Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
We Christians speak a lot about “God’s will”, but what does that even mean? What does it mean to do God’s will? Is this some sort of mysterious code language for something? Or is it a very real thing that we can know and follow?
First, there are two types of God’s will: His “revealed” or moral will and His “secret” will, or providential government of all things. The differences between the two are best left to a Bible study rather than a devotion, but we will be speaking of the revealed will for our purposes. This is what God wants of us or expects of us. When we speak of looking for God’s will in our lives, this is the “revealed” will He has spelled out for us in His Word.
We may tend to think of what God wants from us personally as His will for us, but we sometimes overlook the will He has in general. Because of this tendency, we may look for specific signs or circumstances that will tell us what God wants from us or what our next move should be. It may be that He will give us those signs, but most often, whatever the issue is, God has already spoken on the matter in His revelation to man, the Bible. If we’ll look there first, we’ll often find what God’s will is in the area we’re seeking answers.
Many people spent much of their time keeping their eyes open for the signs they’re expecting and yet skip right past the Bible as a means for finding out God’s will for their life. We ought to first check God’s Word before looking for signs. Let the Holy Spirit do the discerning. The answer is likely right in front of us if we’d only stop looking so hard.
1 John 4:1-6 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
In a world that’s full of so much spiritual talk, how can we know who to believe? The truth is, a lot of Christians will believe anything that comes from someone claiming to be a Christian. Just walk into a Christian bookstore and take a look around. You’ll find books ranging all across the spectrum, many contradicting each other. But how do we know what is right?
The Bible gives one criteria to follow when testing the spirits of the world. Whether we’re listening to the philosophy of Oprah or Osteen, MacArthur or Bell, the one question is this: Do they claim that Jesus is God who came in the flesh? That’s the most important question. People may disagree on some doctrines or on some practices, but the one thing that makes a belief system something other than Christianity is their view of Christ.
You’ll see some “denominations” in the world that sound very Christian yet deny that Jesus was God in the flesh. Simply put, that means they’re not Christian. Test the beliefs of any religious organization on this one thing. If they deny Christ, flee and never return. Jesus is God who came to earth as a man, shed His blood and gave His life for the forgiveness of sins, and then He resurrected from the dead and ascended back into heaven where He now reigns. Upon that truth our entire existence revolves. Without it, there is not hope. Without that one belief, there is not Christianity.
Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ
To be sure, there are a lot of “spiritual” people and things out there today. Take a look around your Christian bookstore and you’ll see a wide range of products all claiming to be spiritual. As Christ followers, we have to be on our guard against false doctrine. It’s out duty to be mindful of what we’re bring taught about the gospel.
Paul warned the Colossians of such things, drawing attention to those that teach a deceitful philosophy and keep our attentions on worldly ideas rather than the things of Christ. There are more than a few wolves posing as sheep, just waiting to catch us in their snares. Some even believe that they’re correct in their doctrine. They don’t necessarily have nefarious motives, they’re just wrong. False doctrines can seem harmless, even wise. They can feel right to man, but in the end, they lead us away from the one true God.
We shouldn’t fear these deceptions, rather we should seek godly wisdom. Discernment acquired through the Holy Spirit keeps us on the right path. Such false teaching will be obvious to us if we walk in truth. We won’t have to sniff out false teaching if we’re truly familiar with Truth. For those who belong to Him know His voice (John 10:4). We won’t be inclined to follow another if we know the One who is Truth personally.