How Do We Approach God’s Will?
God’s will has been made known by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:10-13). He moved holy men to speak and write so that we might know His plans and what pleases Him (2 Pet 1:20-21). Inspired Scriptures give us that which is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). What a great blessing we have in this! God did not have to make His mind known to us. He could have simply judged and we could have no just complaint against Him. Yet He is the God of grace and love.
How do we approach God’s will? We have it before us. Christians know we ought to be following it. We understand that God desires for all to know the truth, to come to repentance, and to be saved (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9). What, then, is our attitude as we open up the Scriptures to try to understand what God has in mind for us?
We can approach the will of God from at least a couple of angles:
1. Rules. In this approach, we think of God giving us rules and we have to do them. It matters not matter how burdensome or difficult they may be. Our task is just to do them. This is technically true, but this tends to approach commands by asking, “Do I have to?” If we determined that “we have to,” then okay, we’ll trudge along and do it because, after all, we don’t want to go to hell. Let’s make sure we check off the list. If we don’t have to, then we are relieved that it’s one less thing to take up our time. There is little zeal in such an approach. Now we do understand that God has given us His expectations, but this approach can easily miss the point our relationship with God.
2. Grace. In this approach, we see God’s grace through the expression of His will. By God’s grace He has given us what pleases Him, and our response is gladly to seek to do His will and strive to please Him (2 Cor 5:9). Because of what God has done for us through Christ, we can approach God’s commands with a sense of thankfulness that God allows us to be in fellowship with Him. “Do I have to?” is, then, not the right question. Rather, our attitude is thus: “I am so thankful to be able to do this.” This produces a sense of zeal.
Why is this second way preferable? Think about the way Paul put it in two passages that connect grace with the works that we do:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10)
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)
God, by His grace, is willing to save us. What is our reaction to that? Do we think something like, “Well, I have to, so here it goes,” or more, “Thank God for His grace; Lord, I’m ready to act!”?
Isaiah gives us a good example of the type of reaction we ought to be thinking about. When he saw the vision of the glory of God, he was overwhelmed, proclaiming himself to be a man of unclean lips and living among a people of unclean lips (Isa 6). When the seraphim brought a coal from the altar and touched his lips, he was told, “your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (v. 7). Then the text tells us, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me” (v. 8). Notice Isaiah’s response to the knowledge that his sins had been forgiven. “Here I am; send me!” He was ready to go to work for the One who had forgiven him by grace.
So it should be with us. Christians have been saved by the blood of Christ. This manifests the love and grace of God. When we reflect on this marvel, what is our response? Will we ask, “Do I really have to do that?” Or will we thank God for His mercy and say, “Here I am; send me”?
As Titus 2 shows, recognizing grace, salvation, hope, glory, redemption, and purification through Christ will produce a zeal for doing what God wants. Perspective is everything.