Making Biblical Decisions: Working to Grow and Help Others Grow in Christ, Part 4 – January 19, 2024

As we consider what it means to make decisions that promote our growth and other’s growth in Christ, we turn now to the Words of Christ in Mark 8. When we concern ourselves with growth in Christ it means we must take up our cross to follow Christ. Christ pictured complete abandonment to ourselves and this world for Him through this statement. We have romanticized the cross today. We use crosses as decorations. We put it on jewelry. And some even tattoo it on their body. We have made the cross safe and suitable. But there is nothing safe about the cross. This call to take up our cross refers to the Roman practice of parading condemned criminals through the city. At the same time, they carried the heavy horizontal beam of the cross to the place of their execution. When they arrived, their arms were outstretched and attached with nails or ropes to that beam. The beam was then hoisted up on a post so that the criminal could be exposed to the crowd until he died.

In the same way, Jesus is calling his followers to die to themselves and to accept the shame that comes with following Christ. He calls his followers to give up this world and take their place alongside Jesus on the cross. Biblical decision-making calls for the believer to recognize that while all things may be lawful, not everything edifies. We must sacrifice ourselves, our dreams, and our desires so that others may grow in Christ.

There is perhaps no better place to observe this principle pictured than in the marriage relationship. In Ephesians 5, Paul reveals that the marriage relationship is a picture of the relationship between Christ and His Church. As such, both the husband and wife hold responsibilities to seek the other’s growth in Christ over their dreams and desires. Each reveals through their decisions and actions that their priority is to see the other flourish in their relationship with Christ.

First, God calls the wife to submit to her husband. This action is voluntary; the wife places herself under her husband’s authority. She does not become his slave without a voice. Instead, she accepts her place as his teammate, yielding the final decision making to him. She seeks to hold him in respect and treat him with kindness. She aims to lay aside her dreams and ambitions for her family’s good and her husband’s growth in Christ. As she makes decisions, she does not only ask if it is sinful, but she also asks if it is the best thing for her husband so that he might rightly reflect Christ.

Second, the husband reflects Christ in how he leads his wife. Thus, he leads in the same way that Christ does. He sacrifices for his wife like Christ sacrificed His life for us. Rather than demand his way, the husband surrenders his life for his wife’s good. Rather than prioritize his ambitions, he sacrifices them for his wife’s dreams. He is willing to give up his life entirely for his wife. He seeks to present his wife to Christ, pure and holy. When he makes decisions, Biblical decision-making requires that he asks how this decision will spur his wife to grow in Christ.

In this way, the biblical marriage pictures Biblical decision-making for us. We do not make decisions with selfish ambitions or personal gratification in mind. Instead, we make decisions that seek to encourage our walk and other’s walk with Christ. While all things may be lawful in that we are redeemed through Christ’s blood, we are not free to make these decisions because they hinder growth in Christ.

As Paul continues to examine the second principle of edification (that we must encourage spiritual growth) in 1 Corinthians 10, he also addresses how our decisions stifle growth through offense in verse 32. As we seek to make Biblical decisions, we must be careful not to give offense to anyone, including unbelievers. Christians seem to have a reputation in the world as mean and angry people. Perhaps this is due to the sinful ways we make and proclaim our decisions. For many Christians, we hold our political positions as an idol. We portray a belief that the solution to the world’s problems is not the Gospel. Instead, we show a belief that the government functioning according to our political persuasions is the solution. We grant all who lead our political persuasion sainthood. And we vilify all who oppose our positions. While some Christians might dismiss this conclusion as a caricature and overgeneralization, quickly perusing their social media accounts should rid them of this self-deceit. As they decide how to respond in the public square to political debate, the idea of the Gospel and seeing others grow in Christ fades to the background.

Unfortunately, many Christians seem to seek to provoke sinful responses in others, like anger and wrath, in the way they interact. Indeed, God calls Christians to proclaim the truth. However, God calls us to proclaim the truth in love. Our goal is not simply to do right but to encourage others to grow in Christ. As a result, as we make decisions, we seek to avoid unnecessary offense so that others may grow in their walk with Christ.

Making Biblical Decisions: Working to Grow and Help Others Grow in Christ, Part 3 – January 5, 2024

The writer of Hebrews challenges us to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. As we make decisions in life, we ought to consider how these decisions impact our fellow believers in our church to love one another better and to serve one another well. As we consider the call to make decisions that cause us and others to grow in their walk with Christ (to stir up love and good works), we must consider three crucial elements of this call.

