Thousand Oaks Baptist Church
Lists of Do's and Don'ts
By David A. Tucker, Sr.
April 27, 1997
Why do Christian fundamentalists always seem to have a bigger and longer list of things they don't approve of than the list of things they do approve of? Are fundamentalists just negative people by nature? Are they Christians who have gone sour? Did they get baptized in lemon juice and vinegar? Did somebody put too much tartar in their sauce? Have they lost their first love and replaced it with bitterness, envy, and strife?
What are some of the things that various groups of Christian fundamentalists have not approved of in the contemporary societal customs and institutions of our world? Just about everything! After all, anything that is of the world is not of God. No wonder many fundamentalists try to shun the world view, the mindset, the entertainment, the music, the psychology, the lusts, and the pride of this world! All of these things are patently tools of the devil to blind the eyes of the unsaved to their desperate need of the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. Further, all of these things are obvious ploys of Satan to ensnare born-again believers and neutralize their effective testimony for their Savior.
But the question still remains, why do Christian fundamentalists always seem to have a bigger and longer list of things they don't approve of than the list of things they do approve of? May I propose some answers to this question?
First, I think all of us have seen that some believers really have majored on the negatives. After all, it's far easier to list what's wrong with anything than it is to come up with constructive ways of making or doing it right. Further, being negative about anything fits the depraved proclivities of fallen human nature better. And still further, since most of us have a whole lot more experience in doing wrong than we have in doing right, and since it's consistent with our old, sinful nature (in the flesh) to more easily see what is wrong than it is to see what is right, then all of us recognize and conceive of evil far more easily than we recognize and conceive of good.
And so, if we take our spiritual eyes off of the Lord, and we instead look either inward at our own sinful condition, or outward at the utterly corrupt condition of the world, then it is only natural for us to become discouraged, frustrated, bitter, jealous, and negative. And if we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit in our hearts and lives, then all we have left are the old works of the flesh, which include bitterness, jealously, hatred, wrath, and the rest. And that's pretty negative stuff.
And so, some Christians really have been derailed in their Spirit-led, Spirit-filled Christian lives, onto the sidetrack of negativism. And, by their example and teaching, they have led many other new Christians into thinking that they always have to be negative about everything in order to be accepted as good Christians. Obviously, that doesn't square with the underlying and prevailing tone of the New Testament.
And that brings us to the second reason why Christian fundamentalists are often perceived as being negative by the world, by neo-fundamentalists, by neo-evangelicals, and by unbelieving religious liberals. And here's the reason: Along with a lot of very positive and comforting truth, the Bible - even the New Testament - does contain great portions of what many folks would consider to be very negative teaching and preaching. And the fact is that these negative truths are just as true and binding upon believers as the positive truths.
What are some of these negative truths? How about, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God..." (Rom. 3:23)? Or, "There is none righteous, no, not one..." (Rom. 3:10)? Or, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way..." (Isa. 53:6)? Or how about, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away" (Isa. 64:6)? Or how about something that Jesus said, "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Lk. 13:5)? Or, "For the wages of sin is death..." (Rom. 6:23)?
Folks, these are very negative truths. No lost sinner wants to hear that he or she is a lost sinner, is always falling short of measuring up to God's holy standard of righteousness, is going astray just by doing his or her own thing, is unclean in God's sight, must repent or perish, that his or her supposed righteous deeds and thoughts are really just filthy rags in God's eyes, and that sin earns the wages of death and that payday is coming! And yet, these are the very truths that all lost sinners must accept and believe and apply to themselves if the positive, good news of the Gospel is to mean anything to them.
Consider this: Jesus Christ came and died for us, in our place, and rose again to save us from sin. What does that mean? First, it means that Christ came to deliver us from the penalty of sin. He did that by taking the penalty for sin (physical and spiritual death) in Himself when He died on the Cross. Second, it means that Christ came to deliver us from the power of sin. That's one of the results of His resurrection, and it means that sin is not supposed to rule the heart and life of the born-again believer. In other words, believers are supposed to be separated from the worldview and mindset and practices and habits of sin that characterized their former, unsaved lives in this world, and they are called to be separated unto a life of godliness. Third, it means that Christ came to deliver us ultimately from the presence of sin. He'll take care of that at the Rapture, when He changes these vile bodies into the likeness of His glorified body, and we will no longer be able to sin.
What have we suggested in all of this so far? Just this: Sin and the world and the devil are our sworn enemies. Christ came to deliver us in this life from the power and practice of all of them, in all of the forms and disguises they assume. How does the Lord Jesus Christ intend to accomplish this in our lives?
