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?

 

18 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.

  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.

  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?”

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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?

  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.

  9. I love how even though God could have put every little detail of instructions of what is right and wrong in our world, in the Bible, He didn’t. He allows us to exercise our faith and practice listening to the Holy Spirit to help guide us through each of our specific circumstances. Romans 12:1-2 is such a big step for a Christian in their faith. Being someone that loves to know what the rules are, so I don’t get in to trouble, was a challenging part in my faith. Letting go of understandings of the world and instead being focused on God and listening to Him. It is so easy to fall into the trap of the world and justify that how they live is reasonable, but we have to think passed this world. Moo talks about “…avoiding the pattern of thinking and behaving that is characteristic of this world and by instead aligning ourselves with the values of the world to come” (Moo, 163). Changing our focus, leads to changes our views.

  10. It’s pretty clear that we are called to renew our minds and the way we think about the world. During the process of renewing our minds, we are actually conforming to the will of God. In your example, should Christians serve in the Roman military? Well, you say that it could be possible to serve without having to worship the gods in Rome, but I would argue that those who didn’t publicly worship the emperor would often have severe punishment. Serving in the military, whether it was back in the 1st century or the 21st century, in general is okay. We need the military to keep our country safe. On the other hand however, killing other people in a foreign land (i.g., American soldiers consequently killing innocent Iraqi women and children in drone strikes and in battle), does not make sense for a Christian to be partaking in. A commandment is a commandment – Thou shalt not kill. Aside from politics for a second, American Christians shouldn’t be killing people in other countries.
    I’m convinced that there are a ton of issues that are shoved to the side in this country in regards to God’s will. There are 40 million American citizens who are either homeless or on the verge of being homeless, and 500,000 American citizens physically living on the streets. I’m not even going to get into the near billion people around the world who live in severe poverty. If we claim to be the “richest country in the history of the world” or the greatest nation to ever be, then why aren’t we doing absolutely everything to combat the BILLION people who live in poverty? If the answer from conservative Christian’s is “we need to focus on Americans first,” then okay cool – we have millions of people in poverty here in our country. There ya go. Feed them, house them, provide social programs for them to learn how to be self-sufficient, provide them healthcare (so they aren’t dying in the streets), give them basic education so they can be functioning adults, and more. These are all things that Lord Jesus calls us to do.

  11. It’s pretty clear that we are called to renew our minds and the way we think about the world. During the process of renewing our minds, we are actually conforming to the will of God. In your example, should Christians serve in the Roman military? Well, you say that it could be possible to serve without having to worship the gods in Rome, but I would argue that those who didn’t publically worship the emperor would often have severe punishment. Serving in the military, whether it was back in the 1st century or the 21st century, in general is okay. We need the military to keep our country safe. On the other hand however, killing other people in a foreign land (i.g., American soldiers consequently killing innocent Iraqian women and children in drone strikes and in battle), does not make sense for a Christian to be partaking in. A commandment is a commandment – Thou shalt not kill. Aside from politics for a second, American Christians shouldn’t be killing people in other countries.
    I’m convinced that there are a ton of issues that are shoved to the side in this country in regards to God’s will. There are 40 million American citizens who are either homeless or on the verge of being homeless, and 500,000 American citizens physically living on the streets. I’m not even going to get into the near billion people around the world who live in severe poverty. If we claim to be the “richest country in the history of the world” or the greatest nation to ever be, then why aren’t we doing absolutely everything to combat the BILLION people who live in poverty? If the answer from conservative Christian’s is “we need to focus on Americans first,” then okay cool – we have millions of people in poverty here in our country. There ya go. Feed them, house them, provide social programs for them to learn how to be self-sufficient, provide them healthcare (so they aren’t dying in the streets), give them basic education so they can be functioning adults, and more. These are all things that Lord Jesus calls us to do.

  12. I absolutely agree that Christians should have a renewal of the mind when they actually truly begin to follow God. You can see it in almost everything you do on the day to day basis especially in todays world. Some major things that would have us thinking with Gods will in mind would be homosexuality, abortion and as you mentioned killing. And I believe the way Christians should go about looking at these issues would be to get into scripture and look at Gods word for a guide on how we should think about these things. Especially killing, its a touchy topic when it comes to if its right or wrong. Because there are different circumstances people are put in, it could be self defense or just simply a cold blooded murder. But even that being said each person will have their own outlook on it depending on how Gods word speaks to their conscious.