First, we cannot accomplish these Biblical decisions apart from the local church. In verse 25, the writer of Hebrews reminds us that the first primary decision we make as believers is to join the assembly of God’s people. God expects believers to attach themselves to the local church. It is not a coincidence that the writer of Hebrews follows the challenge to love and good works with the command not to forsake assembling with the local church. We cannot consider how our actions will edify if we are not actively involved in the local church. Sadly, many Christians are under the false impression that their commitment to the local church is optional. In our idolatry, we view other decisions as more important than the local church. We allow family, sports, activities, and feelings to determine our attendance at the worship service. As long as our calendars are free, we will attend. However, if something comes up, we will gladly sever from Christ’s body for the week. Through these actions, we demonstrate our values. We value these other items over Christ and His Body. Our idolatry for these other things causes us to value the table of demons over the table of Christ. We reason that it is not a sin to miss the Church gathering. Yet, we fail to consider that we are sacrificing what is best on the altar of what is permitted.

Second, we cannot fulfill our obligation to encourage our fellow believers in their walk with Christ if we do not gather with them. A primary purpose of the church gathering is to promote growth in ourselves and others. Sadly, I have generally observed three wrong responses to the church gathering. Some choose to value other obligations or desires over the church gathering. We fail to recognize that when we choose not to gather with fellow believers, we miss the opportunity to encourage growth in Christ. Inevitably, the Christian then feels disconnected from the church body because, well, they are disconnected. Others have chosen to believe that assembling with the church is not necessary for spiritual growth. They reason that they can read the Bible themselves and do not need the authority the church provides. These individuals fail to reckon with 1 John 2:7-11 in which we learn that walking in the light requires a love for God’s people. We cannot walk with God and not walk with God’s body, the church. The last group seems to think it does not matter if they attach themselves to a local church. Much better, they rationalize, to hop around to many local churches. Unfortunately, these individuals fail to recognize that when they do not attach themselves to a local body, they cannot effectively enter into the lives of their fellow believers. They choose numerous shallow relationships and no pastoral authority over a few deep relationships and strong pastoral authority. Perhaps this choice is because they do not want a deep relationship that stirs up love and good works, which require vulnerability, humility, repentance, and submission. Yet, through this failure, they miss the glory of growing in Christ, which comes through the edification of Christ’s Body.

Third, we seek to make decisions that spur ourselves and others to grow in Christ because Christ is returning. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we do these things more each day because Christ’s return draws ever closer. This mindset places our attention on the Eternal Kingdom over the present world. This mindset causes us to recognize the temporal nature of the things we assign importance. When we gather with God’s people, we capture a glimpse of the eternal kingdom and are reminded that Christ is coming. We make Biblical decisions that will encourage growth in Christ because the things accomplished for the Eternal Kingdom withstand Christ’s judgment.

Because the Eternal Kingdom holds the primary position, we seek to encourage others to grow in Christ by sacrificing for others over our pleasure. Christ informs us that following Him requires self-sacrifice. In Mark 8:34-38, Christ tells us of the high cost of discipleship. We must sacrifice our lives for Christ and others to make Biblical decisions. To follow Christ, we must first deny ourselves. Often, the primary concern in our choices is our views and pleasure. We give little thought to the impact on others around us. Yet, being Christ’s disciple requires self-denial. This goes against every grain of our sinful nature. We inherently believe that life is about us. Pride is so deeply rooted in our hearts that we think God has wronged us if He does not comply with everything we consider correct. This denial of self is more than giving up doughnuts for lent. This is more than placing some money in the offering. Self-denial means that you completely turn your back on yourself. It means you no longer determine your goals, aspirations, and desires. Jesus informs us that if we would be His disciples, we must abandon our self-righteousness and sin and submit wholly to Him.

We live in the most affluent society in the history of humanity. The American dream has driven this affluence: The idea that you can be whatever you want with hard work and drive. We have lived with the promise of comfort. As a result, we live for pleasure and fun. We live for ourselves. But what if this is not the way of Christ? What if the call from Christ is actually to say no to ourselves? This is what Christ is telling us. We are to give up our dreams and ambitions for the cause of Christ. Biblical decision-making requires us to actively seek to help others grow in their walk with Christ.

Making Biblical Decisions: Working to Grow and Help Others Grow in Christ, Part 2 – December 29, 2023

Two weeks ago we began our look at 1 Corinthians 10. Here the principle for decision making reminds us that we should ask if the decision we will make will help ourself and others grow in Christ. How can we know if something will help others grow in Christ? How can we seek to ensure our spiritual growth? This text continues with three essential principles to help us consider what will edify. We should consider how these principles work in our everyday decisions.

