Posts Tagged 'Ethics'



Three More (Ethical) Hot Potatoes

Living an ethical life for the Christian means living up to Biblical standards, not down to worldly standards. When you stop and think about it, a Christian would actually have lower his standards to be ethical according to the world’s definition of “ethical.” This, of course, presupposes that Christians want to live up to Biblical standards. In the modern arena of life, sometimes it’s very difficult to spot a Christian in the crowd!

It’s unfortunate that so many believers have such limited knowledge of Scripture that they are unable to think critically about important issues of the day. Such is the case with the last three hot (ethical) potatoes in our series. We Christians refer to non-Christians as “the lost.” We call them “lost” for a couple of reasons. First, they are lost because they are “lost in their sins.” When you are lost in your sins, your destination is Hell. That’s not politically correct, but it’s a fact. Second, we call the non-Christian “lost” because they are ignorant. That is, they literally don’t know right from wrong; their minds are corrupt and they are unable to come to a correct conclusion on many issues. This is why you, Mr and Mrs Christian, need to live as ethically as you can! You can show these lost folks a better way. It is your witness; it is your testimony; it is your obligation to both God and the lost.

1. Hot potato: Sanctity of life

(a) Humans—a very special creation, Genesis 9:6; Psalm 139:13—16

From an abortion clinic's pathology lab. Each container houses an aborted baby.

You don’t have to watch, listen to, or read American media to discover that Americans have a very (to me) strange, sick obsession with abortion. How obsessed are we? In 2010, there were approximately 3,500 per day. Now, that’s sick. What makes it even worse is that many of those abortions were performed on Christian women. Christians have a perplexing notion regarding abortion. Christian parents preach pro-life loudly and clearly until their little princess breaks the bad news to them. Then it’s usually up to Dad to sneak her over the county line to have an abortion on the QT.

How do Christians live ethically in a culture that has such a cheap and selfish view of life? It all begins with what the Bible teaches regarding when life begins. It is NOT up to the courts to decide when life begins. God creates it, so He is the ONLY authority on the issue of when life begins.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13—16)

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the author of Psalm 139 wrote about God’s participation in the development of a life within the womb. It may well be “a woman’s body,” but the new life in her womb is a life carefully crafted by God, and nobody has a right to interfere with His work. These are powerful verses for the Christian to ponder. For the unbeliever, who does not recognize the authority of the Bible, they are meaningless. These verses are for believers; believers are to base their ethic on the sanctity of life on these verses and verses like them. Let the world engage court battles and political decisions in their fruitless quest to justify their slaughter of 3,500 innocent lives a day.

God takes the taking of life seriously, by the way. Consider Genesis 9:6—

Whoever sheds human blood, by human beings shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made humankind.

Here you have verse that settles three things. First, if a fetus is a living person as the Bible says it is, then having an abortion is the shedding of human life. For the unbeliever, that person who had the abortion is ignorant, her mind corrupt, and already on her way to Hell unless she finds Jesus. But the believer who has an abortion has a lot to answer for. Second, this verse clearly teaches that God believes in what we call “capital punishment.” There’s no other way to interpret “by human beings shall their blood be shed.” And third, God holds human life sacred because every human being is created by God in His image.

(b) God’s set time, Ecclesiastes 3:1—2; Psalm 116:15

Human life is in God’s hands. We take pills, have operations, and practice all kinds of “healthy eating” in hopes of eking out an extra year or two of life, but the fact is, life and death are in God’s hands. Christians generally know when life begins, abortion statistics notwithstanding. But things get a little muddled for us at the end of life. When a loved one dies, we say ridiculous things like, “She died too soon.” Or, “He was taken from us at such a young age.” In light of what the Bible says, those statements are ridiculous and meaningless:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. (Ecclesiastes 3:1—2)

God has a plan for every human being. Their beginning was determined by God and their end will be determined by God. There is nothing a mere human being can do to add one second to their life when when their time is up. Since God has a plan for every life and a span for every life, who has a right disrupt that plan or shorten that span by murder of any kind? No wonder God takes life so seriously!

For the Christian, the sanctity of life must always be of primary concern before all others. Whether the child is wanted or not. Whether that child has a disability or not. Whether that senior citizen is on life support or not. Convenience, cost, the courts, and quality of life do not determine the Christian’s ethic concerning the sanctity of life. The Word of God does.

2. Ethnic discrimination

Here is another obsession of Americans. We are absolutely obsessed with a person’s race, color, ethnicity, and so on. Even our national census has questions about race. Race determines who gets into some colleges and who gets some jobs. All this in a country that claims to be “colorblind.” As Christians, we need to know what the Bible says about this issue.

