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LIFE IS A MAZE(ing): Stars and Knees    Romans 12:1-2          (1st Service)

How many of you thought that was a Christmas song that we just sang during our offertory? Here’s a little pastoral rebuke for you:  It’s actually not.  It’s not a Christmas song at all.  It’s a song about a season that actually begins today.  Christmas technically ended yesterday, and today we begin a season in the church calendar called Epiphany.  Epiphany comes from a Greek word that means “to manifest” or “to show” or “to reveal.”  It’s the day where the church comes together and celebrates the magi.  They were sort of pagan stargazers who came and worshipped King Jesus.  There weren’t three of them; there were probably multitudes of them.  They brought three gifts, though, and that’s where we probably get the idea of “We Three Kings.”  Just a nerdy, anecdotal side note:  The Church celebrated Epiphany for hundreds of years before it ever celebrated Christmas.  We started, as a Church, celebrating Christmas because of some heresies that arose that said that Jesus wasn’t really fully man; he was actually sort of a spiritual being.  The Church said no, no, no, no, no, it’s so important that Jesus was actually born of a woman, we’re going to start celebrating THAT day.  We call it Christmas now, but for hundreds of years before the Church ever celebrated Christmas, it celebrated Epiphany.  Today.  The revealing or the showing of the Messiah.

If you have your Bible, open to Matthew 2:1-2.  {This won’t be our main text for today.} After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  I’ve thought about that this week as I’ve been dwelling on this transition from Christmas, and the celebration of incarnation, to Epiphany, the celebration of the revealing of the Messiah.  I don’t know about you, but I’d love to have a few more stars in my life.  Wouldn’t you?  I would love to have a star over…..hey, here’s the city you’re suppose to live in.  In fact, let’s get more specific, why not a star over the house you’re suppose to rent or buy?  Or, how about a star over….here’s the job that you’re suppose to take.  Or, how about a star over the date you’re suppose to retire.  Let’s get a star for that, God!  Why don’t you deliver on that one for us?  Or, here’s a star over the person you’re suppose to marry.  I haven’t gotten a whole lot of stars in my life.  What about you?

There’s some tension when we read this story about Epiphany, about these wise men following a star.  There’s so many stars out there, God, I’m not sure which one I’m suppose to land under.  Right?  It seems as though the magi get this real specific calling from God, and it just feels like our lives are a lot more ambiguous than they are specific, doesn’t it?  Very rarely has God ever been all that clear as far as his direction for me.  ONE time I got ONE star in my life.  ONE!  And it’s actually one of the reasons I’m standing here.  I’ve told this story a few times, but as we jump into a series about discerning God’s will, let me tell you the one time I felt like I heard God speak to me really, really specifically.  It was about two years before I ever landed at South Fellowship.  I woke up in the middle of the night.  I had a dream that was so specific and so vivid that I woke my wife up to tell her about this dream, because I’m not the dream guy.  I don’t have a lot of dreams; I don’t remember many of my dreams.  I woke her up (two in the morning) and I said, “Babe, I just had this dream that I’m the pastor of a church that meets in strip mall.”  I laid out the color scheme for the inside of South Fellowship Church and I said, “It has a ton of fake plants in it.”  Good night, I love you!  Now, I didn’t think about that dream for two years.  I just thought man, that’s a weird church and what a weird dream.  Two years later I started to get this sense from God that maybe He was inviting me to step into a senior pastor role somewhere.  I didn’t know, I just had this sense.  I jumped on Denver Seminary’s website, looked at their job board, and one of the postings on there was for South Fellowship Church.  One of the very first things it said in the description of the church is “Church that meets in a strip mall.  I got here and there were over seventy fake plants in the lobby.  I’ve since dispensed of most of them, you’re welcome!  And the color scheme was exactly the way it was laid out in my dream!  I didn’t say anything to the Search Team until after because I didn’t want to play that trump card of “God told me.”  I had this confidence that God had told me, so I didn’t need to tell them.