Certainly, at first glance, some actions and decisions may seem to fail this test. After all, it would seem that strict adherence to this principle means that all we would do is read our Bible and pray all day. We would never discourage these actions, yet creation reveals that God expects us to conduct and participate in other things. When God placed Adam and Eve into the garden, He gave us the creation mandate to subdue and work the earth.

Consequently, there must be times in which these seemingly ordinary and unreligious actions help us and others grow in Christ. Thus, the first principle deals with this struggle. Everything we do should concern itself with God’s glory. Verse 31 reveals that even the most mundane actions of life, like eating and drinking, should glorify God. Indeed, while we should not live for leisure, honoring a regular Sabbath rest reminds the believer that he is a finite being serving an infinite God. Enjoying God’s gifts to us reveals the goodness of God to His people and his regular care for them.

There is then a place for Christians to enjoy sports, entertainment, the arts, and the outdoors. Yet, as Christians enjoy these things, they must keep them in their proper place. They must be viewed and used to provoke and promote spiritual growth and God’s glory. Even our food and drink decisions should point to God. We will deal with this principle more at a later time. However, every action, attitude, and statement should seek to make God look as good as He really is.

 The second principle addresses the need to encourage others to grow in Christ. We live in a very selfish society. Every aspect of the world around us encourages us to take care of ourselves first and to seek our good over every other possibility. Yet, God challenges us with the opposite mindset. We are not to seek our good but rather the good of those around us (verse 24). Rather than seeking to have it our way, we are to seek to promote others. Next week we will look at how this works out practically in life. Several texts of scripture will help us in this endeavor.

Merry Christmas – December 22, 2023

Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, my family decorates the house for Christmas. Usually, we have Christmas music playing in the background. Sometimes, we end the day watching a Christmas movie. All these activities serve to place us into the “Christmas spirit.” We then spend the rest of December with a warm fuzzy feeling, looking at the lights, listening to the songs, and anticipating Christmas Day. For whatever reason, I have not been in the Christmas spirit this year. Maybe it is our unseasonably warm weather (until this week). Maybe it is the different December schedule now that the boys are older. For whatever reason, I have found myself commenting that it doesn’t feel like Christmas.

Over the last few days, I have contemplated my lack of Christmas feeling. I concluded that this is not necessarily a bad thing. So often, my Christmas spirit centers around things that have nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas. I love the feeling of looking at lights, listening to Frosty the Snowman, and watching feel-good Christmas movies. However, this year, I have focused less on these things and more on how Christmas fits into God’s eternal plan. It makes me wonder if I have missed this vital aspect of Christmas in previous years.

Man’s fall into sin did not surprise God. In eternity past, God determined to send His Son to redeem the people He had not yet created. So, when man fell into sin, God promised that the woman’s seed (Jesus) would crush the serpent’s head (sin and Satan). Thousands of years past, sin destroyed the world, yet the seed had not arrived. Until that first Christmas, all seemed lost. Yet, at the right time, Christ came. God became flesh in a small farm town outside Jerusalem and dwelt among us. Yet He did not come for Christmas. He came for Good Friday and Easter. For through His sacrifice on the cross, we have life eternal.

Yet, even then, the story of Christmas points forward to more than Good Friday and Easter. We have the promise in John 14 that Christ will return for us. Although it has been thousands of years, and all may seem lost, the day is coming when Jesus will come again and eradicate sin and its effects. Our broken bodies will be made whole. Conflicts will cease. Death will be no more. When we celebrate Christmas, we are also celebrating Christ’s second coming. The difference will be that the Christmas feeling will last for all eternity at that time.

As you celebrate this year, remember that the sorrow caused by sin will cease to reign. Thorns will no longer infest the ground. Christ will be known throughout the earth. And we will reign with Him. In your sorrow, look up! Your King is coming. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly!

Making Biblical Decisions: Working to Grow and Help Others Grow in Christ – December 15, 2023

As John finished his first epistle, he challenged the church with an interesting statement: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). Most Christians today would skip over this verse with little thought. After all, we do not visit temples and sacrifice to idols. Yet, idolatry remains rampant in the church today. Already in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul addressed the Corinthian’s claim that all things were lawful because Christ died for sin, and there is no longer condemnation. Yet, just because something is not a sin does not mean the Christian should participate. Just a few chapters later, Paul returns to this claim. The context surrounding this address provides an interesting and essential principle as we seek to make Biblical decisions. I would encourage you to stop and read 1 Corinthians 10.

