Making The Bible Come Alive In Your Own Devotional Times

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I should read my Bible more.

I don’t have very consistent quiet-times.

The Bible seems (can I say it?) dull. Unrelated to my life. Reading Scripture is like starting a fire with wet kindling: no matter how much I try, the match seems to go out.

Have you ever thought anything like that? Does the word of God, which claims to be “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), seem dead and inactive when you read it? If so, here’s good news: you’re not alone! Every Christian has, and will, struggle to give consistent attention to God’s word. Sin, Satan, and a God-ignoring world around us all do their best to keep us away from the Bible, or at least unsatisfied with the Bible’s impact.

But apart from what we might call the “hostile opposition” to our Scripture reading, we face another challenge: the Bible isn’t about us! A resume, a birthday card from your kids – those are about your life directly. But the Bible is filled with stories about other people, distant places, difficult names, battles and birth narratives. How do all those stories and sayings actually impact real life in your world, amid bills, screaming children, chronic pain, sleepless nights, or constant loneliness – all the stuff that fills up our moments?

Here’s one way to get at that question. What Scripture has had a significant impact on your life? We can probably all point to one particular passage, verse, even phrase that has been a milestone in our Christian lives. Maybe it’s the passage that God used to save you. Maybe it was something that got you through a significant struggle in marriage or parenting, a job crisis, or a health emergency. Take a moment and think about that significant Scripture. What stands out about it? What made it leap off the page?

Here’s how David Powlison, a writer and biblical counselor, summarizes the way Scripture comes to life for us. Consider your significant Scripture, and see if you find a mix of these three elements. Scripture comes to life when three things intersect: our situation, the living God, and our response in light of who God is and what he does. Situation, God, response. Let’s unpack each of these.

The situation – Scripture is about the real lives of real people. It has dirt under its fingernails. It portrays life as it really is: messy, painful, joyous, glorious, all at once. It portrays people as we really are. Made in God’s image, yet fallen. Sinful and sinned against. Corrupt and corrupting. The point of all this is to intersect with your life. You live in the same world, a good world made by God but now under his curse because of sin. Scripture accurately portrays life in that kind of world.

God – but Scripture does more than catalogue the joys and woes of humanity. Scripture reveals God. It is fundamentally about the triune God: who he is, what he is like, what he does. Or we could put it this way: Scripture is about God revealing himself in Christ in the power of the Spirit. But note: God doesn’t reveal himself in abstracts. It’s easy as Christians to only have vague, fuzzy notions about God. Fuzziness never changes anyone. Scripture reveals God in specifics, not in vague abstractions.

Response – God reveals himself so that we can respond. And that response (again summarizing Powlison) happens in two-dimensions: vertically, towards God; and horizontally, towards other people. In other words, faith and love.

When you put these three together – the triune, living God, situation, response – Scripture comes to life. Think back to your significant Scripture. Can you see these elements? Now imagine this: what if all of Scripture began to open up to you in these ways? That’s God’s intention. Scripture is about life: your life, and mine. It is living and active (Heb. 4:12). It is able to make us wise for salvation, and useful for godliness (2 Tim. 3:15-17). It brings life, wisdom, joy, and purity (Ps. 19:7-8). And it brings all those good gifts in the midst of the real world, the world we live in as sinners, sufferers, and saints. Life and Scripture aren’t strangers. They share the same zip code. And as we bring our life to the Bible, we’ll find that the Bible comes to life in ways we’ve never expected.

Photo by Chris Yarzab.

Can Everyone Be A Leader?

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“Each of you is a leader!”

Recently this has become a theme, practically a mantra, whether it is in businesses, schools, or churches. Entrepreneurial efforts have become popularized as people seek to lead their own business or ministry. Hundreds and thousands of books have been written on the subject, seminars are held, and tests are given. Leadership is the thing.

But as the old adage goes, you can’t lead if nobody is following.

Obviously, not everyone is a leader. In fact, not even most people would qualify as leaders. But the mindset of “I am a leader” prevails, which has a striking effect. Numerous people are leading nobody in spite of their desire to lead, and they are following nobody precisely because of their desire to lead.

Leadership, as defined by all realities, is limited. Only a few can lead in any given circumstance. It can be positional or it can organic, but it is always a small number of people. Do the math. It rules out most of us in most circumstances. Constantly aspiring to leadership can lead to conflict, egotism, and frustration as we all try to cram ourselves through a bottleneck and into a leadership role. Simply put, not everyone is a leader nor should everyone be a leader.

