Receiving God’s Guidance

Receiving God’s Guidance

Who is supposed to lead the church? The answer to this question creates much controversy from denomination to denomination and from church to church. Some say the elders in each local church are to lead. “No, the whole congregation is to vote.” “No, a presbytery made up of elders from various local churches has the ultimate authority.” “No, the Pope is the apostolic successor who leads the church.” “No, the pastor; he is the leader. That is what we are paying him for.”

In the midst of the fracas, we tend to loose sight of the clear, unifying principle presented to us in God’s Word. Who is supposed to lead the church?

Paul answers that for us in Colossians 1 (Verse 18),

And he is the head of the body, the church, he is the beginning and the first born from among the dead, so that in everything he might have supremacy.

The church exists for the glory of the Savior, and as the Head, Jesus has the right, He has the authority to steer the church in directions that may make us very uncomfortable at times. He has the authority to lead the church in ways that challenge our preferences and our prejudices. Such leadership by Jesus has always been difficult for the church to accept and to embrace for Jesus often leads His church and His people in directions and in changes that rub against the desires of those members within the church and even of those leaders within the church.

For instance, when William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, broke new ground in following Jesus’ lead by going out to the poor, going out to the alcoholics, and others in the community who were considered undesirable many devout church leaders criticized him sharply. In fact, even the great evangelical politician, the Earl of Shaftsbury, himself a champion of the poor, announced that the Salvation Army was the anti-Christ. Another member of the church confirmed this by declaring that William Booth’s name, when you added the numbers behind all the letters, his name added up to the number “666,” thus clarifying for everyone exactly the nature of William Booth and his organization.

When Hudson Taylor followed Jesus by becoming the very first Western missionary in China to wear the hairstyle of the Chinese; to have his hair cut and wear a pigtail and dye his hair black; to wear the clothes of a Chinese man and the shoes of a Chinese man, he did so because he rightly believed that he would be able to get greater access to inland China and present the Gospel to those inside the interior of that nation. When he did this however, many of his fellow missionaries treated him with disgust. His best friends viewed him as a “crackpot who was surrendering the superiority of Western ways.” Even his parents were shocked at his decision.

Then there is George Fredric Handel who was criticized when he brought his oratorio, The Messiah, to England. Indeed, the words were strictly Scripture but the style of music and the place of its performance, the concert halls, seemed to be out of place by many Christians of the day, and they criticized him sharply for writing such music.

These are only a few examples of the church finding it difficult to follow Jesus’ lead. The first major instance of this in church history is found in our text, Acts 11. It is a text that deals directly with the necessity of the church broadening beyond a Jewish audience to the “uttermost parts of the world.” But, also, in this passage, God teaches us about how to discern His lead.

God was leading the church into a new era of full inclusion of both Gentiles and Jews into one body. This kind of inclusion had never before been experienced by those who worshipped the Lord God. Prior to this, a Gentile who desired to worship the Lord God with full privileges had to become a Jew; he had to become circumcised, and he had to participate in certain rites that made him a Jew, a proselyte.

But now, God has something new for the church and the message is that Gentiles don’t have to become Jews in order to worship the Lord God, or in order to be included with full rights of membership; so equality into the church.

An important question emerges: how do we know what Jesus wants us to do? How can we discern Jesus’ lead? How do we know, both in our individual lives and in the life of the church, what the will of God is?

Acts 11 unfolds for us five-specific principles by which we can tell and know Jesus’ will. Jesus is the Head of the church and the church exists for Him. The church is not about us; it is about Him, so it is vital that we learn to listen to Him.

The first principle is to listen – listen to the testimony of Godly people.

The second principle is to talk to God in prayer.

The third principle is to observe God hand in circumstances.

The fourth principle is to submit to God’s word.

And the fifth principle is to look for God’s blessing.

This first principle jumps out at us in the first three verses and that is to listen to testimony from Godly people. God often uses very normal, natural means to accomplish super-natural ends. This principle of our need to listen to other people in order to discern the will of God is evident in two instances in the story; the first, in Peter’s testimony which begins in these first three verses, but also, we read in Verse 12, of “these six brothers” who Peter took along with him to the house of Cornelius, and he did so because he wanted others to bring testimony; others to provide counsel to the church. Peter understood that a dramatic change is to take place.