First, He finds us as lost sinners, and begins to express His love in His grace toward us by using His Word to convict us of sin (our own, that Jesus died for on the Cross), of righteousness (the righteousness of Christ that we need placed to our account by faith if we ever hope to stand before God), and of judgment (both the judgment upon sin meted out on Christ on the Cross for us, and the judgment we will have to experience if we reject what Christ has done for us). In other words, we learn and come to believe that we are lost sinners needing the Savior, otherwise we'll end up in Hell and the Lake of Fire.
Second, Christ uses His Word again to reveal to us what He did for us on the Cross and through His resurrection, and to convince us that we can only have salvation, redemption, forgiveness, justification, and Heaven by believing what He did for us, by trusting in Him alone to save us, and by turning from everything else to Him by faith, receiving Him as our only Savior and Lord in a complete soul committal to Him. In other words, we hear the Gospel, believe it, repent of our sins, and place our entire hope for salvation and Heaven in Jesus Christ, trusting Him to save us completely and keep us forever. This is called being saved or being born-again.
Third, once we have been saved, we are now God's children. No right-minded parent wants his or her child to stray into harm's way or to do what will bring either shame or discouragement to the child. Parents don't want negative influences, habits, thoughts, and practices to harm or destroy their children. God created us in His image and after His likeness, and even though these have been marred almost beyond recognition by the Fall, the fact that parents are concerned for their children is simply a reflection of an infinitely greater concern by God for His born-again children.
God knows that any sin - every sin - will harm us. Therefore, He desires to extricate us from the sinful thought patterns, educational content, habits, lifestyles, entertainment, music, practices, psychology, lusts, pride, and spiritual blindness of our old lives. He likens this in one place to taking off an old, dirty suit of clothes (Col. 3:8-9). Instead, He wants us to put on what He calls "the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him..." (Col 3:10).
Our old nature is still with us as long as we are still here on earth, and the old nature is utterly depraved, completely corrupted, and simply cannot do anything good in the sight of God (no matter how good it might appear in the eyes of unsaved people). Because of this, part of what is the essence of each of us wants to sin in everything, all the time.
On the other hand, the moment we were saved, God placed His Holy Spirit into us as the personal representative of Jesus Christ. From that moment on, we belong to Jesus Christ, body, soul, and spirit. And the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit from that moment on becomes what the Bible calls the new nature of Christ in us - the new man that Colossians 3:10 refers to and the new creature (creation) mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:17. This is what the new birth is all about (John 3:3-7; 1 Peter 1:23). The moment we were saved, we were born into the family of God, and the Holy Spirit came in to be the new family nature in us. And somehow, He created something new in our hearts that wasn't there before we were saved. This new spiritual creation is created in us with the same moral and spiritual character that God has (2 Peter 1:4). Adam and Eve lost that at the Fall; Christ has given it back to born-again believers in an even greater way.
Now then, if you'll think about this for just a minute, you can see that the fact that we now have two natures within us becomes a raging battleground in each of our lives. The old nature (urged along by the world, the flesh, and the devil) wants to sin in everything, all the time. The new nature (empowered and motivated by God) wants to do right in everything, all the time. So what's a Christian to do?
Probably one of the simplest things to do is to find out what the Bible - especially the New Testament - says is right and wrong. We can find this out at least three ways.
First, we can read and study our Bibles for ourselves, with an eye to finding and listing everything the Bible says is right or wrong for the Christian believer in this Age of Grace. There's nothing wrong with using the King James Version of the Bible for this; it's worked for over 350 years, and it'll be in print and available in computer software for at least a few more years, since no one has the copyright to it.
Second, we can be sure to attend all of the teaching and preaching services of a good, fundamental, Bible-believing local church, and take notes concerning what is being preached and taught as being right and wrong. You'll probably find more local churches like this among Baptists than among any other group.
Third, we can read books and articles by other fundamental Bible scholars who have carefully and prayerfully studied this subject. They've already done the hard work so that the rest of us can benefit by it.
The Bible presents what is right and what is wrong in at least three ways. First, it directly states what is right and what is wrong (e.g., Galatians 5:13-26). Second, it gives principles to determine what is right and wrong in the absence of a direct Biblical statement (e.g., Rom. 15:19-23; Phil. 4:8-9). Third, it presents examples in the lives of hundreds of men and women over the centuries who had to live life just like we do. And their lives illustrate what is right in the sight of God and what is wrong. And the results of both are also illustrated, for our instruction and example (e.g., Deut. 34:5-12; 2 Sam. 11:1 - 12:14; Hebrews 11; 3 John 9-12).