But everyone is an influencer. The fewest number of people in the tiniest of roles in the smallest of moments can influence. It can be had without words and without a position of authority. It can be had on those in authority over us or in positions reporting to us. Influence is what every person should emphasize.

Leadership is a gift, a set of abilities given by God and developed through circumstances brought about by God to make a person uniquely prepared to, well, lead. Influence is simply faithfulness at work. It is the work of the Holy Spirit through a person on others. It can be subtle or bold, spoken or acted.

One of the main reasons people aspire to leadership is to make a difference, so they scramble and grapple and hustle and rush in order to get to the top. This pursuit often starts for a good reason-to make positive change-but usually ends in a pitched battle or political sniping. But influence is not a competition; it is faithfulness at work. And influence can occasionally end up as leadership, but the best influencer doesn’t set out to do so.

So seek to influence by faithfully working. Influence up and influence down, and influence our fellow followers. The influence we have can be one the main tools God uses to do His work, and to make a difference.

This column originally appeared at WORLD News Group’s website (wng.org). Reprinted with permission. Copyright © 2012 WORLD News Group. All rights reserved.

8 Questions To Help Guard Your Heart

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When the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us he changes our hearts and minds. He gives us the mind of Christ (Php 2:5). And we are to cooperate with him by actively transforming our minds and thinking by the word of God:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…RO 12:2

As we take in God’s word, the Spirit of God renews our minds, causing us to think Christ’s thoughts, to see life as Christ sees it, and to know God more and more. Yet it’s important that we guard our hearts diligently:

Keep your heart with all vigilance,for from it flow the springs of life. PR 4.23

In other words, we must pay attention to what is going into and coming out of our hearts. We must watch what we’re thinking. This doesn’t mean we should become self-absorbed or become overly introspective or constantly be thinking about ourselves. But we should be aware of our thoughts because our mindset affects our life. Here are seven questions we can ask ourselves to see how we are keeping our hearts:

What am I believing about God?

Do I believe what his Word says about him? Do I believe he is faithful? Do I believe he is sovereign, good and loving? Am I trusting his promises? Or do I believe he has forsaken me or doesn’t care about me?

Am I constantly giving thanks?

Gratefulness produces joy. Noting and recalling our blessings turns us to God. Do I regularly thank Jesus for saving me? Do I have “the joy of my salvation?” Am I thanking God in everything? If we believe that God works all things for good, then we can thank him in any and every situation. If grumbling and complaining is coming out of our hearts, something is amiss with our view of God.

Am I giving into any condemnation?

Am I consistently living in the good of the gospel? Am I forgetting the good news that Jesus paid for all my sins, failures, mistakes, omissions? Do I fall into self-pity at my failures or weaknesses? Am I constantly dwelling on my regrets? Am I living in the good of the gospel? Am I pressing ahead in faith?

Am I casting my cares on God?

Do I believe God answers prayer? Do I believe he has the power to help me and change any situation? Am I asking for his help or am I trying to solve all my problems on my own? A lack of prayer reveals a lack of humility and a lack of faith.

How am I interpreting my life?

Am I interpreting it from a Biblical framework? Is God in the equation? Or am I thinking in wordly ways? Again, do I believe God is in control and working for my good? Or do I believe that life is out of control or that God is distant and uninterested?

Am I being attracted to any sin or the world?

Am I thinking like the world thinks? Am I craving the things of the world – success, possessions, personal fulfillment? Am I flirting with any sin? Am I thinking thoughts like “A little bit won’t hurt” or “I’ll just do this one time then I’ll quit” or “No one will know if I do this”? Am I envious of what others have? Am I jealous of others’ success or gifts or possessions? Am I depressed about not having certain things?

Do I fear God?

Do I believe he knows my every thought word and deed? Do I believe I’ll have to answer for everything I do in life? Do I want to do everything for the glory of God? Do I believe God sees everything I do and nothing is hidden from his eyes?

Am I humble?

Am I doing anything from selfish ambition?  When I correct someone do I look for the log in my own eye first?  Do I listen to others?  Am I easy to correct?  Am I able to admit I’m wrong?  Do I think I’m something great?  Do I remember that all I have is a gift from God and anything good I’ve accomplished has really been the Lord?

