Thousand Oaks Baptist Church
Led By the Spirit
(or, How to Find the Perfect Will of God for Your Life)
In a church I attended a few years ago, a guest preacher made the amazing statement that we donít need to be concerned about finding or knowing the perfect will of God. And I found his statement quite remarkable, because the Lord Jesus Christ in the gospel of Mark, Luke the beloved physician in the book of Acts, Paul the Apostle in nine of his epistles, the Apostle Peter, and the Apostle John all made reference to the will of God as if it were a very important thing to both know and do. In fact, the will of God is mentioned at least 34 times in the New Testament. The only thing I can figure is that that guest preacher just thought that he had a better understanding of the Bible than did Jesus and five of the writers of the Scriptures, all of whom wrote by inspiration of the Holy SpiritÖ!
In Mark 3:35, Jesus said, "For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother." If we desire to have any kinship with Jesus Christ, we obviously have to know and do the will of God.
In John 7:17, Jesus again said, "If any man will [determines to] do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." We have to want to and determine to do God's will if we want to know the teachings of the Bible and the true doctrines of God.
In Acts 13:36, we discover that King David served his own generation according to the will of God. Knowing and doing the will of God was vital to King David's rule over Israel and Judah.
In Acts 22:14, Paul the Apostle says that God especially chose him to know God's will concerning a great number of things. Paul in fact says over and over again that he was called to be an apostle through the express will of God.
Wherever Paul went as a missionary, he always sought and found and followed the will of God.
In Romans 12:2, Paul said not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, for the express purpose of examining and discerning and testing and approving what is the good, acceptable, and complete will of God for ourselves and for our local church.
In Galatians 1:4, Paul says that it is the will of God to deliver us from this present evil world. In Ephesians 1:9, Paul says that God has made known unto us the mystery of His will. In Eph. 6:6, Paul says that we are to be doing the will of God from our hearts. In Col. 1:9-10, Paul's prayer for believers was that we might be ". . . filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; [so that we] might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God . . ." Paul said that we have to be filled with the knowledge of God's will in order to live the Christian life and to do what God wants us to do.
In Col. 4:12, Paul indicates that we should stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. In 1 Thes. 4:3, Paul says that it is the will of God for Christians to abstain from fornication, and to possess our bodies in sanctification and honor.
In 1 Thes. 5:18, Paul tells us that it is the will of God for us to give thanks in all things.
In Hebrews 10:36, we are told that we have to do the will of God before we receive the rewards that are promised. In Hebrews 13:21, we are expected to do the will of God.
In 1 Peter 4:2, the Apostle Peter exhorts us to live our lives according to the will of God.
In 1 John 2:17, we are told that ". . .he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
In 1 John 5:14, we are again told, ". . . this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him." We have to know the will of God in order to ask according to the will of God, so that our prayers will be answered.
My friends, any preacher who tells me I don't have to know the perfect will of God simply either doesn't know his Bible, or else he has rejected the Bible for what the unbelieving liberals long ago started calling relational Christianity. And relational Christianity is really just religion with the Bible and Jesus Christ left out, even though they talk about Jesus and mention the Bible and discuss some of the things it says.
But I want you to know without a shadow of a doubt that you can know the will of God. And by way of introduction to this lesson, I want you to know that you can know that you are led by the Holy Spirit of God by means of the source of your guidance.
A. Examples from Experience.
Let me give you three examples of this from my previous experience as a pastor of various other local churches. These are examples of someone being led by some source that is other than the revealed will of God in the Bible.
1. The first possible extra-biblical source of guidance is the world.
Some years ago, one of the women in the church came to me and said, "Pastor, I believe God has led me to divorce my husband."
Now, she knew full well that the Bible said that divorce for the reasons she was talking about was wrong. But somehow, she had come to feel that she had received special guidance that it was all right to divorce her husband. And after counseling with her for a while, I discovered that her guidance had come from watching worldly TV programs and reading worldly books on marriage and divorce. The source for her guidance was the world.
And what it all boiled down to was this: Does God ever really lead someone to divorce a marriage partner? No, I donít believe He does. Even if the Scriptural grounds for divorce are present, one spiritual Christian spouse can still hold the marriage together in the will of God, unless an unsaved spouse deserts the marriage.
