Test and approve the will of God

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don-fanningBy Don Fanning

Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God– what is good and well-pleasing and perfect (Rom 12:2).

When someone accepts Christ as their Savior, Paul wrote that they “become a new creature” (2 Cor 5:17), which is true, at least inwardly. This new Spirit regenerated inner live in our soul from the abiding presence of the Spirit now seeks to “work out your salvation” (Phil 2:12) from the inside out.

Paul had described the concept of salvation by faith and the undeserved grace and mercy of God that has been granted to the believer (Romans 1-11). On this basis (“therefore”) Paul “urged” (parakaleo, present tense: “continually exhorted”) his readers to “present [their] bodies” (paristano, aorist infinitive, “to place before” as an offering), which implies an imperative sense following the verb parakaleo, “to exhort” (Rom 12:1). Thus, the believer is commanded to give over the control and direction of their bodies as a “living sacrifice” to God as an act of “reasonable service” or “logical worship” (latreia, from which we get the liturgy of worship) as a logical response to God’s unconditional mercy and grace.

What does this mean in a practical sense? Paul now explains the meaning of self-sacrificing worship as the believer commits himself “cease or stop being conformed to this present world.” The body is attracted to sin, but the mind makes the choices that mark our life’s direction.  We either commit ourselves to obedience to His commands or yield to sensual pleasures to live in disobedience and unholiness.

The command to “stop being conformed” (suschematizo, “to fashion alike, follow the same pattern”) refers to an outward expression that hides what is within. The verb is in the passive form, meaning that we are to stop allowing the world pattern to force us into its mold or lifestyle. Some Christians like to appear worldly. Approval by the world is more important to them than being approved by Christ.

On the contrary, the solution is to “be continually being transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The word for “transformed” (metamorphoo, “an invisible process within a person, which eventually becomes external or evident without”) was used to describe the transfiguration of Jesus when He revealed His inner nature to His disciples (Matt 17:2). This verb likewise is in the passive form meaning that the Spirit, who does the transforming, works in our lives “by the renewing of the mind” (noos, “the control center of one’s attitudes, thoughts, feelings and motivations”). This happens when we “let the Word of Christ richly dwell within [us], with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another” (Col 3:16).

As we saturate our mind with His Word in its wisdom and practical commands, surrendering our will to His direction, we can “test and approve what is the will of God.” When our mind is transformed, our thinking process, moral reasoning and spiritual understanding evaluates everything according to the will of God, only approving what is “good and acceptable and perfect” to Him. It begins with knowledge of His commands and our commitment to practice them. Are you with Him in all He says or against Him?

Psalm 119:66, “Teach me good judgment and knowledge. For I believe Your commandments.”

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