How to Make a Christian Decision
Should I watch this new show on Netflix or should I not? Should I take this job for the money or that job which offers more family time? Should I drink a beer or should I abstain? Should I wear a mask or should I not? Should I protest or should I stay home? Should I move to Nashville or stay in Bowling Green forever? (The answer is always "Yes" for staying in Bowling Green!)
We face a million questions over our lifetime as Christians. Some questions are very clear and simple: Is Jesus the only way to heaven? Does the Lord want me to join a church? Should I forgive my spouse when they ask for forgiveness?
However, some questions are not as simple. Some questions can have a spectrum of faithfulness where two faithful believers can come to two different conclusions on an issue and both still be walking in faithfulness to the Lord.
So, what do we do when we come to the crossroads of "Should I do this or that?" We must first seek the Lord in prayer. We must seek the wisdom and counsel of our brothers and sisters. We must follow the Spirit's lead in the freedom of Christian liberty with great joy. And I believe there are questions we can ask to make the best decision for God's glory.
1. Is it Sinful?
This should be the first question we ask as Christians. Because if the answer is "Yes," that this choice is a sin, you don't have to ask any more questions. Followers of Christ should always aim to obey God's commandments and to refuse to do anything that breaks God's Word. Jesus says clearly in John 14:15 to his disciples: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."
2. Is it Wise?
The first question is not always cut and dry. It's not always easy to see whether or not an action is sinful. So we move on to ask, "Is it wise?" Would it be foolish for me to make this decision? Every chapter in the book of Proverbs is screaming to us "Get wisdom. Get Insight." And when you find wisdom, treasure it and walk in it.
Maybe it wouldn't be sinful for me to pack up and move to Seattle but if I have family nearby, a great job that provides for me, a great church where I am growing in the Lord and neighbors who are hearing the gospel in my home than it might be foolish for me to move. Seek this wisdom from others in the church for "in an abundance of counselors there is safety" (Proverbs 12:14).
3. Is it Loving?
Paul tells the church in Galatia that it was "for freedom Christ has set us free" (Gal. 5:1) So if your Christian life seems more like slavery than freedom, you are probably doing it wrong. Yet, Paul restrains our Christian liberty with the boundary of love. He says in Gal. 5:13, "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."
Your Christian liberty was not given to you for you. It was given so that you might use it to love others. So, you might have the freedom to drink alcohol but there might be contexts where it would be unloving to drink in front of a brother who struggles with alcohol. You might have the freedom to watch a show but it might cause your husband to stumble and this would not be loving.
4. Is it Of Faith?
For many of us, there are issues that we wrestle with in our hearts that are not clear whether or not they are sinful, wise or loving. So they really come down to an issue of your conscience. Andy Naselli defines your conscience as "your consciousness of what you believe is right or wrong." (Read his excellent book "Conscience")
The conscience is the inner judge that tells you what is right or wrong. While it's true that our conscience needs always be conformed daily to Scripture (Romans 12:2), we should never sin against our conscience. If you say "Yes!" to something your conscience is screaming "No!" to - even if the action is not a sin in God's eyes - you are still sinning. Remember Romans 14:23 "For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." Mark Dever explains it this way: "Conscience cannot make a wrong thing right, but it can make a right thing wrong."
5. Is it Praiseworthy?
We should want everything we do to help our hearts treasure Jesus. I can remember watching a UK football game in years past where the Spirit prompted me to ask myself "Is this game stealing my affection for Jesus or stirring my affection for Jesus?" What an important question to ask!
Again, Paul tells us the church in Philippi "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 3:8). We should long for every second to be filled with the treasuring of Christ. Just like we will spend all eternity.
If we are going to exercise our Christian liberty in a way that glorifies Christ and cultivates unity within our church, then we must ask all of these questions.
But sadly, I believe there is one question that we too often ask that trumps all the questions above. One question the world has taught us to ask again and again as the most important question of all. It's a question that I believe even Christians ask far too often. . ."Do I Want to Do it?"
This is the question that trumps all other questions. It comes from a heart that believes the world revolves around us. That our ultimate goal every single day is for us to be happy. That even God himself exists to make all our wildest dreams come true. This is a lie. This is not biblical Christianity.
The Gospel calls us to lay down our rights. To seek to serve rather than be served. To count others more significant than ourselves. To always do what is pleasing to our Father in heaven. For this is the way our Savior lived each day. This is the way Jesus laid down his very life on the cross so that sinners could find life through faith in Him alone.
This is what it means to walk in freedom. You are free now in Christ. Not free to do whatever you want to do. You are free to do what God wants you to do. And that's the most joy of all. Walking in obedience. Walking in wisdom. Walking in love. Walking by faith. Walking while treasuring Jesus and finding great joy in dying to ourselves.