Summary: This sermon examines what it means to test what is God’s good and acceptable and perfect will.
For the past few weeks we have been studying Romans 12:1-2. I would like to conclude my series on these two verses today.
In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul begins applying the doctrine that he has been teaching for the previous 11 chapters. Now, it is not that he has made no application in the previous 11 chapters; he has. However, as he begins chapter 12 he is, in a sense, saying, “In light of all that I have taught, how should we then live?”
So, let’s carefully examine each phrase in Romans 12:1-2.
Let’s read Romans 12:1-2:
1I 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. 2Do 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. (Romans 12:1-2)
Years ago the staff of James Montgomery Boice’s radio program, known as the Bible Study Hour, prepared a brochure that compared the world’s thinking and the Bible’s teaching in six important areas: God, man, the Bible, money, sex, and success.
The differences were striking, but what was most notable was how right many of the world’s ideas seemed if not considered critically and biblically. We hear the world’s approach given out so often, so attractively, and so persuasively, especially on television, that it’s imperative that we think critically about it.
Here are some of the world’s statements that the Bible Study Hour printed:
• I matter most, and the world exists to serve me. Whatever satisfies me is what’s important.
• If I earn enough money, I’ll be happy. I need money to provide security for me and my family. Financial security will protect me from hardship.
• Anything is acceptable as long as it doesn’t hurt another person.
• Success is the path to fame, wealth, pleasure, and power. Look out for number one.
How about the Christian way? From the world’s perspective the Christian way does not look attractive or even right. It says such things as:
• God is in control of all things and has a purpose for everything that happens.
• Man exists to glorify God.
• Money cannot shield us against heartbreak, failure, sin, disease, or disaster.
• Success in God’s kingdom means humility and service to others.
Because we are so much part of the world and so little like Jesus Christ, even Christians often find God’s way unappealing. Nevertheless, we are to press on in that way and prove by our lives that the will of God really is good and acceptable and perfect in all things.
It is significant that this is where Paul’s statements about being transformed by the renewal of our minds—rather than being conformed to this world—end. They end with testing the way of God to be the best way and the will of God to be perfect. This means that action is needed: God is not producing Christians with the world’s worldview. He is forming people who will prove the value of God’s way by conscious choices and deliberate obedience.
This point was expressed well by Robert Candlish, one of the best Scottish exegetes of the 19th century. He wrote,
The believer’s transformation by the renewing of his mind is not the ultimate end which the Holy Spirit seeks in his regenerating and renovating work. It is the immediate and primary design of that work, in one sense. We are created anew in Christ Jesus. That new creation is what the Holy Spirit first aims at and effects. But “we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). The essence of a good work is the doing of the will of God. The testing of the will of God, therefore, is a fitting sequel of our “being transformed by the renewing of our mind.”
In today’s lesson I want to examine what it means to test what is God’s good and acceptable and perfect will.
I. God Has a Good and Acceptable and Perfect Will for Each of Us
First, God has a good and acceptable and perfect will for each of us. Paul says in Romans 12:2, “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.”
Today when Christians talk about discovering the will of God what they usually have in mind is praying until God somehow discloses a specific direction for their lives—who they should marry, what job they should take, whether they should be missionaries, what house they should buy, and so on. This is not exactly what “by testing you may discern what is the will of God” means, nor is it what Romans 12:2 is teaching. The will of God is far more important than that.