"IF ANY MAN WILL DO. . . HE SHALL KNOW”
I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
There are some necessary prerequisites if you are to come to know the voice of God. A prerequisite is something you must do before you can do something else. It is something required before you are able to reach a certain goal.
If any man will do His will, He shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (John 7:17)
I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)
Sin separates you from God's presence. Because of sin, you have difficulty hearing and responding positively to the voice of God.
In the natural world you do not recognize the voice of a stranger. You recognize voices of those you know and with whom you have developed a relationship. The same is true in the spiritual world. If you are to come to know God's voice, you must first come to know God and you cannot develop an intimate relationship with Him with sin in your life.
Romans 12:1 requires that YOU make the move towards God by giving your life to Him.
God has already spoken through His written Word and revealed it is His will for you to develop such a relationship:
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)
God does not want you to spend your life in sin. He wants you to live it according to His plan:
That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. (I Peter 4:2)
God is pictured standing at the door of your life desiring entrance so He can develop a relationship with you:
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
God's stated purpose from the beginning of the world was to bring all men into the knowledge of Christ Jesus:
Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him. (Ephesians 1:9-10)
You are "gathered into Christ" by becoming part of the family of God. Just as you are born into a natural family, you must be "born again" spiritually into this spiritual family.
Read John chapter 3. This chapter explains in detail what it means to be born-again. To experience the new birth you must:
Acknowledge you are a sinner:
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
Recognize the penalty of sin is death:
God warned Adam and Eve that if they sinned, they would die. This meant both spiritual death (separation from God's presence) and physical death. When Jesus died on the cross He died in your place. He died for your sins so you could have everlasting life:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
If you accept His sacrifice for sin, you are no longer under the penalty of death.
Confess your sins, ask forgiveness, and believe that Jesus died for you:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:8-9)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
When you present your life to God in this manner, you are "born-again" spiritually:
Therefore, if any man be in Christ He a new creature; old things have passed away; Behold, all things are become new. (II Corinthians 5:17)
When you are born again you become part of God's spiritual family. You are no longer separated from the presence of God. When you die physically, you will live eternally with Him.
You have established a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. You have heard and responded to the truth of the Gospel. You are now in a position to learn how to recognize God's voice:
. . . Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. (John 18:37)
INDWELLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
There is another prerequisite that will help you come to know God's voice. The Bible speaks of an experience called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This experience results in the Holy Spirit dwelling in your life and empowering you to live a holy life which is acceptable to God.
The ministries of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer are numerous.
One of the most important ministries of the indwelling Holy Spirit is to guide the believer into God's will:
When He, the Spirit of truth is come (the Holy Spirit), He will guide you into all truth. . . and He will show you things to come and He shall receive of mine (God's will) and show it to you. (John 16:13-14)
The Bible says:
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
There is a definite relationship between being a child of God (born again) and being led by the Holy Spirit. The natural man (who is not born-again) does not receive and follow guidance of the Holy Spirit. Because he has not become a "spiritual man" through the new birth experience, He does not recognize the voice of God:
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (I Corinthians 2:14 )
The following examples from the book of Acts demonstrate the leading of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers:
A church deacon by the name of Philip was led by the Spirit to join a chariot he saw on a desert road to Gaza:
Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near and join thyself to this chariot. (Acts 8:29)
Philip obeyed the leading of the Holy Spirit. This resulted in the salvation and water baptism of an Ethiopian man who was riding in the chariot.
Peter was told by the Holy Spirit to go with three men who came from Caesarea. Peter said:
And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. (Acts 11:12)
Peter recognized the leading of the Holy Spirit. He had no doubts when the Spirit spoke in his inner being and revealed God's will to him. He obeyed and it resulted in the first cross-cultural ministry to the Gentiles.
Paul often changed his evangelistic schedule at the prompting of the Holy Spirit:
After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia; but the Spirit suffered them not. (Acts 16:7)
Paul planned to go to Mysia, but the Holy Spirit gave him different directions.
These three examples are just a few of many in the Bible which illustrate how the Holy Spirit enables you to hear God’s voice. As Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit takes the will of God and reveals it to you.
And be not conformed to this world. . . (Romans 12:2)
In the natural world when a baby is born he must attain a certain level of maturity before he begins to recognize the voice of his parents. The same is true in the spiritual world.
When you are first born again you may not be able to recognize the voice of God when He speaks to you. When you first receive the Holy Spirit you may not always understand when the Spirit reveals God's will to you. But the Holy Spirit will continue to reveal God's will and guide you. As you mature spiritually, you will come to recognize this voice within your spirit.
The Bible speaks of this parallel between the natural and spiritual:
For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: For he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:13-14)
The "milk" and "meat" mentioned in these verses refer to the written Word of God, the King James Bible. When you are first born again you start learning some of the simple truths (milk) of the written Word of God. As you mature, you are able to master the deeper truths (meat) of the Word of God.
As you continue to study God's written Word, your spiritual senses will mature. You will be able to exercise them to discern good and evil. This means you will be able to distinguish God's will and His way from the wrong ways of life. This is why it is important for you to study God's written Word.
As you mature spiritually, you will no longer "conform" to the world. To be conformed means to be fashioned or shaped according to a set standard. Spiritual maturity will conform you to the image of Christ rather than the image of worldly standards.