As Paul continues his address to the church in Corinth, he addresses the issue of ongoing idolatry. He begins by pointing back to the children of Israel in the wilderness. All the children of Israel enjoyed the blessings of God. They followed the cloud of God’s Shekinah glory, which led them through the wilderness. They all walked through the Red Sea on dry land. They watched Pharaoh’s army destroyed behind them as the sea collapsed over the pagan army. As Paul explains these realities, he seems to draw parallels to the Christian life. We also experience God’s blessing. We follow the Word and experience God’s redemption.

Further, the children of Israel all ate of the manna God provided. In the same way, Christians eat the bread, which signifies the body of Christ, the bread of life. The children of Israel all drank from the water miraculously provided by God, which sprang from the rock. So too, all Christians drink from the cup at the Lord’s table, signifying the new covenant in Christ’s blood. God’s people stand in a privileged position because of the redemption and provision provided by God.

However, God was not pleased with the children of Israel. And due to their foolish decisions, God overthrew them in the wilderness. Verse 6 and verse 11 stand as important reminders to us. These things happened and were recorded as a warning so we do not make the same mistakes. We cannot afford to become idolaters as they were. They engaged in the sexual immorality of the surrounding world. They complained and questioned God’s goodness. They stood in a favored position before God. Yet, the one who thinks he stands should be careful lest he fall.

Because we, as Christians, live in a corrupt world, we are easily swayed and enticed by the false thinking and ideologies around us. We face the same challenge that the Corinthian church faced. The sexual immorality that surrounds us seeps into the Christian’s life when we are not actively aware. We do not guard and value our marriages to succeed and be accepted by the world. Over time, we begin to excuse immoral actions and thoughts because the world clouds our judgment.

Christians are often tempted to complain and question God’s goodness because we have concluded that he owes us a carefree life. We have bought into the world’s message that ease, entertainment, and experience should dominate life. So, we fill our lives with comforts, items of enjoyment, and things that entertain us. When life presents the challenges that come with living in a depraved world, we question God’s goodness. We fail to understand that God allows and even directly places the challenges in our lives to demonstrate His power and sufficiency.

As a result, Paul again challenges the believer to flee idolatry. The Christian must be aware of the soft idolatry that takes place in our lives and run from it. These things demand our attention over God and steal our gaze from Him. Although we stand before God without condemnation because of Christ’s blood, we cannot live in the pagan temple by giving something higher priority than God. We celebrate the Lord’s Table together when we gather as Christ’s church. When we do so, we point to the blood and body of Christ. Yet, through our actions, we also participate in idolatry. In verse 20, Paul intimates that valuing something more than God is also to sit at the table of demons. We seek to serve God and Satan simultaneously.

We come then to the solution in our decision-making in verse 23. Again, Paul echoes the Corinthian mantra: “All things are lawful.” And again, Paul reminds them that not all things are best. Not all things are best because not all things build up. As we seek to make Biblical decisions and refrain from idolatry, we need to ask, “Will this help myself and others grow in Christ?” We are to seek the good of our fellow believers and our growth in Christ. Much then of what we are free to do so far as sin is concerned, we are not free to do so as far as growth in Christ and the good of others is concerned.

How can we know if something will help others grow in Christ? How can we seek to ensure our spiritual growth? This text continues with three essential principles to help us consider what will edify. Over the next few weeks as we look at these principles, we should consider how these principles work in our everyday decisions.

Making Biblical Decisions: Only God Should Control You – December 8, 2023

We noted last week that Biblical decisions require that we seek to do what is best. We do not sacrifice what is best on the altar of what is okay. Just because you can does not mean that you should. Yet, how can we know if the decision we make is best? At times, the situation is clear. However, there are times when the situation may seem less clear. The Apostle Paul gives us two more critical questions to clarify our thinking in the two texts from 1 Corinthians we referenced last week (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23). This week, we will examine the first of the two texts and the question: “Will this control me?”

As 1 Corinthians 6 progresses, Paul addresses the challenge of Christian’s lack of love for one another. They took each other to court and sought worldly satisfaction over eternal good. In the middle of the chapter, Paul reminds the church that it should be marked by holy living. The practice of blatant sin formerly marked believers. However, Christ washed, justified, and sanctified the believers so that they should now be marked by a desire for holiness. Christ’s sacrifice frees the believer from sin.

Some in the church argued that this freedom meant they were now free to act however they desired. As we noted last week, they took up the mantra, “All things are lawful.” The church Father Augustine summarized their spirit with the statement, “Love God and do what you please.” All too often, Christians today echo this same mantra. We believe that as long as we “love God,” we are free to act however we desire. However, the truth of the Christian faith is not that it frees us to sin, but rather that it frees us not to sin.

