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Biblical Decision Making: The How Not's

Three main areas that all decision-making models fall under. 

These areas are very broad in nature ----


This refers to when you depend upon yourself and personal experience for deciding what’s real. 

As a result consistency is often ignored and it is difficult to debate with or teach the person who makes decisions based on this model.

This model often sees that there is a specific, “perfect” will of God for each person and that we are to discover it through many different methods.


This model rejects the use of subjective methods of finding God’s will.  They view Scripture being sufficient for making our decisions.

As a rule, this model doesn’t see there being“perfect” will for each of us that is defined down to the tiniest details that we are responsible to figure out.  

Instead, when a decision is being made outside the clear commands of Scripture (i.., no specific bible verse), there's a relative God-given freedom for that decision.

A combination is most common.

Usually there’s a stated high view of the Word of God, but also a strong emphasis upon one’s perceptions, senses, and feelings.

Some bad decision-making models:

Devices (Numerology, coin flipping, dice, cards, scissors-paper-rock, etc.)

"Let’s flip a coin, God’s in charge anyhow so whatever it says.” [Prov. 16:33].  

“It has to be God’s will because it has the number 7 on the price tag.”

However, Lev. 19:26 flat out forbids any method of divination, which is what these practices are.

Example: Africa and the reading of the liver, or bones, or the way a heart flops.

Deut. 18 says that this is detestable and forbidden for the people of God. Rather God says that this is the type of approach of the pagans and unbelievers.

Some will argue that these passages are part of the OT law, but they also reflect the mind of God, so they should not be dismissed. There’s principles, and reflection of God’s character behind the OT Law ---- so we should be careful to just dismiss these. We’re not judged by them, but they’re still a perfect reflection of His nature.

Having said that, it’s important to remember activities like this can seem innocent, and they probably are. 

I don't’ think anyone intending to practice some kind of which divination, but it’s nevertheless, a bad approach to decision making. 

This is just not the biblical approach --- therefore it won’t confirm or benefit a person in true reality. 

Signs, fleeces

Based off of Gideon putting out a sheep skin and asking God to do specific things with it for a sign (Judges 6).

Current day methods center around saying things like, “God, if you let such and such happen, then I’ll know this is Your will for my particular decision.”

But consider Gideon’s fleece:

Judges 6:12-14 shows God’s will.

6:36-40 is an example of God’s patience not on how to make a decision. No where do we have any reason to see this as an example for us to follow.


You are in the midst of a major decision and you have a strange dream that you decide must be a message from God.

Just imagine if we treated the myriad of leaders in churches as God does in Ezekiel. 

"Then the word of the LORD came to me saying,

2 'Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, 'Listen to the word of the LORD! 3 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing. 4 "O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins. 5 "You have not gone up into the breaches, nor did you build the wall around the house of Israel to stand in the battle on the day of the LORD. 6 "They see falsehood and lying divination who are saying, 'The LORD declares,' when the LORD has not sent them; yet they hope for the fulfillment of their word. 7 "Did you not see a false vision and speak a lying divination when you said, 'The LORD declares,' but it is not I who have spoken?"'" 8 Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, "Because you have spoken falsehood and seen a lie, therefore behold, I am against you," declares the Lord GOD.'" (Ezek. 13:1-8)

To be blunt, this is the aberrant reality (and approach) in the charismatic movement.

So much is justified under the auspices of a dream from the Lord --- usually quoting Joel 2, or the fulfillment of Joel 2 in Acts 2.

Devastating at the church leadership level.

Not only guiding the church off some major presumptions of those passage, but also teaching the people how they should make decisions --- which is through the interpretation of “prophetic dreams.”

The problem, is I think people are incredibly genuine, especially those not in leadership. They’re simply doing what’s being taught and modeled.

You can even find dream interpretation websites.

You just enter your dream and they’ll do search based on certain dream symbols…

Yet the problem is so often what we see in the Ezekiel passage --- many think God has spoken and he hasn’t --- and major life decisions are happening.

Waiting on the Lord

Psalm 46:10 ("Be still and know that I am God . . .")

It is not a text that is teaching about making decisions, and the command to “cease” must be applied within the context of the Psalm.

This speaks more to those who are filled with anxiety as they see injustice and evil grow.

Isaiah 40:31 ("They that wait upon the Lord . . .")

This passage is telling us that to trust in our strength will not help us; rather, we are to trust in the strength of the Lord.

In many ways this process is simply a cop-out.  Often, what happens is that the person is afraid to make a decision so he simply sits back and lets the events decide for themselves.

Circumstances (open and closed doors, windows of opportunity, etc.)

