Archive | March, 2016

Autonomy… or Abiding in the Vine?

29 Mar

Occasionally people express concerns about my ‘fleece template’ approach to finding the will of God… or they offer alternative methods.  A common one goes something like this:

In the sovereignty of God, He gives us an ‘open area’ within which to make decisions on our own.   Somehow He will prevent us from making wrong decisions if they happen to fall outside of His ‘safe-zone’ parameter.  We’re permitted to make decisions on our own, as long as we stay inside this area.  We might make poor decisions within that area, but He uses these less-than-perfect decisions to teach us how much we need Him.

I’ve thought a lot about this subject.  And even though I heartily agree that God is so amazing that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rms 8:28), I believe Father’s heart would rather have us learn from hearing His voice rather than from convalescing after stubbing our toe.  So here a number of problems I have with this version:

  1. Jesus said, “I only say what I hear my Father say”… Not, “My Father said I can say anything I like as long as it’s within certain parameters.”

  2. Jesus said, “I can do nothing apart from my Father.”… Not, “My Father said He would leave it up to me… as long as I didn’t get too wild about it… or take it too far.”  Even though Jesus was God, He never even suggested that He was able to be autonomous apart from His Father.

  3. So who gets to define the parameters?  How far is too far?  What are the ‘widest’ parameters on each of my issues.  Am I supposed to use the trial and error method?  Or just use the ‘limit’ that somebody said was their limit?

  4. How would I know that I have accurate parameters? Did it come from a warm-fuzzy?  Did I find a good Bible verse?  Has my intellect alone established my never-exceed limit?

  5. How do I know that my parameters are not influenced by my AMBITION or my FEAR.  How do I know that my parameters aren’t skewed by a myriad of earthly/soulish influences?  How do I know that the devil hasn’t whispered into my parameter-setting process?

  6. What about the Biblical gold standard that says, “Let a thing be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses”? (Matt 18:16, II Cor 13:1)

  7. So how often would a person have to check in with Father God to get a fresh update on the current parameters that he is free to be autonomous within?  Or does this parameter-method even require that we converse with God.  Maybe we just trust that He will keep us from falling off the cliff as we go happily on our way.
  8. Saying, “I can do anything without walking in intimate relationship with Father”, seems to diminish my Father’s partnership and role in my life.  Wouldn’t He love to walk in relationship with me rather than just be a rule and parameter setter in my life?  As a rule setter (draw a line… this far and no more) it seems like we’re relegating Him to be our policeman… like saying we don’t mind living in His kingdom under His rules, but we don’t really want a personal relationship with the king of this kingdom.  “We can probably handle this job okay without Your help, God.  Thanks for setting the parameters, I can take it from here.  I’ll get back with you when I need an update on rules, policies and parameters in my life.”  Note: The Israelites had a similar response to God at Mt Sinai… but it didn’t work out so well for them. (Deut 5:27)

  9. Rather than exploring and experimenting with my own mind and then I find myself making a “good” or just “acceptable” choice (Rms 12:2), I’d rather walk in a closer relationship and at least take a stab at making a “perfect” choice in the will of God.  BTW, using my own mind’s ability to figure it out, is the same method that the rest of the world uses.  Shouldn’t we be functioning in a better operating system?

    I realize that in the process of trying to hear God’s voice I will likely mishear many times and make plenty of mistakes… but my hope is that I’ll make far less mistakes as I’m trying to hear, versus if I’m operating under a policy that says my mind is good enough to make this decision on my own.  I’d rather walk in partnership with Father in everything I do… and acknowledge that I’m nothing apart from Him… in keeping with Jesus’ confession, “I can do nothing….”  I don’t want to even hint to my heart, or to Him, that I’m sufficient without Him.  I don’t want to diminish my dependency upon Him.

  10. And here’s a reason almost no one will think of… but it’s more vital and more ever-present than most people care to acknowledge.  If I’ve made a decision with nothing more profound than my mind, then when the devil comes to test me down the road, I have nothing but my intellect to do battle with him.  My faith has nothing to stand on.  There is no, “It is written” to back up my decision, so I will likely waffle in my conviction… easily opt out… or be oppressed with discouragement… and just hope God hurries to bail me out.

  11. The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing.  And hearing by (or through hearing) the Word of God.” (Rms 10:17)  So in order to have true Biblical faith we MUST hear something.  And “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb 11:6, Rms 14:23)  So if I haven’t heard God’s voice on the matter before me, then it’s impossible to have faith to make the decision (except for the faith I have in my own intellect).  Not only is this not Biblical (IMO) but leaves me vulnerable to the devil’s attacks later on.

A maturing mode of living should find us pressed more into “abiding in the Vine” versus autonomy apart from the Vine.  “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (Jn 15:4)  Hmm… fairly straight forward here.  Our very identity is in the Vine, and the Vine’s life-flow is our source, our safety and our success.

Now of course, let everyone “work out their salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12)   So if someone’s operating system is working well for them… if they have unshakable faith each time they make their decisions… if they are not fazed when the devil rattles their cage… if they are happy with their level of intimacy with God… and if they are seeing success in all of their decisions… then I’d encourage them to continue with their current operating system.  If it’s working, don’t fix it.

But, if their operating system leaves them dangling in uncertainty, ambiguity, failure, regret, fear, doubt or paying the consequences… then let me recommend another way, the ‘fleece template’.