That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who Draws the Lines?

I was asked once how I know where to draw the lines in living like a Christian.  What is right, who is right, and how do I know?  These questions really puzzled me.  I just do what I do for the Lord.  No one had ever questioned how I know where to draw the lines before.  I guess in a sense I thought it was a dumb question.  Don't you just live by the Bible, so what's this drawing lines stuff about?   I didn't think living right was that complicated, but the person who asked me the question seemed to think there was no clear answer.  For them drawing lines led to frustration and defeat because no one can ever measure up to Christ's standard, and they will always fail in some capacity.  They believed that Jesus freed us from the law, so we don't have to worry about keeping a list of do's and don'ts anymore.  Those who do have a list of "rules" they obey are either legalists, or like the pharisees, or they are doomed for a life of frustration because they will never be able to live up to the standard. 

This really got me thinking.  First of all I'm not frustrated or defeated, but I've drawn a lot of lines in my life, so what's wrong that I am actually okay with this? Maybe I am just setting these standards up in my life for myself?  Am I being legalistic?  Am I trying to accomplish this in my own strength for my own glory? Does Christ want me to be free from rules?  Do I have liberty to live as I see fit without worrying about whose idea of right and wrong I'm measuring up to?  

I started searching the Scripture.  I used to ask my Mom what the answer was to my spiritual questions.  I don't think there was anything wrong with that, and usually our discussions ended up back at the Bible anyways.  But, now I'm starting to go to the Bible first.  In Bible college if I ever had a question there was a good chance it came up in a class at some point.  It's amazing how God always seems to work things like that out :).

Anyways, I went to my Bible and I learned some things.  I also confirmed some things I already knew.  First, the Christian life is one of surrender and obedience, and that may and does involve drawing some lines.

When I put my faith and trust in Christ He saved me.  There's nothing I can do to add to my salvation, and there's nothing I can do to take it away.  The Bible does say that as a Christian I have liberty, but it also defines that liberty.  Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.  My liberty is not liberty to do as I please, but it is liberty to serve first Christ and then one another.  Liberty is not an occasion or an excuse for the Christian to continue in sin (the flesh).  I'm sure many have been confronted with the idea that one can be saved and since his salvation secures heaven, he can just live how he pleases now.  This verse does away with that idea as does Romans 6:1.  Liberty is also not an excuse not to draw lines and have standards as a Christian.  My surrender to Christ as my Saviour now obligates me to serve Him with my liberty.  As I serve Christ He reveals to me things in my life that need to change.  Each change I make is in a sense drawing a line in my life.  It's setting up boundaries so that I will be transformed (Romans 12:2).  If I don't draw a line or set up a boundary I'll be tempted to go back to my old ways!

When this principle of surrender and obedience is applied in the Christian life the result will be A LOT of line drawing!  Just think of someone who has been saved from a horrible life of substance abuse and immoral living.  They are going to need to begin drawing a lot of lines in their life in order to protect themselves from slipping back into that lifestyle.  Then think of someone who has been saved as a child and grown up in a Christian environment.  They too need to draw lines to keep from being tempted and drawn into a wicked lifestyle.  Satan is very good at making sin look attractive.  I came to the conclusion that drawing lines is essential for the Christian, and in fact it is commanded!

Then I got thinking about the part where this person said that drawing lines leads to frustration and defeat because no one can ever measure up to Christ's standard.   Something about this did not sit well with me at all (probably because keeping rules has never frustrated or defeated me), so once again I went to my Bible for the answer.  Now, I don't claim to be a Bible genius or anything like that, but I am very thankful for the good teaching I received first from my parents, then at Bible college, and after college in good Bible-preaching churches.  I believe that because I've been taught the truth God has given me discernment to test things by His Word.  I am definitely thankful for His Word, because I don't know everything, and I need it to get answers!   

One of the first things I thought of when defeat was mentioned was I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  The context of I John 1 is that John is addressing Christians.  He's not talking about unsaved people confessing their sins for salvation, but he is speaking of how God is faithful to forgive us when we sin after we are saved.  The fact is we will sin!  I may be saved, but that old nature is still present with me.  Paul deals with this extensively in Romans 6 and 7.  So, will I fail to live up to the standard?  Yes, I will, but I don't have to live in frustration and defeat when it happens.  I just need to confess, God forgives me, and I try again.  I love Proverbs 24:16 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.  I will fall, but I can get back up.  It's silly to think that I just shouldn't bother to try and keep a standard because I'll fail.  That's like saying you're going to loose the race before you even start running!  It's also silly to use the fact that I will fall as an excuse not to draw lines.  

Then I began to think about who really draws the lines in my life anyways?  Is it actually me doing that?  In a sense it is, but it is much more of a process than that.  As I surrender more and more of my life to Christ, the more He will reveal to me the changes that need to be made.  As He reveals changes, He also promises to give strength to make those changes.  Philippians 2:13 says For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.  In reality it's not me drawing the lines at all, it's actually the Holy Spirit revealing to me where God has already drawn the line.  Then it's up to me to obey, but the most amazing thing is that He's promised to give me strength to do that!  Isn't God good? 

I don't have to live in frustration and defeat when I can't meet God's standard.  God knows this, so He promised to help me.  Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.  God has given me the power of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  He has also given me the church, a pastor, and godly family and friends for encouragement and edification.  God didn't leave us to battle on our own.  He's too loving to do that.  

God wants us to draw lines, so we can live as victorious Christians.  He wants us to draw lines so we can have a testimony that is without reproach.  God does not want us to live in frustration and defeat.  And He definitely does not want us to make excuses for why we can't draw lines and keep standards in our life.   When we get the right perspective on this issue it makes so much sense.  It's not me drawing the lines, and it never should be.  It's only me surrendering my life to the Lord and obeying His commandments in His strength when He reveals them to me.  The problem is that we don't like being confronted with things we need to change, so we will often look for an excuse not to obey.  

"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son..." Romans 8:29

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