by David E. Strope
Fake news abounds! Several years ago, news spread like wildfire in Central America that Juan Orlando Hernández, president of Honduras, had banned homework for all Honduran students. Fake news!
Far more serious are the wars begun and fought due to inaccurate intelligence. And worse yet is the justification of war by the publishing of fake news. Think of the various assertions made by Vladimir Putin to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Radio, television, deep fake videos, Facebook, internet news, and the Gray Lady (New York Times) all seemingly specialize in fake news.
But the expert in fake news is Satan, the deceiver. To Eve he wilily declared, “You won’t really die if you eat that fruit,” but die she did.
Paul the apostle warned of the constant danger of “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:13–14, CSB).
The fake news of Satan is a bald-faced lie, promoted not only by principalities and powers, but also by earthly sages and pundits. This fake news? That God’s will is bad for humanity; that living by His counsel will bring no joy, only drudgery, guilt, and waste.
Yet here is the truth: God’s will—known, believed, and lived—is good, acceptable, and perfect!
Romans 12:1–2 says, “I 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. 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” (ESV).
God’s Passion for His Children
As both creator and redeemer of sinners, God possesses and expresses full sovereignty. He commands His children, who were made so by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God Himself heightens His own commands, for He begs us. He beseeches us. He urges us.
Here is God’s passion for His redeemed children: His will is our good. So He not only commands us but begs us, for He knows what is good, acceptable, and perfect.
God’s Provision for His Children
“I appeal to [“beg”] you . . . by the mercies of God.” Paul reached a turning point in his letter to the Romans. In 11 chapters he set forth in glorious detail God’s righteousness while also setting forth humanity’s unrighteousness. God, in being and in action, is magnificent in righteousness. Conversely, humanity is utterly sinful and depraved. God is, however, not only righteous but merciful, sending His eternal Son for us. God justifies sinners by His grace through the redemptive death of Jesus Christ at Calvary. God set Him forth “as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, . . . that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25–26).
The wonder of the gospel is set forth, that God is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. God has righteously judged us in the death of Christ, declaring the believing sinner righteous by the wrath-appeasing death of Jesus!
This magnificent work of God, declaring sinners righteous, is never received via human effort but by trust in the work of Christ (Rom. 4:5).
Being justified by faith, we are at peace with God and stand in His grace (Rom. 5:1–2).
Believing sinners are now in Christ, where grace reigns and reins (Rom. 6—8).
The sovereign pleasure of God is seen in His treatment of His covenant people, Israel. But He also manifests grace to those who are not part of the covenant community (Israel), thus provoking Israel to jealousy and even faith in His gracious work of reconciliation.
We then exclaim with Paul, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33).
Here is God’s provision for us, His expression of mercy to sinners!
God’s Imperatives for His Children
Having shared His passion for us and having made provision for us in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God by the pen of Paul now commands us to
- present our bodies as living sacrifices;
Give Me your life, every part of your being, nothing reserved. Do it now! Do it continually!
- not be conformed to this age’s worldview;
Or, as the oft-quoted Phillips translation renders this command, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”
- be transformed by renewing our minds.
Much could and should be noted about these imperatives: the rich imagery of sacrifice; the oxymoronic “living sacrifice”; the insistent plea to give God what is already His, i.e., our lives; the command to resist being conformed to this age; and the command to transform our minds.
But I would have you consider the question why.
Why present your body and life to God?
Why resist conformity to this age’s philosophy?
Why be transformed?
Very often God’s children leap to the imperatives without sensing the context from which these commands spring, that is, God’s mercy manifest to us explicitly in Jesus Christ. And too often we focus on the command without understanding the reason.
God’s Purpose for His Children
The Spirit of God tells us His purpose, which is not to spoil our joy or ruin our lives, but to give us joy and fulfill us; for God’s will is good, acceptable, and perfect. “That by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2, ESV).
My paraphrase may bring greater understanding: “that you may test and subsequently discover the will of God to be good, acceptable, and perfect.” But what is “the will of God”?
Does “the will of God” refer to the unknown future: What job will I take? Whom will I marry? Shall I eat Subway or Jimmy John’s today? Theologians label this will the will of decree, or “the outworking of God’s providential plan for our lives, kept from our view, revealed progressively in day-to-day wisdom decisions.”
Or is “the will of God” what is known as the will of command, or “the will of God that is clear and identifiable as communicated in Scripture”?
John Murray wrote, “The decretive will of God is not the norm according to which our life is to be patterned. . . . The will [of command] of God is the transcript of God’s perfection and is the perfect reflection of His holiness, justice, and goodness” (John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, Eerdmans Classic Biblical Commentaries, 2:115–16).
To make Romans 12:2 clear, it might be simply read this way: In the presentation of your life to God, you will find by the consistent understanding of, belief in, and obedience to the Word of God that His will is good, acceptable, and perfect.
This is exactly what God says of His Word. Belief in His Word is the way to life, joy, and peace: “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Ps. 119:130).
In old-time cowboy movies made in Italy, a.k.a. spaghetti westerns, one cowpoke would buy a cow with silver or gold coins. Inevitably, the seller put the coin between his teeth, testing to feel if it was real or if it would bend. He assessed the coin and discovered its true essence, whether it was real or fake.
In summary, we who know Christ are begged by God Himself to give Him our lives, since we have received His mercy through Jesus Christ: Present your bodies. Don’t be conformed to this age! Be transformed. In doing so you will evaluate and demonstrate that God’s will of command is indeed good, acceptable, and perfect! Far from finding your life ruined, you will experience life, joy, and peace.
The will of God—known, believed, and lived—is good, acceptable, and perfect!
Jesus declared that truth, not personal autonomy, sets us free (John 8:32). Without the knowledge of God’s Word, we are enslaved. Disbelief ruins! Rebellion against the gospel and God’s Word brings death!
The satanic fake news of our age is that knowing and living God’s will and believing His Word are the sure ways to waste your life and ruin any prospects of fulfilled human existence.
Media outlets publish their versions of this fake news: God’s will—to believe and trust Jesus wholly—ruins your life. The purveyors of this false news—books, serious literature, newspapers, digital news media, pop music, television, cinema—barrage us all with this fake news. Thus the battle rages in the minds of all.
But here is the truth: God’s will—known, believed, and lived—is good, acceptable, and perfect. To know and live for Christ is to experience momentary/earthly and eternal/heavenly joy. To listen to and live by fake news may seem right; but inevitably, harkening to this fake news is the way of death.
The Old and New Testaments are full of the truth that God’s will of command is good, acceptable, and perfect:
“My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh” (Prov. 4:20–22, ESV).
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63, ESV).
“And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death” (Prov. 8:32–36, ESV).
Hear, understand, believe, live, and announce this, the true news: God’s will—to give your life to Christ in ongoing faith, love, and obedience—is good, acceptable, and perfect!
David E. Strope serves as interim national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.