In 1972, an Episcopal priest by the name of Joseph Fletcher penned a popular book that drew many adherents to his perspective on life—it was called Situation Ethics. Following the tumultuous sixties when most of the moral absolutes on which America had been built were either challenged or discarded—this idea gained popularity. For Fletcher—and for followers of situational ethics—one law governed all decisions in life: the law of love—love was the only absolute, inviolable law. All other laws, including those in the Bible, were given to support the law of love. Therefore, any law could be broken in pursuit of greater love.
Here’s the bottom line of situational ethics: the ends can always justify the means. You’re free to do anything in pursuit of what you believe is a greater good. But is that Scriptural? Are we free to let circumstances (situations) dictate what we do? Do some of God’s laws have priority over others—and are we free to pick and choose? Are our values to be based on life’s situations or God’s stipulations?
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment in the law was, He said it was to love God with all one’s being—and the second was to love one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). And when the apostle Paul named faith, hope, and love as three important values, he said the greatest of the three is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
But the New Testament never suggests that the pursuit of love is a license for ignoring God’s other laws and values. Indeed, Jesus said He came not to abolish the laws of God but to fulfill them all (Matthew 5:17). Every law and stipulation of God is perfect and given for a purpose. We are to bring God’s stipulations to bear on life’s situations and circumstances. To do the opposite would put us in the place of judging God’s laws. And to judge God’s laws is to judge God Himself since His laws are a reflection of who He is.
How do we prepare ourselves to live according to 1 Corinthians 15:58 and “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” in a world where the morals and values are anything but immovable? How do we bring our circumstances into conformity to the Word of God instead of being conformed and shaped by the circumstances around us?
Here are two principles that will help, based upon the J. B. Phillips translation of Romans 12:1-2: “I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give [God] your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves toward the goal of true maturity.”
The first step is to be unsqueezable. Or, in the words of 1 Corinthians 15:58, “be steadfast, immovable.” If you are immovable, you will not be conformable to circumstances. We have two options when it comes to resisting the pressures and changing circumstances of the world around us: be conformed or transformed—and there is no middle ground. Since the pressure of the world is relentless, if we are not continually letting the Word of God transform our mind, then we will find that the world’s situations will take precedence over God’s stipulations. We will begin to rationalize the clear teaching of the Word and allow a godly “end” to justify the use of ungodly “means.”
The second step is to be un-freezable. Sometimes life’s circumstances and situations cause us to freeze like the proverbial deer in the headlights. We can’t imagine that God has allowed us to find ourselves in such a confounding circumstance. At times it seems to obey God’s stipulations is the last thing we should do “given the circumstances.” But remember how J. B. Phillips translated verse 2: “prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.”
Trust God with your circumstances; He will work out the situation for your good and His glory.
In 1886, Florida was hit by a deep freeze that killed the oranges and damaged the groves. Two brothers with a farming supply business, Sydney and Joshua Chase, used the occasion to purchase some discounted land southwest of Orlando. The brothers called it “Isleworth,” but they could not have dreamed of its worth today. It’s now one of America’s most exclusive gated communities. Isleworth includes a private golf course designed by Arnold Palmer, tennis courts, a full-service spa, swimming pools, fishing in seven lakes, and boat ramps. The residents enjoy their homes, but what if they never left? What if they forgot there was a real world outside their mansions and beyond their gates?Special Agents
Working and watching to prevent terrorist attacks is a top priority for government intelligence and security agencies, in today’s world, the more eyes searching the horizon for danger, the better. When I think about the money and work being invested in watching for something that may or may not happen, such as a terrorist attack, I consider how well the church is doing at working and watching. Resources have to be invested in counter-terrorism efforts whether another attack ever happens or not. But in the church’s case, we know of something that is absolutely going to happen in the future—something we should be working and waiting in anticipation of. And that event is the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth.
This article assumes the fact that Jesus is coming again. And it also assumes the absolute necessity, by Jesus’ own words in two of His parables, to work and to watch until He comes. If government agents work and watch for things that “might” happen, how much more should we be working and watching for something that we know is going to happen?Look Upward – See What God Is Doing for You
Don Cantelon grew up on the Canadian prairie amid the incredible poverty of the Great Depression. Nine years of drought, dust storms, and grasshopper plagues added to the misery. Don’s dad, a prairie preacher, continued as faithfully as he could, living on almost nothing; and inspired by his example, Don himself grew up to become a young pastor. But he, too, received little income from the impoverished congregations he served.
Don met a girl named Ardena who he quickly fell in love with—the two became engaged. He was embarrassed that his fiancée’s left hand was bare, but there was no way he could afford a ring on his church salary, so he waited for an outside speaking engagement to provide a little extra money. Finally, he was asked to speak at a youth convention in Alberta.
Arriving in Alberta, he counted ten cents in his pocket; and when he learned that his assigned accommodations were a long way from the meeting hall, he fretted about the bus fare. As Don ambled down the street, a prayer formed in his mind: “Lord, if I had just five dollars, I think I’d be all right until they give me my love offering at the end of the convention. You see, Lord, I need just enough money for bus fare, a little writing pad, and a cheap pen.” As Don continued walking, he stuck his hand in the breast pocket of his coat and pulled out a love letter from Ardena along with a paper giving information about his trip.
Stuck between the two was a five-dollar bill.
At the end of the meetings, Don was given a modest honorarium. After buying his train ticket and returning home, there was enough left for the tiniest of engagement rings. Don never knew how the money got into his pocket, but he said, “From that point in my life, I found it easier to believe that God would supply all my needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
 Don Cantelon, The Day I Burned the Hotel Down and Other True Stories (Abbotsford, BC: CeeTeC Publishing, 2002), chapter 18: “The Five Dollar Miracle.”
Looking back on The Jesus You May Not Know, are you wondering what to do with all that you learned? Today, Dr. David Jeremiah shares practical tools for building a deeper intimacy with Christ than you’ve known before.All Sermons by Dr. David Jeremiah