Discerning The Lord’s Will

by Mike Ratliff

Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον. (Romans 12:1-2 NA27)

Therefore, I urge you brothers through the compassions of God to present your bodies as living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service. And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may discern the will of God, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect. (a personal translation of Romans 12:1-2 from the NA27 Greek text)

Both the Apostle John and the Apostle Paul used light and darkness in analogies pertaining to spiritual life and spiritual death. For instance, in John 1:4, 5 the Apostle says, “ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.” Or, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not grasp it.” In order to lay the foundation for this discussion on discerning the Lord’s will, it is imperative that we understand what is being said in these two verses. First, the “Him” in v4 refers back to ὁ λόγος or “the Word” from v1. This is, of course, our Lord Jesus Christ. In v4, we learn that in Him was ζωὴ or zōē, “life.” This ζωὴ is not simply the life we all have here and now, but was φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων or the “the light of men.” What does that mean? This light comes from God and brings to this dark world true knowledge, moral purity, and the light that shows the very presence of God. Finally, notice that this light shines into the darkness, but the darkness does not “receive, admit, or grasp” it. Those who discern the will of God are in His light. Those who cannot are in darkness. 

Carefully read Romans 12:1-2 which I placed at the top of this post. The Apostle Paul clearly tells us that in the work of sanctification and maturing by the Holy Spirit, their transformation unto Christlikeness, is accomplished through the renewing of their minds. This is done via becoming living sacrifices not conformed to this age. These living sacrifices devote themselves to prayer, drawing near unto God through worship and the study of His Word. This would also include the working out of our obedience of fellowship with other believers in brotherly love and the sharing of what we have. As we work in cooperation with the Holy Spirit in our sanctification, we are transformed through the renewing of our minds and He will enable us to discern the will of God. How is this possible? When we walk this way, the light of God is manifest in and through us.  Notice that key in this is that we cannot live our lives conformed to this age or to this lost and dying world, which is in darkness.

Γίνεσθε οὖν μιμηταὶ τοῦ θεοῦ ὡς τέκνα ἀγαπητὰ καὶ περιπατεῖτε ἐν ἀγάπῃ, καθὼς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς καὶ παρέδωκεν ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν προσφορὰν καὶ θυσίαν τῷ θεῷ εἰς ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας. Πορνεία δὲ καὶ ἀκαθαρσία πᾶσα ἢ πλεονεξία μηδὲ ὀνομαζέσθω ἐν ὑμῖν, καθὼς πρέπει ἁγίοις, καὶ αἰσχρότης καὶ μωρολογία ἢ εὐτραπελία, ἃ οὐκ ἀνῆκεν, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον εὐχαριστία. τοῦτο γὰρ ἴστε γινώσκοντες, ὅτι πᾶς πόρνος ἢ ἀκάθαρτος ἢ πλεονέκτης, ὅ ἐστιν εἰδωλολάτρης, οὐκ ἔχει κληρονομίαν ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ. Μηδεὶς ὑμᾶς ἀπατάτω κενοῖς λόγοις· διὰ ταῦτα γὰρ ἔρχεται ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῆς ἀπειθείας. μὴ οὖν γίνεσθε συμμέτοχοι αὐτῶν· ἦτε γάρ ποτε σκότος, νῦν δὲ φῶς ἐν κυρίῳ· ὡς τέκνα φωτὸς περιπατεῖτε – ὁ γὰρ καρπὸς τοῦ φωτὸς ἐν πάσῃ ἀγαθωσύνῃ καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ – δοκιμάζοντες τί ἐστιν εὐάρεστον τῷ κυρίῳ, καὶ μὴ συγκοινωνεῖτε τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς ἀκάρποις τοῦ σκότους, μᾶλλον δὲ καὶ ἐλέγχετε. τὰ γὰρ κρυφῇ γινόμενα ὑπ᾽ αὐτῶν αἰσχρόν ἐστιν καὶ λέγειν, τὰ δὲ πάντα ἐλεγχόμενα ὑπὸ τοῦ φωτὸς φανεροῦται, πᾶν γὰρ τὸ φανερούμενον φῶς ἐστιν. διὸ λέγει· ἔγειρε, ὁ καθεύδων, καὶ ἀνάστα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, καὶ ἐπιφαύσει σοι ὁ Χριστός. Βλέπετε οὖν ἀκριβῶς πῶς περιπατεῖτε μὴ ὡς ἄσοφοι ἀλλ᾽ ὡς σοφοί, ἐξαγοραζόμενοι τὸν καιρόν, ὅτι αἱ ἡμέραι πονηραί εἰσιν. διὰ τοῦτο μὴ γίνεσθε ἄφρονες, ἀλλὰ συνίετε τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ κυρίου. (Ephesians 5:1-17 NA27)

Be therefore imitators of God as beloved children and walk in love as Christ loved us and gave up Himself on behalf of us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But fornication and all impurity or greediness let it not be named among you, as is proper for saints, also indecency and foolish talking or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather thanksgiving. For this you know by recognizing that every fornicator or impure person or covetous person, that is, an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words; because of these things, the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore, do not be joint partakers with them; for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light for the fruit of the light is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth proving what is well pleasing to the Lord, and do not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things done by them in secret, but everything when it is exposed by the light becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says, “Arise, O sleeper, and rise up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” See therefore how carefully you walk not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (a personal translation of Ephesians 5:1-17 from the NA27 Greek text)

Here we have the contrast of those who walk in darkness and are, therefore, not of God from those who are imitators of God as beloved children. These, walk in light now even though they were once in darkness. Therefore, the call for all in Christ is to walk as children of light for the fruit of the light is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth proving what is well pleasing to the Lord. Those who know the will of God do this, not the opposite, which is to participate in the unfruitful works of darkness. Instead of participating in them, they expose them. What happens to the works of darkness when they are exposed to the light? They become visible.

