God Takes the Initiative

God reveals his activity as an invitation for you to join him. When he reveals, it is up to us to adjust our lives to God.

What happens when we see God at work? We often get self-centered rather than God-centered. We must reorient our life toward God, seeing life from his perspective. We must allow God to develop his character in us. He is always at work and we must assume that he wants us to join him.

God always takes the initiative. He waits for us to respond to him by adjusting our lives. Perhaps you’ll read a brief story in the life of George Muller and how God worked through this man of faith.

I never remember a period that I ever sincerely and patiently sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, through the instrumentality of the Word of God, but I have always been directed rightly. But if honestly of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait upon God for instruction, or if I preferred the counsel of my fellow men to the declarations of the Word of the living God, I made great mistakes.

Three things helped him:

  1. He sincerely sought God’s direction.
  2. He waited patiently on God until he had a word from God.
  3. He looked to the Holy Spirit to teach him through the Word.

These things led to making mistakes:

  1. Lacking honesty of heart.
  2. Lacking uprightness before God.
  3. Impatience in waiting on God.
  4. Preferring the counsel of men over the declarations of God.

He summed up the way he entered into a heart relationship with God:

  1. Seeking to get his heart into a state where it has no will of its own in the matter. Here is 9/10 of the problem.
  2. Don’t leave the result to feeling or simple impression; or we can be liable for great delusions.
  3. Seek the will of the Spirit of God, through the Word of God. These must be combined.
    1. The Spirit alone can bring delusions.
    2. The Word alone can bring legalism.
  4. Take into account providential circumstances.
  5. Ask in prayer for God to reveal his will.
  6. Through prayer, study of the Word and reflection come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge. If the mind continues at peace, then proceed.

Paul and Divine Initiative

Sometimes Paul’s Gospel is preached in such a way that God and Jesus Christ are set over against each other and contrasted with each other. One thing is clear, to Paul, the whole initiative of the process of salvation lies with God. There was no separation between the love and grace of Jesus in the NT with the judgment and wrath of God in the OT.

The will of God:

  1. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, (2 Corinthians 1:21)
  2. In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  3. Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, (Galatians 1:4)

The love of God:

  1. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, (2 Thessalonians 2:16)
  2. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
  3. Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
  4. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)
  5. I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1)
  6. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, (Ephesians 2:4)
  7. Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:12)

The initiative of reconciliation: man’s reconciliation to God, never God’s reconciliation to man. The breach lies with man.

  1. Now all [these] things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)
  2. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:10)
  3. And through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, [I say], whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:20)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of God:

  1. But after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. (1 Thessalonians 2:2)
  2. Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, [how] working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. (1 Thessalonians 2:8-9)
  3. And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, (1 Thessalonians 3:2)
  4. Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called [as] an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, (Romans 1:1)

Grace is associated with God and Jesus Christ:

  1. In order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:12)
  2. Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, (Galatians 1:3)
  3. I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, (1 Corinthians 1:4)

God sent Jesus into the world:

  1. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, (Galatians 4:4)
  2. He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  3. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)
  4. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
  5. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God [did:] sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and [as an offering] for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, (Romans 8:3)
  6. He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

This material is from William Barclay, the Mind of St. Paul, 1975.