Jesus’ Model for Decision Making

We all desire to make wise decisions, so it is best to look at the actions of Jesus to understand our decision making strategy.

Jesus Made a Choice: this is the key to decision making. We arrive where we are right now because of the decisions we have made over the years, and even today. So the first step is easy, simply choose to choose.

Jesus Withdrew from Others: if we want to make a godly decision, we should get away from worldly influences. Jesus withdrew and spent time in prayer, and thinking through his choices. He often spent time alone before making significant decisions.

Jesus Prayed About it: if prayer was necessary for Jesus, how much more for us? Ask for God’s wisdom (James 1:5), and maybe even fasting to your praying (Isaiah 58:8-9).

Jesus was Obedient: he made decisions based on the Word of God (John 4:34). Perhaps we would have the commitment to obey God more than our drive to eat. When we think about our commitment to obedience, most of our decision are decided ahead of time.

Jesus Told Others What He Decided: when we tell others, it seems to solidify our decision. Opposition and criticism may come but we must make our decisions known.

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How to Discern God’s Will

This is an additional part for the lesson on bearing one’s own cross, basically discerning God’s will over following my own self-interests. For more on this topic, consider looking over my seminar on God’s Will.

There is a Sovereign Will of God: his secret plan that determines what happens in the universe.

  • Daniel 4:34-35 – He does according to his will.
  • Psalm 115:3 – He does whatever he pleases.
  • Job 42:2 – No purpose of yours can be thwarted.
  • Proverbs 21:1 – He directs the king’s heart.
  • Revelation 4:11 – Creation exists because of his will.
  • Ephesians 1:11 – Having been predestined according to his purpose.
  • Proverbs 16:33 – Every decision is from the Lord.
  • Romans 9:19 – For who resists his will?
  • Acts 2:23 – By the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.
  • Acts 4:27-28 – To do whatever your hand and your purpose predestined to occur.
  • Romans 11:33-36 – How unsearchable are his judgments and unfathomable his ways.

There is a Moral Will of God: revealed through his commands in the Bible what men ought to believe and how men ought to live. Probably 95% of God’s will can be found in the Bible.

  • Romans 2:18 – know his will … being instructed in the Law.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – This is God’s will for you…
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3 – For this is the will of God.
  • Colossians 1:9 – May be filled with the knowledge of his will.
  • Colossians 4:12 – That you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.
  • Romans 12:2 – That you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
  • Ephesians 5:17 – Understand what the will of the Lord is.
  • Ephesians 6:6 – Doing the will of God from the heart.
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust and acknowledge God, he will make your paths straight.
  • Psalm 32:8 – He will instruct and teach you in the way you should go.

There is an Individual Will of God: of his ideal, detailed life-plan designed for each person (traditional view).

Those who hold to this view seek to answer the question, “How may I be in the center of God’s will?” It is normally asked in the big decisions in life and the rest of life is navigated by circumstances and personal feelings. To find the center of God’s will require special revelation of God.

  1. A wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:3-5, 8, 10-26)
  2. A target audience for Paul (Acts 16:9-10)

A Completed Canon of Scripture: There are no more visions, dreams, and appearances (1 Corinthians 15:8, 1 Peter 1:20, no more “thus says the Lord…”) We have a more sure word of prophecy found in the canon of Scripture (2 Peter 1:19a, 21)

  • Revelation 22:18-19 – prohibits adding to God’s word (this revelation).
  • Jude 1:3 – The faith was once for all handed down to the saints.
  • 2 Peter 1:2-3 – God has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.
  • 2 Peter 2:1 – False prophets arose, and false teachers will be among you.
  • What about dreams and visions today? (Hearing God’s Voice, by Richard and Henry Blackaby)
    1. In many parts of the world, God seems to be using visions and dreams extensively. In areas where there is little or no gospel message available, and where people do not have Bibles, God is taking his message to people directly through dreams and visions. This is entirely consistent with the biblical example of visions being frequently used by God to reveal his truth to people in the early days of Christianity. If God desires to communicate his message to a person, he can use whatever means he finds necessary—a missionary, an angel, a vision, or a dream. Of course, God also has the ability to give visions in areas where the gospel message is already readily available. There is no limit to what God can do.
    2. At the same time, we must be careful when it comes to visions and the interpretation of visions. We must keep in mind that the Bible is finished, and it tells us everything we need to know. The key truth is that if God were to give a vision, it would agree completely with what He has already revealed in His Word. Visions should never be given equal or greater authority than the Word of God. God’s Word is our ultimate authority for Christian faith and practice.

