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Monday, August 13, 2007

Boundaries - The Lines Of Holiness

Perfecting Holiness In The Fear Of God
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
Boundaries - The Lines Of Holiness

Proverbs 4:20-27 - My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.

Put away from thee a froward mouth.
Perverse lips put far from thee.
Let thine eyes look right on.
Let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
Ponder the path of they feet.
Let all thy ways be established.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left.
Remove thy foot from evil.

All of these statements seem to imply that boundaries are necessary. And wherever you have boundaries you have drawn lines. We have to determine what constitutes a froward mouth and draw a line and establish a boundary. We have to discern what makes for perverse lips and draw a line and establish a boundary. Going straight necessitates drawing a line. Not turning to the left or right necessitates boundaries. If we are going to remove our foot from evil that means we must identify evil and draw a line and establish boundaries. It is important that we ponder the path of our feet.

I think there are three areas that are worthy of our consideration under this heading. Every honest soul I believe we see the legitimacy of these three areas and the need to soberly consider their application to our lives. Hopefully some of what I write here will be the occasion of provoking thoughtful consideration.

THE BIBLICAL JUSTIFICATION FOR BOUNDARIES

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 - Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Clearly boundaries exist, it is our responsibility to discern them according to the word of God and not according to our own carnal desire or the depraved culture in which we live.

1 John 2:15-17 - Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

The love of the world/the love of the Father. There is a line here somewhere.

James 4:4 - Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

The friend of the world/the enemy of God. There is a line here somewhere.

Matthew 6:24 - No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

No man can serve two masters. There is a line here somewhere.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 - Abstain from all appearance of evil.

There is a line here somewhere.

Ephesians 4:30 - And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

There is a line here somewhere.

Ephesians 5:10 - Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

There is a line here somewhere.

Ephesians 5:11 - And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

There is a line here somewhere.


Ephesians 5:15 - See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

There is a line here somewhere.

1 Corinthians 11:14,15 - Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

There is a line here somewhere.

Deuteronomy 22:5 - The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

There is a line here somewhere.

One cannot read their Bible in sincerity and truth without realizing that we are called on to draw lines and establish boundaries in our lives. In fact this is truly a mute point. We all do it. Everyone draws lines and establishes boundaries. The only real question is upon what basis are we discerning the lines and establishing the boundaries.

Take the above passage concerning hair length for men and women. I would like to think we could all agree that for a man to have long hair it is a shame to him and for a woman to have long hair it is a glory to her. Now, we can take one of two positions. Hair length does not matter or the length of our hair does matter to God and thus should matter to us. It is unbelievable to me that anyone would argue that it does not matter in light of the clear statements concerning hair length. If we believe it matters then it is only a matter of where we are going to draw the line, but draw one you must. The Bible give us some other things to consider that throws some light on this subject but we will save that for another time. When it comes to hair lengths are we going to search the Scripture and do all that we can to get the mind of God on the matter or are we going to just go with the latest fashion and hairstyles and not worry too much about what God thinks about it and cry legalism any time the proposition is raised that my hair might be too long if I am a man or too short if I am a woman.

The point is this: Drawing lines and establishing boundaries is part of being a Christian and maturity would demand that we become more astute at understanding where the lines should be drawn. I am amazed, appalled, and saddened at the lazy brand of Christianity that is being turned lose on the world today.

THE PRACTICAL PROBLEM OF BOUNDARIES

Because I have been drawing lines and establishing boundaries now for over 25 years and have been challenged and scorned for doing so on numerous occasions I am well aware of the practical problems that come with taking a stand on any issue. They are numerous and at times quite troubling but I for one think it is worth the effort to work through the problems. In fact I think we all have a solemn obligation to do so.

One of the problems is that we all have imperfect knowledge.

1 Corinthians 8:23 - And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.

When I read this verse one thing is quite clear. There is nothing we know perfectly. When I think about this verse in the context of the rest of Scripture another thing becomes quite clear. This does not mean that we cannot know anything and be assured of anything.

Paul uses the word "know" approximately 84 times in his epistles. He uses the word "knowing" approximately 23 times. 107 times in the Pauline epistles alone. We can know some things. And if we can know them we should know them. If God expects us to draw lines and establish boundaries I think it is reasonable to assume that he wants us to know where the lines are to be drawn in order to please him and be separate from the world. This is why it is important that we exercise discretion and discernment. It is important to have our senses exercised in the use of God's word. It is important to limit the influence of the world through the entertainment industry because it is such a powerful force to desensitize us to evil.

