The DEEP

Discern by Testing?

Testing what?

Romans 12:1–2 (ESV)

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.

After his beautiful treatise on the incomprehensible nature of God, Paul tells us what we should do about it—and what he says is chilling.

Therefore, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Let’s not kid ourselves about what this means. Paul wrote this to people living under the thumb of a Rome. “Presenting your bodies as a living sacrifice” isn’t meant to be taken lightly.

If God really is this amazing, incomprehensible Lord of everything, with an agenda totally beyond our grasp, then total sacrifice is the only right response. That’s real spiritual worship. And with people like Nero running the government, living sacrifice can get pretty literal. Yeeesh.

Then Paul explains how this works. Since we can’t possibly understand what God is up to, the best we can hope for is to figure out what He wants us to do.

But even that isn’t easy. Nothing short of a total transformation will do.

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.

Note that not conforming to this world but being transformed by the renewing of our minds isn’t the whole instruction. There’s something else—testing.

Testing? Testing what?

Testing our guesses about God’s will. Being transformed by the renewal of your mind isn’t some one-time event where we suddenly can know God’s will. If conversion did all that then Paul wouldn’t need to give this instruction. No, Paul is describing the learning process that’s the essence of walking with Christ.

Being a Christian means making lots of mistakes, while always seeking God’s will. God honors this and gives us clues and eye-openers (even painful ones) in response. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we’re open to these lessons. Thus, we’re transformed over and over by the renewing of our minds.

That’s sanctification.


Don’t get discouraged by your failures. Frustration with failures is part of the system. Remember the lesson about humility in Chapter 11? This is part of that.

God is determined to transform us into His likeness. He pursues that agenda at all cost—even the cross.


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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.