Spiritual maturity also helps you achieve emotional maturity. If you lack emotional maturity, important decisions may be made in a fit of anger or self-pity. This can have disastrous long-range results.
As you mature spiritually you will develop the "Fruit of the Holy Spirit," evidences of spiritual maturity that result in emotional maturity:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
. . . But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. . . (Romans 12:2)
Spiritual maturity leads finally to transformation, another prerequisite that enables you to know the voice of God. What natural man (human nature) desires to do and what God desires for your life is different. This creates a conflict between the flesh (natural man) and the spirit (spiritual man).
Paul wrote of this conflict:
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things ye would. (Galatians 5:17)
Paul recognized there is a continuing struggle of the flesh against the Spirit in matters relating to the fulfilling of God's will. He identified this struggle as taking place in the mind:
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. (Romans 7:23)
Because of this he urged:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
The word "beseech" means to plead, implore, or beg. The phrase "present your bodies a living sacrifice" indicates an unreserved surrender to God.
To offer something for a sacrifice means to give it up completely. In the Old Testament when a sacrifice was made, it was given completely to God to be burned with fire, consumed by the priest, or both, as the law indicated. The giver of the sacrifice had no further claim to it.
So must be our surrender to God. The natural man, the old self nature must die to the world and the flesh. This is what is meant by "transformation." It is being changed into another image patterned after the Lord Jesus Christ:
I am crucified with Christ. (Galatians 2:20)
They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh. (Galatians 5:24)
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (I Corinthians 9:27)
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. (Romans 6:12)
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 7:1)
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin. (Romans 6:11)
Actual physical crucifixion, as Jesus experienced, is an unnatural death. There is significance in the fact that the death prescribed for the self-nature is crucifixion. The fleshly nature of man will never die a natural death. It will not die voluntarily. It must be put to death by force just as in actual crucifixion in the natural world.
According to Romans 12:1-2, such surrender precedes the knowledge of God's will. If you want to know God's voice and His will, you must first surrender. We often want to reverse the process. We want to know His will, then decide if we will surrender to it. But Romans 12:1-2 indicates surrender comes first.
The reason we are hesitant about surrender is because we do not understand God's will is always acceptable, good, and perfect. We are afraid to surrender to God totally because we have not grasped this basic concept:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11)
RENEWING YOUR MIND
Your mind is naturally conformed to the principles of the world around you. It happens because of your basic sin nature. It also happens through the influence of your culture.
But God says you are not to conform to the world but to be transformed. The word "transform" means to be changed or into a new image. The pattern for that image is the Lord Jesus Christ:
But we all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:18)
According to Romans 12:2, transformation comes through renewing your mind. This means you must get rid of worldly standards and principles and conform to the principles revealed in God's written Word.
Your mind is transformed as you develop the mind of Christ:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)
The word "let" indicates that you have to make a choice in order to have the mind of Christ. You must permit the transformation of the mind to happen. You have a responsibility in development of the transformed mind. It is not something done automatically for you by God:
Wherefore (YOU) gird up the loins of your mind. (I Peter 1:13)
To "gird up" the mind means to clothe or protect your mental powers. To transform or gird up the mind, it is necessary to immerse it in the Word of God. Search the King James Bible to discover what type of mind was in Christ.
Your mind is transformed as God puts His laws into it:
. . . I will put my laws into their mind. (Hebrews 8:10)
Use the power of the mind to cast down and bring into captivity wrong thoughts:
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (II Corinthians 10:5)
You have the responsibility to control your thought life:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there by any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Then you can say with Paul:
But we have the mind of Christ. (I Corinthians 2:6)
The mind of Christ was set and determined to do the will of God.
PROVING GOD’S WILL
The new birth experience, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, spiritual maturity, and transformation of the mind--how do these relate to knowing God's will? According to Romans 12:1-2 they are prerequisites leading to knowledge of His will:
. . . that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)
The word "prove" means to determine, confirm, and be sure of something. These prerequisites lead to assurance of the will of God.
But what exactly is meant by the "will of God"? And what are the "good, perfect, and acceptable" wills of God? Why is it important to "prove" or determine God's will?
The Scriptures indicate believers are NOT to have minds that are:
Hardened: Daniel 5:20
Reprobate: Romans 1:28
Carnal: Romans 8:6
Doubtful: Luke 12:29
Blinded: II Corinthians 3:14; 4:14
Corrupted: II Corinthians 11:3
Fleshly: Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 2:18
Vain: Ephesians 4:17
Earthly: Philippians 3:19
Alienated by wicked works: Colossians 1:21
Double minded: James 1:8; 4:8
Defiled: Titus 1:15
The Bible indicates the transformed mind of believers should be:
Spiritual: Romans 8:6
Ready: I Peter 5:2
Pure: II Peter 3:1
Stayed: Isaiah 26:3
Peaceful: Philippians 4:7
Renewed: Ephesians 4:23
Humble: Colossians 3:12
Sober: Titus 2:6
Sound: II Timothy 1:7
Loving: Matthew 22:37
Serving: Romans 7:25
Fully persuaded: Romans 14:5
United: I Peter 3:8; 4:1; Romans 15:6; I Corinthians 1:10
Honest and willing: I Chronicles 28:9
Disciplined to work: Nehemiah 4:6