Friday, January 23, 2004

The Lord told me (part 3)...

In this continuing series highlighting Greg Koukl's Decision Making and the Will of God CD / study guide, I would like to address the aspects of teaching that the Bible gives regarding "Reading the Signs." After researching the text of Scripture regarding decision making and the will of God, Greg Koukl states that the Bible "does not teach that we get guidance from feeling “led by the Spirit,” having a “peace” about it, open doors, fleeces, or confirmations." I will not address Greg's entire outline here (you can buy it and the CDs on your own) but only hit the issues of being "led by the Spirit" and setting out fleeces. Where does the idea that we get guidance by feeling led come from? Sometimes we hear about the still small voice of God and attribute that to a mystical urging of the Spirit. In 1 Kings 19:13 we read: When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his robe and went out and stood at the entrance to the cave. All of a sudden a voice asked him, “Why are you here, Elijah?” (all references NET) A clear reading of the text reveals that the still small voice was a... voice. It was not a feeling. How about being "led by the Spirit"? Sure, we understand that all Scripture is God-breathed and that we understand the meaning of Scripture through the help of the Spirit; but being "led by the Spirit" in the context of decision making implies He is giving us direction. If we read Romans 8:14 we see: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. Is this instructing us on guidance? Let's read the paragraph it is contained in as well as the paragraph previous (Romans 8:5-17): For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit. For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness. Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you. So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children. And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ)—if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him. Is this passage about divine guidance and decision making? What are the contrasts Paul is making? "For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit." As Koukl states, "Being led by the Spirit in this passage is not referring to individual guidance, but rather empowerment to live holy lives." Okay how about setting out fleeces? What about Gideon? What about asking God for a providential sign? Good questions. Let's take a look at the text. Gideon setting out the fleece occurs in Judges 6:36, yet he had already been given direction and a supernatural sign earlier in the chapter - note Judges 6:11-22 The Lord’s angelic messenger came and sat down under the oak tree in Ophrah owned by Joash the Abiezrite. He arrived while Joash’s son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress so he could hide it from the Midianites. The Lord’s messenger appeared and said to him, “The Lord is with you, courageous warrior!” Gideon said to him, “Pardon me, but if the Lord is with us, why has such disaster overtaken us? Where are all his miraculous deeds our ancestors told us about? They said, ‘Did the Lord not bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to Midian.” Then the Lord himself turned to him and said, “You have the strength. Deliver Israel from the power of the Midianites! Have I not sent you?” Gideon said to him, “But Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Just look! My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my family.” The Lord said to him, “Ah, but I will be with you! You will strike down the whole Midianite army.” Gideon said to him, “If you really are pleased with me, then give me a sign as proof that it is really you speaking with me. Do not leave this place until I come back with a gift and present it to you.” The Lord said, “I will stay here until you come back.” Gideon went and prepared a young goat, along with unleavened bread made from an ephah of flour. He put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot. He brought the food to him under the oak tree and presented it to him. God’s messenger said to him, “Put the meat and unleavened bread on this rock, and pour out the broth.” Gideon did as instructed. The Lord’s messenger touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of his staff. Fire flared up from the rock and consumed the meat and unleavened bread. The Lord’s messenger then disappeared. When Gideon realized that it was the Lord’s messenger, he said, “Oh no! Master, Lord! I have seen the Lord’s messenger face to face!” In studying the account of Gideon we find out that he was, in fact, scared of the Midianites, and his setting out of the fleece demonstrated his lack of faith. Yet even in this example there is an important point to note: Gideon's request for confirmation was a supernatural request. How often, when we ask for confirmation, do we ask for supernatural answers? Koukl says that, if we want to truly follow Gideon's example, then we should ask God for a supernatural answer to our question. Well what about the instances of specialized guidance we do find in the Bible such as those in the book of Acts? This is another good question that Koukl addresses in depth. Suffice it to say that those instances in the Bible have the following qualities: they are "rare, intrusive (unsought), supernatural in character, and clear." In other words, those who received special guidance from God in the Bible didn't feel they were being led - they knew it. And this makes sense doesn't it? If God is intervening to direct you to do something - He will make sure you know about it. One big note of clarification here: Koukl is not stating that God cannot supernaturally intervene or give us direction in our daily lives here on earth; he's just saying that it is not the normative behavior displayed in the Bible. Recently I heard him put it something like this: "Can God let you know what you should buy every time you go to the grocery store? Sure! Should we expect it? No." In the last part of this series I'll highlight Koukl's analysis of the "Biblical Model for Decision Making." end of part 3, go to part 3.5

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