BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the second in a multi-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Scripture and Counseling. In today’s post, Kevin Carson ponders The Role of Biblical Authority in Sifting Advice. You can read Part 1 by Jonathan Holmes at: Counseling from Isaiah.
How to Sort through Advice…
On an average Sunday morning in the typical church, you might hear any one of the following questions or hundreds like them:
Which one should I buy? Should I marry him/her? How do I know God’s will? Which ministry should I pursue? What should I do about my rebellious teen? What do I do when my toddler won’t obey? How do I help my friend? What is the best way to homeschool? Is it OK to let my son play football? When do you let your daughter begin to wear make-up? Is it wise to allow my children to carry a phone? What are the pros and cons of allowing my children to have personal electronics? Is there anything wrong with spanking? How much savings is best when considering retirement? Should a wife and mother of school children work outside the home? Should I look for another job?
Now the bigger issue… If you were the one with the question, how do you sort through the advice you receive?
Last Sunday Jeremy arrived at church and asked a few friends if he should purchase a new Ford F-250 on which he could get a seemingly great deal. Here was the advice he received:
- “That’s too good a deal to pass up!” (Intuition)
- “We always buy Chevys; they are much better than Fords. You know what my granddad always said FORD means, ‘Fix Or Repair Daily!’” (Tradition)
- “I once had an F-250 that went over 265,000 miles and was going strong when I sold it.” (Experience)
- “I read a report online that said Ford outranked their competitors in 9 out of 10 categories they tested.” (Empirical research)
- “You’ve always wanted a truck. You deserve it!” (Emotion)
- “If you were going to buy anything else, it would cost at least that much or more.” (Logic)
- “I watched Fox and Friends the other morning and someone said this model was great for hauling stuff.” (Media/“Expert Opinion”)
- “Have you prayed about it to see what God wants you to do?” (Impression/Prompting)
- “You would not have found out about it if God didn’t want you to have it.” (Circumstances)
- “Is this what you really want?” (Desires)
- “Did you know how much value you lose the moment you drive off the car lot?” (Reason)
- “When faced with these kinds of questions, my rule of thumb has always been to ask my friends and kind of take a survey.” (Personal wisdom/Counsel)
- “Have you considered these two biblical principles? First, will this best meet the needs of your wife and family? And two, can you afford to buy it without stressing your family budget with debt?” (Biblical wisdom)
How Do You Begin to Sort Out Your Advice?
While all the answers have some real or perceived value per category (see above in parentheses), the question comes down to an issue of authority. When trying to sort through the advice you receive, ask yourself this question, “Of all the advice I’ve been given, what carries the most weight or matters most in my decision?”
At any time or place in life, one or several of the categories may play the biggest role in a particular instance. It may be tradition or experience or reason or intuition or the Bible. For the Christ-follower though, God gave us the Bible to matter most in sorting through the advice given to us.
The Bible: God’s Authority
God desires the best for each one of us. Because He does, God gave us the Bible to help us live in ways that honor Him—which is the best for each of us! Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Paul declared that the Bible was given by inspiration. Simply put, this term means “God-breathed.” In other words, through the process called “inspiration” God gave the biblical writers everything He intended to say which, in turn, they wrote (cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21). Thus God provided for man His official view; that is, the opinion of the Creator-God provided for His creation. As such, the Bible carries the authority of God since it is His words to His creatures.
God’s Purpose and Means
Paul identifies God’s purpose: “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” God’s purpose in giving the Bible is that you and I can have Christ-like character (“complete”) and Christ-like conduct (“equipped for every good work”). God provides the instruction we need in order to be the people He desires for us to be. By analogy, it is similar to the way an instruction manual from a manufacturer of a particular product works.
The Bible does its work in the life of the Christ-follower by giving doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction. Essentially, the Bible helps us think like Christ (doctrine and reproof) and act like Christ (correction and instruction). As we learn and apply the Bible to daily living, the Bible helps develop our inner man (i.e. heart, beliefs) which in turn has a determinative effect upon our outer man (i.e. actions, what we say and what we do).
Steps to Sift Advice
So how does this work in sifting advice? Although all the categories of opinion you may receive are important and interesting, God’s opinion matters most. You want to make sure that you are taking the advice that is based on God’s counsel (God’s Word) not on other potentially misleading voices of counsel.
First, ask yourself, “From where does this advice come? What is the functional starting point of this assistance?” These two questions help you tease out in your mind what serves as the foundation of the advice you are receiving.
Second, ask yourself, “If this does come from God, where? What is its context? How does this apply to the situation in which I am interested?” These questions help you make the determination if the advice you are receiving represents God’s opinion in context of what He has said in particular passages.
Third, if it is not from God’s Word, then ask yourself, “Should this other person’s opinion influence my decision? And, how should this other person’s opinion influence my decision?” Possibly what you have received is very important to consider. If so, then consider what you have received wisely in light of what you already know of God’s opinion from His Word. Your ultimate decision should be based upon God’s view first and foremost, and then other views as they seem appropriate and wise.
Join the Conversation
For the person receiving advice, what is your final authority for your decision?
For the person giving advice, what is the authority for the advice you give?