Directions Please

September 26, 2011

During a recent interview at Grace Community Church, Phil Johnson and John MacArthur discussed God’s will. I so appreciate John MacArthur’s consistent stand through the years in this area. I realize that what he says doesn’t have the appeal or spontaneity that the “God told me” crowd has, but his position keeps him from craziness and always keeps the door open to honest critique. And, yes, I think his view is in line with the Word. Usually, determining God’s will isn’t brain surgery. For those who are interested in a short book-length treatment of the issue, I recommend Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something.

Phil Johnson: 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?

John MacArthur: Well, I think the Holy Spirit does lead us but there is no way to perceive that that’s happening. . . . I don’t have a red light that goes on in 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. . . . 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’m in 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. . . . I can say, “You know, I think I ought to go preach over there.” I do that every day, you know. Friday they brought 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.

Phil: Yeah, that’s a great distinction to make. I think the first time I ever heard you preach, the message you did was your message on how to know the will of God. And you basically said, look, line up with Scripture (I’m giving you the really short version), line up with Scripture and then do what you want to do, as long as you’re being obedient to what God has clearly commanded, He’ll lead you through providence. And I think the mistake a lot of Charismatics make is looking for special revelation when God doesn’t lead us by giving us new special revelation. He leads us by providence, but He’s just as active in leading us.

(HT: Thirsty Theologian)

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