Monday, June 5, 2017

Book Review: The Will of God is the Word of God

The Will of God is the Word of God. James MacDonald. 2017. B&H Books. 216 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Do You wonder about God’s will for your life personally? Do you ponder specific decisions you need to make and if they are in line with God’s will? It might reassure you to know that most believers frequently wrestle with God’s will for their lives. Welcome to the puzzle party!

Premise/plot: Ever been confused about the will of God? Or confused about what God's will for your life is? James MacDonald has some good news to share with you. He explores misconceptions about the will of God, how Christians have perceived and applied this concept of doing-being-finding-seeking-discovering God's Will. His argument is simple yet profound:
The will of God IS the Word of God. The Word of God IS the will of God. Each IS true. And that discovery leads to a glorious experience of freedom for every Christ-follower. You no longer need to worry and wonder about the minute details of life. If you are increasingly the person God wants you to be, then you can be confident you are living the fullest and most joyful life possible. That, in the end, encapsulates for you personally what the will of God actually IS.
Stated simply, the will of God IS about who you are. The will of God IS about your sanctification, that refining process in which you are conformed more and more into the image of Christ Jesus.When we are increasingly the people God wants us to be, then we can be confident we are where God wants us to be and with whom God wants us to be. In other words, your character traits, spiritual priorities, and manner of living—what Christians have for twenty centuries called “holiness”—this is the will of God.
Throughout the book, MacDonald's focus is on God, on the Bible, and on the importance of obeying the revealed will of God found within the Word. The book is practical and packed with advice on how to understand and apply the Word of God.

My thoughts: I liked this one very much. I still prefer, I think, John MacArthur's glorious little book on the subject. It is more concise, perhaps. But this is a solid, straightforward, practical book on the subject. I agreed with much of what MacDonald has to say.

Favorite quotes:

  • The world is going where God wants it to go. History is headed in His direction. God is at the wheel, and understanding God’s sovereignty is foundational to fully knowing and appreciating what God’s will IS.
  • The Bible applies to you the same way it applies to every other human being. God practices equal opportunity engagement when it comes to His will. His will IS His Word, and you have the chance to believe and obey, just like everyone else. In fact, that is what His will for you IS. 
  • Every morning when you wake up, you can ask, “What’s God’s will for me today?” And the answer is the same every morning: “My sanctification.” That’s an awesome, biblical answer that will more than occupy you all day. What is sanctification? Sanctification is the lifelong process in which Christ-followers are refined and increasingly conformed to the behavior pattern of Jesus Christ. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).
  • God’s Word never teaches us how to know God’s will. Though the Bible reveals God’s guidelines on how to live, God’s Word does not teach us how to know His will. Nowhere in the Bible can we find a set of directions, a process, or a system that decodes God’s specific will for a situation. This is an important distinction. Unless you are obeying a direct command in Scripture, it’s never a good idea to explain a decision by saying, “It’s God’s will that I do this.” Christians should respect God’s will too highly to attach His authority and weight to our decisions by calling them “God’s will.”
  • God’s dream for your future is not that He would somehow get on your program. God’s dream for your future IS that you would get on His program.
  • God continually calls us deeper and deeper into the fullness of life in Him. God envisions a day when what matters most to you is unrelated to the trappings of life (which you may have been tempted to refer to as God’s will for your life) but instead relates to Him! God’s will for you IS a vertical relationship where those things become less and less important as you are caught up into the depth and glowing height of knowing and loving the Lord. (If you crave more evidence, take a moment to read Ephesians 3:14–19 in a fresh, new way.)
  • What is God’s will for your life? The first layer of a proper foundation is submission to God’s sovereign will. God’s will is for us to submit to His sovereign will, because it deals with matters over which we have no control. We function best when we are consciously dependent on God for our very existence. We never translate our responsibility into independence from God. This shapes the way we make plans. The second layer of a proper foundation is knowing that God wants us to be sanctified by His Word. God has delivered the bulk of His will to us in the form of the Bible. Whenever we talk about knowing and obeying God’s will, we are primarily talking about what God has spelled out in His Word. If you want to know God’s will regarding your behavior, conduct, and actions—look for clear answers in the Bible. Back to the parked car analogy, a believer’s life should never be in park, sitting still, waiting to know God’s will. There is always plenty of God’s Word to put into practice. To be sanctified by God’s Word means that we are being shaped and trained by God’s directions toward Christlikeness. The third layer of a proper foundation is being guided by His Word in matters of personal choice. If I had to identify a central passage in Scripture that points to wise living, I would choose the following verses from Ephesians: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord IS” (Eph. 5:15–17, emphasis mine). 
  • Wise decision-making begins by being a student of God’s Word. Because it is the written expression of God’s will, we can confidently rule out choices that would violate its directions. In those instances, we can definitively say, “According to God’s Word, this is not God’s will for me.” In order to make wise decisions, both our heads and our hearts must be in God’s Word. Psalm 119:11 puts it clearly: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
  • Our central purpose in life, our number one reason for existing, is to bring glory to God. It’s not something God needs; it’s something we need to do in order to fulfill our ultimate purpose.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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