Saturday, January 3, 2009

Thoughts on God's Will?

“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. 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” (Romans 12:1-2).

Yesterday I was sitting in Solid Grounds coffee shop reading through Romans while simultaneously following the Scripture passages in From Pentecost to Patmos (a commentary I am using for a class starting Monday). Throughout this process, I felt like God was teaching me a lot about so many different issues. Historically when I would typically read Romans 12:1-2 I would simply focus on not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of your mind. However, it felt like yesterday was the first time I noticed the ending of the text, regarding God’s will. It is funny how in the Christian subculture a lot of us live in we have memorized bits and pieces of verses, while never considering them in context. However, that is a different post altogether.

Proceeding chapter 12, Paul went through his theological exposition of the Gospel (1:16-11:36). Here he discussed the universal sin of humanity (1:18-3:20), justification by faith (3:21-5:21), sanctification through the Spirit (6:1-8:39), and the status of Israel (9:1-11:36). After spending the majority of this epistle addressing the doctrine of salvation through the theological exposition of the gospel He ventures into the ethical implications that result from those teachings.

Growing up in the church I was often presented differing strategies of how to discern God’s will for my life. I was once taught that God’s will was linear, and if I got “off track” I might miss huge things God had planed for me (i.e. my wife). This approach really scared me at the time… I would constantly wonder if I had missed my wife while I was getting in a fight in 3rd grade on the playground (because we all know that is not God’s will). Another way I was taught to discern God’s will was to think of it like a fenced in playground… as long as you stayed within the boundaries you couldn’t really mess anything up. Though I liked this approach more than the previous it still left me with a lot of questions. For example, what are the boundaries? Does God really have a particular plan for my life or is this whole thing random? Different questions like that left me feeling like I was no closer to discerning God’s will than when I began. It was a very frustrating season of life.

Then yesterday I read Craig Blomberg’s (author of From Pentecost to Patmos) commentary on this passage and it was convicting to say the least. He writes,

“What is God’s will for how believers should live in light of this marvelous plan of salvation (what Paul discussed previously to 12:1-2)? First, the basic principle applicable to all Christians is transformation of body and mind. When we think about determining God’s will for our lives, we often jump immediately to specific issues like whom to marry, where to live, what to do for work, etc. Yet, as we noted in conjunction with 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, in Scripture the most fundamental element of God’s will always involved moral living. Once we have rejected the ungodly desires and behaviors of fallen humanity and committed ourselves to allowing the Spirit to transform our lives, then we are in a position to ask more specific guidance from God. When this transformation affects both our bodies (vs. 1) and our minds (vs. 2), then our entire selves are yielded to God’s will, and we please God with our worship” (257-258).

Often as a Christian, I would have an atrocious prayer life, yet I felt like it was God’s responsibility to reveal the perfect path for my life if I asked. Therefore, I would not focus on becoming Christlike or rejecting the ungodly things so that I could grow closer to Him, I would just throw up random prayers like… “Should I marry her?” or “Should I go to college here or there?” It is so obvious now how ridiculous I was being. However, at the time I would get really frustrated with God for not telling me what I was suppose to do… IMMEDIATELY! Being in God’s will is more about rejecting ungodly desires and behaviors and committing ourselves to allowing the Spirit to transform our lives so that we are relationally closer to the Lord, rather than simply hitting up God like a gene in a bottle (who’s only purpose is to answer our questions and give us what we want).

When I was talking this through with my wife last night she brought up a great point. Earlier that morning she was reading Oswald Chambers, Utmost for His Highest (which she usually does everyday) and came across a statement that related to our discussion. He wrote, “Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do – He reveals to you who He is” (1/2). So, instead of always asking God what you should do next, it would be a much better idea to simply press into who He is. The more we focus on Him and the more we become like Him, the more we reflect Him… in which case His will is being done. We are merely vessels; it is impossible for us to truly do His will in and of ourselves. I thought this was a great addition to the thoughts I had been having that day.

Well… I am not sure if this helped anyone or simply confused you more. However, this was exactly what I needed to hear concerning the subject of God’s will. If anyone would like to discuss this in more depth I would love that opportunity… I know my story is not equivalent to everyone else’s. May you and I continue to grow closer to the Lord and in that fulfill His will for our lives.


Anonymous said...

Do you ever think God purposely allows you to stray off his path to teach you something because he KNOWS that you will return to him? Or do you think God allows obstacles to see if you WILL return to him? I don't really understand why he allows some to go through obstacles that are so unbearable while he others seem to barely have struggles at all.

brandon edmunds said...

Bobby, this is an excellent post, thank you for sharing! This passage from Rom 12 has been coming up a lot lately in my is good to read another perspective of it, I feel convicted to go meditate on it a bit further! I've often had the same perspective of God's will, when I'm cornered then I seek direction, but when I read Blomberg's comments correlating this passage with 1 Thessalonians 4 "in Scripture the most fundamental element of God’s will always involved moral living." What a wonderful precious gift we have and that through it we can be sanctified, and it is the drawing closer to God that be his will. Excellent reminder, and I again thank you for it!

Brandon Edmunds

Anonymous said...

I like the post a lot i think it has some interesting ideas... i really liked Maggie's point, that the focus on God makes us better and more conformed to his will. I tend to see that passage in Romans and think that i have to work much harder to be more obedient, when i really need to draw into God and focus on his character... I really like the blog posts, they make me think.


Bobby said...

Thanks for all the encouraging comments... I appreciate them!