Proverbs 3:5,6 - Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

The Holy Spirit is addressing in the clearest of terms our tendency to judge things according to our own heart which is desperately wicked and easily deceived. We are clearly instructed to not lean to our own understanding. No place does this have more practical ramifications than the process of drawing lines and establishing boundaries. We do not know where to draw the lines we are not good judges of this. We must acknowledge him and if we will we have the assurance that he will direct our paths. He will draw our lines and establish our boundaries.

1 Corinthians 15:33 - Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

We have imperfect knowledge because we are besieged by evil on every hand. Our association with the world, even if we go to great lengths to limit its influence, still has an impact. We must recognize and admit this reality. We must consent to the fact that we have been contaminated to one degree or another by evil communication and consequently cannot expect in and of ourselves to draw lines where they need to be in order to maintain good manners. We need wisdom from the Word of God, it is our only hope to overcome our imperfect knowledge.

Romans 7:18 - For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

Will we be honest enough to admit that there is nothing good that dwells in me. I am incapable of drawing godly lines and establishing righteous boundaries. My flesh will always draw lines in such a way that it can be pacified and solaced. This is why what we think about the issues of separation are of no value. What matters is what the Scripture says.

As David Cloud points out in his book, Dressing For The Lord, the rock and roll culture has hardened hearts against Scriptural exhortation. Many people have unknowingly embraced the rebellious spirit that was ushered in by the rock and rollers.

Another problem is the difficulty of consistency.

Drawing a line naturally makes one an easy target. Any one can go to the stand that has been taken and pick at it. This, I believe, is why many people are afraid of taking a bold stand. It is easy for the carnally minded and the worldly Christian to attack the positions of others. They, instead of opting for the hard and sobering work of exercising discernment, take the easy position of saying it does not matter, it is a gray area. The scoffing usually runs thus:

"Well, if this is wrong, why isn't this wrong?"
"Well if this is OK, why isn't this OK?"

The objections are normally applied to specific areas, such as in the area of hair length:

For men, how long is too long?
For women, how short is too short?

In the area of clothing/modesty:

How tight is too tight?
How revealing is too revealing?
If you will wear this why not this?

In the area of entertainment:

Watch this but not this?
Won't watch that but you will watch this?

It is seldom that these kind of question are raised by someone attempting to get another person to raise the bar. They are nearly always used to get someone to lower the standard.

The absurdity of someone doing this is revealed in the fact that it could be done to them.

You will wear a muscle shirt but you won't go without a shirt?
You will go without a shirt but you won't wear a bathing suit?
You will wear a bathing suit but you won't wear short shorts?
You will wear short shorts but you won't wear a loin cloth?
You will wear a loin cloth but you won't go nude?

You see, the fact is I can completely undress you by using such reasoning. So you object and say, "Oh, it would be terribly wrong to go nude!" Is that right? Then you do have a line and a boundary. My point is if you are going to have a boundary study the word of God to see where you should be drawing it. Most people are drawing the lines where it is culturally acceptable when the believer is clearly instructed to be proving what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.

Another problem is that drawing a line naturally separates things and leaves some things on this side and other things on the other side.

It is easy for people to go to the line and highlight the seeming absurdity of one thing being wrong and another thing being right. The people who do this generally are the ones seeking to discredit the line or boundary altogether. They are wanting to pull everyone into their nebulous gray area where things are neither right or wrong. I have noticed that most people who live in the gray tend to live on the darker side of gray! It would seem at bare minimum that they would see the value of living on the lighter side of gray.

Again lets think about this for a minute. I gave this hypothetical situation at church and admitted that it was probably a bit far-fetched. After the service one of the men came to me and said, "I didn't think it was that far fetched at all. I've known people who have travelled most of that distance." So......you can determine for yourself how far-fetched it is.

