by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: II Kings 17:7-23
I. How do determine what is right or wrong?
A. How does your neighbor decide? Or your co-workers?
B. We all base our behavior on standards that we have accepted as authoritative, but those standards vary.
C. What makes a good standard?
1. It needs to be fixed
a. A standard that constantly changes would be difficult to follow.
b. “Let’s see, today is Tuesday so it is wrong to eat catchup on hamburgers today, but tomorrow we can’t have mustard on hot dogs.”
2. It needs to be fair and equitable
a. Standards that differ because one is rich or poor, or based on ethnic origins, or gender are not good standards
b. We don’t like it when celebrities are released from crimes, mostly because of their celebrity status.
3. It needs to be reliable
a. The standards need to produce good results.
II. Personal Standards
A. In answering people’s questions, I have been struck with the realization that many people look no further than their own feelings as a guide.
1. One woman wrote that she feels her husband no longer loves her. She was frustrated because he wouldn’t discuss divorce with her.
2. A fan of Binny Hinn ignored evidence that Hinn was a false teacher, saying he saw the empty wheelchairs. He knew that Lord was behind the work. He wouldn’t trade that feeling for all the world.
3. A young man wanted to know what he should do because he felt he couldn’t wait to have sex.
B. In all these cases, an appeal is made to personal feelings.
1. Feelings are given greater weight than facts.
2. Yet, feelings change. They can be manipulated.
a. You can watch a movie and laugh, cry, get angry, or feel embarrassed.
b. But if I asked you, you would admit that the movie was not real. You know that it is just actors reciting lines made up by other people.
c. Even knowing it is not real, you let your feelings change based on imaginary circumstances.
3. If feelings can be so easily altered, why do people trust them?
a. Instead of reasoning things out, he foolishly follows his heart - Proverbs 18:2
b. A fool to trust your own heart - Provers 28:26
4. Feelings are neither fixed, nor reliable
C. One’s conscience is not a adequate guide
1. Paul acted always in good conscience - Acts 23:1
a. But this is the man who in younger days killed Christians - Acts 9:1-3
b. This man later said he was the chief of sinners - I Timothy 1:15
c. Because he persecuted the church - I Corinthians 15:9
d. If we appeal to Paul’s conscience, at what point was he right?
2. A conscience can be seared - I Timothy 4:2
3. It can be trained - Hebrews 5:14
4. If a conscience is trained well, it can make a good rough guide, but it cannot be a standard - Romans 14:22-23
D. Can a person be his own standard?
1. Too many people think this is the case - Psalm 12:4; Judges 21:25
2. “I don’t see anything wrong with it.” Means that I find it acceptable, so therefore I’m doing it - Psalm 10:3
3. People make mistakes
a. Jacob “knew” that his son was killed, but he was wrong - Genesis 37:33-25
b. Man is not capable of directing his own way - Jeremiah 10:23
c. Doing your own thing was forbidden - Deuteronomy 12:8
4. That is why the Old Law required two or more witnesses
a. One man is easily wrong, but it is harder to fool many
b. Seek the advice of many - Proverbs 15:22
III. The Majority as a Standard
A. Well, if it is harder to fool multiple people, then the more who follow something, the more right it must be.
B. I had a man call the other day wanting money, but he quickly began berating the church. He asked if I knew of Karl Ketcherside and Max Lucado. How, he wanted to know, could I condemn them when so many follow their teachings. Had I noticed that conservative churches tend to be small? Didn’t that tell me something?
1. I directed his attention to Matthew 17:13-14
2. Israel fell as most of them turned to idolatry - II Kings 17:7-17
C. How can this be?
1. Many will not think for themselves, but will assume that if others are doing it, it must be right.
2. We have a tendency toward a herd mentality, following the crowd, caving in to peer pressures.
D. The truth is the majority is rarely right.
1. Yet, we use it all the time.
a. “All my friends are doing it!”
b. Everyone is investing in XYZ, there must be something there
2. Proverbs 1:10-16 - Right and wrong is not based on peers
IV. Government as a Standard
A. Governments exists to uphold standards - Romans 13:3-4
B. But are governmental decisions a determiner of right and wrong?
1. Many act this way. Things once seen as sins are felt justified because people managed to get governmental allowances for their sins.
2. Abortion was once wrong, but is now legal. Homosexuality was once wrong, but is wining more allowances daily. Divorce was once frowned on, but now we have “no-fault” divorces.
a. People are seeking to legalize marijuana usage. Why?
b. Does government allowance make it use good?
c. Is alcohol or smoking good because the government permits it?
3. It is not only in civil governments, but we find people striving the same in denominations’ religious governments
a. Denominations have voted that hell isn’t real. That living together without marriage is not a sin. That homosexuals can be clergy members.
C. But governments can and have been wrong!
1. German government once allowed the destruction of their Jewish population. Because it was authorized, did it make it right?
2. Government laws are constantly changing. At what point were they right? Is every change necessarily an improvement.
D. Just like the majority view, governmental views are no standard.
1. We get lulled into following them. Especially when those laws have been mostly good in the past.
2. Once again, we yield to the herd mentality - Acts 4:18-20
V. Cultural Traditions as a Standard
A. Different societies have different traditions
1. In America bribery is seen as wrong, but in many small countries it is accepted as a way of life.
2. Filipino culture states that something is right if you don’t get caught.
3. Sweden has a culture that accepts sex outside of marriage as normal (and we are rapidly changing to the same standard in America).
B. Just because society accepts it, does it make something right?
C. Jesus condemned Jewish traditions - Matthew 15:1-6
1. Jesus wasn’t condemning traditions.
2. A tradition in and of itself is not a determination of right or wrong. It just shows currently accept practice.
3. But we already have shown that the majority is often wrong.
D. Then too, culture changes.
1. The standards for dress accepted today are wildly different from 50 or 100 years ago.
2. Practices accepted today are different than 50 or 100 years ago
a. Living together without marriage
b. Carrying a gun
3. Society is too fluid to be a standard
VI. The One True Standard
A. The one common thread is that each prior standard was based upon men, individually or in groups.
1. We tease about people pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps
2. But this is what is happening when man looks to himself to be his own standard - Jeremiah 10:23
B. Man’s standards must be higher than man
1. Proverbs 14:12 - Man is easily deceived
2. Isaiah 55:8-9 - God is higher than man
3. Proverbs 3:5 - Trust God, not your own understanding
4. Jesus claims, and has been proven accurate that he holds all authority - Matthew 28:18
C. God has given us a standard in His word - II Timothy 3:16-17
VII. A good standard does no good if it is not followed
A. John 14:15 - Show love for your God this day.