How to Know God’s Will
Dr. Jim Denison
My first Bible was given to me by the Gideons on March 27, 1969, as I left my fifth grade class at Bonham Elementary in Houston. When I became a Christian four years later, I carried this Bible in the hip pocket of my jeans, which is why it is so tattered and torn today. But it is precious to me.
That Gideon had no idea his ministry would so influence my life, or that I would preach from this Bible today. He did God’s will for his life that day, and I will forever be grateful.
We are in the midst of our Heritage Month, celebrating God’s providence across our church’s history and finding ways to trust his plan for our personal lives. Last week we agreed that God has a plan for us, a plan better than any we could make or know.
Now we ask the second question: how do we know God’s plan, God’s will for us? I want to give you some brief convictions about the will of God, then we’ll explore our text together.
These are foundational principles:
God has a plan for your life, and it is good.
God wants you to know his will for your life; in fact, more than you do.
God’s word is his will. He will never act contrary to it.
God’s will is for today. No one in the Bible knows where he or she will be next year, but he or she always knows what he or she should do this day. God’s will is first and foremost for now.
Have you transferred ownership of your life to God?
Now, with this foundation in place, let’s decide if we are in the will of God, and if not, how to be. In Paul’s day, people used animals to worship God, to sacrifice to him, to be right with him. Today we don’t think in agricultural, but financial, terms. So let’s change the analogy to our culture.
To know if you’re in God’s will, here’s the first question to ask: have you transferred ownership of your life to God?
Our text begins: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (v. 1).
“In view of God’s mercy”—Paul said it well two verses earlier: “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” (11:35). God has given us life, and life eternal, this day, and every possession and ability which is ours. Remember his mercy.
Now, yield your life to him in gratitude. “Offer” is a technical term for making a sacrifice at the Temple.
How do we do this?
Make a total commitment. “Your bodies”—to the Hebrew, this meant all of life. They did not separate body and spirit the way the Greeks did. To them, the body stood for everything. Not just Sunday, but your time all week; not just a tenth or less of your money, but all of it, obedient to God; not just your ethics at church, but at work or school. Everything.
Make a daily commitment—”living sacrifices” means that we do this constantly. Not just when you became a Christian, or made a significant decision to follow God a few years ago, but today. In Luke 9:23, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” When did you last yield your life and will consciously to God?
Make a sacrificial commitment—”sacrifices” is just as true for us as for them. In Acts 14.22, Paul said, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” It will always cost you to follow Jesus.
This is our “spiritual worship.” This is how God evaluates our worship this morning. Not by the fact that we came to church, sang the hymns, prayed the prayers, gave some money, and listened to the sermon, but by whether or not we transferred ownership of our lives again to God today.
This is counter-cultural, in the extreme. We’re told to be self-sufficient and self-centered. Looking Out for Number 1, Pulling Your Own Strings, Winning Through Intimidation, and Unlimited Power are just some of the recent bestsellers which describe the current culture. But God’s word stands opposed to this culture. It says, if you want to be in the will of God, first you must yield your will and life to him.
Quite simply, God will not reveal his will to you as an option for you to consider. Only when you’re willing to follow God’s will can you be in that will, or know it for your future. Oswald Chambers was right: we only understand that part of God’s will that we obey.
So if you want to be in God’s will, transfer ownership of your life unconditionally to God. For the first time, or again today. This is the indispensable commitment God is calling you to make today.
Withdraw from the world’s account
The second principle for knowing God’s will is the mirror of the first: withdraw from the world’s account: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” (v. 2a).
You cannot be right with God and right with your culture at the same time. Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters; either he will hate the first and love the second, or be devoted to the first and despise the second” (Matthew 6:24). You must choose.
So, what is the “pattern of this world”? It boils down to three basic principles:
Possessions over people. One T-shirt slogan says, “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” Our culture judges the worth of people by their possessions and appearance. Money, possessions, what you drive, where you live, what you wear. American Protestants give to foreign missions exactly what Americans spend on Nintendo games.