How do we decide what things to avoid?

Susanna Wesley on practical Christian living

Questions often arise in class about specific lifestyle issues ("standards" as they have sometimes been called).

Students struggle with deciding how to make decisions that will enhance rathern than weaken their commitment to a holy life. Questions come up such as "Where in the Bible does it say it's a sin to drink beer?"

I like what John Wesley's mother once wrote to him on how to decide what habits and lifestyle patterns believers should avoid or eliminate. She said:

"Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself."
   — Susanna Wesley (Letter, June 8, 1725)

John Wesley's working definition of what constitutes sin (although he did write that all transgressions of divine will need God's forgiving grace): "A willful transgression of a known law of God"

Check out the self-examination questions used in John Wesley's discipleship groups [ read questions ]

The official Nazarene doctrinal statement defining sin includes these words: "We believe that actual or personal sin is a voluntary violation of a known law of God by a morally responsible person. . . . We believe that personal sin is primarily and essentially a violation of the law of love; and that in relation to Christ sin may be defined as unbelief."
— excerpt from the Articles of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene

Some discussion starters suggested by a student group discussing how to define "sin"

  1. Is murdering someone more of a sin than harboring ill-will toward a person and delighting in their suffering?
  2. Which is more sinful?
    1. Committing adultery
    2. Having lustful thoughts toward someone
  3. If we claim to keep the Sabbath, but do not fellowship with other believers, have we fulfilled God's wishes?
  4. Are those — such as airline pilots or businessmen on international travels — who are not able to regularly keep the a traditional weekly Sabbath by worshipping on Sunday with other believers to be classified as transgressors of one of the Ten Commandments?

What's your level of commitment?

After an African pastor's martyrdom, those packing up and disposing of things in his home found a statement he had written expressing his commitment. [ read more ]

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