Understanding God’s Message or Will

Recently, I had someone ask the question,

By what process do I discern God’s message?”

This question arose from the context of a discussion on a Christian website (The Gospel Coalition, (http://bit.ly/25BQ00I) about transgenderism and God’s acceptance of people regardless of their false beliefs about themselves and God.  One person actually commented earlier in the discussion,

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Christ accepts us in our current state (which includes any categories mentioned in regards to gender and gender change) because of grace and love. We as ministers of reconciliation are to treat all equally, offering Christs love to believers and non believers alike. Their current state is not as relevant as you might think when it comes to knowing Christ.”
The following is a reply to the question, “By what process do I discern God’s message?”
The Scriptures make clear how we discern the message (God’s will) of the Scriptures.  Both Jesus and the Apostle John inform us that a person must be born again (John 3:1-8; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18).  Without new birth that comes from God, no one can practice righteousness, repent, truly love one another and God, place faith in Christ, or overcome the evil world.  If God has not given new birth to a person, one cannot even rightly discern God’s will or the “the things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:14).  In fact, the person not born of God does not even accept God’s will.  Read the cited passage.

Afterwards, a person needs to devote oneself to the reading and study of God’s word.  That is a discovery process, a discovery of the mind of God through the agency of the authors.  That is, we must always seek the author’s intent within the contexts in which he speaks.  Scripture hoping and proof texting are not valid approaches to the Bible.  Those ways are not the ways we read a regular book.  We do not isolate a sentence or paragraph from a book’s context and then claim, “To me, in means…”

Devotion to the Scriptures does not simply mean reading and studying the Scriptures, but also applying and obeying them.  When we hold to the Bible as nothing more than a “conversation,” we devalue it for our lives and fail to understand how it applies to us.  We cannot really know God’s will, though we can understand His message, unless we live faithfully in obedience to him.  Obedience by faith gives way to true knowledge (Romans 1:5; 6:16; 16:26).  One cannot really know the things and will of God without obedience by faith.  One thing neglected in this discussion around “transgenderism” is it ignores God’s will and word, because it rejects it.  It also overlooks faithful obedience to God’s will for our identity in favor of one looking inward for a fictitious identity.  It does not seek to discover the identity God gave us but rather seeks to establish one’s own.  The entire message of 1 Corinthians 2:14 elude those who follow this path.  All the arguments in the world for attempting to justify one’s self-identity and lifestyle are arguments that reject God.  In essence, they are atheistic.  Arguments are not application or living by faith.  Arguments over the Bible, lifestyles, and philosophical speculations amount to resistance to God.

What follows the engagement of Scripture is then living by faith.  As I mentioned before, faith subscribes repentance.  If there is no repentance, there is no faith.  They are inseparable.  The faith that sets one’s sights on God involves repentance that turns to Him.  Arguing over God’s word does not lead to a life of faith but rather to a life of speculative darkness.

The gospel is clear.  Christ died and rose again on our behalf to bring about faith in Him and remission of sins.  Believing the gospel (good news) leads one from the bad news, the result of rejecting it – eternal death.  Read carefully through 1 John, and you will learn how to know God and His will: a) the new birth, b) living by faith (repentance), c) practicing righteousness, and d) loving God and others.

Beauty of Holiness

Did you know that holiness has beauty?  The psalmist declares,

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2).

As we look around our world, we take in the beauty of nature.  The Sequoia sempervirens tower above all other trees demonstrating their strength and longevity.  The oceans cleanse our senses as we take in their freshness and powerful sounds.  The heaven gives off its strong morning light and mellow evening one as both orbs travel consistently across the sky in their unbroken routine.  We take assurance that as the sun sets one day, it will inevitably rise the next and give its warmth and brightness for energizing and enlivening our work and play.

However, the psalmist bypasses the earthly pleasures of creation and takes us to genuine worship apart from the wonders of creation.  He calls for worship “in the beauty of holiness.”  Whoever has ever described something like holiness as beautiful?  It has no physical dimensions.  It has no real fragrance nor can we hear musical notes flowing from it like that of a Stradivarius violin in the hands of a virtuoso musician.  It has no voice that sings as Joan Sutherland or Luciano Pavarotti.  It has no canvas that portrays the artistic splendor of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.  The beauty of holiness, according to the psalmist, surpasses these wonderful expressions of humanity, as beautiful as they are.

What makes holiness beautiful?  Two things.  First, the LORD Himself makes holiness beautiful.  Holiness means to set apart for the purpose for which it was created.  When a thing is set apart and expresses naturally what God intended, it is holy.  The earth and all its splendor in this sense takes on a sense of holiness, for it expresses God’s intended purpose.  It expresses the life and greatness God intended.  When God created it all, He declared that is was good.

We sometimes take that goodness for granted, and plow through the day under stress and pressure with our routines and ignore God’s wonderful intentions in the created order.  As we do so, we not only brush aside God’s intentions in creation that praise Him, but we ignore God’s intentions in our worship of Him.  Our action items interfere and bog us down with worry and anxieties.  Meeting deadlines and the distractions of the mundane takes us away from the extraordinary, that is, God’s intentions for our lives – the beauty of holiness.  Temptations enter the scene and lead us away from His purpose.  Things get ugly: broken relationships, bickering, distrust, arguments, tension, isolationism, factions, and related actions and attitudes.

Second, worshiping God in the “beauty of holiness” returns us God’s intended purpose.  Such worship turns the ugly things of life into something more beautiful than the surroundings of the natural world.  Peace with God is a beautiful position.  Assurance of His love and living in it is a beautiful attitude.  Jesus informed us of the greatest commandment in the law:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

Love of God expresses holiness, because in doing so, this love sets us apart from the way the world loves: conditional and with self in mind.  Loving from the heart, soul, and mind encompasses the entire being – nothing left out.  This is holiness, and it is beautiful to God.  Love expresses worship.