“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:7-8)
The goal of the Christian is not to please himself but to please his Lord. He does not wish to settle for that which is least harmful, but to reach for that which is highest and best. He is not seeking to avoid punishment but to bring joy to his heavenly Father. He is not testing himself to see how much darkness he can stand but striving to see how near he can get to the Light.
His is not a negative obedience demanded of him but a positive eagerness to please God in every possible way. If this is his orientation, he will not choose between two interpreters on the basis of personal preference. Rather, he will soon recognize that not all learned people are godly, and not all godly people are learned. One of the greatest sources of confusion in Christian matters is that so few of those highly acclaimed as theologians are equally highly acclaimed as devout, and few of those who are noted for personal godliness seem to be masters of Biblical interpretation. Each Christian must assume responsibility to work at both thorough understanding of the Bible and making godlikeness the goal of life. Only one who has high achievement in both areas simultaneously is a reliable guide concerning questions on what you should do in which Christians differ.
Once a person’s attitude on the disputed issue is settled, and he eagerly desires God’s will alone, the next step is to discover whether it is truly a moral issue. When Scripture does not speak plainly on a question of conduct, the Christian must seek for biblical principle to guide him. Scripture is much more a book of principles than of precepts; any issue will have biblical principles bearing on it—either to direct the Christian or to free him to do as he pleases.
Often these will be specific principles. For example, the biblical principle of purity applies to a whole range of activity not directly dealt with in biblical precept, such as publishing or selling pornography. “Freedom of the press” may make it legal in some societies, but the biblical principle of purity makes it wrong before God.
Below are thirteen questions you can ask about questionable matters which seem especially helpful in making choices concerning disputed or uncertain practices.
- Is it for the Lord? Does it bring praise to him? “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians10:31).
- Can I do it in his name (on his authority, implicating him)? Can I thank him for it? “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).
- Can I take Jesus with me? Would Jesus do it? “Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7). “Christ . . . lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). “Christ . . . leaving us an example that you should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
- Does it belong in the home of the Holy Spirit? “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
- Is it of faith? Do I have misgivings? “But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (1 John 3:21).
- Does it positively benefit, build up (not simply, “Is it harmless?”)? “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:19). “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
- Does it spring from, or lead to, love of this world and its value system? “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
- Does it involve union with an unbeliever? “Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
- Does it come from or have the potential of leading to bondage? “All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up” (1 Corinthians 10:23).
- Is the motive pride or love? “We know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ ‘Knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:1-2).
- Is a godly mind-set the context of my decision on the matter? “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8).
- What does the church say about it? “He who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved of men” (Rom. 14:18).
- Would I like to be doing this when Jesus comes? “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. . . . We know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 2:28; 3:2-3).
This is not a list to memorize, but a few examples of general principles that help decide disputed issues.
Furthermore, many have found it a useful checklist to consult when making a decision or choosing behavior. What is questionable in your life? How can these questions guide your behavior?