Discerning the will of God

The will of God isn’t an itinerary to follow after spending years trying to discover it. It isn’t a blueprint of a plan which tells you what to do and where to go. If only God would tell me? Why doesn’t he tell me? He tells everyone else but me? These can be destructive thoughts. It is so much more than that.

After you have built your life around love and sacrifice; after you have been transformed by renewing your mind, “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12 v 2b)

Here is my prayer:

Lord, I need to know your ways. I need to know what is from you and what is from man. I need to know the counterfeit. I need discernment.

I desire wisdom in dealing with people. In my listening and in my speaking I need to not fail. I don’t search for wisdom of my mind only, I do need to grow there in my intellect. But this is a wisdom of my spirit that I seek.

There are days when I walk with what seems to be a flickering candle. Today I ask for more than a candle. I ask for divine beams of revelation so that I may know you more in all that I do. Lead me from the shallow end where the deep calls to deep. Let my words become far more significant. Words are just words. Yet words that are illuminated, that come from the place of wisdom and revelation carry so much more weight. I want my spirit, soul, mind and strength to be in my words. I want my words to move people.

Break me so that I no longer love the dark or the candle. Break into me so that the shekinah fills every part of me. I seek no idolatrous God-shaped substitutes. I seek the glory of You that cuts and burns and melts and removes all strange fire within me. I was made for your good, for your pleasing and for your perfect will.

A prayer for my mind

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12 v 2)

For the word transformed, Paul uses the word from which we get metamorphosis. Transformation doesn’t lead to death any more than a cocoon leads to the death of the caterpillar. It is, instead, the beginning of life. It is an entrance into the kind of life that God wills for us. So here is my prayer this morning:

Lord, renew my mind. It is the area that becomes the playground for so many negative thoughts. Be my Saviour in that place. Save me from every anxious thought. These are not my thoughts, they come from the enemy, I must take hold of them and stop their destructive pathway. Saviour, save me. My hope is in you. My future is in you. I was saved, I am saved and I will be saved in the future.

Be different

We don’t have to fit in. In fact we are called not to do so.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world …” (Romans 12 v 2)

I love the Message’s take on this: Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. 

The pattern of this world is the world of Paul’s generation but it is also our world of 2022.

‘World’ is not the cosmos but ‘age’, the pattern, the thoughts, the opinions, the agenda in the lives of rulers and the ruled in 2022 or whatever year it is. It is the spiritual atmosphere. Do we know the age we live in?

I see 3 dangers in this age.

There is a war for voice of truth. What is truth amidst all the fake news that is given to people to believe? What is truth amidst man’s rhetoric, boasting and lies?

There is a war for the foothold of politics. I see enemies of anger, judgment and bitterness camped on our lives. I see destructive arguments in social media posts even from within God’s church. Love is swamped by hate.

There is a war over entitlement. Everyone is grabbing what is supposedly theirs. Demands are rising. I don’t see self-sacrifice. I don’t see generosity.

This is the age. Paul says do not conform to this pattern. Be different.

Where there is falsehood speak truth.

Where there is hate show love.

Where there is selfishness give generously.

Be different.

Love and Sacrifice

After 11 chapters of amazing truth regarding the mercy of God Paul moves into the latter part of his letter which contains instructions for living out what he has taught them:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12 v 1)

My first ever sermon was on Saturday 3rd September 1988, it was entitled ‘Knowing God’s will and my verses were Romans 12: 1-2. I still have it. It’s not good!

Over the next 34 years I am still learning what it means to be a living sacrifice. Here are 8 areas I try to offer my body in sacrifice to God. It is my life’s ambition and work to:-

Sacrifice power and control and take up submission

Sacrifice freedom and take up responsibility

Sacrifice gain for what I can give.

Sacrifice immediate fulfilment for what will be a lasting achievement.

Sacrifice desire for praise from men for the approval of God.

Sacrifice the desire to be served in order to serve.

Sacrifice self-gratification for self-control

Sacrifice the need to run ahead for the acceptance of patience.

Why do we offer our bodies as living sacrifices each day to God?

It is because of all Paul has taught us previously. A reminder this morning:-

God doesn’t get it wrong in His dealings with me: He will never fail me. (Chapter 3)

God removes the barrier of sin and I am declared innocent by Him and for Him, I am justified (Chapter 5)

Whatever happens today from the moment I rise it is all because of His grace to look upon me, bless me, love me, favour me and He does that through every single thing around me. (Chapter 5)

The Spirit has freedom to move in my life, to breathe, grow and bear fruit. (Chapter 7)

I therefore focus on being and the Spirit focuses on the doing. (Chapter 7)

His adoption scheme brought me into His family and to be that child of God (Chapter 8)

I am not isolated in any suffering I endure for the Spirit inwardly groans and intercedes for me. (Chapter 8)

Not one condition can ever separate the love of Christ from me. (Chapter 8)

What do we do? Sacrifice

Why? Love

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Sunday small thought: He is Great!

God does not need anything from us in order to be who He is.

“For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11 v 36)

He is the cause of all things (from Him); He is the channel of all things (through Him); He is the goal of all things (and to Him).

Today pause and see the greatness of God; let this great God flow through you; and move in that greatness towards Him in worship in everything you do.

Does anyone know the total weight of every mountain and hill in the world?

Do you know of anyone? Do you know?

That’s the context for 2 of the 3 questions Paul poses in his doxology and taken from Isaiah 40:12-13.

“Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” (Romans 11: 34-35)

How much do all the mountains and hills weigh? The estimate weight of the highest mountain, Everest, is estimated at 357 trillion pounds. So people do try and answer the question but they cannot be definitive enough, no one knows.  

Paul quotes from Isaiah because he wants to show that the salvation plan of Christ is beyond understanding. How can the Jews be saved? How can the Gentiles be reached? How can your ‘Israel’ your family turn to Christ? It may look impossible for you. The context Paul reaches into is that of Israel being exiled in Babylon losing hope because of the force of this nation. God speaks through Isaiah to say that the nations are small in the hands of God.

God is not a glorified man. He is not a better man than us. He is above and beyond us.

The 3rd questions appears to be from Job 41:11 where in the setting around the sea-serpent known as Leviathan who no one can master, God shows that He does exactly that. He doesn’t need any help from us. We cannot give Him any resources for anything that He needs. He is self-sufficient. Therefore, God owes us nothing! It doesn’t matter how good we can be in order to get something from God it will not work. He will not be moved by any bargaining tool we use. We must understand His grace. His grace to save Jew, Gentile, our ‘Isreal’!

We don’t know enough to explain God.

We don’t understand or can interpret enough to tell God what to do.

We have not done enough for God to seek our advice.

The day you know the answer to the weight of every mountain and hill in the world is the day this may change.

All we can do is worship!

There are times when we need to stop talking and just worship.

In this conclusion to the previous few chapters regarding the salvation plan for the Gentiles and Jews whilst this revelation is clear, God loves and God reaches His lost creation; what is beyond us is why and how and when?

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11 v 33)

When we cross into the eternal place I am quite sure we will find out we got a lot wrong regarding our deductions of how God thinks and His ways.

We do need to sit more and simply stay worshipping on 2 words that are very similar in meaning which the Message describes as “Way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.”

How often are we worshipping what we have deducted and reduced in size to our understanding, thanking God for the detailed strategic plan that we have understood. Compared to worshipping Him for who He is because we cannot understand what He has done.

We need to spend more time looking at starry skies just for the wonder of it all.

And we need to spend more time worshipping for the sheer wonder of Him who has put it all together, holds it all together and brings it all back together.

Sometimes there are no words

All we have at times is a reaction and not the words.

Some days all I have is a response or a reaction and I have words but they aren’t the right ones! Those times perhaps it is best not to say anything!

Having taught some of the most amazing truths about grace, assurance of future salvation and the grafting back into God’s purposes it seems Paul runs out of words before he launches into a most wonderful doxology.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom andknowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?”“Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?”For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11 v 33-36)

Oh

The doxology starts with an exclamation mark, it is the oh: there are strong feelings behind this 2 letter word, an indicator of a response of high volume, of shouting and raising your voice.
It is indescribable. It is inexpressible. There are not enough words but it is more than that. There are not the right words. So this truth of Christ’s salvation for all is unutterable, unexplainable and incomprehensible. Of the over 6,500 languages in the world, it is the same. Could we find words in Arabic that best describe this? No. Or Mandarin Chinese or Japanese? No. It is impossible. It sits in a whole new undiscoverable language. It is lavish but it is more than that. It is unbeatable because it is everything …Oh! That’s what the message of Jesus does to a person.

Your calling and gifting are not a mistake!

As we continue in this journey there are moments when we wonder if there has been a mistake made not by us (we know that to be true), not by man (we have experienced many of those as well) but by God.

“As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may nowreceive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” (Romans 11 v 28-32)

In order to defend his position that ‘Israel will be saved’ Paul says what has become an all-comforting verse: God’s gifts and God’s call are under full warranty – never cancelled, never rescinded.” (Message)

Now if that be true for Israel then surely it is also true for you and me.

How often do we look in the mirror and question whether God got it right when He chose us and gave to us His gifts!

We know the mistakes we have made. Some have made public mistakes and the whole world seems to be talking about those misdemeanours.

If you or others do the last rites over your gifts and call it doesn’t mean God has.

Yes there are times when we need to take time out to reflect and learn lessons and get better etc. But we don’t write off our life and become something we were never called to be.

God doesn’t get things wrong even if we spoil His plans for our lives. The calling is still there. The gifting is still there. Through His grace and mercy we can find a way to step back into what is irrevocable for our lives. We may carry the scars and we may walk differently but we are still here because our calling and gifting was not a mistake.

The future of Israel

In all honesty I think I could have done better in my life in thinking and praying for the Jews.

Paul is bringing us to the climax of what he has been teaching by revealing the mystery.

The grafting into the Olive tree or back into the tree with regards the Jews, holds a mystery (hidden in the past but now revealed). It is this: Israelis hardened in part; until the full number of Gentiles have come in; and so all Israel will be saved.

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this wayall Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this ismy covenant with them when I take away their sins.”(Romans 11 v 25-27)

“All Israel will be saved.” This is a powerful statement from Paul. But what does it mean?

“All Israel will be saved.” Not every single Jew will be saved but enough representatives to be able to use the word ‘all’.

“All Israel will be saved.” This is not without the gospel of Jesus Christ and faith in Him for this is how everyone comes to God.

“All Israel will be saved.” The Church then has not replaced the Jews in the plan of God.

“All Israel will be saved.” It doesn’t mean I hold to blind allegiance with the Jews so that the Arabs get not even a thought of concern.

“All Israel will be saved.” If ‘zion’ is a heavenly zion as is used elsewhere in the New Testament (Galatians 4:16; Hebrews 12:22) then Israel’s salvation will come as a deliverer from heaven, so that is Jesus on His return who will bring in a revival amongst the Jews.