What is God's Will?

 
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As with the world, so too do Christians obsess about the question of freedom and free will. In the church's historical way of discussing free will Christians have gone on for millenia picking over the subject of God's will. But, at bottom, what we are really trying to get at in our typically ham-fisted way of doing things is how much freedom we have in relation to God. It is not God's freedom that bothers us so much as it is our lack of freedom in relation to God that rubs us wrong. We want more room to move, and choose, and make decisions about how our relationship with God will go, as opposed to God getting too close to us, behaving like a child with boundary issues.

Whatever it is about God's will that we are trying to nail down, God counters with Jesus. God locates His will for us in Christ. Outside of Jesus, in Whom the whole fullness of God dwells bodily, we can know nothing about God's will. We can know nothing about God's will directly or say we understand God's will unless we are talking about Jesus. If God acts for us at all, for our benefit, it is done only through Christ Jesus. 

This means that any freedom we imagine we have in relation to God is wiped away by Jesus. Jesus is the glory of God. Jesus is the only holy one. Jesus alone is good. He is God's grace and truth in the flesh. He is God's good and gracious will toward us executed because we rebel against the declaration that all our choices have been taken away and nailed to Calvary's cross. Therefore, our knowledge and love do not effect God one way or the other. Our good intentions are as damnable as the most horrific genocide when they interfere with God's will being done to us in Christ Jesus.

Jesus as the fullness of God's will is a noun and a verb. He is God's will and He does God's will to us, for our salvation. So, if we begin by asking what God's will is in relation to our freedom to choose, we will inevitably employ Jesus as a tool for sifting out the sheep from the goats. But when we begin with Jesus as God's will in the flesh then we begin with what God wants for us expressed in the words and work of His beloved Son.

In Christ There is No Guess Work

There is no "or else" to God's will, there is only, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." We do not have to look over our shoulder anymore, worried about whether we have been predestined to salvation or damnation because God makes us His destination at Golgotha. God sends His Word and Spirit from the future to declare to His beloved children ahead of time and in the affirmative that we are chosen in Christ Jesus. 

In relation to Christ Jesus we know God's will for us. He prefers us. He enjoys us. He suffers Himself to be rejected by us because He loves us without limit, measure, or any "or else" threats. At the end of the day, on account of Jesus' bloody suffering and death, God says to us, "Yes, you're good!" He does not say this because of anything good in us, but because Jesus is our good. 

The unpleasantness of debating God's will for us apart from what is revealed to us in Christ through words, water, bread and wine, is the creeping doubt that maybe none of us is safe. Maybe we are all goats. Maybe we are all doomed on account of our selfish, self-seeking, destructive path we carve for ourselves. Maybe we are not as forgiven as we once imagined. "Then again," we think, "I don't have to be the first one into heaven, I just have to be at least one step ahead of that sad wretch over there when the judgment bell sounds."

Even “our faith” is a gift from God’s fatherly hand. Our performance, desire, and perseverance do not factor into God’s will for us.
— Donavon Riley

But, in Christ there is no guess work. We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Our inclination, desire, wishes, appetites, passions, and choices do not factor into God choosing us. Even what we call "our faith" is the faithfulness of God toward us which creates faith in us. Even "our faith" is a gift from God's fatherly hand. Our performance, desire, and perseverance do not factor into God's will for us. Only Christ crucified for the ungodly matters, because only Jesus hung on a cross reveals to us God's will for us: to die our death, descend into our hell, and in the power of His resurrection to open the way through death and hell for us. A lot of pious talk does not calm our conscience in relation to God's will for us. Only the shed blood of our Savior can accomplish this feat.

Thus, what is God's will for us? It is located in the One Who begged that the cup be taken from Him. God's will is seen in the bloody sweat and forsakenness of one man on a dark afternoon in Jerusalem. The true mark of God's will is expressed from Golgotha's heights, from the lips of the man who said: "Thy will be done.”

Not our lostness, nor our doubts, nor our millenia-long debates about God's will bring us one inch closer to finding the answer. Only the love that is stronger than death, which bursts from the grave on the third day can show us God's will for us. Jesus is God's will for us. Jesus alone.

 

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'.




 

 
 

 
Donavon RileyDonavon Riley