Now, I don't know if anyone has actually done this or not, but it might be an interesting and enlightening study to search through the entire Bible to find out how many positive commands (things we are commanded to do) and principles (ways to discover what is right) and examples (people who did right) are found, and how many negative commands (things we are commanded not to do) and principles (ways to discover what is wrong) and examples (people who did wrong) are found. I have a strange feeling that the negatives might just outweigh the positives. Why? Because the Bible presents a holy God dealing with sinful human beings who in and of themselves can only sin and cannot do right.
For example, let's try looking at Exodus 20:1-17, the passage containing the Ten Commandments. In these 17 verses, only four positive statements are made, while at least 20 negative statements are made by God.
Okay, the Law was given to convict people of their sins (Rom. 3:19), and so it had to be very negative. And beside, Christians aren't under the law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14). Maybe we should try the New Testament.
How about the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5 - 7)? Verses 3-12 of chapter 5 give a good positive start. But from that point on, until the end of Christ's sermon in chapter 7, He gives a very balanced presentation, telling us what not to do, then telling us what to do instead (or the other way around in some cases). Murder, ungrounded anger, evil speaking, adultery, divorce, swearing, retribution and revenge, ostentatious pride, vain repetition in prayer, avarice, concern for worldly goods and position, judging others' heart motives, false prophets, and falsely professing faith in Christ are all censured and rebuked by Christ in this passage. A meek and humble spirit, a genuine desire for righteousness, mercy, a pure heart, making peace, witnessing, forgiveness, repentance, faithfulness in marriage, truthfulness and honesty, godly behavior toward enemies, discrete giving, prayer and fasting, laying up treasures in Heaven, serving God alone, trusting God for food and clothing, persistent prayer, the golden rule, separation from the world, shunning false prophets, and faithfully obeying Christ's words are all commended to us by Jesus in this passage. Negatives and positives are both given by our Lord.
Throughout the Gospels, the very life of the Lord Jesus Christ presents an example for born-again Christians to follow (1 Peter 2:21-23). To the contrary, the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees all presented negative examples for us to shun. Jesus' disciples provide a mixed set of examples, sometimes good, at other times bad.
The book of Acts presents the examples of the local churches, evangelists, missionaries, and teachers during the Apostolic period. This provides the backdrop or landscape for the rest of the New Testament.
What about the writings of Paul the Apostle? Many of his epistles are divided into doctrinal and practical sections. The doctrinal sections tell us what to believe and what not to believe. The practical sections tell us what to do and what not to do. Romans 12-16, Galatians 5-6, Ephesians 4-6, Philippians 4, Colossians 3-4, 1 Thessalonians 4-5, 2 Thessalonians 3, 1 Timothy 2-6, all of Titus, and Hebrews 12-13 are all very practical in nature, giving both positive and negative commands and principles for our daily lives as Christians in this world. James and Peter also have strongly practical sections. 3 John provides examples of bad and good pastors and teachers. Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation provide examples of good and bad local churches.
Backtracking to Paul's epistle to the Romans, chapter 1, we find that verses 18-32 provide a play-by-play description of how pagan societies fall away from the knowledge of God they started out with. Chapter 3, verses 9-23 provides God's view of man in his sins.
Moving on, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 4:17 - 5:18 all provide lists of sins for Christians to avoid. Paul doesn't major on these lists, but the point is that he does list things Christians shouldn't do, right along with lists of things they should do. In other words, the writers of the New Testament had lists of do's and doníts. And they obviously left principles that Christians of succeeding generations could apply to their own cultures to determine what was right and what was wrong, even though it wasn't specifically commended or condemned in the New Testament. And this allows the principles of righteousness to be applied to every Christian coming out of every culture in every age of the world since the time that the New Testament was completed. Some things are always wrong. Anything becomes wrong when it violates God's revealed principles.
As I write this, virtually all fundamental Christians (and many unsaved people, too), agree that the abuse of controlled substances (illegal drugs) is Scripturally wrong, because it places people under the control of something that causes them to lose control of their ability to do right. For the born-again believer, this is doubly wrong, because the believer's body and mind belong to God and are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Control of this temple is to be given only to the God of the temple. Furthermore, voluntarily passing control of our bodies from the control of the Holy Spirit to the control of any intoxicating substance is in principle expressly forbidden by Ephesians 5:18.
