Thursday, January 21, 2021

What's True for You Is True for You



There are many decisions we have to make in life that are uncertain. We do our best to hear out all sides, weighing the pros and cons, only to be found a little more confused than when we first started considering these things. This is the most complicated when we're dealing with an issue that is totally subjective, meaning it's a matter of opinion. When there's no "Right vs. Wrong" element, we sometimes feel at a total loss regarding the best choice to make.

What we're all most often grappling with in these varied scenarios is the tension of faith and stewardship. In our lives, we desire to employ both diligent management and extreme faith, yet it so often seems as if these two elements war against each other. We'll often think we can have either stewardship or faith, but we can't have both. They're mutually exclusive, we suppose.

Well, that actually isn't the case. Living out the Christian life is complicated and messy, but it's much more beautiful than the simple directives we sometimes crave.

Living in the Tension

In case you haven't started to grasp the idea I'm conveying, I'll list some examples for you to contemplate.

I always feel the tension of faith and stewardship when making financial decisions. When it's time for my family to upgrade a vehicle, there are many factors I'm considering as the one in charge of purchasing. We always buy used, so fresh-off-the-lot is never an option. But how used should the car be? After all, newer cars can be needlessly expensive. But do I really want to buy an old vehicle that could potentially leave my family stranded by the side of the road? Or maybe I just don't have enough faith. But, at the same time, I am responsible to manage my household well. 

See what I mean?

Another immediate financial application of this tension is in the realm of savings. How much should you save for retirement? Retirement isn't a biblical word, you know. But only a fool would refuse to save anything at all for the future. Make sure you live by faith, though -- don't trust in your finances! 

Still see what I mean?

In this particular moment in history, these issues continue to arise in more and more complicated forms. How we are to go about life amid the Coronavirus pandemic is a sticky issue. Choosing appropriate education paths for our children is seemingly a lose-lose scenario. Deciding if you should move out of your city, state, or country may be an issue you're trying to resolve right now. These are all difficult choices.

The first thing we can do to help ourselves in this mess is to embrace the reality that the tension exists. You can't ignore it; you can't let it consume you; it just is what it is. You're a creature with profound limitations. You're unable to perfectly know all of the factors at play. It is impossible for you to make a "perfect" decision. In fact, the tension itself reveals that there is no such thing as a perfect decision in these matters. There's no right or wrong way to do these things. So, take a deep breath, and let your conscience be informed by Scripture before pulling the trigger.

Be Fully Convinced

In Romans 14, the apostle Paul puts forth the matter of holidays. There are certain people who believe one day is to be recognized as more important than others. Then there are certain people who treat all days with the same esteem. Paul's answer to this debate isn't to affirm one group and rebuke the other.

That last sentence is important. You may want to read it again.

Instead, Paul states the following: "Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind," (v. 5, NIV). Both sides of the issue, though they are in opposition, should embrace their own positions with full conviction. And, I may add, they should go to church together and be happy with each other. The New Living Translation is a touch more interpretive with their rendering of this verse. It says, "You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable." 

In the chapter Paul uses another polarizing topic of his day as an illustration: food. Some people were vegetarians, others were nearly carnivores. Who was right? He went on to say, "The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves," (v. 22, ESV). Again, the NLT inserts a bit of commentary, stating, "Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right."

There are several items that could be highlighted in these passages, but perhaps just two of them are sufficient for our purposes here.

First, Paul encourages the Roman believers to "be fully convinced in their own mind." This, of course, takes place at the most personal level. The decisions made in one's own mind are truly individualistic and as customized as possible. When it comes to certain issues, individual Christians are free to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong. If you're uncertain which issues fall into this category, I have a podcast and a chart for you.

This "fully convinced," or "certain" position one is to hold is actually a "faith" position. (By the way, certainty and faith are not antonyms, as some would wish them to be. Familiarize yourself with presuppositional apologetics for more information.) A person celebrates or abstains from holidays based on his personal, individual faith. A person enjoys or abstains from certain foods based on his personal, individual faith. But it's a certain faith -- because to act against it is sin (Romans 14:23). This is the amazing world of the Christian conscience.

Second, as the NLT highlights, these decisions we make shouldn't cause us to doubt our acceptance before God or make us feel guilty. The entire chapter makes it abundantly clear that these choices do not jeopardize our justification or the whole of our salvation in Christ. Check out verse 3 and consider it slowly: "The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him," (NASB95, emphasis added). God has accepted "him." Him who? God accepts both of them! 

It is before our Lord alone that we stand and on the basis of Calvary, we are accepted. We are forever justified as redeemed individuals whom God reckons as innocent. What a blessing! Therefore, you are free to live as your conscience allows as long as you are not disobeying God's Word. If someone else condemns you, so what? Your Lord does not condemn you.

Your Lord does not condemn you!

And if the Lord has accepted you, so should your brothers and sisters. He will deal with those who condemn.

Wisdom Must Be Applied

Now this is not to say that the Christian life is a free-for-all in matters where Scripture is silent on the specifics. There is much wisdom to be gained from a multitude of counselors (see Proverbs) and there are principles in the Bible that can be applied in various, dynamic ways. The goal of every Christian should not only be to honor the Lord in life, but to honor the Lord in life by making wise decisions.

This wisdom is to be sought in our relationships as much as it is anywhere else. Not only do we need to ask God for wisdom in the daily decisions we're making for ourselves, but we need to ask God for the wisdom needed to keep our brothers and sisters from stumbling. We must always be seeking to build one another up for God's glory and if we are hindering another's spiritual progress, we have become a road block.

This is where Paul goes in Romans 14. He says, "Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way...So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another," (vv. 13, 19, NASB95). 

Sacrifice is required for peace and humility is required for wisdom. These are the first principles we learn in the gospel and these are the principles that guide us in the Christian life. Just as Jesus freely offered Himself to bring us peace and made Himself low that we might be lifted up, we, too, should serve our brothers. Proverbs emphatically states that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"; therefore, let us fear God together as we seek to bless Him and each other with the decisions we make -- and let us find joy in doing it. The Christian life is a great privilege full of amazing pleasures that we're free to enjoy in wisdom for God's glory and our good.

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