I’m sure there are many other good questions we can ask ourselves to guard our hearts with all vigilance.  May the constant outflow from our hearts be thankfulness, praise, faith, encouragement to others, mercy and kindness.

The Reformed World’s Obssession With Tobacco, Heaven Tourism Books, and Other Happy Rant Topics

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It’s time for another episode of The Happy Rant! In this episode, Ted, Barnabas, and I cheerfully rant about:

  • The Reformed world’s strange obssession with craft beer and tobacco products. We also have a really good recommendation for Matt Chandler.
  • The pros and cons of keeping your young children in church during the sermon.
  • Heaven tourism books, including the groundbreaking book Rufus Goes To Heaven. The book is about a dog. Yep.

You know what to do:

The Antidote To Selfish Ambition

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Our culture tends to be self-focused and self-absorbed.

We say things like “You have to look out for number one. Because if you don’t look out for number one, no one else will.” TV commercials constantly tell us what we need to make us happy. TV psychiatrists tell us we should love ourselves more and be sure to bolster our self-esteem. But when Jesus comes into our lives and rescues us from our sins, he begins to reorient our whole mindset about everything in life, including our tendency to be self-focused.  So he tells us in Php 2:3-4:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Selfish ambition and conceit (pride) tries to get more of this world for itself, tries to advance itself over others, always wants more. More admiration, more power, more possessions. But contrary to what the world says, selfish ambition won’t fulfill us, but is really the enemy of joy.

As believers in Jesus, we need to remember that we have all the riches of God in Christ. We have the encouragement, comfort, sympathy and affection of Jesus! We have the fellowship, comfort, guidance and counsel of the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to get ahead of others or get more than them. We don’t need to be admired more than others; we have Christ to encourage us. We don’t need to be loved more than others; we have the comfort of Christ’s love.  So God says out of our fullness here’s what we should do:

in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

This doesn’t mean that everyone else is more significant than us, but that we should COUNT or CONSIDER them to be so. Think of them as more significant than ourselves.  When we go to church or our fellowship group, we should think, These brothers and sisters of mine are SIGNIFICANT – they are important to God. I’m not going just for myself but for THEM.  This mindset leads us to do what verse 4 says:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

This doesn’t say don’t look to your own interests or that your interests are unimportant.  It says “Let each of you look NOT ONLY to his own interests, BUT ALSO to the interests of others.” All of us have concerns. All of us go through tough times. All of us have prayer requests. So our mindset should be – I’m not just focused on me and my interests. I want to focus on others as well. I want to be concerned for them ALSO.

D.A. Carson says, “It is also very practical to make a habit of thinking and speaking of the interests of others rather than boring people by constantly dwelling on our own interests”

In other words TAKE AN INTEREST IN PEOPLE. Find out about them. When you first meet someone you don’t start with What’s your biggest struggle? You get to know them. You find out about where they work or what their major is. You might ask about their families or maybe about hobbies they enjoy. You may say, Mark I hate making small talk. But in church it’s not simply small talk. Eventually they may open up about a problem they’re having or a spiritual struggle that you can encourage them about.  Romans 12:15 says:

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Our Christian life is a shared life. We live this life with others. We’re not isolated individuals. We’re all part of Christ’s body. So what happens to you affects me. When you’re blessed, I’m blessed. When you suffer, I suffer. When I stub my toe, my whole body goes into action to comfort my toe. My arms send my hands down and my eyes direct them to the aching toe. My fingers grab my toe and massage it as my mouth cries, “Ow, ow, ow!”

You may say, Mark, I feel like no one cares for my soul. If that’s the case, I feel really bad for you. My advice would be – and I know this might be really challenging for some of you – but my advice would be for YOU to begin to try to care for the souls of others. Ask others how they are doing. Ask how you can pray for them. Because in MT 7:12 Jesus said:

Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Do you want others to take an interest in you? Then take an interest in them. Do you want others to be compassionate to you? Then be compassionate toward them.

We can all be tempted to think about our church or fellowship group at times, “What am I getting out of this?” But our gatherings are not ONLY for what we personally get out of it, but they are for what we can do for others.

So I encourage you today to meditate on and thank Jesus for the riches you’ve received in him and look for ways to take an interest in others.