I’ve had one star.  I’ve made million of decisions without a star.  You probably have too.  There’s some fear and trepidation around that, isn’t there?  If God does have a will for us, we want to know what it is, don’t we, but so often it seems like we’re sort of shooting in the dark.  I think one of the things that the magi show us, one of the things this story of Epiphany shows us, is that there’s a star over the thing that’s the most important, but over a lot of other things there’s a whole lot of freedom.  God puts a star over “Jesus is Lord” and then calls us to walk by faith.  I think Haddon Robinson, the great preacher, expresses it well:  “We want to make right decisions, for we realize that the decisions we make turn around and make us.  As we choose one end of the road, we choose the other.”  Let’s just call it what it is….it can be nerve-racking to know that we have freedom, that our choices matter.  And that there’s very rarely a star over where we’re suppose to go or what we’re suppose to do or what job we’re suppose to take.  Fill in the blank.  Will you lean in for a second?  The fact that life is a maze….I think that’s one of the things that makes life amazing.  I don’t know that we’d want to know everything that happens in the future.  I don’t think we’d want a God that just controlled every little piece of our life.  I actually think that this is a way more beautiful story—it’s difficult to navigate, I get that—but I think it’s what makes life amazing.  When we go to the Scriptures and we try to figure out God, what’s your will for my life?  Have you ever done that?  Have you ever gone to the Scriptures and said, “God, what’s your will for my life?” and sometimes we play Bible roulette and we pick a verse and go boom! that’s God’s will for my life—-just make sure you’re not reading about Judas.

How do we figure it out?  That’s what we’re going to be talking about over the next three weeks.  Before we even start talking about God’s will for our life, though, let me give you a framework to understand when we talk about the will of God in the Scriptures, what are we talking about?  There’s three different types of God’s will in the Scriptures.  The first is God’s sovereign will.  This is the will of God that cannot be thwarted, that will happen no matter what, whether you cooperate with it or not, that’s irrelevant.  God’s going to get it done.  The psalmist will write in Psalm 115:3 — Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.   

So, let’s hit timeout here for a moment.  I want to give a pastoral impartation to you, because a lot of people misunderstand this to be everything that happens in life is God’s will.  You lose a child…..well, it was God’s will.  You lose a friend in an accident….it’s God’s will.  You go through a divorce….it’s God’s will.  It’s interesting because we start looking through the Scriptures and we some things that are really clearly not God’s will.  God is in heaven and he does whatever pleases him.  Sometimes it pleases him to let you decide.  And that still goes under the big umbrella of God’s will.  Let me say it like this:  Everything that happens is within God’s will, but God does not will everything that happens.  Does that make sense?  So there’s a lot of space…a lot of space, which is why this series is even necessary.  If we didn’t believe that, these three weeks would be completely irrelevant.  Think about that for a moment.  The question of “what’s God’s will for my life?” would be completely irrelevant if we didn’t believe we had some freedom of choice.  If it’s just going to happen regardless then don’t come the next two weeks.  Save yourself some time.  No, no, no, everything that happens is within God’s will, but God does not will everything that happens.  God always gets what he wills, but he doesn’t always get what he wants.  Let me give you an example.  Jesus is heading towards Jerusalem.  He gathers his disciples, looks over this hill that looks down into Jerusalem and here’s what he says:  Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed {…how I’ve wanted it.  Hear the Father Shepherd-heart of God.}  to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37)    You were not willing!  This is what I wanted, but I willed that there be freedom and you chose a different way.  You weren’t willing.

We’re not fatalistic.  As followers of Jesus, we do not believe that every single little thing is already predetermined.  Over the break, my kids and their cousins started to watch the movie “The Greatest Showman.”  There’s this song in the movie:  What if we rewrite the stars?  Say you were made to be mine // Nothing could keep us apart, You’d be the one I was meant to find // It’s up to you, and it’s up to me, No one can say what we get to be // So why don’t we rewrite the stars?  Maybe the world could be ours tonight.  As followers of Jesus, we’re not some superstitious the stars determine everything about our lives.  We’re also not the kind of people that say, “God controls everything about our lives.”  We’re the kind of people that say no, no, no, no, God has a will and within his will he has given us freedom.  {Lean in for a moment.}  That’s why instead of controlling us like robots, God has given us a…..brain!  It’s not just a decoration!  He really wants us to use it.  So the second will of God is his moral will.  We’re going to talk about this next week.  It’s Jesus’s revealed commands given in the new covenant, to followers of Jesus, that the Bible teaches us how we ought to live and what we ought to believe.  But, this moral will—we might call it the way of wisdom—doesn’t always answer the question Who should I marry? What job should I take?  When should I retire?  Which house should we buy? Should we make this transition now?  It doesn’t answer some of the questions that a lot of you are asking?

