SUNDAY MORNING SERMON NOTES
How Renewed Minds Come to Please the Heart of Father God
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Sunday, May 29, 2011 - 10:00 a.m.  Sermon #: 1472
Pastor Don Horban

Romans 12:1-2 - ďI appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. [2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Ē

Paul holds out a marvelous goal in the last phrase of our text - ď....that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfectĒ(2). Our minds were created for cherishing and knowing the most perfect thing in the whole world. Our minds can be renewed and filled with things more satisfying and wonderful than our jobs, our possessions and our friends.

The method of transformation is the renewed mind - ď....be transformed by the renewal of your mindĒ(2). But that doesnít just happen. The mind must be stretched around the great teachings of Godís Word. The renewed mind will always be out of reach for those who are either too lazy or too busy to mine the depths of Godís revealed mercy in Christ Jesus - ďI appeal to you therefore by the mercies of God....Ē(1).

Our world trains us to think of light and little things. We are driven by the twin godís of entertainment and wealth. Our brains are naturally in the wrong shape to be filled with the ideas and aspirations of the Holy Spirit. And Godís method for transformation is to call us to ponder the marvels of His grace and our eternal lostness and damnation without it (Romans chapters 1 and 2). He awakens the renewed mind to how essential His mercy in Christ is so we can have a lively grasp of how empty everything else in life is without it. He hollows out the call of the world to our renewed minds.

The motivation of transformation is the mercies of God. We are to be drawn into this divine venture, not by legal obligation, but by thankful adoration. Remember the words of Jesus to the Pharisee about the acts of devotion from the wicked woman. The one who has been forgiven much will love much. Of course, weíve all been forgiven much. But some are more keenly mindful of this mercy than others. Some people seem to just grab Godís mercy on the fly and run on to other things. The renewed mind is captivated by Godís amazing grace. They linger over it. They think deeply and often about the consequences of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. In the words of the New Testament, they ďgrow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.Ē

The specific result of renewed minds is the presenting of our bodies as living sacrifices to God - ď....I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice....Ē(1). Purity, while never legalistic (our motive is the mercies of God, not religious law) is always specific and detailed. We are not called to follow Jesus generally but specifically.

And the call to holiness reaches these physical bodies. Everything I do with my body - eating, paying bills, conversations with friends and family - traveling from one location to another - reading books - watching television - texting my friends - every email I send - going out on a date with my wife - preaching a sermon - whatever I do with and in my physical body is to show everyone who sees, listens, or reads me that I treasure Christ above all else. Everything I do with my body is to show the death of everything that would draw my love away from pre-eminent devotion to Christ Jesus as Lord of all.

So there are two dangers I must watch for with my physical body. First, I must put to death sin in my members. I must not allow the acts of the body to in any way mar the presence and glory of Jesus as I live in this material world. And second, I must not allow even good, innocent pleasures to tempt out of me a love and passion that exceeds my passion for Christ. Many good things need to die in my life for Christ to have His proper place. Thatís the sacrifice part. But itís still not legalism because I put it to death, says Paul, because of the surpassing treasure of the mercies of God.

That brings us to todayís teaching. Today we focus on the goal of the renewed mind. And the goal is to know the will of God - ď....that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Ē(Romans 12:2).

1) THE WILL OF GOD IS GLORIOUSLY WONDERFUL AND PERFECT FOR OUR LIVES.

Paul says the will of God is ďgood and acceptable and perfect.Ē And the reason is it reflects the mind of God and He is supremely good, utterly wise, and infinitely perfect. In other words, the will of God isnít just to be seen as some list of doís and doníts. It isnít something detached from God Himself. The will of God is the expression of the mind and might and perfection of God.

Thereís a reason Paul places that word ďacceptableĒ in the list of adjectives describing the will of God. People who have a hard time embracing Godís will havenít seen it properly. They sometimes view Godís will as simply God flexing His muscles toward His creation. They confuse Godís will with some stuffy, restrictive experience theyíve had in some church. Certainly the sitcoms on television constantly paint religious people as having too much starch in their collars, as being narrow minded prudes who always have their noses in other peopleís business.

