There are few subjects, bearing upon the practical side of the Christian life, that believers are more exercised about than that they may be “led of the Lord” in all their ways; yet when some important decision has to be made, they are often at a stand to know how “the Lord’s mind” is to be obtained. We have read quite a number of tracts and booklets on this subject, but they were so general and vague that we obtained little or no light and help from them. This we find has been the experience of many others, and there certainly exists a real need today for some clear and definite article thereon.
For some years past the writer has been convinced that one thing which has contributed not a little unto the shrouding of this subject in mystery in the minds of many, is the loose and misleading terms which are generally employed by those referring thereto. While expressions are used as, “Is this according to God’s will?,” “Do I have the prompting of the Holy Spirit?,” “Were you led of the Lord in that?” Simple minds will continue to be perplexed and never arrive at any certainty. So commonly are these expressions now used in religious circles, that probably quite a number of our readers will be surprised at our challenging of them. Let it be said that we certainly do not condemn such expressions as erroneous, rather do we wish to point out that they are too intangible for most people until they are more definitely defined.
What alternative, then, have we to suggest? This: in connection with every decision we make, every plan we form, every action we execute, let the question be put, Is this in harmony with God’s Word? Is it what the Scriptures enjoin? Does it square with the Rule which God has given us to walk by? Is it in accord with the “example” which Christ has left us to follow? If it be in harmony with God’s Word, then it must be “according to God’s will,” for His will is revealed in His Word. If I am doing that which the Scriptures enjoin, then I must be “prompted by the Holy Spirit,” for He never moves any one to act contrary thereto. If my conduct squares with the Rule of Righteousness (the precepts and commands of the Word), then I must be “led of the Lord,” for He leads only into the “paths of righteousness” (Psa. 23:1, 3). A great deal of mystical vagueness and puzzling uncertainty will be removed if the reader substitutes for “Is this according to God’s will?” the simpler and more tangible “Is this according to God’s Word?”
A great deal of mystical vagueness and puzzling uncertainty will be removed if the reader substitutes for “Is this according to God’s will?” the simpler and more tangible “Is this according to God’s Word?”
God, in His infinite condescension and transcendent grace, has given us His Word for this very purpose: that we need not stumble along blindly, ignorant of what is pleasing or displeasing to Him, but that we might know His “mind.” That Divine Word is given to us not simply for information, but for the regulation of our conduct: to enlighten our minds, to mold our hearts, to direct all our conduct. That Divine Word supplies us with an unerring chart by which to steer through the dangerous sea of life, which if we sincerely and diligently follow, will deliver us from disastrous rocks and submerged reefs, and direct us safely to the Heavenly Harbour. In that Word is all the instructions we can need for every problem, every emergency we may be called upon to face. That Word has been given to us “that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:17). O how thankful and joyful we should be that the Triune God has favoured us with such a Word!
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psa. 119:105). The metaphor which is here used is taken from a man walking along a difficult and dangerous road on a dark night, in urgent need of a lantern to show him where to plant his feet, so that he may be able to journey along safely and comfortably, avoiding injury and destruction. The same figure is used again in the New Testament. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19). The “dark place” is this world, and it is only as we take heed to the Word, to the “light” God has given us that we shall be enabled to perceive and avoid the broad road which leadeth to destruction, and discern that narrow way which alone leadeth unto Life.
It is to be duly observed that the above verse plainly intimates that God has placed His Word in our hands for an intensely practical purpose, namely, for the directing of our walk, the regulating of our deportment. This at once shows us what is to be the first and principal use we are to make of this Divine gift. It would do a traveler little good to diligently scrutinize the mechanism of a lamp, or stand admiring its beautiful design; rather he is to take it up and make a practical use of the same. Many today are zealous in reading “the letter of Scripture,” and many are charmed with the evidences of its Divine Authorship, but how few appear to realize the primary purpose for which God has given the Scriptures, how few are making a practical use of them–ordering the details of their lives by its rules and regulations. They eulogize the Lamp, but they walk not by its light.
