Monday, April 30, 2012

I had a peace about it. Not.

How do you make decisions? Someone asked me the other day how I decide things. I realized I have fallen into using the Christian-ese lingo. One of the phrases I caught myself using is "I was led by God to...".

When I say it I know that I mean that "I decided to..." I should just say that.

Other people wrestle with a decision for a long time, and unable to intuit the correct course of action, they pray and receive an impression. Or they put out a prayer rug or fleece and get a sign via internal urge.

I've never done those things (I have prayed but not been led by an impression, or at least when I felt an impression, or had a leading thought, I did not base my decision on it.) A lot of times my internal impressions are likely from satan, lol.

Other times I hear people say, after they 'were led', "I know it is from God because I had a peace about it." I always used to wonder about that, because I rarely have a peace about my big decisions. I have certainty. But not peace. It is scary to move half a country away...to start a new job...to make new friends...to leave your home church. It is nerve-wracking to witness to a hostile person. I rarely have peace about those things. But when the time comes to do them, I am certain, and thus, I do them.

Jonah had peace about his decision to flee God's will. He actually curled up in the bottom of the boat and went to sleep, while the crew was being tossed and throwing freight and ballast over to save the ship. Having peace about a decision is not a reliable indicator. Ananias and Sapphira likely had peace about their decision to withhold some of the proceeds of the sale of their real estate, at least, they did it without a second thought and Sapphira calmly lied to Peter. But that peace was not the right kind of peace either. (Acts 5)

I was always troubled by these things, fearing maybe I wasn't 'doing it right' with regard to my decision making. Then I heard this question put to John MacArthur- "What is your perspective on the belief that the Holy Spirit leads us by nudging us or whispering to us or giving us dreams, things like that?"  and he answered this way:

JOHN: Well, I think the Holy Spirit does lead us but there is no way to perceive that that’s happening. Right? ... I don’t have a red light that goes on on my head and it goes around and around and around when the Holy Spirit’s leading. I don’t know when the Holy Spirit’s leading. I don’t know when I’m just following my impulses or my desires or whatever. I have no mechanism to know that. But in retrospect I see that. And I categorize that in the providences of God."

"I just put that in the providence…my life is just one amazing act of divine providence after another, after another, after another, after another, after another, every single day of my life unfolds in ways that are so well planned by the divine mind that I…I’m in, you know, a sort of exhilaration day after day after day over what happens in my life. So I don’t know when the Spirit is leading at the time. The Spirit is leading…I can say, “You know, I think I ought to go preach over there.” I do that every day, you know. Friday they brought like, I don’t know, a big list of people who want me to come and speak and what did I do? Did I, you know, begin to go into some kind of mantra and say, “Ohm….” And see if I can induce the Holy Spirit to know what to do? No. I just look at it and say, “Well, I can’t do that. I don’t think I can do that. That wouldn’t be a priority. Maybe I should do that. And you know what happens if I just am open and want to do God’s will, it’s amazing how in retrospect I can look back and say, “Wow, it was absolutely critical that I be there because look what happened when I got there, and this happened and that led to this, and this led to that.” That’s how my whole life has unfolded. So there’s no mechanism that we possess that tells us at the moment when the Holy Spirit is leading us and in some supernatural way. But that in retrospect we will be able to discern by the providences of God that unfold."

Right! In your decisions, do right by Jesus and do right by our family, and moving forward by logically weighing evidence and proceeding with maturity, and God will take care of all the rest. I look back on my decisions and they have all been good. Either they were wrong but made good by God or they were good and He was leading me but I didn't have the advantage of having whispers or impressions to know that at the time. His providence!

"Divine providence is the means by and through which God governs all things in the universe. The doctrine of divine providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things. This includes the universe as a whole (Psalm 103:19), the physical world (Matthew 5:45), the affairs of nations (Psalm 66:7), human birth and destiny (Galatians 1:15), human successes and failures (Luke 1:52), and the protection of His people (Psalm 4:8)." (source)

Gary Friesen said in his book, Decision Making and the Will of God-- "Impressions are real; believers experience them. But impressions are not authoritative. Impressions are impressions. Inner impressions are not a form of revelation, so the bible does not invest impressions with authority to function as indicators of Divine guidance. Impressions are real. Believers experience them. But impressions are not authoritative.”

