What is the will of God?” Today, I want to tackle that question. The will of God – what is it, when do we do it and who does it? I have a title this week: Soul Care and the Will of God.
So what is the will of God? At a high level, let’s turn to 1 Thessalonians 4.
1 Thessalonians 4:3
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification
So at a high level, the will of God is for you and I to be totally sanctified. And what is sanctified?
1 Thessalonians 5:23
23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So we are made in the image of God and God is three Persons, but He is One. You cannot separate God from God the father, from God the son, from the Holy Spirit. When you see Jesus, you see a reflection of the Father and They are inseparable. And when you look at Them – the Triune God – They are One and we as humans are created in God’s image. God has three persons. We have three parts – we have a spirit which is our essence, we have a soul and we have a body.
And you can’t remove or you can’t damage one of these three parts and expect to be fully human as God intended. We are more than our bodies. Society tries to objectify people so that you are what you appear to be – your appearance and your talents. We try to objectify. We try to say we are just one part. But as Christians, we know that we are soul, spirit and body – which is one you.
We are more than our souls. If you were to copy your brain and store it in the cloud AWS and its artificial intelligence department, is that digital copy of your brain the same as you? Let’s say it’s Andre’s brain. We call it Andre and we call upon Andre and Andre tells math jokes and loves Josh garrels, but we listen to that voice coming from that digital brain. We know that it’s not Andre. It may have a version of his soul, but it has no body and no spirit.
People confuse “soul” and “spirit” because in the original language, they both mean “breath.” So it is confusing but Hebrews 4:12 says the word of God cuts down to the division between our soul and our spirit. And what is at the essence? It’s the thoughts of your heart and the intentions of your heart that you’re not even aware of that you’re thinking. But your heart has thoughts and your heart has intentions and motives, and the word of God is able to cut through even the subconscious. It’s there and it’s driving you.
What is the will of God regarding your spirit? God’s will is for your spirit to be sanctified. And what does it mean that your spirit is sanctified? What is the function of the spirit? We know that Ephesians 2 says that when we were born into this fallen world and we ourselves were fallen creatures, that we had a body, a soul and a spirit but our spirit was dead. It was there but it was dead. It was not functioning. It was not sanctified. It was not made whole. It was not healed. There were blemishes. It was dead.
What and how did that spirit come alive? You met Jesus. And when you met Jesus, your hope in Jesus was made alive. And how do we have a sanctified spirit is for you to hope in Him fully and in His return.
Did you know that even after you’re born again your spirit can fall asleep? Think of Jacob. For how many years, how many decades did he think that his son Joseph was dead and during those years he thought “I’m never going to see my son, my beloved son? I’m never going to see him – my son is not going to return to me?” And during those years his hope died. He was hopeless.
And that hopelessness, that is an expression of his spirit dying. And so when he hears news of Joseph being alive, it describes in Genesis 45 that Jacob’s spirit revived. His spirit came alive again. His spirit was alive and living again because his hope was restored. The sin of hopelessness is a sin against your spirit. When you are hopeless and you have no desire and no expectation for Christ’s return, you’re doing damage to your spirit. It’s like you’re sinning against the spirit part of you. Christians, when we lose hope in Christ’s return, our spirit falls asleep. Because the first time you met Jesus, your spirit that was once dead came alive and we are supposed to hope in His return. That’s what keeps our spirit functional, healthy and sanctified.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God.
The psalmist’s soul is downcast yet he is speaking to himself, “This is why you are downcast, O my soul. Hope in God.” What is happening there? It is his spirit taking authority over his soul saying “Soul, come up!” Your soul can be depressed and discouraged. Your spirit can actually speak to the soul part of you and say, “Rise. Hope in God.” See, hope is the answer. Hope is what causes our spirit to be sanctified.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
It could be a little confusing because he’s talking about those who are asleep and in this context, he’s talking about those who have passed away. But those who are alive physically, our spirit can fall asleep again. And the key phrase here is those “who have no hope.” Brothers and sisters, we who are alive today physically, we are ones who have incredible hope and that hope is what keeps your spirit alive and sanctified.
God’s will is for your spirit to be sanctified – meaning full of hope. God also wants your soul to be sanctified. Last, He wants your body to be sanctified.
And what is the will of God specifically? What does it mean for our body to be sanctified? It means your body needs to be holy.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification:[a] that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body[b] in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
He’s talking about holiness and the sanctification of your body, and the issue is control. Who controls your body? Is it self-control? You would think “It’s my body, so don’t I have self-control over my own body?” Many people don’t. Many people don’t know the simple truth that it’s your body and you control your eyes, you control your fingers, you control your limbs, you control your actions. Many people don’t have self-control. Then who is controlling? Are you in control of your body or is your body controlling you?
