Seven Ways We Are Not Affected By the Will of God

 

Continuing his exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, Thomas Manton offers seven ways in which we may not be affected to God’s will as we should.

Now, some of you may read the word affected and wonder how this applies? In the Puritan days, the word affected carried a different connotation. Jonathan Edwards comments on the idea of affections, writing, “The will, and the affections of the soul, are not two faculties; the affections are not essentially distinct from the will, nor do they differ from the mere actings of the will and inclination, but only in the liveliness and sensibility of exercise. .. what are commonly called affections are not essentially different from them, but only in the degree and manner of exercise. In every act of the will whatsoever, the soul likes or dislikes, is either inclined or disinclined to what is in view.”[1]

This is the idea that Manton is discussing with regard to our relationship to God’s will. He offers this with the goal of self-examination. In other words, how do I measure up to the following points?

“WE PRETEND TO DO GOD’S WILL IN GENERAL, BUT WHEN IT COMES TO PARTICULARS WE STICK AT IT”[2]

Manton’s first point is that we tend to do God’s will in general, but not in specifics. We, as a whole, do not go around and murder one another. In this sense, we are doing God’s will. However, when we have a disagreement with someone, we may not seek restoration. We may even actively seek out their hurt. Or, we may secretly speak evil of them. We comfort ourselves in obeying God’s will (not murdering), but we betray God’s will by holding grudges. Or, as Manton puts it, “We will do the will of God in general, but when it comes to cross our lusts and private inclinations, these make us grudge at it, and shrink back again.”[3]

Are we guilty of this? Do we generally follow God’s will, but secretly keep hold of our own?

“SOME COMMEND AND APPROVE THE WILL OF GOD, AND TALK OF IT, BUT DO NOT PRACTISE IT”[4]

“Practice what you preach!” we quickly tell others who say one thing and do another. Children are exasperated when parents tell them not to perform a certain action and then turn around and do it themselves. This form of hypocrisy is particular harmful to the Christian. For if the Christian says we should follow God’s will, but does not follow it herself, how can the light of Christ shine to the dark world?

Christian, what do your affections reveal to you? Do you speak of doing God’s will, but fail to execute? Let us take heed to James exhortation, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”[5]

“FOR THE PRESENT, WHILE WE ARE IN A GOOD HUMOUR, WHEN OUR LUSTS LIE LOW, WHEN THE HEART IS WARM UNDER THE IMPULSIONS OF A PRESENT CONVICTION OR PERSUASION, MEN HAVE HIGH THOUGHTS OF DOING THE WILL OF GOD”

What Manton is saying here is that when things are going well we tend to have more concentrated views of God’s will. For instance, if a girl receives a loving letter from her boyfriend, she thinks highly of him, feels closer to him, and spends more energy to communicate her feelings. But Manton makes the point of distinction even clearer, “There are several acts of our wills; there is consent, choice, intention, and prosecution. It is not enough to consent: these things may be extorted from us by moral persuasion; but there must be a serious choice, an invincible resolution, such an intention as is prosecuted with all manner of industry and serious endeavours, whatever disappointments we meet with from God and men.”[6]

In other words, thoughts should lead to action. We can think highly of God’s will, but until we make a conscious effort to do His will it is pointless and fruitless. I can tell my wife that she is the only lady for me, but if I never show her that I love her, then I must not love her. How much more should I show God that I am affected by His will than to obey His laws, change my ways, and seek His face in every moment of my life?

“WE HAVE MANY TIMES A SEEMING AWE UPON THE CONSCIENCE, AND SO ARE URGED TO DO GOD’S WILL, YET THE HEART IS AVERSE FROM GOD ALL THE WHILE; THEREFORE THEY STRIVE TO BRING GOD’S WILL AND THEIRS TOGETHER, TO COMPROMISE THE DIFFERENCE”[7]

We are all guilty of this at one point in our lives. We claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, to submit our lives to Him Who is the King of kings and Lord of Gods We offer our allegiance to Him. And yet, there is a battle. As Paul wrote to the Galatian churches, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”[8]

Manton states, “In many cases we are thus divided between our own affections and God’s will, between our interests and the will of God.”[9] This is not to say that we will never have any different interests. To have hobbies and such is not, in and of itself, sin.[10] However, we are too often guilty of allowing those hobbies and interests to receive our affections against God’s will.

For example, I enjoy watching hockey. I especially enjoy it when the Dallas Stars are playing. I enjoy it even more when they win. I approach games with excitement and eagerness. Now the question I must ask myself is, “Do I approach God’s Word the same way?” Do I, with eager anticipation, look for ways to do God’s will? This helps us see how our affections are toward God’s will. If we pray like our Lord, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”[11]

“A WISH THAT WE WERE BROUGHT UNDER THE POWER OF IT, AS HE THAT STRETCHED HIMSELF UPON HIS BED, AND SAID, OH, THAT THIS WERE TO LABOUR!”[12]

Similar to the previous mistakes we can make, Manton is discussing desire. He goes on to write, “They have a wish, but not a volition, not a serious desire; and sometimes they may draw it out to a cold prayer that God would make them better.”[13] Oh, how often I am guilty of this! How often have I prayed, “God help me overcome _________,” and leave it at that prayer. I fail to engage in serious war with the sin, and thus I am simply wishing for God’s will.

