The texts from 1 Corinthians 7 have been incredibly challenging to interpret and then make clear. Much of the dilemma is cultural, but the syntax, grammar, and language also made these sections really hard. So, my prayer is that throughout this chapter, it has been clear and hopefully, encouraging and helpful.
Now, onto some things that I think need to be added.
One of the really important things about learning to be biblical Christians is to learn to speak clearly where the Bible speaks clearly and learning to speak with “open hands” when things aren’t so clear. We saw that in 1 Corinthians 7:25-40 in Paul’s instructions about singleness in the midst of the “present distress”. Paul almost seemed to go back and forth in his encouragement to the Corinthians. And, I think that is important for us to hear. Especially in light of the fact that the Lord Jesus had not given any commands regarding the type of thing Paul was writing about. This is really instructive to us because there are lots of moments in life when we need the leadership of God’s Spirit for wisdom. In moments like this, I lean really hard on James 1:5, when James wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” God is such a good Father to His children that He will not leave us wisdom-less when we need it. So, ask God and believe that He’s good to you. In places where the Bible does not give clear commands, we must rest in God’s wisdom from God’s Spirit to direct us. And the wonderful thing is…He will help.
A few examples:
Through the years of pastoring people, there have been lots of moments when there is just not an explicit command from God on what to do. I’ve been asked about a lot of them. And I think there are times when your season of life; your gender; your surroundings; or even the ages of your children come into play and help you see God’s plan for that time. Let me give you some examples:
- We all feel the urge to help those in need. But what if you’re a lady, grocery shopping, at night, and a homeless man near your car asks you for help? Compassion says ‘help them’…but wisdom might give pause. It’s not sin to help and it’s not sin to not help (bad grammar, I know)…but wisdom is needed and no guilt is required:).
- Or what if you have small children and you have a heart for teenagers. One day you’re approached by a friend who knows of a teenage boy that needs a home. Do you bring that teenager into your home? Well, there’s a lot depending on that…what are you risking? What is the background of the teenager? Scripture would indicate that we should give a home to the homeless…but what does wisdom say? Again, it’s not sin to help and it’s not sin to not help.
- Or what about changing jobs in the midst the pandemic? Or what about selling your house in this market right now? Lots depends on those situations. It’s not sin to do either. It’s not sin to refrain from either. So…wisdom is needed.
So, here’s my though process and how I go about making decisions like these:
- I pray for wisdom…believing God will give it to me. And, I search my heart for any hidden sinful motives that could affect the decision.
- I seek God’s wisdom, through His word. What passages speak to this decision? What principles might help me?
- I seek God’s wisdom, through God’s people. My wife tops on this list. Then I ask my closest Christian friends/mentors.
- I seek God’s wisdom, through my circumstances and surroundings.
- Then I act. I’m not a big “navel-gazer”, where I get paralysis by analysis. At some point, a decision needs to be made. So, I act, believing that God has shown me what He wants and that whatever that is, the Lord will meet me.
An informed conscience:
Now, in this entire discussion rests the biblical concept of our conscience. Making “conscience” decisions are challenging, but it is important that we never violate our conscience and that we continue to inform our consciences by the Word of God. Romans 14-15 and 1 Corinthians 8-10 are some of the most exhausting texts about conscience issues. In the NT era, these issues normally surrounded food and drink. But in our times, due to a fundamental attempt to put “fences” around God’s commands, we’ve made things seem like sin, that aren’t sin and it’s clouded what is really sin. One issue from my younger years was that Christians believed that playing cards was a sinful act, so some Christians only played Rook. You can see how this can get ridiculous over time, if it’s not addressed biblically. We must be biblical Christians, making biblical distinctions.
In this thought, we must notice a difference between commandments from God and personal convictions based on our conscience. For instance, at one time in my life, the game of baseball was idolatrous and I was not using the game for the glory of God or the benefit of anyone but myself. The Lord made it clear to me that repentance was needed and I walked away from coaching baseball. While the way I left that 1997 team is still a major regret for me, the decision to walk away was the absolute right decision for me. However, it was not a command for everyone else to walk away. You see the point…there are times when personal convictions are just that…personal. But commands of the Lord, in the vein of “You shall not…” are for all of us. So, we must be careful that we don’t push our personal convictions on others, where there are no clear commands of Scripture. Here are some examples (these are more about our current cultural climate):
- Who you vote for…Yes, I agree that it’s hard to believe that someone would vote differently than me, but they will. No clear commands to vote or who you vote for.
- Should you vaccinate your children? This is completely the decision of the parent. God has given children to us and He expects us to care for them. And He will give you wisdom to do it. So, be careful being the vac-police or the anti-vac-police. It is not your job to “command” other parents, where God has not commanded. This would true for educational choices; extra-curricular activities; or even some parenting philosophies. Now, are some wiser than others…in my opinion, yes. Are there clear commands/principles in God’s word about child-training, discipline, and discipleship? Yes. But there are lots of areas, we might have personal convictions that differ and we’ve got to give room for those differences, in love.
- Drinking alcohol or eating pork…the latter is much easier than the former…bacon, eat lots of it! Just kidding, don’t be a glutton. But, seriously, the food laws were adjusted in Acts 10 and in other places of God’s word. And there is a clear command in Scripture to not get drunk with wine/alcohol. And there are several warnings in Scripture about drinking alcohol. But there doesn’t seem to be any command forbidding it and there are moments that indicate that Christians in the Bible drank alcohol. But I know several Christian friends who have very serious personal reservations about drinking alcohol and all for great reasons. Some have had family members drink themselves to death. Some have alcoholism in their families. Some are married to alcoholics. So, Christians who might enjoy this freedom, but not flaunt it and those who don’t must not judge.
- Personal convictions do not eclipse God’s commands.
Bought with a price
I simply cannot say this enough: as a Christian, we are defined by “bought with a price”. So, we cannot allow ourselves to be defined by personal convictions, choices, voting records, or marital status. We must not allow culture to dictate a response. God is the only One commanding us and we must “obey God and not man”.
This week, we’re going to recap 1 Corinthians 5-7 and talk about how to maintain purity in an impure world. Parents, please be aware that we will be discussing some sexual issues, but, as always, I will be very discreet. So, it might be good to make sure your kiddos are in Childrens’ Ministry, if you’re concerned about it.
From the Cheap Seats:
- I said that if the World Series got to Game 6, it would be a miracle. Well, consider this moment, miraculous in Game 4: https://www.mlb.com/gameday/dodgers-vs-rays/2020/10/24/635897#game_state=final,lock_state=final,game_tab=videos,game=635897.
- This English Premier League season is going to be nuts. So many tight games and blowouts of top teams (see Man City giving up 5, Liverpool giving up 7, and Tottenham 6-1 over Man U). Craziness.
- This week marks the end of our fall baseball season. I’ve really enjoyed coaching this fall. First, the weather is amazing. Second, I got an extended 8-10 weeks with our 2021 team and I think it’s gonna pay dividends. Finally, I love baseball:).
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.