So there’s a third will in the Scriptures.  We’ll call it God’s individual will.  Now let me do a little corrective here, if you’ll give me the space.  I was a college pastor for five years.  I can’t tell you how many young adults I worked with that wanted to know who God wanted them to marry.  There’s this prayer: Help me find the one!  Like this mythical unicorn one!  This one person that God has designed for me to marry.  That sounds really romantic and maybe feels good if we make vows and stuff like that.  The only problem with it is logic.  Have you ever thought about that?  If there is one person that God designed for you to marry, what if somebody else marries them?  What if those people have babies who were never part of God’s plan?  That only has to happen once in the history of the universe for that theory to go out the window, right?  A lot of times we’re looking for the bulls-eye for this, and I think God, a lot of times, says to us, “There’s no star, so why don’t you decide?”  There’s a way to sort of narrow down who you should marry, and we can talk about that over the next few weeks, but you’re never going to know for sure that this is EXACTLY the ONE….the mythical unicorn one.  Do you know how I know Kelly’s the one?  I married her.  That’s how I know, you’re welcome.  I know it’s unhelpful, but the same applies for jobs.  The same applies for where we live.

So if God’s will doesn’t mean those things, you might be asking, what in the world does it mean?  What does it mean?  That’s a great question.  Over the next few weeks, that’s the question we’re going to be tackling together.  Not only What does is mean? but How do we align our lives so that we can know God, it seems like this is where you’re leading, it seems like this what you’re up to?  Today, I just want to talk about packing for this journey.  I just want to talk about our approach to the journey of finding God’s will.  Next week I want to talk about the compass….how do we sort of get heading in the right direction?  Then week three, I want to talk about the map, and I want to talk about forks in the road, and I want to talk about life that often feels like a fog, and in a real practical way, how do we make decisions.

Today is about the approach, so flip over with me to Romans 12:1-2.  If you’re wondering was that all intro….. yeah!  This is one of the passages, and there’s very few of them, in the Scriptures that talk about God’s individual, unique, specific will for our lives.  You ready?  Here’s what the Apostle Paul writes to the church at Rome:  Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then {If you have your own Bible, circle the word ‘then.’  If you have an ESV version, it’s ‘that.’  If you have a NASB, it’s ‘so that.’  It’s this causal statement.  Then.  Then.  And you might say only then.}  you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—-his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about that word ‘then.’  It’s only necessary that Paul put that little causal statement, that little phrase, in there, because he wants to connect everything that came before, in those first two verses, with this sort of outcome then.  And after you do these things, then you’ll be able to know what God’s will is.  A lot of us go to ‘God, I want to know what your will is,’ but we’re not willing to go with his then.  We’re not willing to put into practice the first part that he says actually leads to the second part, the part that we really want—God, what do you want me to do?

If I were to summarize everything that comes before this word then in one word, my word would be surrender.  Surrender.  So we’ll say it like this this morning:  We discover God’s will as we surrender our lives, not as we discern the stars.  You don’t live like the magi.  You don’t look up in the stars and find something over the place that you’re suppose to live, the house that you’re suppose to buy, the job that you’re suppose to have, the person you’re suppose to marry.  Very rarely.  Sometimes that happens, but very rarely.  But what Paul says is no, no, no, no, it’s not discerning the stars, it’s actually surrendering your life that positions you to know what God’s will is.

I think of Father Abraham; he’s a great case study on God’s will.  Genesis 12:1, we hear his call:  The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”  This is Abraham, surrender.  Abraham, live by faith.  If I were Abraham, I would want to say, “Hey, God, why don’t you just tell me the land we’re going to and then I’ll go there.”  You may have noticed this in your life….I’m starting to realize it more in mine….God is way more into ‘show’ than he is in ‘tell.’  I want him to tell me, he wants to show me.  Telling is something we can go and we can control and we can do.  Showing is something that happens in the present, in a moment.  It’s not something we can sort of chase after.  It’s Abraham, one step at a time, day after day after day after day.  I’ve been challenged, I’ve been corrected, by this passage, and it’s coming to this realization that I want understanding, but God wants trust.  I want to know all the ins and outs and all the forks in the road and where to go.  God says yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ll get there and when we get there I will show you.  Maybe my showing you will say, “You decide.”