Sexual sin is a sin of your body. It’s when you fall into sexual impurity. You are sinning and damaging your body. It’s like you are putting spots and blemishes and wrinkles and stains on your body. And God’s will is for your body to be totally clean. The same way that your spirit is clean when you have hope in Christ, your body is clean when you have self-control and you do not fall into sexual sin. You abstain, meaning you stay far away from it.
And I want to encourage the brothers in this room through 2 Peter 2.
2 Peter 2:7-10
7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
And Lot has a bad reputation. He’s the nephew of Abraham who went away from Abraham when we think he should have stayed. He went for the the better pasture because the herdsmen were fighting. And so Abraham says they need to part for the sake of their herdsmen not fighting. I don’t know what Lot should have done but we just give Lot a bad name because he’s the one who went away.
But here we read that Lot is a righteous man. We know the story of angels coming to save only Lot from the destruction of the city of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham pleaded with God not to burn the city down but not even ten righteous men could be found in all of the city. But there was one. There was Lot and an angel was sent and that city was so degraded. We read in Genesis 6 that there were fallen angels having sexual relations with women here. It’s even worse when you have men wanting to have sexual relations with godly angels and they go to Lot’s house to do this offensive thing. Now it’s homosexual sin. It is so much more degraded and Lot is in this city and his righteous soul we read is tormented.
And so as brothers, it is hard. It is hard for brothers to maintain our righteousness and our purity in a world that is so unrighteous. It is so unrighteous. And let this be our testimony that for us, when we see the world, we see it and we hear about it and our righteous soul is tormented like there’s nothing holy out there. There’s nothing in the world that draws me. Lot as a righteous person is showing our response to an unrighteous world. There is nothing there that should draw me.
Imagine Lot living in this city and being bombarded with unrighteousness at every turn. What does he have to do? He just has to turn away. He just has to keep his eyes down. He has to stay home. It’s just so unrighteous what he sees and hears that his soul is tormented. Brothers, that is how we need to be when we look at the world. We’re not saying, “I want to be famous in the world. I want more of the world. I want to climb up the ladder so that I’m respected in the world.” This is an unrighteous world and our righteous soul is tormented.
And how do we keep our holiness? We have to gain back control of our own body. Meaning, you have to control your eyes. You have to train yourself to look away. It’s not your fault. You didn’t go out that day looking to sin but why is everyone dressed so immodestly? It doesn’t apply to any sisters in this room, but I’m talking about the unrighteous women in the world who are flaunting their bodies. It’s on every screen, every billboard, every place you turn. It’s everywhere. What do we do as righteous people trying to maintain our righteousness? We need to control our eyes and ask the Lord, “Give me control over my own body. Give me control over my eyes so I can look away.” And then we are tormented because we constantly have to look away.
When your eyes wander, it’s showing that you cannot control it. It’s an issue of control.
When you go to that website and you feel like you can’t help it, it’s because you don’t have control over your own fingers. Whose body is it? If it’s your body, self-control means you control your body and that it is a sanctified body because you abstain from every form of unholiness, you abstain from every form of evil. You keep it at a distance. You’re not drawn to it.
We are sanctified in our spirit by having full hope in Christ. We are sanctified in our body by being holy and by exercising self-control. And lastly God’s will for your soul is laid out in 1 Thessalonians 5:16
1 Thessalonians 5:16
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I asked the question at the beginning. What is the will of God? I know God’s will for each of you.
It’s right here. It is to rejoice always. It is to pray without ceasing. It is to give thanks in all circumstances. So we’re not waiting for God’s will. Getting the right job is not God’s will. There may be assignments along the way. There may be good works for us to do that He has prepared and events, but God’s will is not a mystery. God’s will is so clearly laid out in Scripture.
What is God’s will? It is to rejoice. Another way to say rejoice is to be glad. And this is not about personality, because some people are bubbly and some people like myself are more serious. This is nothing about personality. This is about your soul being healthy. It’s like you are glad emotionally. Your mood is rejoicing and it’s full of gladness. There’s joy. And it’s a commandment. This is not optional. This is harder for some people but it is a commandment. It’s as if I’ve been waiting for God’s will and not fully satisfied, not fully rejoicing, and not fully glad. I’m waiting for something else when God is telling me and telling all of us that it’s right here.
God’s will is for you to rejoice and to be glad. This is how you care for your soul.
Your soul can be broken down into three parts – mind, will, emotion. Gladness and joy is how you care for your soul.