(a) The principle, Leviticus 19:33, 34

When foreigners reside among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigners residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

That principle sounds reasonable, but when we consider the context in which God gave it, it becomes quite stunning in its implications. The Israelites were God’s chosen people. They were given a piece of land to live on by God Himself. They were the recipients of tremendous blessings from God just by virtue of their special covenant relationship with Him. Yet here we have God laying down a principle for all time: treat a stranger as if they were not. Love the stranger as you love yourself.

It is God’s declaration that God’s people should not discriminate against any person who is from a race or ethnic group different from themselves. Rather than treating someone differently because they are from a different ethnic group, Christians are to consider them no different (no better or no worse) than themselves.

Naturally, we as believers don’t carry that to a ridiculous extreme. Leviticus does not teach “moral” or “cultural relativism.” We balance this teaching of acceptance with other teachings about being separate from the world and not allowing the world into the Body of Christ. There is a world of difference between multiculturalism and multi-ethnicity. The former is highly destructive to society, but the latter is wholly Biblical. All of us, “red and yellow, black and white,” stand equal before our Creator.

(b) The problem, Luke 10:29—37

One day, a lawyer wanted to test Jesus and justify himself. The question he asked our Lord had to do with going to heaven. Jesus’ answer was simple. If you want to go to heaven, all you have to do is obey the law of God and love your neighbor as yourself.

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In answer to the second question, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the story, an unfortunate man was robbed and beaten up and left for dead on a the side of a road and all kinds of people just walked by him, not offering to help him. They all had a good excuse for not helping this poor guy. While we don’t know his ethnicity, we do know who eventually stopped to offer aid: a Samaritan.

This Samaritan, a half-breed really, went out of his way to help a stranger. He put into work the principle outlined in Leviticus. What’s the point of the story? That a half-breed is more ethical than a priest? No! Jesus’ point in the parable is that we believers ought to be willing to extend a helping hand regardless of the other person’s ethnicity.

3. Addictive behaviors

(a) Money, 1 Timothy 6:10; Proverbs 13:11; 28:19, 20

There is nothing wrong with wealth or money. There is nothing unethical about being wealthy or having a lot of money. There is no virtue in being poor. As you read the Old Testament, wealth is seen as a reward for obedience in the lives of such people as Abraham, Job, and David. The more they obeyed the Word of God, the more wealth God gave them. Over in the New Testament, the ministries of Paul and Jesus would have been non-existent had it not been for the support of wealthy people. Wealthy individuals made missionary endeavors possible. We give the Holy Spirit credit for the rapid expansion of the Church in Acts, but let’s not forget how much wealthy believers did to help spread the Good News!

The ethical issue surrounding money isn’t that Christians shouldn’t have much of it, but that they shouldn’t be in love with it. Loving money is unethical because it leads to unethical behavior that touches virtually every aspect of your life.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Indeed, loving money opens the door to all kinds of grief and trouble! When we “love” money, we become addicted to it; we find ways to accumulate it, often to our detriment. If you have ever watched the zombie-like senior citizen yanking the slot-machine lever in Las Vegas, gambling away his pension and working on his Social Security check, you have a good picture of what Paul meant by “piercing themselves with man griefs.” When you are in love with money, you lose all perspective. You’ll do things you thought you would never do to get more money and get it as fast as you can. Proverbs gives us some excellent wisdom about this:

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. (13:11)

A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished. (28:20)

(b) Sexual addiction, Matthew 5:28; Psalm 101:3, 4

Addiction to things like pornography prove to be a snare; it is unethical behavior for the Christian because, like loving money, it distorts your view of the world around you and leads on a path that will destroy your life.

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

Jesus sure sets the ethical bar high! But remember, as Christians, we are to live up that His bar, not the world’s bar.

I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it. The perverse of heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with what is evil. (Psalm 101:3, 4)

The power of your choice! You can choose to turn away for things like pornography. It is our responsibility to “turn it off” in order to not do what “faithless people do.” There are times when we can’t help but see things we shouldn’t. But when we can, it is our duty to take responsibility for what we see. It’s good to remember the old Sunday School song:

Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little eyes, what you see.

Be careful little ears what you hear
Be careful little mouth what you say…
Be careful little hands, what you touch…
Be careful little feet, where you go…

We have barely scratched the surface in the study of Christian ethics. The most important thing to remember is that as a Christian, you are called to a higher standard of living than those who are not believers. This in no way makes you superior to them; it makes you an obedient Christian. Christian ethics is really all about our consecration and dedication to the teachings of the Word of God.

