Proving the Will of God
Final of 5 messages preached at EPC Youth Camp, on Maria Island, Tasmania, 29 Dec 2005- 3 Jan 2006
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:1-2).
We have been considering the apostle Paul’s plea to us to present our bodies as living sacrifices unto God, to refuse to allow ourselves to be moulded by the world and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
We have seen how all these should flow out of a heart of gratitude to the Lord for His mercies shown unto us. We have seen how as the Spirit of Christ applies the Word of God in the heart of believers so that they are transformed by the renewing of their mind, and they begin to refuse to allow themselves to be moulded by the world, but rather they would use of all their members as instruments of praise for the glory of God.
This is what the apostle Paul would have desired to see in every Christian. This is what the Holy Spirit, who inspired Paul to write, would have every believer do.
But what will be the result or effect when we do all these things? What is the result or effect of (1) presenting ourselves as living sacrifices unto the Lord; (2) not conforming to the world; and (3) being transformed by the renewing of our minds?
The apostle Paul teaches us that the result would be "that [we] may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
What is it to prove something? What is the will of God? How do we prove the will of God that it is good, acceptable and perfect? These are three questions that we must ask.
1. What is it to Prove Something?
Now, the word rendered ‘prove’ is the Greek dokimavzw. This word means "to test, examine, prove or scrutinize to see if something is genuine or not." I once heard an archaeologist describing how he found some ancient gold coins with knife marks on them. He was very puzzled by these marks until he realized that they resulted from one of the ways that traders proved that the gold coins they received were authentic. Gold is a very soft metal compared to brass or other alloys of similar colours. So one of the ways to authenticate a coin is make a cut with a knife or to bite it.
In the days when there were many attempts at forgery, traders would often be very nervous when they receive gold coins. They would take the coin with a feeling of uncertainty, especially if the buyer looks suspicious. Then they would subtly cut the coin. If a coin cuts easily, and the gold glimmer can be clearly seen, then the trader breaks out with a smile and hugs the buyer. He has proven that the coin is genuine.
To prove is therefore to do something to determine that something is authentic or good.
The apostle Paul wants us to prove the will of God by being transformed by the renewing of our minds and not allowing ourselves to be moulded by the world. Or rather, if we refuse to be conformed to the world, but are transformed by the renewing of our minds, then we would prove the will of God: that it is good acceptable and perfect.
But what exactly is the will of God?
2. What is Will of God?
This is something that is very esoteric to most professing Christians. Every Christian wants to know the will of God. But many do not know what exactly the will of God is. So they ask one another to pray that they may discern the will of God.
Pray for me that I may know if it is God’s will to take up this job. Pray for me that I may if it is God’s will for me to marry this girl. Pray with me that I may know if it is God’s will for me to return this wallet that I found.
Knowing God’s will is something that every Christian wants to do. But what exactly are we talking about when we talk about the will of God?
Some speak of the will of God as having sevenfold, some of having threefold. But what exactly is the will of God?
Well, there are actually two things, which the Scripture designates as the will of God.
One is the secret or decretive will of God. This refers to what God has determined to do from all eternity. Isaiah is referring to this will of God when he quotes God as saying:
"I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me: Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Is 46:9-10).
All things that come to pass, come to pass by the sovereign power of God. This is especially so in our salvation.
Paul reminds us in Ephesians 1:11 that…
In [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
We are, in other words, saved because God has from all eternity determined that we should be saved; and in the fullness of time, He makes provision for our salvation. We are saved by the will of God. But this will is secret, so that until someone is saved, there is no way for us to know if it is God’s will for him to be saved.
So too in all aspects of our lives. Everything that happens in our life happens by the will of God. David served his generation ‘by the will of God’ says the apostle Paul in Acts 13:36. We are here by the will of God. By the will of God, we are here in Mariah Island listening about the will of God. God had determined from all eternity that we should be here on such a day at such a time to listen to a message on His will. And by His providential power, He has brought His will to pass.
Is this the will of God that the apostle Paul wants us to prove? Well, I do not think so.
What God has decreed is secret to us, what can we prove about it? Some commentators believe that the word ‘prove’ can also be translated ‘discern’. But what is there to discern about God’s secret will? It is secret to us. But what is there to discern of God’s secret will, seeing that it is secret? "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God" (Dt 29:29). God has chosen to hide it from us. It is not for us to discern. It is for us to submit to when He brings it to pass.
On the other hand, the other thing designated as the will of God in the Scriptures, is the precepts of God or what God wants us to do. The preceptive will of God is recorded in the Scriptures. This is the will of God which we are to live by. In the same verse that tells us that the secret things belong to God, we are told what belongs to us:
"The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Dt 29:29).