And we are to pray. It is a commandment. We are to pray not because it’s a duty. It’s for our own good. The grammar here is written in a way that suggests that prayer is for your own good. It’s not because God needs it. It’s not because God is gaining anything. You are the one who is blessed. The more you pray, your soul is blessed. When you don’t pray and when you don’t rejoice, you are damaging your soul. You are in some sense sinning against your soul.
And give thanks. These are commandments. These are not optional. This is not just for the bubbly person who can easily rejoice or be thankful. This is for all Christians regardless of your personality. It is a commandment. You must rejoice. You must pray. You must give thanks. It is a commandment from the Lord. And if you do not do this, you are disobeying His will for you.
What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for a lightning bolt from the sky that gives you a specific assignment when you are disobeying God’s clear universal will? Does that make sense that God would give you an assignment to represent Him to the world and to the ends of the earth when you are disobeying his clear universal will?
Why did Paul plant so many churches and do so much ministry? It’s because he was this kind of person. He never had a bad day. He’s in prison, yet he’s rejoicing. He’s hungry, yet he is giving thanks. He’s been shipwrecked, yet he’s praying without ceasing. That means when you are in a bad mood, when you are prayerless, when you are grumbling and complaining, you are sinning against your soul. You are putting stains and blots on your soul. What is the will of God? It is to rejoice, pray and give thanks. It is to clean up your soul and keep it clean.
And when are we to do it? Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances. Always, without ceasing and in all circumstances. Are you doing this?
When things are not going well for you, are you rejoicing? Or are you in a bad mood?
When pressure is crowding in on you, are you praying or do you stop praying? When you are a young parent and you’re sleep-deprived, are you giving thanks? Or maybe you can’t remember the last time you said “Thank You, Lord.”
These are commandments. Rejoice, pray, give thanks – when? Always, without ceasing and in all circumstances. You can never have a bad day again. If you have a bad day, you are disobeying. When you are moody, you are disobeying God’s will for you and you are damaging your soul. When you are not praying continuously, without ceasing, you leave an open door for your soul to get corrupted. That day, you are vulnerable to Satan’s schemes. When you are not giving thanks and when you are grumbling in your heart, you are corrupting your soul. You are damaging and sinning against your soul. These are not optional. These are Commandments.
And I think there’s a lot to repent over. Sins that we’ve committed against our body in terms of holiness. Sins that we’ve committed against our spirit by not hoping in Christ. And this I think is the bulk of our Christian experience – that we can live soulish lives, with such a corrupt, mangled, or distorted soul. We can do all the right things and say all the right things but do it in the wrong way and say it in the wrong way without rejoicing. We can pray but it’s just a discipline. We don’t see it as our protection.
We can give thanks that we can do something, that we can serve the Lord and speak on behalf of the Lord. But to be so ungrateful in our heart is just wrong. This is somebody who is doing Christian life in the wrong way. The will of God is for our total sanctification of our spirit, our body and our soul. The spirit is full of hope, our body is holy, and our soul is always rejoicing. We are praying without ceasing and giving thanks in all circumstances. And when do we do this?
We do it always, every day, every moment, every circumstance, without ceasing. And if you obey the will of God and you do it when he tells you to do it, which is all the time, your soul will be clean. And if your soul is clean, likely your body will be clean. Your spirit will be clean.
And who does the will of God? You may think this is obvious. “I do it. All the burdens on me. I do it. I have to pray hard without ceasing. I have to repent and be holy and grab hold of my body and have self control. I need to muster up a glad heart.” Yes, there are things for us to do. We do need to be diligent. We need to do everything in our power. But thank the Lord for 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Who does the will of God? We do the will of God. Of course we struggle, we are tormented in our righteous souls, we are straining, we are doing without ceasing all the things within our power. Ultimately, who are we relying upon? It says God will do it. God will do it. He will surely do it as sure as your salvation because He called you. You responded to His call. As sure as that initial salvation is moving toward final salvation, also part of that is surely He will sanctify you along the way. It is guaranteed. It is guaranteed that He will do it as it is the will of God. It is God’s will. God doesn’t just pronounce it and say okay you’re on your own.
We try your best. If we’re doing it on our own, either we’re going to fall into despair because how many of us are doing God’s will in terms of keeping our body clean and our soul clean and our spirit clean? How many of us are doing it well every single day?
If you’re doing it on your own, you will fall into despair or you will become self-righteous and fool yourself into thinking “Yes, I can do this. I am a righteous person and I can do this by myself.”
No, God says “I will do it.” We’re partnering with Him. When we fall, He’s there. That is why we are to pray without ceasing. When we fall, He’s there. When we are not praying without ceasing and we’re just praying intermittently, He’s there. Whenever we pray, He’s there.