If a person looks to their impressions, whispers, or nudges, then they are looking to something that is not only NOT authoritative, but is deceitful and corrupt!

Gary Gilley states,  “Psalm 19 teaches us there are two sources of revelation, from nature (vv. 1-6) and from Scripture (vv. 7-14). The “general revelation” of nature, while speaking boldly of the glory of God, still has serious limitations. Romans 1:20 confirms that nature is capable of revealing to mankind the eternal power and divine nature of God; therefore even those who know nothing of Jesus Christ are without excuse when they reject God. But general revelation is incapable of exposing a multitude of things including Jesus Christ, the Cross, grace, eternal life and on and on. For such things we need the “specific revelation” of Scripture. …"

There is general revelation by nature and specific revelation by the bible, and nothing in between like impressions, urgings, or whispers.

Even the famous evangelist George Whitefield "mistook fancy for faith and imagination for revelation" when going forward by impression rather than scripture. He had prophesied that his pregnant wife would bear a son, and that the son would grow up to become a famous preacher. Whitefield did have a son, but unfortunately the child died at 4 months old. That is when Whitefield told Jonathan Edwards that he mistook fancy for revelation. (source, book Jonathan Edwards, by Iain Murray, pp. 240-42)

Precious brethren, inner impressions are bubbling up through our fleshly filter of putrid sin, a sin nature, and corruption. Ick! Who would want to make a decision based on that muck! I refute the logic and the method of Bill Hybels' whispers, especially when Hybels says "Without a hint of exaggeration, the ability to discern divine direction has saved me from a life of sure boredom and self-destruction.' In [Hybels' book] The Power of a Whisper, vision is cast for what life can look like when God's followers choose to hear from heaven as they navigate life on earth. Whispers that arbitrate key decisions, nudges that rescue from dark nights of the soul, promptings that spur on growth, urgings that come by way of another person, inspiration that opens once-glazed-over eyes..."

Mike Feazell said it better, much better when he said,

"Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy the godly freedom to say: “Lord, I’ve got several paths before me, and based on all the facts as I understand them, here’s what I think I should probably do. Please have mercy on me as I enter into this. As you well know Lord I know I am often a moron. I know that in my need You have always been there. And I know you'll see me through this too. Just please don't make the bumps If there’s something I’m missing here, would you show me before it’s too late? And if I miss the cue, then please have mercy on me, a sinner and a frequent dumbbell. And one more thing, if this is a trap door instead of an open door, would you mind not letting go of my hand until I get back to where I ought to be? Thanks. Amen.”

Don't look for a sign or a whisper or a nudge or urgings. Trust God. "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps." (Proverbs 16:9). Even though you can't hear or tell He is directing you, He IS. Appealing to your inner impressions is the same as appealing to yourself. His providence has you in the palm of His hand...therefore trust!

"I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." (Psalms 16:8)

11 comments:

  1. Hi Elizabeth,

    I was the person asking about how did you know that the Lord wanted you to move to Georgia. Thank you for your kind response. I read God's Will Is No Secret, from Grace to You, as you suggested and it made alot of sense to me. I am saved but never knew if my decisions were mine or from the Lord. I have some important things coming up and instead of jumping in with what I think is the right thing to do, this time I will try and wait for the Lord to lead me. Thank you Elizabeth.

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  2. This is a really mature teaching. Few teach like this anymore.

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    1. Thank you Anonymous. It took about a year but I look back and see how the Spirit was putting it together for me. I occasionally wondered why I wasn't "being led" or hearing "whispers" when so many others were. But in the books 've read of the bible (and I have not read them all yet) I never found any indication that is how a New Testament Christian is supposed to make decisions. Meanwhile, though, Beth Moore is ramping up her subjective experiences as authoritative, and Bill Hybels book Power of a Whistle is getting traction even among the Southern Baptists. When I hear and see their teachings, it just seemed 'wrong.' I was totally bothered by their approach. Also, when I hear friends at work say they put out a prayer rug and prayed and got a peace about it, it also felt wrong somehow too.

