Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Transforming Minds

At First Baptist Muncie, we begin a special season of outreach emphasis on Sunday. Within our missional community groups, we are organizing a three-week period of seven projects. I am excited for all that God will do during this season in the life of our church. Along with these projects, we are going to be focusing on the idea of reaching in our sermons. This week, we come to Romans 12:1-8.

The first two verses are familiar. Paul urges the believers in Rome to offer their lives as living sacrifices. In contrast to the dead offerings of Judaism’s sacrificial system, Christians are called to lay their very (living) lives down for God’s work in this world. Paul sums it up,

(Romans 12:1 NIV11-GK) this is your true and proper worship

In verse 2, he commands us to avoid conformity; rather we are to be transformed as we renew our minds. The Greek word anakainosis(translated renew) has to do with renovation. It is about becoming new “with the implication of becoming superior” (Louw and Nida). I think of a home or office renovation. The space is totally transformed. You might not guess that you are even in the same building once the work is complete. This is the key to discerning God’s leading. Paul concludes verse 2,

(Romans 12:2 NIV11-GK) Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Perhaps you have heard sermons relating these verses to discovering the will of God in your life. Certainly, we should avoid conformity and allow the Spirit to do work of transformation in us. But if you keep reading, you find Paul directing the church toward action. In verses 5-8, he cautions the church to avoid arrogance and calls them to function as a unified body.

(Romans 12:5 NIV11-GK) so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

As we explore the discovery of God’s will, we must be careful to avoid individualizing this text. Paul desires the church (as a whole) to discern God’s direction. Too often, in American culture, we apply these verses to individual endeavors. Where should I go do college? Should I continue this relationship? Is the job promotion something that I should consider? We seldom consider these verses collectively. May we learn to apply Paul’s admonitions to our congregations. May we learn (as a church) to avoid conformity and be transformed by God’s Spirit into the congregational life that God desires. May we be faithful to act on God’s gifts (Romans 12:6-8). In doing so, we will become the church that God intends for us to be. We will have the privilege of joining God on his mission in our community.