Summary: Would you like to know the will of God for your life? Paul, in his letter to the Romans, tells us that we need to rewire our minds in order to enable us to better discover what that might be.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).
When a person becomes a Christian, God fills the new believer with his Holy Spirit. This is the New Life that Paul writes about in his letter to the Corinthians (see 1 Corinthians 5:17). The work of God within is perfect. He has left nothing out and kept nothing undone, but now the new child of God has the responsibility to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to complete God’s work.
As his children, new born, all of us would presumably like to do the will of the Father. However, many of us find it difficult to discern his will for our lives. In his letter to the Romans, Paul tells us how we can know God’s will and the first couple of verses in Chapter 12 provide us with a lot of answers. It may help to work our way backwards.
In order to discern God’s will—what is good, acceptable and pleasing to God—we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds from conformity to the world to conformity to God’s world. This is the kingdom of God, often referred to by Jesus as the kingdom of heaven. This advice implies three things:
1. There is the world in which we live and a certain way in which it works.
2. There is the kingdom of heaven and a way in which God works.
3. Both are in conflict with each other.
Paul speaks of this conflict in his letter to the Galatians. Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25).
Paul warns us that those who live in the way of the world will not inherit the kingdom of God. What is the kingdom of God? And how do we find it?
The Kingdom of Heaven
Jesus spoke to his people in parables, which are simple stories used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. Many of these parables can be found in Matthew 13, and several of them speak about the “kingdom of heaven”. Here are two that talk about discovering it:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it (Matthew 13:44-46).
Many of us have read books, studied philosophy, spoken to people of wisdom, or otherwise engaged in activity that would bring us to a knowledge of the secrets of the universe. As we pursued our quest, some of us have come to a sudden illumination about God. Others among us have had a “chance” encounter with him, most probably when in a moment of difficulty or need. Either way we have discovered the kingdom of God, which is actually just a euphemism for Jesus. The question is: Having discovered the kingdom, do we realize how valuable it is?
There was once a rock hound named Rob Cutshaw who owned a little roadside shop outside Andrews, North Carolina. A rock hound is someone who hunts for precious stones in order to sell them to collectors or jewellers. Rob was not an expert; he knew just enough to decide which rocks might make him a little money. On a dig about thirty years ago Rob found a big, blue chunk of rock that he thought he might sell for a good price, but discovered he couldn’t even get $500 for it. Not wanting to sell it for anything less, he figured he’d just hang on to it until he desparately needed money. Fortunately for him that day didn’t come, because what Rob had in his possession was the largest, most valuable sapphire ever found, currently valued in excess of $4,000,000!