Calvary Road Baptist Church

“NOT MY WILL”

Luke 22.42

Turn in your Bible to Luke 22.24, where we find the Lord Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion. It is a most solemn scene, with the holy angels invisibly looking on with wonder, while all of mankind pays no attention at all. The eternal Son of the living God is in His final hours before the fulfillment of His great enterprise and reason for leaving heaven’s glory to dwell among men as a Man. After a season of fervent prayer, He will be arrested as a result of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal for 30 pieces of silver, and then He will be unjustly and illegally accused, tried, found guilty on false charges, beaten without mercy, and then crucified. Though each aspect of our Savior’s passion fully deserves our careful and worshipful attention, at this time our focus will be directed to but a few of the words He utters to His heavenly Father in prayer in the garden. It is nighttime. He has charged the eleven apostles who have not betrayed Him, saying, “Pray that ye enter not into temptation.” He then moved some distance from them, knelt down, and began to pray Himself.

During the course of His prayer to His heavenly Father, He said, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Expressing the dread of His humanity in anticipation of the unimaginable suffering that awaited Him, my Lord Jesus Christ inquired as He must inquire if there was any other way to accomplish His task. Realizing, of course, that there was no other way to so display God’s grace, to so satisfy God’s justice, to so vindicate God’s holiness, or to so extend mercy to God’s elect than by drinking the cup of His great suffering, than by enduring the death of the cross, He said “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

Beloved, we truly are on holy ground at this point, treading on terrain that is so unfamiliar to us, so foreign to our way of thinking, and so alien to the existence of so many people. Consider for a few moments what the Savior said: “not my will.” I dare say most of you were raised by your parents with the expectation of satisfying your will, since only the rarest and wisest of parents raise their children to surrender their wills. Look back in history at the bloodiest of despots and you will find men who insisted on fulfilling their own will. Reflect on the most ridiculous of marital arguments and you will find the sore point to be two people seeking to exert their own wills. Observe the most sociopathic and repulsive of children’s tantrums and you will witness someone acting out to satisfy his will. Yet when we come to the Garden of Gethsemane, and when the Holy Spirit by inspiration pulls back the veil to give us but a glimpse of the communion of the Son with His heavenly Father, what words do we hear from that One Man who, more than any other man who ever lived, deserved to get His own way, had a right to His will being fulfilled, but the phrase “not my will.” Astonishing.

Ponder that for just a moment. At one of the most crucial moments in all of human history, the perfect Representative of all mankind, engaged in prayer with His heavenly Father concerning the great task He came to this world to accomplish, said “not my will.” Then whose will, if not His will? The Father’s will. God’s will. Have you ever thought about that? If the Savior owns that the Father’s will is to be preferred to His human dread of great suffering, then surely your demand to get your own way is immediately called into question. If the Savior does not demand His own will at so crucial a time, how dare you and how dare I demand our wills at any time? By what right do you insist on getting your way, demanding your will?

May I suggest that you and I take time to reflect a bit on this issue of the will of God as opposed to your will, or mine?

CONSIDER, FIRST, THE WILL OF GOD AND THIS MATTER OF SALVATION

Of course, the will of God bears directly on the larger issue of the sovereignty of God, His absolute right to do as He chooses, without in any way being obligated to justify His actions to any creature. At each step of creation, for example, God fulfilled His own will in that grand display of sovereignty. However, for now, let us narrow our consideration to the will of God and the salvation of a sinner.

We begin by reflecting on what the Word of God tells us about the sinner’s will. Notice that I am intentionally leaving out of this consideration any mention of any sinner’s ability, because sinners are dead in trespasses and sins and are quite incapable of doing anything to affect their own salvation.[1] Sinners are not ignorant so as to need to be taught, or sick so as to need help. They are dead so as to need life, and while dead are certainly helpless. Romans 3.11-12 echoes Psalm 14.2-3 when it declares, “there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” From the assassination of Abel by his elder brother Cain, to Lamech’s bigamy, to Nimrod’s idolatry, to Esau’s profaneness, to Pharaoh’s stubbornness, to Jezebel’s feminism, to Judas Iscariot’s betrayal, to Pilate’s spiritual blindness, to the animosity every sinner displays toward God, the will of a lost man is expressed by his sin. What was the Savior’s take on sinful man’s will? Consider what He said to the Jews who sought to slay Him for healing a man on the Sabbath, in John 5.40: “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”

