Grace > Wrath, Or “Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment”

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 2:13b

See that verse? It says something quite beautiful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. And is this not just what we need? If judgment triumphed over mercy, we would all be doomed, for instead of Christ on the Cross for us we would ourselves all suffer God’s wrath.

Yet there is a thought out there, and a someone popular one among conservative evangelicals like myself, that God’s mercy and His judgment are equals, that His wrath defines Him as much as His love. And the reason for this emphasis is certainly understandable. Theological liberalism and progressivism both act as though God’s “No” were non-existent or at least negligible in the grand scheme, so proper theology ought to resist such a temptation. But we must not respond with error in the other direction, unbiblically making grace and condemnation equal in God. For this is not what He has revealed to us in the Scriptures and in the life of His Son.

Some of you will be suspicious on this point, so I will seek to demonstrate it will a few Biblical proofs. Let it be known that God defines Himself more with love than wrath, and deals more fully in grace than in judgment. The first proof I put forward is the Old Testament judgment texts. Time after time in the OT, especially in the prophets, God warns of frightening and severe judgment. But what follows? Nearly never is that the last word. Almost every single terrifying warning is followed up by the promise of future grace. A small sample includes the entire book of Amos and its conclusion in 9:11-15, the curses of the Law in Deut. 29 and their conclusion in 30:1-10, the book of Joel and its conclusion in 3:16-21, and large portions of Isaiah. The theme repeats, woven throughout all God’s dealings with Israel: you have sinned, you will be severely and brutally punished, but you will always be restored.

Another proof comes from God’s own nature. We know that love is necessary to who and what God is, for John tells us, “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8, 16). Yet we are not told likewise that “God is wrath” or “God is judgment.” For how could this be? While God has always eternally loved and been loved in His inner Triune life, as the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, God’s wrath only exists as a response to sin. Wrath and judgment are not eternal characteristics of God’s life, but historical realities created in response to earthly sin. To speak a bit more technically, God’s love is necessary (i.e. He would not be God without it), but His wrath is contingent (i.e. it only exists in response to something else). God has always loved and will always love, but judgment came only after sin came and will end after sin ends.

Finally, I point to the order of God’s interactions with us humans. Which does God want for all people, grace or judgment? I’ll give you a hint: check 2 Peter 3:9. What does He take no pleasure in? The death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:23), which brings them to judgment. And which of His activities, mercy or punishment, does He require that each of us emulate every day? Jesus’ own words seem clear on that matter. Above all of this, which side does He use to fulfill the other in the life of His beloved Son? Did He have mercy on His Son to make sure we were all condemned, or did He send His Son into death and wrath so that we could all be saved? The Cross here makes the answer obvious.

Hopefully, then, it is clear. God has a preference to love, grace, and mercy over wrath, judgment, and condemnation. They are not equal aspects of how our Father in heaven relates to the people He has made. Grace beats condemnation, love overwhelms wrath, and mercy triumphs over judgment. This is what God has told us out of His abundant kindness towards us. So let us celebrate what the Father does for us through His Son, that we should experience such love!

The Lord says to his people,

“Your wounds are incurable,
your injuries cannot be healed.
There is no one to take care of you,
no remedy for your sores,
no hope of healing for you.
All your lovers have forgotten you;
they no longer care about you.
I have attacked you like an enemy;
your punishment has been harsh
because your sins are many
and your wickedness is great.
Complain no more about your injuries;
there is no cure for you.
I punished you like this
because your sins are many
and your wickedness is great.
But now, all who devour you will be devoured,
and all your enemies will be taken away as prisoners.
All who oppress you will be oppressed,
and all who plunder you will be plundered.
I will make you well again;
I will heal your wounds,
though your enemies say,
‘Zion is an outcast;
no one cares about her.’
I, the Lord, have spoken.”

The Lord says,

“I will restore my people to their land
and have mercy on every family;
Jerusalem will be rebuilt,
and its palace restored.
The people who live there will sing praise;
they will shout for joy.
By my blessing they will increase in numbers;
my blessing will bring them honor.
I will restore the nation’s ancient power
and establish it firmly again;
I will punish all who oppress them.
Their ruler will come from their own nation,
their prince from their own people.
He will approach me when I invite him,
for who would dare come uninvited?
They will be my people,
and I will be their God.
I, the Lord, have spoken.”

Jeremiah 30:12-22

Grace > Wrath, Or “Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment”

Reflections on Cinderella

Last Saturday night was date night for my lovely wife and me. Since our baby Nathan is old enough to stay with his grandmother for a few hours these days, we could go out for dinner and a movie for the first time in forever. What movie did we see? Cinderella. And I will admit to the face-palming of my masculinity that I was the probably the one most interested in seeing it.

As expected, the movie was lovely. Disney pulled off its Disney magic yet again, to the surprise of few, and created a fresh take on a classic which will certainly become the new canonical Cinderella story in the next generation’s consciousness. All this is quite fitting.

But Disney movies, fairy tales in particular, seem to always leave me with many thoughts which I simply must express. So as I did with Frozen before, I want to simply highlight a few themes and moments from Cinderella which I especially enjoyed or noticed. Hopefully you’ll all agree and enjoy.

“Have Courage and Be Kind”

I might as well start with the movie’s most explicit theme, namely the advice given to young Ella by her mother on her deathbed. She told her to promise to have courage and be kind. Ella takes this as her life motto and seems to truly stick to it. As to courage, she remains brave as her father continues his travels even after her mother’s passing. She hesitates not a moment to bless his wishes to find happiness with a new wife. And even when he finally passes away, she tries her best to keep living well among her stepfamily. As to kindness, she never stops for a moment. To her father, to her evil stepmother, to her obnoxious stepsisters, to the prince, and to her fairy godmother in beggar form she continues to show kindness even when in great personal despair.