2. The second possible extra-biblical source of guidance is the flesh.
A young woman who used to be a very good Sunday school teacher in one of the churches of which I was a pastor came to feel that she was being led by God to marry a divorced, unsaved man she had met in the office where she worked. She told me, "Pastor, I just feel that the Lord has led us together."
And I said, "Are you aware that the Bible teaches that Christians are only supposed to marry other born-again Christians, and two cannot walk together unless they be agreed on the basic fundamentals of the faith?"
"Yes," she said. "But I still feel that God has led us together, to get married." And marry they did. And because her new husband was doing quite well financially, she didn't have to work in the office any more. But within a few short months, she discovered that her husband was seeing other women in the office, and about two years later, they were divorced after she caught him in a compromising position with one of her former friends from the office.
In reality, the flesh told her to get married to this man. Does God ever really lead a Christian to marry an unsaved, divorced person? I really don't believe so. I know it happens, and I know that sometimes God blesses and the unsaved spouse eventually gets saved, but the opposite happens much more frequently.
3. The third possible extra-biblical source of guidance is the devil.
Some years ago a young man and his wife visited my church. Like any good pastor, I went to call on them the next week. And as I sat in their home that evening, the husband told me how he had experienced what he believed to be a special vision of Jesus Christ in his bedroom. And He showed me where it happened. And in this special vision, this man said that he was given special knowledge and a strange sense of peace and God's leading that he had never received from reading his Bible or going to church.
And so I asked this young man if he was familiar with what the Bible says about the validity of dreams and visions, now that we have the full revelation of God's Word in the Bible.
And he said, "Oh, yes, but you see, I've experienced something better, and I believe God is leading me to do various things." And everything he was being led to do was plainly contrary to the revealed will of God in the Bible.
And the question here is this: Does God ever really give us better guidance in dreams and visions that are contrary to the plain teachings of the Bible? No, He doesn't!
Now, here were three instances of people who should have known better, but who had been deceived by the world, by the flesh, and by the devil. They were deceived into mistaking the spirit of error for the spirit of truth.
One of them listened to the world and divorced her husband and gained a world of trouble. One of them gave heed to the flesh and married out of the will of God and ended up with a broken, ruined life. And one of them mistakenly believed a manifestation of demonic powers to be a manifestation of God, and I really don't know what happened to him.
And yet, all three of them felt that they were somehow being led by God, when in reality they were not, because God never leads us to do what is contrary to His will as it is revealed in the Bible.
Very quickly, let's define what these three false sources of guidance really are.
B. False sources.
1. The first source of false guidance is the world. (Jn. 2:16)
1 Jn. 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
From this verse, we discover that the world contains three evil elements.
a. Whatever appeals to the appetites of the flesh.
b. Whatever appeals to the appetites of the eyes.
c. Whatever appeals to the appetites of pride.
These things are not of God and are not proper sources for our guidance.
2. The second source of false guidance is the flesh itself. (Gal. 3:3; 5:16-21)
Gal. 3:3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Gal. 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
Abraham and Sarah and Hagar discovered that the flesh brings neither peace nor the will of God. The flesh will never lead us according to the will of God.
3. The third source of false guidance is the devil. (Jn. 8:44)
Jn. 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
Satan's guidance is always a lie. Either it's the skin of a lie on the skeleton of the truth, or else it's just a bald-faced, outright lie. The devil will never tell the truth when a lie will serve him better. And he will only tell any part of the truth when it serves him in supporting a lie.
The cults, the occult, false religion, rock culture, and humanism are prime examples of how Satan has captured the hearts and deceived the minds and enslaved the bodies of many unsuspecting people in this world today.
C. Folks, the one and only true source of guidance from the Holy Spirit is the written, infallible, inerrant Word of God.
Read it daily. Study it comprehensively. Follow its guidance implicitly. Trust its principles completely. Depend on God to guide you, and youíll be okay.