As Chapter 6 progresses, we learn that the Corinthian church used this mantra to justify rampant sexual immorality. They justified their actions by claiming this was simply the body’s natural use. They rationalized that just as the stomach needs food, so also the body desires sexual relationships. However, Paul zeros in on an important point: the Christian should not be controlled by anything but God. In verse twelve, Paul notes that while they claim that all things are lawful, the Christian should not be controlled by anything. We should “refuse to be shackled to anything, even if it might of itself be something that in some circumstances could be useful.”[1] Even though all things are permissible in that all sin has been forgiven through the cross, and we are no longer under condemnation, not all things are beneficial. There is a danger of being mastered by what is allowed.[2]

As the Christian considers this principle, there are many ways this principle works out in everyday life. The text references sexual immorality. We live in a culture that worships sex. Christians often pay no heed to the sin in their midst. When an unmarried couple engages in sexual relationships, the Christian rationalizes that it is natural, loving, and consensual. These actions reveal the control that the sexualized culture is exercising in the Christian.

Certainly, the obvious controlling substances come to mind. Why should a Christian refrain from drug use? While other principles apply to this question, the appeal of drugs stands in the control the chemicals exert over the body. Thus, drug addiction has become the standard among drug users. Perhaps more concerning in the church is the problem of alcoholism. While the Bible does not condemn alcohol outright, the danger lies in the control that alcohol exerts. The Christian must ask, “Will this control me?”

Yet, the challenge this principle supplies travels much deeper. The Christian may rationalize that they do not have a problem with the controlling substances, yet allow food to rule them. They reach a point where they can no longer resist the urge to overeat and enable food to dominate their life. After all, “The stomach is for food, and food is for the stomach.” Food is necessary for life and is lawful. However, when the desire for the pleasure of food rules life, we cede control over our life to the table.

Allow me to finish with a personal testimony of how I worked this principle out in my life. As a teen, I discovered a love for Mountain Dew. Very few people argue that carbonated beverages are sinful. They are certainly “lawful” and most definitely enjoyable. Close to both my home and my job was a convenience store that sold sixty-four-ounce mugs that could be refilled for just a few cents. As a result, I would stop on my way to work and fill my mug with Mountain Dew. Sometimes, I refilled the mug at lunch. And there were days when I would also refill it on the way home after work. Soon, the caffeine in the drink began to control me.

The day arrived when I headed off to play college soccer. A few weeks before my departure, I learned that the team did not allow the players to drink carbonated beverages during the season. Immediately, I recognized that I had a problem. I stopped drinking Mountain Dew and realized how much it exercised control over me. My caffeine withdrawal was an unpleasant experience. More convicting was the realization that I had ceded control of my life to a beverage instead of God. Few would argue that drinking the beverage was a sin. However, it controlled me.

Decades later, I look back on that stage of my life with shame. While I still love Mountain Dew, I have learned that I must carefully avoid its control. For several years, I refused to touch it. While today I will occasionally enjoy a drink of Mountain Dew, I take active steps to avoid its control. I do not keep it in my house. I allow others to keep me accountable and welcome the comments when they see me with it. While it is lawful, it is not best because it controls me.

Just because you can do something does not mean that you should. Suppose that something will control you instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to control you. In that case, Biblical wisdom calls you to refrain. Each person will struggle with different controlling influences in their life. So, a set of rules cannot be foolproof. Instead, the Christian who seeks to make Biblical decisions should learn to ask, “Will this control me?”

[1] Paul Gardner, 1 Corinthians, ed. Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Volume 7 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2018), 278.

[2] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, vol. 7 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2018), 126.


Making Biblical Decisions: Just Because You Can Does Not Mean You Should – December 1, 2023

As a young junior high boy, I found myself and my friends once again flirting with disaster as junior high boys tend to do. On that cold winter day in Colorado, we were trying to determine how cold the flagpole had to be before a person’s tongue would stick to it. The debate raged among us as my friend insisted that it was not cold enough. We finally enticed him to prove it and lick the flagpole. As we were about to do something rather foolish, our youth pastor walked up and asked if we should be doing what we were about to do. We responded that we were allowed to do it (we could). He replied, “That is true, but should you do it?” Unfortunately for my friend, we ignored the question, and he lost chunks of his tongue, pulling it off the frozen flagpole. That day, our youth pastor taught a group of boys an important lesson: just because you can does not mean you should.

