Testing God’s Perfect Will – Romans 12:2

Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 that the one who is in Christ is to present themselves as a living sacrifice by renewing the way they think about the world. This is in contrast to conforming to the way the world answers the big questions about life.

confusing-street-signThe result of this changed thinking is knowledge “good and acceptable and perfect” will of God. If we do really renew our minds and change the way we think about things, then we can discern the will of God in new situations. The phrase εἰς τo δοκιμάζειν is an articular infinitive used to indicate the purpose of the renewing of our mind, it is for the purpose of discerning the will of God. In a given situation, transformed thinking may very well be radically different than the culturally accepted answer.

Early Christians encountered many ways in which their new found faith called into question the way the Greco-Roman world things. Although Paul will list many examples in Romans 12-15, there are many more issues which will come up as Christianity comes into contact with the world. It cannot be the case that Paul will cover ever potential issue which might arise as more Gentiles commit their lives to Christ. Some things may seem obvious to us. It seems remarkable someone might ask if a Christian is permitted go to a temple, share in a sacred meal and enjoy the company of prostitutes. The Greco-Roman worldview might not object to this behavior, but transforming the way one thinks about marriage and sexual unions will result in a different view.

But the good and perfect will of God may change in a given situation. For example: Should Christians serve in the Roman military? It may possible for someone to serve Rome without worshiping the gods of Rome (on the analogy of Daniel serving Babylon), but is service to the Roman military a proper career for the first century Christian? What about a soldier who converts Christianity, can he continue to serve?

This process of thinking about new ways in which God’s will applies to new situations is a function of the Spirit of God in every generation (one cold ask about serving in the army of a Christian king in the middle ages, or a Chinese Christian who must serve in the army by Chinese law, or an American Christian serving in the modern military. If killing is the issue, can a Christian serve as a police officer, or in an industry which supports the military industry?

Any number of medical ethical issues can be included here, since Christians in the twenty-first century are the first to think through beginning of life, quality of life and end of life issues in ways no other generation of the church needed to think.

These are all important questions which people with renewed minds much continually think through in any given context. When the believer is yielded to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit will continually renew our minds so that we think more clearly about important issues which go beyond the text of the Bible.

What are some other issues which perhaps have changed over the years for Christians with respect to God’s will?

 

10 thoughts on “Testing God’s Perfect Will – Romans 12:2

  1. One issue that has seemed to change for Christians over the years is drinking. It used to be often taught in churches, and still is, that drinking is a sin. However, there is no verse saying so. Although drinking until one becomes drunk is, drinking in and of itself is not. This is a good example of what Paul was talking about in Romans 14: weaker believers looking down on those that have learned to exercise their freedom in Christ. If the Bible does not speak against an issue, and we look down on those who participate in said issue, then we are the ones sinning.

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  2. Romans 12:1-2 is a very popular and well-known verse, but because of that I think we tend to diminish its meaning. We all know that we are not to conform to the way culture behaves, but do we actually do that? I think it is much more difficult to do than it seems. To do the will of God is what we are called to do, and by renewing our minds, as you said, we can apply God’s will to our lives in every situation, no matter how difficult. Douglas Moo explains that by using the word “body”, Paul is not referring only to physical features, but to the whole person in relationship to the world. It includes our thoughts, emotions, and will (Moo, pg. 176). Some issues are not black and white at all, and we will never truly know what is right or wrong until we get to heaven. In some situations though, I do not think there is a right or wrong.

    The issues we deal with today are very different from the issues that arose during Paul’s life. The growing use of technology adds a very unique aspect. This means we have to face questions such as using technology to prolong someone’s life when they are barely alive. Is it our job to decide when someone lives or dies? Are we playing the role of God here? Abortion is another huge issue. It has become legal to use technology to kill. So maybe a lot of the issues we face today are not so different from what we faced in the past after all, but they just appear in a different manner. That is why it is sometimes helpful to go back to the Bible to see what it has to say about certain issues.

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  3. I would agree slightly with David that drinking may have been an issue for some but I am always reminded that Jesus came and drank wine, obviously he died on a cross so I am not saying just because Jesus did it it is okay for us. I think that culturally we still have a “drinking” issue. In many other countries it is acceptable to offer wine with the meal, and it is rude to turn down the hospitality of someone you are dining with. In a “good christian” home in Michigan, with a certain church background, someone might get offended if you brought wine to dinner, or even had dinner at a bar. I do think that in ministry it is important to be careful that you are setting a good example for those that are “weaker” in their faith, that whatever you are doing is done out of love. What I originally wanted to say in response to the question above about new issues is that “tattoos” could be considered a church splitting problem! In the past ten years it has become more socially acceptable among Christians in the church to get a tattoo. Unfortunately up until recently is was a fine at Grace Bible College to get one and you had to at least cover it up at all times back in 2011. The student body had to petition the board to make tattoos okay around campus. I still have friends whose parents consider getting a tattoo to be the “mark of the beast” no joke, but in today’s culture we have Christian tattoo artists and amazing pastors who have portraits of Jesus on their shoulders. There are a couple verses that people go to “out of context” to say that tattoos are wrong, but I wonder if Jewish Christians or Gentile Christians were concerned with tattoos? Piercings? Medical marijuana? And if Paul was here….would he say “This is one big mess?”

