Saturday, March 3, 2007

Finding Out How God Communicates (Usually)

In Fetter Lane's last post we examined Wesley's criticism of too high an expectation for supernatural revelations of God's will. Today we will read his counsel on the common ways God expresses his path for us to follow.

Today we continue with John Wesley's Sermon # 37, "The Nature of Enthusiasm":
22. Perhaps some may ask, 'Ought we not then to inquire what is the will of God in all things?And ought not His will to be the rule of our practice?' Unquestionably it ought. But how is a sober Christian to make this inquiry? to know what is the will of God? Not by waiting for supernatural dreams; not by expecting God to reveal it in visions; not by looking for any particular impressions or sudden impulses on his mind: no; but by consulting the oracles of God. 'To the law and to the testimony!' This is the general method of knowing what is 'the holy and acceptable will of God.'

You could see this coming, couldn't you? Wesley said the Bible is the chief way of knowing the will of God. Does this disappoint you a bit? Were you hoping for an answer less obvious? I understand. The old saying is true, "Familiarity Breeds Contempt." We are all so used to the Bible that we can fall prey to taking it--the printed Word of God--for granted.

But what about those specific cases in our lives that the Bible doesn't answer. For example, how can the Bible help us to understand what college to go to? Consider Wesley's view:
23. 'But how shall I know what is the will of God, in such and such a particular case? The thing proposed is, in itself, of an indifferent nature, and so left undetermined in Scripture.' I answer, the Scripture itself gives you a general rule, applicable to all particular cases: 'The will of God is our sanctification.' It is His will that we should be inwardly and outwardly holy; that we should be good, and do good, in every kind and in the highest degree whereof we are capable. Thus far we tread upon firm ground. This is as clear as the shining of the sun. In order, therefore, to know what is the will of God in a particular case, we have only to apply this general rule.

24. Suppose, for instance, it were proposed to a reasonable man to marry, or to enter into a new business: in order to know whether this is the will of God, being assured, 'It is the will of God concerning me, that I should be as holy and do as much good as I can,' he has only to enquire, 'In which of these states can I be most holy, and do the most good?' And this is to be determined, partly by reason, and partly by experience. Experience tells him what advantages he has in his present state, either for being or doing good; and reason is to show, what he certainly or probably will have in the state proposed. By comparing these, he is to judge which of the two may most conduce to his being and doing good; and as far as he knows this, so far he is certain what is the will of God.
To me, this is an intriguing opinion: ask yourself, "Where can I be the holiest and put my best shots in for the Kingdom?" and then go for it! Far from releasing our responsibility to think, this view demands that we take a reasoned and calculated guess.

Wesley continues:
25. Meantime, the assistance of His Spirit is supposed, during the whole process of the inquiry. Indeed it is not easy to say, in how many ways that assistance is conveyed. He may bring many circumstances to our remembrance; may place others in a stronger and clearer light; may insensibly open our mind to receive conviction, and fix that conviction upon our heart. And to a concurrence of many circumstances of this kind, in favour of what is acceptable in His sight, He may superadd such an unutterable peace of mind, and so uncommon a measure of His love, as will leave us no possibility of doubting, that this, even this, is His will concerning us.
After I accepted the call to ministry I had to determine where to go to college. I had two choices: Warner Southern College in Florida and Mid-America Christian University in Oklahoma. During my senior year of high school I visited both, Florida first and Oklahoma last.

I didn't have anything bad to say about Warner Southern but felt no "pull" there. When I visited Oklahoma my questions were answered. I just "felt" this was the right place to be. I liked it there. I felt the school exuded a strong holiness factor. In fact, I was so comfortable there that during my visit I told another of my decison to attend college there.

I didn't have a vision, dream, or supernatural encounter. I just felt peace in my heart and I liked the place. I've never regretted my decision.

Let me conclude with one last quotation from Wesley's "The Nature of Enthusiasm":
26. This is the plain, scriptural, rational way to know what is the will of God in a particular case. But considering how seldom this way is taken, and what a flood of enthusiasm must needs break in on those who endeavour to know the will of God by unscriptural, irrational ways; it were to be wished that the expression itself were far more sparingly used. The using it, as some do, on the most trivial occasions, is a plain breach of the third commandment. It is a gross way of taking the name of God in vain, and betrays great irreverence toward Him. Would it not be far better, then, to use other expressions, which are not liable to such objections? For example: instead of saying, on any particular occasion, “I want to know what is the will of God;' would it not be better to say, 'I want to know what will be most for my improvement; and what will make me most useful?' this way of speaking is clear and unexceptionable: it is putting the matter on a plain, scriptural issue, and that without any danger of enthusiasm.