By David Powlison, Crosswalk.com
The following is a transcribed Video Q&A, so the text may not read like an edited article would. Scroll to the bottom to view this video in its entirety.
I think one of the best ways to start trying to understand that is to realize that within the Christian faith, within the Bible, the phrase “God’s will” is used in two very different ways. They are related but significantly different ways.
One way that you would see is when we say something like, “If it is God’s will, then…” James 4:15 would be one of many examples of that. That is the use of God’s will that he is in control, this is his world, and our lives are not just ships on a random chaotic see of nothingness. But God’s will and purposes of bringing about His own kingdom, His glory, His revelation is involved in everything.
The second use of God’s will is, for example, in the Lord’s Prayer when we say “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In God’s immediate presence, to those who are his servants, when he speaks, they jump. Here on earth when God tells us how to live, we walk the other way. That is God’s will as revealed—what you might call his will of command in contrast to His will of control.
When you think about your own gravest failings (I’ve done something horrible, I’ve done something terrible how could God ever forgive me) it is very important to locate that in both sense of God’s will. Obviously in the sense of what God wills us to be like, to do something horrible is to go flatly against God in His will of command. But when we think about God’s will of control the very things that are the most dark about us, that same God who wills that we would be righteous, that we would act with love, that we would have faith has also willed that He would be merciful to us in our sins. Within the will of God your most horrible failings are the very things which His mercy is most designed.
There are many places I could point you to look but just to pick one part of the Bible that has been rich to me personally, not only in my own failings but also with my sufferings, is Psalm 103. It is a psalm full of joy, and gratitude, and blessing to God. The reason that a person who can take that Psalm to heart is joyful is because God is the one who forgives all my iniquities. And iniquity is probably the worst word in the Bible for the wrongs that we do. It just means there is something twisted and perverse about us that is bent way out of shape. He forgives all my iniquities. He heals all my diseases. He redeems my life from the pit. So, there you see not only the most horrible things you’ve done but also your greatest sufferings, ultimately the mortality and that your life is short. But God is one who delivers us from all that is wrong in this world.
It goes on to speak in Psalm 103 and other places in the Bible of a God who has steadfast love, who is compassionate, and merciful, and who takes the darkest things about us and they become the wellspring of our greatest joy and gratitude because of the mercies that has been shown to us in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Every promise of God is yes in Jesus Christ. So the promise that He will deliver us from our iniquities is fulfilled in Jesus Christ dying for us, alive, approaching us with a tender-heart and gladly inviting us to be part of His family.
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