How NOT to Determine God’s Will:

  1. Do NOT Put God to the Test (Matthew 4:7, Deuteronomy 8:3)
  2. Do NOT Seek After Signs (Matthew 12:38-40)
  3. Do NOT Communicate With the Dead (Isaiah 8:19-20, Deuteronomy 10-12)
  4. Do NOT Look at Horoscopes (Jeremiah 10:2, Revelation 21:8, Galatians 5:20)
  5. Do NOT be Led by the Spirit Contrary to God’s Word (James 4:17)
  6. Do NOT be Led by Your Sinful Nature:
    • Jeremiah 17:9 (“follow your heart,” which is wicked and can’t be trusted)
    • Ephesians 4:22-24 (“Be true to yourself,” which self? The old self or the new self?)

How to Determine God’s Will:

1. Examine yourself to make sure you are a Christian:

  • 2 Corinthians 13:5 – test yourself
  • James 1:18 – God gave us new birth
  • 1 Timothy 2:4 – who desires all men to be saved
  • 2 Peter 3:9 – God does not want anyone destroyed but to repent

2. Understand a biblical worldview on the decisions that you make and the direction that you take (Ephesians 5:15).

  • What does God expect of me?
  • What principles from the Bible could give me further wisdom on this decision?
  • After determining biblical boundaries, pray for God’s wisdom to make the best choice with the options that remain (1 Thessalonians 3:1 – we thought it best…).

3. Seek counsel from those in authority over you:

  • Parents (Proverbs 6:21-23, Ephesians 6:1-3)
  • Husband (Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18)
  • Small group leader or pastor (Hebrews 13:17)
  • Employer (Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 4:1)
  • Government officials (Romans 13:1-7)

4. Discern whether your decision will be consistent with God’s five purposes for your life:

  • Knowing (worship, exalt, magnify): connecting with God by getting to know, trust, and love him.
  • Relating (fellowship, encouragement, membership): connecting with others through learning real love and belonging in God’s family.
  • Serving (service, equipping, ministry): connecting with opportunities to give back and make a difference with your talents.
  • Growing (discipleship, edification, maturity): connecting with truths, tools, experiences, people, and habits that help you grow spiritually.
  • Sharing (outreach, evangelism, mission): connecting with opportunities to share your story and God’s story as you live out your life mission.

5. Discern whether your decision will be consistent with your God-given SHAPE (how you are wired). We are created for good works (Ephesians 2:10).

  • Spiritual gifts: how has God gifted me? (1 Peter 4:10, 1 Corinthians 12:11)
  • Heart: what do I love to do? (Philippians 2:13)
  • Abilities: what are my natural talents and skills? (Exodus 31:3)
  • Personality: where does my personality best suit me to serve? (Psalm 139:14)
  • Experience: what life experiences do I bring to this opportunity? (Philippians 2:12)

6. Consult your board of directors: a group of past teachers, mentors, and disciplers whom you can contact for advice.

  • Proverbs 1:5 – a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.
  • Proverbs 11:14 – where there is no guidance the people fall.
  • Proverbs 12:5 – thoughts of the righteous are just.
  • Proverbs 12:15 – a wise man listens to counsel.
  • Proverbs 13:10 – those who take advice are wise.
  • Proverbs 15:22 – without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.
  • Proverbs 19:20 – the wise listen to counsel and accept discipline.
  • Proverbs 24:6 – an abundance of counselors brings victory.
  • Proverbs 27:9 – a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.

7. Make your decision and allow God to “blue pencil” your plans (the key is “Lord willing” and Proverbs 16:9 – the mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps, like a drafting change). Avoid the sin of presumption (James 4:13-17).

  • Acts 18:21 – I will return, if God wills.
  • Romans 1:10 – perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.
  • Romans 15:32 – I may come to you in joy by the will of God.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:19 – if the Lord wills.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:7 – if the Lord permits.
  • Hebrews 6:3 – if God permits.
  • 1 Peter 3:17 – if God should will it so.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

Recommended resources:
Decision Making and the Will of God, by Garry Friesen
Decision Making by the Book, by Haddon Robinson

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Developing Spiritual Discernment

The longer one is a follower of Jesus Christ, the greater one should have spiritual discernment, which is the ability to determine right from wrong, good from evil, this direction or that.

Discernment does not come by flipping a coin and saying “heads or tails,” and it doesn’t completely rely on common sense or the conscience. Spiritual discernment is a gift from God and comes to us through the Holy Spirit, who dwells in every authentic Christian. It is the supernatural ability to “know” something not because of personal knowledge or experience, but because of personal time spent with God in prayer and time spent in his Word.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:5–7)

The ability to know God and discern his will for your life comes through…

Salvation: Spiritual things can be discerned only by the indwelling Holy Spirit. When you trust Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have met the prerequisite for knowing the mind of Christ. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:15–16).

Scripture: As you study Scripture, you learn how God works in the lives of His people. Understanding God’s principles gives you a basis for knowing how He is working in your life today.

