Rev. Effendi Susanto
Good, Pleasing and Perfect
Bible Verses: Romans 12:1-2
Throughout our life we could not escape from making decision. Even for someone for decide not to make any decision is a decision itself. No matter how small the decision is, our life is about making decision. Today we will see what is the difference in the decision we made compare to that of the others. As someone who loves God, we would like to make decisions which conform to God’s plan. Someone who loves God will always bring in prayer what he/she is determining to do, not only because he/she does not want to make the wrong decision but he/she does not want to make the decision that is not according to God’s plan or not pleasing Him. However, even after we take that stand, why there are still a lot of Christians feel guilty? Why are we afraid of making decision? Why are we feeling unhappy in making decision? And why I always get people come to me and ask “Minister, did I make the right decision?” It is as if I would know whether the decision you made was right or wrong. I would normally response by saying, “bring it in your prayer.” I would normally get a response back, “I have brought it in my prayer.” Well, if you have, why doubt it? We are missing the main point from Paul who said God’s will is good, perfect and pleasing Him. I know we all want to get there, but why in the process we are full of guilty feeling, fill with fear of wrong doing to God, losing happiness, and full of doubt that our decision won’t be in accordance to God’s will?
After thinking it carefully, I believe that the problem is not in our motivation or the ambiguity of God’s words, but there is a possibility that unconciously we have had the wrong theological thinking in understanding God’s will. This is what caused us losing the happiness, having doubt and feeling guilty, just as if we did not follow God’s will in making the decision.
There are two incorrect theological concepts in understanding God’s will.
Firstly, the incorrect theological concept which believes that God has prepared a “blue print” for our lives hence we are forever trying to fit into the blue print. So we will have to aim right to the target. You might have heard this saying “Pray to God and He will open the way. If you don’t follow God’s will, you might lose your happiness and God’s intended blessing for you.” That’s why we made our decision with guilty feeling and doubt and unhappiness. All these because we thought God have planned our life from A to Z, including who we should marry. So in looking for partner in life, we have to select carefully, we can marry anybody but if he/she is not what God’s plan for us, we might not have a happy marriage. At the end, on the wedding day, we feel unhappy and doubtful of our decision whether he/she is the right one. In seeking God’s will we need to know what’s God’s plan is. It is true that God has plan for each one of us, however I don’t think it is written anywhere about a blue print. How do we know or what is the yardstick for us to know that our decision is in accordance to God’s will and we won’t have any doubt afterwards? Didn’t Paul mention that we should be able to find out if the decision in in accordance to God’s will and it is pleasing God? Due to the incorrect theological thinking, often after making the decision, in the process we stumble into hurdle, problems, and we heard from other irresponsible people we consulted to said to us “ I told you so…” and we ended up with guilty feeling again.
The second incorrect understanding of God’s will is the thinking that God’s will is fixed, if we are in the correct path we will enjoy the beauty of His blessing. Outside that we won’t receive any blessing. Proverbs 3:5-7 says “…lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Christian often assumes that “straight path” means smooth process. If the process is not smooth it is considered that it is not in God’s will. Today, I would like to bring your attention to these incorrect theological thinking; do we think this way? God has plan for each of us, hence we are forever seeking for the blue print. Is that the way we seek God’s will? Secondly, is it right that if we are in the right path, everything should go smoothly God will open the way? If that’s the case what if someone who decided to serve God faces the challenge and risk, is he/she not in the right path? If we think that things should go smooth in God’s will, there won’t be any Christian who would risk their lives in serving God. The question here is that is it right that God’s will is justified when things are going smoothly? Let’s look at a few things here.
Firstly, how the Bible talks about “God’s will.” Traditionally, God’s will consist of three things. First is the sovereignty will of God. Romans 11:33, Acts 4:27-28, are the verses referring to the sovereignty will of God. Moses once said there are few things God wants us to know and He will reveal it to us and there are things He does not want us to know and He will keep it to Himself. With regards to judgement day, when Jesus comes back, it is not for us to know, it is the sovereignty of God which we would not find out. The Bible mentions about the sovereignty of God where God secretly plan the future and what would happen to this world. This can’t be avoided by human beings. This will take place. Paul says, no matter how deep our knowledge of God, there are things that we won’t know and we don’t need to know. That’s the sovereignty of God.
Secondly, the moral will of God, which is disclosed in the Law, in order for us to know what is pleasing God and what is not, what is good and what is not good. Romans 2:18 says “…if you know His will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you…” and 1 Thessalonians 4:3 “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality.” From all of these verses, we can see that God’s will which is clear and transparent, different to the sovereignty of God which is not disclosed to us and we will not be able to find out because it is in the area of God’s sovereignty. God’s will is clear in what He wants us to have a sanctified life. God also wants us to have a life full of praise. By doing these, we’re in the right path. The moral will of God is a will which He has shown us in the Bible in how we should act, have faith and believe in Him. The question here is: Does God has individual plan for us? In Ephesians 2:10 God says that we are His workmanship, created in Jesus Christ. By using the word “workmanship” here means that each one of us is different and the blessing from God is different to every one of us and hence God would want things differently and uniquely to each one of us. On the other hand, how would I know what’s God’s will privately to myself? Do I need to where I should live, with who I should be married, how many children do I have to have? People ended up with details in life, every morning they will ask God what to wear. Is there God’s will privately to each one of us? For the answer is yes and no. Yes, in the sense that I know nothing happens outside God’s plan. No, in the sense that I can’t say because God has private plan on me that all my life I am searching for it. I don’t have a way of knowing it and God does not do it that way. Basically, everyone who follows the path of God’s will which is morally in nature is pleasing God.
