously though, when I said we often over-complicate it, I wasn’t kidding. Although there are other places where the methodology for ascertaining God’s will (contexually) is shared – such as Romans 12 – there’s nowhere else in Scripture where “God’s will” for Christians is stated more explicitly. I’m guilty of missing this, and you probably are also.
So what does this mean, that God’s will is my sanctification? What are the implications?
Well, for starters, this makes figuring out the “why” of things-over-which-I-have-no-control much easier. Whatever happens to me, I can trust that it’s been caused or allowed by God for the purpose of my sanctification. That goes for the things-over-which-I-appear-to-have-control, too. From the ‘out of my hands’ to the ‘I totally blew it’, God allows and orchestrates our lives in such a way that we who belong to him, who are called by his name, to progressively and consistently over the course of our lives becomes more and more like Jesus.
So, how does this practically affect when I need to make decisions? This is where it splits two vital ways.
First, it means that prior to deliberating about the many decisions of life, I need to make the primary decision; the decision to live life FOR my own sanctification. Indeed, continually making decisions that PURSUE it. This means that, far above and beyond the importance of any other decision I might make, I must ultimately and continually choose to be obedient to this high calling:
Philippians 2:12-13 ESV (emphasis mine)
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Wow. Ok. Let’s break this down. As believers, we are explicitly called to be obedient to a number of explicit, solid, generally unchallenged callings – things like the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. All of these callings, however, center around bringing God glory. Whether it is the glory for lives transformed by the Gospel we take to all nations, or the glory for the supernatural altruistic love we cultivate for neighbors, enemies, and most of all for God himself. This explicit command from Paul in Philippians (echoed elsewhere) is no different. God sanctifies us for His own glory – he “works in us”, enabling both our will and our work – granting us grace for daily, obedient actions and decisions.
Yet, we’re called to “work out” our salvation. We’re given a clear calling to sanctification. So very clear. Although God enables our rebellious hearts and minds, experientially we work, we strive, we struggle, we battle, we war, we “fight the good fight”.
Paul worded it like this:
Romans 6:19b ESV
For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
What does this work look like? What does obedience to this calling look like? God’s will is my sanctification – how do I obediently work that out? How do I “enslave” my cognitive faculties and my utterly mutinous body to righteousness? What choices are ultimate in my life before I even think about the daily grind decisions?
Here’s some ideas of the kinds of choices the call to sanctification necessitates:
1. Sanctification and Scripture are intricately tied into each other.
Nothing could be more explicit (there it is again – explicit!) than when Jesus prayed:
John 17:17 ESV
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
If that’s not a strong enough argument, I don’t know what will be. Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified by God’s word – namely, the Bible. Scripture. Genesis to Revelation – everything contained therein.
So, Choice #1 is this:
I choose to spend time in the Scriptures every day. God’s will is that I be sanctified, and he himself said that I would be sanctified by the truth – his word. I will be in it every day without fail – searching out all of the truth it contains. Studying it, applying it, wrestling with it, and being obedient to what it says. It’s God’s will for me.
2. Sanctification is rooted in knowing and trusting God – which is expressed in prayer.
As we just saw, the truth of what God has said in the Bible drives our sanctification. So, what has God said to us in it? Among its whole canon, one constant refrain is that we who believe are called to know God, and in knowing him, we are to entrust everything to him.
Here’s a good, simple example:
Psalm 4:5-8 ESV
Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”
You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
The Psalmist – David, in this case – contrasts those who don’t know God with those who do (namely, himself!). In this contrast, he compares his joy with theirs and concludes that his joy is far greater. He delights in the peace and the safety of trusting the LORD, and charges us to trust God also.
So, how does trusting God manifest itself in our lives? We pray:
2 Chronicles 7:13-14 ESV (emphasis mine)
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
When we have need, when we are oppressed, when circumstances surround us and are so far beyond our control, or when decisions to be made bear down on us and we have no clarity – God asks us to humble ourselves, seek his face, and repent. All of these things are propelled by trusting God, and amidst them, he bids us to pray. When we pray in this way – humbly seeking him with a repentant heart – we are acting out our trust in Jesus to be the one who meets our needs, delivers us from oppression, steers our circumstances, and clarifies our decision making. When we come before God with our petitions, we come to a living, active, powerful Saviour who is more than able to see us through whatever difficulties may face us.
It’s for this reason that the Apostle says:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Wow… again with “the will of God” being explicitly and clearly stated. God’s will is that I be sanctified, and that I never cease to pray, to rejoice, to give thanks. The more I know him, the more I trust him, the more I bring everything to him in prayer. He’s worthy!
So, Choice #2 is this:
I choose to spend time in prayer every day. God’s will is that I rejoice in who he is, trust him with thanksgiving, and pray without letting up. I will come to him with all my praise, all my needs, all my requests, and all my confessions as he sanctifies me. It’s God’s will for me.
Some of you might chuckle here – after all, I’ve just described two of the key spiritual disciplines! Let’s recap. First, God’s will is that we be sanctified by spending time diligently studying and applying the scriptures to our lives – depending on him to give us clarity and understanding as we strive to grasp his truth. Second, God’s will is that we be sanctified by spending time trusting him in prayer. Let’s commit ourselves afresh to these disciplines. They’re two of our primary callings in life as believers – two explicit manifestations of our being sanctified, and thus following God’s will for us.
God’s will is our sanctification, let’s align our wills with his on this.