Just as no light enters our eyes when we are asleep physically, likewise no spiritual light enters when we are asleep spiritually. I believe that Paul is describing believers here who are not spiritually dead, but rather are dead effectively. They are not growing as Christians and have no practical vitality or useful witness. In other words, Ephesians 5:14 is a call to believers to repentance and renewed devotion to the Lord. What happens to those who do so? Christ shall “shine on you”. In other words, He will give them even more light than they have. That means He will illumine His Word that much more in their hearts and minds. Those who continue to “sleep” are not making the best use of the time, but are being foolish. On the other hand, those who are walking through this life as living sacrifices are filled with His light and do understand what the will of the Lord is.

Soli Deo Gloria!

12 thoughts on “Discerning The Lord’s Will

  1. Colossians 1:18
    And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.
    From this, we know that He alone is our Head, we are the body, and that God’s will is that in all things He, Jesus, might have (Certainly Will Have One Day Soon) the Preemminence in ALL THINGS!
    Get this verse down right, and the rest will come in to place. We are only, for example, able to be in “one accord” when we are Holy Spirit lead by the Word in context, and He alone has the preemminence in our lives…having taken every thought captive…Not I but Christ Jesus in me and through me, for EVERYTHING is of Him, from Him, for Him, through Him, and to Him!
    A simple yardstick is: A baby is all taking….Jesus is all giving. Question? Where am I today on that scale?

  2. Dear Mike,

    Since a great portion of time is spent in my vechicle I have been listening to the Bible on CD. To hear the Word at length and in perfect context has been a tremendous spiritual boost.

    Interestingly when I heard the following passage it brought “Possessing the Treasure” to mind.
    Speaking of John the Baptist: “And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:16&17

    Thank you for being faithful to point the sheep towards the Good Shepherd:) Blessings, charisse

  3. I agree with your conclusion about the sleeping Christians and wonder how many of the people filling up goat pens clothed as churches are such, as opposed to goats. There is too much “home comfort” here in this world sought and enjoyed by folks claiming Christ. It’s a fine line, I think, between “enjoying richly all things He has given us” and being at home in the world. “For all that is in the world-the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions-is not from the Father but is from the world.”

    Many thanks for your service and work in the Word, for the good of the saints.

  4. I can’t stress this enough…and I have said this many times in the past in many places on the net. For most folks, Jesus is the mascot, like Chucky Cheese, he is on the front of the building so you can find your way in. Once in, folks are really there for the entertainment, and socialization (which is NOT fellowship in His name) and of course to eat junk food.
    Which was the happy, easy going prophet? (except the false prophets for profit, but only when they got their way.) Further, which Apostle had a better earthly life after turning their lives over to Jesus? The rich young ruler walked away, and Jesus let him, with no fanfare! Today the preachers would chase after him and make him an elder in 6 months!
    Jesus feeds 5,000 men (plus women and children!?) they go off into the surrounding hillsides well fed and ready to socialize, I guess. Jesus is ALONE and praying as he sent the disciples off by boat, on the sea of Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius was among other things a pedophile according to history. He loved to sail on “his sea” on calm days, and loved to brag on how many he could feed during his feasts till all the food was gone…Are you seeing what message Jesus was sending yet? He walked by night on the boisterous sea, he fed all that came and had leftovers that were greater then his meager starting resources…He was proclaiming that He was the real King of all!
    The next morning, when they were again hungry, the many folks came looking for their free breakfast. They eventually found Him and let Him know they were again hungry. He clearly explained that He was the Bread of Life. They aregued for more free food. Later it says many of His disciples left Him for His teaching was too hard…not to understand, they didn’t like the walk He demanded.
    During passion week, early on they cried Hosanna, later when they weren’t getting their best life now fantasy fulfilled, they turned back to caesar for his bread and circuses…”we have no king but Caesar…crucify Him!
    …And the truth is, you and I would be right there with them shouting the loudest perhaps, but for the call of God unmerited on our lives!!! Most follow Him for what He can DO FOR THEM… His own follow Him for WHO HE IS!!!!!
    If the preacher preaches any other gospel , as in the Jesus who loves everybody and just wants to bless them, then RUN
    There are precious few who preach humbly the Jesus who deserves our worship now (and not his own worship). The Lord of all needs to be preemminent for WHO HE IS!!!

  5. Mike, so blessed by this post… I pray that we will all have ‘úseful witness’ be full of ‘practical vitality’ ,and truly be ‘the light of the world’ as He wants us to be!

  6. Is Christ unable to reveal His will to us? Never. Are we reluctant because of sin or cowardice to follow it? aha There is the missing piece of the puzzle.

    Shall we blame our inept wandering shepards if we do not follow Christ’s will in us?
    Sure, why not.
    Gotta blame someone other than ourselves don’t we?

    Even so, those shepards who feed themselves instead of the flock shall receive God’s unique mixture of mercy and judgment for failing in their duty towards their master. And so shall the flock.

    Not for nothing does it say, “thy rod and thy staff comfort me.”

    The Good Shepard is able to pluck His own geese.

  7. Well Richard, if those inept wandering shepherd were neither inept nor wandering, the sheep would be better led would they not? On the other hand, I do agree that God is perfectly able to pluck His own up and turn the around to go the way He desires, which is what He did with me. The goal of this teaching ministry is to get believers to be less dependent upon men and more active in their own sanctification, which will result in them drawing closer to God all for His glory and their edification.

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