Christianity is different than all other “belief systems” because they all have strict rules and regulations their followers are expected to respect. Not so with Christianity. We recognize that we are created in God’s image. We have an intellect. We have ambition. We have the ability to reason. We have talents and abilities to create wonderful things, and wicked things. We have been given something precious: the ability to think and choose for ourselves. The key for the Biblical ethicist is summed up by Paul:

I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

Don’t lose control of your life! Don’t let the things of this world get a hold of you! Take control of your life; be obedient to the Word of God, rise above this world, and become the ethical person God has called you to be.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd


Three (Ethical) Hot Potatoes

So far in our study of Christian Ethics, we have looked at what the study of Christian Ethics is all about: living according how the Bible says we should live. If we take that as our starting point, it naturally follows that if we are living as the Bible says we should live, then we won’t be living the way the world says we should live. Granted, there are times when the world’s standards of ethics will be the same as Biblical standards; but many times the Biblical standards of ethical living will be very different from those of the world. As Christians, when presented with a choice of living “up to” the world’s standards or up the Biblical standards, there really shouldn’t be a choice; Christians should automatically make the Biblical choice. Sometimes Christians will choose the worldly ethic because they “didn’t know” what the Bible taught. This is a poor excuse, as are most excuses, given what the Bible itself says:

He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Making the right ethical choice is a measure of Christian maturity, and it is also a measure of our dedication to the Lord in terms of our obedience. Here is where “the rubber meets the road.” Here is where we show the world (and the Lord) whether we take our faith seriously or not. Which way we choose to go will answer the questions:

  • Do I take the Word of God more seriously than my own personal views?
  • Will I follow the Bible’s guidelines for my life or make up my own?
  • Will I be guided by the teaching of Christ? Or will I be guided by the latest whims of culture?

1. Divorce and remarriage

The first ethical hot potato is the subject of divorce and remarriage. Given the high rates of divorce in the Church today, we might think this is a new problem. The Bible, however, shows us otherwise. Divorce was a big problem during Jesus’ time. The Pharisees knew it was a big problem and so, as they did often, used this big problem to cause problems for Jesus.

(a) Marriage, Matthew 19:3—6

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

When asked an exaggerated question about divorce, notice what Jesus did. Instead of addressing their question directly, He circled around and approached it from a different direction. Instead of discussing divorce, Jesus went right back to the very beginning to discuss what God intended marriage to be all about based on what Scriptures says. The way the Pharisees asked the question showed they had no idea what marriage was all about. In their minds, the man was in total control—he could divorce his wife; divorce was all about him. Jesus went right back to Genesis to demonstrate three things: (1) marriage was God’s idea; it was not an invention of human beings. If this is true, then shouldn’t God have the right to establish the rules? (2) Marriage involves both a physical and an emotion separation of adult children from their parents. Jesus mentions the man, not the woman, to present an eternal principle based on the Pharisee’s question; they asked it from the man’s perspective, so Jesus answers it the way they asked it. (3) When a man and a woman unite in marriage, their sex disappears. When Jesus says “one flesh,” He turns around and negates any privileges (perceived or otherwise) that the Pharisees think a man has.  Both partners have equal standing in a marriage, although different responsibilities.

So, the first part of Jesus’ answer deals strictly with God’s idea of marriage. He concluded this part of the answer by succinctly stating that it is God’s rules that apply, not man’s made up rules. If God unites a man and a woman in marriage, them no human being as the right to separate them.

(b) Divorce, Matthew 19:7—9

Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The Pharisees needed more, and they used the Law of Moses to corner Jesus. Based on what Jesus just told them, how would He answer a question about the Law of Moses? Was Moses wrong? The context in which this question was asked needs to be taken into account. At this time in Jewish history, there were two schools religious thought about divorce. One school taught that there was one and only one justification for divorce: adultery. The other school taught there were many reasons for a man to divorce his wife. Although Jesus’ answer sounded like He was taking one side over the other, in fact Jesus took His Father’s side.

As far as Jesus was concerned, divorce was allowable (though not necessary) only in the case of adultery. To 21st century Christians, that sounds a little strict, but positively draconian to unbelievers! Imagine if this was the “law of the land!” There would be riots in the streets for sure. However, this is God’s wish for His children; the world, on the other hand, will do whatever they want and their ethic in this matter should not be the basis for the Church’s. As strict as this may sound to us, consider how freeing it must have sounded to the Jews of Jesus’ day. The revered Law of Moses taught this:

If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel. (Deuteronomy 22:22)

Originally, death was the punishment for adultery. When Jesus came, the punishment for adultery—death—was done away with. From now on, the punishment for adultery would be divorce. Most people don’t look at divorce as “punishment” for anything! In fact, most of us probably look at divorce in the opposite light; something that solves a lot of problems. But in God’s view, divorce is not good; it is a punishment.