“HALVING THE WILL OF GOD; AS IN MANY CASES MANY WILL DO PART OF THE WILL OF GOD, BUT NOT ALL, THEY COME NOT FULLY UP TO THE MIND OF GOD”[14]

This is the idea that as long as our sins are little and our execution of God’s will much, we are fine. This betrays a biblical view of sin, however. Manton offers this stinging remark,

“No sin is little which is committed against a great God.”[15]

Meditate on the greatness, on the holiness, of God, and you will never think lightly of sin.

“A LOATHNESS TO KNOW THE WILL OF GOD, TO SEARCH AND INQUIRE INTO IT, ARGUETH DECEIT, AND THAT WE ARE LOATH TO COME UNDER THE POWER OF IT”[16]

We are, at times, very clear on what God’s will is for us, and yet we simply do not pursue it. It is like the older gentleman who was raised in a godly home. The Scriptures were read every night, the family prayed together. This man knew where to find truth, but because God’s will conflicted with his life, he loathed it.

Does your heart loath God’s will? Is there any part of the commands of God that you do not love? That reveals our affections, and we must learn to cultivate our affections to love, cherish, and execute God’s most gracious will.

CONCLUSION

So, how did you do? Are your affections geared to the will of God? Or, has your own will replaced His? May we, as we pray, “Your will be done,” mean it genuinely.[17]

 

Thomas Manton’s Collected Works can be published through the Banner of Truth Trust.

Also, check out these two helps from Manton’s other thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer:

Manton’s Five Steps to Help You Do God’s Will

On the Goodness of God’s Will: Manton’s Marvelous Memoir

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[1] J. Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2000) 237, as quoted in Sam Williams, “Toward a Theology of Emotion,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, volume 7, no. 4 (Winter, 2003), 58-72.

[2] Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1993), 134.

[3] Manton, Works, 134.

[4] Ibid.

[5] James 1:22, ESV.

[6] Manton, Works, 135.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Galatians 5:17, ESV.

[9] Manton, Works, 135.

[10] The exception, of course, would be if that hobby violated God’s law. Then it would be sin.

[11] Matthew 6:10, ESV.

[12] Manton, Works, 135.

[13] Ibid., 135-136.

[14] Ibid., 136.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] See Matthew 6:10, ESV.

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On the Goodness of God’s Will: Manton’s Marvelous Memoir

In Matthew 6:10, Jesus offers what has been deemed as “The Lord’s Prayer.” It is a marvelous prayer, one that every saint of God should work to memorize. Many works have been written on this wonderful prayer, but the one I am currently working through is Thomas Manton’s “An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer” printed by the Banner of Truth.

Jesus says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (ESV)

Commenting on this, Manton describes the goodness of God’s commandments,

Nothing God commandeth but what is agreeable to his own nature, and what is suited to our benefit. It is no burden to live justly, soberly, and holily in communion with God; it is not a burden, but a great advantage.The yoke of Christ is a bountiful yoke. Our service and duty hath its own reward in the very mouth and bosom of it. It is no great wrong to us to govern our affections, to live soberly, chastely and in the exercise of holy services; here is nothing but what raiseth and sublimates the nature of man. (Manton, Volume 1, page 130)

Think about what Manton (and Scripture) is saying. God’s will is bound by God’s character. He is infinitely good. His grace overcomes the greatest of sins. His boundless love covers, through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, all the sins of His people. He works everything for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). This, in turn, extends to His commandments.

Do we view God’s commandments in this way? Or, like children, do we see our Heavenly Father’s commandments as prevention to our fun and delight. Let us renew our minds (Romans 12:2), through the gracious work of the Holy Spirit and the all-sufficient Word of God, to see the commands of God as they are: good.

Consider just a brush through Psalm 119:

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law!

The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words.

Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.

This is just four verses from Psalm 119 that describe the goodness of God’s commandments. There are sixty-five other books in the Bible that, directly or indirectly, describe and pontificate on the beauties and benevolences of God’s commandments.

How about you, Christian? Have you fallen into a disdainful view of God’s gloriously good commandments? Have you seen them as burdens, as barriers between you and your enjoyment? Seek God’s help to cultivate a biblical, God-honoring view of His rules for our lives. Let your heart soar to the heights in worship that our Sovereign God would provide the commands to live life that is most fulfilling for us and most glorifying for Him.

Perhaps you are not a Christian. Maybe you view God’s commandments as horrendous. You also may have developed a negative view of God’s Words. Can I implore you to seek His truth? May the Holy Spirit open your eyes and grant you repentance (a forsaking) of your sins and grant you faith (or belief) to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior. May His grace allow you to see the wonders of His Word and the goodness of His commandments.

And may it all bring glory to God’s hallowed Name.