Teachers often inform us that the Bible is an instruction book on how to live our lives. As a result, there is a tendency among many Christians to look at the Bible as a book of commands and prohibitions. God informs us of what he wants us to do and the things from which he wants us to refrain. When the Christian encounters the many things that the Bible neither commands nor prohibits, he concludes that he is free to do whatever his heart desires. This idea seems to be hardwired into our DNA as children. So often, we hear them ask, “What is wrong with _______?” Suppose the parent cannot give a satisfactory response. In that case, the child struggles to understand why the parent would warn against the action. This same mentality finds its way into the hearts of many Christians. As they approach the things their passions and feelings desire and cannot find specific prohibitions or commands, they conclude they are free and obligated to fulfill their passions. They fail to consider that just because you can does not mean you should. Through this failure, many sacrifice what is best on the altar of what is okay.

One early church found itself in this very situation. As they considered the commands and prohibitions of God, they believed that in every other area, they were free to act as their heart desired. As a result, chaos ensued in the church, leading Paul to pen his First Epistle to the Church in Corinth. This church seemed to think that in anything Scripture did not specifically address, they were free to act however their conscience dictated. Twice in this important book, Paul addressed this foolishness. In chapters six and ten, Paul began a section with the statement, “All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient” (6:12-13; 10:23-24). Just because you can does not mean you should.

Paul begins by stating that all things are lawful. Although the phrase seems to have roots in Greek Stoicism, this statement had become a bit of a slogan among the church in Corinth. Some did not believe in a bodily resurrection. So, anything they did with their body did not matter in the spiritual realm. Others claimed that since Christ died for sin, any action that might be a sin was covered and permissible. Paul acknowledged in Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation for those in Christ. However, Paul presses home the reality that while the blood of Christ has covered all things, not everything is best.[1] He instructs Christians that we cannot stop at the question, “Is it sin?” when making decisions. When we seek to make biblical decisions, we must also ask, “Is it best (or beneficial)?”

Yet, how can we know if the decision we make is best? At times, the situation is clear. Any mature individual could look at the group of junior high boys and know that it was not best for my friend to lick the flagpole. However, there are times when the situation may seem less clear. We must look closer at the two passages in 1 Corinthians for assistance in these situations. The Apostle Paul gives us two more critical questions to clarify our thinking in these texts. As we look at these questions in the next few weeks, honesty and humility are vital for our growth in Christ so that we don’t sacrifice what is best on the altar of what is okay. For, just because you can, does not mean that you should.

[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, vol. 7 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2018).

A Note of Thanksgiving – November 24, 2023

This contemplation of thanksgiving began last Sunday as the church body readily and joyfully shared their testimonies of God’s grace. I am so very grateful for my church family. In 2017, God brought us together in His gracious goodness. My church family at Cambria has proven to be loving, compassionate, generous, encouraging, exhorting, and full of godly servants. They love the Word and long to be taught its eternal truths. They love each other and continually demonstrate that love through their good works for one another. They have been encouraging to my family. They have regularly gone out of their way to care for my wife and boys. I am continually amazed at God’s gracious goodness in granting me the privilege of shepherding this church. There is nowhere else in the world I would rather be.

I am thankful for the family God has gifted me. Proverbs 18:22 tells us that he who finds a wife finds a treasure. Proverbs 31:10 informs us that an excellent wife is far more precious than jewels. I am a wealthy man. God has granted me an amazing wife. She is kind, loving, hard-working, loves the Lord, is full of integrity and character, is meek, gentle, and a gem. This is true because she values her relationship with God above all else. She allows the Word to form and change her. For nineteen years, I have been amazed that I scored so far out of my league. God has seen fit to grant me two incredible young men. They have grown from joyful little boys to godly men who tower over me. Their love for God is a constant blessing. Their love of fun and jokes brings laughter to our home. They are turning into young men sensitive to the Spirit of God and demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit. This is all to the praise of God’s glorious grace. He could accomplish this.

I am thankful for the ministry partners God granted to us. Pastor Christian and Chelsea have been a tremendous blessing to me, Heather, and our church. Their energy, excitement, maturity, and passion for God have been exactly what our church needed. They have continually displayed a heart of discipleship and care for God’s people. God has been very good to us.

 I hope this Thanksgiving letter prompts you to examine your own life and praise God for the unique gifts He has given you. He is always good and always faithful. You have much to be thankful for … you just need to look. 

