Thesis:The ability to live out the pleasure of God is directly linked to one's voluntary submission of one's body to God as a "living sacrifice".
Introduction:In our studies to date in respect to the issue of Romans 12:1-2, we have seen that Paul urges a commitment to God, rooted in the understanding of His mercies, that, in a most fundamental way, takes one into a "hands off" approach to living. However, in a direct contrast to our general understanding of that "hands off" approach (wherein we seek only to do the will of God), Paul urges an intense "hands on" involvement in the process: we are to deliberately refuse to be pushed into the "position" that "this age" has taken in regard to deciding what is valuable and what is true, and we are to deliberately subject our minds to the processes of "renewal" so that we may actually be "living sacrifices".
This evening we are going to look into what Paul's goal was in his summons. It was his desire that his readers be able to "prove what is the will of God". We are going to look into what is involved and why that was Paul's goal.
I. The Larger Issues.
A. Immediately following this exhortation, Paul cautions his readers against pride (12:3).
B. Immediately after that caution, he launches into an extended set of instructions on how to plug into God's "will" (12:4-8).
C. Thus, we have to see the principles involved in 12:1-2 as preparatory to "larger issues".
1. It is crucial beyond imagining for the people of God to know how to get beyond pride because it is a fundamental principle of the Word of God that He opposes the proud and nothing that is rooted in pride will survive His eventual and final scrutiny.
2. It is also crucial beyond understanding for the people of God to know how to get into the process of being an instrument of God for the building up of His people because that is going to be the standard of judgment in the Day of His final scrutiny (1 Peter 4:10).
II. The Declaration of "Possibility".
A. Paul declared that the result of a "hands off/hands on" approach would be the ability to "prove" what is the will of God.
1. The meaning of Paul's words begins with the word "prove".
a. The word is variously used around a common notion.
1) The common notion is a process of three major elements.
a) There is the "element" of setting up a standard for decision-making.
i. Paul revealed this element in Romans 1:28 where he used the word to indicate that the people had set up their "standard": a "Godless" mentality.
ii. He also revealed this element in 2:18 where he used the word to indicate that the people had set up their "standard": what the Law instructed.
b) There is the "element" of subjecting a matter to that standard so that one may decide what will be done about it (14:22).
c) There is the "element" of acting according to the decision made so that the standard is made obvious (2 Corinthians 8:8).
2) The particular meaning has to be determined by the context.
b. In Paul's context, there are the "larger issues" which would not be necessary if the people were already able to engage in the entire process.
1) At issue in every case of the word's use is a question: what ought to be done in this situation?
2) In Paul's context, it seems that he is making a promise that the answers to this question in the daily unfolding of life will come out of the commitment and follow-through of his summons.
2. The meaning of Paul's words involve his concept of "the will of God".
a. There are three issues involved in this "will of God" idea.
1) One of those issues is the reality that there is an upper tier of values in "the will of God" that will not be sacrificed in any case for any reason.
a) This is the immutable will of God that showed up in 9:19 that cannot be altered for both "love" and "integrity" reasons.
b) This is the foundation for all of Paul's arguments in chapters 9-11 where the issue is whether the revealed declarations of God's intentions are going to come to pass in history as He said.
2) One of those issues is the reality of a lower of tier of values that are either pursued or dropped according to how the various values fall in the tiers.
a) There is an innumerable host of things that are opposed to the character of God that He permits for a time because He is operating by a tiered set of values in respect to a fallen universe.
b) There is also a host of illustrations of things that please God that He "enforces" against the wicked because of the prayers of His people, whose values fall into line with His.
3) The third of these issues is the fact that Paul used the word "desire" for the "will" of God because it lends itself to the idea that God is very interested in making it possible for His people to learn how to discern what is "good, acceptable, and perfect" without saying that God is going to force the issue.
a) A very large aspect of true Life is found in the ability of human beings to "choose" to do what pleases God in a context where the world, flesh, and devil are militantly opposed.
b) But the "choosing" must be out of "love" for it to be a legitimate part of Life, so God permits alternative choices.
c) Philippians 1:9-10 indicate that the ability to grow into this ability is both real and a process.
b. The "will of God" in this context is "what God would have His child do in view of his current circumstances and the choices that stand before him.
1) To answer that question, one must understand what is "good", what is "acceptable", and what is "perfect".
2) Once those questions are answered, the choice can be made with confidence.
B. The "possibility" becomes a "promised reality" by virtue of the initial presentation and the daily follow-through.