Robert Jeffress - Making Tough Decisions
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Whether you're trying to figure out whom to marry, what job to take, or where to live, major life choices are rarely easy. So how can we be absolutely certain we're making the right decision? Today, I'm going to share some practical, biblical guidelines through which to filter your choices. My message is titled, "Making Tough Decisions", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
You know, every day we are bombarded with all kind of decisions to make. Sometimes there are decisions of judgment. Should I accept this job or take that job? Should I live in this neighborhood or that neighborhood? Should I marry this person or that person? Questions of judgment, other times the decisions we face are decisions of morality. Should I engage in this activity or not? Should I allow my children to do this or that? But whether we're facing decisions of judgment or morality, the Word of God gives us some very helpful suggestions on how to make wise and right decisions. And that's what we're going to look at tonight in 1 Corinthians chapter 10.
If you have your Bibles there, turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 10 as we look at three important principles we ought to consider before making any difficult decisions. Now remember in 1 Corinthians 10, the subject is about whether or not to eat meat that had been offered to idols. And again, that's not a pressing problem you and I face every day. But the reason Paul spends three chapters talking about this subject is, it's really not about meat. The real subject is, how do I make decisions about issues that the Word of God does not speak about directly? I'm going to share with you the principles for making decisions not just about meat but about any questionable decision you face. And I want you to think about these three principles we're going to look at tonight as three filters through which you ought to pour every decision that you make.
Okay, filter number one is the filter of freedom. That is, does the Word of God really give me freedom in making this decision? Is this something that I have some latitude about? Look at verse 23. Paul says, "For all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable". Now, when he says all things are lawful obviously, he doesn't mean all things. He doesn't mean I have freedom to do anything I want to do. For example, I don't need to ask myself, "Well, should I go to this party Friday night and get drunk"? Okay? A God's word doesn't give me that freedom that is not lawful. Because Paul has already spoken to that in Ephesians 5:18, he said, "Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but instead be filled with the spirit".
I have not the freedom to get drunk, I have to throw this in here now. If that wine that everybody talks about in the New Testament, was only Welch's grape juice, unfermented wine, how in the world would you get drunk on it, okay? It'd be impossible to do. Now, that was the real stuff Paul was talking about. He said, "You may have freedom to partake of it, but you certainly don't have freedom to abuse it". I don't have to pray about that decision. I don't have to pray about the decision, should I marry a non-Christian?
2 Corinthians 6:14 addresses that, "Do not be unequally yolked together with an unbeliever for what fellowship has light with darkness? Or righteousness with unrighteousness"? That's not a freedom that I have that I even need to ask God to give me wisdom about. I don't have to pray about whether or not I ought to follow this oppressive government regulation in my business that is costing me money and makes no good sense at all. Because Romans 13:1 says, "I'm to be in subjection to the governing authorities". When Paul says all things are lawful, he's talking about those things that the Word of God does not address or the Word of God gives me freedom on. He said, "First of all, I need to ask myself, do I really have the freedom to do this or not"? The filter of freedom.
Secondly, mark down the filter of profitability. He says, "All things are lawful," verse 23, "But not all things are profitable". Just because the Bible says I have the freedom to do it, doesn't mean it's the best thing I could be doing. It may be a good thing for you to get involved in, it may be a permissible thing for you to do, but the Bible says, is it profitable? But Paul has a specific kind of profitability in mind. He says, "All things are lawful," verse 23, "Not all things edify". In other words, the real question is, will this decision, if I say yes to it, will it edify?
Now, what does that word edify mean? It is a Greek word, oikodomeo, that refers to the building of a house. The building of a house. Hold your place here and turn over to Ephesians 4, verses 11 to 12, a very well-known passage where Paul uses this phrase oikodomeo, building. He's talking about the church and in Ephesians 4, verse 11, he says, and some were given as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelist Larry walker, some as pastors and teachers, why? For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the edifying, the building up, the oikodomeo of the church. The reason, as we saw a few weeks ago on Sunday morning, the reason God has left you and me here instead of taking us to heaven when we were saved, is so that we can join him in his purpose of building up, adding to constructing a holy temple for God.
Now, when he talks about building up, he's talking about numerically, adding two, making it larger the church of Jesus Christ. But he's also talking about adding to the spiritual strength of the church. Because look at verse 13, "Until we all attain to the measure of a mature man, according to the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ". When we're involved in the ministry of edification, it means every activity we get involved in ought to either help add people to the Kingdom of God or it ought to strengthen those people who are already a part of the Kingdom of God. And that's what he's talking about, the profitability. How will what I'm doing, how will saying yes to this decision, how will it either help win people to the Kingdom of God, or how will it help strengthen believers who are already a part of the Kingdom of God? That's what he's talking about here.
Now turn back to 1 Corinthians chapter 10 for a moment. That's what he's talking about when he talks about the principle of profitability. So we ask ourselves when we're making a decision, the principle of freedom, does the Word of God allow for it? Secondly, profitability, is it really building up the body of Christ?