Making Biblical Decisions: Untrustworthy Feelings – November 17, 2023

As time passes, many look at the world around them and feel like they have entered a strange dream in which everything is upside down. Many things we took for granted, our world now questions in absurd ways. In the 1979 movie Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, the scriptwriters included a dialogue in which a group of male characters argued with their male compatriot about whether he could be a woman and have a child. When the movie was released, the scriptwriters viewed the conversation as ridiculous and included it for an absurd laugh. Not so today. This conversation has moved from the satirical movie screen to the lunchroom near you. We live in a world that determines right, wrong, and truth based on feeling. Often, your story (narrative) trumps truth. Thus, we often hear encouragement to “speak your truth” as if truth is malleable. Carl Trueman notes, “The modern self assumes the authority of inner feelings and sees authenticity as defined by the ability to give social expression to the same.”[1]

Sadly, many parents and grandparents seeking to instill Godly principles into their children discover pushback when they speak to their children about these issues. Their children receive indoctrination from school, peers, and culture, which directly contradicts the things that seem so obvious. Yet, these same parents unwittingly reinforce the concept of truth and self that led to this dramatic cultural change. Rather than live life intentionally, they live reactionary. Here is what I mean. Instead of making decisions by deliberately asking what God, through His Word, says about the situation, they rely on their feelings and experiences. It feels mean and harsh to restrict sex to marriage, so they wink when their family member practices fornication. They are tired after a long week of work and a Saturday of play. So, instead of honoring the Lord on the Lord’s Day, they skip church, sleep in, and play outside. When their kids sin, they care more that they were inconvenienced than the fact that their child sinned against a holy God. In the end, they live by the mantra given to us by David Houston and Barbra Mandrell, “How can it be so wrong when it feels so right?”

As we consider making biblical decisions, we must remember that our feelings are terrible judges in determining what is right. The world is filled with things that cater to our feelings. This is an intentional tool of Satan and the result of the fall. In his first epistle, John reveals that the world is filled with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17). So, he challenges us not to fall in love with the world. Two choices face us: love the world or love God.

When we speak of the world, “There can be no doubt that in the present context, it means worldly attitudes or values that are opposed to God.”[2] One cannot love both the world and God at the same time. One cannot become fascinated with the world’s systems and goals while worshiping God. What does it mean to love the world? It means to have the same goals and desires as the world. What equals a successful life for you? What must happen for you to reach the end of your life and think, “I was successful?” We could even simplify it and ask, “What equals success in life for you now?” Does it mean possessing a lovely family, advancement in your job, or the ability to buy bigger and nicer toys? Scripture reveals that success in life is faithfulness to God. Success is standing confidently before God one day because you lived with eternity in mind. Anything else demonstrates a love of the world.

The challenge before us is that the world caters to our feelings and desires. The world caters to our flesh. The flesh refers to the base cravings of our evil hearts.[3] Akin notes, “John would include anything and any way in which humans improperly fulfill fleshly desires (overeating, drunkenness, etc.).”[4] We live in a culture that is all about fulfilling the desires of the flesh. This is the very premise behind the sexual revolution. If it feels good to you, you should have a right to do it and an obligation to do it. Love is simply a feeling (not a commitment). So if you don’t feel in love any longer, then you end the relationship (even if it is a relationship bound by a marriage covenant). If you don’t enjoy your job anymore, you find a new one. At all costs, fulfill the desires of your body.

Further, the world makes these bad things look lovely. Sin caters to the desires of our eyes. The entire media industry is built on the lust of the eyes. Advertisers place before us everything that looks good. This is why the Psalmist determined not to look at anything worthless (Psalm 101:3). The Pharisees of Jesus’ day would agree with the biblical sexual ethic. They confined sex to a man and woman inside of marriage. However, Jesus rebuked them in that they did not go far enough. He stated that any man who looks lustfully at a woman has sinned (Matt. 5:27-30). Sin is often activated by the things that we see and then crave.

Finally, the world plays to our pride. F. F. Bruce noted that when my reputation and the desire to ensure that others think highly of me trumps my desire to glorify God or serve others, my reputation has become the idol of my life and the object of my worship over God.[5] My feelings are often geared towards ensuring that others do not think ill of me. However, our struggle with pride would be significantly diminished if we realized that others do not think of us very often.

Our feelings also stand as poor indicators of right and wrong because we possess traitors within us. Jeremiah 17:9 informs us that our hearts are deceitful and wicked. Our sinful nature results in hearts that long to elevate self over God. Our hearts desire personal satisfaction more than sacrificial service to God. Although we want as believers to live lives honoring our God, our hearts play Benedict Arnold and work against us. As a result, we cannot afford to trust our feelings. Just because it feels right does not mean that it is right. We must anchor ourselves to something more stable than our fickle feelings: the Word of God.

As we seek to make decisions, we cannot afford to ask, “What do I feel about this?” Instead, we must ask, “What does God say about this?” All too often, Christians have shipwrecked their lives because they made decisions according to their feelings. Although God clearly stated in His Word that the action or decision was a sin, they listened to their feelings instead of God and suffered the consequences. In every decision, we would be wise to ask, “Is this a sin?” if the answer is “yes,” do not do it!

