Discerning God's Will

July 13, 2018 Preacher: Cole Daum Series: Guest Speakers

Topic: Christian Living Scripture: Romans 12:1–2


This is our last Friday with NLC and although we are very excited about the ministry God has called us to, we are going to miss this fellowship. We love you all and our hearts are full, our lives have been enriched and we look forward to the day when we will be with you again. This is not goodbye but “See You On The Other Side. Whether that is the other side of this world or the other side of this life. Thank you pastor Gareth for this opportunity to share some parting thoughts and bring a message from God’s word.

We are pausing the series on the 10 commandments to look at Romans 12:1-2…this is a very familiar passage which gives us instructions on discerning God’s will. That’s the title of my message today..Discerning God’s Will. God’s will is sometimes referred to as if it has been made apparent simply because an event occurred but that’s not the case. The unborn are murdered, children are abused and neglected…so many terrible things are occurring that are not God’s will so we cannot arbitrarily attribute to God the direction our lives have taken as if we are puppets being forced along the way. No…the will of God is not something that just happens to us…unless we want to carry on doing as we please until judgement day because at that juncture the will of God will definitely happen to us all.  Thankfully, we do not have to wait until then because we have here in our text a formula for finding God’s will.

Romans 12 is a point of transition between doctrine and ethics. In fact, you could draw an arrow pointing back from chapter 12 and label that arrow doctrine and another arrow pointing forward and label it ethics. Romans 1-11 emphasizes what we must believe (doctrine) while 12-16 emphasizes how we must live (ethics).

Both the order and the balance of doctrine and ethics is vitally important for salvation. Eternity is at stake! The ethics that we live out in Romans 12-16 must be based on the doctrine of the gospel in Romans 1-11. Fatal errors and grave consequences result from imbalance or being out of sequence with doctrine and ethics.

Martin Luther, for instance, was addressing a fatal error of the Catholic church, his own church, and he eventually separated from that church in a move that has become known as the Reformation and the beginning of the Protestant church. Luther, in his study of Romans, found that the church was wildly imbalanced towards ethics so that they were teaching salvation by works through the sacraments. The Catholic church was teaching that you can quite literally pay for your own sins by giving money to the church.

Luther discovered in Scripture that Christ paid for our sins and salvation came by grace and through faith. Often times our reaction against error becomes an overreaction and that is why Luther said he felt the urge to tear the book of James out of his Bible.

James argues against the opposite extreme that Luther faced, an imbalance towards doctrine so that belief at the intellectual level is all that is needed for salvation. If we pluck a few verses from their context it will seem that we have found a contradiction in Scripture.

Turn to James 2…I will read verses 14-24.

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Turn to Ephesians 2…I will read verse 8-9.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

What we believe is evidenced by what we do, not what we say!!

Romans 12 represents the fulcrum or pivot point between doctrine and ethics which is why I am focusing on this issue…it is extremely important to our analysis of vs 1 and 2. Your probably asking at this point, “What does this have to do with discerning God’s will?” My answer is EVERYTHING!

Paul says at the end of vs 2, “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” I found in studying this passage that the living sacrifice referred to in vs 1 is the focal point that this is based on so if we want to discern the will of God, we need to look closely at the “living sacrifice” because it is the key which unlocks the mystery of God’s will.

I want to highlight three points that Paul makes about this living sacrifice because…this is how we set the conditions for knowing God’s will. Im afraid that many are trying to find God’s will without setting the conditions necessary. If these conditions are not set then no checklist for finding God’s will is going to actually help you find it…unless that checklist helps you set these conditions.

The main point that Im trying to make in everthing I’m saying today is that “The will of God is revealed when our own will is abandoned.”

The conditions for knowing God’s will are set through…

  1. 1.The impetus of the living sacrifice (vs 1a)
  2. The essence of the living sacrifice (vs 1b)
  3. The entailments of the living sacrifice (vs 2b)

 READ Romans 12:1-2

The conditions for knowing God’s will are set through…

 The impetus of the living sacrifice (vs 1a)

 Paul says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice…”

