How We Can Discern God’s Will
This article is by Amy Morgan and published by ERLC
In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character is Jen Wilkin’s third book and counterpart to her 2016 release, None Like Him. While None Like Him explored the incommunicable attributes of God (the ways God is not like us and, in the words of the subtitle, why that’s a good thing), In His Image considers God’s communicable attributes—that is, those characteristics of God that he calls us to share.
Finding God’s will
The purpose of the book is to help believers find God’s will for our lives. Wilkin is clear that finding God’s will is less about asking, “What should I do?” than about asking “Who should I be?” Dallas Willard wrote about this idea in his classic, Hearing God, suggesting that as we become more like God, we begin to think as he thinks and to see as he sees. As we walk closely with him, we don’t need messages written in the clouds to know his will—we know his will because we know what he is like, and we are becoming as he is. As I can (sometimes) order for my husband at a restaurant because I know what he likes, we can walk confidently in God’s will because we know who and what he loves.
While Willard’s writings are philosophical, Wilkin’s are down to earth. She starts by exploring God’s holiness, ending in the application that we are to be holy as God is holy, thereby pursuing sanctification. Holiness provides the necessary foundation for exploring the remaining attributes: love, goodness, justice, mercy, grace, faithfulness, patience, truthfulness, and wisdom. A chapter is dedicated to each, and all end with reflection and discussion questions to direct us toward building the particular characteristic into our lives.
The chapters on justice, mercy, and grace merge slightly in their applications, and Wilkin lets us know that this will happen. God’s justification of us prompts gratitude for his mercy and grace. Being justified leads to humble obedience, showing forgiveness, and bountiful generosity. The knowledge that a just God will eventually right every wrong allows us to act justly on earth as we forgive as we have been forgiven, persevering to the end.
Timely reminders of God’s character
Some of the timeliest chapters were the last three on patience, truthfulness, and wisdom. Patience is a virtue that we love to hate, but Wilkin reframes it: “Patience is not just the ability to wait, but to abide.” I was reminded that God is good in the waiting and that we experience that goodness as we daily choose, rather than anxiously striving or angrily storming, to abide in him.
Wilkin is clear that finding God’s will is less about asking, “What should I do?” than about asking “Who should I be?”
As a counselor, I’ve found that telling the truth is an essential starting point for every counselee. She says about truth-telling: “Sin is not merely a rejection of God’s will. It is the rejection of truth, a denial of what is real.” She goes on, “Not only does God tell the absolute truth about sin, he tells the absolute truth about grace.” Truth starts with knowing God’s Word, something that Wilkin consistently exemplifies. Only as we know the truth of who God is, who we are, and what Jesus has done can we find the courage to face the depths of our own sinfulness and thereby fully trust in the boundless grace of our Father.
I love that In His Image ends with the characteristic of wisdom. Wisdom is the culmination of a life that faithfully bears the image of God as we choose the things that please God, empowered to do so because we have learned to love what he loves. Wilkin reminds us to keep choosing wisdom. Until Jesus returns, we must discipline ourselves to reflect God’s character, and as we do, the image of God that was fractured in the fall is restored and reflected into creation.
At 175 pages, this book is incredibly accessible. The application questions at the end of each chapter make this book, along with None Like Him, excellent resources that could be used in small group studies in the local church. While Wilkin herself would recommend studying Scripture as the primary way to build biblical literacy, these books are small and clear primers on important theological truths for everyday life.
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