What should I do?
How does God guide us in our decisions?
Searching for something?
On my website, I have the ability to see what search terms people typed into Google that led them to my site. All kinds of weird and wonderful search phrases come up. In the last week I’ve had people searching for Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Ghost Rider, and Paintball. I even had someone looking for “scripture for job interview”, which has me pretty curious. One search phrase that had me feeling all warm and gooey inside was someone searching for the best font size to use when preaching from an iPad. Just goes to show that the internet is a great place for sharing.
Amongst all the different searches, there’s one kind of search that is constant. It goes along the lines of “Can a Christian do X” or “Should a Christian do Y”. Here are some examples from the last week: “Can a Christian listen to heavy metal music?” or “Should Christians go see Wicked The Musical?” or “Can a Christian play Skyrim?” Now, regardless of what you think the answer to those questions might be, I think there’s a greater issue behind these questions.
And it’s about Christian freedom.
What are Christians free to do?
Things that Christians can and can’t do fall into three categories. There are:
- things that God is clear on
- things that God is ambiguous (not clear) on
- things that God is leaving up to us to decide
Things that God is clear on
Some things God is very clear about you not doing. For example, don’t worship other gods, don’t steal, don’t murder (these are in the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20). God does not want you to do these things, so he spells it out. When God’s Word says don’t do something, it's for your own good, so DON’T DO IT!
Things that are less clear
However, there are many things that God is not as clear on. Some things are ambiguous. In these instances, there are places in Scripture we can go to for building a picture of what God would like us to do. God has given us two wonderful gifts here. He has given us his Word the Bible, which is God talking to us. And he has given us his Holy Spirit, which works within the hearts of Christians to both point them towards God’s Word, as well as changing us from the inside and making us people who seek God and want to live his way (even if this is happening a lot slower than I would like it too!).
It’s the Holy Spirit that makes Romans 12:2 a reality
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
So, for those decisions that seem ambiguous, jump into your Bibles, ask God to use his Spirit to point you in the right direction, and use some of that wisdom that God has given you.
Things that God leaves up to us
This is the one I think people really struggle with. There are some things in this world that God has left up to each individual to decide if they’re right or wrong. We are included in God’s family, not because of the rules we keep, but through the grace of God. A great freedom has been won for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are free to do many things. But that doesn’t mean that we should.
The apostle Paul said to the Corinthians:
“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything"
(1 Corinthians 6:12).
The Corinthian church was struggling with issues such as sexual immorality and worshipping idols. Paul’s answer to the sexual immorality problem was simple – STOP IT! His answer to the idol problem was different. People were eating food sacrificed to idols. For some it was no problem, it was just meat. For others it was a major issue because they felt it was pulling them away from God and forcing them to worship false gods. What to do? Paul gave two directions:
- If it’s a problem for you, then don’t do it.
- If it’s not a problem for you but it is for those around you, don’t do it because it would be harmful for your mate who’s struggling.
It’s not the action that’s important here – it’s the heart. How you feel and how it affects your relationship with God is the problem.
Wisdom vs Rules
Most of the “Should a Christian do X?” questions fall into the third category. Does God want me to play Skyrim? Well, I can’t find any reference to computer games in the Bible. So we need to use some of our own wisdom. Does the game take you away from God? If yes, then stop playing it. Examine your own heart and make sure you’re focussed on loving God.
There’s a real danger here in taking things that should be issues of freedom and making them black and white issues. Because that’s what the Pharisees did. They created all kinds of rules. Of course they had the best of intentions. They wanted to make sure they didn’t break any of God’s laws. But in the process, by creating so many additional rules they forgot something really important – they forgot to love God and love other people. We can never allow following “the rules” to get in the way of us loving God and also loving our neighbours.
So, what should I do?
Here's some basic questions to ask when thinking through if you should do something or not.
- Does the Bible say do it or don’t do it? Listen to God’s Word and obey it.
- Does the Bible have something to say on the issue that might impact your decision? Pray about it, think about it, ask someone for their opinion, do what you think best honours God.
- Does God give us freedom in this area? Work out it if would be helpful for you (or those around you) to do it. If not, then don’t do it.
In everything you do, in every decision you make, seek to love and honour God.