Men and women are different; Jesus was well aware of all the differences: physical, emotional, mental, and so on. In Judaism, divorce was allowed on account of a “hard heart.” A “hard heart” is a way of saying “irreconcilable differences.” In Christian marriages, because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of both partners, “hard hearts” and irreconcilable differences shouldn’t exist. In a Christian marriage, where adultery hasn’t occurred and even when it has, those issues that cause one’s heart to harden should be dealt with Biblically, being guided by Christ’s “law of love.” Have you ever asked yourself why holding a troubled Christian marriage together is so important to God? It’s because a Christian marriage is supposed to reflect the kind of relationship that exists between God and His people and between the three Persons of the Trinity. To soil those images that the world sees is to ruin our witness, and is to do God a terrible disservice; it is putting your wants and desires above those of God.

(c ) Unequal marriages, 1 Corinthians 7:10—16

The first part of this passage deals with Christian marriages, and Paul’s teachings are pretty simple:

A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. (verses 10, 11)

Paul’s position seems to go a step further than Jesus’. While Jesus taught the importance of working out problems and remaining together, Paul’s taught the Corinthians that if a wife left her husband for reasons other than adultery, then she, the one who left, needed to remain single. This was Paul’s solution to an ongoing problem that existed in the church at Corinth; apparently Christian wives were leaving their husbands right and left. Verse one is a qualifier, which seems to limit the strict interpretation of this admonition to the historical, local problem in Corinth:

Now for the matters you wrote about…

It is difficult to imagine this particular admonition applying in every situation where abandonment occurs; when only one partner remains, there really is no marriage. Paul’s point for all generations: work at restoring the marriage no matter what. However, at some point, other measures need to be prayerfully considered when the abandonment issue cannot be resolved. This would seem to indicate the presence of at least one “hard heart” in the marriage, and that brings us back what Moses taught regarding the allowance of divorce on account of that hard heart.

The remainder of this passage concerns mixed marriages, where one spouse is a believer and the other is not. Again, Paul is addressing a problem in the big and busy church at Corinth, but the principle is one that endures, because it is a mixture of common sense and Biblical truth:

  • Where one spouse is a believer and one an unbeliever, if they can live in peace within the bounds of marriage, then they should remain together. An unequal marriage does not have to result in divorce.
  • If an unbelieving spouse decides to leave his believing spouse, the believing spouse is free from the marriage.

The key to Paul’s theology of marriage/divorce/remarriage is summed up in verse 15:

God has called us to live in peace.

2. Christians and government

(a) Government, Romans 13:1–7

As Christians, we are called to set the example for others to follow. This extends into our relationship with society around us, and in this case, with the governing authorities. The essence of Paul’s teaching on this subject can be found in a couple of locations in the New Testament, but here the issue is that of living in an orderly society. Paul’s teaching here is pretty remarkable when we consider that he and his people were living under the domination of a corrupt Roman regime. To make matters worse, the corruption of the government was well-known. In spite of that, Paul was able to write what he did. In summary form, here is what Paul taught:

  • People need some form of governance, God understood this even at the beginning. While self-governance and very limited government may be good things, anarchy is not. People, all people, need laws and officials to enforce those laws for the good of society. Many of our elected officials may fall far short of their responsibilities, but that does not negate their divinely ordained purpose.
  • There are no exceptions to the rule. If you live in an orderly society, then you must obey the rules of that society or face punishment. For example, you may not agree with how your town spends your tax dollars, but you still have to pay your taxes.
  • Even if your country is being run by corrupt officials, you are obligated to respect their office, if not their person. Why? Because God has ordained that office, if not the person who occupies it. Ethically, we have no option. Granted, that can be difficult to do. Fortunately, in America we have elections, and we are allowed to register our disappointments with our elected officials at the ballot box and, in fact, we are able to hold peaceful demonstrations in the interim. So, there are lawful ways in our culture to remain faithful to the teachings of Paul but to also to demonstrate how we may feel about our elected officials (or elected dictators; take your pick).

Now, there may be times when it is impossible to respect and obey governing officials. For example, if their laws contravene the Law of God, a Christian has a sacred duty to obey the holy Law of God and face whatever the consequences may be. We have a Biblical precedent for this. One time, Peter and John were ordered by the authorities to stop preaching and teaching Jesus. When they refused to do so, they were hauled before those same authorities where they said this:

We must obey God rather than human beings! (Acts 5:29)

(b) Rulers, 1 Timothy 2:1—4

If you think what Paul told the Romans is a big pill to swallow, what he told Timothy is really hard to take:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Pray for your elected officials; that is the best thing you can do.  That obviously does not mean that you ought to pray for their success if their policies are anti-Christian or harmful to society as a whole.  In such a case, the Christian ought to pray that such a leader be frustrated in his attempts to implement his agenda and at the same pray for that leader to seek wisdom and have a change of heart.

