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Tuesday, April 9, 2013 | Comments (3)

by John MacArthur

How do we make decisions about issues and activities that are not clearly spelled out in Scripture? How do we develop criteria to make those kinds of decisions in a way that honors God and benefits us, causes the Body of Christ to grow, and makes the gospel believable and attractive to the unconverted?

When it comes to matters of Christian liberty and gray area decisions, it’s not about what we can get away with while causing minimum damage. We’re not looking for high-risk Christian living—to see how close we can get to the fire and not get burned. There are too many people who use their freedom to live on the edge yet hope to avoid disaster. That’s misguided thinking.

When confronted with choices in one of life’s gray areas, rather than asking how much we can get away with, we need to ask, Will this activity produce spiritual benefit?

In 1 Corinthians 10:23, Paul explained that “all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” Some people in the Corinthian congregation were exercising their Christian liberty without any regard for the spiritual good of others, or even their own good. Paul corrected that thinking by reminding them that unless something is spiritually profitable—unless it builds up a person spiritually—it’s not worth doing.

So based on Paul’s exhortation, believers should ask themselves, “Will doing this activity enhance my spiritual life and the spiritual lives of others? Will it cultivate godliness in me and in them? Will it build us up spiritually?” If not, then is it really a wise choice?

I’m not looking to invest my life in the things that don’t return a spiritual dividend. If it doesn’t promise to give me some positive spiritual benefit, then why would I engage in it? Will it assist my spiritual development? Does it cultivate godliness? All things are lawful if they’re not forbidden by God, but the world is filled with things that promise absolutely no real spiritual advantage.

You could ask a question about, for example, sleeping. Taking time to get proper rest is certainly not forbidden in the Bible. But sleeping too much is obviously not to your spiritual advantage.

It’s really a question of expedience. Is that particular activity—whatever it is—expedient for your spiritual growth and the good of others? Will it promote, encourage, or stimulate spiritual growth?

Whenever gray-area decisions come up, ask yourself, “If I go there, if I do that, if I view that, if I experience that, if I engage myself in that relationship, will it have immediate and long-term spiritual benefit?”

There are a plethora of ways, of course, in which we can build up others in the faith, and in which we ourselves can “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). But at a foundational level, edification is fairly basic. It primarily comes from studying the Word and hearing it taught (cf. Acts 20:32; Colossians 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:16-17); showing true love to believers as you fellowship with them (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:1; Hebrews 10:24); and obediently serving the local church (cf. Ephesians 4:12).

Make decisions that stimulate your own edification, and offer you opportunities to edify others. And guard against the inclination to complicate your decision-making process. If you need to devise a complex system of causes and effects to manufacture a distant potential for spiritual benefit, it’s a good indication that the activity you’re trying to excuse isn’t truly beneficial.

When it comes to the gray areas of life, we should always begin by asking if the choice we are about to make is spiritually profitable, both for ourselves and those around us.

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


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#1  Posted by William Tantum  |  Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 5:26 PM

Our primary purpose in life is to glorify God, and our time to do so in this life on earth is finite. I have discovered in my own life that the gray areas are only gray if they are don't usurp God from being our primary object of worship. I have found myself, in the past, allowing sports and entertainment to take priority in my life, and while enjoying them for the sake of leisure is neither right or wrong, having them take precedent over my time with the Lord elevated them to an unacceptable form of idolatry. The problem, for me, was not simply recognizing the issue and making an adjustment to what would be considered a better-balanced distribution of my time God versus my time following sports and entertainment; within myself I found nothing to moderate the amount of time I gave to these worldly leisures. God made it clear to me that they had become an idol and until I obliterated them completely from my life, I would never truly be free to glorify Him with the time He has allotted for me in this life. When the gray becomes the majority of your life, it starts to look a lot more like black everyday. I have never been closer to Him since denying myself these daily shades of gray.

Praise God for His faithfulness in always showing us what we truly need; even when we weren't looking for it.

#2  Posted by Tommy Harmon  |  Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 11:30 AM

I try to ediify my life for the Lord even though at times I fail the same same as anyone else.

Ephesians 4:29 ESV

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

This is my driving force.

#3  Posted by Clyde Glenn  |  Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 10:48 AM

my determined purpose in life is to know GOD,to know HIS SON & to live in a manner worthy of my calling.while some things are lawful for me to practice(sports,etc.),if they do not help me achieve my goal,they become encumbrances.therefore,just as PAUL,they become bad things & must be let go of.good things are bad things when they stand in the way of best GOD be the glory,what great things he has done & shown me,wretched man that i am.