Friday, February 01, 2008

Book Review: Is That You Lord?

Fleeces, open and closed doors, impressions, "peace" (or a lack of it) — all these are common means for believers attempting to discover the sovereign will of God for their lives.

To that idea, pastor Gary Gilley counters in his book Is That You Lord? that there is a better, more God-exalting, Scripture-trusting, and freedom-giving way.

Following the lead of Gary Friesen (Decision Making and the Will of God [be sure to purchase the first edition of this book]), Gilley explains that there are three kinds of God's will — His sovereign (inter-Trinitarian, unknowable to man, Dt. 29:29) will, His moral (revealed in His commands and instruction in Scripture) will, and His individual will. As Gilley demonstrates, most people are attempting to find the latter, but their quest is actually an attempt to discover His sovereign will — "The real question people are asking when it comes to the individual will is, 'How can I know God's sovereign will for my life?' They want to know if God has given them a means whereby they can storm the gates of heaven and unlock the secret counsels of God."

That quest, Gilley argues, has lead to a mystical quest for God in which believers are tempted to place as much or more trust in extra-Biblical revelation from God than in the revealed Word of God.

…revelation from God, no matter what format or venue, is still revelation from God. It is not possible for God to give revelation that is not authoritative and demanding of obedience. All revelation from God carries the authority of Scripture.…Today many are claiming to hear from God, but what they are hearing, they say, does not have the status and significance of Scripture. This is logically impossible. Either God has spoken or he has not. If he has spoken, that message is as authoritative as Scripture. [pp. 60-61]

Rather than trusting impressions, Gilley argues briefly but convincingly, that the Bible's own counsel about making decisions is:

  • always begin with Scripture — "When you begin with Scripture, in the realm of decision making, you will be able to make your decisions on the basis of solid biblical precepts, commands and principles. The Bible will not tell you what house you are to buy, but it will frame that decision with financial, ministerial and family guidelines."
  • pray for wisdom — "we are not told [Js. 1:5-8] that the Lord will specifically make the decision for us through some form of prompting, only that he will provide wisdom for making a wise decision."
  • [seek] wise counsel — "The counsel of wise, godly and scripturally knowledgeable people is an important source for making wise decisions, but we must keep in mind that such counsel is not infallible. It is a piece but it does not solve the puzzle."
  • circumstances and opportunity — "[These] offer us options — options that should be carefully examined. But again these options are not obligatory mandates from God."
  • desire — "God often works through our desires. What is it that we want to do? is a good question to ponder. [E.g., 1 Tim. 3:1]"
  • freedom — "Surrounded by these principles, and others found within the New Testament, we are given freedom to make choices that we believe will glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31).…the good news is that God, within biblical parameters, has given us freedom and ability to make wise choices that honour him." [pp. 56-59.]

It is that last statement that makes many believers uncomfortable, yet Gilley does a good job surveying the Biblical landscape and demonstrating the normative pattern for God's interaction in people's lives to accomplish His sovereign purpose. God does not speak in "still, small voices" — when He speaks, it is articulate, clear, loud, unmistakable and carries a divine imperative that must always and unhesitatingly be obeyed.

The goal, as expressed in the New Testament, is not to find the will of God but to do the will of God. Since God wants you to do his will, be assured that he has not hidden it and then sent us on some kind of cosmic treasure hunt to find it. He is not daring us to discover the clues which will lead to his plan for our lives. Rather, his will is clearly imprinted on the pages of Scripture. It was to this end that Paul told Timothy to 'be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth' (2 Tim. 2:15). Many are simply unwilling to do the 'diligent' work necessary to accurately handle the word of truth and are looking for shortcuts. The Lord does not call for shortcuts; instead 'diligence' is prescribed. [p. 80.]

Are you still puzzled about the will of God for your life — which job? which house? which person to choose as a marriage partner? which church or ministry? where to vacation? who to disciple? This book will begin to give you an ability to make decisive, confident, God-exalting choices. If you want more detailed answers, read Friesen's book. If you want the concise answer, pick up this book.

1 comment:

Lee said...

In preparing to teach the Journey 24/7 Bible study, “Will of God” I picked up several books recommended by Keith and sought some others through searches. In that search, I found “Is that you Lord?” Having read other books on the will of God, when I finished this book I was very excited about how this book explains what many of us in evangelical churches are doing incorrectly in our pursuit of the will of God. It is a short read, only about 77 pages (not counting the forward and introduction which you can skip). It is worth taking the time to read just to get your biblical antenna for discernment calibrated.