12th August 2023
An interview with John Piper
How Does God Lead Us in Daily Decisions?
How do I follow God's lead in my daily decisions?
I know he's my shepherd. He's leading me. I think so. But how do I know if I am following him?
In just a few weeks into his pastorate, Pastor John preached through some of his favourite Psalms. One of them being, of course, Psalm 23.
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake".
I'd never seen "for his namesake" until I went to seminary. Well, yes, I'd seen it. I'd read the words, but you can read over phrases in the Bible a hundred times and they never hit you for what they mean.
Well, I hadn't seen that phrase there in Psalm 23 as wondrous.
I'd been as deaf to that theme as you could imagine, but there it was, "he leads me in paths of righteousness for his namesake."
The picture, of course, here is a shepherd leading sheep along with his crook, or maybe with his call.
"The sheep know my name, and they follow me."
But when we get out of the metaphor of sheep and shepherd into our own experience in our day and ask, "How does God lead in paths of righteousness," we need to ponder a little bit and poke around in the Scriptures to see how he does it.
Now, in my experience, I have never seen a manifestation of God going before me at a fork in the road. I've never seen a cloud of fire or pillar of cloud like they had in the wilderness.
That's not part of my experience, nor have I ever heard an audible word that I know was God speaking.
The way he leads us is apparently differently, and I think we can get a clue from what David would say in Psalm 119. There, he says,
"Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
And in that same psalm,
"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to thy word."
By itself, the Bible will not keep us on track. No matter how wonderful the Bible is, and how we would be utterly lost without it, it is not enough by itself and for two reasons.
One, we make lots of decisions in life which are not prescribed for us in the Bible - hundreds of little decisions every day and some big ones in which we look in the Bible and there are no sentences about that.
How many children to have, where to send your child to school, where to go to work, this, that, just hundreds of little things that we have to decide every day, and we don't want to bracket those and say,
"Well, that's not part of Christianity. I'll just make those decisions anyway I please, and then Christianity is something else."
The second reason that the Bible, by itself, is not enough to guide us in those paths of righteousness is this: a path of righteousness is doing the right thing with a right attitude or a right motivation.
We need not only revelation coming to us from outside, namely the Bible, we need transformation coming to us inside from the Holy Spirit.
The word and the Spirit together are the leadership that we need.
Paul says in Romans 12 this very familiar word,
"Don't be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind" -
why? - "so that you can prove - or better, approve of -
"the will of God, what is good, acceptable, and perfect."
In other words, you've got to have something happen up here on the inside, some changed attitudes, some changed feelings, or when little decisions present alternatives, you won't know how to prove which one of those is the will of God.
So the Bible is the input into that new mind, and the Spirit takes the word and begins to shape our thinking, mould our emotions, so that even when there's no explicit command in Scripture for this decision you're facing, you weigh all the alternatives and you're weighing those alternatives with 'the mind of Christ'.
"We have the mind of Christ."
And then when you make the decision, you look back and you don't say, "My, what a smart fellow was I," but rather, you say, "Thank you for your word that informed the principles of my life, and thank you for the Spirit that shaped my emotions and my priorities so that I made this decision your way," and God then gets the credit for the leadership, which means personally, for me, that I have been driven basically for all of life to meditate day and night on the word and to pray continually that the Holy Spirit would work on me.
You can't over-intellectualise the Bible.
You can't over-spiritualise your private experience with God.
It's both/and, not either/or. It has been in my experience, and I haven't found the two in conflict but tremendous complements for guidance in life.
Bible references avaiable, on request
John Piper (@JohnPiper)
is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Come, Lord Jesus.