3. Worldliness and stuff

(a) Materialism, inside and out, 1 john 2L15—17

It can be tough to live in a society that places such a value on “stuff” when our mandate is the exact opposite. The guiding principle is found in 1 John 2:15—17:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

While there is nothing wrong with ambition, finding ultimate fulfillment in anything or any person other than God is wrong and is unethical for a Christian. The principle John lays out is this: our lives on earth are less than a drop in the bucket of eternity. Our lives are temporary and the things we so often covet and obsess over are just as temporary. From possessions that break and wear out, to success and fame which are so fleeting, there is nothing of permanence on planet earth. It is so easy to get caught up in worldly philosophies and pursuits that make us forget where our priorities should rest and where our citizenship really is—heaven.

(b) The key is contentment, 1 Timothy 6:6—9

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

Land, houses, cars, swimming pools, clothes, investments, and all the other things human beings work so hard to obtain are not sinful or wrong in and of themselves. In fact, a thing like wealth can be good for the individual who has it because he can do more for himself, his family, and the kingdom of heaven. The problem is when the acquisition of wealth (of any form) is all we think about it.  When we start to do that, those sometimes very worthy and worthwhile things become little more than idols and the means of our destruction.

The secret, as Paul told Timothy, is simply contentment. Contentment is not settling for less for the sake of laziness or some kind of perverse satisfaction brought about by depriving yourself of something. Contentment is understanding the difference between what we need and what we want. It is recognizing that God can and does provide all we need to live and all we need to do is put our lives in His care.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd


Ethics, The Holy Spirit, and You

Of all the people living on the earth, Christians should be the most ethical. When you read the Bible, it becomes obvious this is what God wants, and He wants this for different reasons. First, the more ethical we live, the happier we will be. Imagine how good it would feel to never have a “guilty conscience” again! Second, the more ethical we live, the better witness we have. When a person “practices what they preach,” they can more effectively share their faith with others because they will have confidence; their words will ring true, not hollow. Third, the more ethical we live, the more accurate we replicate Christ in our lives. After all, we do bear His Name! We ought to try living as He lived. And fourth, we really have no excuse to not live ethically. The old saws, “the devil made me do it,” or, “God isn’t finished with me yet,” should be expunged from Christian vocabulary because they give the impression Christians are finding ways to excuse their sin, and Christians should never try to excuse their sin!

Living ethically, expected of us by God, can be done right here, right now. We don’t have to wait for the Second Coming and the Millennial reign of Christ to be the most ethical people on earth. Within every believer is a reservoir of dynamic, unlimited, and Divine power waiting to be accessed, guaranteed to give you the supernatural ability to live as Christ did. The Holy Spirit stands ready to help YOU live ethically; all we have to do is yield to that Spirit.

That sounds so easy, and it’s easier to write than to do. The fact is, the wants and the flesh are often at war with the demands of the Spirit. When push comes to shove, we need the Holy Spirit to give us the “gumption” to strike down the flesh. No less a person than the Apostle Paul struggled with this very issue:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. (Romans 7:21—23)

1. A life transformed

(a) A new perspective, John 16:8

When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment…

It’s interesting that Christians almost always think of the Holy Spirit as “the Comforter,” yet here Jesus seems to indicate that a primary purpose Holy Spirit is to show to the world what sin is, what righteousness is, and why they, as sinners, are living in a way unacceptable to God. Like they say, “you can’t see the forest for the trees,” so a sinner who is living in sin continually has no idea how sinful he may be. It’s the job or ministry of the Holy Spirit to show him, but how does the Spirit do that?

In the life of the believer, He has the same ministry, but He does it from the inside out. That is, the Holy Spirit convicts the believer of sin; He brings it to our attention and puts us in the position of having to make the choice: Do I sin? Or do I turn away with the help of the Spirit? This is the beginning of ethical living for the believer—simply listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit. For the unbeliever, no such ministry exists. The Holy Spirit does not indwell an unbeliever and they are oblivious to His existence. The Holy Spirit fulfills this aspect of His ministry—showing the sinner what sin is and what righteousness is—through US; through the CHURCH. Think of the implications of that, and think of the responsibility we have as believers! When we choose to sin and rebel against the leading of the Holy Spirit, not only do we harm ourselves, but we literally quench the Holy Spirit and, possibly, harm the sinner who should have been helped by our obedience, but instead sees us behaving just like him!

This is a whole new perspective on obedience! We obey, not only for our sake but also for the sake the unbeliever, who is lost in his sins, has no choice but to sin, but can see us and therefore can see a way out of his lost state. At the very least, when we live in obedience, it can cause an unbeliever to stop and question his behavior and maybe, Lord willing, cause him to ask why we live the way we do, thus opening the door for us to share our faith.

