“But what about issues that are not specifically mentioned in the Scriptures – how do we determine God’s will and develop conviction in those areas? Years ago a friend gave me what he called his “Formula: How to Know Right from Wrong.” The formula asks four questions based on three verses in 1 Corinthians:
- “‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Question 1: Is it helpful – physically, spiritually, and mentally?
- “‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Question 2: Does it bring me under its power?
- “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall” (1 Corinthians 8:13). Question 3: Does it hurt others?
- “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Question 4: Does it glorify God?
Excerpt from “The Pursuit of Holiness” by Jerry Bridges
To this list I would add Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
How often do we really examine what we choose to do with our leisure time? Particularly in American churches, we’re much too quick to brush over this issue, and label anyone who speaks up about it a puritan or a legalist. But is that sometimes just a way to avoid taking an uncomfortably close look at our choices?
I justify a lot of movies by saying “it’s not that bad.” The same goes for some ways to spend time off: “it’s not doing anybody any harm.” We all need relaxation, yes, but how often is that a surface excuse to keep one part of our lives insulated from inspection? If I’m watching a movie with iffy themes, my “it’s not that bad” sounds like pretty weak sauce held up to scriptural standards. We aren’t called to live mediocre lives. We’re called to pursue excellence. “It’s not that bad”, but is it any good? Is it beneficial? Does it glorify God? Is it in any way true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise? If not….why am I spending my time on it?
Do I think that a movie with objectionable content is automatically bad? No. But that’s no excuse to brush away an objection as legalism without taking at least a few minutes to examine what I’m doing, and what effects it might have. And if there’s a twinge of conscience? Well, as my parents used to tell us: “If you have to convince yourself it’s okay to do something, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.”
If we stop short at what not to do, though, we haven’t made any progress. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” isn’t a call to thumb-twiddling. It’s a call to action, and the whole-hearted pursuit of all that is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy for the glory of God.