PART 1: Gray Matters: Five Principles of Discernment »
If decisions about gray matters are hard for you, the problem might be a simple one. Maybe you’re just not familiar enough with God’s word.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
Sometimes I only want to apply the parts of God’s Word that yell at me: “Don’t have extramarital sex! Don’t lie! Don’t steal! Don’t covet!” But what about the less obvious things? Things like smoking cigarettes or watching a certain TV show or wearing a certain piece of clothing. In those areas I don’t think God yells the answer; I think He whispers it.
I learned this the hard way when I married Lisa. The more I get to know her the more I learn what she likes and dislikes. She doesn’t like it when I scare her at 11:30 at night or dump cold water on her. But she loves it when I write her notes, and when I buy her flowers and gifts. And she really loves when I make dinner (even if it’s horrible). My wife didn’t come with a manual. I had to live with her, watch her, ask questions.
In these gray matters I think God wants to draw us into a relationship with himself. He wants to whisper the answer through his Word by revealing his character and plan. He wants to tell us what he likes and doesn’t like. God’s Word is critical because it’s where he reveals all this.
Ephesians 5:17 says, “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Scripture shows us God’s will — it’s to redeem a people through the gospel of Jesus Christ to form a different and distinct community that reflects Him to a dying world. So when you’re thinking about gray matters ask yourself, “Does this fit into God’s will as revealed in His Word? Will this help me represent the gospel? Will this help me be part of Jesus’ distinct community?”
The more biblical our thinking, the clearer things become, and the more we’ll be able to practice godly discernment. Ground your thinking in God’s Word.
Ever notice that a lot of times our brilliant ideas are really very, very bad ideas?
Once my friend Isaac was out hiking and saw a big sign that said: “Rattlesnakes. Beware. Do Not Go Down These Cliffs.” But he wanted to get to the refreshing river below so he assumed the sign was just wrong. Brilliant, huh? As he left the group he was with and started own the cliffs, he began jumping from rock to rock. Then he saw them. Rattlesnakes. Three of them. On the rock he was just about to jump to.
Notice how Isaac didn’t ask anyone about his great idea to go down those cliffs? This is what we do so often in gray matters. We break away, isolate ourselves, and just assume we know best. When Isaac nearly leaped onto a bunch of rattlesnakes it was an unusually vivid picture of the messes we can get ourselves into when we go our own way.
Proverbs 18:1-2 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire. He breaks out against all sound judgment. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Are you isolating yourself from God’s community? Or are you involving others in your decisions, even when you think you know what is “right”?
If you distrust your heart — as we learned last time — you’ll remember how easily it can warp your view of things. Again Proverbs says, “The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15). You need God’s Word and other believers to help you see straight.
Involving others means making them part of your life — living in community with them. You don’t have to make it a formal process with daily check-ups or weekly meetings. You probably already have plenty of opportunities to interact with other believers. So just work at making the most of them. When you drive to a meeting with a friend or run into someone at Starbucks, seize the opportunity. Here are three ways to start:
- Inform others. Let them know about your particular temptations and your current struggles with sin. Ask them, “In light of all this, what’s wise?”
- Get counsel. When making a decision — whether it’s what house to buy or what movie to rent — involve others.
- Ask questions. Don’t just ask generally for counsel. Ask specific questions like, “What am I not seeing right now? Am I thinking right?”
Involving others in your life can be a huge way to receive God’s help and will keep you from jumping into sin before you realize what you’re doing.
Decide to Worship
Even after looking at and applying the principles of discernment we’ve talked about you’ll still come to a moment of decision in the gray matters. Let’s finish out by looking at Romans 12:1-2:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Here God is not just talking about your physical frame — your arms and legs — but every aspect of who you are. We are to use everything about ourselves to worship God.
What’s our motivation? As Paul says, it is “by the mercies of God” we present our bodies as sacrifices, because Christ has bought and saved us. We say, “Lord, in light of what you’ve done for me, that you saved me from running headlong into hell, what a joy it is to not have to listen to the radio today, but just worship you through prayer.” Christianity has a cost — every hobby, every interest, every part of your body. We’re sacrificing everything about us to God’s glory.
And here’s one huge implication of this for our lives: Every moment of your day is a moment to worship the living God. Now, I often think “worship” is singing. But true worship is more than a song. It’s a sacrifice. God calls us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices in an act of worship.
Deciding to worship God in every area changes our response in … every area. Here are just a few.
- Media: Your first question shouldn’t be “Is this appropriate?” but “Who owns my eyes? Whom do they belong to? Who owns my ears?”
- Clothing: Really, immodesty is saying “You know what Lord, I own my own body and I will do with it what I want and wear what I want.” But modesty says “I know that physical attractiveness is given to me for you glory God and for my spouse.”
- Money: Our checkbook reveals what we worship, doesn’t it? Who owns your checkbook? Tithing and otherwise spending with God’s glory in view says, “My money is not my own.”
- Career: Are you desperate to live the American Dream with two cars in the garage and a white picket fence? Ask yourself, “Who owns my career?”
Decide to worship by giving yourself as a living sacrifice to God, holy and pleasing. Decide to worship God in every gray matter you encounter.
So we’ve talked about five biblical principles that inform godly discernment:
- Imitate God
- Distrust Your Heart
- Think Biblically
- Involve Others
- Decide to worship
Get these biblical principles into your life and they’ll radically affect the way you approach the gray matters in your life. God has provided us with the tools. With his help we can create a biblical practice of discernment.
Copyright 2007 Sovereign Grace Ministries. All rights reserved.