Answering the question, “What is expected of all Christians in all places and in all times?” is easy to answer because the Bible speaks very clearly on general ethics.
However, answering the question, “What is the specific will of God for me in this particular situation?” can be more difficult for the Christian.
While the Bible may not offer easy answers to all of life’s questions, it does help us make specific decisions by raising more general questions for us to consider. If we take the time to prayerfully answer these, we will (most of the time) discern God’s specific will in the matter.
Is it lawful?
Introduction – Many think of Christian liberty as absolute freedom from all law. They even invent clever slogans like, “All things are lawful for me…”
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 6:9-7:20 teach us that liberty is not the only principle in Christian living. God has set us free that we might glorify him through obedience.
Principle – No decision or behavior which is contrary to the clear commands of God can ever be legitimate for the Christian.
Application – We need to allow the general equity, duties required, and sins forbidden by each commandment to inform our decisions.
Is it beneficial?
Introduction – Many Christians are rather quick to defend their decisions/behaviors by saying, “But what’s so wrong with it?” (as if that settles the matter).
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 6:12 invites us to move beyond such self-defense and honestly consider the opposite side of the question: “What’s so good with it?”
Principle – Avoiding obvious sin is not the only principle in Christian living. We also need to be actively pursuing the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
Application – We must take the time to explore the potential spiritual and temporal benefits which may (or may not!) come by making certain decisions.
Is it potentially enslaving?
Introduction – Many Christians overestimate their own strength and end up neglecting the spiritual discipline of self-mastery (1 Cor. 9:27).
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 6:12 uses a powerful play on words (in the Greek): “These things are all within my power, but I will not end up under their power.”
Principle – Even inherently lawful things can enslave the Christian so that he ends up unable to live without them. Personal liberty can quickly turn into a prison.
Application – We owe it to ourselves to know our own personal weaknesses so that we can avoid those things that we may not be able to master.
Is it consistent with Christ’s lordship?
Introduction – Many Christians would gladly have Jesus as their personal Saviour, but not as their personal Lord. This was as common in Paul’s day as it is in ours.
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 reminds us that our union with Christ is not severed whenever we step into the realm of sin. Rather, we drag Christ into it!
Principle – Our permanent union with Christ should create in us a certain cautiousness about going to questionable places or engaging in questionable activities.
Application – When in doubt, it may be helpful to ponder the question, “Can I take Christ there and look him in the face without shame?”
Is it helpful to others?
Introduction – Many Christians betray a certain selfishness when it comes to making personal decisions, thinking only, “How will this benefit me?”
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 indicate that seeking the well-being of others is an important element of our decision making process.
Principle – Selfishness has no place in the Christian life. Christ came to serve us and, as his disciples, we ought to be committed to serving others.
Application – We must be willing to sacrifice our own personal liberties in cases where we might offend (i.e., hinder the conversion of) the unsaved.
Is it following in good footsteps?
Introduction – Most Christians today are biblically illiterate and this puts them at a great disadvantage when it comes to discerning God’s will in specific matters.
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 11:1 reminds us not to dismiss too quickly the popular WWJD? (or in this case, WWPD?) approach to Christian decision making.
Principle – Scripture is filled with “real life” stories that demonstrate the consequences (good or bad) of specific attitudes and actions. Name some from memory.
Application – We should commit ourselves to a systematic Bible reading plan so that we can avail ourselves of all the examples God has held forth for our consideration.
The outline and content of these studies was gleaned from Sinclair Ferguson’s book “Discovering God’s Will”