The sinner’s will being established with respect to this matter of God and the salvation He provides through His Son Jesus Christ, what about the Father’s will? Second Peter 3.9 speaks to this matter: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” However, John 1.12-13 also speaks to this matter:

12     But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13     Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

We know that God is not willing that any should perish. We also know that no one’s new birth takes place as a result of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. Thus, what is key when it comes to the salvation of a sinner must be the will of God and not the will of man. Would you agree with that? Would you stand with the prophet Jonah, who cried out from the belly of the great fish that swallowed him, “Salvation is of the LORD”?[2] In what way could Jonah’s will have helped him in that circumstance? Granted that no sinner has ever been saved from his sins against his will, something therefore must happen in order for a sinner to trust Jesus Christ as his Savior, and that something must bring the sinner’s rebellious will into alignment with the will of God. It is fair to say a sinner is saved from his sins when the will of God becomes more important to him than his own will, which occurs when he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.

CONSIDER, NEXT, THE WILL OF GOD AND THE MATTER OF PRAYER

Turn to Matthew 6.9, and read with me just the first two verses of the Lord’s model prayer:

9      After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10     Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

We know that it is God’s will for us to pray without ceasing. Paul urged the new believers in Thessalonica to “Pray without ceasing” in First Thessalonians 5.17.

We are reassured even when our faith is faltering to overcome whatever reluctance might hold us back and come boldly to the throne of grace, in Hebrews 4.16: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

However, from our Lord Jesus Christ’s model prayer, especially His statement in Matthew 6.10, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,” we see that the believer’s prayer life is not at all about getting what he wants or desires. Rather, it is entirely about seeing God’s will fulfilled, in my life, in the lives of others, and throughout the whole earth, as it is in heaven.”

I know that there are questions in some minds and hearts, so allow me to anticipate the questions before they are asked, and answer them:

John 14.13:   “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

John 14.14:   “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

John 15.7:     “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”

John 15.16:   “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”

John 16.26:   “At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you.”

In each of these verses I have read the Lord Jesus Christ makes reference to asking, meaning that He is instructing His apostles about matters of prayer. Recognize, however, that His instructions about prayer, here in the final days of His earthly ministry before His passion and crucifixion, are built upon the foundation of truth and instruction He has already laid down in His model prayer, which in part is that all believer’s prayers have as their end God’s will being fulfilled on earth as it is in heaven. Therefore, to misconstrue and violate the sense of these and other passages in God’s Word so as to justify the erroneous notion that God’s plan is for you to get your way, for your will to be fulfilled, violates the whole tenor of scripture. My friends, everything about God’s doings have to do with the fulfillment of His will, not yours, as we continue to see.

CONSIDER, FINALLY, THE WILL OF GOD AND THIS MATTER OF SERVICE

Where do you go and what do you do, as a believer in Jesus Christ, as a follower of the One who surrendered His will to the will of His heavenly Father? In John 8.29, the Lord Jesus said about God the Father, “I do always those things that please him.” Some professing Christians serve to please comfort, while others serve to please their spouse. If it is God’s will for us to be conformed to the image of Christ, then surely it is God’s will for us to be Christ like in our efforts to do always those things that please God. Thus, the will of God rather than your own will should be paramount in the life of every Christian, and should be the earmark of every Christian’s life:

Consider the Apostle Paul’s experiences and admonitions as examples. God’s grace and his apostleship was the consequence of God’s will for his life. In Romans 1.10 and 15.32, he expressed his desire for a prosperous journey to Rome “by the will of God.” Twice in his first letter to the Thessalonians, he urged conduct upon them that was motivated by “the will of God.” Once pertaining to avoiding moral impurity and once pertaining to expressing gratitude.[3] Again in his letter to the Romans, he pointed out the reason God renews the minds of Christians is so we can prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect “will of God,” Romans 12.2. To the Corinthians he bragged that the dedication of the Macedonian believers to his fundraising effort for Christians in Judea was the consequence of giving “their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God,” Second Corinthians 8.5. To the Ephesian congregation from his Roman imprisonment, he wrote to remind them that their service as servants of Christ involved “doing the will of God from the heart,” Ephesians 6.6. He also wrote to the Colossians, commending “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God,” Colossians 4.12.