It’s the same thing we read in Proverbs 3:5-6.  Many of you have this put to memory, but let me just point out that there’s a progression here.   Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him   {Trust and submit.  I’ll just call it surrender.}  and  {You could maybe even say ‘and then’….}  he will make your paths straight.    As you trust, as you surrender, he straightens out your path.  Paul is setting up the dominoes and the last one that falls is ah, and then you know God’s will.  We want to fast forward through the process.  This morning is primarily about saying to us that knowing God’s will is predicated on a life of surrender.

Let’s just dive into this text, because it’s really beautiful and brilliant what the Apostle Paul does here.  He’s going to walk us through “what does this actually look like, to live a life of surrender?”  What does that look like? I think, as we start 2019, that this might be a really, really good place to start a new year.  What does surrender look like?  Here’s what he says first (Romans 12:1a):  Therefore  {Now, if you take notes in your Bible, circle that word therefore and then off to the side 1-11.  What Paul’s saying is in light of what I said in chapters 1 through 11, here’s what you do.}  Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy…  In the Greek, it’s actually ‘mercies.’  Like overflowing, abundant, so good.  Here’s the thing, if we want to surrender and understand what God’s will is, the first thing we’ve got to do is remember.  We’ve got to look back.  We’ve got to view God’s mercy.  Paul’s not just saying that as a suggestion, he’s calling the church.  Therefore, as you view God’s mercy that I’ve laid out for you in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for you, atonement of your sin, life with God, Spirit indwelling, made alive, made sons and daughters of the King—as you think about that, God’s faithfulness becomes your foundation.  If we’re going to have any prayer understanding what God’s will is for our life, we must first be confident of his mercy over my life.  I will build my life upon your love; that’s what Paul is saying.

We explore God’s specific will for us, his individual will for us, as we stand on his redemptive purpose fulfilled in Jesus over us.  And only then.  That’s the only ground to stand on in exploring ‘God, what’s your individual will for me?’  It’s God, I know this, I know that you’ve come, I know that you’ve given yourself in love.  I know that you’ve conquered the grave, that death has no sting. I know because of the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, that you are good through and through.  Okay.  Now.  Now, let’s start exploring….God, what’s your individual will for me?  The reason this is so important is because there will be things that will come into your life that do not feel good.  Our default might be, if we don’t view God’s mercy regularly, to think that God is bad.  Paul wants to guard against that.  He wants to cut us off at the pass.  He wants to say no, no, no, no.  Love is the lens, God is love, there’s no time that God is NOT love, and there’s no way that the cross and resurrection can be true if God is not good.  So view God’s mercy regularly.  We use the terminology here—-I’ll use the term often—-preach to yourself.  Remind yourself of it.  It’s simply just a way of saying view God’s mercy regularly. Paul’s suggesting that we cannot know the plan of God if we’re, first, not convinced of the mercy of God. {Write that down.}  We can’t know the plan of God if we’re not first convinced of the mercy of God.

Here’s where he goes next.  …in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1b)  Discipleship to Jesus, Paul would say, rules out just cognitive assent.  You can’t just have a theological, intellectual awareness.  You can’t just have a warmed, inner soul.  Our obedience affects every piece of us.  It affects every piece of our humanity.  “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all.”    My all!  I think the Apostle Paul would say….Commit!  Commit because your life is your worship and your life is God’s workshop.  It’s as you commit and as you walk with Jesus that you start to be transformed more and more into his image.  We’re transformed as we move and as we follow, not just as we sit and as we study.  Although those things are great. They’re just not enough.

This is really interesting and I’m going to be intentional about not going too far down a rabbit trail here.  I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…  For every single one of Paul’s old covenant, Jewish believers, they would have thought…..well, temple.   Paul’s talking about an animal that we bring, and sacrifice and kill so that we can be okay with God.  Most scholars think the book of Romans was written in 57 AD, which means that the temple was still standing in Jerusalem.  There were still people taking animals to be sacrificed.  There were still people who thought ah, we’re made right with God based on the blood of this goat, the blood of this bull, these doves.  We’re made right with God based on the animal that we bring.  Notice, Paul is not making a minor shift in approach, he’s saying God’s not interested in your bulls, even though they’re still doing these sacrifices.  God’s not interested in your goats.  You know what’s interesting, if you were to really read through the prophets, what you’d find is that God was never really all that interested in those things.  What’s he interested in?  Your life!  Your whole life.  Your heart.  Your body.  Your soul.  Your mind.