(b) A new owner, 1 Corinthians 6:19—20

When we consider what happened at our conversion, living ethically becomes an urgency, not an option. Thanks to the work of Christ, we have been gloriously and permanently set free from sin’s hold on us. Once we were slaves to sin, but now we are “dead to sin,” it no longer has a claim on us in any way. Sin has no claim on our minds—we don’t have to sin in our thoughts. Sin has no claim on our time—we don’t have to spend our free time sinning. Sin has no claim on our talents—we can use them to glorify God. In short, we are now free in the purest sense, to pursue righteousness, holiness, peace, and joy in the Lord. And yet, with this freedom, which sinners cannot experience, by the way—we are called to live by certain “rules of conduct” based on the fact that we, though free from sin, are now owned by Someone else:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Paul wrote that in the context of sexual sin. But the principle of “honoring God with our bodies” extends to every aspect of our lives. Since ownership of our bodies transfered to Jesus at our conversion, for us to return to our old way of life would be a violation of that spiritual transaction. Therefore, ethical living is the best way to honor Jesus Christ, both as our Savior but also as our new Master.

2. Spirit controlled living

(a) Thinking new thoughts, Romans 8:1—9

For many believers, verse one of this group of verses stands out as one of their favorites:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…

The profound truth of that verse is life-changing. If we are in Christ, we can never be condemned for our sins; there is no other way to interpret that. Simple and straight forward, this verse further illustrates the magnitude of what Jesus did for us. He saved us from our sins in every way—He separated us from them; they are no longer attached to us and God will no longer associate them with us. Yet there are many forces in the world around us determined to draw us back into a life of sin in an attempt to undo what Christ did. Think about it: the media, our careers, our friends, even our family members can be used by Satan to that end. How do we fight all of these forces? Like so much of what we do, it all begins between our ears:

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5)

This describes a whole new way of thinking; a way of thinking based on what the Holy Spirit wants, not on what we want. We flippantly use the phrase “led by the Spirit” as a way to describe living according to the will of God, but rarely do we stop to wonder where we get that information. Just where do we discover what the Spirit desires for us? If we believe that the Word of God is God’s final Word to us, then we must immerse ourselves in the Word of God, discover what it says, then—and only then—can we be led by the Spirit. From time-to-time in our immaturity, the Holy Spirit will come to us and supernaturally move us along a desired path, but the longer we serve the Lord, the more we are expected to know His Word. There is no way around the Bible! It must be the focal point of our new way of living.

(b) Living a new way, Romans 8:12—14

At first glance, verse 12 seems like a downer when we compare it to verse one:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature…

Nobody likes to talk about “obligations,” but here it is in black and white: Christians, as free as we may be in Christ, have a sacred obligation NOT to live according to the “sinful nature.” We sometimes joke about Christians who seem to be “so heavenly minded they are no earthly good,” because their lives seem to be so different from ours. Throughout the history of the Church, there have been sects that sought to live separate from the rest of the world to the point where they lived in small communities, cut off from society. Is this what the Bible teaches? No; living a new way means living IN the world in such a way as our new lives become obvious to those who see us. Living a life of separation does not mean literal separation from everybody, but spiritual separation from sin and the forces that seek to tempt us to sin.

Our obligation is to get a handle on our sinful nature and live contrary to it! Coming to Christ does not make us robots; it does not remove our ability to choose; it does not mean that we forfeit the ability to think and reason and question. In fact, coming to Christ sets us free to do all those things in a way untainted by sin. But our obligation is live according to the Spirit; God wants us to choose to live that way; He does not force it on us. And God has given us something to help us make that choice: the fruit of the Spirit.

3. The fruit of the Spirit

(a) No conflict, Galatians 5:17, 19—21

Christians have been redeemed—they have been “bought back” from the world. Some Christians think this redemption is all about their souls. To them, redemption is all about going to heaven when they die. They couldn’t be more short-sighted. While it is true our souls have been redeemed, our redemption includes all we are are: our bodies, our minds, our emotions, our temperaments, and our natures. Because our whole being has been bought by God, every time we make an unethical choice, every time we conspire to sin, we are thrown into a conflict. Paul understood this conflict well:

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. (Galatians 5:17)

The last phrase of that verse says it all: we are not free to do whatever we want. This stands in contrast to the attitude of the world today, that tells us we should do whatever makes us happy, or whatever makes us feel good. The attitude today is “I deserve to be happy.” In fact, Paul makes it very clear how dangerous that attitude is in verse 21:

I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

There should be no conflict, but when we feel it, we know we are in the wrong. The conviction of the Holy Spirit, even though it makes us uncomfortable, is essential in keeping us on track so that we will ultimately prevail and inherit the Kingdom of God.

