Godly Standards for Christians
By Ronald E. Williams
In most spheres of life, we welcome standards. They provide safety, uniform levels of acceptable performance and guidelines for behavior. Take, for example, the manufacturer who is interested in selling a product on a long-term basis. Such an entrepreneur must maintain rigid quality controls to secure and keep long term satisfaction with his product. Should he let down his standards in production or in handling consumer concerns, it would mean ultimate loss of business and profitability or, to put it another way, the success or failure of his venture.
Though many consumer products are shoddily made and with a philosophy of "planned obsolescence," they do not survive in a market place of fair competition. Purchasers with discernment look for quality, value and service and thus impose certain "standards" on that which is acceptable to the market at large. Manufacturers who ignore these consumer-mandated "standards" do so at their own peril and will not survive.
In the medical community, professional health providers must meet exacting standards of education, peer review, on-the-job performance and licensure. Though these various standards do not guarantee quality health care, the public and our governmental agencies use them to weed out quacks, incompetents and charlatans. Who would desire to have brain or heart surgery performed on them by a health care provider who never mastered or understood anatomy, or came to the procedure with no prior skills or experience?
Picture the sports enthusiast watching professional baseball, basketball, football, hockey, etc. when suddenly all rules (standards) were eliminated. He would be amazed at the poor batter who insisted on six strikes instead of three, the football team that played with twenty players instead of eleven, or the basketball player who used a stepladder to facilitate his "slam dunks"! Standards provide the parameters necessary for uniformity, fair competition and predictability. Without the "rules of the game" anarchy would reign, and no game would be like another.
Culturally or socially mandated standards, however useful and necessary for various spheres of life, are fickle and transient. Whereas our God is holy and immutable (changeless), the standards of men seemingly change with the winds.
Clothing styles acceptable to society are in a constant state of flux. The punk rocker of this generation would laugh hysterically at the attire of the "flapper" of the roaring twenties. The "evangelical" believer of today may look on the dress of the pre-World War II believers with a condescending amusement, and conclude they were unnecessarily austere.
Various forms of social behavior also seem to undergo changes in standards, or acceptable norms. Strictly observed "courtship" of the past which was guided by parental rules and guidelines seems "old-fashioned" to today's youth who often choose serial dating, unfettered petting, and brazen fornication. Physicians and nurses who would have been arrested and incarcerated forty years ago for the same procedure, are now enriching themselves through socially acceptable abortion of preborn children. Divorce, which was unheard of among believers 50 years ago, or at least was discussed in hushed tones, is now becoming prevalent in our circles. A believer of Fanny Crosby's day would be horrified to hear the average Christian teenager's tape and CD collection of today. The sensual performers, driving beat and worldly music styles would have been rejected by those God-fearing folk of yesteryear, but such musical tastes are common and acceptable to contemporary professors. What the average American believer now watches on his TV set during the course of an average week would have been grounds for church discipline several generations ago.
Whereas society at large can be expected to follow the dictates of the flesh and a depraved human natures, believers must march to the beat of a different drum. Our contemporary culture looks with a patronizing disdain on our Godly American forebears, considering themselves enlightened and freed from the shackles of Judeo-Christian ethics. It reminds one of Paul's conclusion: "... but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Profession themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:21b-22).
What is the lesson in all of this? Man left to himself will "do that which is right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). His "standards" will be flexible and of a temporary nature. They will change with the whims and ways of each generation and, over a period of time, will even be contradictory of preceding cultures!
Christian friend, the question is not how you and your manner of life are acceptable to your mutable generation, but to your immutable God! We can find small comfort in the fact we "fit-in" with the mainstream of professing Christendom: "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!" (Luke 6:26).
Standards of dress, behavior, etc., will always be followed. The question is, whose standards do you observe? Because our inborn, fleshly temptation is to follow the standards of the world around us, God wants us repeatedly to resist these inclinations: "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil..." (Exodus 23:2); "for thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." (Deuteronomy 14:2)
Israel failed to heed God's warnings about standards that would effectively separate them from Canaanites and Philistines if they were observed. Israel's desire was such that they wanted to be like all the other nations of the earth (Judges 8:20). The pressure to conform is as old as human history.
Standards observed for their own sake become legalistic and Pharisaical. However, Godly standards of dress, behavior, music, church order, separation, etc., observed to please the Lord, and, formulated on the basis of scriptural principle, effectively set us apart as a peculiar people that live lives considered inscrutable by our peers.