God indeed uses other Christians, other Godly men and Godly women, to guide us.

Proverbs 11 Verse 24, says,

In a multitude of counselors there is safety.

Proverbs would repeat this exact same verse in Proverbs 24, in Verse 6,

In a multitude of counselors there is safety.

In Proverbs 15:22, God tells us,

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

God gave the church seven Godly people to gain counsel from in this particular time of crisis in the 1st Century. What does God want for this new church to do and to be? God provides this church with seven Godly men.

Peter’s counsel of the church is given at the end of Chapter 10, Verses 47 and 48,

“Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus…

Peter’s counsel is this, we need to baptize these guys and these gals who have come to faith and have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. How could we keep baptism from them? How could we not make them and include them into the church? Peter is acting as an Apostle, a leader of the church appointed directly by Jesus Christ.

It is true that Jesus leads the church, but Jesus does not lead the church apart from human instrumentality, that is to say, in the 1st Century, God directly appointed Apostles to be human instruments by which the church would be led. After the Apostles, God commanded the church to appoint elders in every church to oversee the work of the ministry.

This study is not one on church government, but the point to be made is this, God uses church leaders specifically to reveal His will to the church. This is not to say anyone church leader is infallible or any group of church leaders are infallible. Peter certainly was not infallible. But, the crucial point in this story for us is that we need to listen to Godly leaders. This early church didn’t do so well on this point and they nearly missed where, apart from God’s Grace, they could have ruined the church.

God wants us to understand that He places certain people within the church whereby we can gain counsel; whereby we can gain wisdom, for knowing and discerning what God desires for the church to do. Sometimes our pride gets in the way of receiving such counsel and that is exactly what happened here.

Verses 1 through 3,

The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem…

Peter is very deliberate as he goes up to Jerusalem. He knows that trouble is brewing.

…the circumcised believers…

were Jewish believers living in Jerusalem, criticized him and they said,

“You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

Criticism from other believers is inevitable in ministry. In this particular instance, the Jewish believers could not fathom that God would have them break the rules of kosher. These were rules that they had adhered to all their life and had known this is what makes one “clean” and this is what makes one “unclean,” “And what you have done here, when you went into the house of a Gentile is wrong. You have become unclean according to everything we know about God’s will. What you have done is wrong.”

They said at the end of Verse 3,

“You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

If Gentiles had become kosher, if they had become clean, if they had followed the Jewish law and become circumcised, etc., then the Jewish believers could intermingle with them. But, this is not true of Cornelius and his household. Peter is entering into an unclean house and eating with unclean men, and their thought is, “Peter, if it is right for you to go into a Gentile’s home and eat with them, it is right for Gentiles to come into your home and ultimately into our homes and eat with us. That is unfathomable. That is unthinkable that this would he what God wants.”

We do not have the exact problem today, not many instances as these first Saints had to deal with, but we do have something similar; we are glad to have other people come and join us in our church as long as they become like us. We have to be careful of that attitude, don’t we? “As long as you become like us, then we can enter into your homes and you can enter into ours. Then we can be joined as a church together. But until then, I cannot fathom that God would want us to change.”

The first question that faces us is not “What is God’s will?” That is where we usually begin. The first question in our pursuit of following Jesus’ lead in the church is this, “Am I willing to follow Jesus? If what Jesus has for me in my personal life, or for us as a church, goes against my preferences, goes against my strong feelings, am I willing to obey Him?” Until we answer that question, it really doesn’t matter much what Jesus’ will is, because if we find it out we would be resistant to it anyway.

The Jewish Christians might have missed God’s will altogether because they were so intent on criticizing they were not willing to listen to Godly counsel. A critical spirit will hinder us from discerning God’s will.

I am so thankful for Peter’s response. Peter did not come to these critical believers and say, “Hey, you hard-headed and hard-hearted reprobates, I am an Apostle. What right do you have to challenge me and my authority? I have this directly from God’s Spirit. I had a vision.” That is not what Peter did.