However, Paul was not alone in seeing his own service and those who were the fruit of his ministry directly related to the will of God. The writer to the Hebrews made mention of doing the will of God coupled with the need for patience in service, in Hebrews 10.36. The Apostle Peter made direct reference to “the will of God” four times in his brief first epistle, in connection with the need for a Christian to do well, in connection with a Christian’s suffering, in connection with Christ’s sufferings, and once more in connect with a Christian’s suffering.[4] Finally, there is the Apostle John, whose first epistle shows that the Christian’s life and doing “the will of God” are inseparable.[5]

I conclude with the Savior’s description of real Christian discipleship. Please turn with me and read Luke 14.26, 27 and 33:

26     If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

27     And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

33     So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Is it not obvious from what the Savior says that integrally related to Christian discipleship is the surrender of the Christian’s will to His will? To forsake all that you have includes forsaking your determination to always get your own way in order to see that in your life God gets His way.

Consider the will of God with respect to the salvation of a sinner, the prayers of a Christian, and the life of service of a Christian. Mind you, we have only dealt with those relatively few passages in the New Testament in which the will is expressly mentioned, before concluding with our Lord’s words about discipleship. How many other passages are there that cannot be understood apart from an implicit recognition of the will of God? Romans 8.29-30 is one illustration:

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.

30     Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

There is no grasping the significance of that stupendous passage without an underlying appreciation that each of the divine deeds, foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification, is an expression of God’s will, not yours, or mine, or anyone else’s will. God’s will.

With that in mind, let us travel in our thoughts back to the Garden of Gethsemane and our precious Lord Jesus Christ’s prayer to His heavenly Father. If ever there is a time when anyone seeks to exert his own will to guarantee the outcome he desires, it would be at such a moment as the Savior then faced. Imagine yourself faced with a dire emergency in which you are absolutely convinced that you must get your own way, you must achieve your own will! You simply must. Maybe it is an argument with your spouse. Perhaps it is a struggle of wills with your child or with your parent. Maybe it is just the way you are, always needing to get your own way. Maybe you were so raised. Maybe it is a habit of life with you. Whatever the circumstance, most people face those personal crises in which we are tempted to assert our will.

Who had a greater right to His will than the Savior? Sinless. The Son of God. The perfect Man. He had never been wrong. Yet, when it came down to the natural dread of even a perfect and sinless man in the face of horrible agony and a terrible miscarriage of justice, He knew that it is never right to exert your own will against the will of God. Never. So, He yielded. Aren’t you glad He yielded? By yielding (I speak in human terms, you understand), He continued His journey to the cross, He died a substitutionary sacrifice for my sins, was buried, and rose from the dead three days later in triumph and victory. He is now exalted at the Father’s right hand on high. If it was right for Him to surrender His will to His heavenly Father, is it ever right for you not to surrender your will to the Father? No? No. What is God’s will for you, my friend? In what way will you yield your will to God’s will?

Will you yield your will to God’s will by embracing His Son, Jesus Christ? Will you yield your will to God’s will in your prayer life, by praying for God’s will to be done rather than your own? As well, how about your service to God as a Christian, your ministry? Will you serve according to the will of God as it is revealed in the Bible? It is all really pretty simple, is it not? It’s a matter of will, yours versus God’s. Whose will ought to prevail in your life as a matter of principle, as an encouragement to your spouse, and as an example to your children? Yours? Or God’s? Perhaps God is speaking through His Word to your heart as I conclude, revealing to you the need for you to ask someone’s forgiveness for advancing your will instead of yielding to God’s will.



[1] Ephesians 2.1; Romans 3.10, 23; 5.6

[2] Jonah 2.9

[3] 1 Thessalonians 4.3; 5.18

[4] 1 Peter 2.15; 3.17; 4.2, 19

[5] 1 John 2.17



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