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R4E130201 – Decision Making (and the Will of God) by Douglas Jacoby 48:11
God’s will: Three levels
- Sovereign will (will of decree). Requires trust. Matt 10:30, Acts 4:28.
- Moral will (will of desire). Requires obedience. Matt 7:21, 1 John 2:17.
- Specific will (will of direction). His will for our lives, affecting our decision-making. James 1:5.
- Some speak of God’s permissive will — what he permits, but doesn’t necessarily approve.
Where we err
- Trying to figure it all out ahead of time. Preoccupied with future: Matt 6:25-34, James 4:13-17.
- Too many options (marriage, work, groceries…), compared with the “old days.”
- We don’t want to take responsibility. Easier to blame counselor or the Spirit…
- Pagan thinking:
- Aiming to manipulate the deity to grant blessings (prosperity, health, harm to enemies, etc).
- Controlling the god instead of allowing God to control us.
- This is completely backwards!
- Ethics divorced from religion; morality was optional as long as one went through the motions of the various rituals.
- Aiming to learn the future or will of the god(s) by mechanical means.
- Methods include examining arrows (rhabdomancy) – Ezekiel 21:21; astrology – Isaiah 47:13; flights of birds (a common type of augury); examining livers (hepatoscopy); sortilege (casting lots); patterns in water/oil; fortune cookies; Tarot cards; palmistry; Feng shui; dream analysis (oneiromancy); tea leaves (tasseomancy); crystal balls…
- This is nothing but superstition!
- Aiming to manipulate the deity to grant blessings (prosperity, health, harm to enemies, etc).
- Random reading
- This is just lazy thinking!
- Bibliomancy — asking questions and rifling through the Bible, assuming the first passage one’s eyes settle on contains the answer.
- Defective views of God.
- Thinking that since God has planned it, I’m meant to discover it. (How do we know?)
- Thinking God conceals his plans from us to make it difficult for us to find our way.
- Thinking that God’s word is not meant to be studied diligently, rather only to be used as a sanctified Ouija board (bibliomancy).
- Forbids divination (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) and consulting false gods.
- Allows revelation through
- Prophets, psalmists, historians…
- Angels — as long as they do not contradict the word of the Lord (1 Kings 13:18; see Galatians 1:8-9).
- Directly– the voice of the Lord (Exodus 20)
- Visions / dreams (Numbers 12)
- Urim & Thummim and lots (seeking a yes/no answer). Legitimate means of divining God’s will, permitted to the priests.
- Burning bushes, talking donkeys, dreams, signs…
- What still applies today
- Common sense (Ezra 7:18, 1 Chron 13:2, Acts 20:16)
- Seek wisdom (Proverbs 1:1-7 etc).
- Scripture (Romans 15:4, 1 Corinthians 10:11, 2 Timothy 3:16).
- Fleecing (Judges 6:36-40) comes from weak faith. See also Isaiah 7:10-12 (Ahaz is unwilling to ask for a sign, putting the Lord to the test).
- Counterfeiting messages from God – Jeremiah 23.
- Reading too much into circumstances – 1 Samuel 24, 26; Numbers 20; Judges 14:4 (“from the Lord”).
- “Open door”? — just because a course of action is possible doesn’t mean it’s right.
- Perspective: (Divine) Pillar / (human) counsel – Numbers 10.
- Communicated with his people in ways similar to OT times: prophets (Acts 13), angels (Acts 8), Macedonian call (Acts 16)…
- Neither the norm nor sought by the Christians we read about in Acts.
- We are no longer in the apostolic, foundational age (Ephesians 2:20, Jude 3).
- What still applies
- O.T. Scripture (the Bible of the early church – 2 Tim 3:16)
- Apostolic teaching (Acts 2:42)
- Key scripture: Hebrews 1:1ff – God speaks by his Son through the Spirit working in the Scriptures (3:7,15, 4:7,12 – Psalm 95).
