Knowing the Will of God – Part 3: How Do We Do the Will of God?

Knowing the Will of God – Part 3: How Do We Do the Will of God?

Part 1 –
Part 2 –

In this third installment of this series, we once again address the issue of knowing the will of God. In the first part we looked at the definition of that term. We said that the “will of God” is essentially whatever God desires or wants to happen. We discussed, however, that there are three levels at which God’s will is expressed. Level one is whatever God causes to happen in the world and in our lives. Level two is what God wants to happen and what He desires us to do (His perfect will). And level three is what God allows to happen and what He permits us to do (His permissive will).

In the second installment we examined three ways we can learn what God’s will actually is in diverse circumstances. First is to know what He definitely does not desire. In other words we must study the Bible, God’s revealed Word, to discover those thoughts, actions, and attitudes that God prohibits for His people. Those are found in numerous passages in both the Old and New Testaments (e.g. The Ten Commandments) and in the words of Jesus Himself.

The second way we know what is in accord with God’s will is through consistent prayer. By communing and communicating with God we are tuned into His leading. That, along with meditating on God’s word, helps us clarify His purposes.

A third way to discern God’s will is through wise council from mature Christians. There are times when all of us need to discuss our life options with other believers who we know to be mature in their faith and experience.

One key passage we looked at in learning the will of God was Ephesians 5:15-17. Paul says, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Paul advised the Ephesians to live wisely and know the will of God.

Truly, knowing the will of God is essential, but actually doing the will of God involves a much higher degree of difficulty. In fact, it is accurate to say that it is impossible to do God’s will by our own efforts! So then, how can we do what God desires?

Before we answer that, we must be wary of two erroneous ways of approaching this issue. They are the polar problems of legalism and antinomianism.

Legalism is the belief that we must, as did the Pharisees, meticulously obey specific rules or laws in order to be right with God. In other words, our salvation and continued standing before Him depends on what we do. This, of course, is the antithesis of the New Testament Gospel. The Scriptures clearly declare that our salvation and our standing before God are based on His grace through our faith, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul even said that those who teach legalism (as did the Judaizers in Galatia) are teaching a “different” false Gospel and are accursed (Gal. 1:6-9).

Unfortunately, many churches have fallen into this trap and convinced their people they are in danger of losing their salvation. Often they place on them unnecessary burdens of strict behavior involving such trivial matters as jewelry, clothing, makeup, hairstyles, and music. Even the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, if regarded as sacramental requirements for salvation, can be distortions of the Gospel.

The other side of the coin, antinomianism, is equally a perversion of the Gospel. Antinomianism (lit. anti-law) is the belief that, since we are saved by grace through faith and not works, we are free to live any way we want and not be concerned about obeying God’s standards. Paul says expressly that, though our salvation is secure, we are nonetheless even more responsible to God for our behavior than are the legalists (but not in trivial matters). Why? Not so we can obtain salvation, but because we already possess it. The freedom we have in Christ is not so we can sin more, but so we can sin less. It is not because we must obey God out of fear; rather, it is because we want to obey Him out love (cf. Eph. 2: 10)! So this brings us to the inevitable question, “How do we do the will of God?”

One key for doing God’s will is found in verse 18 of the above Ephesians 5 passage. After he gives them a command to know the will of God (vs. 17), Paul then delivers a strong negative admonition, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation (NASB).” So what exactly is “dissipation?” The K.J.V. translates the word as “excess.” It means out of control or debauchery. The T.D.V. (Tal Davis Version) translation reads, “Don’t get drunk because it makes you stupid!” The point is that you can’t do God’s will if you are drunk and stupid. So, as we indicated before, it is never God’s will to get drunk.

This is not an article on drinking but the passage goes on to present a fundamental spiritual principle. What then is the key for doing the will of God? Paul gives the answer in the last phrase of verse 18, “…but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Thus, the first and most important principle for doing the will of God is walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.

You want to hear something incredible? If you are a born-again Christian, then God lives inside of you! That’s right. When you became a Christian the Holy Spirit came to dwell in your body. As I Corinthians 6:19 declares, “You are a temple of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is God, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity! The Holy Spirit is not an “it”, but a “He.” He is the Divine Person who indwells the Christian.

This fact has two implications, one is moral and the other is practical. Remember when you were a teenager and you were told always to behave on dates as if Jesus was in the back seat? One of my youth ministers, however, rebuffed that idea saying, “That’s bad ethics and even worse theology! Jesus is not in the back seat, His Spirit is in your heart! So what you do to yourself, you do to God.” As Paul says, “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:18-20).

The other implication of being filled with the Spirit is of a practical nature. Since the Holy Spirit indwells us, it also means we can avail ourselves of His power to have victory over sin and do God’s will. As a matter of fact, it is the only way to be successful in the Christian life.

We all know that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. His incandescent bulb had to be connected by wires to an electricity source in order to function. But did you know that about the same time a Serbian engineer named Nikola Tesla invented an electric light system that did not need wires. As ingenious as it was, it proved to be (and is) too expensive and dangerous to be practical. In either system, a light bulb needs the juice: electricity. It simply cannot accomplish its purpose by itself without the power.

When we determine what God’s will is for us, we must submit to His leadership and utilize His power to do it. We can’t do God’s will in our own strength. How do we avail ourselves of that power? We do it by faith, trusting in the fact that the Spirit is in us and will empower us to resist temptation and do God’s will. All that is required is that first we confess our known sins and acknowledge God’s forgiveness (“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – 1 John 1:9). Then, as Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright used to say, “Breathe in the Holy Spirit.” Having the presence of the Spirit in our hearts is permanent for the believer, but being filled with the Spirit is a daily occurrence.

Remember, also, that being filled with the Spirit is not a matter of feelings. We may or may not feel anything, but it is always a matter of faith.

So being filled with the Holy Spirit is crucial but we also must be willing to act.

The second principle for doing the will of God is to move ahead confidently in life’s activities by faith. While it is true that sometimes we have to wait on God’s direction, it is no excuse for non-action. Some might say, “I’ll just wait until God opens the door then I’ll go through it.” But that can be a waste of valuable time, the doors are wide-open. As we discussed in installment one, God gives us much freedom to act within the boundaries of His permissive will. We may not always be absolutely sure what God’s desire is in a specific situation. Nonetheless, we should move ahead in life by faith in positive directions we know are acceptable and glorifying to Him. If they are not what God wants He can shut the doors!

We close out this series with this question: Do you know God’s will for your life? You start by knowing the boundaries He has set for all of us. That is, learn the actions and attitudes that are clearly not His will (sins), as taught in the Bible. Then ask the Holy Spirit to help you resist them. Follow the principles we outlined to discern what you believe God wants you to do and act on it. Inaction is almost as bad as the wrong action. If we go forward in faith He will steer the course.

But what if we get way off track? What if we clearly are out of God’s will? Of course, that is why Jesus came. We all are off course and in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But, thank God, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2: 8, 9). For the unbeliever, receiving Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior is the primary essential step for knowing and doing the will of God.

© 2014 Tal Davis