And then thirdly, the filter of others. Look at verse 24. "Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor". In other words, how will what I do affect my brother or sister in Christ? You see those so-called mature believers in Corinth who said, "Oh, we're going to eat the meat and you know, we don't care what the other people in the church think about it". They forgot that their freedom in Christ ends when it hurts another brother or sister in Christ. And Paul says here, "Don't seek your own good, but that of his neighbor". And you see, before we engage in any activity we need to ask ourselves, does this activity, does it build up Christians? Does it strengthen them in their faith? Or does it tear them down, discourage them in their walk with Christ? The principle of others, how will my exercising this freedom, whatever it is, you know?
Again, I used the illustration a few weeks ago about drinking. Well, I may have the freedom to drink and not get drunk, but I have the freedom to drink. But is that going to encourage another Christian? Is that going to build him up in his faith? Or is it going to tear him down and destroy him in his faith? That's what the filter of others is all about. Now, now that Paul has given us the principles for decision-making, he's going to apply it to the Corinthian church. He's going to take that first principle of freedom and he's going to apply it to individual believers. Look at verse 25. Paul says, "Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience' sake".
Let's say you're strolling through the meat market and you see this big delicious slab of red meat and you think, "Boy, I'd love to take that home and use it on the grill tonight for my family". "Man, that's just the cut of meat that I want". And then you look a little closer and you see that it has that label on it, "Meat sacrifice to an idol". What are you supposed to do about that? Are you supposed to engage in endless questions, ask the store owner exactly what God was this sacrificed to? And when it was sacrificed to the God, did the sacrificer, was he really a devoted follower or was only a half-hearted follower and blah, blah, blah? You're not to do all that stuff, just buy the meat. Don't ask these endless questions.
Do you know Christians who are just always so introspective, they just can't make any decisions, they are just always torn up. Is this right or wrong? Amy and I have a friend who's like that, always just every question, "I'm not sure this is right". "I'm not sure this is right". "I'm not sure I ought to be doing that". Quit asking all those questions, just enjoy life, that's what Paul says. Look in verse 26, he quotes Psalm 24:1, why can you eat the meat? "Because all the earth is the Lord's, and all that it contains". God created everything in this world, he wants you to enjoy it. If God's word gives you the freedom to enjoy it, enjoy it. Don't go through endless introspection.
Now that's the principle of freedom. Unfortunately, most of the decisions we make, we don't make in a vacuum. Most of our decisions do affect other people. And that leads to the second principle, the principle of others. The principle of others applied to group behavior. Look at verse 27. He says, "If one of the unbelievers invite you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience' sake". Here's the situation. An unbeliever, a non-Christian invites you to dinner. Maybe it's out of the restaurant. Maybe it's in their home. And he sets before you a piece of meat and he says, "By the way, you know, this meat was offered to idols. That's no problem with you, is it"? What are you supposed to do? Don't ask a lot of questions, go ahead and eat it. And if he doesn't say anything about the meat, whatever you do, don't question him and say, "Exactly where did this meat come from? You know, I'm such a holy person that I dare not eat anything that had been sacrificed to an idol". Don't ask those kind of questions.
But here's the other situation. Look at verse 28, "But," there's always a but. "If anyone says to you, 'this is meat sacrificed to idols,' do not eat it for the sake of the one who informed you and for conscience' sake". And here's what Paul has in mind. You're sitting down to eat and the person is not just giving you some information. Here is a new Christian, they said, "You know, this meat has been offered to an idol and I'm sure you wouldn't want to eat it. Because after all, I just recently came out of idolatry myself, I'm a new Christian and I know that as a mature Christian you wouldn't want to be involved in that".
There's a more likely scenario. You're sitting down to eat and the waiter who brings your steak dinner leans over and says to you, "You know, the meat you're about to eat has been offered to an idol". And you're looking at your dinner companion who is a new Christian and you just heard him the past Sunday, stand up and give this testimony of how he came to faith in Christ, and how he's left idolatry once and for all, what are you supposed to do? You put down your fork and you say, "Thanks, but no thanks". You give up that freedom for the sake of another person, that's what he's talking about here. Look at verses 29 and 30. "I mean not for your own conscience, but for the other man's, for why is my freedom judged by another's conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that which I give thanks"?
In other words, why would I want to use my freedom to hurt another person, another member of the body of Christ? Hold your place here and turn over to Romans chapter 14 where Paul picks up on this subject of limiting our freedom for the sake of another Christian. Paul says in Romans 14, beginning with verse 1, "Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. For one person has faith that he can eat all things, but the one who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat meat, and the one who does not eat meat is not to judge the one who eats for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls, and he will stand for the Lord is able to make him stand".
