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Knowing God’s Will: Part Three

In the Nick of Time

Kevin T. Bauder

John Buck is a manager for a national corporation where he has been advancing through the ranks. One day his boss stops by to offer John a new position as manager of a plant in a distant part of the country. The job comes with a pay increase of $15,000 per year. John has one week to give his boss an answer.

Both John and his wife, Anne, believe that he is ready to take on the responsibility. If he rejects the promotion he might not be given another chance. They are concerned, however, about their three teenage children, all of whom would be pulled out of their schools in the middle of the year. Their concerns increase when, after investigating the city where they would be living, they cannot find a rightly-ordered New Testament church with a pastor who actually preaches the Bible.

Their present church is small, but its members are committed to the Lord and its pastor expounds the Scriptures accurately, applies them well, and is deeply interested in the congregation’s lives. John has served this church as a deacon for ten years. Anne is the church’s only accompanist. Many of the other members are retirees. They support the church, but the Bucks’ giving makes a significant difference.

John and Anne believe that God has a specific direction for them in this choice. They genuinely want to follow the Lord’s leading. They are already trying to obey as much of the Bible’s teaching as they understand. What considerations will help them to determine how God might direct in their present circumstances?

One question they might ask is this: “What are my duties?” Every duty is an obligation, a responsibility that people owe to themselves or others. All people have duties. They owe responsibilities to God, nation, family, church, and calling. Some duties are intrinsic and inescapable. Others are freely assumed but binding once accepted. For example, vows are not normally obligatory, but once sworn become compulsory (Num. 30).

READ
In Praise of Ordinary Men, Part Five: David Nettleton

What duties do the Bucks owe? How should those duties affect John’s choice about the new job?

Clearly John and Anne owe a duty to their three teenage children. As parents they are responsible to rear their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). While the text of Scripture does not specify every method by which that is done, John and Anne can easily foresee the disruption that will follow if they pull their children away from their school and established home in the middle of the school year.

Furthermore, the responsibility to make disciples does not belong to parents alone (Mt. 28:19-20). Making disciples is the business of local churches, and without a good church discipleship almost always suffers. If John and Anne cannot find (or plant) a good church, then they and their children will lose an important center of spiritual nourishment, encouragement, warning, instruction, shared labor, and corporate worship. This deficiency will certainly affect the entire family.

The Bucks also owe something to their present congregation. Joining a church is not like joining a club. One becomes a member of a New Testament church by covenant. A covenant is an oath or vow that the members swear to one another. It affirms their intention together to be a church and defines what their relationship as members will look like. While a church covenant is not a lifelong obligation, it is not a casual obligation and it should not be easily abandoned. If John and Anne move away, they will leave a void that cannot be easily filled.

On the other hand, John does not have a duty to make more money or to advance in the company. Of course, he does owe some level of loyalty and cooperation to his employers. Unless he is bound in some way (such as a contract), this obligation is lesser and more relative than the others. Sometimes, however, a duty to an employer may become completely inflexible, such as when the National Guard deploys its soldiers. Those circumstances eliminate the dilemma because they eliminate the choice. As the quip goes, “No choice, no problem.”

READ
Church or Seminary?

Sometimes circumstances simply do away with all choices. When that happens, believers can be sure that God is providentially directing their lives, even if the circumstances are terrible. Now they are no longer seeking God’s direction, but seeking ways to glorify Him under the circumstances into which He has directed them. They must do the best they can with a bad situation for as long as they have to, but when they are once again free to choose for themselves they should make the choice that enables them to fulfill the greatest number of duties in the best way possible.

Occasionally the difficult circumstances may be the result of previous bad choices. For example, a seminarian who goes into debt will be less free to follow the Lord’s leading into a small pastorate or onto the mission field. Borrowers are enslaved to lenders (Prov. 22:7). A person who owes money will be working for the creditor until the debt is paid. God’s will for an indebted person is to repay all that is owed as quickly as possible. Until that step has been taken, debtors lack freedom to choose. Their duty is to pay what they owe.

