Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies—make your way straight before me….I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 5:8; 16:7-8)
The Lord (Father, Son, and Spirit) really helps us with life choices, decision making, and leads us in His right direction. Previously, we looked at the Lord’s PROMISES of guidance, some of our PROBLEMS in following Christ, and PRINCIPLES of getting God’s guidance. We continue with more PRINCIPLES here.
3. Follow Jesus’ example, model, and pattern. To choose what to think about, say, or do, Packer suggests that we ask: Which option BEST imitates Christ? Which is the MOST humble and holy choice? Which is the MOST kind and compassionate way? Which is the MOST patient, pure, and self-giving course of action? I also ask: Which option BEST obeys Christ’s Greatest Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”1 Frequent reading in all four Gospels shows us (positively) how to imitate our Lord and helps us (negatively) rule out wrong behavior. Rather than wondering subjectively, “What Would Jesus Do?,” let’s focus objectively on “What Jesus Actually Did” and follow Him. That’s more constructive.
Whatever other Bible reading I do each day, I almost always also add a portion from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John to help me follow Christ. Christians are to imitate Jesus in: Self denial, sacrificial service, taking the lowest place, loving unlovable people, bearing with and forgiving others, overlooking offenses, caring for poor, weak, needy, outcast, unprivileged people, and enduring harsh treatment with patience.2 In this way we cause Christ’s light to reflect through us to others, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven, not praise us.3 This is how we make the teaching of God our Savior attractive.4
I can’t be content with theoretical Christianity, but must seek to grow in imitating Jesus’ lifestyle. Pastor Octavius Winslow (1808-1878) wrote: There is no single practical truth in God’s word on which the Spirit is more emphatic than the example which Christ has set for His followers to imitate. We needed a perfect pattern, a flawless model, a living embodiment of the gospel precepts so strictly urged upon every believer. God has graciously set before us Jesus as our true Model.5 Since we always stumble and fall short, surely “the entire life of believers to be one of repentance” and running back to Christ for pardon, cleansing, and enabling us to follow Him.6
4. Aim in decision making to choose what most hallows God’s name, most advances His kingdom, and most obeys His revealed will. Packer urges us to seek the greatest good, as Christ defines it, and warns against letting “good enough” squeeze out the “best” in God’s sight.
5. Evaluate short- and long-term effects of possible courses of action. The Bible calls this prudence. Believers are created in God’s image and we have been re-created in Christ’s image, with sanctified, though not yet perfect, reasoning abilities. Paul writes to Christians, “You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”7 As we take off dirty clothes and put on clean ones, so Jesus’ followers are called and equipped to abandon evil ways and live by the rules of Christ’s kingdom. The Lord is 100% sovereign and we are 100% responsible for our own actions and choices. If we search the Scriptures, pray for wisdom, and seek the advice of reliable people, then we can trust God’s faithfulness in guiding us and make our best choice. Prayerful, continual feeding on God’s word helps us to do His will more habitually and consistently. As God’s adopted children, we are constantly led by His Spirit who dwells in our hearts, not only when we feel Him guiding us.8 “Letting go and letting God” isn’t always faith. Packer warns that such an attitude is sometimes mindless and irresponsible. We must, “Trust in the Lord, and do good….Wait on the Lord and keep His way.”9
6. Value the advice of fellow Christians. When we aren’t sure what is right or wrong on an issue, let’s seek the counsel of stable believers who know the Bible better than we do and who practice it reasonably well. Even when we think we understand Scripture, it is humble and wise to see if mature brothers and sisters agree with our proposed plans. Don’t only consult people who you know will agree with you. None of us individually is as smart as all of us together. The Lord never planned for us to go it alone. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”10
Packer’s principles, based on Scripture, help us to seek God’s guidance HIS way. “Leading” which ignores these factors doesn’t come from the Lord, no matter how we feel. Let’s live by faith, trust in God’s word and His providential care, and follow Christ moment by moment.
To be continued.
Go in peace, beloved. Walk with King Jesus today and be a blessing to others!
Notes (various translations are used): 1 Mark 12:29-31 (quoting Deut 6:4,5; Lev 19:18). 2 Matt 16:24; 20:25-28; John 13:13-16; Col 3:13; 1 Peter 2:20-22; 1 John 2:6; 3:15-16; Prov 19:11. 3 Matt 5:16. 4 Titus 2:10. 5 Octavius Winslow, The Glory of the Redeemer in His Person and Work (p. 354). 6 Martin Luther, 95 Theses. 7 Colossians 3:10. 8 Romans 8:14. 9 Psalm 34:3,34. 10 Proverbs 15:22.