Update on 2/21/08: Apparently I linked to the wrong blog yesterday. Thankfully, Mark Dever caught my error and corrected it, as you can see in the comments. I’m pretty sure that this is the first time he’s ever seen this blog, so I’ll have to err more often.
I came across a very helpful little piece on guidance today. It’s by Mark Dever and it can be found at the Together for the Gospel blog.” (HT: Justin Taylor) The post is titled “The Bondage of “Guidance” and it is well worth the five minutes it takes to read it. Here’s a helpful excerpt from it:
“I do believe that God’s Spirit will sometimes lead us subjectively. So, for instance, I am choosing to spend my life here on Capitol Hill because my wife & I sensed in 1993 that that is what God wanted us to do. However, I realized then (and now) that I could be wrong about that supposition. Scripture is NEVER wrong. I was free in 1993 to stay in England, or teach at a seminary, either of which would have been delightful opportunities. I understand that I was free to make those choices. But I chose, consulting Scripture, friends, wisdom, and my own subjective sense of the Lord’s will, to come to DC. And even if I were wrong about that, I had (and have) that freedom in Christ to act in a way that is not sin. And I understand my pastoring here not to be sin. So I am free. Regardless of the sense of leading I had.”
“A subjective sense of leading–when we’ve asked for it (as in James 1:5 we ask for wisdom) and when God freely gives it–is wonderful. The desire for such a subjective sense of leading, however, is too often, in contemporary evangelical piety, binding our brothers and sisters in Christ, paralyzing them from enjoying the good choices that God may provide, and causing them to wait wrongly before acting.”
This is great stuff. I’ve encountered a good many Christians who are genuinely confused about this question. In fact, I’ve been one of those Christians (and still am, sometimes). Those of us who tie ourselves up in knots over the issue of discovering God’s will go beyond the Scripture, I think. That is to say, the Bible does not expect us, I think, to perfectly know God’s will for every decision we make in our lives. It is no bad desire to want such leading–in fact, I think it shows a healthy respect for the sovereign will of God as applied to our lives–but the Bible does not prescribe any sort of process by which we may automatically discern what it is that God wants for us. We are to pray, clearly, and we are to take counsel, and search the Word, and use wisdom conformed to biblical thought patterns, but beyond these things, as Dever writes, we are free to make what we believe to be the godly choice. This is a strange concept for some of us, this idea of freedom, but we must remember that this is a gift that Christ has graciously given to us. We must remind ourselves of the scriptural truth that the blood of Christ has not subjected to us a decisional bondage, but liberated us to live freely and joyfully under the reign of Christ. Hopefully, we’ll be able to remember this truth as we live, and so free ourselves from a paralysis of will that, however well-intended, ultimately loses sight of the Christ-given gift of freedom.