This criticism was unwarranted. Can we agree with that? Can we agree that the Jewish believers, in their criticism, were wrong? They were on the wrong side of this issue. That much is very clear, but I want you to notice Peter’s mature response in Verse 4. Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened…

Peter held his critics in great love and great patience and sought to win them over and see God’s will. He didn’t grow impatient with them and become inflammatory in his language.

It is very important for leaders to accept criticism and respond to it in gentleness and in love. Peter knew that apart from God’s Grace at work in his life, that apart from God’s revelation to him, he very well may have had the exact same response. He understood that he needed the Truth and God gave it to him in a timely way and that he had to deal with it. Remember, he said, when the blanket was let down, “No, Lord, I will never eat those things,” and so in great patience he remembered. Sometimes we forget where we once were and we become impatient with people who are still there. It is very vital for mature, Christian believers, men and women, to be patient in this kind of situation. He walked through that long, slow process with these believers, convincing them of God’s will.

The first principle in following God’s lead in life and ministry is this, listen to counsel from Godly people. Seek after it. It is interesting when we set our wills on something we really don’t want Godly counsel because we know what they are going to say and we don’t want to hear it.

I remember when I was in college, I began to date a particular young gal and she was a Christian; she went to church, but she was not very mature in her Christian walk. There is a reason why I wanted to date her: she was pretty. I really didn’t want to ask my parents, I didn’t want to ask other Godly friends, “What do you think about me dating this gal?” I didn’t ask them. Do you know why I didn’t ask them? I knew what they were going to say and I didn’t want to hear it at the time.

It is very important for us to say, “Lord, whatever your will is, that is what I want.” That gives us a humble heart to be willing to say to other Godly people around us, “Hey, let me ask you, what do you think?”

The second principle we find is to talk to God in prayer. This is what Peter did. Peter began to explain everything to them precisely as it happened.

“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance (this) is what 1 saw…”

He was in the city of Joppa, praying. Peter didn’t just come up with this new idea for ministry. He didn’t just dream it up, “Let me think, how can I make this church really go in this world?” No, he was, as a mature, Godly leader, praying. He knew that he needed God’s direction for his life and so that was his consistent habit, and God, unexpectedly, gave him direction as he was in the habit of seeking God in all matters of his life.

Some people today say, “You don’t have to pray over some decisions. The Lord wants you to be mature and the mark of maturity is that you are able to make decisions on your own.” That is not what the Bible teaches about discerning God’s will or about prayer itself.

As I read the Bible, I read in Philippians 4, Verses 6 and 7 (NKJV),

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication…let you requests be made known…

Do you know what that means? When I am anxious about the future and what I should do and about where I should go and the decisions I should make, God tells me I should make those requests; let that prayer be made known unto God, “Tell me, lead me.”

When I read my Bible in James, Chapter 1, Verse 5, I read, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him as of God who gives all men, generously, liberally, and it will be given to him,” and do you know what that means? When I don’t understand what exactly I should be doing, or where I should be going, or the direction I should be heading in, and I don’t have the wisdom to understand that nature of the future, I need to ask God. God is gracious and willing to impart that to me as I pray.

When I read in 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5, “pray without ceasing,” I understand that I am unable to discern on my own and reason my way through decisions of life and I need to be constantly in a state of dependence upon God. Prayer aligns us with God’s concerns; it aligns us with God’s agenda and with God’s purposes. Prayer expresses to God a humble heart; a heart that rejects a self-directed life, a self-directed church; a heart that says, “Lord, I am not in control, you are, and God, if I make the decisions, I will make a mess of things. I need you to direct me, Lord. I need you to direct us. We want what you want.”

Donald Barnhouse, in his sermon, exhorts us in order to discern God’s will, “We need to look to God on a regular basis, daily, and at times, even hourly.” Then he points to Psalms 32, Verse 8 (KJV),

“I will guide thee with mine eye.”

Barnhouse says if God is to guide us with His eye, He must catch our eye. How does God catch our eye? I believe Peter reveals it. God catches our eye and we discern the eye of God in the direction that God is guiding us through His eyes – through prayer.

