What Does God Say about Questionable Things?

Spiritual Maturity Comes through Obedience

In Here’s My Question, John R. Rice wrote:

The Bible has proved itself, to me, to be the infallible Word of God. In the original manuscripts and as it has been correctly translated, it is accurate in matters of doctrine, science and history, perfect in morals, the very Word of God. One may safely rely on every promise and should earnestly seek to obey every command and joyfully surrender to every hint of the will of God revealed in the Bible.

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.—Hebrews 5:9–14

The writer of Hebrews is making a fairly simple point: the way to maturity—solid, biblical maturity—is not becoming an intelligent person but becoming an obedient person. What you do with your lifestyle, entertainment, relationships, money, and leisure has more to do with your ability to obey solid biblical teaching than your capacity to retain information.

Something is wrong, and the writer of Hebrews hadn’t come right out and said it until now, but he had implied it in the chapters before. There is something wrong with the Christians he is writing to. “Hold fast… give more earnest heed… harden not your hearts…” These are urgent admonitions. I begin to get the impression that the writer is really concerned about some situation in the church. But until now he has only given the cure, not the diagnosis. Now he tells us what’s wrong.

He tries to make an important point saying that Christ has been perfected through suffering, and that he has been designated a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. And then he takes a breath (you can almost hear him sigh and say, “Nevermind, you wouldn’t understand it anyway.”)

And there is our first explicit diagnosis of the disease: they have no discernment. He considers them babies in Christ. Only they shouldn’t be babies; they should be adults. They should be teachers. But they have failed basic, obedient Christianity. Now they’re trying to make more difficult decisions and don’t know what to do because they haven’t been doing what they should have been doing all along.

There are hundreds of decisions that we must make about things that are not spelled out explicitly in the Bible. What to watch on TV, which political positions to take, business tactics, how to discipline your children, what to wear, where to volunteer, how much to give, and the list could go on forever. To make these decisions you need discernment.

We cannot be at peace with worldliness in our homes or sin in our lives. We cannot be content with spiritual immaturity in our churches. So how do we draw the line on questionable things? Here are some guides:

Attend to the Counsel

Tradition must never trump Scripture. But if we love Scripture we will learn from the traditions of the church. We are not the first people to read the Bible. We are not the only ones who have had the Spirit to help us. God has been at work over the centuries to protect the truth by the means of His church.

This means we should use extra caution before believing something almost no Christians have believed, and before rejecting something almost every Baptist church since the Apostles has accepted. By the same token, we should be less dogmatic about issues that have divided Christians for centuries.

You should find godly men and women you can talk with who will help you make sound decisions, then listen to their counsel. Find people who have an understanding about the areas in which you are trying to make a decision. Find someone who has been in a similar situation and talk about what decision should be made. I appreciate every opportunity to pray with a church member about a major decision, but that doesn’t mean I know which financial investments they should make. Find someone who does and learn from them.

Avoid Foolish Controversies

This is another common theme in the Pastoral Epistles. Some doctrinal disputes are worth dying for. Others are just dumb. We should steer clear of theological wrangling that is speculative and goes beyond Scripture. Also, be cautious not to care more about being right than you care about being helpful.

Accept Spirit-led Conclusions

We need to distinguish between the explicit teaching of Scripture and the application of Scriptural principles. Different Christians can reach different conclusions based on good Christian principles. To make the Bible speak dogmatically on a specific issue is to force the Bible beyond itself.

Aspire for Christ-like Holiness

It’s all too easy to turn the fight of faith into sanctification-by-checklist: take care of a few bad habits, develop a couple of good ones, and you’re set. But a moral checklist doesn’t take into consideration the idols of the heart or the motives behind a decision.

Holiness or sanctification requires patience and work. Sanctification is not surrender; it’s divinely enabled work and effort. I am to be careful about what things I set before my eyes. I am to be cautious about my heart wandering. I am to be very considerate before I make a decision—these should be my goal. I am to work hard at the relationship I have with Christ. Paul said, “I labored more abundantly than they all.”

Life as a Christian is not about getting permission to do what I want, but rather living in submission to all that God wants. God wants me to be holy as He is holy. And in fact everything that He is doing in my life is for that.

Abstain from the Choice of Sin

If it’s a sin, it’s not ok! Someone says, “Well, we all sin; no one’s perfect.” That’s not justification to live in whatever way you please. Jesus was a friend to sinners, but He was no friend of sin. The Bible is clear: resist the devil. Flee from lust. These are the things that we must do.

All sin should be abstained from. When it is committed it should be repented of.

Affirm Clear Biblical Teaching

It is the will of God for you to give thanks. Are you doing that?
It is the will of God for you to tell the lost about Christ. Are you doing that? It is the will of God for you to be kind to your neighbor. How are you doing so far?

Do the things you know you should be doing. Become an obedient person in the clear and simple instructions from Scripture, and by reason of use you will find your senses exercised to discern good and evil.

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