Why did I just write a paragraph about the use of drugs? I did it to show that both the positive and the negative commands, principles, and examples of the New Testament all apply to believers today, and to things in our contemporary culture, even though many of the contemporary cultural artifacts were not even dreamed of in New Testament times. Various drugs were known and used in New Testament times by the general populace, by the medical profession, and by sorcerers and witches. We accept the responsible, medicinal use of various drugs by the general populace and by the medical profession as right and good today. We reject the irresponsible and illegal use of various drugs by anyone. Unbelievers may reject such use on the basis of societal or other bases. Christians reject such use as wrong, because the negative principles of the Bible apply.
And here is my point: Fundamentalist Christians believe that the Bible is to be interpreted and applied in a literal, grammatical, and historical manner. Therefore, the specific commands, the various principles, and the human examples of the Bible (and of the New Testament in particular) may be and must be applied to the culture in which we live right now, in order to determine what is right and wrong for believers in our contemporary society.
What this means is that anything that is of the world, of the flesh, and of the devil must be identified, classified, and itemized on our list of doníts, just as Jesus and Paul and the other New Testament writers did in their day.
In the same manner, Philippians 4:8 applies:
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Anything that is true according to the Bible, whatever meets the Biblical test for honesty, whatever coincides with the justice and purity of God, whatever the Holy Spirit has called lovely in His Word, whatever can be reported as good, based on the principles of the Word of God, whatever is found to have virtue in the Bible, and whatever God's Word praises, these are things to consider as good and proper for us today. We can put these on our list of do's.
Will our list of contemporary do's be larger than our list of doníts? Or will it be the other way around? Maybe the Lord Jesus gave us a clue in Matthew 7:13-14...
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
The word strait means narrow. It is here contrasted with the word broad. Two gates are envisioned. One is narrow, the other very wide. The narrow one opens upon a narrow path that leads to life; very few people find and enter this gate. The broad gate opens upon a broad path that leads to destruction; most people find and enter this gate. The narrow gate by definition excludes all of what the broad gate allows. Jesus Christ commands us to enter the narrow gate, because that's where life is. By strong implication, He urges us not to enter the broad gate, because that's where destruction lies.
The obvious interpretation of this passage is that we are commanded by the Lord to enter the way of life through the Lord Jesus Christ. Since He is the only way (John 14:6), the gate is obviously narrow. But the path on the inside of the gate is also narrow. It does not include anything that is on the broad path. What is the narrow path? It is the Christian life, lived in Christ.
What is the broad gate? Obviously, that gate is to be equated with the philosophy of the world, the flesh, and the devil. The path inside this gate is also broad. It includes whatever is of the world: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. It includes whatever the flesh wants to do and have. It includes whatever Satan and his demons have determined as the contemporary lifestyles, entertainments, music, practices, religions, and philosophies. It does not include anything that is in the narrow path. What is the broad path? It is the self-life, controlled by the old nature.
Should born-again believers have anything to do with the broad path? I think not. Should the elements of the broad path be identified, classified, and itemized on our list of doníts? I think so.
Should born-again believers have everything to do with the narrow path? I think so. Should the elements of the narrow path be identified, classified, and itemized on our list of do's? I think so.
Is the broad way in this life composed of more elements than the narrow way in this life? I think so. Is the narrow way composed of fewer elements in this life than the broad way? Again, I think so. Then perhaps it might only be normal for the list of doníts to sometimes be larger than the list of do's, if we are truly concerned about what Jesus said.
Does this imply that Christian fundamentalists who have large lists of doníts and lesser lists of do's are automatically mean-spirited, lacking in love, and filled with bitterness, envy, and strife? Knowing what we do now, we would be foolish to harbor such a prejudice. In fact, we might want to re-examine our own knowledge and understanding of the Word of God, and honestly seek to determine what God does and does not what us to think and say and do in this life.
What about so-called Christian leaders who refuse to compile lists from the Bible of do's and doníts? First, they are not following the example of Jesus and His Apostles. Second, they are leaving themselves and their flocks open to every evil philosophy and deed by refusing to define the broad path that leads to destruction. Third, they are doing themselves and their flocks a grave disservice by refusing to define the narrow path that leads to life.
Pious platitudes and nebulous references to an undefined Christian life cannot provide us with the solid, life-changing, soul-satisfying absolutes of God's Word rightly divided and faithfully preached and taught.
"Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31)
"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." (Col. 3:17)
"And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ." (Col. 3:24-25)
"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." (John 14:21)