[1] Carl R. Trueman, Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2022), 22.

[2] Colin G. Kruse, The Letters of John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 94.

[3] John MacArthur, 1-3 John, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007), 87.

[4] Daniel L. Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary (Nashville, Tenn: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 110.

[5] F. F. Bruce, The Gospel & Epistles of John: Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 61.

Making Biblical Decisions: Run from Sin – November 10, 2023

Often, the Christian seeks to get as close to sin as possible without technically sinning. Like little children who have been told not to touch one another, we sit with our fingers millimeters away from the other. All the while saying, “I am not touching them.” We dabble with the world, its belief system, and its priorities. Because we don’t take sin seriously, we don’t fear it. And because we don’t fear sin, we boldly stand in its presence. However, God expects us to respond very differently in our lives. Instead of standing in the presence of sin, living in sin, and loving sin, we are to run from sin. Paul recognized the dangers of dabbling in sin. So he instructed Timothy to flee (2 Timothy 2:22).

We cannot overemphasize the importance of extricating ourselves from sinful situations. Embarrassment, peer pressure, and a love of sin often keep us from leaving. At other times, bold overconfidence in our ability to resist temptation draws us into sin. However, the one who plays with sin is unwise. We would do well to get up and leave. Christ instructs us to take sin so seriously that we remove offending appendages that cause us to sin (Matthew 5:29-30). The principle is that sometimes extreme actions are necessary to remove ourselves from sin. It very well might be best for the man involved in sexual immorality with a co-worker to quit his job. It might be best for the young person to move to a new school if the temptation to sin is significant in that place. It might be best to get rid of the TV or computer if it leads to sin. Joseph left us an excellent example in Genesis 39. Hundreds of miles away from any who knew him, Joseph served as a slave in Potiphar’s house. As he served there, Potiphar’s wife sought to seduce Joseph into an affair. We must understand that in the Egyptian culture, sexual promiscuity was expected. As long as they sought to keep the affair secret, no one would bat an eye. Yet, in his integrity, Joseph took sin seriously. He refused to take part in an affair. When Potiphar’s wife continued her efforts, he literally left the room and ran. Many today view Joseph’s actions as extreme and unnecessary. Today, they would view Joseph as weak and hurtful. But Christians should view these actions as exemplary and illustrative. Don’t play with sin. Run from it!

Many times, emotions run high during temptation toward sin. We fail to run from sin because of the temptation’s strength over our emotions. With this understanding, the writer of Proverbs twice instructs Christians to hide from sin before encountering it. All too often, Christians seem to have a fearless confidence towards sin. They seem to believe they are some super-Christian who can resist all temptation. Scripture reveals the foolishness of such thinking. In Proverbs 22:3 and 27:12, the writer instructs us, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” To take sin seriously, Christians should be alert, aware of their weakness and sinful tendencies, and guard against unnecessary temptation. Unfortunately, too many Christians play the simpleton and live as though they do not fear sin. Time after time, they mindlessly put themselves into situations of overwhelming temptation that could have been avoided.

The world mocks the individual who seeks such protection. The prudent man who guards against sin will be called prudish, puritanical, and stupid. In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence became the latest news feature. Word had leaked that he refused to dine alone with a woman other than his wife. He stated that he followed this rule to protect his marriage from infidelity. He recognized the probability of temptation to sin and refused to allow himself into that situation. Vox ran an article eviscerating his stance, caricaturing him as a misogynist.[1]

Yet, Christians must understand the world differently. The world loves sin and cannot understand why all will not participate. The Christian hates sin. So, the Christian should hide from it and run from it. Unfortunately, Christians don’t always hate sin as much as they love the world. So, when the world mocks, the Christian folds. However, a greater danger lies in this love for the world. James reveals that this love (or friendship) of the world places us in opposition to God (James 4:4). When we fail to run from sin and instead partner with the world, we become spiritual traitors. Rather than aligning with God, we choose to align with God’s enemies. Thinking that the way of the world in sin will bring us happiness and satisfaction, we cross over to enemy territory and join the world’s cause against God. However, we fail to understand that the world is not our friend. Like a roaring lion, Satan seeks to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). Sin is not something to trifle or play with. It is as dangerous as any poison. As we make decisions, we must ask, “Is this sin?” When the answer is “yes,” we must run.  

[1] Joanna L. Grossman, “Vice President Pence’s ‘Never Dine Alone With A Woman’ Rule Isn’t Honorable. It’s Probably Illegal.,” Vox, December 4, 2017,