Pseudo-Christian means of finding God’s will
- Proverbs 3:5-6? Too easy to follow path of least resistance. Psalm 143:10: moral paths.
- The “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19).
- Assuming every mystical sensation is from the Spirit (feelings, promptings, nudges, leadings, etc).
- Leading of the Spirit in scripture is primarily moral (Galatians 5, Romans 8)
- Excessive control in parenting stunts growth and stultifies spirituality.
- “Peace of Christ” (Colossians 3:15)?
- Asking for “wisdom” (James 1:5)?
- Lots (Acts 1) – fails to distinguish the covenants.
- Dreams – too subjective.
- New Age teaching (feelings, auras, channeling, etc). See article on The Secret at douglasjacoby.com.
- Romans 12:1-2 – Discernment comes as we conform our hearts to the will of God. Let God shape our characters, hearts, desires.
- God speaks to us primarily in his word, but also through events, people, conscience, nature, experience — and there’s no reason he couldn’t reveal his will to us by extraordinary means (he is God — Psalm 115:3!). But we must be careful when we are trying to discern the true voice of God, for we are surrounded by many voices (the world, worldly people, Satan, our own voice, false religious ideas, etc).
- Trust his sovereign will, obey his moral will, focus least on his specific will. Choose spiritually, take responsibility for decisions.
- If we must have a formula for Christian decision-making, here it is:
- Search the Scriptures.
- Seek godly counsel. Not all persons are equally able to give good advice.
- Pray. Do your best to make sure you are willing to follow the narrow road, not confusing your will with God’s will. (Think of Jesus in Gethsemane.)
- Decide. There may well be more than one valid choice. Even if our choices are suboptimal, God can still work through that!
- Stand by your decision – you are the responsible one. Trust that God will act.
- Garry Friesen, Decision Making and the Will of God. This is the excellent volume after which this podcast is named. I read it first in 1986, and highly recommend it.
- Bruce K. Waltke, Finding the Will of God, a Pagan Notion? A work by a respected biblical scholar.
- Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will, or How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, Etc. Fun and light reading.
- Douglas Jacoby, The Spirit. This book explores the pitfalls of the charismatic mind-set, and highlights how the Spirit moves in our lives and brings us into line with the will od God.
- Douglas Jacoby, Anchored for Life. This series gives perspective on how Christians can navigate the black & white, and gray, of scripture.
R4E130130 – Abortion by Douglas Jacoby 19:30
What does the Bible say on the subject of abortion? Do Psalm 139:13-16 and Exodus 21:22-23 address the issue of abortion? Not as directly as we might think. Psalms are poetry, and Exodus 21 is capable of two translations: miscarriage or premature birth.
No scriptures address the subject head-on. This is curious, because abortion and exposure of unwanted infants were common in the ancient world. Various poisons were administered to induce abortions. At that time, the Hippocratic Oath forbade abortions. The closest the Bible comes to addressing the issue is in this passage, where the penalty for causing an abortion or miscarriage was a fine, not the death penalty, as if the baby were already born. Although I am not pro-abortion, I do admit that the Bible recognizes some differences between a baby already born and one still in the womb.
Most Bible students believe life starts at conception, based on the poetry of Job 10:8-12; Psalm 139:13-16; and Jeremiah 1:5. But did God intend poems to be mined for doctrine?
There is no doubt that abortion creates a tremendous load of guilt, and conservative Bible-believers range from forbidding abortion in nearly all cases to opposing it in all cases–quite a narrow range, when you think about it.
In the absence of direct, explicit, crystal-clear scriptural teaching on abortion, it may be fruitful to ponder the following questions. Try to answer them honestly.
Questions for thought
- The fertilization process requires many hours, and is followed by another day in which the individual (diploid) is formed. In what sense is the mother-to-be pregnant before the process is complete?
- Is the loss of a 16-cell embryo equal to the loss of a full-term fetus?
