Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Direction by desire

Bruce Waltke places a strong emphasis the role of developing a heart for God with regards to guidance.  He states that the ‘Holy Spirit puts my desires into me, so I am convinced that I am pleasing God by doing what he would have me do.’ He bases this thought largely on the psalmist’s directive to delight ourselves in the Lord ‘and he will give you the desires of your heart’ (Ps. 37:4).

We should remember the role of the Holy Spirit in shaping the believer’s heart, particularly in the new covenant (see for example the promises of Ezekiel 36:26-27).  While the Apostle Paul is aware of the believer’s ongoing battle with the desires of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:17) he also points to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). To the church in Philippi he writes of how God works within the Christian to cause us ‘will and to act according to his good purpose’ (Philippians 2:13). The apostle reflects a positive attitude towards the Christians' desires when he advices the Corinthians that they are free to respond to an unbeliever’s invitation to a meal, if you want to go (1 Corinthians 10:27). Similarly he tells the church at Rome of how his desires affected his intentions, stating that ‘it has always being my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known …’ (Romans 15:20, underlining added). 

A positive attitude towards desires is a healthy corrective to the myth that if there is something we want to do desperately, the likelihood is that God won’t want us to do it.’  Elizabeth Elliot writes, ‘For a long time I took the view that whatever I might want to do could not possibly be what God wanted me to do . . . A better understanding of Scripture has shown me that even I, chief of miserable offenders that I know myself to be, may now and then actually want what God wants. This is likely to be the case more and more as I practice obedience, but it can also be a very simple and nature thing.’

Augustine famously said, ‘Love God and do what you will.’  In using desire as a guide we must emphasis the importance of loving God so that those desires will be for those things that please God.  Waltke points to the importance of walking close to the Lord so that he is shaping your desires, and the need to develop a heart for God.  Similarly Jim Elliff states that a ‘concerted effort to rid ourselves of selfish desires as they relate to our decision is foundation.'

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