Thursday, March 15, 2012

Decision Making 101

A Christian’s Guide to Walking
Whether it’s drinking (for those over 21 obviously), entertainment (music, movies, video games), choices, career, or other things, we all make decisions, both big and small, every day. There are some practical questions we can ask ourselves to make sure that we’re making wise decisions that will honor and glorify Christ.

Questions to Ask:
1. What does this look like in the Bible?
Does this Bible speak to this? Do we see it in the Bible somewhere?
How does it compare to our culture?
The Bible means now what the author meant when he wrote it. The question is: “how does that translate to our culture now?”
We can sometimes find a parallel in the Bible. Sometimes, however, what we find in the Bible is different from what we have today.
Examples: Wine today is different than wine in the Bible. It is significantly more alcoholic, so it’s not quite the same. In Leviticius, tatoos are mentioned, but they are mentioned in reference to pagan worship. These two issues, while we see them in the Bible, are different today so you can’t use the example as a parallel. Use of “foul language,” however, is pretty much the same as what we see in Ephesians and is still condemned.
Essentially, we start with what the BIble says and what it means.

2. Is it Necessary?
Is this something I need to do, or is it an “extra curricular activity” that I have chosen to do? For example, while going to work for 40 or more hours each week means you’re spending less time with your family, it’s necessary so that you can support your family. Being part of a softball team, however, isn’t necessary. It’s something you’ve chosen to do.
In Biblical times, water was often unsafe to drink so they drank wine because the alcohol killed bacteria. We obviously don’t have that problem today.
So as you look at any particular situation or issue. Ask yourself the same thing - is there a “requirement” for me to do this? Or is it actually something I’ve chosen to do?

3. Is it the Best?
(This question is connected with #2)
God has always held His people to a higher standard. The reality is when you set high standards for yourself, many people resent it because it makes them aware of their own low standards. Instead of encouraging you, they want you to lower your standards so they’re not reminded of their lack of high standards. I believe this is why talking about Jesus gets people si riled up. It points out their sin.
The question - is it the best? Is this the best choice here?
Is this the best use of my time? My talents? My money? My resources?
Or is there a better choice? I’m not sure who said it, but the “good” is the enemy of the best. While it’s good to enjoy a softball game and healthy to get exercise, spending time with your family is probably a better choice.

4. Could it be Addictive?
An addictive activity will challenge your self-control. Does this activity have potential to become addictive? Will it possibly occupy your time and thoughts more than it should?
Alcohol is again the easy example here. We all know that many people are addicted to alcohol. It has a great potential for addiction. But other things can be addictive as well. Everything from exercise to video games to Facebook (ouch!) can be addictive.
These questions all build on each other, so out of question two and three, we add this.

5. Could it Cause Harm?
Could your participation in this activity cause physical, spiritual, emotional, or relational harm? If the answer is yes, then it’s probably not the best choice (see #2). This would seem to be a no-brainer, but in making wise choices, this should always be a consideration.
Is it wise to do something that has the potential lead me to sin or do harm to me? No it is not wise. You might can figure out how to do it so that it’s not technically sin (which is addressed a couple of paragraphs down), but we want to be wise in everything, not just “technically not a sin.”

6. Will it Offend other Christians?
Philippians 2:3-5 – Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves,
We should want always to build up and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. Now obviously we never want to be offensive to anyone if possible. If, however, you find yourself in a situation where you have to choose between offending a brother/sister in Christ or an unbeliever, you defer to your brother/sister and offend the unbeliever. We are clearly commanded to honor others in the body of Christ. Our love for them shows that we are Christians. It shows that we are radically committed to each other.
The stronger Christian has an obligation to defer to the weaker one.
If what you’re about to do might offend another Christian, you should really think through whether or not you should do it.

7. Will it hurt my Testimony? (the walk that others see)
We are called to be above reproach in everything. The idea in this term is “not even a handle.” We should live our lives in such a way that, if someone wanted to make an accusation against us, there wouldn’t be anything they could hold on to to. There shouldn’t be even a hint of sin in our lives.
Remember #6 - If you’re doing something that offends or bothers or causes your brother/sister in Christ to stumble, it cannot possibly make your testimony better. We want everything we do to point to Christ.

8. Is it Right?
Do you like the “I’m not so sure about this...” feeling?
Romans 14:23 – But whoever has doubts is condemned.... For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
If you feel the need to justify something or feel like you have to convince someone, even yourself, that this is okay, it’s probably not.
Here’s the bottom line question:
Can you do this before others and before God in total faith and confidence that it is right?

And don't forget the summary of where all these questions lead: Does it glorify Christ? Will Christ be made to look more glorious and more magnificent by this decision?

That’s really the bottom line.
If the answer isn’t yes - then it’s no.

(These questions are from John MacArthur’s Commentary on Ephesians. I’ve tweaked them a little)

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