But Paul says for any who give God a chance, for any who come to truly know the will of God in experience, it is not something ugly and unacceptable. It is the guiding, merciful, all-wise hand of a loving Father. Remember, the will of God is the mind and heart of God. It is absolutely perfect for your life.

So, whatever youíre getting out of your life right now - money, health, power, glamor, degrees, career - if you still donít put Godís kingdom first and devote your mind and body to His will, youíre getting less from life than your Creator intended. Thatís what Paul is saying. Your settling for a small.

2) HOW DOES THE RENEWED MIND COME TO KNOW THE WILL OF GOD?

This is a bigger question than many people think. Look at the way some of the different translations phrase this all-important second verse of Romans chapter 12. Iíll start again with the New American Standard, then weíll read the New International Version, and finally weíll read the English Standard Version:

Romans 12:2 (NASB) - ďAnd do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.Ē

Romans 12:2 (NIV) - ďDo not conform any longer 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.Ē

Romans 12:2 (ESV) - ďDo not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Ē

I think you can see that there is more to the process of the renewed mind knowing the will of God than merely knowing what the will of God is. In other words, Paul isnít just talking about having the factual awareness of what God requires and what God forbids. This is much deeper than knowing the Ten Commandments or knowing what you ought to do or not do. The King James Version and the New American Standard Version both use the word ďproveĒ - ď....that you may prove what the will of God is....Ē Both the NIV and the ESV use several words to replace that word prove - ď....that by testing you may discern what is the will of God....Ē

These translations are laboring to show that the word ďproveĒ - dikamazo - is almost impossible to put into one English word. It literally means something like ďproving by being put to the testĒ or ďproving by implication.Ē So itís a knowing that is really more like demonstrating, valuing or appraising. Itís a knowledge that has proven the proper worth of what it knows. It has come to appreciate the proper value of the object known.

Iíve used this simple illustration before, but it makes the simple point. You can know a great deal about something without knowing its value. Letís say I own a gold mine and I hire you to work for me in the mine. I teach you where you are most likely to find gold. I teach you to know what gold looks like when it lays bare in the earth. I teach you the best way to extract it from the ground so as not to waste any of it. I even teach you how to tell real gold from foolís gold. So you become an expert at mining gold.

But, letís also pretend I brought you in from some remote place on earth where youíve never even heard of gold. You donít know what people do with gold. And you donít know how precious gold is. You know everything there is to know about mining gold because you learned it from me. You know everything about gold except how much gold is worth. And I want to keep it that way because Iím giving you a dime for every pound of gold you bring me.

You can know a lot about something without knowing its value. And when Paul talks about testing and approving and appraising the will of God, he is talking, not just about knowing what Godís will is - donít lie, steal, fornicate, be greedy for money - but about the value you place on living out Godís will for your life. Thatís what the end result of the renewed mind is all about. Do you just see a list of prohibitions and commands? Or do you see the clearest path to your greatest safety, joy, freedom, and fulfillment?

I hope you can see that, in this sense of valuing the will of God, you can have a church upbringing without having a renewed mind. You can quote Bible verses without having a renewed mind. You can have Christian parents without having a renewed mind. You can be a Christian business person without possessing a renewed mind. You know so much about the will of God, because youíve grown up being taught the things God wants you to do and the things He does not want you to do. And you can go down into the gold mine and bring out what youíve been assigned to do with your Christian life. But you can do all of that with little sense of the value of Godís will.

Hereís why this matters so much. Sooner or later, probably later, you will be brought, probably by the Spirit of God Himself, into some very specific situation where the value you place on the will of God will be tested. Not whether you know Godís will or not, but whether you value it supremely. There will come specific times when you are feeling pulled between the will of Father God and some cherished path of stubborn self-fulfillment. And it is precisely at those times the Spirit of God will tell you to choose life - to ďtaste and see that the Lord is good.Ē That His will is absolutely perfect for you, even though you canít feel it to be so at this moment of self-denial.

Picture a Christian young man. Heís dating an unsaved woman. In fact, heís falling in love with her. Heís been taught since he was a child that it isnít right for a Christian to give his heart to a woman who isnít a Christian and he never questioned that revelation of Godís will because he never had to. Now heís in love and he has to learn the will of God. He doesnít have to learn what the will of God is. He already knows that. Now the battle is different, and much more difficult. Both the risks and the rewards (if he only had faith to see the rewards!) are greater. The test now isnít knowing the will of God. The test is valuing the will of God. The issue is, ďby testing, to approve the will of GodĒ in this specific situation. The renewing of his whole mind is at stake.

