Discerning God’s Will
For the believer wanting to know God’s will for her life, the first question to pose is not “What should I do?” but “Who should I be?”
Perhaps you’ve tried to use the Bible to answer the question “What should I do?” Facing a difficult decision, perhaps you’ve meditated for hours on a psalm or a story in the Gospels, asking God to show you how it speaks to your current dilemma. Perhaps you’ve known the frustration of hearing silence, or worse, of acting on a hunch or “leading” only to find later that you apparently had not heard the Lord’s will. I know that process better than I’d like to admit, and I also know the shame that accompanies it—the sense that I’m tone-deaf to the Holy Spirit, that I’m terrible at discovering God’s will.
The hope of the gospel in our sanctification is not simply that we would make better choices, but that we would become better people.
But God does not hide his will from his children. As an earthly parent, I do not tell my kids, “There is a way to please me. Let’s see if you can figure out what it is.” If I do not conceal my will from my earthly children, how much more our heavenly Father? His will does not need discovering. It is in plain sight. To see it we need to start asking the question that deals with his primary concern. We need to ask, “Who should I be?”
Start with the Heart
Of course, the questions “What should I do?” and “Who should I be?” are not unrelated. But the order in which we ask them matters. If we focus on our actions without addressing our hearts, we may end up merely as better behaved lovers of self.
Think about it. What good is it for me to choose the right job if I’m still consumed with selfishness? What good is it for me to choose the right home or spouse if I’m still eaten up with covetousness? What does it profit me to make the right choice if I’m still the wrong person? A lost person can make “good choices.” But only a person indwelt by the Holy Spirit can make a good choice for the purpose of glorifying God.
The hope of the gospel in our sanctification is not simply that we would make better choices, but that we would become better people. This is the hope that caused John Newton to pen, “I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” It is what inspires the apostle Paul to speak of believers “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). The gospel teaches us that the grace that is ours through Christ is, by the work of the Spirit, transforming us increasingly into someone better. But not just anyone better.
The gospel begins transforming us into who we should have been. It reimages us. Want to know what it should have been like to be human? Look to the only human who never sinned.
This article is adapted from In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin.
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