A sermon based on John 6:35-40
Sunday, June 23, 2013
When the crusaders heard the voice of their leader, Peter the Hermit, bidding them go to Jerusalem and take it from hands of the invaders, they cried out at once, "Deus vult!" ("God wills!") Every man plucked his sword from the scabbard and set out to capture the Holy Land, thinking God had willed their mission. Of course, when Muslim terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Centers they too believed that Allah willed it. When a young man decided to study to enter the ministry, he felt God was calling him to do so. "It is his will," he said.
But someone once asked, how do you know that burning in your heart is God and not just indigestion. As we consider the prayer, "God, your will be done," we can't help but ask, "What is God's will?" and, more specifically, "What is God's will for my life?" Some wonder is it God's will that I take this job? Or should I pack my bags, sell my home, and take that one? Should I marry semi-perfect A? Or maybe God's will is that there's someone else out there for me and I should wait around for a little more semi-perfect B. What is God's will?
The crowds that gathered around Jesus after he fed well over 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two small fish wanted to know the same thing: "What is God's will?" In John 6:28 They asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" As we hear a part of Jesus' answer in John 6:35-40 we'll find some of the answers to that question. And hopefully by the time we're through today everyone here will be able to say with confidence, "Deus vult! I know what God's will is!" and then will pray with confidence, "God, Thy Will Be Done." Listen now to John 6:35-40...
35Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
Before we go too much further we have to make a distinction between God's hidden will and God's revealed will. God's hidden will is what God wants for you and your life, but that he chooses not to tell you. You can search the Bible front cover to back and you will never find which stocks to buy or when to sell. You'll never find God tell you whom to marry or which job to take. He won't pick your vacation destination or tell you what to have for dinner. God gives you guiding principles. (For example: Don't take a job that by it's very nature has you do things sinful. Drug lord, prostitute, or assassin for hire, are not jobs that God wants you to have. They are contrary to his will.) But he lets you use your God-given wisdom and intellect to choose between two or more amoral choices—things that are neither right nor wrong no matter which way you go.
Nowhere does God tell you he will reveal that hidden will to you. He does not promise to visit you in a dream, whisper in your ear, or align the circumstances in your life to reveal a particular choice. That's why it's called his hidden will. And it's useless to try to find out what that will is because God keeps it hidden from us for a reason. Can you imagine what a nut case you'd be if you knew in advance every accident or illness that came your way? Or if you knew the year, month, and day of your death? How unproductive you would be! And so God hides certain things from us for our own good.
But other things God has revealed clearly. That's why we call it the revealed will of God. Those are all the things you find when you read your Bible. So what is the revealed will of God? Well, I think you know it pretty well. If not, dust off your catechism and review the Ten Commandments. God wills that you love him above all else, that you love his Word and are eager to hear and learn it. He wills that you respect the government and all in authority, that you honor his gift of life and do all you can to maintain it. He wills that husband and wife love and honor each other and that all remain pure in thought and action. He wills that you don't steal—even from your employer by working less that 100%. He wills that you tell the truth and do all you can to give others a good reputation. He wills that you be content with the countless blessings he's given and not be in a constant pursuit for more.
In short, it is God's will that you "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10:27) and it is God's will that if you "Do this... you will live." (Luke 10:27) You'll live forever in heaven with him.
You know what he wants. So, how well have you done God's will?
A few years ago The Detroit News reported that 17-year-old Willa Chen had managed to do what no one has ever done. She got a perfect score on the ACT... and the SAT... and the PSAT. For those of you without teens, those are the tests most students take before they apply to college. Now the odds on a student scoring perfectly on all three tests are about as good as the chance of water running uphill. It just doesn't happen. Even so, Willa did it. But a quick search of "Willa Chen" will show that that's not all she's capable of. Willa also received scholarships in the categories of Physical Fitness, Self-Expression, Talent, Interview, and—surprise! surprise!—Scholastics. She was also crowned as the Plymouth-Canton Junior Miss for 2009. So, is there anything Willa Chen can't do?
The answer is, "Yes." Willa is spectacular, no doubt about it. But she's not perfect. She's a sinner, and she can't save herself from those sins. Neither can we. We have failed God's test of perfection. We must admit, "I have not kept God's will—not perfectly as he demands. I have not obeyed God's will as well as the angels in heaven do. Too often I have prayed "Thy will be done," but by my thoughts, my words, and my actions that have run contrary to God's will have screamed, "My will be done!"
And this full knowledge of one's guilt can leave us wondering "What is God's will?"—not for my job, or my health, or my relationship with someone else. For ultimately, before long these won't matter at all. At least, not compared to the far more important question, "What is God's will for my eternity?" And while we may think, "Surely his will is to punish me! Surely he wills for my eternal torment in hell!" or "Surely he wills that I somehow make it up to him, that I somehow set things right!" he doesn't leave us guessing. He tells us what his will is...
"And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day." It is God's will that no one be lost to the hell they deserve. In 1 Timothy 2(:4) God makes it clear he "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." What truth? The truth about his Son and what he did. "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
God came up with a plan that his will might be done. He sent his Son to earth to live a perfect life in our place. That's why Jesus said, "For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me." He always did what God wanted—perfectly!—always! He never broke a commandment. He never sinned. Not even with a thought. And then, because the Father willed, and because he willed, he gave that perfect record away to you and me. And he took our guilty record on himself and paid the penalty of hell for our sin because it was the Father's will that "everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life."
According to the American Medical Association a human being cannot live without food for more than nine to ten weeks. Depending on one's physical condition and the amount of fat stored in the body the time span for survival may vary. But nine to ten weeks without food is the maximum, regardless of other conditions. That is because food is absolutely essential to physical life. Without it humans die.
Likewise, without Jesus we might live 100 or maybe even 150 years. But that's the maximum, regardless of other conditions. After that we would die eternally in hell. But Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry... everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
And so the soul, famished because of sin, can feast on Jesus' payment and live. The soul hungry for a perfect life to present to God at Judgment Day can reach for Jesus' righteousness and be satisfied. God's will for you is that you live forever in heaven, never to hunger again. And of that you can be absolutely certain, even if you don't know which job to take or which which car to buy.
And in thanks to God, we're eager to do the Father's will. We want to keep his commands in our lives. We long to hear more of his Word and to grow in our faith! We're eager to do all we can that his name be kept holy, that his kingdom come to us and through us, and that his will might be done perfectly—on earth just as well as it is in heaven. We long to serve him and do his will, not because we must or because it will earn us heaven, but eager to thank him for the heaven he gives. And so we boldly go to live for him and spread the good news that "everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life!" For this is his will! "Deus Vult!" Amen!