Don’t Be So Quick To Quote Scripture At Your Friends

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Is there ever a time not to quote Scripture? Imagine this scenario. Sunday after church your friend approaches you asking to talk. He’s having struggles in his marriage. At the office a project is requiring extra hours and at home the kids are in a high-octane phase that’s driving his wife nuts. The result is a household full of tension and irritability, with a number of petty, smoldering conflicts gradually merging into one ongoing conflagration.

“I know these arguments don’t please the Lord, and I know I’m partly to blame,” your friend says. “What do you think?” It’s your opening. Time for Scripture, right? “Bro, you just need to love your wife as Christ loves the church. I’ll pray for you!”

It’s biblical (Eph. 5:25). It’s true. It applies to his situation. But is it what he needs to hear? Surprising as it may seem, the answer is no. Not yet. Why? Here’s the principle: don’t quote Scripture until you can personalize the truth. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church,” is true – gloriously and challengingly so. It’s also generic, one-size-fits-all. Husbands from Papua New Guinea to Pennsylvania can apply it. But your friend isn’t a symbolic representative of all husbands everywhere. He’s one person walking out his life before the Lord, loving a specific woman and specific children in a succession of unrepeatable, never-to-be-duplicated moments. God’s ultimate goal is for Ephesians 5:25 to be embodied in concrete, particular ways in real time, at 5:47pm on Friday the 29th and 9:30 on Saturday morning after breakfast.

What does that mean for you? Simply this: ask more questions. Don’t use a Bible verse to end a conversation before it requires too much of you. Find out how your friend is struggling, in specifics: when did it happen last? Where? Why? When you can help your friend see what loving his wife, in this season, this week looks like – then you can remind him that planning to take the kids Saturday afternoon or pick up pizza for dinner Wednesday night so she doesn’t have to cook is his personalized expression of Ephesians 5:29.

Sometimes, even with good question, you may not know how to help someone particularize truth. You know a verse applies, but you’re not sure how because the situation is complex. That’s okay. In that case you’re honest with your friend, and Scripture doesn’t become a conversation stopper. You talk about the verse. You pray together. You commit to helping walk with your friend while you both grow in wisdom. But the goal is to make truth personal – even when it takes time.

Why is this so important? The ultimate answer is because God is personal. He is not a general truth about life, but a person. And he relates not to abstract humanity, but to real people. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The living Redeemer writes down names, whole chapters of them (see Romans 16, for instance).

So yes, your friend needs Scripture. So do you – but Scripture that’s personalized, melded to real life. Don’t be content with abstractions. Ask questions. Pray for wisdom. And then speak.

Photo by Brett Jordan

Why Doesn’t God Answer Prayer The Way I Want?

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Kids have a way of making us consider life and God in a way we’ve often forgotten. It’s so easy to “out grow” the simple but profound questions of childhood. Not long ago I was putting my daughters to bed and we had just such a conversation. (Of course it was at bedtime; they always happen at bedtime.) She’d been working hard at learning math without the ease she wanted, and it caused a theological dilemma.

“Dad, what’s it called when God just does something, like make someone better when they’re sick?”

“A miracle.”

“Yeah! Why isn’t it always like that? Why can’t I pray and then just know math? Sometimes I pray and nothing happens.”

Well then. My eight-year-old put her little finger on a question that will likely stick with her for all of life. It’s the kind of question that can’t be ignored and about which we can’t be apathetic. It’s a question I ask all the time, and it drives people to God or away from Him. Why isn’t God answering my prayer the way I want?

I used to work in retail, and just about every day I would see parents with out of control kids. The child would be running around, yelling, generally acting the fool, and what would the parents do? “If you don’t stop that we’re not getting this toy!” “If you keep that up there will be no French fries for lunch!” What would happen next? The child would, of course, not stop. The parent would, inevitably, buy the toy or the French fries anyhow. They simply couldn’t say “no” to their kids.

In fact, that’s why their kids were out of control. They got whatever they wanted. They could manipulate, strong arm, and generally dominate their parents. One strategic temper tantrum and that Barbie doll was theirs. The kids were in charge.

And that’s what we would be like if God gave us everything we wanted. We would be the spoiled brats kicking and screaming and demanding that God make our lives easy. (A lot of times we act like this even though He doesn’t give us all we want.) And like the spoiled kids we would be worse off for it. We’d be unhealthy. We’d be ungrateful. Just as children don’t know what’s best for them and need parents to provide, so we don’t know what’s best for us and need God. We only know what feels good right now, not what is healthiest, happiest, and most beneficial for all of life.