When I was growing up and we would be in a formal setting, maybe in church or some formal dinner, I was taught at an early age to look to my parents to allow them to guide me with their eye. They didn’t want to have to speak harshly to me in a public setting, and so they would give me “that look,” and I would say, “Okay, this is what I need to do.” If children don’t learn to look to the face of their parents, their parents are unable to guide them with their eye and they often have to guide them in a little more rough manner to get their attention, don’t they?

Prayer: it is the means by which God guides us with His eye.

Do you really pray about the decisions you have to make? We are tempted to spiritualize the decisions we make by saying things like, “After much prayer, I have decided…,” or even corporately, the church can say, “After much prayer, the leaders have decided…” We know that is the way we ought to talk as Christians, but do we really? Has it really been after much prayer, or are we just saying that because that validates the decision we ultimately make? Let’s make sure we really pray. Sometimes we say, “Well, I have a peace about this decision.” The issue in not whether we have an internal peace, but rather we have prayed in earnest.
When we have to decide upon accepting a new job or a new position in our company, we should pray, shouldn’t we? When we decide to purchase a new home, or car, we really should pray. When we decide to attend a certain college or a certain church, we should pray. When we decide to move church campuses, to move from this location to the next, we should pray. James says that even mundane matters, like business trips, are to be the focus of our prayers; of our dependence on God.

Let me read you a few verses from James, Chapter 4, Verses 13 through 16,

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we will do this or we will go to that city and spend a year here and carry on business and make some money.’ Why, you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then it vanishes. Instead of living a self-directed life, you should say, ‘If it’s the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or do that.’ As it is, you boast, you brag, that is a self–directed life and all such boasting is evil.”

We need to learn to replace our self-directed life with the humility of a prayer-dependant life. We should be careful that we don’t use prayer as a means to tell God our plans, “Lord, I have decided to become a missionary. Please bless me.” “Lord, I have asked Susie to marry me Please bless us.” That is not the time for prayer. The time for prayer is prior to the decision and say, “God, what would you have me to do?”

We ask the question: does God communicate directly to us through prayer? We have to be careful here that we would always check our inner promptings of God’s Spirit with the Word of God, but I do believe that God provides us with inner promptings.

In Verse 12, Peter would say,

“The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them.”

It is not often that I have such bold, clear promptings. It is often that I have what I think is God’s prompting, but there are occasions. In fact, one such was my corning to Bethany almost twelve years ago. The first interaction I had with the church, I prayed about and it was very clear that God said, “No, you must stay in Texas for another twelve months.” I thought God was saying, “No,” to me corning here to Bethany. I told the leaders of the church, “No, God told me I really believe that God…”, so it was clear in that moment that I really believed that if I would have told the leaders of this church, “Yes, I am open to candidate of the church,” I would be disobeying God. In prayer, it became very clear to me that God was telling me, “No.” Now, thankfully; the church wasn’t able to find a pastor in twelve months, so eighteen months later they contacted me again, and God in His Sovereign Will and His Sovereign Design, led me to be able to have the privilege of pastoring here.
Prayer is the means to seek after God’s leading.

The third principle is this – we submit to God’s Word. The Bible is the breath of God. All Scripture is God breathed and as such, the Bible is without error; it is right in all that it affirms. Psalms 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible and it is almost all about the Bible. It is wonderful words on which to meditate.

89 “Your word, 0 Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” 105 “You word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

How are we going to know the leading of God’s Spirit?

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Verse 130, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” Verse 138, “The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy.” And, finally, Verse 160, “All your words are true; all you righteous laws are eternal.”

This third principle is the cornerstone for knowing God’s will. This is the objective standard by which we measure all subjective inclinations. God will never lead us in directions that are contrary to His Word. We as believers learn to test everything, those inner promptings, the circumstances, everything, against the revealed will of God.

I have heard a husband say, “I believe God wants me to divorce my wife.” “Why do you think that?” “Because God wants me to be happy and as long as I am with this person, I am unhappy and that certainly could not be what God wants.”

