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Monday, April 8, 2013 | Comments (7)

by John MacArthur

As a pastor, I have the privilege of teaching people God’s Word, explaining its implications in their lives by clarifying a passage of Scripture or a point of doctrine. Among the common concerns people raise, I can’t remember anyone ever asking me if it was wrong to cheat, steal, lie, commit murder, commit adultery, or covet. Nor can I recall someone wanting to know whether a Christian should read the Bible, pray, worship God, or tell others about salvation in Jesus Christ. God’s Word is unmistakably clear about those things.

What people do often ask, though, are questions regarding issues or activities that are not specifically addressed in Scripture—matters that fall somewhere between what is obviously right and obviously wrong. The issues aren’t black and white but involve aspects of Christian liberty that fall into the “gray areas.”

What sort of entertainment is acceptable? What kind of music is OK? What about what you wear, where you go, or how you spend your free time? How does the Bible speak to those issues?

Some would say, “The Bible doesn’t address them. I can do what I want to do. I’m free in Christ!” But Paul has a warning to believers who would exercise their freedoms to the hilt: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12; cf. Galatians 5:13).

You might know believers who abuse their freedoms. Their lives are routinely bombarded by temptation—often it’s temptation they’ve unnecessarily heaped upon themselves through their own choices. And the closer they get to the line between sin and liberty, the harder it is to stay on the right side of it. Over time, that kind of lifestyle is an invitation to moral shipwreck.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from unbridled Christian liberty is legalism. In that camp are believers who want to make hard-and-fast rules about matters on which Scripture is silent.

I attended a college where we didn’t have to struggle through decisions on gray areas because everything had already been decided for us. There were rules about what time we got up, what time we went to bed, what hours we studied, and whom we could talk to. There were even rules about how far we could walk with a girl beside us before we had to separate—right down to the number of feet! There were rules for just about everything. And while those rules simplified life on a superficial level, they also made it hopelessly complicated on an internal level.

The biblical pattern for dealing with life’s gray areas isn’t found in either of those extremes. While it is true that the Bible doesn’t specifically mention every possible decision you might face, it provides general principles and parameters that help you make decisions that honor God.

Over the next few weeks we’re going to look intently at those principles, and how they offer the kind of spiritual balance not found in extreme legalism or liberty. The goal is to help you apply biblical principles to the gray areas in your life, allowing you to make decisions with a clear conscience to the glory of God.

(Adapted from Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong.)


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#1  Posted by Bruce Heckman  |  Monday, April 8, 2013 at 11:32 AM

Thank you Jesus for bringing (us) our HOLY FATHERS TRUTH. Amen

Light of Faith

#2  Posted by Adam D  |  Monday, April 8, 2013 at 4:35 PM

These gray areas remain so that we continue to seek our need to seek God's will by faith.

All believers are filled with the Holy Spirit, meaning if they yield to His power, they have the ability to dicern these gray areas. Sadly, discernment is almost non-existent in the Body of Christ.

1 John 2:20 - But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.

#3  Posted by Ben Enders  |  Monday, April 8, 2013 at 6:02 PM


I need to respectfully disagree. The gray areas don't remain so we seek God's will, they remain because we have not been in our bible. Show me a person who spends little or no time in bible study and I'll show you someone with huge gray areas.

1 John 2:20 isn't saying that we will have no gray areas because of the Holy Spirit, he's reminding us that we know the gospel of Jesus and therefore cannot be deceived by false prophets.

Your second statement contradicts itself???

#4  Posted by Richard Turner  |  Monday, April 8, 2013 at 9:32 PM

A number of years ago I was asked if certain thinks we Christians might engage in were OK or not. The rule I used then and yes even to this day is this, are my thoughts and my actions such that they bring glory to God. I usually know when my comments and/or my actions are not pleasing to Him.

Search me oh God and see if there be any wicked way in me. Psalm 139:23-24

But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." I Peter 1:15-16

#5  Posted by Cottrill Jim  |  Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 8:34 AM

Looking forward to the discussion! I just posted a few thoughts (concerns) about the same thing here: So – if the Bible doesn’t address it directly?

#6  Posted by Nick Sykes  |  Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 5:27 PM

If God were to give us a list of approved activities for us to be engaged in, then I think much of what passes as acceptable among Christians would be found missing from the list.

Even if you are justifying some worldly thing as acceptable, what would God prefer you to be doing? What is of more value to him? Is the honor of Christ really all that important to you? Are you denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following him? Or is some vain rubbish on TV more important? What's more important - earnestly pursuing maturity, growing in grace and knowledge of the truth, or worshiping the idol of sports?

Worldly entertainment and amusements are selfish, of no profit to our soul, and contrary to God's will for us; our sanctification. We are set apart for God's purposes, to partake of the divine nature, redeeming the time - not squandering what precious little we have on things of no value in God's economy.

We must be concerned with loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And we are to be renewing our minds. This will involve reasoning against what is considered acceptable by the world, and even by the majority of Christians.

"If the light in you be darkness, how great is that darkness!"

It is the light of God's truth that illuminates our darkness, fills us with light, and shines upon the gray areas that we might rightly discern them. When an area remains uncertain, we can still be confident in the certainty of what we already know and apply that as we wait upon the Lord, remaining busy about the Father's business.

#7  Posted by John Donovan  |  Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 12:31 PM

One thing I sometimes ask myself is "does the Bible really not address this issue?". Can I drill down to the underlying heart issue involved here, which surely must be addressed somewhere in scripture?

One one side, am I trying to add to the work of Christ? Or on the other side, am I loving something more than God? I believe either issue is equally worthy of repentance.

I would argue that almost every issue we face is definitely addressed in the Bible, if you really look hard at the issue itself in its various components, and then really drill down to the heart issues involved. From there, you should be able to get to a point where the realities of the situation are intersecting with the relevant scriptures, and while you may not get a hard "yes" or "no", at least now you have a framework through which to view the issue. You just have to identify what the REAL issues are first, then you can be confident that there MUST be something in scripture to address it.

I am also of the belief that God really isn't going to put me in a situation that isn't addressed by scripture.

Sometimes also, it isn't that the situation isn't addressed in scripture, but that we also need scripture to help us unmask the situation and heart issues for what they really are, and from there I think eventually you'll be a lot closer to lining it all up with the Bible and knowing what to do.