I. Prerequisites to Finding the Perfect Will of God. (Rom. 12:1-2)
May I give you five prerequisites for finding and knowing and doing the perfect will of God for your life? Romans 12:1-2 says this:
Rom. 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
A. Salvation. The first prerequisite is salvation. Paul was writing to brethren; his recipients were born-again Christians. Am I really a true believer? Have I really been genuinely saved? If I were to die right now, would I go to Heaven or to Hell? The first prerequisite to knowing and doing the will of God is salvation.
B. Dedication. The second prerequisite is dedication. Paul exhorted the believers to present or dedicate their bodies as living sacrifices to God. Have I genuinely yielded myself and my life to God for whatever He wants me to do, whenever and where ever He wants me to do it? The second prerequisite to knowing and doing the will of God is dedication.
C. Separation. The third prerequisite is separation. Paul exhorted the believers to not be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the Holy Spirit's work in their minds. they were to separate themselves from the world and its philosophies and its responses. Is my life free from any known worldly, devilish, fleshly practices? Am I honestly and sincerely seeking to live my life God's way? The third prerequisite to knowing and doing the will of God is separation.
D. Transformation. The fourth prerequisite is transformation. Paul called on the believers to be transformed from what they were into what God wahts them to become. Am I actually growing and progressing in my Christian life? The fourth prerequisite to knowing and doing the will of God is transformation.
E. Desire. The real secret for knowing and doing the will of God is to genuinely want and intend to DO the will of God! (Jn. 7:17)
Jn. 7:17 If any man will [to] do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
Too many folks only want to know about the will of God so that they can pick and choose what parts they want, but still be able to hang onto their own will. This demonstrates their lack of genuine dedication to the Lord and their lack of true separation from the things of the world, the flesh and the devil. But if you really, seriously want to know the will of God and be led by the Holy Spirit so that you can DO the will of God, then these five prerequisites are absolutely necessary.
II. Great Guiding Principles.
Now, the Bible also contains what I have come to call great guiding principles to show us the revealed will of God. And there are thirteen questions I've given you before that apply to virtually every decision that you will ever have to make concerning the will of God for your life. Therefore, you should apply them to every decision, whether large or small.
A. 1 Jn. 2:6; 1 Pet. 2:21-23 - Is this what Jesus might have decided if He were in my place?
B. 1 Sam. 16:7 - Have I looked at this problem from God's viewpoint?
C. 1 Kgs. 11:1-9 - To what will this decision lead?
D. 1 Cor. 10:31 - Will this action bring the greatest glory to my Lord?
E. 1 Jn. 2:28; Rom. 14:7-12 - Would I want to be found doing this when the Lord returns? Will I be able to give a satisfactory account of this to Jesus?
F. Rom. 12:1-2 - Can this help me spiritually?
G. Jas. 4:7; Eph. 4:27; 1 Thes. 5:22 - Can this hurt me spiritually? Will I be giving Satan an opportunity? Will this be construed as evil by others?
H. 1 Cor. 6:15-20 - Will this action bring moral impurity or unnecessary and useless harm to my physical body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit? Will this action make my mind and emotions and spirit more or less sensitive to God's leading?
I. Rom. 14:13, 21 - If I follow this decision, will it offend another Christian, cause him/her to stumble, or make him/her weak?
J. Mat. 5:16 - Will my actions or words be a help or a hindrance to bringing the unsaved to Christ?
K. 1 Thes. 5:18; Col. 3:23 - Can I truly thank God for what I am doing, and can I do it heartily, as unto the Lord?
L. 2 Tim. 3:16 - Is this decision perfectly consistent with the Word of God, and have I honestly and thoroughly searched the Scriptures to seek God's will in this matter?
M. 1 Jn. 3:22 - Can I unhesitatingly ask the Lord to bless me and strengthen me and be my strength and shield in following this decision? Do I know that God would be pleased for me to do this?
Remember, these thirteen questions apply to virtually every decision that you will ever have to make concerning the will of God for your life. Therefore, you should begin to apply them to every decision, whether large or small. Make it a habit to check these questions off on every decision you have to make.
III. The Practice of Finding God's Will in Specifics.
Now that we have those thirteen questions, we can construct a Biblical method for finding the will of God in any specific case. I've discovered eight steps to finding and knowing God's will for certain. All we have to do is to follow these eight steps in order, and we will find the will of God, and we will be led by the Holy Spirit. However, we must be totally honest, diligent, and thorough in working through each of these steps.