If we got what we wanted when we wanted it every time we would never learn faith. We would never learn patience. We would never learn diligence and hard work. We would never learn obedience of any kind. It’s easy to think life would be better if we got all we wanted. What that perspective fails to recognize is that it makes us God. To make a demand of God and have it fulfilled is to be in charge of Him. Do we really want a God we can be Lord over? I don’t. I’d screw that up so badly. And so would you.

Why Does God Let Me Stay So Weak?

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I hate weakness. I don’t like being weak. And I have so many weaknesses as a husband, father, and pastor. I want to have it all together. I want to be a strong leader, a loving husband, a wise father. But I’m so weak. I fail so often. Why?

Why does God let us stay so weak at times? Why is it so hard to put sin to death? Why do we struggle and fail so much? Why are we so often weak in our faith?

The apostle Paul knew about weakness. And he didn’t like weakness in himself – at least not initially. Paul had some kind of “thorn given him in the flesh, a messenger of Satan” that harassed him. Some believe the “thorn” was Jewish persecution; many believe it was a physical ailment or disease that affected his eyesight. They believe this since he dictated his letters, and he said it was because of a “bodily ailment” he had originally preached the gospel to the Galatians (GA 4.13). He also said the Galatians would have plucked out their eyes and given them to him (4:15). Also when he was rebuked for calling the high priest a “white-washed wall” Paul said he didn’t know he was the high priest. Yet Paul was a Pharisee who would certainly have recognized the high priest if he could see him.

Whatever his affliction, Paul struggled with it. He didn’t like being weak. He sought the Lord on three occasions about it and finally God gave him some insight into why he didn’t remove Paul’s weakness.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 CO 12:7-10

As Paul sought the Lord about his “thorn” God showed him some things.

First, it was to keep Paul from conceit and pride, having received great revelations from God. Knowledge puffs up. When we have strong gifts or incredible talent it’s easy to become proud. When we have some serious success it’s easy to forget that all our gifts and success is from God. How many gifted teachers of God’s word have succumbed to pride and fallen into sin. How easy it is for us to judge others out of our strengths. How easy it is for parents whose children are doing well to look down on those whose children are struggling or rebelling. So weakness humbles us. Failure keeps us from becoming conceited. And since pride comes before a fall, weakness can keep us from stumbling.

The second reason God let Paul stay weak was to make Paul rely on Christ’s grace – “My grace is sufficient for you.” Pride leads us to rely on ourselves; weakness drives us to our knees to seek God’s grace. Strength can lead to self-sufficiency. Weakness makes us depend on Christ. Weakness sends us to the throne of grace for mercy and grace in time of need.

The third reason God kept Paul weak was to reveal Christ’s power through him – “my power is made perfect in weakness.” The more we realize our weakness, then when anything good happens through us, we know it is the power of Christ, not us. When we have tried again and again to conquer a sin, become aware of our own weakness in the battle, then finally conquer it, we know it was by Jesus’ grace and power. Then Jesus receives the glory. We won’t think we did it by our own willpower but by Jesus’ grace.

Paul got to the place where he was content with weakness! He could be content with insults, hardships and persecutions. And even with calamities! Because he knew that all these things would reveal how weak he was, and the power of Christ would shine through him.

To be content with weakness doesn’t mean we give up trying to put sin to death. It doesn’t mean we quit trying to bear fruit for God. But it means that when we fail, when we realize how weak we are, we won’t despair but turn to Christ and ask him to give us HIS power. HIS strength. HIS wisdom. HIS grace.

Do you feel weak? Confess your weakness to Jesus. (He won’t be surprised). Confess your sins. Confess your failures as mom or dad. Tell him how much you need his grace not to get angry. Tell him you need his grace to love that brother who it’s so hard to love. Ask him to give you the grace to rejoice in your pain and be content in your trial.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 PE 5:6-7

Ted Kluck’s Best Fighting Techniques, Productivity Hacks, and Other Happy Rant Topics

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Face it, you desperately need some happiness in you life. I’m happy to say, I’m serving up a red-hot dish of happiness right now, in the form of yet another episode of The Happy Rant. In this episode, we talk about:

  • Ted’s recommended fighting techniques, including his key punching strategy.
  • The debut of Johnny Manziel
  • Whether or not we use any productivity “hacks”.
  • Our best systems for writing.
  • And a whole lot of other stuff

Here’s what you need to do:

Four Rules To Simplify Christian Dating

Is it just me, or has the whole Christian dating / courting / dorting thing become really, really complicated?

