Discerning Questions

gray-matters-1.jpgThis weekend I preached a message entitled “How to Discern: Questions from Romans and 1 Corinthians,” and asked people to consider the following ten questions (adapted from similar questions in Mark Driscoll’s book, Radical Reformission) when they are attempting to discern what will be pleasing to the Lord in any given gray matter.

I’ve copied these onto the “Deaths” page at the front of my Bible so that I have them handy whenever I need to think through a gray moral issue. After all, does anyone really use the “Deaths” or “Births” or “Marriages” pages? Is it astounding to anyone else that publishers still put these in Bibles? Can people really not remember who got born? Or who’s dead? Anyway…

I have found these questions to be enormously useful and have already used them to help myself through some decisions about (1) getting a tattoo and (2) watching ultimate fighting. I’m a big fan of both of these things, but I’m not sure whether I should be or not. I don’t know. If you’re into either of these, work through the questions below and let me know what you think.

Question 1: Is it a violation of the laws of my city, state, or nation (Rom. 13:1-2)?

Question 2: Can I do this with a clear conscience (Rom. 13:5)?

Question 3: Will this cause me to sin by feeding sinful desires (Rom. 13:13-14)?

Question 4: Does my participation proceed from my faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 14:23)?

Question 5: Is it beneficial to my progress and maturity in the faith (1 Cor. 6:12)?

Question 6: Will I lose self-control and be mastered by what I participate in (1 Cor. 6:12)?

Question 7: Will I be doing this in the presence of someone who I think might fall into sin as a result (1 Cor. 8:9-11)?

Question 8: Am I doing this to help other people, or am I just being selfish (1 Cor. 10:23-4)?

Question 9: If I do this, or fail to do this, will I lose opportunities to share the gospel? (1 Cor. 10:32-33).

Question 10: Can I do this is a way that glorifies God? (1 Cor. 10:31).


11 thoughts on “Discerning Questions”

  1. So where do you draw the line? If you answer any of these with a negative do you stop? For instance Question 5: Is it beneficial to my progress and maturity in the faith? What If I want to get a tattoo? Is it “beneficial”? No. Is it harmful? No. How many “No’s” do you have before you stop. I am not trying to be legalistic just curious. Thoughts?

  2. The tattoo issue was just an example. Replace it with any “gray matter” issue and any question listed above. I am more curious to know where to draw the line. The questions listed above are great questions to ask and fairly comprehensive but what where do you stop.

  3. AJ,
    to be sure, there is always another question that can be asked. But I think this is why Paul says in Rom 14: 13, 14, 23 that it is really up to you and God. (of course, after all the other non-negotiables are out of the way – but that’s what makes these “gray matters” anyway).

    Nothing is inherently evil (again, “nothing” here referring to gray matters), so we are free in Christ to participate provided that we have confidence (no doubts) that we are acting in accordance with his will and not causing others to stumble. It’s Faith.

    So I can have my tattoo, drink wine, and root for the Packers and that is not “sin”. That’s the cool part about the freedom of Christ. He’s less worried about what I grow out or cut off (Lev 19:27) and more interested in how is my relationship with Him and you, my brother.

  4. Billy,

    I think what you’ve said is substantially what I would say to all of this. And I would emphasize even more the matter of making sure that what we decide to do proceeds from faith (Rom. 14:23).

    I think that one of the most looming dangers in discernment is not putting in the prayer, thought, and biblical interaction it takes to make a good, confident decision but then acting anyway. To make a flighty, poorly thought-out decision on an issue that is gray is to take sin lightly and to disregard Christ’s grief over our sins. It is, frankly, to “presume upon” God’s grace. It is tantamount to saying, “Eh, maybe this is sin, maybe this isn’t. I haven’t really figured that out yet, and I don’t care if sin.”

  5. Jesse,

    I would say that the Law still teaches us about the character of God. It just sounds to me like God does not want his people making imprints on their bodies (the Imago Dei). I’m not saying that in a Pharisaical, or legalistic sense. And a Christian having a tattoo certainly would be no hinderance to fellowship. ( I hope that is clear)

    The tattoos of the pagan cults had to do with appeasing their gods and dead relatives, and I definitely don’t think PB would have that as an intention 🙂

    However, certain RC apologists make the argument that the commandment against graven images no longer applies because the people of that time had a propensity for idol worship which we no longer have.

    I’m wondering if the tattoo question isn’t on the same slippery slope.

    I’m not set on the issue one way or the other, but I think it’s a good question.

    By the way, I love this blog.


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