If God’s will were confirmed by feelings, we couldn’t argue with this fellow, could we? But, God’s will is not confirmed by feelings; God’s will is confirmed by His revealed Word, His revealed Truth.

This is what Proverbs 3, 5, and 6 means.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understandings. In all your ways, acknowledge him.

What does it mean to “acknowledge Him?” We acknowledge that He has given us His Word, His Truth, already proclaimed, it is established forever, eternal in the Heavens. “In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” We acknowledge God when we submit to His Word. God’s Word makes His will very clear on all the major issues. If we are not interested in following God’s will, in that large part that is absolutely clear, then God is not interested to reveal that small part that is a bit unclear.

Someone says, “Why can’t we just trust our own reasoning, our own logic, our own ability to think things through? Why do we need this revelation from God?” The answer is man fell in Adam and Eve and with the fall of Adam and Eve, our mind’s, our ability to reason, is corrupted. It is corrupted in such a degree that we can no longer rely on reason as a reliable source for truth. Truth tells us how we can best enjoy God. Truth tells us how we glorify God. Truth tells us what is best for us. Truth tells us what will bring us the most joy, and our ability to reason is naturally bent away from the Truth.

Someone says, “I think my ability to reason is pretty good.” Let me take you into a restaurant when you are hungry and place you before the buffet table. Let me ask you, is your reason at work in a healthy way there. I will tell you, perhaps most or some of you may say, “I have good reasoning abilities at that moment.” I know what I’m thinking as I am sitting there hungry before that buffet table, “What’s going to taste good in the next fifteen minutes because that is what I am going to put on my plate?”

Whenever sin begins to look good and profitable to us, whenever we think walking away from obedience to God is going to benefit our lives, understand our corrupted reason, our corrupted mind, is at work and that is the reason why we need revelation; revelation from God to lean on, to trust in, even when it goes against our natural ability to think things through.

In our story, Peter needs revelation. His reasoning would never have led him to the Truth of the oneness of the church. Peter received this revelation in a vision.

Verses 5 and 9,

“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision.

“The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure anything God has made clean.’

We ask the question, “I need revelation. I can’t trust my reason, but should I look for visions then? That’s what happened to Peter.”

I don’t doubt that God, in unique times and in unique places, can give visions. I am not here to argue that visions are never a part of a Christian’s experience. If visions do exist, I believe they are very rare. Why? Because what we have is something much more sure. Peter tells us this. Turn to 2 Peter, Chapter 1. This is an important text of Scripture if we are to understand this.

Peter says in Verse 16,

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus…but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

In other words, “We have had these experiences. We have had visions and we have had eyewitness accounts.” What was it was talking about directly?

He says (Verse 17),

For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love…”

He is talking about the Transfiguration. He goes on to say in Verse 18,

We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

Verse 19,

And we have the word of the prophets made more certain…

King James says,

We have a more sure word of prophesy.

You take the vision that we had of seeing Jesus in the mountains, and, “Boy, if I had that vision, then I would know that God is clearly communicating with me.” What Peter says is, “No, don’t look back on my experience, even my experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, as glorious as it was, beloved brothers and sister in Christ, we have a more sure word of prophesy. We have the word of God made more certain than it has ever been certain before. How is that? It is right here in God’s Book.”

Peter himself relied upon the Scripture to validate his experience; his vision.

In Verse 16, he said,

Then I remembered what the Lord said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

“How do I reflect upon all of this, this vision, these happenings? I remembered what God’s Word said, what Jesus said. This is what He said and it matches with the Word of God.”

The fourth principle is: we observe God’s hand in circumstances.

Verse 11,

“Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying.”

Peter understood that the circumstances were not just mere consequence or coincidence, but rather, they were divinely ordained. Circumstances are always secondary to Scripture but still circumstances are used by God to direct our lives. God does leave His fingerprints on time and events and happenings to direct us and sometimes these circumstances are painful. It might be the loss of a job or the death of a loved one or a physical handicap. Sometimes these circumstances are joyful like the birth of a child, a raise in pay, the impact of a mission trip. In all these, God leads us to places and commitments where we can best enjoy Him and we can glorify Him forever.