Do not pride yourself my friend on your liberality or your broad-mindedness. We must concern ourselves with obtaining God's approval, and not that of society, on our standards. Godless Israel persecuted and stoned the prophets who tried to call them back to standards of decency, morality and God's order. Most will be irritated with prophetic calls for repentance and a return to the ancient landmarks established by our fathers; only a few tremble at God's Word and will pay the price of ostracism, rejection, scorn and ridicule heaped on them for following standards considered old-fashioned and out-of-date. Popularity and social acceptance by their very nature cannot be the criteria of the right or wrong standards, but rather; what saith the scriptures? ... what will please the Lord; not, what will please the world around me?
Those who fear God and eschew evil will seem eccentric to their contemporaries. Their standards of life, because they conflict in so many ways with their world, make them objects of curiosity, defamation and misunderstanding. They become a spectacle (1 Corinthians 4:9) to a laughing society.
We would all do well to take personal inventory on our manner of life. We all live by standards of some kind, formulated after some criteria discerned or not. Personal holiness, denial of flesh, scriptural principle, separation from sin and the world, and pleasing God have got to be our motivations for establishing standards of life. If they are not, you will look like, thing like and act like the God-rejecting world whose standards you have unwittingly followed.
This article was written by Pastor Ronald E. Williams,
Director Hephzibah House
508 School Street, Winona Lake, IN 46590
Reprints may be obtained from the above address
We are all sinners saved by grace, and yet here you maybe a trifle legalistic - by living to Godly standards..... So anyone who is divorced or has a marriage breakdown, might be considered out of these standards. And anyone in a relationship out of wedlock might also be considered bad. Some countries in the world do not allow divorce.... but when we start talking about Godly Standards - are you suggesting that some sins are better than others?
"What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you." (Romans 6:15-17)
It is the devil's plan to desensitize us to sin, to get us to justify sin (Luke 16:15), to compare ourselves with others who in our own opinion are far greater sinners than us (2 Corinthians 10:12). When any generation does not rebuke evil, and tolerates sin, the next generation is sure to openly practice it.
For example, look at sodomy. Just a short generation ago, this unnatural practice was kept in the "closet". When we were kids, it was not even talked about being such a filthy sin. And if it ever came up, it was quickly rebuked. But in very short time, the attitude became, whatever you do in your own bedroom is fine with me, just keep it there. But now, they are parading it in the streets, teaching it to young school children that it is an alternate lifestyle, deceiving the vulnerable and gullible that it is OK and even hateful to speak anything against it, and that it is the "homophobics" who are evil and hateful and guilty of hate crimes.
But "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel." (Isaiah 5:20-24)
Some may think that there are times when fornication is OK, when adultery is OK, murder, divorce and lying etc. The commandments of God are good and holy and just, and were to show us that we are sinners under the just condemnation of a Holy God. It was our school master to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. Jesus Christ is the Word of God. He is our standard, who was manifest in the flesh.
Many today call themselves Christians, but they sure seem to hate it when the standard is raised, and are quick to condemn such an one as an hypocrite, legalistic, a pharisee, unloving, etc. They will take all sorts of Scriptures out of context like, Don't cast stones unless you are without sin, judge not that ye be not judged, etc. But Jesus asked His disciples the soul searching question, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46)
We are to be salt and light in the world in all that we do and say. I think we haven't not got a clue as to how much evil is held back in the world by those believers who walk in the Light of the Lord, and speak the truth in love. But perhaps we can see a glimpse of what is to come when believers are taken out of the world and gathered to the Lord at the rapture. "And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed" (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8).
Jesus said "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:22-23) If we have double vision, or blurred vision, when it comes to serving the Lord, when it comes to His standards, the end result will be spiritual darkness.
I am not sure if you are divorced. But in your comments it seems to be of great concern to you. You are asking if some sins are better than others. What it amounts to is this. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17) What is the greatest sin in anyone's life? It is when we know to do good and do it not. I believe it will be more tolerable for the heathen, who know not God and His commandments, who fornicate and commit adultery than it will be for the "Christian" who does the same acts.
Jesus said, "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city." (Matthew 10:14-15) When there is a witness for God, and the people refuse to repent they "shalt be brought down to hell" (Matthew 11:23).
"Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." (Romans 11:22)
I love to recieve christian literatures to help me position myself.
I totally agree with this article. The Bible also talks about being average or lukewarm. God wants us hot or cold....living and following the worlds standards is a mockery to a Holy God. I grew up in the era that taught what this article taught and I'm so much better for it. I crawls under my skin to see old fashioned, fundamental churches "breaking down the walls" that set us apart. I blame the Leadership and Pastors in our Fundamental churches who have turned to the right and left and are more concerned about pleasing their congregation for the sake of numbers and notoriety instead of Pleasing God.