By James Rondinone
There are two ways we could answer this. The first is the general meaning involving certain spiritual attainments to which God would have each of us aspire. The second is the particular plan which involves the Holy Spirit working individually in each of our lives to provide us with guidance in many areas. That would include financial, friendships, marriage partner, where we should reside geographically, conviction of sin, illumination of Scripture, exercising our spiritual gifts, etc. Which one should we focus on initially? I believe the general one. Why? Because as you will see, if we are able to participate in God’s general plan, this will provide for us with the proper foundation for His individual plan for each life.
God’s General Plan.
What are those spiritual attainments which are considered as a part of God’s general plan for our life?
We will begin in the book of Romans.
Be conformed to the image of his Son
Suggested Reading: Romans 8:29-30
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
God the Father knew beforehand (foreknowledge), who would respond to His invitation of salvation by repenting and believing in His Son as to who He is and what He has accomplished. Therefore, He chose (elected) whosoever beforehand (before they were ever born). In time, God instituted His plan called predestination. This involves many events, as well as the decisions that mankind will make, especially concerning salvation. The goal of predestination is for people to become saved, and subsequently, be conformed to the image of His Son.
If we were living during the time when Israel first became a nation, the Age of Israel, we would be talking about God executing a plan through the institution of the Mosaic Law that would allow the Jews to believe in Him as He was revealed. But because we are living during the time of the church, we will be talking about a plan that has to do with people responding to the Gospel message. In this dispensation, once a person is saved, one of God’s desire for him/her is to be conformed to the image of His Son.
What does it mean for a Christian to be conformed to the image of God’s Son?
The word conformed refers to the process of sanctification, whereby the saint is transformed in his inner heart life to resemble.36 To resemble what?To resemble the image of God’s Son. This word image refers to character. Where is this idea of character derived from in Scripture? It is found in Galatians 5:22-23.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
The word fruit means the Spirit’s influences, spiritual qualities, the graces of the Spirit which relate to Christian character, or the unity of the character of the Lord.
So, there you have it. One of the goals of God’s plan for us is that we would be conformed (i.e., a transformation would take place in our inner heart life) whereby we resemble the image (the likeness; the character) of the Lord. The character refers to the fruit, the graces, or spiritual qualities of the Holy Spirit.
What else is considered a part of God’s general plan for our life?
Please go to the book of 1 Thessalonians.
For this is the will of God
1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.
2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.
Paul declared to the saints of the church at Thessalonica that as they received (learned) from him, Silvanus, and Timotheus as to how they ought to walk (behave toward one another) so as to please God, the hope for this quality of life would abound (increase) more and more. He then reminded them to recall the commandments (the instructions) regarding personal purity (as to how they should live). And then he proceeded to tell them the will of God for their lives.
3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:
The will or plan of God for their lives is their sanctification (that they should be holy).
How is this accomplished?
4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
This is accomplished when each of them is able to learn and know how37 to possess (be controlled through God’s power; gain mastery over; exercise self-control over) his vessel (his body; sexual desires) in sanctification (behavior that is set apart to the Lord in its motivation) and honor (recognized by others as intrinsically worthy of respect38).
While we are not told how to possess (gain mastery over) our body (sexual desires), we are told that this is God’s will or plan for every life.
There is one more very important spiritual reality that is God’s general will or plan.
This is found in the book of Ephesians.
Be filled with the spirit
Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit
We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. The word filled refers to the believer being under the Spirit’s control. It also suggests the idea that this condition occurs because the believer has yielded him/her self to Him. And when we are yielded to Him, He is said to control us in our mind, emotions, and will.39As we learn how to consistently be under His control, we will increasingly manifest His fruit, i.e., love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.
This doesn’t tell us how we get to be yielded to Him, but what it does convey to us is when we are, we will be evidencing to others His fruit (graces; spiritual qualities of character).
Some would say there is so much more to what God’s general will or plan is for our life. They will stress obedience to God’s Word as it pertains to street witnessing, prayer, laying down our lives for one another, visiting the orphan and widows, giving financially, etc. While I would agree that we should be responsive to these opportunities to express Christ-likeness to others, I would also contend that without learning how to be conformed to the image of God’s son, how to have mastery over our sexual desires, and how to be filled with the Spirit all the actions that we attempt to perform will be done in self-power according to the inclinations of the flesh. Instead of revealing Christ-likeness to others, we will only reveal the person we used to be before we were saved. So, what we really are talking about here is our testimony; is it reflective of the old sin nature or the new spiritual nature?
Does your testimony come from obedience to God’s Word and translate to doing this or doing that? Or should our testimony start from within? Being transformed from within will reveal Christ-likeness in everything we do. A lack of inward transformation will expose what appear to be Godly actions before those in leadership and our fellow believers but will be void of Godly character that exemplifies the fruit of the Spirit.
Now that you know what the general will or plan of God is for your life, let’s take a look at an attempt to address the second part of the final comment that someone who attended the Hillsong church ministry expressed in the article, “Sex Abuse & Gay Conversion Therapy: The Dark Past of Justin Bieber’s Megachurch Hillsong”.40 The second part of the final comment is, there are people who don’t recognize that any relationship that I have with a man … would be full of love, equal to any other.41 In this case, we need to know the specifics of God’s plan. This believer (a male) was saying that he considered his relationship with a man as being part of God’s plan. When we become saved, there are a lot of things that we are not sure about as to whether we should continue in them or not. Am I allowed to continue to drink alcohol? Am I allowed to get a divorce? What about having a relationship outside of marriage?
Where do we find the answers to these questions? We find them in four avenues: (1) attending a church that teaches on these topics (2) reading Christian books (3) watching a pertinent video on such (4) our own study of the scriptures.
The question we are really attempting to answer based on the second part of this believer’s comment is, what is God’s perspective concerning sexual relationships now that we have become a Christian?
When Jesus said, to love one another, as I have loved you in John 15:12, does this mean that the love we should be operating in condones fornication, adultery, homosexuality, pedophilia, etc.?
Like any other question that you or I have, the answer should be found in the scriptures. The Epistles, which are letters written to the fledgling churches and individual believers in the earliest days of Christianity contains answers to what constitutes sinful behavior, how we are to act toward fellow believers and unbelievers, and how we can grow spiritually.
Are you ready to take a look at what the Word of God says and find out what it means to love one another with God’s love.
36Weust’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament.
37Robertson’s New Testament.
38The Bible Exposition Commentary/New Testament.
39The Bible Exposition Commentary/New Testament.
40Sex Abuse & Gay Conversion Therapy.
41Sex Abuse & Gay Conversion Therapy.
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