Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Romans 14:7-9 "For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 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. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living."
When raising children, parents aim to train them to make not only good decisions - but also Godly choices. Whenever the children are younger, we tell them to do certain things because "mom or dad said so". Issuing forth basic instructions or "precepts" is fine for younger children. However, we hope to see the child take-on life through weighing what they "ought-to-do" by way of "principles" taught to them by us. A principle is a universal standard that is applicable to specific situations.
We tell our children how the day will come when mom or dad won't be there looking over their shoulder. Eventually, the child's relationship to the parent should be that of seeking counsel, rather than simply getting a string of commands. As is often the case in the natural-life, the road of maturity in the spiritual-life is anything but a straight-line. Things can get wobbly. Still, the development of such persons is just as important as attainment of spiritual goals.
We find in scripture that God develops the moral and spiritual lives of His people by two main routes: precepts and principles. The former of these deals with commands. The latter is concerned about developing that person to exercise - by the Spirit's internal leading - their will and moral intuitions to correspond to the known will of God in the Bible. God is far more interested in a relationship with His people than they are in having one with Him. Choices are used by God to intersect the will of the Christian with His own. Romans 14 touches upon the subject of decision-making as seen in the various terms sprinkled throughout the text that are often associated with making choices:
Romans 14:1, "judgment on his opinions"; 14:4 "judge"; 14:5 "one person regards"; 14:10, "judge". Then later on: 14:22, "your own conviction before God"; 14:23 "faith".
Life is filled with choices. How can you and I be ready for what comes next? Furthermore, what assurance do we have for making not just the right choice, but a Godly one? Knowing the right principles. What is a principle? As already mentioned, principles are those universal standards that can be readily applied to specific situations.
Today’s post explores five principles for making Godly choices in those areas we might refer to as the so-called "grey areas". The below principles and their associated diagnostic questions will find their greatest benefit through prayer in the decisions we make. At the end of this post we will offer final applications for using each principle in concert with the others.
1. Lordship Principle. Romans 14:8-9
Christ's Lordship is the leading principle of Christian discipleship. In the realm of human decisions, we ought to first ask: "will this choice lead to greater obedience to Jesus Christ?" Romans 14:8-9 states:
"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. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living."
Paul is dealing with the issue of how those Christians that are stronger in their faith ought to treat those who are not as far along in the things of God. Have both yielded to the authority of Christ in their lives? Decision-making is that one area that provides a quick test for determining how much one has set apart Christ in their hearts (see 1 Peter 3:15).
2. Conscience Principle. Romans 14:10-12
The principle of the conscience is found throughout God's Word. Whenever exercising oneself in making choices, a second question to ask could be: "will this choice result in violation of my or another’s conscience?" Romans 14:10-12 warns us not to violate another's conscience in the realm of Christian freedom. Whether or not we carry-out a certain action ought to factor in the well-being of either another's conscience or our own.
3. Spirit-led Principle. Romans 14:16-17
The leading or filling of the Holy Spirit is urged upon the Christian throughout the New Testament (see Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:18; 2 Peter 1:3-4). We find ample warning of what occurs when one gives into the flesh (see 1 Corinthians 3:1-4). A good diagnostic question to ask in light of this principle would be: "will this choice result in following my flesh or the Holy Spirit?"
1 Corinthians 6:12 speaks similarly like we see Paul writing here in Romans 14. In the 1 Corinthians 6:12 passage we read: "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything".
One of the ways we determine the leadership of the flesh or the Spirit in a given area is by what occupies our thoughts, actions and speech. If a particular subject dominates these areas to the detriment of the things of God, it could indicate mastery by the flesh in that area. However, if one finds themselves subjecting their hobbies, thoughts or speech to God for the sake of drawing closer to God, then pursuit of the Spirit's leading is usually the concern.
Romans 14:16-17 emphasizes how the Kingdom of God is all about righteousness (status of one's actions); peace (state of one's soul) and joy (status of one's fellowship with God) in the Holy Spirit. Whether we are talking about matters of what-to-eat, what-to- drink or some other debatable issue - there needs be the priority of the Spirit's leading over that of our self-interest (i.e. the flesh).
4. Building-up Principle. Romans 14:19-20
So when making Godly choices, we need to consider how well the decision will encourage me to follow Christ's Lordship, whether or not a conscience is violated and how well one can follow the Holy Spirit's leading. This fourth principle has to do with building up vs. tearing down others. Such a principle is concerned with what the scripture calls "edification". 1 Corinthians 10:23 states: "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify."
An important question to ask in light of this principle would be: "will this choice build-up or tear-down others?" Romans 14:19-20 cautions the believer to pursue those courses of action that "make for peace and the building-up" of one another."
5. Faithful Principle. Romans 14:22-23
Faith is a gift given by God (Ephesians 2:8-9). What one does with their faith subsequent to conversion spells out how faithful they are. If whatever decision one makes either hurts personal Christian faith, the faith of others or brings reproach on the cause of Christianity in general, great caution is needed. Such a decision ought to either compel people to "wait" or make the decision that best favors the cause of faith. Decisions made in haste are often done in presumption, rather than faith seeking the will of God. A good diagnostic question to ask in this regard would be: "will this choice hurt or advance Christian faith?" Romans 14:22-23 closes out with this reminder: "and whatever is not from faith is sin".
Applying these principles for Godly decision making involves asking the right questions
Today we have considered five principles for Godly decision-making from Romans 14. Like a prospector panning for gold, we can use the above principles and their associated diagnostic questions to sift-through choices that may not seem so "cut-and-dry". Each principle functions like a "sieve", shuffling our decision-making through finer and finer screens until whatever comes out at the bottom tells us what we need to do or not to do. Thus, in using social-media for example, we could apply the above principles accordingly:
1. Will this site or social media help or hurt my obedience to Christ's Lordship?
2. Will this site or social media violate the conscience of others or myself?
3. Will this site or social media result in my gratifying the desires of my flesh or lend to a greater desire to follow the Holy Spirit's leading?
4. Will this site or social media build-up or tear-down others or myself?
5. Will this site or social media help or harm my Christian faith, others' faith or the cause of Christ in general?
Whenever we sift our choices through the above "grids", whatever makes it through such questions spells out the course of action to take in our daily choices. May this aid readers in making it their goal to make wiser and more godlier choices in the day to come.