This post will finish up the discussion of Romans 12: 1-2. As mentioned, these verses have been very special to me for several years now and helped me work through a very dark time in 2002.The last phrase of verse 2 says (from The Good News translation):
“Then you will be able to know the will of God- what is good and is pleasing to Him and is perfect.”
First, and foremost, I think we must start with accepting the fact that God’s will for us is indeed perfect. It is logical that The One who created us certainly knows what is best for us. Listen to what David says in Ps 139: 13-16
“For You created my inmost being, You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before any of them came to be.”
So before we were born, God knew all the days of our lives and what would happen to us. Unfathomable!!
In these two verses Paul unlocks the mystery of knowing God’s will. I believe each of these phrases builds sequentially with the ultimate goal being that we know the will of God in our lives- our purpose for being here. So often our problem is failure to recognize as Jacob said in Gen 28: 10-17.
How many senses do we have and what is their purpose? A simple definition is senses are the means by which many-celled animals tell what is happening in their environment. Why do we need to know that? Survival is the first thing that comes to mind. Answer is we have five: hearing, sight smell, taste and touch. There are also other kinds of senses that give information about the position and movement of the body and about the body needs. They include balance, hunger, pain, thirst. Scientists divide these senses into two groups: external senses receive information about the outside environment and internal senses receive information about changes that occur in organs and tissues.
So, senses gather information and transmit it to the brain for processing and decision-making. I would like to draw an analogy between these senses and their purpose to how we gather spiritual information, or the “senses” God uses to transmit information to our souls.
John Ortberg says “it is one thing to speak to God. It is another thing to listen. When we listen to God we receive guidance from the Holy Spirit”. He goes on to say “I believe that one reason why we fail to hear God speak is that we are not attentive. We suffer from what might be called “spiritual mindlessness”. Psychologists define mindlessness as a tendency toward mental drift. It is a failure to be fully present, “a lack of attending to the present moment.” A crucial part of renewing our minds is to develop the ability to recognize the Holy Spirit speaking to us.
According to Henry Blackaby in Experiencing God, He speaks to us in five different ways:
1. Through the Holy Spirit
2. Through the Bible
3. Through prayer
4. Through circumstances
5. Through the church
What happens to Christians who do not attend church and fail to read the Bible and pray? We have taken away three of God’s methods of communicating with us! His only avenues then become speaking directly through the Holy Spirit and circumstances. We become spiritually handicapped; still a Christian but unable to live as God desires. Hearing God’s voice in circumstances is difficult and requires a lot of practice and intuition. It also usually should be verified by some other of the five methods because we often hear what we want to hear and our tendency is to skew the circumstances to be what we want.
Now we are down to only one path for God to communicate with us; through the Holy Spirit. I believe with all my heart that the Spirit speaks to us, through promptings, nudgings, questions, etc. Ortberg says “these promptings may come as conviction of sin, an assurance of God’s love, or a call to action. But they are crucial to the Spirit-guided life. We must learn to listen for the still, small voice.”
God can direct our thought without “speaking words” to us; we are humans and cannot do that, we have to use words. C.S. Lewis wrote: “If your thoughts and passions were directly present to me, like my own, without any mark of externality or otherness, how should I distinguish them from mine?… You may reply, as a Christian, that God (and satan) do, in fact, affect my consciousness in this direct way without signs of ‘externality’. Yes: and the result is that most people remain ignorant of the existence of both.” So God may be speaking to you- affecting your consciousness- while you remain ignorant of the fact that this very thought is coming from God.
I also believe that God sometimes has such a hard time getting through to us, that He will resort to planting a clearly understood thought in our mind. Once we “get it” what happens? We face what Blackaby calls the crisis of belief and we must make a decision to obey or ignore. Again, from Ortberg:
“Much of the adventure of Christian living involves responsiveness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This guidance is not restricted to momentous decisions. It is learned mainly as we practice it on a continuing basis. This means that sometimes, it may involve God’s gracious attention to small details. A tremendous temptation can exist to use the authority of ‘Thus saith the Lord’ as a way to manipulate people in settings where such authority is unlikely to be questioned. That is a good reason to be cautious about claiming God’s direct guidance too causally. However, we cannot be transformed if we close ourselves off to the guiding power of the Holy Spirit. We must come to believe –mindstretching as it sounds- that God really can and does personally attend to us.”
Finally, to complete this discussion I’m borrowing a couple of paragraphs from a speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King six months before he was assassinated which should be our response to God’s call and will for us:
“And when you discover what you will be in life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.
If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause to say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. But be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.”