What Paul is simply saying is this, quit judging other Christians. Just quit it. Quit judging other Christians, especially about these areas that the Bible is not very specific about. Where there is freedom in Christ. I believe 90% of the problems in the church today could be solved if we would simply quit judging one another in the body of Christ. He says, "If somebody is weak in faith, respect their weakness where they are in faith. If somebody has the freedom to do a certain thing, quit judging them". That is between them and the Lord. Let every person follow God as he determines to follow God. The principle of others. I limit my freedom for the sake of another Christian. And then thirdly, the principle of profitability that's applied to every decision.
Again, look at verse 20 of Romans 14. "Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food". And that's really clear. Don't tear down what God is trying to do in somebody's life so you can eat a piece of meat. Or so you can drink a glass of wine, or whatever the freedom you have in Christ, it's not worth doing. "All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense". Whether this activity honors or dishonors the name of God, that is the primary concern of every believer.
Now we're going to get to the crux of it in verses 31 to 33. Turn back to 1 Corinthians 10. Here is the real principle of profitability that applies to every decision you make. Paul says, "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all," for what? "The glory of God". See, that's the reason you and I are here. The reason God has left us here is not for our own peace, or prophet, or pleasure, or freedom from pain, the reason we are here is to give glory to God. To assist him in achieving his purpose in the world. So whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. Is God going to be honored? Is his purpose going to be fulfilled by what I do? Paul says, "Give no offense either to the Jews, or to the Greeks, or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of many that they might be saved".
You see, Paul was completely sold out to Jesus Christ. He realized his whole reason for being here was to win as many people to faith in Christ as possible and then help them grow in their faith, he was sold out to that purpose. And because Paul had that clear life purpose, that clear life purpose was like a knife that cut through the fog of indecision. He said, "Do all for the glory of God".
And then in chapter 11, verse 1, remember, there were no chapter divisions in the original text. Paul concludes this section by saying, "Be imitators of me, even as I am an imitator of Christ". He says, I'm only following what Jesus taught me to do. And John 4:34, Jesus articulated his life purpose. He said, "My purpose is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his purpose. That's my food, my sustenance to do the will of God and accomplish his work". What's the application for us today? Let me close tonight by suggesting five questions very, very quickly to ask yourself whenever you're making any decision in life.
Five important questions. First of all, what does the Word of God say? What does the Word of God say? God will never lead you to do something contrary to his will. You are not the exception to the inherent Word of God. God will not lead you to marry an unbeliever, young people. He's not going to lead you into immorality, he's not going to lead you to do anything that is contrary to his will.
Secondly, what do those in authority say? You know, all of us live under somebody's authority. God ordained authority in our life. If you're a child or a teenager, you're under the authority of your parents. If you're a wife, you're under the authority of your husband. If you're a citizen, you're under the authority of the government. If you're a church member, you're under the spiritual authority in the church. All of us are under somebody's authority, God has set that up. And if you're questioning whether or not to do something, if you're needing guidance in a specific area, ask the question, "What do those whom God has placed over me say about this particular decision"? God many times speaks through the people he has placed over us.
Third question, what does the others principle say? By that I mean, will this decision encourage other people in their faith? Will it build them up or will it discourage them and tear them down? What does the others principle say?
Fourth, what does the profit principle say? You know, just because I can do something doesn't mean I should do it. Will this decision that I make, will it actively glorify God? When I stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, is this something God's going to commend me for doing or condemn me for doing? Given the limited time, and energy, and resources we all have, is this the best and highest use of those resources?
And then finally, what does the life purpose principles say? And by that I mean, am I living for my pleasure, prosperity, peace or am I really living for God? And if I am sold out to God's purpose, how does this decision further that purpose?
One final scripture and we're finished. Turn over to Romans chapter 12. Romans chapter 12. Let me show you how Paul illustrates the relationship between our life purpose and our decision-making. Romans chapter 12, verses 1 and 2, Paul says, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and a holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship". Remember in the Old Testament, in the Old Testament, they presented sacrifices but they were dead sacrifices that were placed on the altar. God says, "What I want is not an animal sacrifice from you, I want the sacrifice of your life".
I want your living sacrifice to be placed on my altar. And, you know, the only problem with putting a living sacrifice on the altar is they tend to crawl off the altar every now and then. And that's why this is something we have to continually do. We have to continually get it straight in my mind, what is my purpose in life? And am I here to serve myself or am I here to serve God? And so we have to climb back on that altar regularly and say, "You know, my goal is not my pleasure, my prosperity, my peace of mind: my goal is to glorify God". He says, "I urge you to keep on presenting your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God. And don't be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind".
You got to change your way of thinking. It's not about you, it's not about here, it's not about now: it's about God. It's about his kingdom. It's about eternity. You know what he says here? Once you do that, once you get back up on God's spiritual altar, once you change your perspective of what your life is all about, notice the promise, then you will be able to prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect. Ladies and gentlemen, that's the key for making the tough decisions in life.