      Then I came across the MacArthur interview where he said he doesn't hear bells or whispers but just submits to God daily and goes along deciding things as best he can. That made sense to me, especially when he said you can look BACK and see the Spirit HAD led but when it was happening at the time there was no inward or outward indication, it really hit home with me because that was my experience too.

      Then I heard a teaching on No Compromise Radio and the puzzle fell together. So between reading what was in the scriptures, understanding what was not in the scriptures, and listening to two wise Christian teachers, it all came together, and that alone is evidence to me of how the Spirit leads, day by day, piece of information by piece of information, until you look back and you see how wonderfully He has His hand in your life.

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    2. It also fits with free will. God did not make us robots, but He does give us wisdom. In other words, whether we zig or zag, the path will end up straight for the believer with faith. As the psalmist said, the path of the righteous is ordered by the Lord.

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  3. Excellent post. Thank you.

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    1. You're welcome. Praise the Lord for it's to His glory.

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  4. I love your blog. I agree that we need to be really careful when we enter into the realm of being led by the Spirit.

    But I disagree, when you say that we are unable to be led by the Spirit. I respect Dr. MacArthur, but I believe that the spiritual gifts are still in operation.

    And while some spirit filled Christians will never hear the Spirit whisper to them the way to go, that God still whispers to His people.

    I don't believe at all that this was an apostolic filling.

    It was in the Old Testament.

    God is the same.

    God told me that I would marry my husband, before I even knew him. He showed me my husband, with a ring on his finger, a baby carriage, at the church we now attend and He spoke to me clearly,"This is what I have for you." I had NO romantic feelings or no desire for this man previously.

    I wrote it down in my journal, but told no one. I marveled as it fell into place and my husband pursued me without any initiation or manipulation on my part. It wasn't until we were engaged that I read to him my journal.

    I have also been led by the spirit on occasion to send a very specific amount of money to a person, or organization, only later to find out that that was the exact amount they were in need of and no one knew.

    Look at the providence in the ministry of George Mueller.

    God leads people in specific ways, that are not found in Bible verses sometimes.

    That is because miracles still happen. I have seen people healed miraculously, for the glory of God.

    continued . . .

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    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Thank you for your comments. I'll ponder them duly and respectfully. However I'd like to clear up what appears to be several misconceptions that may change the tenor of your thoughts on the matter.

      I did not say "we are unable to be led by the Spirit." Not at all. We ARE led by the Spirit. We just do not have internal impressions/whispers or external signs that it is happening. We don't have bells, whistles, whispers, or impressions about that leading. But we are led, but he Divine Providence of God and by the Spirit.

      Secondly Dr MacArthur does not preach that the spiritual gifts are not in operation. Not at all. He says that the bible shows that several of the gifts were given for a sign, and once the canon was closed, the sign gifts were no longer necessary. That is why the miracles of healing ceased early on., etc.

      I note that you base your rebuttal of the stance I took, which included bible verses, on your experiences. I would offer to you that this is exactly a dangerous method that the whispers verges on as well. Peter experienced all the miracles, all the teaching, all the ministry of Jesus- for years. He had experiences! Yet he still said we have a more sure word of prophecy. (2 Peter 1:19). God's word trumps all experiences. Demons can replicate experiences. Our will conjures whispers. The only sure thing is the word.

      You believe God still whispers to His people...so where does that leave the authority of the bible if people receive impressions directly from God AND from His word? If "God leads people in specific ways, that are not found in Bible verses sometimes" as you say, then how are we to verify that it is from God?

      I'm really glad you gave money, you married a good man, you had all these experiences that mean so much to you. I submit that it is God's providence but not Spirit leading by internal whispers. I still stand by the fact that the bible does not promote that we rely on personal/subjective experiences. I used many verses to support that stance. I hope that you can take some time to review those verses and the concepts behind them. Meanwhile we can praise God together- and congratulations on your marriage to a good Christian man.

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  5. continued . . .
    Once after a prayer meeting. My friend told me that she thought God was telling her to go to the hospital that night to pray for her employees dying father. We thought it might be for salvation. He had been in a coma dying for 3 days, pneumonia and kidney failure.

