This Web site is optimized for browsers that support web standards.
Since my life is dedicated to helping teenagers and their families make wise decisions and since the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ (Colossians 2:3), the goal of my teaching is to provide Biblical principles and concepts of life to guide people in their choices.
Just as there are laws of nature that govern the universe, so there are principles of life that govern our relationships. The laws of nature force us to respect rules for living. For example, the law of gravity means that we cannot jump off a ten-story building without experiencing serious consequences.
There are similar conflicts in relationships when principles of life are violated. People, especially teenagers, don’t like to hear about rules. However, when they understand the underlying principles of life, they will often make rules or guidelines for themselves to ensure that they do not experience the consequences of violating the principles. Such personal disciplines are understandable for the athlete who wants to be an Olympic champion or the musician who wants to be a concert pianist. Why should this mind-set not also be true for the person who wants to excel in other areas of life?
Unfortunately, those who live by personal disciplines in order to achieve success, but do not explain to onlookers their underlying principles and goals, will often receive unexpected reaction and even rejection. Therefore, it is important for us to identify and explain the universal and non-optional Biblical principles of life that are the basis for many personal disciplines.
Each of us is born with certain unchangeables that are beyond our control. For example, we did not choose our birth parents, our brothers and sisters, our birth order, our gender, our nationality, or our innate physical features. Since we cannot change these things, we have a choice. Either we choose to be grateful for God’s purposes for these unchangeable features, or we will resent them and likely become bitter toward God and toward life in general. The basic principle is that true happiness does not come from our outward appearance or physical circumstances, but from the development of inward character, such as gratefulness, patience, compassion, and joyfulness.
Everyone is under certain God-ordained authorities, such as parents, government, and the church. The purpose of God-ordained authority is to provide protection, direction, instruction, and provision. Authorities have a duty to do what is right, and should never ask someone to do evil. When this does happen, the one under authority should make a wise appeal, with right motives, as Daniel did when he was asked to eat the king’s food, but never do wrong (Daniel 1:8–16).
When an authority, such as parents, for example, fail to demonstrate love and approval and be the example that God requires of them, and instead become angry, unreasonable, and condemning, it is easy for their children to reject all authority. Then, they often look to friends or individuals outside their family for their acceptance and approval. All too often, this outside influence leads them to decisions that create a new set of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual problems. God understands the tendency for one in authority to fail. Therefore, He gives grace to those under authority to respond properly and grow in the character of Christ. However, if appeals are rejected, a person should always refuse to do evil, no matter who asks them to do it.
When we do something that is wrong, we cannot blame other people or circumstances for it. Doing this only creates bitterness, which is strengthened by the guilt of our own conscience. Instead, we must accept full responsibility for our own words, thoughts, attitudes, and actions. When we have damaged others, we must humble ourselves and go to those people, confess how we were wrong, and ask them for their forgiveness. Personal guilt is one of the most damaging factors there is to our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Therefore, Scripture instructs us to gain and maintain a good conscience toward God and others.
It is not possible to go through life without being hurt by other people. Some of the greatest hurts come from those who are closest to us. The psalmist stated, “Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). It is hard to forgive these people, especially when they continue to offend. Yet, Jesus not only commands us to forgive our offenders, but to rejoice and be exceeding glad when others speak evil against us falsely. By understanding how this principle works, we will experience not only freedom from bitterness, but will also experience the power of love, joy, and peace.
The dream of many young people is to be rich and own expensive cars and other luxuries. Yet, those who have worked for riches will affirm the warning of Scripture that those who desire to be rich “fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts… and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Timothy 6:9–10). On the other hand, God knows that we have need of basic things, such as food and clothing, and He has promised that if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all these other things that we need will be added to our lives (Matthew 6:33). The principle of ownership shows us how to go from the bondage of being a prisoner of our possessions to the freedom of being a steward of God’s resources.
A young person who loses his or her virtue is robbed of a power that God uses to produce spiritual initiative, creativity, wisdom, and understanding. For this reason, there are warnings throughout Scripture for young people to flee youthful lusts and to keep themselves pure for the Lord and for the one they marry. No principle could be needed more urgently in our day, when lust and perversion are taking multitudes of young people captive in sexual addictions that destroy the very foundations of life, health, riches, and happiness. Moral freedom is not the right to do what we want, but the power to do what we ought, and that is the goal and message of this principle.
True success is achieving the purposes for which God created us. Only then will we find true happiness and fulfillment. God guarantees success to anyone who will meditate on His Word day and night. He said to Joshua, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Life’s three big questions are: (1) Where did I come from? (2) Why am I here? and (3) Where am I going? The primary life calling for every person is to glorify God through a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and to teach others His commandments.
It did not take long to discover that principles alone were not sufficient. For example, a father may adopt the principle of authority and announce that he is the leader of his family. However, if he does not have qualities such as patience, compassion, gratefulness, wisdom, and kindness, his family will react negatively to his leadership and the principle of authority he claims to be following.
The commands of Jesus represent truth, and every character quality is a practical expression of genuine love. The Scripture combines these two ideas in the instruction to “speak the truth in love.” Proverbs says that only by mercy and truth is iniquity purged, and by the fear of the Lord, men depart from evil. The goal of spiritual maturity is to be in the likeness of Christ. Scripture refers to Christ as the “express image” of God. The Greek word for express image is charakter, from which we get the English word character. Therefore, the more we learn about character, the more we learn about Christ.
Even as I was working on the principles of life and the character qualities, I knew there was something more. The final command that Jesus gave to His disciples was to go and make disciples of all nations. But how do you know when you have made a disciple?
The answer is right in the text: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). God provides a marvelous promise to those who will learn His commandments and do them. “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).
I was recently told that in the days of Jesus, the sailors had an expression, to “keep the stars.” By this, they meant that they would keep the stars before their eyes and work out navigational guidance from them. I was further informed that this is the same meaning that Jesus has for the phrase “keep my commandments.” Jesus’ commands are like bright luminaries that give direction for our lives, and we should keep them in our minds.
All the commands of Christ are listed in the Gospels. Some commands were given to specific people, which would not apply to all believers. For example, Christ told Peter to walk on the water and told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions. Also, some commands have a positive and negative side, such as lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, but lay up treasures in heaven. This would count as one command.
By putting all the general commands together, they come out to about 49. What is interesting about this list is that for every command, there is a specific character quality that can be directly related to it. For example, the first command is “Repent,” and this relates to humility. The second command is “Follow Jesus.” Those that do this will learn meekness, because He said, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart” (Matthew 11:29). The third command is “[Rejoice] … when men shall … say all manner of evil against you…” (Matthew 5:11–12). This obviously relates to joyfulness.
These three categories of Biblical information constitute the foundations of what I teach, and they also represent the three phases of my life and ministry. They have come from my study and meditation on Scripture, the rich counsel of many Godly leaders, the interaction and experience of working with thousands of youth and adults, and the helpful suggestions of those who have questioned my views. Other topics that I teach are directly related to these three areas and are based upon them.
Copyright © 2002–2011, William (Bill) Gothard. All Rights Reserved.