(b) Live by the Spirit, Galatians 5:16, 22—25

To help end the conflict, we have the fruit of the Spirit. The key to ethical living is allowing the fruit of the Spirit to grow in our lives. Paul makes it crystal clear that if we are walking by the Spirit—paying attention to what the Holy Spirit wants for us—then we will NOT give in to our sinful natures. Furthermore, walking in the Spirit is no mystery for we have a list of how to do it! We call this list “the fruit of the Spirit,” and if you are doing your best live according to this list, then you will be living ethically. Contrary to what some may think, the fruit of Spirit is for all Christians, not just the so-called “super saints!” The fruit of the Spirit should be the norm for all believers.

The thing about the fruit of the Spirit is that there is ONE fruit with many parts. This indicates that all the “virtues” are linked together to make up that ONE fruit. The implication is a bit startling: all Christians are expected to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in its entirety. Yes, each piece of the Spirit’s fruit should be seen in our lives. That requires a lot of work. For some of us, certain pieces of the fruit of the Spirit will come easy, others will be hard to manifest. But it is our privilege to cultivate a life a where the whole fruit of the Spirit may be seen all the time. This can only happen when we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us on an ongoing basis.

When we start living like that, we will be living in the ethical way God desires.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd


The Basics of Christian Ethics

Simply put, ethics is the study of good and evil, right and wrong. The study of ethics is not the same thing as the study of psychology; psychology deals with behavior while ethics with conduct. Psychology looks into how and why a person behaves the way they do; ethics studies the moral quality of that conduct. Ethics may be either descriptive or practical:

  • Descriptive: examining human conduct in light of standard of right and wrong.
  • Practical: stresses the motives for living up to such a standard.

The study of Christian ethics is different from “philosophical” ethics. A philosophic or purely secular study of ethics makes no allowance for sin; it is studied entirely on a naturalistic basis. Christian ethics examines one’s conduct in light of sin, salvation, redemption, regeneration, and the enabling of the Holy Spirit in living up to a certain standard of conduct.

The study of Christian ethics is not limited to a consideration of man’s duties to his fellow man, but it also includes man’s duties to God, so it is a much more comprehensive study than its secular counterpart. Furthermore, Christian ethics acknowledges that its motivation is not hedonism, perfectionism, or utilitarianism, but rather love, affection, and submission to God.

So at the outset, we realize that the study of Christian ethics is different than a study of ethics in general. The Christian ethicist has a Biblical world-view; he is constantly measuring the totality of his conduct against a Biblical standard rooted in the nature and character of God. This explains the uniqueness of Christian ethics. Since God’s nature and character cannot change, then Christian ethics cannot change; situational ethics is a completely foreign concept to the Christian.

1. The Bible: The Standard, Psalm 19:7—14; Micah 6:8; Romans 7:7, 12; 2 Timothy 3:16—17

(a) The source of all guidance

How do you view the Bible? Believe it or not, within the Church there are many ideas as to the Bible’s place. While every Christian claims the supremacy of Scriptures, it appears to be only lip-service to most of them. And your view of the Bible reveals your world-view. Do you view the Bible as:

  • a collection of very good ideas, wise sayings, and good advice on a variety of subjects, or as
  • a book for crisis intervention; to be used only in emergencies?

Neither view is acceptable for the true believer, yet most believers hold to one or both of these ideas. The fact is, the Bible is to be the rule of life—the standard of living—for Christians. It’s teachings or admonitions are not supposed to be regarded as optional. Regardless of the situation a believer may find himself in, the Bible’s way is to be followed.

Consider what the psalmist said:

The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)

The Word of God is trustworthy because, unlike the teachings of man, it does not contain ideas based on the latest fads or findings of science. God’s Word is based on His unchangeable and unchanging character; it literally rises above all circumstances and situations and addresses them with complete objectivity. Man is incapable of doing that, therefore his ideas are untrustworthy. That is not to say man can never come up with a good idea. It is to say that in matters life and living, only what the Bible says about a certain subject can be trusted. Verse 12a bears out this notion that man cannot live see his world objectively because he cannot see himself objectively:

But who can discern their own errors?

This foundational truth was recognized by the prophet Jeremiah, as well:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Furthermore, God’s Word is said to “refresh the soul,” giving “joy to the heart.” And no wonder! Man’s teachings are more often than not burdensome, bringing only guilt and condemnation. But God’s Word, according to the psalmist, “gives light,” meaning it will actually lead you some place and give you something useful, and “in keeping [its teachings] there is a great reward.” What is that great reward? When you are lost and looking for direction, surely the reward is exactly that!