I pray that silly illustration about the gold mine stays in your mind. We can all think of a thousand ways people, even sincere people, in this age are robbed blind of precious opportunities simply by not knowing the value of something. Parents weep when their children squander away money and time by not knowing the value of an education. And many times those same parents donít know the value of the will of God either. We want those we love to know the value of a buck, so much so that many grow up thinking the buck can somehow fill the place of God in their heart. Theyíre destined for misery.

You never really learn to treasure Godís will from a book. God sovereignly sends His times of appraisal into all our lives. We are invited ďby testingĒ to approve the good of Godís will in a world of smoke and mirror delights. We are invited to allow the Spirit of God to renew and remake our minds so our brains are more fitted to the values of the Kingdom than to those of Hollywood and Wall Street. Oh, the delight and the safety there is to be found when our minds learn to appraise the call of Christ and the will of God as being perfect, not in some abstract sense of Godís own character traits, but perfect on our own behalf - perfect for us - perfect beyond telling, both for this age and the age to come!

3) FATHER GOD WANTS HIS CHILDREN TO LEARN TO DISCERN HIS WILL AS OPPOSED TO SIMPLY ASKING HIM WHAT HIS WILL IS

God wants us to grow through our own time of competing desires into a mature proving the superiority of His will. And hereís what that means. God wonít tell you everything youíre supposed to do in this world, and thereís a reason He wonít. Contrary to popular impressions, God doesnít want to form you into a person who mechanically carries out His instructions - even if you carry them out very well. He wants to raise children who have proven the value of His will and discovered the joy of pleasing His gracious heart.

Another simple illustration. When I was very young my father took me out to cut the grass for the very first time. He showed me how to start the lawn mower, how to push it across the hills in the back yard, rather than try, as a small boy, to push it up the hills. When I was done I came in the house, proud of my accomplishment, and told him I had finished the task. He thanked me for my efforts and took me outside. Gently, he told me I wasnít quite finished. He pointed out that I hadnít trimmed around the steps. ďThe job isnít finished until the trimming is done,Ē he said.

When the trimming was done I came back into the house and we went outside again. I had left all the cut grass all over the sidewalk and steps. Once again, ďThe job isnít done until the grass is swept and the walks are tidy.Ē

Of course, when youíre immature and just learning, the more complete and specific the instructions the better. But eventually, he didnít expect to have to tell me each step in the task. In fact, he knew I was growing up when, without being told, I knew the grass was getting too long, cut it, trimmed it, and swept it.

In the early stages I was simply carrying out instructions. Eventually, I knew my dadís mind regarding the yard work. Once I even painted the fence without being told. I knew it would be pleasing to him. My mind was being shaped. Now, nobody ever tells me to cut the grass. I can see when itís too long and Iíve learned to value a neat yard. Iíve discovered the joy of what was once just a requirement. At one time I simply carried out the instructions of my dad. Now Iíve learned the value of what he told me. Though I always obeyed him (which is good),now my thinking has changed. A renewed mind now enjoys a nice yard. Iíve found joy in his instructions.

Remember, the goal is renewed minds. God wants to raise up a group of people who think and assess differently from the world. A person can learn to carry out instructions without ever loving the Instructor. Thatís not Godís plan. A person can carry out instructions without ever confronting a fallen mind set. God doesnít want to just leave us messages. He wants to train us to think differently.

Hereís why. You will encounter a thousand situations every day that arenít specifically mentioned in the Scriptures and no one will be around to check up on you. You need the mind of Christ. You need to learn, by testing, to value and approve the will of God for yourself. You need to learn what pleases the Father. That comes from so consistently valuing His judgments where they are revealed that the inner shape of Christ dominates when there are no clear instructions given. The whole process is called being ďconformed to the image of His Son.Ē

A servant can learn to obey the master without ever becoming like his master. Thatís not what Father God is after. Prove the delights of His will. Shape your mind with Godly desires. Trust that His will is perfect for your whole life. Donít just know it, or recite it. Cherish it. That is the shortest path to the transformed soul.