Matt, Ben









Great sermon on a different way to think about "God's will".

Ben and Matt open a gift together

Ben says his could be a Jordan or Favre-style retirement


Preached at Epic Life Church on 2012-01-15

1 John 5:14-15

Ben got a college degree in English literature.

Paul tends to be a logical writer, while John has a less straightforward and more literary style.

John's theology tends to be paradoxical. For example:

  • 1 John 1:8 - Everyone has sin
  • 1 John 3:6, 9 - No one that knows God keeps sinning
  • Later in the book, John assumes his readers know God

Ben enjoys having no easy answers.

  • It's a hopeful passage because it says God cares about our desires.

  • It's a challenging passage because it says our desires should be located in God's will.

  • It's a hopeful passage because it says God is near to us and supports us.

  • It's a challenging passage because it places a condition on that support.

Take the hope and the challenge together

What does "the will of God" mean?

  • We normally think of externals: what he wants us to do, how to act, what choices we make.
  • We should think of internal reality, who he wants us to be.

Not focused on us, God's will concerns his plans for the renewal of the whole world

How do we find it then?

Common terminology: "finding God's will for our lives"

"How do I find God's will?" is the wrong question

It's dangerous

That doesn't mean that we can't know God's will

Problems with asking the wrong question

  1. The question assumes that God's will is external and distant

Words like "seek", "find", "discover" make it seem like a quest

It does seem distant and unclear

Illustration: In Gethsemane, Jesus didn't have perfect clarity on God's will, but he wasn't outside of God's will.

But it's close, it's what we live out, more than just choice A or choice B

  1. The question assumes that we have to find God's will
  • Knowing God's will involves revelation
  • Revelation never begins with us, God initiates
  • Not a self help activity, an act of grace
  1. It puts us in an elevated position where we are in control of God's will ultimately

Makes it an object to hunt and obtain

Unbelief is always man's faith in himself.

You can ask the question with good motives; it doesn't automatically doom us to unbelief.

Better, more biblically-faithful question: How do we live moment by moment within God's will?

Bonhoeffer is dense, but part of the joy of theology is engaging and wrestling and not getting it right away.

Adam and eve initially only knew things through God, like a lens.

After eating the fruit, God was no longer their context. They had knowledge apart from God.

Ethics makes this same mistake.

Christian ethics should say we only know good and evil through God.

Finding the will of God is the same mistake.


If we have any hope of knowing the will of God, it is in a state of compete dependence on God. It is not something we go do, it is not something we go find, it is something that is given to us moment by moment by God's grace.

John emphasizes the importance of abiding in Christ.

Ben calls it "participation in Christ".

"In him" is shorthand for participation in Christ.

Acts 17:28: In him we live, and move, and have our being.

We know nothing, do nothing apart from participation in Christ.

Paul assumes that is the norm for Christians

Emotions and experiences are good, but should not be your barometer for how you're participating in Christ

How do you participate in Christ? Seeking out Jesus through spiritual disciplines (reading Bible, praying, etc.) and sacraments (baptism, communion).

  • Communion should be central
  • It's more than a remembrance
  • Somehow it puts us on the cross with Christ and rising with him in resurrection. It connects us all other Christians throughout time.
Ideas that occurred to me while listening:
  • When Jesus was on earth, he didn't tell anyone who to marry or what jobs they should have (aside from calling the apostles to be full-time followers).
  • God doesn't expect us to make optimal choices, just right choices.
  • Sometimes optimal choices don't exist: for example, what color shirt you wear today.

Archivist Note

In hindsight, it's easy to hear the Catholic views Ben holds at this point before actually making the switch (mostly as he talks about the sacraments and receiving grace through communion).