Our first need and task as little children was to learn to walk. The milk we received from our mothers was but a means to an end: to nourish the infant’s life, to strengthen its limbs so that they should be put to a practical use. So it is spiritually. When we have been born again and fed by the Spirit on the pure milk of the Word, our first need and task is to learn to walk, to walk as becometh the children of God; and this can be learned only as we ascertain our Father’s will as it is revealed in Holy Writ. By nature we are in total ignorance of His will for us and of what promotes our highest interests. It is a solemn and very humbling fact that man is the only creature born into this world devoid of intelligence as to how to act, and needing to be taught what is evil and what is good for him.
All the lower orders of creation are endowed with an instinct which moves them to act discreetly, to avoid that which is harmful, and to follow that which is good. But not so man. Animals and birds require not to be taught which herbs and berries are poisonous and which are not: they need no curb placed upon them not to over eat or over drink–you cannot even force a horse or a cow to gourge and make itself sick. Even plants turn their faces to the light and open their mouths to catch the falling rain. But fallen man has not even the instinct of the brutes, and usually has to learn by painful experience what is harmful and injurious; and, as it has been well said, “Experience keeps an expensive school”–her fees are high. Alas that so many only discover this when it is too late: when they have wrecked their constitutions beyond repair, life’s temporal interest beyond recovery.
It may be said in the answer to the above, But man is endowed with a conscience. True, and how far does it serve him till enlightened by the Word and convicted by the Spirit! Man’s understanding has been so darkened by sin, and folly is so bound up in his heart from childhood (Prov. 22:15), that until he is instructed he knows not what God requires of him, nor what makes for his own highest good. That is why God has given us His Word: to make known what He justly demands of us, to inform us of those things which destroy the soul, to reveal the baits which Satan uses to capture and slay so many, to point out the highway of holiness which alone leadeth unto Heaven (Heb. 12:14), to acquaint us with those rules which must be observed if we are to enter and walk that highway.
Our first duty, then, and our first aim, must be to take up the Scriptures so as to ascertain what is God’s revealed will for us, what are the paths He forbids us to walk in, what are the ways which are pleasing in His sight. Many things are prohibited in the Word which neither our reason nor our conscience would discover. For example, we learn that “that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15); that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4); that “he that hasteth with his feet sinneth” (Prov. 19:2). Many things are also there commanded which can only be known by acquainting ourselves with its contents. For example, “Lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:5); “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help” (Psa. 146:3); “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44).
The above are but samples of hundreds of others. Now it is obvious that God’s Word cannot be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path unless we are familiar with its contents, and particularly, until we are informed upon the practical rules which God has given us to walk by. The Holy Scriptures are given us, primarily, not for our intellectual gratification, nor for emotional admiration, but for life’s regulation. Nor are the precepts and commands, the warnings and encouragements contained therein, simply for our information: they are to be reduced to practice, they require unqualified obedience.
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Josh. 1:8). God will be no man’s debtor: in keeping His commands there is “great reward” (Psa. 19:11). Part of that “reward” is a deliverance from being deceived by the false appearances of things, from forming erroneous estimates, from pursuing a foolish policy. Part of that “reward” is the acquiring of wisdom so that we choose that which is good, act prudently, and follow those paths which make for righteousness, peace and joy. He who treasures up in his heart the Divine precepts and diligently seeks to walk by their rule will escape those evils which destroy his fellows.
“If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world” (John 11:9). To “walk in the day” means to be in communion with Him who is Light, to conduct ourselves according to His revealed will. Just so far as the Christian walks in the path of duty as it is defined for him in the Word, will he walk surely and comfortably: by the light of that Word the way is plain before him, and he is preserved from falling over the obstacles by which Satan seeks to trip him up. “But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him” (v. 10). Here is the solemn contrast: he who walks according to the dictates of his lusts, following the counsel and example of the ungodly, falls into the snares of the Devil, and perishes. There is “no light” in such an one, for he is not regulated by the Sun of Righteousness.
“I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). It is one thing to have “life,” it is another thing to enjoy the “light of life”–that is only obtained by following Christ. Notice carefully the tense of the verb: it is not “he that follows Me,” occasionally and spasmodically: but “he that followeth Me,” which signifies a steady and continuous course of action; and the promise to such a one is, “he shall not walk in darkness.” But what does it mean to “follow” Christ? First and foremost, to be emptied of self-will, for “even Christ pleased not Himself” (Rom. 15:3). This is absolutely essential; self-will and self-pleasing must be mortified if I am to be delivered from walking in darkness.