How Do We Know the Will of God?

How do we know the will of God? As a pastor, this is one of the most common questions we receive from believers and non-believers alike. Motivations for asking this question vary. Some may wish to know for ease of mind, some may wish to manipulate the outcome of God’s plan, others simply want to be assured they are doing as they ought.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans gives us some helpful guidance:

“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).

Before we examine Paul’s guidance here, we need to recognize that the word “therefore” in Romans 12:1 refers back to the hymnic verses of Romans 11:33-36.

 “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

With God’s great wisdom and knowledge in mind, and “by” or “through” (διὰ) the mercies of God, Paul appeals to the Romans. Paul urges them (and us) to offer their bodies as living sacrifices. When we read the word “bodies” here, we should not think only of the more obvious physical areas of life and morality; rather, we should understand that here Paul speaks of bodies as the entirety of our persons. Everything we experience, everything we think, every action we take, all that we are as humans is carried out within our bodies. Therefore, we need to understand Paul’s urging here to be the surrender of the entirety of our existence to God.

Paul refers to our sacrificed bodies as holy and acceptable to God. By this the apostle refers to the nature of our sacrifice. Our sacrifice is to be holy. That is, altogether separate unto God alone. The holiness of our sacrifice, then, is what makes the offering acceptable. We know that God is a jealous God. He will not share us. (Exodus 20:5, 34:14.) Paul then goes on to teach that this totally dedicated and unshared offering of our entire selves is true worship. This ought to move us away from the erroneous understanding of worship as simply music or religious service. Worship, as the scriptures define it, is the surrender of the entirety of ourselves unto God. In the Greek of 12:1 we notice the adjective “reasonable” is missing from the ESV’s translation. Paul says here that the sacrifice of our bodies, holy and acceptable, is our “reasonable” (logikēn) act of worship. Why is such an all-encompassing sacrifice “reasonable?” Because the object of our true worship is God himself. As Romans 11:36 teaches us, all things, including all of us, are due our God.

The Apostle Paul then moves to a two-part progression in the life of the Christian that leads to the understanding of the will of God. First, we are to cease being conformed to the pattern of the world. Notice here that the apostle does not clarify which patterns of the world we are to no longer conform to. He does not limit his prohibition here to those patterns we dislike. The pattern of the world then, is any pattern of the fallen world system. No matter how logical, appealing or attractive, the ways of the world are not to be the way of the Christian. Secondly, Paul states that we, instead of being conformed to the world’s mold, are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Paul refers to this progressive transformation also in Ephesians 4:17-23.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

How then are our minds renewed? By the same process to which Christ calls all who would come after him.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul” (Matthew 16:24-26)?

See here also our Lord refer to the futility of following after the pattern of the world that seeks to elevate self rather than offer it to God.

So, then we have come full circle to the original question. Are we seeking to know His will today? Let us give ourselves totally unto Him. Let us die to the world’s influence in us. Let us submit joyfully to His Spirit’s use of His Word and indeed all things so that our thoughts might be transformed to reflect His. As we commit ourselves unto Him in all these ways, His will shall become more and more clear to us.

There will be times however when the truth of Romans 11:33-34 is clear “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord…?’” There will be times when, no matter how close we are walking with the Lord, He will not choose to reveal His will to us. In those times, may we remember that even in the midst of uncertain days, our God never changes. When the storm rages, the one who commands the winds and waves will never leave or forsake His own. We may not know what the future holds, but we are fully known and we have been gloriously granted to know Him who holds the future.

Proverbs 3:5-6 urges us. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

In His Love,

Pastor Brian Torres

June 1, 2024

Troy Christian Chapel
400 E. Long Lake Road
Troy, MI 48085
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Phone: (248) 689-2046
Email: staff@troychapel.org

Sundays
Sunday School - 9:00 a.m.
Worship Service - 10:30 a.m.

Wednesdays
Worship & Bible Study - 7:00 p.m.