Does God want something for my life?
Mark: So one of the things that I struggled with when I first became a believer was the idea that God wants something for my life, that He in some way is speaking in my life, and that in situations there are certain things that He wants me to do. And so we hear talk of the will of God. And so can you guys talk about what does that mean just in general? Like, is God actually involved in my life and he’s thinking about me and he has certain things that he wants for me in particular?
Tim: It does. And let me ask you first, as a father, did you have a will for your kids?
M: Yeah, of course. There are a lot of things. You know, I wanted to keep them safe so certain things would happen. I wanted them to take a certain path. “Keep your hand off the stove.” The real simple one when you’re a little kid.
T: Yeah. And you wanted them to make good choices.
T: So the Heavenly Father is exactly the same. He wants us to make good choices. And actually, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 actually says “this is the will of God…” and then gives an answer. So that’s that’s a good place to start. And it says “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” Okay.
M: That’s a big word, what does that mean?
T: So to be sanctified means to be set apart, to live a life that is constructive and productive, God’s way. To walk God’s path instead of walking the world’s path, which is a path of pollution. So the world’s path is appetites and exploitation. Okay? I have an appetite. I’m going to go exploit someone or something to get my appetite solved. And what that leads to is death, destruction, slavery, loss, condemnation. And we bring it on ourselves. And God doesn’t want that for us. He wants us to walk away. That’s productive. Exactly like you want for your kids. I want them to do things that are productive for themselves. And I know they have these counterproductive tendencies. And I want to teach them to make good choices based on good values, because I know that’s good for them. Same thing. But you can’t make choices for your kids. God chooses not to make choices for us.
M: That’s the concept of free will. We have the choice. We can choose the polluted path or we can choose the sanctified path.
T: That’s what makes us made in the image of God and that’s part of this big metanarrative, will these people choose to serve and humble themselves and trust that this is the best way for them? And in doing so, they actually prove that this is superior. Okay, that’s kind of the metanarrative thing. He goes on, though, to actually explain what sanctification looks like. And He says that is that you obstain from sexual immorality. Sexual immorality is anything apart from what’s best for us. And, you know, male and female, to halves and two become one. That’s the sexual morality. Anything apart from that, and 1 Corinthians 6 says this, is actually self-destructive. It says it’s a sin against our own body. And there’s ample illustrations of that, of the psychological damage and the physiological damage we do when we have all these relationships that, you know, are constantly at adhesion and break apart. There’s a lot of damage from that. Two become one, that’s really what we all desire, to become one, because that’s true partnership. This person becomes a part of me, that’s intimacy. All of us desire intimacy. So that’s number one. And I think that’s number one, because that’s one of the world’s best ways to get us into exploitation of others for our own appetites. Once it’s got you into, “I want to exploit something for my own appetites,” it owns you now. And you can’t walk in this way that’s apart from God.
M: Before we move on, I just want to mention this. So you just dove into what is the most contrary topic in the world today, which is sexual morality. What’s moral and what’s immoral? And people trying to make this into some very complex thing and there’s all this nuance and what you just described, it’s pretty simple.
Do what’s in your best interest
T: It’s pretty simple. You can do what’s in your best interest or not. Right? And we tend to, in Christian circles, and it’s extremely counterproductive and not biblical at all, think that we need to go judge people that don’t make good choices. But Jesus was real clear about this, “Don’t judge lest you be judged. Whatever measure you measure to others will be measured to you.” So we’re all going to stand before Christ and be judged, and we all get to determine our own measuring stick. And that is the measure we give to others. Now, I’m a very judgmental person by nature, but I also care about my own self-interest more. And I decided it’s not a good idea to judge other people because I don’t really want to be judged. Okay? But it’s not necessary because when we make those bad choices, we judge ourselves. And everyone who has done that, even if they’ve come to Christ and had those scars healed, the scars are still there. And they look back and say–
M: I wish I wouldn’t have done that.
We condemn ourselves
T: I damaged myself when I did that. Everybody’s experienced this. There’s no need for condemnation because when we do these things, we’re condemning ourselves. And the people who are most judgmental are probably covering something up. And in these days when pornography is so available and, according to statistics, so widely used and so tempting. I mean, it’s tempting to have an imaginary woman– if you’re a man –who you control and who can make you feel important. Oh, that’s tempting, right? Because now I finally have a woman I control. Is it fulfilling? No, not at all. Does it harm you? Absolutely. It’s addictive and it actually causes you to lose your mind. Okay. And so do we want to do that? No. Because we can’t? Obviously, we can. We do have the choice. We have that choice. Right? And there are plenty of people who will take our money and exploit us when we think we’re exploiting them. So now you have two ticks and no dog, ho gets to suck each other’s blood out the fastest? Well, that’s not life. That’s death. And so, yeah, the Bible is saying do what you want to do, here’s the consequences. But it goes on and says, “Don’t defraud your brother in any of these things.” And it basically says, “love the brother.” Okay? So what we want to do is seek other people’s best interests. I can’t be seeking someone else’s best interest if I’m trying to exploit them for my own appetites. That’s the will of God. So then, what we usually say as well, “But what circumstance will I choose so that I get what I want?” Well that is not will of God, that is genie in the bottle thinking, you know? “How can I manipulate God to get what I want?”
