The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity….Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war [or undertake other important things], obtain guidance….A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way? (Proverbs 11:3; 20:18,24)
Pastor Octavius Winslow (1808-1878) warns, “Beware practical atheism which excludes God from His own world, or excludes Him from your individual history. The Lord is not only present in His created universe, but He is just as active in the personal events of our life, shaping, guiding, and overruling.”1 Ignoring God leads to a downward spiral and to death, so don’t push aside the Lord, instead seek His help and direction constantly.
If you missed them, you can go back and read Getting God’s Guidance (Part 1 + Part 2 + Part 3 + Part 4). These posts expand on J. I. Packer’s teaching on this important subject. The Lord (Father, Son, and Spirit) has promised to lead Christ’s followers through all the phases and stages of life. He never leaves us alone. God helps us at crucial crossroads and with day-to-day decisions, as we follow His voice in Scripture and ask for His help in prayer.
In Packer’s book, Knowing God,2 he warns of six common hazards in perceiving God’s leading. The Lord will direct us, but Packer warns us not to expect a heavenly hotline (with specific and immediate answers to every question). He warns that anxious people can be suckers for foolish ideas. So in this post we continue our study, expanding on Packer’s teaching.
D. Beware unwillingness to suspect our self. This is an important topic, not discussed much, so I devote this entire post to several facets of this issue. Let’s consider Proverbs 3:5-8 again: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”
In these verses Christ calls us not to be conceited or rely on our own intelligence. We must trust our All-Wise Lord, not ourselves, because He alone holds the keys to success. Our confidence must be in the Lord, never in “common sense” which ignores His infallible Bible. Packer writes elsewhere: “We are all weak and inadequate and we need to face it. Sin disrupts all relationships and has disabled us. We need to be aware of our limitations, humble, and self-distrustful, realizing our helplessness on our own. This is how we learn our need to depend on Christ, our Savior and Lord, at every turn of the road, to practice that dependence as the constant habit of our heart. Then we discover what Paul discovered before us: when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength].” (2 Cor 12:10 AMP).”3
Packer warns against following our feelings, because we dislike being honest with ourselves. We easily recognize rationalizing in other people, but we overlook it in ourselves. Obadiah teaches that our proud hearts can deceive us.4 Jeremiah instructs that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked so that we don’t even know how bad we are and can be.5 King David excused his own sins with Bathsheba for almost a year until the Lord sent Nathan to confront him.6 Adam blamed his wife and Eve blamed the serpent for their sin7 and Aaron faulted the whole Hebrew nation for the Golden Calf fiasco.8 Packer says that we can never distrust ourselves too much. That sounds strong, but he’s right. He urges us to keep praying: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”9 The Lord put that prayer in the Bible for us to use. Isn’t He a gracious Father?
Self-examination. Many Scriptures call us to self-examination. Here are a few:
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?…Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into God’s perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do….If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions….When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies….Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.10
Philosopher Ayn Rand (1905-1982) said that rationalization is imagining a reality that fits our emotions. Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) disliked people who bragged about claiming to know so well what God wants them to do. She noticed God’s so-called will always matched the person’s own selfish desires. Ouch. Apart from the Lord’s help and walking closely with Him, we can all fall into that. Counselor Paul Trip warns that if we are not distrusting ourselves and submitting to the Lord, we can even use theology to justify things that should not be justified. No wonder Christ announced, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”11 Self-examination for Jesus’ sake can keep us from self-love, self indulgence, and self-deceit. John Piper reminds us that Christ’s demand for self-denial also calls us to experience His deepest and most lasting joy, gladness, and happiness.12 The Lord knows and wants what’s best for us!
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure, All their boasted pomp and show; Solid joys and lasting treasure none but Jesus’ followers know.13
To be continued.
Go in peace, beloved. Walk with King Jesus today and be a blessing to others!
Notes (various translations are used): 1 from “The Glory of Christ in Heaven.” 2 Knowing God (1993 reprint), p. 237-239. 3 Weakness Is the Way (2013). 4 Obadiah 3. 5 Jer 17:9. 6 2 Sam 12:1-14. 7 Gen 3:1-13. 8 Exodus chapter 32. 9 Psalm 139:23-24. 10 2 Cor 13:5; James 1:23-25; Lam 3:40; Gal 6:3-5; Psalm 119:59. 11 Luke 9:23. 12 What Jesus Demands from the World, p. 85,86. 13 from the hymn: “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” by John Newton (alt.).