Read or listen to Romans 12
Read or listen to Luke 10:25-37
Read or listen to Philippians 2:12-18
Have you ever noticed that Jesus does not always answer the question asked? An expert in the law asked Jesus, “Well, who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, but does this parable tell us who are neighbor is? No, it demonstrates what a neighbor should be and then challenges us to go and do likewise.
The teacher of the law was looking for some geographical, or more likely, some socio-ecomic boundaries as to who his neighbor was. After all, a man of such prominence should be able to serve and worship God without having to deal with undesirable people. Surely Jesus meant that he could love the other legal experts, Pharisees, rich land owners, and people with indoor swimming pools while avoiding beggars, lepers, and the whole lot of undesirables that surely were not going to get into God’s Kingdom anyway.
But Jesus used the example of a Samaritan—a race of people hated by the Jews. It might have taken 12 years to learn the commandments and major teachings of the law, but Jewish kids were taught early on to hate the Samaritans. Hate doesn’t need a rational basis to thrive. Actually, it does better without logic and reason.
But Jesus exemplified the love, compassion, mercy, unselfishness, and perseverance of the Samaritan and told the expert in the law to go and do likewise.
It is a lesson that many of us have learned. Be careful what you ask God for he will answer.
Sometimes it seems as if so many are waiting around for God to reveal his will. People want instructions. That’s not exactly true. People want instruction from God that fit within their comfort zones.
God loves you just the way you are—flawed, struggling, wrestling with issues of this world, wrestling with issues of faith and future, in shape or out of shape—God loves you.
But he loves you too much just to leave you that way. God loves you too much to leave you in your comfort zone. He wants you in his comfort zone, and that may be a little uncomfortable for us, at least at first.
But what is God’s will for my life?
What is it?
Let us once more look at the Confession of Faith.
1.08 God’s will for people and all creation is altogether wise and good. Although revealed in the scriptures and in the events of nature and history, God’s will is made known supremely in the person of Jesus Christ, who did God’s will even to death.
1.09 God’s will is sufficiently disclosed for persons to respond to it in worship, love, and service, yet they should hold in reverence and wonder the mystery of divine ways.
The confession says that God’s will for us and for all creation is good, it is sufficiently revealed so that we may respond, and it is supremely known in Jesus Christ, who did God’s will to the death.
While much is disclosed to us, we should still wonder at the divineness of God and the mystery of divine ways.
We live between mystery and revelation.
We live with enough of God’s will revealed to us that we can live as he desires humankind to live, but allowing for plenty of room for personal instructions.
What has been revealed?
Some is pretty basic, but straightforward.
Love each other.
Be a neighbor.
Proclaim the good news of life in Christ.
In fact, we are told that in everything we do, we are to work as if we are working for the Lord.
So we are supposed to do good things and work at everything as if God was right there. But doesn’t God have special plans for me? We long to hear Jeremiah reveal God’s plans. I know the plans I have for you.
We long for the good plans that God has for us. But we want to know what they are.
When Paul wrote to the Romans, he explained that God’s will for us was to give up living for the world and to live for Jesus. We were to set aside the ways of the world that want to shape us into the world’s image and hunger for the pattern of God’s Kingdom so we can be made in the image and likeness of Jesus.
And square one in this process is the renewing of our minds. We do this in many ways.
Bible reading is surely one of them.
Prayer with ample time for listening to God’s own Spirit is another.
And by the renewing of the mind which accounts for the two previous practices as well as examining and holding captive every thought contrary to God’s will.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Paul is telling us that on a day-to-day and maybe even on a moment-to-moment basis, we are to examine our thoughts. Those that are evil, or reckless, or rebellious must be taken captive.
We seem to look externally a whole bunch for God’s will, but perhaps it is being formulated in our minds on a continual basis. If we would just hold captive the rebellious thoughts, we just might refine the resolution of God’s message to us. We might just start seeing his will for our life even more clearly than before.
But we are human.
Sometimes those rebellious thoughts resist arrest.