  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise (Psalm 111:10).
  • These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Situations: Are you focusing on God’s will for your future? Instead, focus on God’s purpose in your present situation, and trust Him with your future. God always has a personal will for you, and your responsibility is to adjust to what He is doing in your life right now. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:33–34).

Surrender: Are you surrendering to what God wants to do in your life today? Pray to be moldable clay in the Potter’s hand, allowing God to mold and shape you into the vessel of His choosing. O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does? declares the LORD. Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel (Jeremiah 18:6).

Servanthood: Have you given up ownership of your own life? When your heart is willing to be God’s servant no matter the cost, He will reveal His plan for you. No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? (Matthew 6:24–25).

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Testing our Decisions

How does one know if they are making the right decision, it may be more practical than you think. From God’s perspective, decisions are not to be determined by random selection, supernatural events, people’s opinions, delay tactics, analytical thinking, or good feelings. God wants you to measure your decisions by his standards. Rather than testing God, test yourself using these Scriptures:

Scriptural Test: Has God already spoken about it in His Word? All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Maybe marrying a nonbeliever in hopes of drawing the spouse to Christ even though 2 Corinthians 6:14 says not to be yoked together with unbelievers.

Secrecy Test: Would it bother me if everyone knew this was my choice? The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity (Proverbs 11:3). Perhaps like, thinking no one is hurt by keeping an overpayment of returned cash or credit.

Survey Test: What if everyone followed my example? Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12). Perhaps like assuming a little trash tossed out the car window will never be noticed on a busy highway.

Spiritual Test: Am I being people-pressured or Spirit-led? Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10). An example might be volunteering for an assignment but doing it for the show of others, not as a confirmation that God wants you to do this.

Stumbling Test: Could this cause another person to stumble? It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall (Romans 14:21). Maybe having an alcoholic drink in a public place could cause this stumbling of others.

Serenity Test: Have I prayed and received peace about this decision? Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6–7). Maybe we decide to make any major change without praying and waiting on God’s peace for confirmation.

Sanctification Test: Will this keep me from growing in the character of Christ? We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). Perhaps you are failing to obey God when He prompts you to do something that is difficult or burdensome.

Supreme Test: Does this glorify God? Live as children of light…and find out what pleases the Lord (Ephesians 5:8, 10). Perhaps you are conforming to the world’s standards by living a lifestyle of indebtedness.

A final reminder can be this: Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

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Ways We Make Decisions

How do people come to make godly decisions that honor him? I recently read this from June Hunt that lists six methods of decision-making:

What Are Six Methods of Decision Making?

If you could, wouldn’t you want to know the future? If you could see the outcome, wouldn’t it make your decisions a lot more accurate? Today people seek guidance through a variety of occult practices. They search for answers in newspaper columns, carnival booths, and psychic hotlines. Astrologers, palm readers, and fortune-tellers toting tarot cards all claim to speak for God, but the God of the Bible says these dramatic ways are “detestable” (Deuteronomy 18:9). He warns us…

  • Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:31)
  • There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)

Making decisions can be approached in various ways, but most will fall into one of the following six methods or a combination of some of them. Not all methods of decision-making will prove to be profitable.

Dramatic Method: Some people misuse Scripture by flipping open the Bible and pointing to some random Scripture for guidance without considering the context. Others expect God to come through with a spectacular, supernatural sign that will give proof of His will in a given situation. God says … The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (John 14:26).

Defaulting Method: Scripture tells us there is an appropriate time to delegate duties and to seek counsel, but ultimately we are responsible for our own choices. We can even be so pressured by the opinions of others that it becomes easier just to let others make decisions for us … even when we think they are wrong. God says … He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right (Isaiah 7:15).

Delaying Method: Many people choose to procrastinate when a decision is due, hoping that “it will all come out well in the end.” They allow circumstances to determine the outcome. However, not to decide is actually a decision. Their delay tactics are filled with superfluous activities that do not include placing a high priority on knowing God’s will through prayer, biblical counsel, and intimacy with the Lord.  God says … That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways’ (Hebrews 3:10).

Deductive Method: The Christian life is to be a life of balance between human deduction and spiritual insight. If we become solely analytical in thinking through a situation and choose to rely completely on logic, we will miss God’s way. God says … My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways (Isaiah 55:8).

Desirous Method: Too many people allow their emotions to have “soul control.” This means allowing feelings to determine their behavior. God gave us emotions, but He never intended emotions to be our “decision makers.” Many of us don’t even realize that we often have an “if it feels good, it must be good” mentality. God says … He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe (Proverbs 28:26).

Discerning Method (the best method): To be discerning is to grasp what may not be evident, that is, “to have insight and understanding by going beyond what seems obvious.” Spiritual discernment, therefore, is wisdom to determine what is true, appropriate, and superior in the eyes of God, regardless of how things may seem. God says … The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).

