What is the will of God?

Rom 12v1-2 (17 May 2015)

After my sermon on Gen 16, some of you asked me to explain the meaning of the “will of God”.

So this morning I am going to preach from Rom 12v2.

I believe this verse will help us understand what “the will of God” means.

I also hope to address some of the perplexing questions surrounding the “sovereign will of God”.

Now, this is not an easy subject.

So I need you to listen very carefully.

And if you have questions, please talk to me after worship today.

Let me read for us Rom 12:v2 –

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

The Christian has spiritual eyes to discern & understand what pleases God.

The Christian is also constantly bombarded by ideologies of the world.

And these ideologies can mask his ability to make decisions that glorify God.

That is why v2 tells us not “..to be conformed to this world”…

In other words, don’t let your mind be filled with the things of the world.

But instead, be “transformed by the renewing of your mind..”

And when you are “transformed & renewed in your mind”, you will understand the “…perfect will of God”.

This morning we shall meditate on the phrase “the will of God” mentioned here in Rom 12v2:

To do that, we shall ask 3 questions as follows:

1) What does “the will of God” mean?

2) What is the relevance of this to me today?

3) How do I translate this into my daily life in seeking God’s will?

1) What does “the will of God” mean?

The phrase “the will of God” occured more than 23 times in the new testament alone.

And it is used in 2 different ways in the bible.

Sometimes, it is used to convey the fact that God is sovereign over all things.

Our 1689 confession of faith calls this “God’s decrees” or “God’s sovereign will”.

But at other times, “the will of God” also means “God’s instructions” or “God’s revealed will”.

This is specifically referring to all that God has revealed in His word – the bible.

This morning, I shall simply refer to them as “God’s sovereign will” & “God’s revealed will”.

And I will show you how these 2 aspects of “God’s will” are to be held in balance.

First, what is “God’s sovereign will”?

It refers to His sovereign design & control over all things that come to pass.

For example, Jesus prayed in Matt 26:39 –

“..Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.

Jesus was referring to the “sovereign will of God” that will happen to Him in the coming hours.

He was effectively saying “..Father, here’s my request…”

“..let Me not need to face this suffering as a Man..”

“But I know You have Your sovereign design & plans…”

And as a 100% God & Man at the same time, Jesus submitted to the “sovereign will of God”.

Now, the “sovereign will of God” sometimes can include things that God hates.

God hates the sins of the those who crucified His Son Jesus Christ.

But these sins were committed fulfilling “His sovereign will”.

Acts 2:23 says that Jesus was “..delivered by the determined purpose & foreknowledge of God..”

God was in full control of every detail that happened to Jesus.

He sovereignly planned & willed all things that came to pass.

Yet, He remains Holy & blameless.

The bible says that not one sparrow falls to the ground without Him knowing – (Matt 10:29).

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov 16:33)

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he wills” (Prov 21:1).

And the “sovereign will of God” remains secret untill it comes to pass, unless God chooses to review it.

God is in absolute control of everything in this world.

No man can frustrate His sovereign will.

Listen to these words of Daniel 4:35 –

“He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’”

Dear Christian friends – be comforted & rejoice that this is your God who loves you.

And there is nothing that can happen to you that is outside of His control.

He never says “Oops, how did that happen to you?”

Now, there are some people who misuse this doctrine of the “sovereign will of God”.

They blame everything that happens to them as “God’s sovereign will” as if they can’t help it.

Eg. “I put on so much weight because God let so much good food to be around me.” – ever heard that before?

“God made me like this; you guys just have to tolerate me – ever heard that before?”

“Since God will bring those He has elected into His kingdom anyway, we don’t need to evangelise.”

Such views are fatalistic & totally unbiblical.

Because the doctrine of the “sovereign will of God” has to be held in balance with “God’s revealed will”.

And “God’s revealed will” is the responsibility of man to carry out.

What then is “God’s revealed will”?

It refers to what He has commanded or instructed in His word that His creatures should do.

It includes every ethical instruction & implication found in the bible.

These instructions reveal His character, His attributes & His desires for man.

It is when you do these instructions that you will have His smile upon you.

I want you to understand that “God’s revealed will” can be disobeyed.

For eg. 2 Pet 3:9 – God is “..not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”.

Did God command all men to repent? Yes!

But do all men come to repentance? No!

Because “God’s revealed will” can be disobeyed.

And there are thousands of people perishing everyday because they did not obey this command.

Another example – 1 Thes 4:3.

“This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.”

God commands that we should maintain sexual purity.

Yet this is disregarded everyday in every country & city and potentially, even in Church.

But are there people who faithfully carry out “God’s revealed will”?

Yes! And who are these?

Jesus said in Mark 3:35 “Whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister & mother”.

He is referring to those who belong to the Kingdom of God.

And 1 John 2:17 says that “…he who does the will of God abides forever.”

So, one of the hallmarks of a Christian is that he obeys the “revealed will of God”.

With a renewed mind, the Christian grows in obedience & holiness every day.

I trust you can now see the 2 ways in which the Bible uses the phrase “the will of God”.

“God’s sovereign will” refers His sovereign design & control over all things that happen.

“God’s revealed will” refers to what He has instructed in His word that His creatures should do.

And this is often broken by man every hour & every day.