You won't wear t-shirts but you will wear button up blouses?
OK, I'll wear button up blouses.
You will wear t-shirts and button up blouses but you will not wear women's pants?
OK, I'll wear women's pants.
You will wear women's pants but you will not wear work boots?
OK, I'll wear work boots.
You will wear work boots but you won't cut our hair?
OK, I'll cut my hair.
You will cut your hair but you won't get a job and leave the kids in day care?
OK, I'll get a job and leave the kids in day care.
You will get a job and leave the kids in day care but you won't compete with men in the market place?
OK, I'll compete with men in the market place.
You will compete with men in the market place but you won't go to lunch with men?
OK, I'll go to lunch with men.
You will go to lunch with men but you will not work late with the boss?
OK, I'll work late with the boss.
You will work late with the boss but you will not go on a business trip with the boss?
OK, I'll go on a business trip with the boss.
You will go on a business trip with the boss but you won't have dinner with the boss?
OK, I'll have dinner with the boss.
You will have dinner with the boss but you will not join the boss in his room for drinks?
OK, I'll join the boss in his room for drinks.
You will join the boss in his room for drinks but you will not commit adultery with the boss?
OK, I'll commit adultery with the boss.

Where does it end? Probably most of us would draw a line somewhere here before we get to the last stage, at least I would hope. You may be thinking that is ludicrous. Well, is it? I would imaging that most people that commit adultery with the boss, whether it is a man or woman, moved their lines a few times. How close are you willing to draw the line to the final act of adultery in this case. Sometimes this series of events unfolds over several generations as each succeeding generation draws their lines a little closer to the world. These are issues that deserve our attention. Of course the encouraging thing about the above scenario is that you can move the other way up the chain of events. If I will not do this then why will I do this??

THE ROLE OF PASTORS IN PROCLAIMING BOUNDARIES

1 Timothy 3:1-7 - This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Titus 5:1-11 - For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.

Because Pastors are ordained to instruct in righteousness their lives must be righteous. There are no perfect men and consequently no perfect Pastors. There will always be those who find fault with Pastors and everyone else. But........the qualifications are what they are! And when people read these qualifications they should be able to agree that their Pastor is a man who meets these qualifications. If he does not he will be hampered in his ministry of the Word.

The Pastor is to be expounding the whole counsel of God's word.

2 Timothy 3:16-4:5 - All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

The word of God is given so that the man of God can instruct the people of God in righteousness. It is given for reproof and correction. Consequently the man of God is to be faithfully preaching the word of God. His ministry will be characterized by reproving, rebuking, and exhorting. He is to do so with longsuffering and doctrine. This was to remain true even when the time would come (and it is here) when they would not endure sound doctrine. Faithful preacher do not give the people what they want but what they need. They will heap to themselves teacher, not preachers, but teachers. The dynamics are different in teaching and preaching. They will turn away from the truth but we are still to be preaching the truth. They will be looking for teachers to tickle their ears and not ruffle or challenge the flesh. They will be turned unto fables. The faithful preacher in the midst of the decay and apostacy will continue to proclaim the old paths wherein dwelleth righteousness.

1 Timothy 4:11-16 - These things command and teach. Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

The Pastor is to command and teach. He is to let no man despise his youth. He is to be an example of the believer. That goes back to the qualifications.

Titus 2:11 -15 - For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

The grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. The grace of God teaches us to live soberly, righteously, and godly. We have ben redeemed from all iniquity. God's desire is to purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. And what is the man of God's responsibility in relation to these truths. He is to speak these things. He is to exhort and rebuke concerning these things. He is to do so with all authority. He is to let no man despise him in the execution of his God given task.

The Pastor is not the ultimate standard.

Acts 17:11 - These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

No Pastor is the standard the word of God is. A faithful Pastor will boldly proclaim the whole counsel of God's word. People should be searching their Bibles in conjunction with what the Pastor is preaching and teaching. Don't just say, "I disagree." Upon what basis do you disagree. Your disagreement must be based upon a "thus saith the word of God." If it is not based upon that then the disagreement has no merit. I can respect a person who disagrees based upon his understanding of the Word of God. I do not respect disagreement just because you don't like it, or you don't think it is right, or that is not the way I see it. These are not valid foundations for disagreement to the preached word by one's Pastor.

Church members should carefully consider the positions of their pastor.

Hebrews 13:7 - Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

Church members are to follow the faith of their Pastors. Church members should acknowledge the authority of their Pastor. If you have a man who is faithfully expounding the Word of God follow his faith. Having considered the end of his own conversation you should follow his faith. This is God's ordained order in the church.

Church member should be very cautious about drawing looser lines and establishing wider boundaries than their Pastor. At the same time church members should not hesitate to respectfully draw tighter lines and more narrow boundaries than their Pastor. The perfect conditon is where Pastor and people are pulling each other forward and cultivating an environment where all are "perfecint holiness in the fear of God". To often we are agents for dragging each other down toward worldliness and carnality. Dearly beloved these things ought not to be so!
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