Naturally, we have a lot to learn from this. For to have courage and be kind easily sums up Christian virtue. We are to endure all things, proclaim the name of Jesus, and even be willing to risk our lives for the Gospel of the Kingdom, so we must have courage. We are to love our neighbors and our enemies, bless those who curse us, give our worldly goods to those who have none, and by sharing the truth save others from eternal danger, so we must be kind. If we live by this advice given by Ella’s mother, what will we lack in doing good? Indeed, if most of us were even half as kind as Ella herself, we would be very different people and give our testimony of Christ much more credibility.

Who Am I?

There was also a quote that caught my ear near the end of the movie. As Ella descends from her attic to meet her prince, the narrator makes this point about her nerves: “This is perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take—to be seen as we truly are. Will we be enough as we really are?” And of course this is a real risk which we must reckon with in all our relationships. Will we abandon pretense, vanity, self-consciousness, and all other pride or fear so that we may truly love and be loved? Will we be actors or involve our real selves with others?

After this comment was made, Ella went down to see her prince, who was glad to have found her but wondered greatly who see was who appeared to him before dressed like a princess, vanished, and now stood before him a servant maid. What was her response to him? She says, “I have nothing. I am nothing, but who I am.” Finally she adds, “Will you take me as I am?” Naturally he agrees. What strikes me about this is how, for us who affirm the Gospel, it is radically our reality. We’ve come to Jesus having nothing and claiming nothing of ourselves. We must drop our disguises of self-righteousness and self-sufficiency and ask Him the all-important prayer, “Will you take me as I am?” And praise be to God that He promises to never turn away or cast out those who come to the Son! He will take us as we are.

Falling Headfirst into Love

An obvious major point of Cinderella is the romance of Ella and the prince. It was a pretty enjoyable development, in my opinion. The magic of their meetings in the forest and at the ball struck me as identifiable having myself only just left my teens. The movie called to memory the feeling before of meeting someone new, a hint of attraction involved, and getting to know a lovely stranger. It can feel like real magic, and seeing this onscreen is just altogether pleasant.

Of course, in the real world such experiences rarely lead to permanent, meaningful relationships. They tend to last briefly, and only a few grow into a lifetime of love. But they are not to be entirely spurned or written off for that reason. The very idea of these times is what makes them possible, regardless of where they end up, and when they happen the memories are worth it. And in some rare cases, such as I suggest the case of Ella and the prince, these events are enough to warrant further relationship and even marriage simply because they reveal quickly how worthy and good the people are.

As a final note on falling in love, when memories like this are looked at in retrospect, nostalgia is almost inevitable, and a pang of sadness that those days have ended. I’m a married man with a 9 month old baby now; I’ve already met my wife, gotten to know her, and fallen in love. Seems like a shame it will never happen again, right? But the truth is, as watching Cinderella reminded me, that these days do not have to be over, nor should they. The difference is the challenge and effort. Falling in love to begin with isn’t hard if you are willing, but to continue to learn about your beloved, to know them more, and to find every day more delight and reasons to love—that is hard and takes conscious effort. This is what the ideal of fairy tale love compels us to seek by confronting us with magic. As long as we long for that magic which Ella and her prince so embody, we have inspiration to keep working on knowing and loving our spouses every day.

Why Get Married?

As the prince spoke to his dying father, the issue of the reason for marriage came to my mind. The king gave in; he told his son to marry for love and not advantage. This was good, because it made for the happy ending. But was he right? Is this fairy tale teaching of marriage for love the right reason to get married? After all, that’s not what most people have historically believed and done. And while Ella is right when she says, “Just because it’s what’s done, doesn’t mean it’s what should be done,” were our ancestors actually wrong? They often married for many reasons besides love.

I do not believe it is wise to marry if because of love alone, at least in the sense of being in love. Contrary to popular belief, just because you love someone doesn’t actually mean you should marry them. Other things matter as well. Can you reasonably unite your two existing lives? Will you hurt other people in the process? Do you have goals and beliefs about your life and future which work together or which will conflict? And what about children? Surely reproduction is one of the most important reasons—though certainly not the only or necessarily the controlling reason—for marriage and sexuality. In all honesty, as well, when we hold to the traditional and Biblical teaching of sex as reserved for marriage, is there anything to gain from marriage besides sex and children which cannot be gained without marriage? All of these questions and considerations matter in the real world.

But I do not in saying all this dismiss love as a motivator. Instead of saying people should marry for love, with “for” meaning “because of,” I might suggest people should marry—at least in part—for love, with “for” meaning “in order to.” After all, when we are following the right path of waiting until marriage to become one in life, body, and habitation, how much can we really already love? Surely we do love, but not to perfection. There is much growth to remain, and is it not for the full potential of matured love and not the usually temporary and passionately-determined seeds of love that we should actually marry? This sounds correct to me.

The Cinderella Story

Finally, I want to address the actual plot of the movie. We all know the story. It is timelessly classic, and beloved.  Countless versions, spin-offs, and retellings have been made. So why is this story so enjoyable? Why does it receive so much attention? While I’m sure there are many reasons, I do offer one possible part. In the story of Cinderella we see redemption in Christ.

Trace out the plot and think of it. Though we were made by a good Father, before long we found ourselves the wretched servants of an unnatural parent, Satan. Even though as children of the Father we ought to have abundant life, we were miserable in dust and isolation. In one point very different from Ella, we ourselves were no less wicked than our stepfamily of evil. But all that changed. For the Son of the King found us, and in love He made us His bride, raising us from our pathetic existence in slavery to exalt us as royalty through Him. We are both Ella, the wronged servant, and her stepsisters, the ones wronging others, yet we were rescued by a worthy Prince, Jesus Himself, with a little supernatural help in the form of a fairy godmother the Holy Spirit. With this allegory so clear, it is no wonder that the story of Cinderella captures the hearts and minds of so many people. For all souls long for rescue by the Prince of Peace.

Blessed be the God who has done all this! Amen.

Reflections on Cinderella

There Is No Life Possible in A Covenant of Works

“Do this and you will live.” This statement, taken from the Bible, has become the main basis for the idea in Reformed theology of a “covenant of works.” What is the covenant of works? Here’s Reformed covenant theology 101:

In covenant theology, there are two or three primary covenants revealed in redemptive history. The first, not accepted by all covenant theologians, is the covenant of redemption, a hypothetical agreement between the members of the Trinity to redeem a people for God. In eternity past, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit swore to work together for redemption.

The next covenant is the covenant of works. The covenant of works is supposedly the covenant made between God and humanity (specifically Adam) in the Garden of Eden, which required man to perfectly obey God, for which God would in return give eternal life. “Do this and you will live.” If man measures us to God’s standard, he experiences salvation. Otherwise he does not.

Finally, there is the covenant of grace, which came in several historical forms (think the covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the Church). In this covenant, God gives His people free and unmerited salvation by grace on the basis of Jesus Christ. In classic covenant theology, God can offer up this covenant because Jesus fulfilled the covenant of works that Adam broke. Since Jesus held up man’s end of the deal, all who are in Him get the salvation He earned by works.

This all sounds okay at first glance, but consider the absurdity of this: God the Father originally provided eternal life (which, according to Jesus, is knowing God and His Son) to His child on the basis of performance. Daddy let his son get to know and relate to him only to the extent that his son measured up to certain rules. Is this right, fatherly, or Biblical? I do not think so. Thus the problem with the covenant of works.

Moreover, law cannot lead to relational knowledge of God. God and people cannot unite through law anymore than a husband and wife can have a truly loving relationship by signing a marriage license. In fact, unlike the marriage license, law is actually a barrier between God and humanity. For the law was given, according to the Scriptures, to expose and condemn us in our sins, and to reveal what we should be against what we are. But in the beginning, with Adam, these things were not so. Before the Fall there were no human sinners to be condemned, no difference between the “is” and the “ought,” what should have been and what was. So by performing these roles law keeps us at a distance from God, safely removed from the consuming fire of His holiness while still subject to the truth of His holy standard.

If indeed God’s covenant of grace, His agreement to humanity through Jesus, is based on a covenant of works being fulfilled, then God’s love is after all secondary to His law. In this way, God’s law is more essential than His love, because while He must treat us the way we deserve under law to be who He is, He doesn’t have any need to treat us with love to who He is (despite “God is love” appearing in Scripture without “God is law”).

Basically, if I could sum up what I’m trying to say, it would be that God is our Father, not a legalist. The law comes because of His love, and grace precedes any commands from God, even His commands to Adam, in opposition to the theory of a covenant of works. Eternal life could never come from law, even for a man who obeyed it perfectly, because law stands between man and God. Eternal life can only come apart from the law, through the God-man Jesus Christ who by fulfilling law stepped out of its reach to restore us to relationship with God. Amen!

There Is No Life Possible in A Covenant of Works

A Different Kind of Calvinism: Let’s Talk Sovereignty and Maybe Jesus’ Humanity

When I left off explaining EC last time, I gave an unfortunately brief sketch of the EC view of human freedom. Human freedom, as opposed to libertarian free will, is grounded in God’s life of Triune love, given to us through Christ as the image of God in whom we were created. I left much unanswered, though, so here I plan to address two more topics: the relation of God’s sovereignty to human will, and a doctrine called “the vicarious humanity of Christ.” There’s a lot to say here., and this will be a bit longer than the previous posts, so let’s dive right in.

Does God Predetermine All Our Actions?

A defining trait of classical, TULIP Calvinism (TC, as usual) is the belief in divine determinism. This just means that God decides on His own everything that will ever happen, including all the choices people make. This does not mean there are no secondary causes, or that God forces people to do things against their will. It means that God even plans and decides what people want to do, and therefore also what they actually do. Here’s a quote from the Westminster Confessions, a very Calvinist document, updated somewhat freely to more modern language and formatting:

God—from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will—freely and unchangeably ordained everything that comes to pass. But He did so in a way that neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence done to the will of the created beings, nor is the liberty or factoring of second causes taken away. Instead these are established.

So like I said, TC believes God sets up absolutely everything that will ever happen. This includes every sin ever committed, every horrific death, every starving child, and every time someone rejects the Gospel and is damned. People sin because they want to, sure, but they want to because God set up their whole lives to control their wants and actions. People are condemned for their sin, but whence comes their sin? Naturally, EC does not work this way. Determining people to commit and experience evil is simply not what God does. How do we know that? Jesus. We can reject the idea that the God Jesus revealed who wept over Israel’s rebellion did so as a show, having actually planned their stubbornness. Jesus did not set up the Pharisees to oppose Him so that He could condemn them. There is no God behind the back of Jesus. On the other hand, we do not think that God is in no control. On the contrary, He works all things for good. He plans and directs all things, even while not causing them or being the one who chooses every single event. While He leaves room for humans and all creation to have an existence that is authentically independent of His controlling will, He also maintains the ability to make sure His good will wins over all the forces which try to oppose Him. How is this?

There is no God behind the back of Jesus.

Let us be clear: God has not revealed in Scripture the precise details of “how” He works things out the way He wants. We must recognize that there probably is not decent analogy for the relationship between the God who created and sustains all things from before time and His creation. This said, I do think there is a concept that might be useful for us. See, God sustains all things. The whole world exists by the power of His word, and in Him all things hold together. In Him we live and move and have our being. This means that everything that happens and everything we do requires God’s creative power to be real. I think this naturally leaves open the space for God to work “behind the scenes,” but not in some secret predestining of every action. Instead, God uses His place to do what He has told us in His word, namely to work all things out for good, to sum up all things in Christ, and to reconcile all things to Himself. Everything we do and everything that simply happens is taken by God and ordered into His singular purpose for the world: the union of heaven and earth, God and man, through Jesus. From His position as the sustainer of everything, God has the ability to work with, in, through, or even on occasion against the normal flow of things to bring it all to its proper conclusion. In this way He makes everything work toward His own truly good intention.

Sin is not God’s will, but neither does it thwart His will.

In this way, we do not have to agree with TC in saying that all things, even sin, are truly God’s will in an important way, but we also do not have to say that God is simply working with what He gets, like an outsider with no real control. I think this fits the Biblical picture of God’s work very well.

What the Heck Does “Vicarious Humanity” Mean?

Another thing I’ve mentioned in previous posts and said I would cover here is the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ. So what on earth do those words mean? Well, to put it simply, Jesus was human for us. Of course, that Jesus was human for us seems obvious. But what does that really mean? The way many people see it, Jesus basically became human so that He could justly fulfill the Law given to humans and take the punishment humans deserved. If He were not human, He simply wouldn’t be legally eligible to be our Savior. The problem is that this misses what Jesus has done for us on an ontological (that is, pertaining to inner reality) level. Jesus did not merely fulfill an external legal role by being human. Instead, by becoming a human being, Jesus brought humanity and God together in Himself, in one person. Since Jesus was (and is!) both God and man, His actions were both those of God coming down to bless humanity and of humanity responding to God with obedience and faith. How Jesus’ vicarious humanity relates to us is that He lived the perfect human life, which is the basis for our life. Jesus trusted in the Father. Jesus obeyed the Law. Jesus loved His neighbor, did true good works, and lived in every respect a completely human and completely flawless life. We cannot do these things because of sin. Sin keeps us from trusting the Father, obeying the Law, loving our neighbor, doing truly good works, and living completely human and flawless lives. Yet Jesus does not let sin win. By the Holy Spirit, we get to participate in Jesus’ life.

Jesus did not merely fulfill an external legal role by being human.

This point is fundamental to how EC understands salvation. When we believe in Jesus, repent of our sins, get baptized, and live a life of holy love, we do not do them alone. As Paul said, it is I, yet not I but Christ in me. Your faith happens because the Holy Spirit has connected you to Jesus, who had perfect faith. So through the Spirit you can also have Jesus-based faith. When we repent, we are really living out Jesus’ life of turning away from sin, brought into us through the Holy Spirit. Because of this truth, we can be fully assured of our salvation. We do not need to live up to a certain level of faith or good works to know that we are saved. Even if our faith and works stink, Jesus’ are perfect, and His are the real things behind ours. Because the Holy Spirit is truly the Spirit of Jesus Christ, when we have Him were are so deeply connected to Jesus that the resurrection and salvation He won by His own perfection are brought into our own lives.

Even if our faith and works stink, Jesus’ are perfect, and His are the real things behind ours.

At this point, one might ask, “So am I not really important? Is Jesus the only one doing anything? Am I just an empty puppet for the Holy Spirit?” The answer to this is “By no means!” Jesus is not a puppet-master, but the giver of Life. When Jesus’ life comes to us through the Spirit, we become our true selves. Jesus is, to quote Thomas Torrance, a “personalizing Person.” He does not eliminate our personhood by living in us, but instead creates it! Jesus’ vicarious humanity means that He is the human who makes all of us truly human. So salvation is all of Christ, but that doesn’t mean nothing of us. “All of grace” becomes “all of man.”

Wrapping Up

I know this post was too long, and it covered a lot of pretty deep stuff. But I do hope it has been helpful and even edifying. When I began studying Evangelical Calvinism, I didn’t get a lot of what it was saying, but now it is so refreshing to my soul. I think I see Jesus more clearly, and more as love, than I did before, and I enjoy it. This is the end of my EC series, so I know there are questions I haven’t answered. I imagine for every question I did answer, you may now have five more. So if you have questions, please comment and I will address them in a final FAQ. You can also email me at macadamiadaze@gmail.com if you want to discuss anything more in depth. 

A Different Kind of Calvinism: Let’s Talk Sovereignty and Maybe Jesus’ Humanity

7 Ways to Walk on the Way

Just some random stuff I wrote way back when about living the life we’re called to live in following Christ.

Be Generous

…it is necessary to…keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Acts 20:35

The giver of a gift is happier than the recipient. God blesses him for being generous, and he can take joy in the fact that his work fulfills the Law of Love and lets his light shine before men for the glory of God.

Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not out of regret or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:7, 8

God wants us to give cheerfully. He doesn’t want us to be generous because we feel obligated or guilty. He wants us to want to help others. Plus, He promises an added bonus: if you give generously, He’ll be sure to continue providing even when your gift seems like more than you can afford.

Get in the Word

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

The truths of Scripture come from God. Because they are from God, they are good for everything! You can learn, be convicted, be corrected, and train for righteousness by reading the Bible. Once you’ve done that, you can use what you’ve gotten from the Bible to help others do the same.

For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

See the power of the Word of God! It is good and useful to all people. It will show you the difference between your soul and your spirit, all the details of within you. By it, you can judge yourself, to find out your motives when you don’t even know them.

To finish this tip, read Psalm 119:9 – 16

How can a young man keep his way pure? 
By keeping Your word. 
I have sought You with all my heart; 
don’t let me wander from Your commands. 
I have treasured Your word in my heart 
so that I may not sin against You. 
Lord, may You be praised; 
teach me Your statutes. 
With my lips I proclaim 
all the judgments from Your mouth. 
I rejoice in the way revealed by Your decrees 
as much as in all riches. 
I will meditate on Your precepts 
and think about Your ways. 
I will delight in Your statutes; 
I will not forget Your word.

Pray!

Stay awake and pray so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Mark 14:38

Praying can protect your from temptation. The more time you spend talking to God, the less inclined you will be to violate His laws and hurt Him. Prayer strengthens your spirit, to keep you from sin.

Pray constantly

1 Thessalonians 5:17

Always pray! Pray every day, several times a day! Don’t go too long without prayer—that’s like not talking to your spouse for a long time. Pray at the most random of moments, over little things and big things. God wants to talk to you, and it will do wonders for you to talk to Him constantly.

I’ll conclude this tip with James 5:13 – 18

Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours; yet he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit.

Judge Yourself First

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?

Matthew 7:3

We can only control ourselves, not others. So then, it is pointless for us to judge others before we take acknowledge our own problems. We will have much happier relationships with God and others if we deal with our own faults before turning our attention to others.

Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment?

Romans 2:3

We need to take care our of issues, not just before judging someone on anything, but especially before judging them about something you do as well! Like the previous verse’s containing passage, remember to “First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Have Good Friends

As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

A good friend will help you. Sharpening one’s countenance is to make them feel better and help them have a better attitude. If you have good, encouraging, supportive, godly friends, you and your friends will be better.

Everything else to be said about friends can basically be found here in Ecclesiastes 9 – 12

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three stands is not easily broken.

Remember Your Short Time

Lord, reveal to me the end of my life and the number of my days. Let me know how transitory I am. You, indeed, have made my days short in length, and my life span as nothing in Your sight. Yes, every mortal man is only a vapor. Selah.

Psalm 39:4, 5

Our lives are short. God has made a world that is at least 6,000 years old, and we usually live no more than 80 years. That’s nothing. If we also kept in mind how short life is, and had a heart for God, we would live out our days passionately pursuing His pleasure and glory, to make the most of our lives.

You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are a bit of smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.

James 4:14

We don’t know the future. We can’t make foolproof plans in our short, empty lives on this earth. Instead, we need to plan according to God’s will, which is eternal in existence and purpose. See the rest of James 4:13 – 17.

Love Like Crazy!

Do not take revenge or hold a grudge against your people. Instead, you must love others as much as yourself: I am Yahweh.

Leviticus 19:18

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Deuteronomy 6:5

Therefore, love the Lord your God and always keep His mandate and His statutes, ordinances, and commands.

Deuteronomy 11:1

I am giving you a new commandment: You must love each other. In the same way that I have loved you, you must love each other.

John 13:34

Follow these commandments: love each other.

John 15:17

Love each other like family, like brothers. Honor each other above yourself.

Romans 12:10

Do not own anyone anything, except love for each other, because whoever loves others keeps the entire Law.

Romans 13:8

See, this sentence sums up the entire Law, ‘You must love others as much as yourself.’

Galatians 5:14

This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands.

1 John 5:2

7 Ways to Walk on the Way

Trying to Figure Out Modesty

Sophie and Lacy

Meet Sophie. She’s wearing a floor-length dress to school every day. Her bathing suit of choice is a burkini. She never goes out with her friends, but instead stays home to sew, clean, cook, and tend to her father and brothers. She also doesn’t date; she is arranged to marry a hardworking lumberjack (he’s pretty great-looking, they tell her, so she’s excited).

Now meet Lacy. She’s wearing, well, not much of anything, just some shorts half the length of their pockets and a bikini top. Should she go swimming, she’ll drop the shorts and use the floss-like cloth underneath. Most of her nights are spent carousing with drunken perverts, and at home she’s a rebellious brat who hates her parents. For that reason she rarely sleeps at home, preferring instead to sleep with strange men until she gets pregnant and aborts the baby before moving on.

[fquote align=”right”]Sophie is a radical stereotype of girls who follow the dictates of traditional modesty, and Lacy is a similarly radical stereotype of those who do not. And like all stereotypes, they should be annihilated if we want to have a rational discussion.[/fquote]

Finally, take the images you have of Sophie and Lacy, and then kill them both like they’re on Game of Thrones (see, I can make relevant cultural references even without actually watching that porn, er, I mean nice TV show). Both are what we call stereotypes, and in this case these are really, really extreme stereotypes from the modesty debate. Sophie is a radical stereotype of girls who follow the dictates of traditional modesty, and Lacy is a similarly radical (though perhaps more likely to exist in this culture) stereotype of those who do not. And like all stereotypes, they should be annihilated if we want to have a rational discussion. So my request: read this post as though this debate is completely new to you. Hopefully that will give my voice a little more credibility.

The Vantage Point

I am trying to tackle the question of modesty from a particular perspective, namely a conservative one. However, it’s not exactly the clichéd conservatism of youth groups on this. I want to give serious respect to tradition and the wisdom of the humanity past, while also giving a fair hearing to whatever legitimate points may be found in new arguments. In addressing both, I’d like to follow a philosophy of moderation and reasonableness, following the golden mean.

Of course, that idea may well just sound like pretentious drivel, but I do think it is an attainable goal. Such prudence isn’t extremely difficult to work through, mainly because much of the work has been done for you by ghosts. So I will be addressing each side first by examining their strengths, and then their flaws. Finally, I intend to carve out a middle way that combines the good and rejects the bad. Sound too idealistic? Good, that’s my favorite. Too pretentious? Then please suffer me a chance.

“Modest is Hottest”: The Traditional View

Summary

In what I deem the “traditional” view of modesty (though it really wasn’t developed in its current form until relatively recent conflicts), people (especially women) are morally obligated to keep their bodies covered for the sake of common decency and protecting their peers from lust. While there is not necessarily anything inherently wrong with being attracted to someone, too much of a glimpse will inspire lust, and for the sake of goodness this should be avoided strongly. Shorts, skirts, and dresses shouldn’t be all that short, midriff is a definite no-no, bikinis are usually pretty iffy, and make sure your clothes aren’t too tight! Otherwise someone may lust after you, and if you respect them you should do your part to help prevent that. As well, your body is a valuable treasure meant to be saved for your spouse, so exposing much of it before that point to other people is a waste and lacks self-respect.

The Good

Right off the bat, the traditional view has the benefit of, well, tradition. We are basically just coming out of a transition phase on what is socially acceptable to wear, and the traditional view recognizes that not all changes are improvements. It recognizes some of the forces that went into play in changing these norms aren’t entirely benign. The sexual revolution was a disgusting and cancerous change, and there is no doubt that it played a part in the way acceptable dress has changed. 

[fquote align=”left”]The traditional view recognizes that some of the forces which went into play in changing dress norms aren’t entirely benign.[/fquote]

The traditional view also has the benefit of repudiating individualism. We are not, in this case, concerned all about individual rights but also with how the individual relates to society and other people. He or she is challenged to show respect for the good of others and not blindly exercise their autonomy just because they like it. This is something almost entirely lost on people with a more modern take on this issue. Too many people buy into the lie that individual rights and autonomy are the only considerations which matter.

The final advantage to the traditional view is that, at least in my experience, it seems to put more effort into aligning itself with Scripture. Who can forget how often they use 1 Timothy 2:9-10? “Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God.” While their interpretation and application of Scripture can be debated, I do find as a trend that they are more willing to let it be their guide.

The Bad

There are problems, though, with the traditional view. For one, it often makes someone else’s weakness the responsibility of an otherwise innocent party. Because Johnny has a porn addiction, Sophie must wear a hot, uncomfortable burkini to the pool. Yet even Paul protested, “For why is my freedom judged by another person’s conscience?” (1 Cor. 10:29) It’s not entirely fair for someone to have to always regulate their apparel based on what someone else might do because of it, much like it is not fair to say someone should not buy an iPad lest their friend become envious. Moreover, this tends to lead to downplaying the lusting party’s personal responsibility for his sin, even sometimes shifting a great portion of the blame onto the other.

Another problem with this view is that it often leads to complicated rules and regulations. “Wear shorts this short, but not that short,” or “Yes, that bikini might be okay at your friend’s house, but not at the beach.” It threatens to become its own legalistic structure. This is obviously not acceptable. If you find yourself having to a modesty checklist on your outfit, it probably means you’ve found the far end of the traditional view. Jesus came to set us free from the such a code, and we need to trust His working in our hearts through the Spirit on its own without these extra barriers to keep us in check.

[fquote align=”right”]It’s not entirely fair for someone to have to always regulate their apparel based on what someone else might do because of it, much like it is not fair to say someone should not buy an iPad lest their friend become envious.[/fquote]

Another problem the traditional view faces is the tendency to make a woman’s body into a dangerous think which men need to be protected from. It’s just too powerful for our weak, sex-wired brains! Urm, that’s not a good way to go. Women can develop shame and feel that there bodies are somehow bad, especially naked, which can be a problem when they get married and try to head into the awesome sex they’re usually promised by the same people who promote the traditional view.

The Ugly

I decided to also mention the worst of each view, because all things can go really, really badly if taken too far. For the traditional view, you can have some seriously damaging effects. Sometimes women develop serious insecurities because of how much they are commanded to cover up their bodies. Males can go on and on without ever developing self-control to subdue their minds if they do see anything they usually wouldn’t.

Of course, the real ugly side here is the crazy side, where women are blamed for their own rapes because they were dressing promiscuously. Blech. Now, I suspect that doesn’t happen as often as feminists would like us to believe, but for the sake of God’s mercy we should never, ever go in that direction even in the slightest. Just don’t go there. Unfortunately, there are a few people who hold to the traditional view that at least lean that way, and there are a handful who blast all-out that kind of message.

“The God-Honoring Bikini”: The Modern View

Summary

A trend rather recently has been for what I call the “modern” view. To these people, the traditional view is just clinging to cultural standards of yesteryear and making them into law. Instead, the modern view emphasizes the goodness of the body, the freedom of the Christian, and the necessity of self-control. While you probably shouldn’t dress like a stripper, and you shouldn’t dress specifically to attract sexual attention to yourself, you should embrace your body as God’s good gift and not be afraid to wear what you like. You are not expected to hide yourself just because some people have sin problems. Bikini, shorter shorts, or low cut dress, wear what feels comfortable because you have that liberty. As well, the traditional view is criticized for focusing almost exclusively on women covering up and not men.

The Good

[fquote align=”left”]Your body is not something to be ashamed of, nor something dangerous, nor something that necessarily needs to be hidden away.[/fquote]

The modern view does have some credibility. Like I said before, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to say, “Because someone will sin if they see me like this, I should never be seen like this.” There is a legitimate question as to why this applies to lust and dress but not other things, like envy and technology. It is generally understandable why it would not seem completely just to limit one person’s liberty on the basis of another’s vice.

Another benefit to the modern view is that it is holds an explicitly positive and non-Gnostic view of the body and sexuality in general. These things are good and to be received with thanksgiving. Your body is not something to be ashamed of, nor something dangerous, nor something that necessarily needs to be hidden away. This isn’t to say that the traditional view would disagree, but these truths are often neglected by adherents of the traditional view while made very clear here.

Finally, the modern view is good about trying to balance the field between men and women. The traditional view, while not more directed against by nature, is often discussed almost exclusively on women. Yet there is a lot of room to address guys on modesty, especially in a post-Jacob culture. Somehow I feel that muscle-selfies aren’t substantially different from bikini ones. Perhaps even more tied to attractive intent.

The Bad

The modern view has its shortcomings, though. For one, it does seem strongly tied to our culture’s radical conception of individualism. Even though it uses sanctified terminology, it often sounds as though it is saying the exact same thing as the world: “Let me do what I want; it’s not your right to tell me what to do!” Moreover, this is done specifically excluding the concerns of others. We are told in the modern view quite clearly that the sin struggles of fellow believers are just not our problem.

There is also the issue of association. Now, we all know that just because an idea has some connections to really wrong people doesn’t mean it is itself wrong. However, it does warrant caution. Looking at the history of the change in modesty ideas, the modern view seems connected to the sexual revolution and modern pop-feminism, both are which are scary, morally damaging things. The ever-controversial bikini arose as a prime example of this, as it was praised by feminist activists as helping sexually liberate women. Needless to say, this is not good company.

[fquote align=”right”]Even though it uses sanctified terminology, it often sounds as though the modern view is saying the exact same thing as the world.[/fquote]

My final issue with the modern view is that it, overall, seems to leave a lesser voice to Scripture in this discussion than the traditional view does. This isn’t saying there are no Biblical arguments on this side, but that they tend to be treated as secondary to the popular rhetoric on this, which draws noticeably from individualism and feminism.

The Ugly

The ugly side of the modern view is ugly, indeed. At its worst it is associated with the radical feminism of such crazies as Jezebel. Yippie. I don’t think I even have to explain how bad those people are.

The other ugly part of the modern view is that it can facilitate social hostility towards people who dress with traditional standards of modesty, whether out of conviction or personal preference. They can easily fall victim to stereotyping, and people who actually hold to the traditional view can be accused of quite a great many things, including legalism, body-shaming, and even misogyny. But in the more common, less extreme results of these same negatives, you can face social stigma for being dorky, backwards, or unattractive for not dressing as freely as people do more commonly.

Bulldozing a Middle Way

Defining “Modesty”

Now that I’ve gone through my thoughts on the two mainstream views of modesty, I want to start explaining (and, to some extent, creating) my own. First, we can all agree on one thing: some kind of modesty is important. Why? To cite something I did before:

Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God.

1 Timothy 2:9-10

Here Paul explicitly tells women to dress modestly. This refutes anyone who ignores the entire deal. But what is modesty? Defining modesty will be key to my entire argument. To help me define modesty, I would like to bring in one more passage very similar to this one.

Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.

1 Peter 3:3-4

From these two texts, I will try to present a very straightforward definition of modesty:

Modesty is the quality of humility, especially in dress and demeanor, shunning special attention, especially from superficial sources.

I would like to think that this definition does justice to the verses above and to the entire concept of modesty in general, along with Biblical humility. So how would this definition address the issues of the current modesty debate? At this point I think bullet points are the simplest way to examine the implications.

Some Application

  • Modesty is a heart issue before it is a dress issue. You must have humility to be modest. The modest person is content to be quietly out of eye. They do not try to draw attention to their own talents, appearance, or character, but instead take praise and recognition involuntarily and without thrill.
  • Immodesty in dress is defined by attention-seeking, not necessarily skin-showing. When Paul spoke to the women in the church on modesty, he told them not to wear fancy hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive clothes. This was immodest because it attracted special attention, making people notice, “Wow, she has style and can afford it!” It is not as though the fancy clothes in fashion in Paul’s day would be all that revealing, either. Ironically, I can guarantee you that many women, especially youth, speaking on modesty in churches today are actually still dressed for attention, just not using skin.
  • Seeking attention through revealing clothing is certainly immodest, no matter how little or much it shows. It doesn’t really matter what or how much your clothing shows if you’re trying to get your body noticed. Aiming to attract attention is immodest.
  • If you’re not seeking attention, you’re not being immodest. If you’re just dressing as you do for fun, comfort, style preference, or some other innocent reason, then you cannot necessarily be charged with immodesty, even if the stuff is somewhat revealing. Example: I work in an Amazon warehouse. The temperature in the summer averages over 80°F, so it gets uncomfortable to wear a lot of clothing, especially if you’re moving a lot (like people in my department). Because of this, most of the girls who work in my department wear t-shirts or tank tops with either pretty short shorts or yoga pants. Are they being immodest who dress this way to avoid heat stroke or sweating buckets? Of course not, regardless of how males actually respond.
  • Just because you’re not being immodest doesn’t always mean your clothing is appropriate. Regardless of why you dress as you do, a speedo is not appropriate attire for a funeral (unless the deceased had a beach party in his will). And even if you’re just doing because you think it’s cozy, I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong with walking down the streets dressed like a stripper.

At this point I must break to address the last thing I said. How do we know what is appropriate regardless of intentions? Well, to be honest I don’t think there are many easy rules here, mostly common sense. But I do think there is something to be said for cultural standards of decency. We are called as believers to treat other people with love and respect, which means we should not needlessly offend or disturb them. Most of the time, we know how other people will respond to what we wear, and so we should take that into consideration. Of course, this also does not mean we need to dress for the lowest common denominator, wearing clothing that will be acceptable to every single person, mainly because this is not practical and will not help many/any people.

What about Lust?

The question that is burning on some minds is how my view addresses the question of lust. After all, aren’t we still obligated to respect our fellow believers in how we dress? I would like to address this from two points. The first is the value of self-control. Certainly this is a good, conservative value and a fruit of the Spirit. Therefore I think it is important to bring into this discussion. See, people need to learn self-control. This value is one that will help in the modesty question. After all, if you can learn to control your thoughts and responses, you will be able to conquer lust. However, if you are never exposed to any sexually attractive sights, you will never face the temptation of lust. If you never face temptation, you can never conquer temptation and better yourself through self-control. Moreover, if this goes this way for quite some time, and then you find yourself suddenly faced with a sight that may stimulate lust, you will have no built up guard or defenses. So total shielding from potential lust-driving sights is perhaps dangerous.

[fquote align=”left”]The situation is akin to that of antibiotics. If we never use antibiotics but remain exposed to all manners of nastiness, we will get sick and die. If we always use antibiotics and protect ourselves from every possible infection, then we will be altogether unprepared to deal with any ill which makes its way past our defenses.[/fquote]

Naturally, we cannot go to an extreme on this argument. We could not say, then, that we should expose people to as much tempting imagery as possible. Should people be made to watch hours of pornography just so they can learn to control themselves? That would be absurd. The problem is that overwhelming someone not yet ready for defenses will destroy them. However, no chances to fight will lead to weakness. The situation is akin to that of antibiotics. If we never use antibiotics but remain exposed to all manners of nastiness, we will get sick and die. If we always use antibiotics and protect ourselves from every possible infection, then we will be altogether unprepared to deal with any ill which makes its way past our defenses. Likewise, if we try to protect ourselves from all possible images that could inspire lust, we will grow unable to deal with anything, but if we use no caution we will be destroyed by lust. It is more helpful to strike a reasonable balance.

On the other side of this, lust is a seriously difficult sin to crush. This is something most people know personally. So we should show, as fellow members in this fight, some concern for others. While we need not bind ourselves into a particular code because of the weaknesses of others, we should make sure, for one, to never even semi-intentionally try to attract sexual attention to ourselves. This applies whether you’re posting lots of shirtless ab selfies on Facebook or showing off your new bikini figure. While it is not wrong to show these things in any circumstance, if you’re putting yourself on display for attention, you are wrong.

There is a less intentional side of which we ought to be cautious, though. Generally speaking, you have a decent idea of how other people will respond to how you dress. So if it occurs to you that you may really be a stumbling block when you tweet a picture of the freckle in your cleavage, I would at least advice taking a second consideration as to what you will do. This must never be a law of any kind, but just a thought. Just try to do unto others what you have them do unto you.

Concluding Remarks

Honestly, modesty is a complicated topic when both major sides have so many arguments. And while I think (or hope) that I have found a happy medium, I am not certain of this, and even with my ruminations (which are probably not as original as I imagine) there are plenty of practical points of application that could be debated. But I think if we adopt an attitude of proper modesty, respect others, and do not judge our fellow believers, we will be alright. Thanks for reading this endless post!

Trying to Figure Out Modesty

How to Know God’s Will for You (Without Gimmicks, Funny Feelings, or Voices in Your Head)

“What is God’s will for my life?” This question consumes the minds of many believers perpetually. Taught from birth to seek God’s will in everything, many find themselves stuck on major (or minor) decisions trying to discern what God wants them to do.

I come to free you.

Okay, as dramatically as I imagine saying that in my head, I’m really only trying to point out a Biblical truth which actually is somewhat liberating. Ready for it? Here it goes.

You don’t need to constantly seek out “God’s will”—i.e. mysterious plans God has for your future—to actually be in God’s will.

What is the meaning of this? See, we have to be careful about how we conceive of God’s will. As given in Scripture, God’s will does not refer to the secret plans of the future which God has ready for us. In popular usage, though, people seem to imagine that God’s will is just that: a secret plan for their future which they are obligated to follow but can only be found out by intently praying and listening to God (a suspiciously Gnostic-sounding notion). Yet when the Bible speaks of God’s will, it is actually pretty clear cut. For example, 1 Thessalonians is one of a handful of places in Scripture which explicitly speaks of God’s will for us:

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

In this case, we are given specific instructions that are called “God’s will for us.” Avoid sexual immorality. Control your body in a holy and honorable way. Don’t wrong or take advantage of each other. Not much is left to the imagination, or left to be sought out by prayer.

People seem to imagine that God’s will is a secret plan for their future which they are obligated to follow but can only be found out by intently praying and listening to God.

See, the idea we have of “phoning home” to God to figure out what we need to do is just not right. Consider parents: do they raise their children to call them every time they need to make a decision, or do they raise them to have the wisdom and teaching needed to make good decisions on their own? Likewise, God is not interested in teaching us to sit around waiting for Him to tell us everything to do, but instead wants us to grow in wisdom and love so that we can make the right decisions on our own using the tools He has given us.

Having said this, I want to give a simple, five-step method for finding God’s will for your life. It’s pretty straightforward, and I believe it honors the order God has given us for making decisions.

  1.  Check with Scripture. The first and most basic step is to submit to the authority of Scripture. If you are trying to make a decision, start by verifying that what is in alignment with what God has revealed to us of His will. After all, everything we need to be told explicitly about God’s will can be found in Scripture. For a blatantly obvious example, if you are trying to decide whether to kill someone or not, you should know what to do as soon as you read “You shall not murder.” As a more practical example, if you are wondering whether you should give more to people in need, you may very well have your answer when you read, “God loves a cheerful giver.”
  2. Listen to your conscience. Sometimes you just know that something is wrong, even if you’re not sure why and you can rationalize it away. Don’t go that way. If you have that niggling voice of “no,” they don’t do it. On the flip side, sometimes you know you should be doing something, even if you’re good at convincing yourself otherwise. Don’t keep fighting it. When you already know what’s right or wrong, and you have already checked this out with Scripture, just do what’s right.
  3. Submit to the authorities over you. If something is okay with Scripture and with conscience, you still need to verify that it is right by the people God has put in authority over your. Maybe it’s okay Biblically and wouldn’t violate any dictate of conscience, but you shouldn’t share a beer with friends if you’re under 21 because that’s illegal. And perhaps there is no reason why it should be wrong to watch Frozen 18 times in one week, but if your parents tell you to knock it off you need to obey them.
  4. Use your brain. If you still have options after checking with Scripture, conscience, and your authorities, now it’s time to check with your own brain. Be reasonable about your decisions. Don’t be an idiot. Sure, maybe the Bible doesn’t say “Do not jump off of a bridge using rubber bands for a bungee cord,” but God did give you reason, and reason should tell you to stop. And honestly, sometimes this can be the most difficult step, because sometimes you just can’t seem to figure out what is the smartest choice (I’m thinking especially of picking a college here). I should also point out that following your reason isn’t always the same as doing what intuitively makes sense. For example, selling everything you have and giving to the poor may not seem to make any sense, but when you reason it out and realize that you will gain better treasures in Heaven, the rational choice is to give.
  5. Follow your heart. What? Did I really just say that? Yes, I did, but I put it as the last step for good reason. Seriously, if something is good with Scripture, checks out with your conscience, leaves you in good standing with your authorities, and is a reasonable decision, then you should just do what you want with it. Now, just because you want something or feel something doesn’t mean you can disregard the higher priorities in this process, but if it makes it all the way down to this step 5, just do what you want to do. There is seriously no reason not to.

At the end of this, you’ve probably found God’s will. Of course, it’s possible that you still missed it. Maybe you messed up on the way down, or maybe God’s planning something that wasn’t even on your radar before. But in the former situation, God gives us grace and will work it out for your good. In the latter situation, I am convinced that God will control the doors. If what you conclude by the end of this process isn’t what God wants, you are not doing wrong; instead, God will open the doors He wants open and close the doors He wants closed until you end up where He wishes. But if you really follow through these things well, you cannot go wrong in any meaningful way.

Of course, just because you try to go this route doesn’t mean you will find it easy. Steps 4 and 5 can be particularly difficult sometimes. That’s okay. When we get stuck, God has an answer. See, the ability to navigate these steps and arrive at a good decision has a name: wisdom. Wisdom is what allows us to see things properly so that we understand what we should do. It will help you with every step of this process, and fortunately God has promised to provide us with it if we ask Him. So if you need help making a decision, the solution isn’t necessarily to pray, “God, tell me what to do” or “God, show me Your will,” but instead “God, give me wisdom to make good decisions.” This, after all, is why wisdom is “more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold” (Proverbs 3:14).

How to Know God’s Will for You (Without Gimmicks, Funny Feelings, or Voices in Your Head)