Here To There: Knowing The Will Of God (Romans 12:1-2)

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Is it wrong to purchase an outfit, keep the receipt, wear it to a special event, and then later return it?

  • 2/3 shoppers return items purchased online already worn.
  • Apparently some do not want to be photographed in the same outfit at multiple events, so this practice has become a norm.[1]
  • If that’s not pretentious enough, others want to appear fashionable and merely be photographed in new clothing to post on social media for the attention, and then return the item.[2] #OOTD – “Outfit Of The Day”
  • The practice is called “serial returners”[3] or “return-aholics,” where clothing stores are more like libraries of using clothes on loan.[4] This practice enables you to purchase an item out of price range without having to bare the expense.
  • These people only want the benefits of new clothes, but without the responsibility of owning clothes.

 

Likewise, many people are attempting to relate to God based on their preferences, and once their needs are met, they return faith to the church and move on. People tell God they want Him, but only when it is convenient. They are serial church-shoppers and Bible-study-holics.

But we cannot have a part-time faith and expect a full-time God.

Today’s text teaches us what it means to fully follow God.

We also begin a brief series “Here To There: How To Know Where God Wants You To Go.” It’s a series on the will of God and decision-making. IMG_0992

 

Why this series?

  • Our aim is discipling believers…
    • We need to be hearers and doers of God’s word. We will not enter heaven and be evaluated on how much we know, but how much we did with what we know.
    • Tendency in church is greater input than output that we become spiritually constipated; being educated beyond our obedience.
    • We believe God will give us more if we are faithful with the present. (cf. Luke 16:10). So, if we are making good decisions with our time, talent, and treasure for God’s eternal kingdom, then there is great reward… “Oh how abundant is your goodness which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you” Psalm 31:19
  • Our church has significant decisions before us
    • Considering changes with leadership structure, staffing, budget, etc.
    • People in our church are making significant decisions: relocations, selecting colleges/jobs, who to marry, how to navigate relational conflicts, helping family members make life-altering decisions,
    • How to tell your pastor he has a pb & choc addiction…

The “will of God” has three categories, that if not understood will cause confusion.

God’s will of decree (secret will, providence). God is sovereign. God created all things and is in control of all things (Col 1:16-17). There is nothing that can change or conquer God’s will of decree. God is God and we are finite, unable to understand the fullness and infiniteness of God.

  • Isaiah 46:10 “declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.”
  • Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
  • Psalm 139 “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”

God’s will of decree includes His plan and purpose to redeem the world through Christ.

  • Acts 2:23 “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up… bc it was not possible for him to be held by it.”
  • Ephesians 1:4-6 “God chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace”
  • God’s sovereignty may cause some angst, trying to figure it out. But, this truth is meant to give us peace; marveling at the majesty of God, resting in the power of God that nothing is too great for Him and His victory is certain, and realizing that every suffering on earth has a purpose in God’s redemptive plan.
  • God’s sovereignty does not mean we become passive in faith and action. Instead, we should evangelize all the more, knowing there are people whom God wants to save; we should pray all the more boldly, believing there is work to be accomplished for God’s kingdom.

 

God’s will of desire (revealed will, moral commands). While God is sovereign, humanity maintains freedom of will and responsibility before the commands of God. God’s will of desire is not hidden, but revealed to us through the Law, and then later through the Lord Jesus.

  • Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
  • Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father, who is in heaven.”
  • John 6:29 “Jesus answered, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’”
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3 “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” (cf. 1Peter 4:2; 1John 2:17)
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

 

More often than not, we know God’s will – or have the opportunity to know God’s will by reading the Bible and living in community with God’s people. Generally, the issue is we doubt God’s word is good and disobey God’s way in our stubborn pride and sinful hearts.

 

God’s will of direction. This third category relates to us personally for God’s specific plan and purpose for our life. However, the reality is, God’s will of direction for our life is simply His glory. The will of God does not revolve around our life, but our life revolves around His glory. Whatever we do in word or deed should be done in the name of Jesus and for God’s glory (Col 3:17; 1Cor 10:31).
The uniqueness to doing the will of God is recognizing that our freedom isn’t limited to a single path of boxed in scenarios – and if we make the wrong decision, we are doomed forever out of God’s will. Instead, we should realize the abundance of freedom we have.

  • Noah didn’t know all about the flood, but he built an ark according to God’s will of command.
  • Abraham’s GPS was “God’s Pointing System” – “Go to land I will show you”.
  • Moses didn’t know how to rescue a nation from slavery, but God’s power was with him every step.
  • Joshua didn’t understand how marching around walls was a military strategy, but He praised God.
  • David only knew how to tend sheep, but he became Israel’s greatest warrior and king.
  • Peter only knew how to fish, but by walking with Jesus he became a fisher of people.

* Like Samuel, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening”
* Like Isaiah, “Here am I Lord, send me.”
* Like Jesus, “Not my will but Thy will be done”
Guidable servants receive God’s guidance.

  • Knowing the will of God is less about us knowing the future and more about us being faithful. Life is not a cosmic Easter egg hunt, God has already revealed all He wants us to know (Jn 1:14; Heb 1:1-3).
  • Discerning the will of God means confidence in Christ and His word, not our circumstances. God’s word is a lamp unto our feet and path (Ps 119:105), not a paved road without obstacles and learning opportunities. And while being in God’s will is satisfying, it is not always safe – it can be daring and dangerous to do the will of God. But in the journey of life, God is our sustaining Shepherd to lead us.
  • God invites us to ask and act on His wisdom (Psalm 1; Prov 1; James 1:5-6). In other words, we don’t need to spiritualize every circumstance and be paralyzed by indecision. Instead, we seek first His kingdom and then trust our Heavenly Father’s provision (Matthew 6:33).
    • “Some Christians need encouragement to think before they act. Others need encouragement to act after they think.”[5]
  • Ultimately, doing the will of God means finding happiness in holiness (Rom 8:29).