  13. Gods perfect will for our lives is us living for him and worshiping him. we need to be fully invested there is no one foot in the world and one foot in with God. we need to be all in or nothing. yes it can be tough at times as a Christian but we need to keep moving because he never promised it would be easy. maybe his will for us we need to go through some struggle to be who we are called to be.

  14. Right off the start this blog post talks about in direct contrast to the world. This whole verse is a new way to think about life which is not considered the normal in today’s society. It says we are not to be a part of this world but to be transformed, having a new way of thinking, only for us to understand Gods will even more. This new way of thinking can be terrifying at times though because, even though we know it is the right thing to do, we are not following the crowd and the group consensus of the world can distract us from what we are meant to do. In 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us that those who live of this world will find the Gospel crazy and offensive yet those that do believe in Christ and the purpose that He has for us is the power of God. Paul talks plenty of times on how this new faith of believing in Christ will be hard and that it won’t be seen as the most glorious to those of the earth but to God it is the greatest thing, He can ask us to do. I understand that in the blog that it talked about newfound Christians and their faith being called into question with how to deal with things in the world, especially now, like specific jobs and how to respond to what they require us to do. My pastor talked about this in one of his sermons recently, talking about how we are meant to submit to authority because God has put them there. Yet, when that authority goes against what God says then we must rebel against those in charge and take the path of God (Romans 13:1-2). Now, there is no right equation for God in our lives, we are meant to live our lives relying on God that he will provide for us. This is our faith in God. If we know how God works then it isn’t considered faith and we miss the whole point of God and His gift for us. We will always be tested in our faith, and it is our job as Christians to keep renewing our minds in order to take what Gods will is for us and combat it with the things that are in this world that seek to tear down the kingdom of God.

  15. Well, I am sure that many Christians, preachers, teachers of the Bible, and a host of other believers could preach on the topic of not conforming to the world. We, as Christians are to be in the world and not of the world. We need to not associate ourselves with the other bad cultural norms and to be our own thing, separate from everything else bad and evil. Now sure, it is a good idea to stay away from the evils and bad things of the world, but to completely isolate ourselves so that we do not know of the rest of the world, and we become hermits living under rocks waiting for the return of Jesus, well that is no good either. By not conforming to the world, we can take the time in which we may indulge ourselves in the world and use that time for meditation in order to grow closer to God, or as it says in v. 2, learn about God’s will for our lives. I think that the conformity aspect of our lives takes away from when God is trying to talk to us and give direction in our lives. In the proceeding verse, Paul tells us to offer our bodies as a sacrifice to God as our true and proper worship. To what I think Paul is getting at here is that Paul wants us to give ourselves to God, not to the world. It is easy to fall into the riches, pleasures, and treasures of life and to shy away from the eternal riches, pleasures, and treasures that come from God. Our purpose here on this earth is to give what is due to God, our worship, to give him the glory, and give everything we have to God, including the material. I know for myself, this is a big struggle of mine because I love material possessions and I generally do not get rid of anything that I buy, am gifted, or have in any other way. these verses from Paul are an encouragement to all to pursue a life dedicated to Christ and not to the world. Besides the less we have, the less we have to distract us from God and the less we have the more time we will be able to give back to God. God is waiting for you to spend more time with him, but the world and the devil gets in our way and tries to prevent the unity of believers with God. So read your Bible, spend time with God, and stop hording all of your possessions.

  16. This is a good article to help us think of what is right and wrong in the Bible. I can see those who become Christians and have accepted Christ they will be transformed and have renewed minds. Believers will change their ways to be imitators like Christ. It is a good thing to exercise our faith when we have no clue what is acceptable to any certain situations when God gives us a clear instruction in the Bible. I kept wondering if drinking is sin? It did not say that alcohol is a sin, but it is a warning to others that those who drink too much will affect them to become drunk by doing the wrongs and not being aware while they are drunk. Paul gave us an example in Romans 14 talking about the weak looking down on those who practice their faith in Christ will know what to do is right and those who participate in that issue; then there are the ones sinning. I just hope that people understand about alcohol or drinking in the Bible. Non-believers would take that advantage of drinking thinking to themselves that drinking is fun, but it can lead to consequences especially for Christians. Also, in the article it mentions about Christians serving in the military and as police officers. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with Christians serving and protecting their countries. The Christians will do anything of what God tells his fellow believers what to do. God is in control of the life of those who believe.

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