There is some wrestling to be done.
If you find yourself in a wrestling match with some rebellious thoughts, vulgar images, vengeful plans, or anything that is surely not what God intends for your life, remember this. Don’t play fair. Just as you know not to bring a knife to a gunfight, you don’t fight corruption on its own terms, especially in your own mind.
You bring the name of Jesus to bear on all unholy thoughts.
Some monks have been said to begin their days by uttering the words, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus until their minds are clear of any thought that might need to be held captive.
Sometimes when we are tempted by the ways of the world, it’s not because those ways are better. It’s because we have not completed the process of renewing our minds. Rebellious thoughts compete with holy thoughts and we think that we have gotten the sorry end of the stick as Christians.
Thoughts that would have us believe:
- Waking up with a hangover is better than waking up clear headed.
- Carrying around hatred for another person is empowering when it truly debilitates us.
- Putting others before ourselves is just insane, when we know that loving another person brings us to our clearest state of mind.
Paul tells us to renew our minds so that we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will is for us.
Some people consider God’s will too restrictive. They think that God is going to ask them to give up everything that is good.
Consider the ladder. It is very restrictive. Most are only a couple feet wide. What a narrow path to travel. But also consider that it takes you to places that you couldn’t otherwise go. It takes you to new heights.
Rebellious thoughts say, “It’s too restrictive.”
The truth says, “It will take you to new heights.”
God’s will takes you out of your comfort zone and brings you to his. Remember the first part of the Confession of Faith that we examined today.
1.08 God’s will for people and all creation is altogether wise and good.
Paul continues in the 12th chapter and reminds us that we have different gifts but we are all one body. It is God’s will that we use our gifts. We are not to go dig a hole in the ground and bury that with which we have been entrusted.
We are to use our gifts in proportion to our faith, to their fullest, generously, and cheerfully.
We are to choose good over evil, be full of zeal, spiritually on fire, joyful, hopeful, patient in our trials, and faithful in our prayers.
We are to show hospitality, bless those who persecute us, rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn, live in harmony with each other regardless of social status.
We are to break the mold that the world tries to put on us—that we repay evil with evil. We are to repay evil with good, and as much as we can, we are to live in peace with everyone.
God’s will for us is not to be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good.
And we read about our good deeds for those who hate us resulting in heaping coals on the heads of these people living for evil. And we think, “What a strange way to rid our hearts of vengeance?” Vengeance belongs to God alone but we can add to its intensity?
If we truly seek to understand God’s will, we will see that these acts of love, mercy, and kindness on our part heap coals on the heads of our oppressors not for vengeance sake but to bring those given over to evil to repentance.
For God desires none to perish and he desires that vengeance have no place in our hearts—even the hope of God taking vengeance for us.
Is God’s will for all of us not sufficiently revealed?
Our confession says that God’s will is sufficiently disclosed for us to respond to it in worship, love, and service. We already know enough of God’s will to worship, love, and serve.
But here is where we get a taste of God’s living presence. We still wonder at the mystery of God. There is more than has been revealed to us. We stand in awe of God’s divineness knowing that he may speak to us at any time in any way he chooses.
In the whisper of the wind.
At the potter’s house.
In a recurring vision.
In a still, small voice.
On the road to Damascus or to Hobart or to Watonga.
In a hymn or a melody.
In the voice of an angel.
In a sermon.
In a burning bush.
In a moment of silence.
In the instant of foregiveness.
God has revealed his will to us and we should expect his revelation to continue for we are his people.
We must continue reading our Bibles, paying special attention to the life and teachings of Jesus.
We must continue our dialogue with our divine Creator, giving him plenty of time to talk to us.
And we must recognize that if God never spoke another word to us, his will has been sufficiently revealed to us so that we may respond in worship, love, and service; but we should expect God to speak to us time and time again.
The more faithfully we renew our minds, the clearer his will for us will become.
The more we seek God, the more we understand his will for us.
A will that is good.
A will that is pleasing.
A will that is perfect.