Romans 12:1-8: Knowing and Doing God’s Will
March 19, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Deuteronomy 13-17, Psalm 66, Matthew 27:1-10, Romans 12:1-8
When we ask ourselves how it is that we can follow God, we are really asking three interlocking questions: why should we obey God, what does God want us to obey, and then how do we obey God? In these very practical and important first eight verses of chapter 12 of Paul’s letter to the Romans, there is an answer to each of those questions about obeying God.
First: why should we obey God? The answer to that is the gospel. Paul says that “therefore” (referring back to all that he has argued in the first eleven chapters of the Book of Romans), or “in view of God’s mercy” (that is, considering what God has done for us in the gospel), therefore, we are to offer our whole selves as living sacrifices. This has several significant ramifications. If someone is not motivated to obey God, then it may well be that they either do not understand the gospel or they are not living in view of, in consideration of, that gospel. It also means that if we wish to motivate ourselves and other people to obey God, then the way to do it is to bring into view, into consideration, and into powerful presence the message of the gospel.
The second question these verses answer is: what does God want us to obey? The answer to that is we discover God’s will for our lives as our minds are brought into line with God’s Word. We are not to conform to the pattern of this world—the culture and tradition and the basic common ideas of the people around us—but instead are to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” When our mind is renewed through God’s Word and by the Spirit, then we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is. So, if we are wondering what it is that God wants us to do, the first thing we are to do is to look into what the Bible says. And then we are to ask that God would give us a taste for, a desire for, a preference for, a longing for, that which the Bible teaches about what God wants. The more we are in the Scripture and the more our minds are brought into line with the Bible, the more we will be able to sense what God wants us to do in various situations in our lives.
The third question—how do we obey God?—is perhaps though the most important. And Paul’s answer to that is twofold. First, a faith-filled humility. And second, a graced community. To be enabled to do what God wants, we need to have the kind of humility that comes from comparing ourselves to the standard of faith. That is, we realize that nothing we have done has earned us a place in heaven, and therefore we are humbled by that realization—that we are saved only by faith—and this allows us to not be prideful but humble, and so be enabled to do what is right. But the second way is also important: a graced community. These gifts of grace that Christ has given his people are to be exercised in the community of the church in relationship with one another and in humble service of each other for the sake of the cause of the kingdom of God.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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