    We prayed to see if that was from God or from her. I felt like it was from God too, so we thought we would see. I said I would go with her.

    The hospital was closed. So we prayed and asked if God wanted us to still try. We went in through the emergency room and the door to the main hospital was guarded by two security guards. We passed them without being stopped, and the door opened for us to enter.

    We went up to ICU and the only way you can enter ICU is if you are immediate family, and we didn't even know this man's name. They didn't ask us any questions, but let us in. We are white; he is mexican. We are not family.

    He was awake, for the first time in 3 days.

    We asked him if he knew Jesus as Savior and told him God sent us. He cried and told us he knew Jesus but his family didn't know God. We knew there was a reason God got us into a locked and guarded hospital room.

    We prayed for him. I felt God doing something. His daughter came in the room and we shared with her. She told us that they thought he would die within 24 hours. There was nothing they could do but minimize the pain.

    After we left he went back into a coma. But within 24 hours he was 100% healed. His whole family knew Jesus Christ healed him, and he used this story to share with His family about the miracles that God does for his followers, to bring his family to Christ.

    We thought God was sending us to get him into heaven before he died. But God used us to bring a miraculous healing, so that he could take his family with him when he goes.

    Of course it was the Holy Spirit who led us there that night. There is no natural way, we would have had that desire, and faith to do that on our own. In fact the whole time, we kept thinking that it was too crazy and we would get in trouble. We didn't want to do this, we didn't know this man, and my friend was afraid she would get in trouble at work for "stalking" an employees dying father. So there was plenty of reason for us to NOT go. Not to mention the fear factor that always plagues us when we go share our faith with strangers.

    If it wasn't God, we would have been turned away by someone. 3 restricted areas were open to us and we got in. Afterwards we just cried and prayed and worshiped. It was amazing.

    I don't ask for special revelation. I don't need it. It doesn't serve to keep be bored, and yet when you find out it really was God, it makes you rejoice. It is always good to wait for confirmation, to make sure that it is from the Lord. feelings are not enough.

    I understand Dr. MacArthur's reasons for believing that the gifts have ceased, but I don't agree with him. I still love him. I also don't agree with the ministries of Beth Moore or others who have overspiritualized their walks with God to seem special.

    But I have read too many biographies of missionaries, and Christian Heroes like Bruce Olsen, Corrie Ten Boom, George Mueller, David Livingstone, Gladys Aylward, Hudson Taylor, etc. to believe that God doesn't lead us through His Spirit, or do miracles. You would have to say that the greatest heroes of the Christian faith are full of it. And it isn't just heroes, it is even the humblest of saints. Maybe not everyone, but as He wills, He will lead.

    Only God should be glorified, and only His word should be trusted. We test all things. And we rejoice AS He leads us step by step, as a light to our feet.

    God bless.

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  6. Thanks so much for your article.
    My family has gone through a very tough year with moving for a new job and then having our house for sale for a year and not even 1 offer. My husband was separated from myself and the children while we tried to sell our home for 10 months. We grew discouraged many times,wondering what was happening, Praying for the Lord's will to be done. Eventually I believed the Lord did not want to sell our home. We were reluctant to rent because we were across the continent. The unfortunate part as well was that this was a good job and our families were all located in the same place. Just recently a job opportunity opened up near our home from which we moved. Even though the job was less pay, we decided to end the turmoil on our family (we had all been living my with parents for the last 6 months) and take the job. I have been very sad today as a result of that and felt no peace whatsoever. I feel like we have done the wrong thing and I wish we could undo it. During the whole past year we never felt the Lord leading at all, only silence. It was very agonizing. Now I feel great guilt that as my parents age, I will be living to far away to help them. That was one of the reasons we looked for a job nearby them- so we could be closer to them to help them. We do have many things we like about our former home, the church is excellent, very good health care for our diabetic daughter, excellent neighbours and christian friends. We did notice in the new location that some of these same things were not as good. I do wish I felt some sense of peace instead of this horrible feeling of panic and anxiety. At times I have felt that maybe it is better to ask for our job in our new location back and try selling our home again, but I am afraid that maybe a foolish thing to do. I have been praying for peace. Thanks for your practical insights.

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