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. 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 are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Our thinking is changing. We have the mindset of the Spirit, of Christ himself.
What is the result of this changed thinking? This new reasoning from a new affection? The result is discerning the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.
Some of us think that God’s will is a hidden treasure that we spend our lives searching for like we’re in a movie with Nicholas Cage or something. Some think we can know God’s will through magical prayers and other pagan type mysticism (have you ever flipped your Bible open to a random spot looking for God’s will?). Others of us think God’s will is like a bull’s eye on a target that we must hit. If we miss then we are “out of God’s will. ”
But if we are united to Christ, and transformation is an ongoing process that comes by mind renewal as we contemplate the mercies of God. If we have the mind of Christ. If “all things work together for the good” and we are “predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ.” If all of this is true, then can we ever really be outside of God’s will? Isn’t it God’s will to change us THROUGH our living? Through every choice? Every decision? Every failure? Every sin? Every sorrow? Every success?
Maybe we need to stop trying to find God’s will and start testing God’s will.
This phrase, testing you may discern, is one word in Greek. It is present and continual. Paul is saying that we are actively testing God’s will and proving that it is good. Peter will use the same word to talk about the testing of our faith being proven as genuine through trials (1 Peter 1:7). Here, Paul is NOT talking about figuring out what God’s will IS. He’s talking about proving that God’s will is good, perfect, and acceptable. To discern the will of God, is to prove that it is good by experiencing it.
Mind renewal results in us trusting God. Trusting that he is good and so is his will. Paul’s aim here is not to tell us what God’s will is. He already did that back in Romans 8:28-29 – to conform us to the image of Christ. The question in Romans 12:1-2 is “do you trust this process in your life?” This transformation? Do you trust the mercies of God. Do you trust God’s mercies in Christ enough to be a living sacrifice? To give it ALL to him? Your life? Your family? Your career? Your romance? Your sexuality? Your stuff? Your failures and successes?
Too many Christians are walking around wishing they knew the will of God. But we DO know it. No, we don’t always know what college to go to, or what job to take, or which specific person to marry, or which team will win March Madness. And we aren’t meant to know those things. We’re meant to live. And as we go through life, yes, there will be some things that God makes clear. Some things he has already made clear in his word. Some things he will make clear providentially. But most of life is the wisdom of the cross. Meaning we don’t know exactly what will happen but we trust the mercies of God to renew our minds so that in whatever we do or choose, we believe that God will use it for the good to transform us into Christ and his death.
Like Miles Morales learning to trust his spider powers, we too prove the will of God as we go through life as living sacrifices.
As Marva Dawn says, testing God’s will is a constant adventure. And that is what God wants this life to be. Adventurous. Sitting around waiting for a new revelation from God about the specific decisions in our life is NOT how God intended us to live. He does not want us to be paralyzed by fear or inaction. Especially when it comes from thinking we lack information that God is “supposed” to have given to us.
In Christ, God has given you everything you need for life and godliness. You have all you need to make it through this life. And along the way, on the journey, you prove that God’s will, his plan, his work of transforming you, has been good, and acceptable, and perfect.
“To live is Christ” means you have never made a decision alone. You have never taken a step without God. You have all the knowledge and love that you need to make it through this day and every day. And you’ve never been outside God’s will.
What grace this brings. What freedom. What courage.
Will you put the power of the cross to the test today? Will you live today testing the will of God? Proving God to be good, and acceptable, and perfect even when we don’t know everything that will happen? Even in waiting? Even when he asks for something that’s hard to give up? Even when it doesn’t make sense?