When you’re losing control over your own body and you pray, He is there. When your emotions are getting out of whack and you are harsh and irritable, but you pray, He is there to sanctify you.
The bulk of our Christian life Is there in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 and onward it is to care for our soul. That is the bulk of our Christian Life to have a clean soul by rejoicing always, by praying without ceasing, by giving thanks in all circumstances. If you make it your mindset everyday “I want to obey God’s will in these three areas,” I can almost assure you that God will be with you and you will be clean. You will be clean.
There’s so much to repent over just in these things over our soul. Why am I moody? Why am I prayerless? Why do I grumble and complain so easily? If we did God’s will, not only would our soul be clean, our spirit will be clean. Our body will be clean because God is helping you.
He will surely do it – the sanctification. We put most of the burden on Him because He called us and He says He will sanctify us.
What an encouragement! All we need to do is keep praying whenever we fall. you can say it. Well, I have not obeyed. I’ve disobeyed God’s will this last week. I complained and I was in a bad mood. I didn’t pray. I broke God’s commandments. I did not do His will. Start today. Say today, “I want to be glad. There is no room for moodiness. No matter what is happening around me or what people are doing to me, I will resolve to obey God’s will and rejoice.
I will not have a bad day. Today is going to be a good day. I want to obey God’s will. Today, I want to pray not as a duty but as a way of life – without ceasing. That means there is no stop. That means all throughout your day, that you are offering up these short prayers and you are just communing with God all throughout your day. Do you think you will fall into many sins? If you are living this way, and you are praying all the time without ceasing. Do you think you will have no control over your body when you are praying all the time for help and for strength and for control? Do you think you will have a mouth that just grumbles when you’re praying without ceasing?
Resolve that if you haven’t done God’s will, do it today. If you fail tomorrow, tomorrow say I am going to do God’s will tomorrow by rejoicing and by being glad, by praying without ceasing and in all circumstances. No matter what happens to you, you’re going to give thanks. If it rains, you give thanks. If there is sunshine, you give thanks. If your boss thinks you’re the greatest, you give thanks. If you’re fired, you give thanks in all circumstances. Imagine if you lived doing God’s will everyday, your soul be clean. Not only will your soul be clean and stay clean, but your body likely will be clean. Your spirit will be clean because God will help you. Okay, let’s pray.
Father, Your will is so clear. We don’t have to wonder what it is. We don’t have to wait for it. Your will for today and everyday is so clear regardless of our season or are our assignment. Your will for every believer is universal and applies for all of us and for all generations. You save people not so that we remain as we are. You save us so that we can be sanctified. You save us so that we can be holy and so that our body has complete self-control and we have control over our eyes and our limbs.
Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. We abstain from every form of evil. We don’t even go near it. We are tormented when we hear about the unrighteousness that is happening all around us. We pray for the blood of Jesus to sanctify everybody here, every cell of our body, every cell in our eyes and our hands and our feet, every organ, every part of our body and our flesh. We ask for the blood of Jesus to cover us and make us clean. We pray that all of us can have holy bodies where Your Spirit is welcomed to dwell with us and in us. We pray for a sanctified spirit. We plead the blood of Jesus to cover our spirit so that it would come alive again. It would be revived again so that we can hope in Christ and His return again.
Clean up our spirit, breathe life back into it, Lord, like You did when we first met You, when we first put our hope in You. Hope is what brings our spirit alive. Hopelessness is a sin against our spirit. May we never be hopeless. May we always put our hope fully on the grace that is to be revealed when Jesus returns.
Father, we pray for the blood of Jesus to cover over our soul, our mind, will, and emotion.
And we do this by being glad, by rejoicing always, by never having a bad day. No matter what is happening, always being glad. This is Your will for every believer no matter what is happening. To rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, to give thanks in all circumstances. This is Your will. It will keep our soul clean, our mind clean, our will clean and our emotions clean.
We do this always. We do this without ceasing in every circumstance. And we do it but, Lord, ultimately we ask for help. We thank You for Your word that You say You will surely do it. You will sanctify us body, soul, spirit, mind, will, emotion. We ask as we come before the table that every one of us, every part of who we are, the three parts of us, would become whole again and would function the way it should. To be purified and made clean so that we look and we talk and act just like Jesus. Help us, Lord. Help us, Lord.
We repent for disobeying your commandments, for being moody, for being prayerless, for being hopeless, for being unholy, for grumbling. That is not a Christian. Thank you for reminding us what a Christian is. We are holy and we are full of hope in Jesus. We are rejoicing, we’re always giving thanks, and always praying. This is a Christian who is healthy and whole. Help us to do this, Lord. We rely upon You. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen