Did you know that there is a clearly perscribed process in scripture for recognizing God’s perfect will? Does that seem too simplified? Too ‘works based,’ perhaps? Let’s look at what is written, and see:
Rom 12:1 & 2 ‘I beseech you therefore, bretheren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed any longer to the pattern of this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.’
According to Paul in Romans 12:2, there above, it is nnot only possible to determine God’s perfect will, but there is a specific determinate process for doing so. Are you concerned with God’s will for your life? We should be!
What is that process? Let’s break it down that we may benefit by learning to discern the will of God. We’ll start with a summary, lest we lose ourselves in details. In a word the process that Paul is speaking of is: ‘sanctification.’
Ah, but even now we can readily begin to lose ourselves in a dense theological term, so let me simplify even ‘santification’ a bit more. Sanctification is becoming holy – that is, seperated unto God; to be holy is to become spiritutally perfected (not naturally perfected, mind you: spiritually perfected). Simplified even further, the process of sanctification is becoming more like Jesus. Do you want to be more like Jesus? He wants you to be… in fact, that is the starting point of God’s perfect will for your life.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 & 4 says: ‘For this is the will of God, even your sanctification… 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor.’
Did you know that God’s primary will for your life is that you become more like Jesus? Now, of course, most of us know that God wants us to be like Jesus… that its an ELEMENT of His will for us, but the above verse declares that it: ‘is THE will of God…’ God’s will for you is that you be sanctified.
Before we begin to even think about delving into concepts of our ‘destiny’ (God’s desired ‘occupation,’ or His ‘calling’ on our lives), we mus tbe thoroughly grounded in the realization that God’s primary, central will for us has nothing to do with events, or things we may, or may not accomplish through the course of our lives, but rests entirely upon becoming our becoming holy. God’s will for our lives is not primarily a set of deeds, but a state of being.
Some Christians really want to focus on predestinantion as though its central meaning refers to events and deeds in the linear timeframe of this world. If something happens, or doesn’t happen for us, then: “it must thave been predestinated.” According to Romans 8:29, God’s predestination is not primarily focused on events at all; rather, what does it say?
‘For whom He did foreknow, He did also predestinate TO BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON…’
God’s will, and the thing that He destines us to is a state of being: conformity to the Son of God; i.e. sanctification.
I don’t think that most of the Church in our day has that in view… firstly because we are so works [and so ‘world’] focused.
Equally, though, we are unfortunately a bit selfish in our thinking about God’s will for US (is that too blunt?). We want to find God’s plan for US. Does God have a plan for you? Does He have a special work for you to complete? Sure He does, but why are we first concerned with His plan for US before we are concerned with His PLAN?
Let’s look at the first step in the process of discerning God’s will that Paul stated in Romans 12:1: ‘…PRESENT YOUR BODIES A LIVING SACRIFICE…’
A sacrifice does not seek its own welfare. A willing sacrifice freely gives of itself to God. Unreservedly. It does not seek its own in God’s will; it seeks God’s will to the exclusion of itself, nay – to the DETRIMENT of self: sacrifice.
A man of God named Hubert Lindsey used to say – somewhat for shock factor, I think: “God hasn’t got a plan for your life, but He HAS got a plan, and your life had better be part of it!”
Is that an interesting perspective? I think so. A living sacrifice doesn’t seek God’s plan for itself, it seeks to be part of God’s plan no matter the cost. Of course, I DO think God has plans for each of us, but Lindsey’s statement is the heartcry of a living sacrifice.
First and foremost, God wants you holy. Living in a state of holiness becomes the springboard for God’s will in the lineal events of your life (your destiny). Once you’re holy, He can do anything with you! Let me also say, with the cutting side of that truth: if you don’t pursue holiness, you will never realize God’s will for your life.
Without following Paul’s perscribed process of Romans 12:1 & 2, how will we ever hope to test and approve the perfect will of God?
‘Wait! Isn’t that works-based?’ Actually… no. We’re not talking about trying to DO a bunch of pious, holy stuff, we’re talking about being transformed into a holy PERSON (like Jesus). When we are holy, righteousness is what we will do out of the blossoming holiness that is in us.
‘Yeah, but isn’t ‘trying to be holy’ taking too much on ourselvess?’
Hebrews 12:14 says: ‘Follow peace with all men, and HOLINESS, without which no man shall see the Lord.’
We are supposed to follow holiness. Recall also that verse we started with; presenting our bodies a living sacrifice is called our: ‘reasonable service.’
What’s the next step in discerning the will of God? ‘Be not conformed any longer to the pattern of this world.’
You, and I are prone to conformity; we take on similar perspectives to our friends, and loved-ones simply because we intereact with them. The natural human response to our enviornment is to adapt to it. We behave like what we see… unfortunately what we see most of is ‘this world.’ In fact this statement rather pinpoints the main reason why people – though Christian – find themselves outside the will of God: we don’t focus on ‘consecrating’ ourselves; that is: we don’t tend to set ourselves aside for the Lord. It is so easy for us to just go with the flow of life, allowing ourselves to take on the nature of the world around us, rather than to be conformed to the image of Christ.
As I said, I believe this is the main reason Christians find themselves outside the will of God: they are conformed to the pattern of this world. Understanding that God’s will is for us to be conformed to the image of Christ, we should be able to see that conformity to the world is the opposite of that; it is our natural state of being as opposed to the supernatural state of being LIKE CHRIST. To be conformed to the world is expressly being outside the will of God.
So if we are conformed to the world – and thus outside of God’s will – how do we get back in the will of God? By being ‘transformed by the renewing of your mind.’
“Oh…” *blank stare* “Ahem… but… how do we do that?” I’m glad you asked, let’s look at a few verses from Ephesians:
‘That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to its decietful lusts [sounds like ‘conformity to the world’, no?]; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 AND THAT YOU PUT ON THE NEW MAN, WHICH AFTER GOD IS CREATED IN RIGHTEOUSNESS AND TRUE HOLINESS.
There is a spiritual exchange which we must make with God. We need to intentionally exchange our worldliness for holiness. We need to put off the way that our natural man thinks, and put on the mind of Christ. The most practical things you can DO to accomplish this is to fill yourself with God’s word, and to abide in the presence of Christ (prayer).
Just like time in the world makes us naturally conform to the world, so time in the Spirit makes us conform to the image of Christ.
‘I beseech you therefore, bretheren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed any longer to the pattern of this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.’