- Up until two weeks, the zygote can split into twins, triplets, and so on. The process of individuation is still incomplete. Can a soul be shared three ways?
- The baby’s heart starts beating after 22 days. Does life begin with the heartbeat?
- The sex of the embryo is not determined until the seventh week. Accordingly, many Muslims and Jews consider the embryo to be fully human only after 40 days. Do Jews and Muslims value life less than Christians?
- Recognizable EEG patterns (the mental activity associated with humanity) don’t appear until 24 weeks. What are the implications? Is it possible that the individual becomes fully human on a continuum?
- Continuous brainwaves do not begin until about 28 weeks. Until then, the neurons carrying pain impulses to the brain are not yet fully wired. What are the implications?
- Is abortion allowable if this is the only way to save the mother’s life?
Whatever believers think about this important subject should be informed by science and theology, and moderated by conscience.
Antiabortionists are inconsistent when they are pro-life in regard to an embryo or fetus but anti-life when calling for the execution of the abortionist. On the other side, abortionists are inconsistent when they affirm that a fetus is fully human and that it’s at the mother’s disposal (as part of her body). Is it human, or not? If it’s a baby before it’s born, it must not be cast off. Otherwise, on what grounds could eliminating a one-year-old baby be rejected as murder?
Further material not included in the podcast
- In Matthew 1:18-20, Joseph is told that Mary was “with child,” and about this child, “What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” This gives some support for the idea that conception is the point of the beginning of life.
- “You shall not murder a child by abortion” is a command found in early 2nd-century sources Barnabas 19:5 and the Didache 2:2.
- Late 2nd century apologist Tertullian wrote, “It does not matter whether you take away a life that is born or destroy one that is coming to birth. In both instances, the destruction is murder” (Apol. 9.4).
- Augustine too spoke of the sin of aborting a human life, referring to “the murder of an unborn child” (On Marriage, 1.17.15, about 400 AD).
- In the High Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas believed that the rational soul [many souls] is infused by God into the body at 40 days for males and 90 days for females. – John Haldane and Patrick Lee, “Aquinas on Human Ensoulment, Abortion and the Value of Life,” Philosophy 78 (2003), 255-8.
- Modern scholar Richard Swinburne suggests that the soul does not function until about 20 weeks after conception The Evolution of the Soul [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987], esp. ch. 8).
- Life clearly begins before birth, and so I hold that abortion of a living human, a viable fetus, is murder. Yet at which point does the pre-human become a person? Could this take place on a continuum?
- Of course the Lord is pro-life, yet he also wants us to make a right choice. Choose our words wisely; choose our battles wisely; pray for the Lord to make up the difference at any point where we may be defective in our knowledge, relatability to others, or Christ-like compassion.
- While I am pro-life, I am not advocating any specific governmental policy. Like many, I’m acutely uncomfortable when governmental “experts” attempt to regulate every aspect of our private lives (education, ethics, religion, and other personal choices).
- This is one subject we should discuss with wisdom and love.
- Abortion is a sensitive issue. While holding to biblical conviction — uncompromisingly — still we need to behave and speak with genuine concern for others.
- This is probably not suitable for a small group Bible discussion, esp. where women are present.
- Advice for preachers: sensitivity when tempted to publicly call abortion “murder.”
- As we deal with all matters of personal interest to those we hope to reach, students of the word should strive to:
- Take a stand on the truth. Know the facts.
- Be silent where the Bible is silent.
- Present the gospel message in a gracious spirit (Colossians 4:5-6).
Download movie. Will you choose what is right over who is?
One: Why take care of yourself first? How can you give to others what you do not have? What kind of example will you be then? Caring cares!
Two: How to giving choices empowers responsibility? You feel your freedom when you have the opportunity to decide? Choices empowers!
Three: Does consequences drive lessons home? Is feeling the outcome of your decisions the best learning experience? Consequences teach!