Do Boundaries still exist for the Believer?
Spring is here, but the snow is still falling. This has been a winter season for the record books churning out a tremendous number of avalanches that have taken many lives. Just this past week headlines broke across the nation concerning 5 accomplished snowboarders who died after having been buried in an avalanche in the backcountry of Colorado.1 That makes 24 deaths in the US this year, 18 this month alone worldwide. 2
I was just in the backcountry of the Utah mountains shooting TV spots for Steve Hill’s book, Spiritual Avalanche. We had scouted a promising location on the map but were unable to reach it because recent snow storms and the subsequent threat of killer avalanches had caused officials to shut down the roads surrounding the mountain out of concern for public safety. We were at an impasse barred from the place we so desperately wanted to be by a large steel gate and numerous warning signs that advised “Absolutely NO ADMITTANCE”. It was extremely tempting to ignore the warnings and jump the barricade. I knew that the shot we wanted was down that road (Steve even suggested we find a helicopter to fly us in). Everything in me was yelling, “Yes! Go out of bounds.” However, the authorities had already spoken. They said, “NO!”
There is a subtle yet subversive philosophy at work within the church today. It goes beyond the hyper-grace message to a place of LAWLESSNESS. Lawlessness removes the boundaries from the Christian’s life. It dismisses the clear warnings found in God’s word and opens the door to unlimited freedom to live however you desire. It is erroneous to believe that God would never tell his sons or daughters, “No”. Lawlessness is one of the most deadly aspects of the spiritual avalanche that is threatening millions in the body of Christ.
Do boundaries exist? Are there things that are off limits for the believer or do we enjoy unlimited freedom to do as our heart’s desire?
The apostle Paul answers that question simply and unequivocally. In Galatians 5:19-21 he provides two contrasting lists that are consistent with God’s moral law in the Old Testament with Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels. This is a list of seventeen things to which God still says “NO!”
- Adultery (Jesus also included lusting with your eyes)
- fornication (sexual relationships outside of marriage)
- uncleanness (moral impurity, sexual immorality, pornography)
- lewdness (perverse acts)
- idolatry (anyone or anything that sits on the throne of your heart)
- sorcery (witchcraft, rebellion)
- contention (strife within relationships)
- outbursts of wrath
- selfish ambitions
- dissensions (stirring up disunity)
- heresies (false teaching)
- murder (Jesus included hating someone in your heart)
- revelries (partying)
- And the Like (to let us know it’s not an all inclusive list)
These things are out of the bounds to the character and nature of God and remain out of bounds for his children as well. Paul said, “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:21).
Lawlessness would contend that because of grace there is no law to forbid us from engaging in aspects of any of these things. So we entertain ourselves with images of adultery, fornication and uncleanness on our television sets and are not convicted. We listen to music and read books filled with lewdness, idolatry and sorcery and believe that God is still ok with us. We tolerate strife, pride, jealousy and envy in our relationships with one another dismissing it to the fact that we are all just human.
Paul says that anyone who practice such things has entered the “backcountry” of the flesh and will find themselves outside the Kingdom. Paul’s warning is a reflection of the most sobering words Christ spoke, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt 7:21-23).
It’s hard to explain away the red letter words of our Savior. Jesus said there are “Many” who mistakenly believe they have a relationship with Him, yet are in danger of the fires of hell because they have fallen into the deadly deception of lawlessness.
If these fruits of the flesh are active in your life, don’t buy into the notion that God’s grace is a cover up for your sin and that He is simply content to accept you as are. God’s grace is far more powerful than that. Grace receives me as I am, but thankfully does not leave me as I am. True grace is God’s enabling power to be all Jesus is.
If you have encountered grace, then you have died to the flesh and can no longer live in it. True, you are no longer under the law because now His law is written upon your heart. The righteousness that once could not be achieved through works of the flesh is now enabled by the work of the Son. Friend, don’t fight for the right to remain in the flesh that Christ has freed you from!
Interestingly, while we were at the gate to the backcountry, smart phones in hand frantically searching for safer location, two adrenaline junkies came riding up on snowmobiles from the other side. They had spent the entire day in the backcountry skiing down the fresh powder. They chose to ignore the warnings. They willfully and deliberately went around a gate that was placed for their protection. That day they had fun enjoying the wide open freedom found being out of bounds. They were lucky. A few days later an official with the Utah Department of Transportation and a veteran skier lost his life on those same slopes when he was caught in an avalanche. 3
This year I’ve learned a startling reality that carries serious spiritual significance for each of us. People who choose to spend time in the backcountry face a certain inevitability that sooner or later they will encounter an avalanche. It doesn’t matter how experienced they are or how prepared they are if they choose to ignore the warnings and go out of bounds they will eventually find themselves caught in a potentially fatal avalanche.
Here’s another profound reality. If you live deep in the heart of Texas you have a 0% chance of being buried in an avalanche. Astounding, I know! There is safety being a thousand miles from the backcountry. Spiritually, as a believer we should not be fighting to see how close we can live to the world and still be in God’s Kingdom. We should be striving to see how close we can live to our Savior.