A. First, I must erase my own will and desire in the matter under consideration. (Prov. 3:5-6)
Prov. 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
This is the most important step.
B. Second, I must pray, asking God to show me His will, to help me erase my own will, and to give me the wisdom to make the right decision. (Jn. 7:17; Jas. 1:5)
Jn. 7:17 If any man will [to] do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
Jas. 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
God has promised to show us His will if we are ready and willing to do His will. And He has promised to give us the wisdom to know what to do.
C. Third, I must read portions of the Bible that deal with the matter Iím considering. (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Psa. 119:98-100, 104-105, 130)
2 Tim. 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Psa. 119:98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.
Psa. 119:104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Psa. 119:130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
A good concordance (eg., Strong's) and an understanding of how to use it will help you to find Bible references for any subject in the will of God.
D. Fourth, I must remember the great guiding principles of God's Word that apply to virtually all decisions, and apply them all at this point, and write down my answers.
E. Fifth, I must consider the ways and alternatives that are open to me. (Hag. 1:5, 7)
Hag. 1:5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. . . .
7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
Itís always a good idea to consult with others who have Bible knowledge, spiritual wisdom, and much practical experience in living for God successfully. (Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6)
Prov. 11:14 Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.
Prov. 15:22 Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.
Prov. 24:6 For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.
It often helps to write down the suggested alternatives, and then check these suggestions against what the Bible clearly teaches, to be sure they're really Scriptural suggestions.
F. Sixth, I must think and meditate concerning all aspects of the problem. It often helps to list all of the points for and against. I should then pray over this list until I am sure which way to go, in God's will.
G. Seventh, I must make a decision! At this point I must decide what to do, based on the first six steps in this process.
H. The eighth step is what Iíve come to call Quality Control: In other words, do I have God's peace about the decision Iíve made? The final test of God's will (if all of the steps have been taken honestly) is whether or not my decision gives me inward peace. (Col. 3:15)
Col. 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
If I donít have the peace of God in my heart concerning this decision, then I must go through these steps again, giving special priority to the first step (erasing my own will and desire in the matter).
And when the decision Iíve made corresponds with what the Bible clearly teaches, and when I then honestly have the peace of God in my heart, then I can know that I am being led by the Holy Spirit.
On another web page titled The Spirit-Led Life, weíll consider the results of the Spiritís guidance in our lives and the tests by which we can know that we truly are being led by the Holy Spirit.
But the real questions for us right now are these:
First, do you possess the prerequisites for being led by the Holy Spirit? In other words, have you been saved? Have you dedicated your body to the Lord as a living sacrifice? Have you separated yourself from the world, the flesh, and the devil? Are you growing and progressing in your Christian life by means of the transforming power of God? And do you have a deep desire to know and to do the will of God? If you do, then you have the necessary prerequisites for being led by the Holy Spirit.
Second, do you have a good handle on those thirteen great guiding principles for the Spirit-led Christian life that I gave you this morning? Application of these principles by faith will help you to find and know and follow the Spiritís guidance.
And third, are you seriously seeking Godís will and the Spiritís guidance in the specific questions and issues of your daily, moment-by-moment life? If you are, and youíre doing this so that you can actually do the will of God as the Spirit leads you, then the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth.
The very first prerequisite for being genuinely led by the Holy Spirit is to be saved Ė to receive Jesus Christ by faith as your Savior and Lord. Have you done that? Have you believed that Jesus Christ died for your sins? Have you believed that he rose again from the dead? Have you personally asked Him and trusted Him to save you from the guilt and punishment and practice of your sins? Have you placed your soulís complete confidence for salvation and Heaven and eternal life upon Jesus Christ?
If you havenít, then why not do that right now, while you're reading this? At Thousand Oaks Baptist Church, we stand ready to help you trust Jesus Christ for your salvation. Thatís why this church exists. Thatís my primary business as a teacher of the Bible. Thatís why God worked in the circumstances of your life so that you would find this website and read this message. Thatís why this website is here: To help you get saved. And all you have to do is ask God to save you, believing on Who Jesus Christ is and what Heís done for you. And God will save you, right now.