This is the third study in the series about Decisions: Seeking God’s Guidance:
Because each of us is different, God’s plan for each of us is also different. If we are to know that plan, we must know ourselves; our gifts, talents, strengths and shortcomings. So, if we want to make better decisions based on God’s will, it is a good this to look at how we are wired.
In the first eleven chapters of the book of Romans, Paul tells about the facts of the gospel. Beginning with chapter 12, he speaks of the practical implications of the gospel for our behavior. His words have much to say about God’s plan and direction for our lives.
1. After reading this chapter, how would you define a “living sacrifice?”
John Stott makes the following comments about the living sacrifice: It is not to be offered in the temple courts or in the church building, but rather in home life and in the marketplace. It is the presentation of our bodies to God. This blunt reference to our bodies was calculated to shock some of Paul’s Greek readers. Brought up on Platonic thought, they will have regarded the body as an embarrassing encumbrance. . . . Still today some Christians feel self-conscious about their bodies. The traditional evangelical invitation is that we give our “hearts” to God, not our “bodies.” . . . But Paul is clear that the presentation of our bodies is our spiritual act of worship. It is a significant Christian paradox. No worship is pleasing to God when it is purely inward, abstract and mystical; it must express itself in concrete acts of service performed by our bodies.
2. Romans 12:2 says that being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” will allow us to “test and approve what God’s will is.” What is a renewed mind? How does it differ from a mind that has been conformed “to the pattern of this world?”
“These two value systems (this world and God’s will) are incomparable, even in direct collision with one another. Whether we are thinking about the purpose of life or the meaning of life, about how to measure greatness or how to respond to evil, about ambition, sex, honesty, money, community, religion or anything else, the two sets of standards diverge so completely that there is no possibility of compromise. No wonder Karl Barth called Christian ethics ‘the great disturbance,’ so violently does it challenge, interrupt and upset the tranquil status quo” (John Stott).
3. How do our minds become either conformed or renewed?
“Because human beings are inveterate conformists, the temptation to simply fit into the picture and fade into the scenery can be practically overwhelming. The committed life, however, is shown by the degree in which the believer stays in the secular world without being trapped by it and without failing to be a witness to it. The tension is aptly described by the Master’s words explaining that we are ‘in the world but not of it'” (Stuart Briscoe).
4. What disciplines are helping you to renew your mind?
5. What responsibility do you have to “test and approve what God’s will is”? How can you take this responsibility seriously?
“[Paul] does not promise that the careless, the casual, and the uncommitted will somehow land on their feet and find out that they did God’s will by accident. Rather he states that those who genuinely do what is required will find in their own experience the reality of the sweet will of God” (Briscoe).
6. What does Romans 12:3-8 teach about God’s plan for the Christian community?
“Diversity, not uniformity, is the mark of God’s handiwork. It is so in nature; it is so in grace, too, and nowhere more so than in the Christian community. Here are many men and women with the most diverse kinds of parentage, environment, temperament, and capacity. Not only so, but since they became Christians they have been endowed by God with a great variety of spiritual gifts as well. Yet because and by means of that diversity, all can co-operate for the good of the whole” (F. F. Bruce).
7. What is meant by making a “sober judgment” of yourself (Romans 12:3)?
“By this expression Paul means that God equips each believer for a particular task and expects him to discover and fulfill his special role in the context of the believing community. Once this is understood, the believer is delivered from a number of potential miscalculations. He will not aspire to be more than God intends him to be, but he will not settle for being less than he was created and redeemed to be. Accordingly, he will be delivered from an arrogance which is destructive of harmony in the body of believers and will be content to make a ‘sober’ evaluation of his own gifts and calling” (Briscoe).
8. How will failure to do this lead you off track in understanding God’s will?
9. As you look at yourself with “sober judgment,” what do you believe to be your function and gifts in the body?
10. How has an understanding of your gifts helped you to “test and approve what God’s will is?”
11. How does Romans 12:9-21 tell us that we should be treating other people?
“Mutual love, sympathy and honor within the brotherhood of believers are to be expected, but something more is enjoined here love and forgiveness to those outside the fellowship, and not least to those who persecute them and wish them ill” (Bruce).
12. Why would it be futile to seek God’s will if we are not being renewed in our love for others?
13. Continue to make a sober judgment of yourself by evaluating whether you have been conformed or transformed according to each of the ethical instructions in Romans 12:9-21.
Read Romans 12:9-21 aloud, pausing after each phrase to respond silently to God. Your response should be either, “Thank you, Lord, for the transformation in my life,” or “I confess that I have been conformed to the world.”
Ask God to continually renew your mind, and confess to him where you have been conformed to the pattern of this world.
Now or Later: Make a list of the spiritual gifts that are mentioned in Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 27-31; and Ephesians 4:11-13.
1. Write out a definition for each of these gifts.
2. Which of these gifts has God given you? Remember to take the free online inventory at www.TeamMinistry.com
Warren Wiersbe Writes About Romans 12:
The biblical pattern is to relate doctrine and duty, for what you believe must determine how you behave. In these closing chapters, Paul discusses your relationship with the Lord (Romans 12:1–2), yourself (Romans 12:3), the church (Romans 12:4–16), and your enemies (12:17–21).
Transformation (Romans 12:1-2). The Spirit of God transforms your life by renewing your mind (2 Corinthians 3:18), but He cannot do this unless you give Him your body. When you give yourself to God in spiritual worship, you become a living sacrifice to the glory of God.
Evaluation (Romans 12:3). To think more highly of yourself, or less highly, is sin, so have a proper estimate of who you are and what God has given you (Galatians 6:3–5).
Cooperation (Romans 12:4-16). You are part of the body of Christ with a ministry to fulfill, so do your part lovingly and joyfully.
Vindication (Romans 12:17-21). If yours is a godly life, you are bound to have enemies (Matt. 5:10–12; 2 Tim. 3:12); but leave all judgment to the Lord. If you let the Lord have His way, He will use your enemies to build you and make you more like Christ.
Believers are not of the world any more than Christ is of the world. However, they are sent into the world to testify that its works are evil and that salvation is available to all who put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We should not only be separated from the world; we should be transformed by the renewing of our mind, which means that we should think the way God thinks, as revealed in the Bible. Then we can experience the direct guidance of God in our lives. And we will find that, instead of being distasteful and hard, His will is good and acceptable and perfect.
Here, then, are three keys for knowing God’s will.
- The first is a yielded body
- The second a separated life
- The third a transformed mind
Take a look at the document on the Spiritual Gifts Descriptions found in Romans 12. If you’re up to it, I designed an Spiritual Gifts Discovery inventory years ago, a PDF document that ads your score on the tally sheet at the end.