So he says the life of a Christian is one of a living sacrifice.  We are on the altar, as it were.  It’s similar to marriage.  Marriage is standing before an altar and it’s standing on an altar.  June 1, 2002, I stood before an altar before my friends and family, before God, and said “yes” to Kelly Hester.  What’s even more surprising is that she said “yes” to me.  And I said “no” to everyone else.  Marriage is as much about a “yes” as it is about a “no.”  That’s the picture that Paul’s painting here.  It’s a “yes” to the way of Jesus.  This “yes”……if you could summarize it.  Give me some handles, Paulson, what does this “yes” mean.  Let me give you one handle, let me give you one word.  Let me make it as simple as I possibly can.  Jesus did.  Here’s the one word……LOVE!  That’s the altar you’re on.  As a follower of Jesus, the altar you are on is…..I choose to love.  Paul didn’t mince words at all.  Here’s what he said in Galatians 5:6 — For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  {You can even say all those sacrifices?  No value.} The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.  So, if the faith in Jesus that you have doesn’t express itself in love, it’s not the kind of faith God’s interested in.  Paul made it really simple, he’s going here’s the lens.  Jesus would say the same thing in John 13:34 — A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you,, so you must love one another.   As I have loved you….in the same way that I’ve loved you, love one another.  That’s the marching orders.

I read this book by Andy Stanley recently that just messed with me, called Irresistible.  In it, he makes the point that before the church ever had a Bible, it had a command….LOVE.  And it changed the world.  Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and given himself up for us (Ephesians 5:2). Husbands, love your wives just as Christ has loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).  Forgive one another just as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).  The church was obsessed with this just as life.  Just as Christ.  That’s the altar you’re on.  Implicit within the imagery of an altar means that there may be things that God calls us to that we wouldn’t naturally choose.  It may not be—to sort of go back a few weeks—our strongest desires sometimes.  But I think that if we drill down enough, it might be our deepest.  We’ll talk about that a little more next week.

If we truly want God’s will, then obedience to the way of Jesus is not optional.  There it is.  If we truly want God’s will, obedience to the way of Jesus—a committed life—is not optional.  So I guess we should decide if we really want it, because death to self and taking up the cross IS the pathway to life.  And there’s no other.

Finally, Romans 12:2 — Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  You notice that in this verse, it suggests that conforming to the pattern of this world happens naturally, but transformation takes intentionality.  Conforming to the pattern of the world happens naturally, you just have to be in the world and you’re conformed to it.  But transformation ONLY happens intentionally.  We are so concerned, oftentimes, with the map that sort of tells us where we should go and what we should do.  Should I take a left here or a right here?  Should I pursue this work or that work?  Should I do this or pursue that?  I think there are some maps that we should be way concerned with, but they’re not those maps. They’re actually the maps you and I have in our mind.  I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but neuroscientists have actually studied this and have found that neurons that fire together, wire together.  So we have a pathway in our mind that says oh, when I’m wronged, here’s how I respond.  When I don’t get my way, here’s how I respond.  When people wrong me, here’s what I do.  When I want some pleasure, here’s where I go.  How many of you saw some of your neural pathways show themselves over this break when you spent time with your family? It’s one of the best ways to see them.

What neuroscience is showing us is that the longer you practice an action and are reinforced by what it gives you, the stronger that pathway becomes.  Those things are really, really hard to break, but they’re not impossible.  You can, through intentional discipleship and reformation of habits…..that’s why forming a habit takes anywhere from 20-40 days, but you can start to rewire your brain.   Paul, thousands of years before neuroscience ever figured it out, told us to do that.  He says renew your mind.  I love this because viewing God’s mercy is about our heart, it’s about our affection.  Committing our lives is about our body.  Renewing is about our mind, because the map in your mind determines the course of your life.

