Today’s reading: Romans 11-13.
“How can I know God’s will?”
You’ve been there. Faced with a difficult decision, afraid to make the wrong choice, wanting deeply to please God, and wishing you knew what he wanted you to do. For many of these difficult choices God’s will isn’t revealed. In fact, his will may be permissive rather than restrictive. He allows you to choose based on the wisdom he has revealed to you through his word, prayer, and the counsel of believers.
There are also actions that God has clearly commanded, leaving no doubt about his will. “Be holy, as I am holy,” is one statement of God’s revealed will. Today’s passage in Romans is another, in which Paul takes us on a step-by-step journey that leads us into the center of God’s will.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. Romans 12: 1-2, 4-6
This path to God’s will begins with the command to become a living sacrifice. Normally sacrifices are killed and then placed on the altar. God doesn’t want our death; he wants our lives placed on the altar of service. He wants our actions committed to his kingdom. He wants our will submitted to his commands. He wants our words to magnify him and declare his grace to others.
Our sacrifice of self in service to God means that we cannot conform to the world. The world is focused on the present, on personal gain, on pride, pleasure, and possessions. All these things must be made less important than our devotion to God. Instead, we transform our lives by renewing our minds. We think eternally instead of living for the present. We fill our thoughts with God’s word instead of media filled with greed, pride, lust, and violence. This transformation begins as the Holy Spirit regenerates us when we accept Christ, but it continues through daily Bible study and worship services.
The journey to God’s will continues as we join the body of believers. The body isn’t just a symbol of the church; the church is a living organism full of individuals who each have unique functions like the organs of the human body. Those organs aren’t meant to function alone. We weren’t made to work as isolated believers. Our gifts, our unique spiritual abilities, were given to be expressed in the body. Therefore, the writer of Hebrews commands, “do not forsake the assembling together of yourselves.”
Finally we are told to use the gifts God has given us. God’s will for you is that you serve in the body through the supernatural abilities that were given to you when you became a believer. Romans 12 has a short list of these spiritual gifts that will be expanded later. The gift of prophecy allows supernatural discernment of God’s plans for the near future, which is meant to be shared so that the body can act accordingly. The gift of service means that one is empowered to meet specific needs in the body. The gift of teaching imparts the ability to effectively convey the truths of God’s word. Encouraging, giving, leading, and showing mercy are the other gifts Paul mentions in this passage. These gifts are not natural talents but supernatural abilities conveyed by God to the believer. They define the power and purpose of the believer as much as sight defines the purpose of the eye and hearing the purpose of an ear. Do you wonder what work you should do for God’s kingdom? Think about what you do best and effectively. What is your God-given super power? That’s what God wants you to do.
If you are seeking God’s will about which car to buy, or where to live, or what school to attend, you probably won’t find a certain answer from God’s word. His will may be to use the wisdom he has given you to make the right choice. But if you want to know God’s over-arching purpose for your life, that’s clear. He wants you to live sacrificially, to transform your mind Biblically, to join the body continually, and to serve with your gift supernaturally.
Image: Alone by JB London on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0