Is it about checking boxes?
Joey: It reminds me of a few segments ago. We talked about the rules and, you know, there’s the kind of one side of the rules idea, which is, “I don’t want to follow the rules. I want to do whatever I want.” Right? But then the other side of it is like, “I want the rules so I know exactly, precisely what I should be doing so that I can check those boxes and move on with my life.” Right? And, you know, we work with college students all the time. And I mean, once a week, maybe once a day during the semester, I have students that are asking me like “I’m trying to figure out if it’s God’s will for me to be a banker or a teacher.” We think of God’s will as this kind of circumstantial end. And you know, sometimes there is this kind of nudging, I’ve felt that in my life. But in the times when I felt that it’s been relatively clear. I think most of the time it’s like God wants me to be a loving banker or a loving teacher. What He’s called me to is love. What He’s called me to is sanctification. And I think what’s difficult for us is that’s harder. You know, that’s a bit more mysterious and less final. We like the idea that, “Okay, if God’s will is for me to be a teacher, then if I can figure that out and I’ll be a teacher, then I get to live happily ever after.” Sanctification is something I got to struggle with and I got to wrestle with and I’ve got to work on. It’s a process. The word itself is a process I’ve got to continue to work on. And so I think that’s something that even though the Bible explicitly says this is the will of God for your life, we kind of just don’t hear that because we’re like, “No, but I really want to know which of the circumstances I’m supposed to choose.” And I think what God is saying to us is like, “Look, you can make your make your choices. And sometimes I’ll make one abundantly clear for you. But apart from that, you know, it doesn’t matter. You can be a God-loving banker or a God-loving teacher. At the end of the day, what matters is that you love God and you’re committed to the path of His kingdom.
God lets us choose
T: And I’d say, just echo that, that God really lets us choose. I mean, you’re proud of your kids when they make a choice and they have a good reason for it. Well, yeah, I make a choice and I have a good reason for it. Occasionally, he’ll make a course correction for us. There’s a great illustration I like to use of this. Paul was going to the Roman province of Asia. We call it Turkey now, and he was headed there. And God came in to him a dream and said, “Go to Macedonia instead.” And I saw that and I’m like, “Well, why didn’t why did he wait until Paul was on the way to Asia? Why didn’t he tell him in advance?” I think there’s an illustration there, “you choose. I want to honor your choice. And I’m not mad about it, I’ll honor that choice. But if there is a circumstantial thing that matters, I’ll let you know.” And so, just choose. Just choose. And if you have this sanctification in mind, I’m going to be who God has called me to be in whatever circumstances I choose. If there’s a circumstantial correction, He’ll let you know.
J: Yeah. There have been times in our life where we ask, “What city do we move to? Which job transition or opportunities that come up? Should we take this or that?” And I think that’s really good advice. Like, make your choice. And we’ve done this, we moved to New York City and we we just really think this is the best move in terms of us living out our sanctification, participating in Kingdom of God in the way that we understand it and see it for ourselves. But if we go and it’s a disaster, then, you know, something else will show up along the way. We’ll find something else. And maybe it’s only for a season. There’s so much room. And I think what’s essential to this is that God’s will is not one specific circumstantial set of lily pads for your life. God’s will is for you to be in intimacy with Him.
Does God call us to where and what?
T: And I think, to some extent, God puts a call in your heart. I consider what Joey and Kylie are doing as really accepting hardship for the kingdom, right? They kind of like it. Most people would look at me living in Midland as I’m kind of accepting hardship for the Kingdom, to live in Midland.
M: Some would say that.
T: I like it.
M: And I think if you’re living a purposeful life according to what you feel like is God’s will for your life, I think often people look at you and think, “What are you doing?” I think that doesn’t seem very pleasant to me. I travel all the time and spend a lot of time on the road away from my family. A lot of people think, “How can you do that?” I think, “I like it, I’m living a purposeful life.”
T: Because it’s part of the package.
J: Well, and I think sometimes we get stuck, this might be a bit of a rabbit trail. We sometimes get stuck in this idea of like, sacred vs. secular, in terms of there are things that you should do. Like “I could never live in New York”, “I could never live in Midland”. Or I could never, you know, do this job or whatever. And the real difference between sacred and secular is within a person’s heart. You know, the kingdom of God is in New York, it’s in Midland. It’s in your job, it’s in Tim’s, it’s everywhere. It’s all an opportunity. I think we sometimes get caught up like, “Well, if I take that teaching job rather than the other, is it going to be okay?” And it’s like, yes! Because God’s going to be there and the opportunity for sanctification is going to be there no matter which path you choose.