Reprogramming is a process.  As Karl Barth said, it IS repentance.  When Scriptures talk about repentance, this is what it’s talking about.  The way that I’m thinking about this thing is wrong.  It’s why on the wall you’ll see six words that are our values.  It’s why one of our values is practice.  We believe that the maps we have in our brain will determine the way that we live and the road that we walk, and that those things, in order to conform to discipleship and apprenticeship to Jesus, need to be rewired.  So I read this quote to you every sermon I preach the first of the year.  If you’re anticipating it, I didn’t want to disappoint.  It’s by D.A. Carson:  “People do not drift toward holiness.  Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.  We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith.  We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”  I’ll revisit this in 2020, January 5, 2020.  But, it’s so true.  It’s what Paul writes:  Don’t be CONformed, be TRANSformed.  Implicit in what he says is every single one of us is being formed.  We’re either being CONformed or we’re being TRANSformed.  Formation and spiritual formation isn’t a Christian thing, it’s a human thing.  What Paul is saying is surrender your life under the lordship of Jesus and be transformed.

I’m going to give you a moment to pause, but you have a blank that says “My practice for this week…” or maybe it’s even this year.  What is it?  How are you going to actively say, God, I want to rechart some of these maps in my mind so that they conform more into the image of Jesus, so that I see Jesus and I’m transformed and my actual brain starts to change, and my body starts to change, and I actually start to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  Maybe you download YouVersion and you walk through the Bible this year.  Or maybe, if you go that’s way too big, just do the New Testament.  Start with the New Testament and read it through in a year.  I promise you can do that.  I’ll put some resources online with this message, but one of them would be Lectio Divina….to start reading the Bible in a way that actually asks God to speak to you rather than just knocking it out.  Maybe you use the Prayer of Examen this year, to say Jesus, I just want to start rethinking the way that I’m thinking, and in order to do that I need to think about what I’m thinking about.  That’s a lot of thinking.  Maybe this year you read “The Daily,” our daily devotions.  There’s a web address on the bottom of your outline that’ll walk you through how to sign up.  It’s a video on Monday that I do that walks you through how I got what I got when I preached.  The next few days are devotions that hopefully feed your soul, then Friday is a spiritual practice that we encourage you to undertake, to just say Jesus, I just want to open up to your grace that I believe you’re pouring out.  Sign up this year.  Dive in.

Don’t miss this, what Paul is saying is that if we want to know God’s will for our lives, we’ve got to start thinking differently.  If you’re one of those people that looks for a word for 2019 and maybe you don’t have your word quite yet, what about the word “remember?”  Or maybe the word “commit.”  Or maybe the word “renew.”  Just an idea.

Here’s how Paul closes:  Then {So as you remember and as you commit and as you renew, then and ONLY then..} you will be able to test and approve {That word is one word in the Greek and it literally means “to show something is acceptable and good because you’ve put it to the test.  I would maybe translate that as then you will experience and enjoy what God’s will is.}  what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.    Why can you test and approve it?  Because you’re in it!  We don’t search for God’s will.  As we remember, commit, renew, we actually get to write a Yelp review of his will.  Oh, it’s good!  It’s good!  It’s pleasing!  It’s perfect!  I think Paul is saying that God’s will isn’t something we find; it’s something we find ourselves in!  As we lay down our lives and as we walk with him and as we become disciples, apprentices of the way of Jesus, his heart, his way, we go oh, I’m in it!  I’m in it!  I love this quote by Wendell Berry.  The character in one of the books he wrote says this:  “Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there.  I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises.  Often I have received better than I deserved.  Often my faintest hopes have rested on bad mistakes.  I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley.  And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led—make of that what you will.”   Friends, it’s not a searching the stars….it’s a bowing the knee.  That’s how we find God’s will.

We’re going to celebrate the table this morning.  As we do that, we’re going to open our lives back up to Jesus and say Jesus, all we have and all we are is yours.  It’s that posture of surrender that actually opens us up to taste and see that he’s good.  The table is open to anyone who’s a follower of Jesus.  Followers of Jesus are people who say yeah, I’m going to remember, I’m going to commit, and I’m going to renew.  As you come this morning, would you come with a posture of your life being…my knee is bowed to Christ as King.

Jesus, as we come, we’re not searching out the stars, we’re bowing our knee, believing that you’re good, that you love us, that you’re calling us to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  Even as we come today, rewire our mind that we might live more in your way.  It’s in your name we pray.  Amen.

What Makes the Difference? | Psalm 119:18
Life Abundant | John 10:10
No Condemnation | Romans 8:1,6
A New Beginning | 2 Corinthians 5:17