Just a few years ago, as we were considering planting a church, one of questions we were asking God and seeking Him on was who should we have as the lead pastor of that church plant. We interviewed several people and as that process went along, it was coming right at the exact time when a man we sent away to seminary, Art Georges, was graduating from seminary. The elders considered this circumstance. Was this a coincidence right at the time we were planting a church; we attempted to plant it sooner but nothing was happening. Is this a coincidence or is this a leading of God? Circumstances helped us discern the will of God in this particular instance.

By way of review, how do we know Jesus’ lead? We listen to Godly counsel. We talk to God in prayer. We submit to God’s Word. We observe God’s hand in circumstances.

Finally, we look for spiritual fruit.

After we have taken the course, “God are you in this?” (Verse 15)

“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had…on us at the beginning.”

God confirmed that this was His leading and (Verse 17)

“So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord… who was I to think that I could oppose God?”

It is so evident that God is blessing this and that God desires us to continue in this direction.

As I look at my life and God’s direction, I consider my calling to ministry. I look back and I think of Godly people who came to me, some without any solicitation, and said, “Ritch, I think that God has set you apart for a work,” and that was a great encouragement to me. If no Godly person around me had said, “I think this is what God wants you to do,” I would have rightly said, “I don’t think that is the direction I should go,” because Godly counsel, Godly affirmation, and testimony from Godly people is very, very important. Then I began to pray about these things and I sought the Word and the more I got into the Word, the more excited I became about His will. Then there were circumstances that came to bear. Some friends became believers and ask me to do a Bible study, and I would have never, ever started a Bible study on my own. That was the last thing I thought I was equipped or gifted to do. Yet, these circumstances converged. How could I say “No? Obviously this must be of God.” These circumstances are such that it became very apparent to me. Then as I led these Bible studies, something happened that sealed it for me and that was God began to bear fruit. As I followed Him, moment by moment, step by step, God began to bear fruit that was beyond my wildest imagination.

We conclude with Verse 18,

When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”

There are two observations I make in closing. The first one is that our willingness to follow God’s plan is very fragile. Let’s know that about ourselves.

One day, I’m willing to take the cost, take the pain, it seems good to us and I am willing, but please understand, our willingness to follow God’s plan is very fragile and that is the reason why every day it is vital for us to yield to God’s Spirit. If we don’t, everyday, yield to God’s Spirit, then we will get off track from God’s will. Here at the end of Peter’s explanation, the church says, “Yeah, this seems right. Not all, but some of them, are going to rise up and say, “It doesn’t seem right to us anymore. We demand that Gentiles be circumcised. We demand that Gentiles become Jews in order to be included in the church.”

Our willingness to follow God’s plan is very fragile. Let’s learn that we need to humbly submit to God and His plan everyday and it is in this way that we will come to know His will and we will be able to enjoy Him in it. I believe that the only reason there is any ambiguity in God’s will for our future is not because God is playing minds games with us, but because ambiguity helps us to be daily dependant upon Him.

When my children were little I would play hide-and-seek with them and hide behind the diaper box or hide behind the chair and the whole point of that game was not, “I am going to hide from my kids so that they will never find me and they will get all frustrated and they will cry,” that wasn’t the point. The point was I wanted them to take greater delight in me, and me in them, and the whole purpose of hide-and-seek was not to hide, but was to seek and then to know the joy of finding.

Why doesn’t God, when we become Christians, say, “Okay, Ritch, here is the plan. For the next fifty years this is what you are going to be doing,” because God wants His will concealed enough so that daily I would seek and everyday, like when my little children were little, the moment they saw my face they would burst out laughing, “Ho, ho, ho, this is the greatest thing.” They took great joy in me in hiding and then seeking and finding. And so it is with us – everyday we seek God and we take great joy, “God, here you are again meeting me today!”

The last observation I would make about this verse: salvation is a gift from God, so then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life. Did you notice how it is a gift from God to repent? God granted them repentance. Our hearts are so hard we would never repent apart from God’s gracious work. Even the Gentiles! Yes, even me.