How did you decide where to sit this morning?
Did you use the principle of obedience as we discussed last week? Did that work well for you? Was it helpful? Remember what we said last week. We said that to make a good decision what you have to do is obey the moral will of God, and his moral will is written down for us in the Bible so if you know what the Bible says you know God’s will.
So, how did you decide where to sit this morning? Did you use the Bible?
It is obvious, isn’t it, that God’s moral will does not address every situation. For one thing, there are just too many decisions for them all to be minutely answered in the Bible. That’s one reason for a Jewish book called Talmud. The Talmud is 6,200 pages long. It is written in Tannaitic Hebrew and Aramaic, and it contains the opinions of thousands of rabbis on a variety of subjects. The Talmud is the basis for Jewish rabbinic law. It was created because the Torah does not explicitly answer every question.
For another thing, the Bible knows nothing of our modern settings. It says nothing about which car to buy, or which television programme to watch, or whether to favour Android over Apple.
The second principle of godly decision making is The Principle of Freedom. Let me remind you that the first principle, which we learned last week, is The Principle of Obedience.
The Principle of Freedom says three things. 1) Some decisions have multiple options and any number of them may be acceptable to God. 2) Any decision must not violate God’s moral will in any way – purpose, attitude, or execution. 3) God is not a dictator – we are free to make our own decisions.
Of course God can and sometimes does reveal his particular will for a particular decision as he has done in the past. He is still able to do that. When it is necessary he still does that through direct revelation or through indirect revelation. Most of the time that is not necessary and we do not anticipate it.
It is not ruled out, but for most decisions what we already have in the Bible is adequate.
This principle of freedom is something we can see at the very beginning of the Bible, as the story from Genesis 2 illustrates. May Moses forgive me for slightly changing what he wrote. We start from verse 19. Please follow along with me.
Adam was hungry. He had spent a long, challenging morning naming thousands of animals. He’d had a refreshing nap in the afternoon, after which he’d had an exhilarating surprise. It had been a memorable experience, to say the least, when he had woken up and found Eve looking at him curiously.
As the sun began to set, Adam discovered that he had worked up an appetite.
“I think we should eat,” he said to Eve. “Let’s call the evening meal ‘supper’.”
“Oh, you’re so decisive, Adam,” Eve said. “I like that in a man. All the excitement has made me hungry, too.”
They discussed what to do and decided that Adam would pick fruit from the garden, and Eve would prepare it for their meal. Adam set about his task and soon had a basket full of ripe fruit. He gave it to Eve, and then went to soak his feet in the soothing current of the Pishon River until supper was ready. He had been reviewing the animals’ names for about five minutes when he heard his wife’s troubled voice.
“Adam, could you help me for a moment?”
“Yes dear, what seems to be the problem?”
“I’m not sure which of these lovely fruits I should prepare for supper. I’ve prayed for guidance, but I don’t really know what He wants me to do. I don’t want to mistake His will on my very first decision. Would you please go to God and ask him what I should do about supper?”
Adam’s hunger was growing, but he understood Eve’s dilemma. So he left her and went to speak with God. He returned quickly and appeared perplexed.
“Well?” Eve said.
“Well, he didn’t really answer the question.”
“What do you mean? Didn’t he say anything?”
“Not much. He just repeated what he told me earlier today: ‘You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’ And I promise you I didn’t pick anything from the forbidden tree.”
“I appreciate that, but it doesn’t solve my problem,” Eve said. “What should I prepare for supper?”
Adam was famished so he said, “I’ve never seen such crisp, juicy apples. I feel a sense of peace about them. Why don’t you prepare them for supper?”
“All right, Adam. You are older and you’ve had more experience at making decisions. I appreciate your leadership. I’ll call you when supper’s ready.”
Adam was only halfway back to the river when Eve called. He eagerly jogged to where she was working, but his heart sank when he saw her face. “More problems?” he asked.
“Adam, I can’t decide how to prepare the apples. I could slice them, dice them, mash them, bake them in a pie, a cobbler, fritters, or dumplings. I really want to be your helper, but I must be certain of God’s will. Be a dear and take this problem to the Lord just one more time.”
Adam was not keen to bother God again, but Eve said some very nice things about him so he agreed.
Adam and Eve were silent for a moment, and then with a sparkle in his eye Adam said, “God seemed to think he had fully answered my question. He could have told us what to eat and how to eat it; but I think he’s given us the freedom to make those decisions. It was the same way with the animals today. He told me to name the animals. He didn’t whisper names in my ear. Naming them was my responsibility.”
Eve was amazed. “Do you mean that we could have any of these fruits for supper? Are you telling me that I can’t disobey God in this decision?”
“The only way you could do that is pick fruit from the forbidden tree. None of these fruits are from that tree. I suppose we are free to eat a little from each one.”
Adam snapped his fingers and exclaimed, “I’ve got a great idea! Let’s have fruit salad for supper!” And so they did.
We can portray God’s moral will like this. We know it is God’s moral will that we attend a worship service. It is his will that we be in this room, and against his will to be outside this room. But within this room is a circle of freedom. You can sit where you want.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is outside the room, it is outside the circle of permission.
The New Testament says the same thing.
Would you like to turn to 1 Corinthians 10:27 and see what it says: ‘If someone who isn’t a believer asks you home for dinner, accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you without raising questions of conscience.’
You know you should give money to this fellowship, but how much money should you put in the offering box over there or in the bag each week?
Look at 2 Corinthians 9:7 and see what it says: ‘You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”’
Or in matters of marriage, 1 Corinthians 7:39 gives us these instructions: ‘A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord.’
These verses all show a clear line that mark’s off God’s moral will. An area of freedom is also obvious in all of them.
In the last one for example, God’s moral will clearly forbids a Christian from marrying a non-Christian. It says nothing, however, about which believer you should marry. You are free to marry any eligible believer. It is up to the individuals involved to make the decision and to follow through on their commitment in the strength of the Holy Spirit.
You are free to decide.
But we are now left with a new question. How should we exercise this freedom? Let’s talk about that next week. And remember, this week’s principle for making godly decisions is The Principle of Freedom.