Now, which aspect of the “will of God” is being referred to here in Rom 12v2?

Is it “God’s sovereign will” or is it “God’s revealed will”?

I believe it is referring to “God’s revealed will”.

Why do I say this?

Because God never intended for us to know His sovereign will.

Deut 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God,..”

We know the secret “sovereign will of God” only when it comes to pass.

However, what He has instructed us to do is to pursue a “renewed mind” – Rom 12v2.

And this renewed mind must be transformed in our perspectives towards all aspects of life.

And our transformed perspectives will enable us to discern the “will of God”.

Now, I am going to use Heb 5:14 to explain Rom 12:2.

You will find that it is like a paraphrase of Rom 12v2, scripture interpreting scripture.

“Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

If you want to know “God’s revealed will” for you in any situation, you need to be taking solid spiritual food.

That solid spiritual food will transform you & renew your mind.

With that renewed mind, you will then be able to understand God’s will.

OK, we’ve heard so much, what is the relevance of these to us today?

And that is our second question for this morning.

Many of us are old enough to remember the 911 incident that took place in 2001.

Everyone was horrified by the killing of innocent lives.

Many people made comments like “How can a loving God let innocent lives die like this?”

If God is sovereign, why did He not stop this from happening?

Now, supposing one of the victims killed in the incident was your loved one.

Obviously, you will experience great grief for that loss.

And you would probably also be very angry with those terrorists who killed your loved one.

How can you get through such pains that happen in your life?

It is the doctrine of the “will of God” that is going help you through such experiences.

You need the assurance that God is in control of even that awful incident that took place.

You must believe that God hates the killing of innocent lives because He commanded “You shall not kill”.

God is angry with those terrorists because “His revealed will” was disregarded.

But what took place was “God’s sovereign will”.

Because He could have stopped it, but He didn’t.

And you can’t understand why He didn’t.

And you may never understand why He ordained that to happen.

But remember, Jesus our God is a merciful High Priest.

He was 100% Man when He was on earth.

He can empathise with our grief.

But He is also 100% God & has full control over the entire incident.

And with that, you are assured that He knows what He is leading you through.

And you can therefore hold fast to Him even when you are suffering.

Because He has designed all that took place in His sovereign will.

So you see, you need to hold in balance these 2 meanings of the “will of God”.

When you can do that, you will get great comfort in any situation of grief or loss that you encounter.

3) Now, how does this translate to our daily lives when seeking God’s will?

That is our 3rd question for today.

The bible does not tell us which brand of tooth paste to use.

We are not told which cell phone to buy or even who to marry.

Neither are we told which missionary to support.

Or whether we should even have a church building.

There are hundreds of decisions we have to make.

And there are thousands of different choice combinations.

And we can’t be looking for messages in the sky.

And we should not be waiting for a voice to suggest something to us.

Actually, I would be very worried for you if you are constantly “hearing voices”.

The fact is that 99% of the time we don’t plan our behaviour or decisions in any situation.

They take place spontaneously.

Therefore, what we need is a spiritually discerning & transformed mind.

A mind that can quickly apply the scriptures to any decision we need to make.

Let me give you an example of what I mean & with that I will close.

I once had a small boy in my Sunday school class.

This boy was constantly playing with a gameboy handheld device.

The game he was playing was called “Street-Fighter”.

And this boy held on to his gameboy even as I conducted the class.

And I asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up.

And one child said “I want to be a fireman”

Another said “I want to be a rubbish truck driver”. (..and the parents got very worried):)

And this boy (with the gameboy device) instinctively said “I want to be a streetfighter!”

I was stunned!

Where that come from?

And I remembered what Jesus said in Matt 12:34

“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks…”

The mind of this child was sapped with images of this streetfighter game.

Instinctively, his mind just spilled out whatever was in there – streetfighter!

And it is the same for most of us who spend 90% of our time interacting with the world.

Most of our thoughts, attitudes, and actions are spontaneous.

If we allow images, values & practices of the world to captivate our minds…..

When you make an instinctive decision, obviously all of that will spill out.

That’s why Rom 12:2 says “Be not conformed to the world…”

Dear Christians, what have you been filling your minds with?

Korean dramas? Football? Technology? Celebrity gossip? Exams? Work?

And v2 continues to say “..but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..”.

The Christian has a renewed mind – purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

This renewed mind can discern right from wrong, Godly & unGodly.

Therefore, the aim of every Christian should be to let our minds be sanctified by the truth of God’s word.

There is no short-cut – you need to invest time on bible study & prayer every day.

You need to know God’s word.

You need to immerse yourself into it.

You need to saturate your mind with it.

You need to memorise the scriptures.

You need to meditate on whatever is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy – Phil 4:8.

Then you will be transformed with a renewed mind.

And when you come to face any decision in your life, instinctively you know “God’s revealed will”.

And you know that doing “God’s revealed will” pleases Him.

And in that way, your life becomes a spiritual worship to Him.

And as you walk with Him each day, you will have a keen sense of God’s presence with you.

Many of us say we want to seek God’s will for our lives.

And I previously suggested this to you: Don’t seek God’s will; seek God!

When you have found Him, you will know His will.

And you will find Him only when you diligently study the scriptures.

I trust & hope that all these are making sense together for you now.

To God be all glory.

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