Are You Reading Tea Leaves?
Finding a biblical understanding of God’s will instead of a pagan one
The way some believers talk about discerning God’s will and making decisions can put us in danger of sounding like pagans, not Christians. We could easily be reading tea leaves, instead of discerning the word of God. This reading-of-tea-leaves is a common approach to finding the will of God and it is apparent in the stories we hear and the testimonies we listen to, such as this example in Finding the Will of God, by Bruce Waltke.
My family has been struggling with some doubts about some occurrences that have taken place in our lives recently, in which we are brought to question what we know, what we’ve learned and how we are taught God’s word. Our faith is tested and it is during these critical moments that we find the answers we need in the Holy Scriptures.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12: 1&2
We need to abide in Romans 12 verse 2 for a clear pathway to walk in the will of God. It’s a very simple command that perfectly explains the question of our day: how do we find God’s will?
The Right Road
We hear over and over the cliché in our churches about God’s will. I am looking for God’s will, I found God’s will, This is God’s will. But we need to fully understand what is and what isn’t being said when we hear this in light of all matters of life.
The pagans find God’s will this way: they tap into the divine will by transcending human limits in order for them to access the mind of God. It is a quest to need to know what God will have for you next. This is done by meditation, by the emptying of the mind, by getting out of the mind and clearing it in order for God to influence the mind. It is done by reading signs, by being attentive to the bread crumbs that God drops along your way. You hear people say that they get a sign of some sort to affirm what God is wanting them to do. In actuality, what is really going on here is a desire to glimpse into what God is doing. They want to be let in on what is on His mind. This pagan approach is based on feelings.
The believer is to be transformed by the renewing of her mind. But the pagan, on the other hand, wants to circumvent the mind by turning it off, by even altering it, by not trusting it, but by rather emptying it. This reminds me of the practice of yoga, which is an exercise of worship to Hindu idols and which is readily acceptable to many believers as a form of stretching, and clearing the mind (again, pagan in its principle), resolving to feel calm and refreshed. This is a clever disguise the enemy has used to deceive many.
The biblical way, as we read in Romans chapter 2, is to be transformed by the renewing of the mind. The biblical way (as opposed to the pagan way) directs us to the mind itself as the one thing that the Holy Spirit can renew, and re-educate as we are truly transformed.
And the result is to prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God!
The pagans instruct us to get ourselves out of our minds, to read tea leaves, and transcend and meditate and encounter the divine in that manner. We then hear people evoke how much they have peace about XYZ decision as a means to affirm that God’s will has been encountered when in fact it is pagan mysticism. When we hear people who are seeking God’s will tell us that they know for certain the direction God wants them to take is due to their peace in the matter, we need to be very speculative.
Let’s ask ourselves this: would God lead us to do something that doesn’t give us peace?
The answer is yes.
God wills us to witness to all, even that hostile person in your workplace. I don’t know about you, but I have no peace about witnessing to someone who is opposed to God. How about that person we need to confront about their sin? It is not a peaceful situation, to say the least. It is very uncomfortable, yet we are called by the will of God to do just what makes us uncomfortable. Even Jesus said that we would be hated for His namesake.
So as people say that they have peace about XYZ decision, what they may be really saying is this:
I am doing something unbiblical, but please do not question me about it. If you open up your Bible to show me what you need to show me about this, please know that I prayed about this and fasted and have peace about this so my decision trumps what the Bible has to say.
This is what a lot of believers feel about God’s will. Notice, it is based on feelings, not knowledge.
The Christian way of following God’s will is to search the scriptures by:
- Reading our Bibles—Find out what it says about going places, about what we are concerned about.
- Thinking biblically—Count the cost of what it takes to say, uproot the family, go to the mission field, change jobs.
- Praying biblically—Pagans empty themselves for divine invasion. Believers communicate with God through prayer.
- Seeking wise counsel—Surround ourselves with those who read their bible and pray.
- Then repeat the process.
Presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice is giving all of ourselves to God. This is the gospel-centered way to live, as it provokes us to know who God is, what’s He’s done through us and for us. Then, we can look at what we are called to do and understand how to walk day to day in His will.
A Wise Refusal
The Apostle Paul states in this passage what we are not to do; in order to find the will of God, we are not to be conformed to this world.
This means we are not to press ourselves in this world, in it’s thinking patterns and philosophies. As we refuse to be conformed to the world, we will learn to discern what is biblical and what is not.
The Bible tells us how we are to live in God’s will and not vain philosophies of the age which encourage us to follow our heart. We know what the Bible says about the heart:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9
We are not to follow our heart, as it is wicked. What we ought to do is look at the Bible and see what is correct and what is not. We need to decondition ourselves from the world’s philosophies.
Before I came to faith, I had been living in the way of the world and its philosophies and patterns. The world has not ceased to tell us what is true, what is right and wrong. And even when I came to the Lord and was converted, not all of the philosophies left my thinking process. It is only through the process of sanctification that we are purged of the ways of the world and into one that God’s intends for us.
We are bought with a price; we are redeemed. And because of this, we need to refuse to be pressed into the world’s patterns. The Greek refers to this in the New Testament as Aeon, or Age. We are living in the spirit of the age, in the way we think, and in what we value. Because of this reality, we hold on to what God’s word says:
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. Psalms 1:1-2
We need to also refuse to think as the world does. Second Corinthians, chapter 10 verse 2 says: “But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.”
Over and over, we are beseeched to not think like the world. Colossians 2, verse 8 tells us:
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
As believers living in this age, we must be bold and confident. We must discern all things with care. We may be redeemed, but years of worldly influence hold our thoughts captive. Thus, we don’t have a right assessment of what the truth is. That is why so many times we end up feeling our way through decisions, using the spirit of the age as our guide, and not God’s word.
A decision can feel right to us, and we can claim to have peace about it, but Christian, know that these feelings are more than likely resulting from a great influence of vain deceit, the traditions of men, and the rudiments of the world.
We need to have the Holy Spirit cleanse us, sanctify us, and purge us of all that. We need to stop reading tea leaves and start reading our Bible.
Post originally published on March 31, 2014