The problem with this one, is it’s fraught with opportunities for personal agendas and selfishness. 

Often people ask God to arrange the circumstances ahead of time, and then, when it comes to pass, they assume therefore, that was then the right decision.

The problem, though, is there are many interpretations to any situation.  An example is if you were thinking of becoming a missionary to India but you are turned down for a visa.

Don’t go to India ever.

Don’t be a missionary.

Don’t go to India right now.

God is testing me, I need to try again.

It’s Satan.

Not India, but somewhere else.

The point to understand, is the turned down visa brings you to a decision, but that circumstance doesn’t actually guide you, or tell you the right direction.  So now, it’s up to your interpretation of the circumstance-- and the typical person is probably going to interpret the circumstance in accordance to what they want to be true.

Feelings (Goosebumps, chills, the warm fuzzies, feeling ‘wrong.’)

The problem is that feelings should not be the basis of leading or decisions.  A prime example would be with Jesus Christ in the Garden prior to the crucifixion.  He felt one thing, but it did not control Him.

2 Corinthians 5:7

Often quoted when using this method. God has given you a peace or a really strong feeling/conviction that you should do such and such. And because you walk by faith and not sight you are going to follow it, trusting God’s leading.

But notice the text itself.

In the ultimate sense, this method is mystical in its approach to God’s will because you are trying to determine what is spiritually real by personal senses rather than the Word.

Having “peace” about something fits into this category.  Jonah had peace, he was actually sleeping, but he certainly wasn’t obedient.  Most of the passages that are used to defend this view have no bearing whatsoever on making decisions.  There is certainly no direct teaching from the Bible on this method.

Inner voice (impressions, promptings, ‘a still, small voice.’)

We will say that God really impressed upon me that I ought to not do something.  

There is a reasonableness with this due to the convicting work of the Spirit.  

This convicting work is in conjunction with the Word of God.

But distinguishing between an impression from God, and a conviction of the Spirit can sometimes be tricky. 


If a conviction from the Spirit must always be in line with (and as a result) of right understanding of the Word, the problem is people tend to do bad interpretations of the Word. (Or they’re just good at justifying something as actually being biblical, when in reality it’s not).

Example: God wants us to Evangelize people. So I’m going to date this unbeliever for the purpose of evangelizing him/her.

At no time does the Bible teach us to listen for an inner voice.  Commonly it’s taken from the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-12:

God caused a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire to pass before Elijah [God was absent in them], and the text says God was in the still, small voice that came afterward, instead of in those mighty displays of power.

Often this text is used to mean that we need to get to a quiet place and learn to hear God’s voice.  And often that voice is so small and quiet that it takes training to discern it.

However, the context is that Elijah is hiding from this queen, Jezebel, even though he had just witnessed God’s strength.  God confronts him in vs 9 -- and the whole thing actually comes as a kind of rebuke against Elijah.

What Elijah needed to learn was not how to hear God’s voice, but why he ought not question God.

After seeing these three events (wind, earthquake, and fire) God speaks to him, and talks about how he’s to then go and anoint three very specific people, and they’re going to bring a judgment against the people of Israel (the ones killing the prophets, and those who were found faithful).

The structure of the text is that those three elements correspond to those three people Elijah was to annoint.

So then in v. 18, we see what the gentle blowing of the wind is in reference to --- which is protection. [perfect parallel structure]

Conclusion: the three powerful forces of nature are the three people who will be used by God to judge others. But the fullest expression of God’s presence is in His preservation of the prophets and in that is the promise to keep a remnant.

So he’s using physical elements to illustrate the reality of what He’s about to do.

Again, this is just not a program for how to make decisions.

Bottom line with these ‘voices’ is that we can never know for certain that they are of God, unless they square with clear biblical passages.

Which (of course) then, just causes us to wonder why God needed to say them again. He’s already given them, and our job is to think biblically, which assumes we’re students of the Word.

We are commanded to study and meditate on the Scripture, to cultivate wisdom and discernment. So nowhere are we ever called (or commanded) to listen to an inner voice.

The best you got is some obscure passage in 1 Kings 19, but that’s always due to an incredible misunderstanding of the passage.

Two good,  but misused practices:


This requires a good understanding of our sinful tendencies.

Remember James 1:14ff and that the source of temptations come from within us.

A huge temptation for us to guard against, though, is the desire to hear only those who you want to hear.


This is obviously good, but must be understood biblically. 

Prayer is not a two way process where we talk to God and He talks to us.  That is no different than the people who channel spirits.

Prayer is us talking to God.  

The way God talks to us is through His Word.

This is often why I question people when they ask me if I "prayed about it."

My question is, "How will I know if God answers it?"


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