Monday, April 9, 2012

Using the Bible to make Godly decisions

Romans 14:5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.

Decision making in areas that are black and white
The Bible presents to us black and white truth - principles that are given by the Holy Spirit to navigate through life's decisions.  Some decisions are easy.  For instance - should a person have physical intimacy outside of marriage?  The Bible is pretty clear - physical intimacy is meant only for marriage.  1 Thessalonians 4:3 states - "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality."   Did you catch that first phrase - "For this is God's will"?  Hebrews 13:4 draws clear boundaries concerning the place of physical inimacy being within marriage only: "Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge."

Another easy example is the question: "Is church attendance really necessary for the Christian"?  Again passages such as Hebrews 3:12-13 and 10:24-25 both command believers to be with other Christians on a regular basis, since the days are evil, since corporate worship is the means of growing faith and since lone-ranger Christianity is a unknown concept in the Bible.

Decision making in so-called "gray areas"
What about those other areas that are not so clear-cut?  For instance: Whom should I marry? Which job should I take? What car should I purchase?  Where should I live? Which doctor should I go to? What school do I attend? A whole host of questions that even though not specifically addressed by scripture - nonetheless can be addressed from the general principles of scripture.  When we say "gray areas", were not advocating some form of "what's true for me and what's true for you" approach.  Truth is truth no matter what.  Rather our concern in this blog is how we can take the unalterable truth of God's word and apply it to situations that make it difficult to know which direction to take. 

Two methods of making biblical decisions - Commands and Principles
Whenever I have to make a decision - I can take two approaches.  The first is to draw up a series of commands or rules.  If my conduct or decision goes against the commands, then clearly I need to do a "course correction". 

However in many cases, we may be choosing between two good and acceptable alternatives.  It is in those cases where I appeal to the "principles" of scripture - which is what Paul is doing here in Romans 14.  A principle is a "general, universally agreed upon pattern prescribed in scripture that can be applied in specific cases." 

In the instance recorded here in Romans 14 - the issue was over celebrating certain holidays on certain days.  The Apostle could had laid down a command, a law, and used that as "the standard" for everyone to follow.  That approach is certainly within biblical parameters - as for instance in Acts 15.  In Acts 15 the Jews were saying that the Gentiles had to conform to Jewish practices in order to be Christians.  James annd the Apsotles drafted up a letter that was circulated around the churches - telling them to abstain from certain types of meat.

Yet Paul does not do that here.  Rather he lays out some principles to navigate through what we may term "gray areas". The first principle that Paul lays out is what I call "The Lord-ship Principle"

1. Principle #1: The Lordship principle:  "Will this decision enable me to live obediently for The Lord Jesus Christ?"

We see this principle in Romans 14:8 "for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s." So in looking at schools, or relationships or whatever the case may be - will the alternative I choose conflict or encourage consistent obedience to Jesus Christ?  This ethical principle is fundamental to Christianity, since Jesus states in John 14:15 and 21 that all who love Him will do as He says. 

If my decision would lead me to live more selfishly rather than submissively to the authority of Christ, then I better not go down that path.  In Romans 14:7 Paul spells this out: "For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for Himself". 

For now we will end here.  Tomorrow we will consider another principle, an "absolute" that we can put in our hearts and minds in making informed decisions that bring hoonor and glory to God. 

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