Micah 6:8 may seem like a kind of summary when it comes to how the Bible relates to man’s ethical behavior:

He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Now, that is a good standard to live by! God has shown His people what is good in His Word; know His Word and you will always know how to live. There may be some who question the value of Old Testament teachings in the life of the Church. Romans 7:7 and 12 remind us of just how valuable all of the Old Testament is:

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

(b) Means of existence, 2 Timothy 3:16—17

Some people, Christians included, may wonder about the wisdom of a book thousands of years old. There are those who refute what the Bible says about itself by claiming that all “holy books” from different religions more or less say the same things. Is this true? Is the Bible just like all other “holy books?” Or is it the “holy book?” Only the Bible makes the following claim:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17)

The very source of Scripture is the reason for its authority. When you are reading the words of your Bible, you are reading Words from God! Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, men were “carried along,” conveying His thoughts in their own words for others to read.

For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)

What are the odds of producing a coherent work with a common theme, employing over 40 authors from all walks of life, writing over a span some 1500 years on different continents and in different languages? What are the odds of this coherent work, made up of 66 smaller works, surviving over the centuries in the face of tyrants who tried to destroy it and skeptics who tried to discredit it? The miracle of the Bible is the fact that exists, makes sense, and continues to change lives.

2. Traditions and practices of the Church, Acts 15:19—21; 28—31; 2 Thessalonians 2:15—17

The foundation of Christian ethics is the Word of God. Built upon the Word of God are the various traditions and practices of the Church. While some evangelicals may bristle at the very mention of “church traditions,” it must be said that church traditions, while not on par with Scripture, are very important in the life of a believer, as long as those traditions are based on Scripture. Consider the advice of the Jerusalem church (kind of like the “mother church” of the New Testament) in regards to Gentile Christians. For a long period of time, the very early church was made up of Jewish converts who carried over many points of Judaism into their new Christian faith. When waves upon waves of Gentiles found Christ and joined the church, some Jewish Christians thought they needed to observe certain Jewish rituals in order to be a part of the Church. Here is the advice given by church leaders, which became the very first “church traditions”:

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. (Acts 15:28, 29)

Maintaining a Biblical world-view, essential for the Christian-ethicist, can be helped by regularly fellowshipping at a Bible-believing church that observes solid Biblical traditions. The key, though, is that sound theology is more important than experience. Notice what Acts 15:28 says: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” The church leaders did not base their decision on their own opinions and experiences, but rather on the teachings of Scripture and only after being led by the Holy Spirit.

The importance of church traditions is further bolstered by what Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:15—17:

So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (verse 15)

The word “teachings” can also be translated “traditions,” and is in many translations. Sadly, many modern Christians regard church traditions as “old fashioned” or “legalistic.” However, they don’t have to be! Church traditions—solid, Biblical traditions—are our heritage, proven principles passed down from generation to generation. In the context of 2 Thessalonians 2, the traditions Paul wrote of were ones based on the teachings of the apostles, which in turn were based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Those kind of traditions are the kind that encourage and build up one’s faith.

3. Personal convictions, Romans 14:1—12; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 9—13

The Christian-ethicist begins with the Word of God. To that solid foundation, he adds Biblical traditions and practices of his Church. Finally, he must live by his own personal convictions. Here is where things can complicated. Is this situational ethics? When one lives by his convictions, is it a case of “doing what is right in his own eyes?” at the expense of doing what is right, period? The short answer is, No, it doesn’t have to be. We can still live objectively while respecting our personal convictions. The case-in-point is an incident in Romans 14.

It seems there were some Christians living in Rome who had carried over into their new-found Christian faith some practices from their past religions beliefs. These practices centered on certain food and drink restrictions and holding certain days of the week as special observances. None of these practices were part of the Gospel or part of the Old Testament.

These so-called “weaker brothers and sisters,” Paul taught, were not to be frowned upon by other Christians, but accepted by them. They were not to be criticized or judged because they held to these peculiar practices.

Accept those whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. (verse 1)

Practices which have nothing to do with salvation are “disputable,” and as far as Paul was concerned, were of no consequence.

Some consider one day more sacred than another; others consider every day alike. Everyone should be fully convinced in their own mind. (verse 5)

Verse 5 is a great principle for the Christian-ethicist to keep in mind. Whatever belief or practice he follows must have been be the result of his own free will, and not a belief or practice foisted upon him by others. As long as the dictates of Scripture are followed and not usurped by a certain practice, then there is room for diversity within the Church.

One thing Paul emphasized in his teaching was the importance of individuality and responsibility. Everybody is different and nobody should be squeezed into any particular mold that somebody else thinks is appropriate for them.

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister (verse 13)

In matters not related to salvation, we have no right to pass judgement on a believer who may do things differently than we do or who holds slightly different views from ours. Remember, when it comes to “unimportant” matters, or matters not spelled out in Scripture, if we indulge in them, then we are to do so because we think it is right for us and not because somebody told us we had to. Verse 5 is the principle; if we hold to a certain belief, then it must be because we arrived at that belief on own, of our own free will. As always, though, such a belief or practice must be measured against the Word of God.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

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