This revealed or preceptive will of God is for us to live by. And I would suggest that if you know this aspect of God’s will, you would have little occasions to be confused about what to do in your life.
When you go to your pastor to seek guidance, do you realise that he does not have any special insights? He can counsel simply because he knows more of God’s will that is revealed in God’s Word? This is the will of God that the apostle Paul wants us to prove.
But what is it to prove the will of God? How do we prove the will of God?
3. How do we Prove the Will of God?
Well, when we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, then only will we be able to live according to the principles and standards set in the Word of God. When that happens, then our lives become a demonstration of our approval that the will of God is for us! This, I believe, is what the apostle Paul means by proving the will of God.
Let me put it this way: At least 3 things happen when our lives are transformed by the renewing of our minds:
In the first place, we will begin to enjoy living according to the Word of God! God has given us His Word as a spiritual boundary in which we can find true freedom. If we step out of the Word of God in our lives, we sin against God and we are taken bondage by sin.
The Law of God is like water to fish in a fish tank. When you look at fish confined in a fish tank it may seem very restricted. How to give freedom to the fish? Take it out and leave it on the table. Well, it is now not restricted by any boundaries any more. But what will happen to the fish? It will die.
So too God has given us the Law of God that we may dwell in freedom therein. The Ten Commandments is like a ten-sided aquarium for us to dwell in.
Now, as long as we are not transformed by the renewing of our minds, we will find the law of God grievous.
We will be like toads which hate water. A little water is alright for the toad, but it prefers dry land.
We will be like the man I spoke to who left the faith because he found Christianity too restrictive, having too many dos and don’ts.
Oh, if only we will be transformed by the renewing of our mind, we will not just be toads but fish in the water of the Word of God. We will find the law of God not grievous (1 Jn 5:2-3). Indeed, we will find our lives most happy when we are walking in the will of God.
In this way we will prove to ourselves that the will of God is good, acceptable and perfect.
But in the second place, when our lives are transformed by the renewing of our minds, then others observing us will praise the Lord for His wisdom—for if we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, then our lives will be living epistles of recommendation for the gospel.
If your life brings shame or blaspheme the name of God, there can be no other reason, but that you have not been transformed by the renewing of your mind!
But if you are living as a Christian should live, oh what a powerful witness for Christ you will be, and what a tremendous testimony you will be to the world that the will of God is good and acceptable and perfect!
Experience has shown us has it not, that more people are led to Christ by godly lives rather than by tracts or by evangelistic talks.
Oh beloved youths, will you not be an epistle for Christ by living a life transformed by the renewing of your minds? Would to God that the EPC be a magnet to draw in the sheep and lambs that Christ laid down His life to purchase.
But now in the third place, when our lives are transformed by the renewing of our minds, then our lives will most greatly glorify God by acknowledging to God that His will is indeed good and acceptable and perfect.
When we live transformed lives, we are saying by our lives: Lord, thy Word is good for me. No other way is better. And thy Word is acceptable, well-pleasing to me. It is not grievous to me to live after it.
I do not consider living the Christian life a sacrifice any more, for I find my heart beating according to Thy heartbeat. Indeed, Thy Word is perfect. I know it to be perfect now not only because Thy Word says it, but because I have tasted it and proven it. We have come a full circle.
It is the best way! Oh how greatly is God and Christ glorified when the vessels of His mercy exclaim with their lives and words that God is God and His will, good, and acceptable and perfect!
Dearly beloved brethren, what will you do with these things?
Will you not take heed to the apostle Paul:
… be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
1. Will you not examine how you have allowed yourself to be moulded by the fashions, expectations and principles of this world? Will you not repent of them? Will you not ask the Lord to wash you of these things by His Word and Spirit and remould you to be the kind of person He wants you to be?
2. Will you not begin hence forth to seek to know the Word of God well that your lives may be transformed by the renewing of your mind?
Oh do not continue to live that mundane, earthly, routine, beggarly Christian life. It ought not to be the case! You can live a heavenly Christian life even here on earth!
3. But finally, dearly beloved youths, will you not begin to pay more attention to the Word? Despise not prophesying. And be a doer of the Word!
May the Lord grant that you will not continue to be like caterpillars of the faith! Oh be the butterflies of the faith! For though you are yet a pupa in absolute terms in that you are being transformed by the Lord day by day, yet you can enjoy being a butterfly by faith—for eternal life is knowing God in Christ. We can know Him and enjoy Him today, and in so doing prove that His will is the best way while bearing forth a bright testimony for Christ in this world and the world to come. Amen.