Any effort to discern God’s leading for particular choices should begin with the question, “What are my duties?” God does not lead His people to neglect their duties, and duties are manifold. Christians cannot rightly plead God’s will as an excuse to escape from the obligations that they owe.

Everyone has duties. Finding God’s direction must begin by acknowledging those duties and seeking to fulfill them. Christians who develop a keen sense of duty and a determination to fulfill all duties often find that many seemingly-difficult choices are simply eliminated. Discovering God’s leading will become a much simpler process.

READ
Matt Recker and The Gospel Coalition, Part 9: Summary

divider

This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.

divider

On Christ Salvation Rests Secure
Samuel Medley (1738–1799)

On Christ salvation rests secure;
the Rock of Ages must endure;
nor can that faith be overthrown
which rests upon the “Living Stone.”

No other hope shall intervene;
to Him we look, on Him we lean;
other foundations we disown
and build on Christ the “Living Stone.”

In Him, it is ordained to raise
a temple to Jehovah’s praise
composed of all the saints, who own
no Savior but the “Living Stone.”

View the vast building, see it rise;
the work how great! the plan how wise!
O wondrous fabric, pow’r unknown
that rests it on the “Living Stone.”

But most adore His precious name;
His glory and His grace proclaim;
for us, condemned, despised, undone,
He gave Himself, the “Living Stone.”

Kevin T. Bauder

About Kevin Bauder

Kevin T. Bauder is Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that this post expresses.

14 Responses to Knowing God’s Will: Part Three

  1. Alternatively, they could simply ask God…. (as opposed to relying on human reasoning as described above…).

  2. You could, but you shouldn’t. To ask God for answers He has already given you is to confess that you weren’t paying attention. You never have to ask God whether it is His will to neglect a duty. You should already know the answer, and you should be able to discern what your duties are. If you have to ask, you should expect a head-slap.

    By the way, (and I’m assuming you’re human and not some spasm in the software) what other kind of reason is available to you except “human reason?” Isn’t biblical discernment pretty much the process of using your God-given reason to apply the principles of His Word? What reason will you deploy? Bovine reason? Porcine? Asinine?

  3. Kevin

    Thanks for the follow-up… but… “a software spasm”???? :-)

    Say – how about that “being led by the Spirit” thing…:-)

    The fact is – YOU decided the nature of the duties purely based on your humanistic reasoning. Someone else could review that list of circumstances and utilize a completely different set of factors – all God-honoring – and come up with a different solution.

    Admittedly, I am not sure why you are resistant to asking God for direction though… Seems a rather Biblical approach to life…perhaps even a command??

    Best,

    Greg

  4. Say, isn’t this the same Greg Logan who just a couple days ago on a comment of one of my posts used a euphemized version of the name of Jesus as a curse?

  5. Ryan

    Straining at a gnat – you have swallowed a camel.

    The long form is – “Jesus Christ, have mercy on us!!”

    It is a prayer – one that I find necessary when people make comments like the one directly preceding this one!

    There is a reason the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is defamed by religious people…as demonstrated in the post preceding this one.

  6. It is extremely uncommon for pious men to take up such a name for Christ while praying. It is likewise concerning to hear you actually defend your flippancy with the name of the Savior.

    Straining at a gnat? There is place in Scripture of which it says of such irreverence, “The Lord will not hold him guiltless.”

  7. Ryan

    Geez….

    Because you are confused about the original meaning of utterance – and incorrectly taught – that you say these things.

    Instead of having an opening to those who utter the name of Jesus Christ – you look upon them with disdain – and cut the opportunity to minister that name further.

    Again – your focus is on counting seeds rather than on mercy, love – and truth. Jesus essentially condemned this behavior except for those who thought it was sin not to do so.

    Too bad.

    Greg Logan

  8. Wait a minute. I see what you did there. You’re looking on me with disdain for supposedly looking on you with disdain? If being biblically critical means I “lack mercy, love and truth” how do your very criticisms not lack of mercy, love, and truth? If I am guilty of cutting “the opportunity to minister” Christ’s name further, how are you not relinquishing that very opportunity yourself? Why does the one work and not the other?

