As Shoreline Covenant comes to the moment of decision, the phrase “the will of God” will be increasingly heard. For two years now SCC has been praying for “guidance” and “wisdom” and “discernment” that God’s will be done in the matter of calling a new pastor. Christians don’t use tarot cards, 8-balls, fortune cookies, or astrology to discern the will of God. Even if these things did reveal some kind of divine message, they require nothing of us, no commitment, no journey, no transformation. In fact they do not even require compliance.
The Apostle Paul gives the church of Rome some help with how to discern the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. There are three commands that are prelude and prerequisite to knowing God’s will; present your bodies as living sacrifices (this is worship), do not be conformed to this world, and be transformed by the renewing of your mind. When these are being done, then comes the “so that…” – so that you may discern what is the will of God.
Let’s start with “Present your bodies as living sacrifices.” I bet that when you became a Christian you didn’t pray, “Jesus I give my body to you!” Probably you prayed “come into my heart, I give you my heart Lord Jesus.” Paul declares that God wants all of our self, not just our heart. He is imagining a bull on the altar, the entire sacrifice is given to God. Ruth once said she might be a living sacrifice but she keeps crawling off the altar! It is the surrender of one’s whole life to the Lord.
Second, be not conformed to this world. We are constantly enculturated by the world around us. We absorb the ethos and mores of our culture just by living and breathing. Much of it is assuredly not from the Kingdom. We are warned to not love the world (I John 2:15). How do we break out of this? “Set your mind on things above” (Col. 3:2).
Thirdly, be renewed in mind. As we read the Word of God, know it, absorb it, pray though it, study it, memorize it, hear it, we are being Reformed and Transformed and so we are less Conformed to the world around us. As the Spirit breaths life and power into us through the Word we are transformed, Paul says, the transformation begins in the mind. “As one thinks in his heart, so is that person” (Prov. 23:7). This transformation moves from ego to humility, from asking “what do I want” to “What is the will of God”, from “how do I flourish” to “what is the service God asks of me”, from “how do I find meaning” to “what does God mean”, from “how do I achieve satisfaction”-I don’t get no satisfaction- , to “how do I please God: and from “what is pleasurable” to “what is ultimately desirable”…
And now, after “steps” 1,2 and 3, the church is ready to discern the will of God. Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”