When Josh Harris wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye, he had good intentions. He was reacting against the casual, recreational, aimless dating that had come to dominate the American landscape. He was trying to help young men and women stop hurting each other through the endless hooking up, breaking up, hooking up, breaking up, etc. Like I said, good intentions, good impulse. I’m grateful for Josh.

But, as we are so prone to do, we took good principles and distorted them and distilled them into a series of unhelpful / legalistic practices. Dating / courting has turned into an elaborate set of unwritten rules which must be followed to the letter, no matter what the circumstances. A guy must ask a girl’s dad first, then the guy must ask the girl, then the girl must say yes, then the couple can start seeing each other IN GROUPS (!). If things go well for the first eight months or so, the couple may or may not be allowed to spend semi-unsupervised time together and possibly even (GASP!) hold hands. Once the young man has firmly established himself financially and is sufficiently godly, he can ask the girl to marry him. Of course, he again must ask the dad first. Both families, as well as lots of church members, must be involved in the entire process, from start to finish.

Now, is there wisdom in some of these practices? Of course. But the reality is, you can’t slap these practices on top of every relationship and expect the relationship to go well. There are so many variables in each relationship: the age of the couple, the spiritual maturity of the couple, whether or not both sets of parents are believers, how long the guy and girl have been a Christian, the ethnicity of the couple, and on and on. To take some variation of the practices above and arbitrarily slap them onto a relationship can actually end up harming the relationship.

And here’s the kicker: believe it or not, the Bible doesn’t actually say a whole lot about dating/courting relationships.

When we place our practices above Biblical principles, it’s a recipe for disaster.

I want to suggest that we can make this whole dating thing a lot simpler and less confusing by simply holding fast to the clear, relatively few principles spelled out in Scripture. What are those principles?

Christians Pursue Jesus Above All

This is the overriding principle which must govern every relationship. Loving Jesus first and foremost means seeking him above all else and obeying his commands above all else. To love Jesus is to obey Jesus. Once this is set firmly in place for both individuals in the relationship, many of the other details will fall into place. Obedience to Jesus is the filter through which every action must pass.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

If we are committed to obeying Jesus, than that necessarily rules out dating unbelievers. There’s no such thing as missionary dating. Missionary dating is simply disobedience dating.

Christians Pursue God’s Wisdom

When it comes to dating, God’s wisdom is desperately needed. There are so many issues which aren’t explicitly addressed by Scripture, and therefore require wisdom. Is it sinful for a couple to drive to a deserted area at night just to “hang out”? No, but it might not be the wisest thing. Is it wise for a young man to talk to a young woman’s parents about dating/courting their daughter? Sometimes. It depends on whether the parents are Christians, how old the woman is, and a host of other conditions. Does a young man need to have financial stability before he can get married? Not necessarily, but it is wise for him to think through his financial status.

The good news is, God loves to give wisdom.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

Christians Pursue Absolute Purity

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).

This is definitely a tough one. Here’s why: part of this is principle and part of this is practice. The principle stands firm: absolute purity. The practices, however, may differ from relationship to relationship. Obviously, premarital sex is out of bounds. Making out in the bedroom is off limits, as is all sexual activity. But there are certain things that may be tempting for some people and not others, like holding hands. This is why we need to be careful about laying strict, absolute practices. Life has so many hues, and each person is so different. Wisdom is an essential component when thinking through this issue.

Men and women must pursue absolute purity when dating. Each individual must wrestle through exactly what this looks like in practice.

Christians Pursue Community

This principle applies to dating couples, just like it applies to every other Christian. As Christians, we are part of God’s family, and we allow other believers to speak into our lives. Dating couples are called to let other Christians speak the truth in love to them. This doesn’t mean that they hang out exclusively in groups, or only in the context of their extended families. It simply means that they open their lives up to other believers.

Christians pursue Jesus, pursue wisdom, pursue purity, and pursue community. These are the firm biblical principles. The practice of these principles will look very different in each relationship. Let’s simplify dating by being committed to these principles, rather than a set of extra-biblical practices.