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  4. I believe that God has everything worked out and knows what is going to happen now, and in the future. However for me, I have a hard time accepting that God allows or planned for horrific things to happen to people on this Earth. It has been told to me in the past that those things were not apart of God plan, people just messed it up and now we have consequences. It has also been told to me that bad things happen to people who are strong enough to handle it, process it, and be able to help someone else get through the same situation as well. There are many people in this world, and there are only certain ways to gain their respect and their attention. Getting their respect and attention can look like an interest in certain types of movies, having tattoos, eating certain foods, or playing sports. When we gain their attention and respect we are able to make a difference in their life, and help them change and or modify their life to live a life that is Christ pleasing. Jesus walked, ate, and talked to sinners, and in order to help build and strengthened the kingdom of heaven, we are going to have to do the same thing.

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  5. I like your point that the Christians are the first to think through the value of life from beginning to end! I think that one thing that changes during the course of life is a career or a specific situation a Christian is supposed to be in. It is possible that God only wants us to stay at a place for a few months to learn one specific thing and then move on but sometimes the same person engages in the came ministry all their life! The will of God isn’t necessarily going to be the same thing forever. God has us moving around and changing. When we grow, we open ourselves up for different opportunities that God can put us in! I think it is awesome that the more we rely on God, He opens up different doors that weren’t there before.

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  6. I think it is important as believers now and back then to not conform to the pattern and culture of this world, but we transformed by the renewing our our minds. In this, we shift from a temporal, earthly perspective to an eternal godly perspective. I think we should be constantly asking ourselves, how does God see ___? When we try and view life with God’s perspective, we begin to see what really matters and what doesn’t. As the writer of Ecclesiasties writes about how nothing matters that is under the sun, he infers that our possessions, items, and material wealth doesn’t matter in the end and will not satisfy us. By having this perspective, we can be transformed in our minds and view things as they actually are. Instead of conforming to this consumeristic worldview, we can be free from our possessions and greed and wealth and surrender to God ourselves wholly. By having an eternal perspective, we can begin to see and understand the will and heart of God. I think God’s character and heart will never change, but His will about certain things in certain time periods might be different. However, for the believer, there are constant things about God’s will for our lives and our purpose that remain the same throughout time. For example, verses like Micah 6:8 and 1 Thessalonians 5:18 stand out to me regarding the will for our lives. Being thankful, loving mercy and justice and walking with God will always be a part of God’s will for our lives in which we should strive towards glorifying God in those things.

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  7. With free will, comes a large majority of people with cold feet. Some examples could be:
    1. A High School senior procrastinating to pick a college because any of them could be good choices
    2. A college girl saying goodbye to dating because there are too many good men in the world or
    3. A newlywed couple deciding not to move because they have not yet heard God’s voice telling them where to go.

    It is so easy for us to sit still and wait for God to tell us what to do. Not only is it easy, but comfortable. What if we were not called to put as much emphasis on what possible choice we could make, but rather on God’s direction. I wonder if God would be pleased if we simply kept moving forward–staying in His word, spending time with community and continuing to worship Him. God will put us where He wants us, yet it will be a much more difficult transition if we are not moving forward in the first place.

    These thought make me wonder: Is there a way we can always be in the will of God? Is our choice any less godly if we have not heard God’s audible voice telling us to choose it?

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  8. Sometimes I think that God’s will and people’s standards get confused. People tell themselves they cannot do certain things because God could never allow that. Is that us speaking out of fear? “God could never tell me to drop everything right now and go to another country? He knows financially that is not possible. He would never put me in that position.” And other times we put our standards into it, “God tells me I need to get the iPhone, because it will enrich my life, because I can have the Bible app.” In our world, lately, it seems to be that people are putting their voice into play and saying it is their own. That is something that needs to be looked at with caution. He does not want us to live our lives in fear and he wants us to live a simpler life. Free will is huge, we are not robots, God wants us to choose to love him. At the end, it is our choice. God, of course, has an ideal way he wants us to go, but we have to make our own decisions. Due to that, we need to make sure that our decisions need to be prayed about. We cannot just say our voice is the right one because God knows what is going to happen. We need to make sure that God is involved every step of the way, so our decisions reflect that we are living for the one true God.

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