    I’m so confused.

    And you continue the profanity but have no defense other than saying I’m being critical (obviously) and appealing to some secret “higher knowledge” defense. That is not a defense. That’s a red herring.

    Meanwhile, even the Gentiles know what that word stands for.

    https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Geez

  9. Ryan

    To be honest, I did not want to respond further – as it seemed so silly – but feel it necessary as God is not the author of confusion – and you are confused and are severely misunderstanding how to approach the Word of God.

    First, your reference to the Gentiles as “the light of the world” – purveyors of truth – indicates a SEVERE problem in discernment. Really??? Next you will tell me to look at the Jews response to Jesus in the Gospel of John as the source of your exegesis of His statements – while, in fact, they were total theological clowns.

    Here you are on a “conservative” “Christian” site – using the world as your reference source…. all the while excoriating the world in so many posts…. Talk about confusion!!

    The whole issue is that neither you nor they understand that the use of Jesus Christ has NOTHING to do with profanity. I clearly explained that above – and clearly explained the true meaning of the use of the term. “Geez” in our language is simply a shortened form of the same appellation.

    Now then – as to “access” – you would disdain those in the world – and perhaps openly condemn them with some sort of pained but really silly offense (I have seen this before). In marked contrast, I would gently acknowledge that I too find it necessary to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus – and build a bridge – a connection – and the possibility of communication. I am connecting – you are terminating. I am fulfilling the call of the Jesus Christ – you are failing to do so – albeit, previously at least, in your being misled by false evangelical memes (but not any more!).

    There is NO secret knowledge – this is simply the obvious sense of the original use of the term as the least bit of linguistic reflection would indicate. I acknowledge that most people – including most evangelicals are unaware of this. Of course – most people – especially evangelicals – are unaware of anything to do with the Word of God – the latter simply living in religious traditions that have been passed down – using the Bible as a reference – all the while not understanding it. Even as they do not understand the nature of the use of this phrase.

    Hope this helps with the confusion.

    Greg

  10. How blessed the readers of this site are that Greg has stooped to scatter a few crumbs of his wisdom for our illumination. If only he could develop his own platform where he could open the floodgates and teach us.

  11. Greg,

    I think I understand what you’re saying. First, my link somehow betrays that I am dependent upon the Gentile’s light (cf. Rom 2:24), which by ad hominem makes me wrong. I don’t believe that the ad hominem defense is an effective way to argue.

    Second, you have to use the curse in order to “build a bridge.” Got it.

    I utterly disagree. The use of the word is neither necessary as a bridge builder nor changes a curse from being a curse.

    This is my last word on the subject. I have said all that is necessary.

    RJM

  12. Ryan

    I never stated that one needed “to curse” in order to build a bridge. You are slandering me – shame on the immorality that has filled your soul.

    You are in error in the former item – but have betrayed an inability to understand very simple concepts so this slightly more complex concept will naturally be lost on you.

  13. Paul

    I would start by noting that your phony pious attitude – filled with a spirit of mockery and condescension – is a perfect representation of that which is contrary to the spirit of Christ.

    Good luck with that.

  14. Wow. I step away for a few days and look what happens.

    Greg, it’s impossible for me to know what your motives are, but your behavior is precisely what is described as Internet trolling.

    There’s a simple rule in all discussions: bad conversation drives out good.

    Consequently, I’m going to ask you to desist with the comments (not just here, but everywhere on Religious Affections). We’ve reached the point at which you’re simply responding with abuse, and that’s no help to anyone.

    Perhaps at some point you can reply to ideas with better ideas, offering serious reasons for thinking that they are better. Meanwhile, I don’t think it’s fruitful for us to continue providing a platform for you to take the Lord’s name in vain or level accusations against bishops.

    Meanwhile, further conversation with you seems pretty pointless.

    Kevin

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