That’s why Paul gave us these concepts: Firstly, do not conform to the world; Live in the unworldly way while we are in the world; But be transformed by the renewing of your mind; Then you’ll be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will. Paul use the phrase “transforming your mind” in his other letters, namely in Ephesians 4:23 and Paul uses the phrase “metaphor” as radical change. What changed someone’s life? Ephesians 4:20 says the basics of change is to put on new self. Someone who eager to seek and understand God’s will is because his life has been changed.
Secondly, we have constantly learned about God’s words. We have learned about Christ, understand God, and accept the teaching of God in the truth that was revealed in Christ. The word “metaphor” was used again in 2 Corinthians 3:18 where Paul compared the glory of Christians now with that one of Moses. When Moses faced God’s law in Mount Sinai, his face was glowing by the presence of God and he was changed by the holiness of God’s words. Christian’s holiness is more than Moses’s. We would not only glow but we will be transformed. And the Christian’s face will not only glow but will transform into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. That’s why Paul points out the why the Bible’s holiness is higher than the Law. Paul said “do not conform to the world, but be transformed”, how does the transformation take place? The transformation happens when we accept the teaching of God. Secondly, our faces consistently glow by the holiness of God. The transformation is not a sensation or wishful thinking but it is a process where Christians are changing and transforming in their hearts and thoughts with the work of God’s words and not by our works. Understanding God’s will is reflecting our lives against the words of God which consistently filled us. Paul says the transformation happens so that we will understand God’s will.
According to Paul God’s will inhibit three natures: good, pleasing and perfect will. These three natures were mentioned earlier in Romans 7:12 “So Law is holy, and the Commandment is holy, righteous and good.” I don’t want you to misinterpret this terminology and take it as God wants us to seek specific things in our lives. It is when we are transforming by renewing our mind, by accepting the guidance of God’s words, and by following the God’s guidance, that we are following God’s will that’s good, pleasing and perfect.
Mark Twain says “twenty years from now you will feel sorry more for things which you should have done but you didn’t do, than things you did and failed.” But many of us are afraid of making decision before God as we are afraid of making mistake and fail. In my opinion, the process of decision making is to follow God’s words, think carefully, make up your mind and make the decision. The worse thing could happen is we made the wrong the decision but we could still fix it. Some people do not have the courage to make decision and never move forward.
I would like to look at a few things we need to change. Firstly, how we know God’s will? For me, “knowing” is an understanding which happens after something is done not before something is done. Let’s look at our lives ten years from now and we will sure to see how God’s will is good for us. That’s all that we can say. The tendency is “because it is good for me” it is God’s will. But when things go wrong, does it mean it is not according to God’s plan? We can use this as the basis. This is what I want to correct. If we only make decision when things go smooth, no hurdles in the way, there won’t be any Christians who would risk their lives going into the country side. If we only wait for things to go smoothly before we make decision, no Christians will dare to take risk in lives; we’ll all be waiting for God to smooth things out for us.
Sometimes it seems like we make decision out of reflect but it happens because it is part of the pattern of our lives. This is the same as a pianist who had practiced playing the same song over and over again, it is memorised in the fingers so that without opening his/her eyes he/she can still play it. When we make a decision, it is also influenced by our experience, by the trial and error we made, which form our decision. If you always fear and dare not make the move you’ll never move on. Our experience in life will mount to a beautiful thing. I would discuss this in detail as it is the theological area, but I just want to show you the way to make decision. Main point here is to discuss about how we make decision which is inline with God’s will. Fear not to make decision as long as you’re making it in the moral will of God, nothing is wrong in it. Some says we should make decision when our heart is at peace. I’ll say, if your heart is not at peace from the start, then you’re not likely in the right way. When you are faced with two choices and in both choices you are not against God’s words, either one that you choose will have God’s guidance. In relation to the phrase “open door” let’s look at 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 where Paul chose to stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost. Why he made that decision? It is because a great door for effective work has opened to him even though many people oppose to it. The phrase “open door” mentioned here. A great door opened for him but not necessary a smooth way because he clearly says that many opposed to it. Later on in 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 Paul made the decision to leave Troas and go to Macedonia. It wasn’t because there was no open door. In Ephesus, there was open door and Paul stayed. In Troas there was open door, but Paul didn’t stay. This means open door is not the determining factor for Paul’s decision making. My point here is that if we keep on asking God to provide us open door and smooth path, we’ll fall into the trap of never learning to make risky decision. And when we make a decision and face with hurdles we’ll be disappointed and discouraged, this is a wrong concept. Let us seek and understand God’s will in our life that is good, pleasing and perfect will.(fang)