The following are sermons by Dr. Caldwell that will help us to think deeper about the many things discussed in today’s podcast:
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God’s Will, Making Decisions and Prayer
This week on the Straight Truth Podcast, we've combined several related episodes that all together answer some tough questions about God’s sovereignty and His will. Believers want to understand God’s will for their lives, how to understand their desires, how to make good decisions, and how prayer plays a part in all of it. Dr. Josh Philpot, as usual, brings these challenging questions to Dr. Richard Caldwell, who seeks to guide us with answers informed by biblical truth that will help us to grow and mature in our Christian walk.
A question that is often asked is how may I know the will of the Lord for my life. For Christians, this is usually tied up with the desire to make good, right, godly choices and decisions. Dr. Caldwell shares that this is good, and we want to encourage those who have these desires. He shares there will be times in our lives when this will be more intense than others as we seek to know, understand and apply the truth to our lives. But often, these questions are asked because people have become overly fearful of doing the wrong thing, so much so that they don’t act when they need to. But we don't need to be paralyzed by inaction. The will of God for our lives is determined by knowing the Word of God. The application of God’s Word to our individual situations and decisions is clearly stated in Scripture, or it will be a matter of discernment based on the principles found in the statements God has given us. That discernment we need for making decisions is developed in our lives each time we take His Word and apply it to our decision-making. We don’t need to be paralyzed and unable to make decisions just because God hasn’t given us specific information; He won’t. We mustn’t lean on our own understanding. Scripture is clear, we are to acknowledge God in all our ways, and He will make our paths straight. We can trust the Lord to guide us through His Word, helping us to form the principles we need to make the best-informed decision(s) possible.
Jeremiah 17:9 tells us our hearts are deceitful above all things. How can we reconcile that with Psalm 37, which tells us that the Lord will give us the desires of our hearts? Don’t our hearts desire things that the Lord tells us are wrong?
Dr. Caldwell tells us that salvation involves a heart change from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. When God changes our hearts, He gives us the capacity to love Him and His Word, giving us the desire to walk in the truth. Even though our hearts can still be deceived in such ways that make it an untrustworthy guide, Jeremiah 17:9 does not apply to us as believers if we are seeking to honor and please the Lord. Psalm 37 teaches us that if we are seeking to honor and please the Lord, the desires that we have come from Him; context is key here. The entirety of verse 4 says, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart’, this is followed by verse 5, which says, ‘Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.’ Therefore, the Psalm teaches us that if our way is committed to the Lord, we are submitted to Him and His Word and delighting ourselves in Him; then, He will give us the desires of our hearts. When we are doing these things, God is pleased to fill our hearts with good things, the very things that would most please Him; those are desires we can trust.
Our desires and making choices are very much intertwined. When we must decide to do or not do something, we don’t want to be caught up in our understanding and neglect the things the Lord has provided for our help. We must know and be aware of our limitations and our own perspectives. We don’t know anything inerrantly unless we are just agreeing with Scripture. Our confidence must be in God, who gives us the freedom to make the best decisions we can, sometimes with the wise and godly counsel of others, all while we rely on Him. So then, even if we get something wrong and make a mistake, we can know that God is at work shaping, forming, molding, and teaching us.
As Christians, we want to seek answers and direction from the Lord. Sometimes those answers don't come easy. We find ourselves wanting a clear sign from God or for Him to write details in the clouds. Some people actually say God speaks to them, or God spoke to them and said this or that, or God told them such and such. Should we ever expect this? Does God speak to Christians audibly?
Dr. Caldwell says that the glorious truth is that God has spoken and that He has spoken to people in various ways. One of the ways we read that God speaks to people in His Word is audibly. So yes, God can speak audibly and has done that before. But God has not always done that and is not doing that now. The primary way that God has communicated to His people is through special revelation, which is through the Scriptures. What we have in our Bibles, the canons of the Old and New Testaments is the finished product of God’s communication to and for us. The last New Testament book was written in about 90 AD, and from that time forward, God is not giving any further revelation.
Dr. Caldwell says there is danger associated with saying that God spoke to you or told you this or that. One of the dangers to be aware of is ascribing to God what didn’t come from God. An additional danger is having a sense of confidence in one's self, that you are doing what God wants you to do when maybe you aren’t. Even the saying, 'God spoke to my heart in that sermon.', must be tested. Everything must be tested by the Word of God, even what we think we hear in a sermon. God has spoken, and He does minister to our hearts through what has been given to us in His Word, so we can say the Word of God through that sermon ministered, encouraged, or blessed me today. We want to think through the words we use and consider that there might be a better way of saying what we want to convey before we say it. Everything must be tested by a sound handling of Scripture.
Since God is sovereign, does it matter if we pray or not? If God is controlling all things, what does praying about things do?
God is sovereign over all things that take place and come to pass. In His sovereignty, He has instructed us to pray, bringing our concerns, petitions, and requests to Him. God promises He listens, that He hears, and that He will act in response to our prayers. Also, within His sovereignty, He has determined to work through means. Prayer is one of the means God has chosen to work through. Dr. Caldwell explains it like this, God, who has determined what He is going to do, has determined to work through prayer. This is why prayer really matters.
Dr. Nicolas Ellen says that we must not misunderstand God’s sovereignty. His sovereignty does not negate our responsibility to pray. Prayer is an opportunity to exercise our God-given responsibility to participate in what God has sovereignly determined. In addition to having a correct view of God's sovereignty, we need to know His character and His will. When we grasp these things rightly, they will fuel our prayers.
When we pray, it's not about us; it's not about trying to impose our wills and desires upon God. We want to pray in such a way that our prayers agree with God's will. Scripture tells us that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. So when we come in prayer, it involves our hearts, minds, and our affections. We come loving what God loves, caring about what He cares about, seeking His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, and for Him to be glorified above all. So if we think prayer doesn't matter and live a prayerless life, that thinking will lead us to spiritual starvation.
About The Straight Truth Podcast
The Straight Truth Podcast: Christian Opinions in an Increasingly Secular World. Join Dr. Richard Caldwell, Dr. Josh Philpot, and their guests as they discuss news events, current affairs, and cultural issues from a Biblical point of view. Find the truth at www.straighttruth.net
The Straight Truth Podcast is a weekly opinion show hosted by Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Josh Philpot. Straight Truth is available as an audio podcast on iTunes or as a video podcast through YouTube or Vimeo. The duration of the podcast is approximately 10 minutes. We release new episodes every Thursday.
The topics discussed in the Straight Truth Podcast are current events, matters that challenge traditional Christian values, and questions submitted by audience members. Dr. Caldwell, Dr. Philpot, and their guests seek to answer these questions with Biblical truths and from a Christian conservative point of view. The Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God; it alone is and will be the basis and authority of
answering any and all questions.
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