Yesterday I began a short series of articles on knowing and doing the will of God. In the first part I laid the foundation of God’s sovereignty over all that happens in this world, affirming God’s absolute and utter sovereignty. But I also said that God has given us freedom to make choices. This brought us to the heart of the issue of knowing God’s will–how can I know God’s will in such a way that I can consciously participate in it? Today I want to show how God is speaking to us in this time and this place.
God Is Speaking Today
Let me talk about the way God speaks to us through a series of 4 statements. We are taking God’s sovereignty, his secret will, as our starting point and building upon it with these statements.
The first thing we need to affirm is that God can speak to people in many different ways and guide them with their cooperation. The Bible is full of stories of God speaking to his people–God speaking to Adam and Eve in the Garden as he walked and talked with them, God speaking to Moses from the burning bush, God speaking to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream. In each case God told people his will and when God told them what he wanted of them, they were able to consciously participate in it, or they were able to reject it. Adam and Eve defied God even though they knew what he demanded of them. Jonah heard from the Lord and ran away. Abraham heard from the Lord and obeyed. All through the Bible we see God speaking and giving guidance and instruction. In all these ways and so many more, God spoke to people and guided them with their cooperation.
We need to be careful here. We are not looking to these examples and necessarily saying, “This is how God tells us he will guide us.” We are saying, “This is how God can guide people.” These are the ways in which God has proven he has the ability to guide people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can expect him to guide us or speak to us the same way. So the question we need to ask now is, How will God guide us today in such a way that we consciously participate?
The second statement is this: today God speaks to us by his Son. It is instructive here to turn to the first verses of Hebrews where we read, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.” That is what we have just said in our last statement, that long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke. But the author of Hebrews continues. “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” In these last days, today, he has spoken to us by his Son. He has spoken and is speaking through Jesus. This is not meant to be past tense but present. And how has God spoken to us through Jesus? He has revealed himself, his own character and glory, in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus God has spoken to us about his plan of salvation—of the way he has chosen to redeem sinners to himself.
The man who wrote Hebrews is very careful to distinguish between these two types of revelation, between how God used to speak and how God speaks today. If you have studied the letter to the Hebrews, you know that it is a long discourse that continually shows how Jesus Christ is superior to anything in the Old Testament. That means, of course, that the revelation in Jesus Christ, is better than anything that came before. God used to speak in these ways, but today, even better, he speaks through his Son.
This raises the question of how Jesus speaks to us. I haven’t ever heard the voice of Jesus coming from the skies and I haven’t ever met him face-to-face so he could tell me what to do. How does God speak by Jesus?
That brings us to our third statement: God speaks to us by his Son, through his Spirit in the Bible. Now we are getting to the heart of it. By the time the letter to the Hebrews was written, Jesus had long since ascended to his Father.
But then the author of this letter to the Hebrews writes in 3:7, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says.” “Says,” not “Said.” “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” He goes back and quotes Psalm 95 and says that through these words, the Holy Spirit is speaking. Not just that the Spirit has spoken, but that he is speaking. He continues to speak. The words that were already thousands of years old when this letter was written continue to speak.
He comes back to this a few times in the verses that follow keeps saying that the Holy Spirit speaks through Scripture today. And then he wraps up the section in chapter 4 with the conclusion that the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. It is alive. It is active.
The conclusion is that the Bible speaks to us today. The Holy Spirit speaks to us today in the Bible. The Son speaks to us today through the Holy Spirit in the Bible. If he doesn’t, if he doesn’t actively speak to us, the whole letter to the Hebrews is a waste of time; it’s just a history lesson. But, of course, that can’t be. The Bible is not just about what God has said, but what God is saying.
Let me make one final statement about how God guides us today. We know that God can guide us in many ways but today the Son speaks to us through his Spirit in the Bible.
The fourth and final thing is this: that apart from this, speaking by his Son, through his Spirit in the Bible, God does not promise that he will speak in any other way. In other words, we can all expect and believe that God will speak to us through the Bible. But he does not promise to speak in the ways he has spoken before, or in new ways. Never does the Bible tell us to put out a fleece; never does it tell us to expect an audible voice from the heavens; never does it tell us to listen for a still, small voice. It always, only, ever points to itself.
God will always be guiding us through his providence, quietly and behind the scenes. When it comes to our conscious participation in doing his will, he has the ability to guide us however he sees fit. However, in this time he tells us to expect only that he will guide us by his Son, through the Spirit in the Bible.
So Christian, if you want to know God’s will for you, you need to look to the Bible. Here is where God has given us his perfect will; he has given it to us in his perfect Word. Do you want to know how to serve God? Do you want to know how to please him? Do you want to know what he wants from you? Do you want to make good and wise and God-honoring decisions? Then look to your Bible. Here is the one and only way that God has promised to guide you.
In one of James Montgomery Boice’s final books he wrote something that has often come to my mind. He wrote about the Bible and said that as far as he could see the battle over the inerrancy of the Bible had been fought and won. The Bible is without error. But the battle for the sufficiency of the Bible was just beginning. Will the Bible be enough for us? Will we affirm that the Bible is sufficient to guide us in all of life? Or will we demand that God reveal himself to us in other ways?
Boice was exactly right. That battle was just beginning. Every year there are more and more books being published that talk about how to know God’s will and most of them pay lip service to the Bible but also tell you to look for guidance from other things—fleeces and circumstances and coincidences and voices from the sky and impressions and everything else. Some of the bestselling books on the subject tell you that you should expect God to give you clear guidance from something other than the Bible in literally every decision you make. Peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and honey? God wants you to choose right and if you listen, he will tell you.
But Christian—we need to affirm what God says. He tells us that the Bible is enough and more than enough. Do you believe that? When you have to make one of those life-changing decisions, do you thank God for the Bible and trust that it contains all the guidance you need to do what God wants you to do?
God guides us. He truly does. The way he guides us today is through the Son working through the Spirit in the Bible.
In the next part of this short series we will see that God speaks clearly in his Word about what his will is for your life.