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Making Godly Decisions

It is always important to seek to honor God in the decisions we make every day. It may not matter the choice of location for lunch today, but there are a lot of decisions that we must make and the outcome is one that will honor God or not. We all want to know God’s will, so how can we know? Here is a little guidance on guidance:

How Does God Reveal His Will? God reveals His will primarily through…

  1. The Spirit of God – When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13)
  2. The Word of God – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)

What Decisions Are Pleasing to God? God blesses…

  1. Decisions that He initiates – I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. (Proverbs 4:11)
  2. Decisions that line up with His Word – Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. (Psalm 119:33)
  3. Decisions that accomplish His purpose – It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)
  4. Decisions that depend on His strength – I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)
  5. Decisions that result in giving Him glory – Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  6. Decisions that promote justice, kindness, and humility – He has showed you, O man, 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)
  7. Decisions that reflect His character – Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)
  8. Decisions that come from faith – Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
  9. Decisions that consider the interests of others – Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
  10. Decisions that are bathed in prayer – Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Other information on guidance has been posted here: Decision-Making by the Book

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Making Responsible Choices

I was a part of the student group last night; Craig Goodmurphy led a presentation about teenagers making responsible choices during these developmental years. While a lot of the information probably went in one ear and out the other, he presented scientific details about the development of neural pathways. Drugs and alcohol have a significant effect on the brain (and therefore decision-making), because nerves need to wire and fire properly. When we ask the kids “what were you thinking?” they have an imagination that honestly tells them that what they are doing is safe, responsible and logical. They are convinced they can handle it, and they are doing a good job… while observation from the outside shows they are wasted and reckless.

During this season of proms and ring dances, there will be teens all over this city making poor choices that will effect the rest of their lives. What is a parent to do? Check out this verse:

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Every year I approach May and June with mixed emotions. I know how exciting it is to be finished with teachers, classes, and homework and to look forward to a summer of fun. And for high school graduates, the future seems exciting, filled with potential. But I also know of the shipwrecked lives, kids who never even make it to summer because of careless celebrations at proms and other parties. It seems like every year we read of carloads of kids who are killed through drinking and driving, and other tragedies.

As I watch seniors walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, I know that they will be headed for the whole range of ups and downs as they make the difficult transition into adulthood. Our future as a nation truly does rest with this generation, and I wonder what that future will hold.

I also wonder about the kind of world we are giving them. My generation has made a few contributions, but we have also formed a society based on self-centeredness, materialism, and greed. It’s a violent world, filled with guns, gangs, crime, abortion, and abuse. Despite the progress and the optimism of the ’60s and ’70s, racism is on the rise again. Personal freedom and choice have come to mean that a person should have the right to do almost anything he or she wants, with no restraints. Families are falling apart. Alternate lifestyles are being taught as normal, and this generation has been trying its best to purge public life of every trace of biblical faith.

It’s not a pretty sight, but it’s not hopeless. There is time to change the direction, but it must begin with our children.

This is a good time to think about our kids, of all ages. We need to reach them now; we dare not wait until graduation.

  1. What are we doing to teach them the right values?
  2. What are we doing to motivate them to serve others?
  3. What are we doing to heal their pain and meet their needs?
  4. What are we doing to lead them to Christ?

The Bible verse above is not a guarantee of raising successful kids, but if we don’t raise them right, we can nearly guarantee they won’t turn out right. Think of what you can do to reach this generation. There is no better investment of your life.

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A Clear Sense of Direction

I love helping people to discern the will of God. It’s not an easy task. Many times they are looking for it in their own lives, but I have a different perspective. I figure if we can find God’s will, purpose and mission in the world, all we have to do is align our lives with that, and we can’t be far off target. God has given us certain principles to live by and we have a wide range of freedom to live within those guidelines. He sets up these guidelines not to punish or restrict us, but to protect us and provide the best.

“There is always time enough in a day to do God’s will.” —Roy Lessin

My pastor, Skip Wallace, gave this message on 14 October 2007, from Isaiah 30:19-21. Here are a few notes…

“Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it”—Isaiah 30:21

The Holy Spirit is our Guide
The Bible is our map
What is our Compass?

Life “COMPASS”

  1. Constancy – “Speak for your servant is listening” – 1 Samuel 3:10
  2. Others – “I constantly remember you in my prayers” – 2 Timothy 1:3
  3. Motive – “Search my heart, and see if there be any wicked way in me” – Psalm 139:23
  4. Passions – “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” – Philippians 2:13
  5. Aptitudes – “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people” – 1 Corinthians 12:7, (The Message)
  6. Seasoning – “…though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you…” – Hebrews 5:12
  7. Sensible Decision-making – Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that… Galatians 6:4, (The Message)

Father, what do you want me to do for Your Kingdom?

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