Summary: Part 4 of study of Philippians
THE PASTOR’S POINTS
Bible Teaching Ministry of
CEDAR LODGE BAPTIST CHURCH
Dr. Russell Brownworth, Pastor
The challenge of Christian decision-making
What shall I choose? Have you ever been faced with choices? None of us have any choice about being born, the family we have, or the era in which we live. The choosing begins with how we will use the circumstances we inherit.
In 1784 Ben Franklin wrote to his daughter expressing his disappoint-ment at the poor choice the American government had made in selecting the eagle as our national symbol; Ben wanted the TURKEY!
(I’M SO GLAD THEY DIDN’T LISTEN!)
Some choices carry greater conse-quences than others. A student nurse came into the hospital room to give her 79-year-old patient a shot. She asked him, "Which hip do you want the shot?" Said he, "YOURS, HONEY!"
Choosing is important in the Christian life. Alaska’s highway is well-known for its primitive roads, and the long, lonely stretches. A sign located at the beginning of one such stretch reads:
CHOOSE YOUR RUT CAREFULLY...YOU’LL BE IN IT FOR THE NEXT 200 MILES!
Paul had a hard choice in front of him. He was languishing in a Roman prison - a dark, dirty, sickening place. His circumstance of life was appalling. He certainly wished for release (nobody likes prison). But he had a choice that took precedence - should he just sit back and wait to die (at least he’d be with Jesus - that was preferable in Paul’s eyes.) Or should he remind God how useful he could be for the furtherance of the ministry? This was a trying decision.
And we face many decisions about family, job, relationships. We (like Paul) want to make sound decisions, Christian decisions - choices that will be good for our welfare, and pleasing in God’s sight. The question before the house today is,
HOW CAN I MAKE SOUND, CHRISTIAN DECISIONS?
The answer to that question is found in Paul’s diatribe, as in a brief question and answer session he uncovers for us four FACTORS that influence Christian decision-making. The decision that you make is determined by:
What You Want
Paul knew what he wanted. Whether in prison or free, he wanted to please God. He chose Jesus in everything. The question becomes, "Do you want Jesus, and the life He offers?"
C.S. Lewis, in "Mere Christianity," wrote: "...every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, you are slowly turning this central thing either into a Heavenly creature or into a hellish creature..."
Here is the lesson about choosing - When you choose Christ first, you begin to know Christlikeness firsthand. I often pattern my prayer after Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, "Lord, I want to be more like you when I make choices - NOT MY WILL, FATHER, YOURS!" The reality is that when you begin to want Jesus, you will begin to want to BE like Jesus, and decisions will be more like Jesus makes!
Secondly, notice that Christian decision-making is influenced not only by what you want, but by:
Who You Depend Upon
Jesus depended upon the Father. Paul would later write (2.7) that Jesus "...made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant." You say, "Of course I depend on God -- Who else do you think I’m praying to?" The point of prayer is not the issue - it is the person of your prayer. Do you leave room in your petition for the miraculous?
When Jesus prayed He expected an answer - BUT HE ALWAYS LEFT THE KIND OF ANSWER IN THE FATHER’S HAND. It is appropriate to make our requests known, and even our wants....But it is so much smarter to leave the way God answers up to Him. He has been known to come up with better answers than what we usually come up with! All your plans for your family, ministry and relationships need room for the miracle-working power of God. Remember, if you’re covering every angle it is YOU that you’re depending on, not God.
Your Attitude Towards the Body of Christ
Philippians 1.27, 28
This is a focus that requires a different kind of lens. Jesus is worthy of our worship. Paul knew that there was a chance he wouldn’t ever see daylight as a free man. So he said, "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." (php 1.27 NIV)
Our decisions are not made in a vacuum. Everything we do affects other people. It is especially so in the body of Christ. What is it that the body chooses?