Guidelines For Gray Areas

As Christians we have certain liberties in Christ (2Cor.3: 17 b; Gal.5: 1a). However, there are certain limits to our liberties that the New Testament reveals (l Cor.8: 9; l Peter 2:16 b).

The following questions have caused some of the biggest debates in the Christian church. The answers to these questions are not stated in the Bible exactly as we would like. How would you biblically counsel people who asked you the following questions:

Should Christians drink alcohol (wine, beer)? Should Christians smoke?

Should Christians dance?

Should Christians play golf on Sunday morning?

Should women wear make-up to church?

Should Christians wear shorts to church?

Should Christians go to the movies?

Should Christian men wear long hair?

Should Christian women wear their hair real short? Should Christians play cards ... play monopoly?

Should Christians gamble or play the lottery?

Should Christians go to bars or nightclubs?

None of these questions are directly answered in the Bible. But how does a Christian decide whether or not to do something he doesn't feel is wrong, yet he doesn’t know it is right either since the Bible doesn't say.

There are two extreme decisions. One extreme is to make a list of rules (legalism). This kind of Christianity conforms to set of rules and is the equivalence of spirituality. Christian life is simply externalized. One problem with making a decision by a set of rules is who decides what the rules are to be.

The other extreme is called libertinism. As you are confronted by the gray-area issues you can say, "I'm free in Christ therefore I can do what I went." Yes we have liberty in Christ, but it is limited by love. So are these the only two considerations we have? No.

The following principles are a series of guidelines through which any behavior in a gray area can be filtered. Ask yourself: If I do this

1.     Will it slow me down in the race?

The first question you ask yourself regarding a gray area is: "Do I really need it, or is it excess baggage?" Hebrews 12:la says, "Wherefore, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight…." Notice that the weight is different from the sin. What is the difference? To run the race (argon) is demanding, grueling life of faith that requires determination, perseverance, and self-discipline. We have to lay aside every weight as well as the sin. What is every weight (onkos)? It simply means bulk. It is not sin. It is needless bulk. Something that weighs you down, diverts your priorities, takes your attention, sucks your energy, and dampens your enthusiasm. Anything that impinges your effectiveness for Christ you are not to do. It may not be evil, but it becomes a needless weight for you to carry.

Let’s call this the principle of EXCESS

2.    Will it be spiritually profitable?

This is the opposite side of excess. I Cor.6: 12a says, "All things are lawful (all that is not unlawful) unto me, but all things are not expedient (profitable)…." Expedient means "useful" or "beneficial" or "to my advantage" (Paul is speaking spiritually). If I do this will it slow me down or will it help me be a better man of God? Will help to increase my effectiveness as a believer?

Let's call this the principle of EXPEDIENCE

3.    Will it be consistent with Christlikeness?

John says in 1John 2:6, "He who says that he abides in Him ought himself also walk, even as He walked." Ask yourself: "Is this something Christ would do?" Or "Is this consistent with Him?" If you say you belong to Christ you ought to live life as Christ did.

Let's call this the principle of EMULATION

4.    Will it lead others to Christ?

Ask yourself this question, "If I do this is it going to enhance my testimony to an unbeliever?" Colossians 4:5a says, " walk in wisdom toward them that are outside…." In other words, you need to be wise in your actions in considerations of those people who don't know Christ. In this way Christ is more visible in you, and as a result you have a stronger testimony. So the question is, "Will this action create a better evangelistic platform for me?"

Let's call this the principle of EVANGELISM

5.    Will it build me up?

Ask yourself, "Will this build me up and make me stronger in Christ?" First Corinthians 10:23 says, "...All things are lawful for me, but all things do not edify." All of your actions should be thought through in order to determine that they are positive and will build up others in Christ.

Let's call this the principle of EDIFICATION

6.    Will it glorify God?

Ask yourself, "If I do this will it exalt the Lord?" First Corinthians10: 31 says, "…Whether, therefore, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God." Is your life going to give glory to God? Is it going to honor God? If you do this will He be glorified, honored and praised? This is an important principle.

Let's call this the principle of EXALTATION

7.    Will you help other Christians by your example?

Ask yourself, "If I do this will this set the right pattern of righteous for a weaker brother? Will this demonstrate your love toward him? Will it help lead him in the right way?" First Corinthians 8: 9 says, " but take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak." That person may well be destroyed because he followed your example. He is going to violate his conscience and you will sin against him and Christ. Don't do it (v. 13) cp. Rom.13:14 b. It is wonderful to limit your liberty and know that it will strengthen someone else. So ask yourself: "If I do this will it offend a weaker brother?" Right or wrong is not the issue, but offending somebody is.

Let's call this the principle of EXAMPLE

8.    Will it bring me into bondage?

First Corinthians 10: 12  says, "…All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." You are not to allow anything to master you. You are not to allow a non-moral thing to be master over you.

How many men have turned into slobbering, blithering idiots because they can't control what comes out of grapes? How many people have ended up dead because they can't deal with tobacco? How many people literally have their lives totally controlled by television or become a slave to drugs, lust, pornography, food, music, or gambling?

Let's call this the principle of ENSLAVEMENT

9.    Will it hypocritically cover my sin?

First Peter 2:16 says, "Do not use your freedom as covering for evil." Are you doing it in the name of freedom when the truth of the matter is you are simply covering over your own evil lust? Freedom becomes a cloak for evil ... movies, sexually explicit magazines, bars, public dancing that is sexual enticing. Be honest with yourself and ask yourself: Would this really be something that will benefit me spiritually? Is this something that will build me up spiritually? Or is it unnecessary bulk that won't help me. Is this something that will lead me into bondage or am I cloaking my evil desires. Look at your motive. Gal. 5:13 says, "You were called to freedom, brethren, only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh." It is a very common thing to turn liberty into license. You have to watch out for that. 

Let's call this the principle of EQIVOCATION (to lie or falsify)

10.  Does it violate the conscience? (either your own or a brother in Christ)

Read Romans 14:2-6, 13, 21

Some people think it is okay to do a certain thing. Others think it is a sin. Not all agree what the Lord would have us to do. Some people believe all Christian should read the Bible every day and if you don't you have sinned. Some believe you should go to church every Sunday morning and even attend the Wednesday evening prayer meeting. If you don't you have sinned. Some are bound to their conscience to do that, but others are not. In other words whatever may be the restrictions in the Christian's life he does them because he believes that is what the Lord wants. As long as you believe that do it.

Ask yourself: Is this something I believe the Lord would want or would not want? This is a matter of the conscience. So don't violate your conscience.

Let's call this final principle ENCROACHMENT

These are the E's of decision making. It takes something very difficult and makes it very eassssy (EEEEE'sE)

Note of acknowledgment: This material was taken from a message given by John MacArthur.

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