Monday, June 8, 2015

How Can I Know?

We live in a day of blurred lines and moral relativism.  What used to be considered morally wrong is now often considered just a personal choice.  I am convinced that most people still want to make the right choices.  But how can we know which decision is right when the line between right and wrong has become so blurred in our culture?  Well, it begins with the Bible.

There are certain things that we must realize about the Bible if it is to help us make the right choices in life.  First, we must remember that the Bible is a guide book, not a rule book.  Contrary to what some might think, the Bible does NOT directly address every moral issue that we will ever face.  But if you can accept that the Bible is God's word and, as such, should be obeyed, that's the first step in determining right from wrong.  If you are willing to be submissive to what the Bible says, even if it's painful, that's the second step. And that's reasonable for those issues confronted directly by the scriptures.

But what about those gray areas of life --- those times when God's commands or desires aren't stated so clearly?  How can we determine right from wrong then?

Well, throughout His word, God has given us principles for life rather than rules, regulations, or specific directives.  Oh yes, there are some rules, regulations and specific directives in there.  But I'm simply saying that those things do not address every situation or decision that we face.  That's why He has given us those principles that are like road signs on our journey through life.  They are timeless and eternally relevant, whether we like them or not.  And they DO address every moral, ethical or spiritual decision we will ever make in life.

Let me offer you seven (7) simple principles for when you're faced with deciding if a situation is right or wrong:

1.  Ask yourself, "Is there a direct command from God on this matter?"  There are some activities, lifestyles, and circumstances that ARE addressed directly by God.  For instance, there is never a circumstance where adultery is the right decision.  Why?  Because God specifically says "You shall NOT commit adultery."  The same is true of lying, stealing, murder, and taking God's name in vain.  So when God gives clear concise instruction on a matter, that matter is settled.

2.  Ask yourself, "Will my actions or words bring glory to God?"  Paul wrote in I Corinthians 10:31, "Whether then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do ALL to the glory of God."  This is a fundamental Christian principle.  Bringing glory to God is our purpose in life.  So ask, "Can God be glorified by this?  Can I honestly do this in Jesus' Name?"

3.  Ask yourself, "Will this cause other folks to stumble in their relationship with or search for God?"  This principle has to do with our responsibility toward others.  Paul wrote in I Corinthians 8:13, "So if what I eat (or drink or smoke or wear) causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live -- for I don't want to cause another believer to stumble."  (NLT)   Some things might not be wrong in themselves, but if a weaker, less mature Christian or unbeliever is offended by it, then it shouldn't be done.
Now the problem here is "How far should I go with this?  What if someone doesn't like my mustache or the fact that I like to wear jeans to church or that I occasionally go to a movie on Sunday afternoon?"  Well, there are steps to take.  If we become aware that our action or words have offended someone, our first repsonsibility is to gently confront that person, apologize, and attempt to graciously explain our view.  The motive is to hopefully encourage and build up the offended party.  But if that person is still offended, it is our responsibility to avoid the offense when possible.  The greater responsibility falls on the more mature believer.

Ask yourself, "Is this really necessary?"  Paul wrote in I Corinthians 6:12, "You say 'I am allowed to do anything' -- but not everything is good for you.  And even though 'I am allowed to do anything,' I must not become a slave to anything."  (NLT)   And in I Corinthians 10:23-24, "You say, 'I am allowed to do anything' -- but not everything is good for you.  You say 'I am allowed to do anything' -- but not is beneficial.  Don't be concerned for your own good, but for the good of others."  (NLT)

The principle here is that some activities that seem OK to us are things that we can and should do without if others are offended by it

5.  Ask yourself, "Could this harm me physically, spiritually or emotionally?"  Paul wrote in I Corinthians 6:19-20, "Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, Who lives in you and was given to you by God?  You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.  So you must honor God with your body."  (NLT)  Our physical bodies belong to Jesus just as much as our spirits do and we are to use our bodies for His glory and service.  We must guard against addiction whether it be drugs, alcohol, sex, food, nicotine or a sedentary lifestyle.  Remember Paul's words in Romans 12:1, "And so dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice -- the kind He will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship Him."  (NLT).  

6.  Ask yourself, "Does this activity or these words encourage evil?"  Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:22, "Stay away from every kind of evil."  (NLT)  The King James Version says to abstain from every "appearance of evil."

7.  Ask yourself, "Can I ask God to bless this decision?"   If, after applying these first six principles, we can pray about our decision, ask God to bless it, and feel a comfort and peace about it, then we should proceed.

Above all, remember what the writer of Proverbs told us in Proverbs 3:5-6  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do and He will show you which path to take."  (NLT)  Don't be swept away by cultural blurred lines or moral relativism.  By spending much time in submissive prayer and weighing decisions using biblical principles, God Himself will help you to discern right from wrong so that you can make good decisions.  

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