  •  The motivation for this sacrifice is indicated here…therefore refers back to everything that precedes…chapters 1-11 and the mercies of God also harkens back to the gospel message that Paul has just detailed. If we want to have the right motive for this living sacrifice we must understand this gospel message. This sacrifice must be based on the doctrinal foundation of the gospel. So…. lets look back and briefly discuss what Paul set out as the impetus for the living sacrifice.
  • Romans 1:16 is argued by many to be Paul’s thesis for the entire book of Romans. Paul says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The rest of the book provides the answers to questions that this statement demands…what is the gospel?…what power does God have?…salvation from what?...what must I believe?
  •  Romans Chapter 1 tells us that God punishes unrighteouness because he is holy. 1:18 says the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.
  •  Roman chapter 2&3 informs us that we are all in the same boat, there is no hierarchy in God’s kingdom. 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
  •  Roman 4 tells us that faith justifies…not good deeds, not your pedigree, your jewish heritage, bloodline, not your parents, not your social status. Referring to Abraham in 4:20-22 Paul says, “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was counted to him as righteousness.” You see…Paul uses Abraham to say his faith justified him, James uses Abraham to say the only reason we know that Abraham had faith is because he raised the knife in obedience to Gods command. What we do is the evidence of what we believe.
  •  Romans 5 informs us of the object of our faith. 5:17 says, “For if because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”
  •  Romans 6 immediately on the heels of Pauls explanation of the free gift of righteousness, explains that the effect on us is that the sinful man dies with Christ so that we have New Life in Christ. 6:3-4 says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
  •  Romans 7, as if Paul anticipates an error in the opposite direction again, instructs us to repent from our works in the law. 7:6 says, “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”
  •  Having laid all this groundwork, Paul is poised and ready to say what he has been wanting to say, in chapter 8 we find what I like to call our declaration of independence from sin through complete reliance on Christ. Let freedom ring…our oppressor has been cast off…we have freedom in Christ…freedom from our sinful nature. 8:2-4 says, "For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
  •  Roman 9-11 informs us of the sovereignty of God. We do not own God…he owns us. Not Israel or any other people group has exclusive rights to God…salvation is with God and God will have mercy on who he pleases. We must approach God on his terms and plead for mercy…we have no right and no footing from which to question God in the way he administers his mercy and grace. We can label that grace whatever we wish, it makes no difference what we call it because it is not ours to give…it belongs to God…he is sovereign and any attempt to nail God down on who he grants mercy to is an attempt to own God. 9:15-16 says, “For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”
  • 10:13 says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Here we go with this tension again…he will have mercy on whom he will AND everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved…so how do we know when God has saved a person…we don’t know…God is the judge of that and He is sovereign in that.
  • 11:33-36 says, “Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”
  •  Never lose the wonder of the unsearchable mystery of God. If we insist on certainty where God is not revealed certainty then we lose the child like faith.
  •  All of what we just covered constitutes the impetus or motivation for the living sacrifice. The gospel is the motivation! If we could come up with a summary statement of this gospel, we could replace “therefore” with that statement and possibly clarify the motivation for the living sacrifice.
  •  John Stott summarized it this way,
    "The gospel is precisely God’s mercy to inexcusable and undeserving sinners, in giving his Son to die for them, in justifying them freely by faith, in sending them the life-giving Spirit, and in making them his children.
  • If we insert this statement in place of therefore it would be, “I appeal to you because of God’s mercy to inexcusable and underserving sinners like us, in giving his Son to die for us, in justifying us freely by faith, in sending us the life-giving Spirit, and in making us his children…brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.

 If we want to know God’s will, we must be motivated by the truth of his gospel to present ourselves as a living sacrifice.

 The conditions for knowing God’s will are set through…

  1.  The essence of the living sacrifice (vs 1b)

 Read it…. “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

  •  The sacrifice is wholistic, continuous, holy and acceptable.
  •  Paul says to present your bodies…all of you! All in, fully committed, nothing held back. We must be willing to do anything or nothing at all, go anywhere or nowhere, work any job, serve all people. If we want to know God’s will we must abandon our own will, exchange our hopes and dreams for God’s. Stop climbing the ladder, stop competing with the Jones..put everything on the table as a possibility. In light of all that God has done to accomplish our salvation…nothing less even makes sense. Cheerios!
  •  Also, a living sacrifice is ongoing, continual. It is not a one-off commitment or a prayer you prayed years ago…Its praying that prayer every day. Not one time committing your life but moment by moment committing your life. If we want to know God’s will, give him every day... day by day. We want to live our own way then ask God to bless our mess. God is not interested in our plan…HE HAS A PLAN!!
  •  The living sacrifice must be holy…that means set apart for him. Apart from what? Chapter 12-16 tells us but in short…those who desire to know and do God’s will cannot go some places, cannot see some things, cannot listen to some things…we are set apart for him.
  •  The living sacrifice must be acceptable. How can we make it acceptable? Why was Cain’s sacrifice unacceptable? Because he tried to justify himself on his own terms. Our sacrifice is only acceptable when presented on God’s terms. His terms are found in chapter1-11, the foundational doctrines of the gospel. You know…if God does not call you to preach then you should not preach…that’s just you trying to justify yourself. Unacceptable! An acceptable sacrifice is presented on God’s terms.
  •  Paul tacks on the end of these characteristics of the living sacrifice an overarching description, “which is your spiritual worship.” What we are doing here today in our worship service is actually preparing to worship Him with our lives….out there!
  •  If we want to know God’s will, our living sacrifice must be all-in, the whole box of cheerios, perpetual, set apart and on God’s terms.

 Finally… The conditions for knowing God’s will are set through…

III.  The entailments of the living sacrifice (vs 2a)

Vs 2 begins..”Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

  •  This verse is the beginning of Paul’s explanation on how to be a living sacrifice. The explanation runs on for the rest of the book by continuing to expand the concept.
  •   Do not be influenced by the world but rather influence the world with the gospel. Mathew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold, its value system or its economy.
  •  At the top of Paul’s list of the world system is pride and competition…right there in vs 3 he instructs us not to think or ourselves more highly than we should. Humility marks the one who will find God’s will and in vs 6 Paul says to put your gifts to work in the body of Christ. If you want to find God’s will then find your place of service right here in New Life Church.
  •  “Be transformed by the renewal of our mind” Engage God’s love letter to us, the Bible. Study, memorize, meditate, pray and fast so that you can recognize God’s will because you are familiar with God. Some of us would not recognize God’s will if it slapped us in the face. We are so conformed to worldly patterns that God’s will is terrifying.
  •  The bird and the cat.

 Conclusion:  God will make you fly!


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