 

  • So, work in any job, as long as it is not leading to sin.
  • So, marry any person, as long as you’re equally yoked and you get along. But once you’re married, there’s no reconsidering “Did I marry the right person?”
  • So, you are free to eat of every tree in God’s garden but from the tree that leads to eternal death.

 

EXAMINE                       2 ways to know God’s will (Romans 12:1-2)

Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
1  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

We know the will of God by being available.

  • παρακαλέω: ESV “appeal” / KJV “beseech” / NIV “urge”. The idea is to call or summon with urgency.
  • “therefore… brothers [and sisters]… by the mercies of God
  • “Therefore” means what follows is not an afterthought or accident. Paul’s applications on the Christian life have a foundation. Beliefs have behaviors, theology has ethics, doctrine has purpose and practice. Doing the will of God starts by being available to the gospel. Paul’s foundation is faith by grace… realizing no one is perfect (Rom 3:23), but the best path for us is life in Christ (Rom 4-8).
    • Parents command children to act certain way “because they say so.” While that philosophy is sufficient for a season of parenting, if they are to take personal responsibility for their life and faith, then they must have a foundation of truth empowered by the Spirit of God.
  • “present your bodies as a living sacrifice”
    • Presenting is in line with offering worship sacrifices.
    • The presentation is plural, hinting that our sacrifice to God cannot exclude living in community with other believers.
    • Our sacrifice is of our whole body for whole devotion to God, inclusive of the members (μέλη / “limbs, parts”) of our body (Rom 6:13, 19).
    • Our sacrifice is living not dead.
      • The OT sacrifice always implied death, but in this case we are to live in devotion to God. As imperfect humans, the challenge with a living sacrifice is we keep wanting to crawl off the altar. We must die daily to our sin nature and selfish aims to live for God’s and the gospel’s agenda.
  • “holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
    • The Jews would sacrifice the first and best animal. Likewise, we are called to give God our best and live holy lives. Holiness results in usefulness. God cannot fill unclean vessels or bless sin-polluted people.
      • Nation and Individuals suffered when people defied God’s holiness
        • Nadab & Abihu (Aaron’s sons) offered strange fire on altar of God and both died (Leviticus 10)
        • Israeli generation had to die before entering promised land bc of doubt (Numbers 14)
        • Israel’s defeat at Ai when Achan stole items (Joshua 7)
        • Saul lost kingship bc he failed holy worship to God (1Samuel 13).
        • David’s family suffered and so did nation from his sins (2Samuel 11, ff).
        • Ananias and Sapphira lied and died (Acts 5)
        • Hebrews 12:14 “without holiness, no one shall see God” (cf. Matthew 5:8).
      • Purity doesn’t mean perfection, just the process and progress of growing in grace.
        2Cor 7:1; Rom 7-8; 1Peter 5; 1John 1:9
      • λογικὴν: Logical, reasonable, service. It’s logical to live for God when you understand Christ died for you.
  • Your greatest ability to God is your availability.
    • Have you made yourself available to Christ?
    • Are you making yourself available to God’s word?
    • Are you making yourself available to God’s growth environment – the church?
    • Are you making yourself available to unbelievers as a salt and light in sharing faith?

We know the will of God by being adaptable.

  • Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
    • This instruction is Pauline and so wise, giving action to do (put on) and actions not (put off). He coaches and cautions.
      • His caution is not being conformed to this world.
        • συσχηματίζω – from a word we get schemes… too often we are discipled by deceptions.
        • Jesus is the truth but satan is a liar. What lies are you believing?
          • I’ll start tomorrow / next time.
          • I don’t need anyone’s help.
          • God will forgive me anyways.
          • Only God can judge me.
        • His coaching is to be transformed by renewing your mind.
          • Being transformed – happens to you in sanctification.
          • The battle starts in your brain – your thinking.
            Proverbs 23:7 “As a person thinks in his heart, so is he.”
          • Dreams and desires are not enough, but must be linked with the right disciplines that will make us adaptable to the ways of God.
          • Romans 8:11-13 Jesus’ sacrifice enables our living, spirit-filed sacrifice…

APPLY/THINK

Story of parents and child who went off to college. They handed him a Bible and said, “Pray and read your Bible, and we trust the Lord will take care of you.” After a few months the child needed $, so he called parents and asked for help. The parents replied, “Son, pray and read your Bible.” This exchange happened each week until end of semester. The child comes home at end of semester and feels angry at parents. They respond, “Son, get your Bible for us to see.” He gets it and they ask him to flip through it, and to his amazement at every opening chapter of every book was an envelope with $20 ($1,320).

Many complaints against God are simply because we are not available God’s ways & adaptable to God’s word.

 

  • Challenge: Memorize & Meditate on
  • Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
  • Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
  • What is something God has already revealed to you but you’ve been putting off? You cannot discover God’s will until you start doing God’s will… Do what you know!
  • What struggle of God’s will can you lay on the altar today?
  • God’s will is a Person more than a project or place. Seek God first and the rest will follow.

[1] https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2013/11/58103/department-store-return-policies

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/return-clothes-online-shopping-instagram-outfit-of-the-day-retailer-uk-a8486471.html

[3] https://www.bbc.com/news/business-36395719

[4] https://www.thesun.co.uk/archives/news/442258/im-a-secret-returnaholic/

[5] Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, p.28.7uj8

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