Archive for July 4th, 2008

Cages of our own building

Friday, July 4th, 2008

I hate being limited. When I want to do something, I want to be able to just go do it. Yet, I look around and see all kinds of limitations on my life.

Some of these limitations are put there by God. I have seen many times in the past where God has limited me by circumstances in order to protect me from something. These are good limitations. These limitations are much like the moral lines drawn up in the Bible – they may seem onerous to the unspiritual, worldly-minded person, but in reality they are there to protect us.

For example, God says to keep sex inside of marriage in order to protect us from emotional damage, sexually-transmitted diseases, and shattered families. God’s “laws” are all like that – they are in place for our good, for our protection, because He loves us. It’s much like a parent telling a child, “don’t touch that hot stove.” The parent does not say it to be mean, but to protect the child whom they love.

But, most of us have many other limitations put in place by our own choosing, not God’s. We make choices or have attitudes that cause our effectiveness and our freedom to be limited.

We once had a dog that would run to the road. Every time we let him loose, he would sprint toward Route 27, where the slower traffic drives at 65mph. Because of this, we had to put him on a runner, and he was greatly limited as to where he could go after that. Instead of being able to run around the whole yard, he could only go as far as his chain and runner would take him. We did not tie him up to be mean to him, but to protect him from his own bad choices and bad habits.

He could have been free and had the run of the yards and house. But he consistently chose badly, so we had to limit him to save his life.

Often, God finds the need to put us on a leash, to limit us in some way in order to protect us from our own bad choices, habits, and attitudes.

Piece by piece, we build our own cages, in which we remain imprisoned.

Many American Christians are quick to run up credit card debts, get loans for newer model cars, etc., because we don’t have the cash on hand to pay for things out-right. “Everyone does it”, we say. “That’s the American Way.”

Since when was the crowd always right? In fact, experience shows us that the crowd is usually wrong!

The Bible points out that the borrower is servant to the lender. It’s just a fact of life. We borrow money, and in so doing add more bars to our cage while lining the pockets of the same billionaire bankers who leach the prosperity from our nation’s economy. [But, that’s a message for another day.]

Christians bind themselves with debt – cords of our own making – then when God calls and says, “Son, I want you to go build a church in Argentina,” or “Daughter, I want you to go teach people about me in Nigeria,” guess what? We can’t go. We’ve got thousands of dollars of debt binding us to our present situation, so we have no freedom to go when God says “Go.”

We are imprisoned behind bars of our own making.

Sometimes it’s an ungodly attitude that binds us. Sometimes Christians get the idea in their minds that they will give God control of their lives up to a certain point and no further. God wants to bless us beyond measure, but He needs that extra bit of us that we refuse to surrender. Maybe it’s the refusal to go to Sunday School. Maybe it’s the refusal to go to prayer meeting. Maybe it’s the refusal to witness to others about Him. Wherever we draw the line, it doesn’t matter. The fact is that we have drawn a line and not only limited what we can do on God’s behalf but also limited the blessing God will give to us.

One more bar for our cage.

How clever is our enemy. He gets us to build our own prisons and to live voluntarily within them! All the while we blame God, the preacher, the economy, our parents, etc., for our inability to serve God and for the absence of His blessing upon us.

Perhaps it’s the company we keep which limits us. We don’t want to do certain things for God for fear of losing our friends.

Perhaps its the religious crowd or multi-church fellowship we run with, and we can’t study or preach the Bible honestly and with integrity for fear of losing that fellowship or our position within it.

George Muller came out of the Lutheran environment in Germany and into an Anglican-dominated England. Coming from that background and being in that kind of environment, he naturally supported and taught sprinkling rather than baptism. One day a woman challenged him to search out baptism in the Bible and to see what was the proper way to do it.

Muller had taken the personal stand that if he found something clearly taught in the Bible, he would change his ways to conform to the Bible rather than try to do doctrinal acrobatics to conform the Bible to himself or some creed. He did a thorough study of baptism in the Bible and concluded that biblical baptism is by immersion only (not by sprinkling) and that only professing believers (not infants) should be subjects of baptism. He immediately changed his belief and practice on the subject in order to bring himself in line with the clear biblical teaching on the matter.

It didn’t matter to him that he might lose some ministry support, position, or endorsement over the matter. What mattered to him was being right with God.

Muller was a great man in his time. He was a renowned Christian leader. How many Christian leaders today are willing to search out a matter and change their own beliefs and ideas in order to conform to the Bible rather than to blindly follow the party line of their fellowship, their crowd, their friends, their college, or their denomination.

More limits, more bars. Less and less ability to serve Christ.

Often we make lifestyle choices that confine us. The typical American middle class lifestyle is not one that fits well with the Bible. It is a consumption-oriented life, steeped in superficiality. God does not want us to be consumers, but providers and givers. A consumption-based lifestyle is excessively wasteful. How much we could learn from our grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression!

Every resource God gives us should be treated with thankfulness and care, not just used and discarded.

Does it really matter what label is on our clothing, or what store is was bought at? Is that flashy car really necessary? Does the lawn and house really have to look so pristine? Are sweat and dirt really so vulgar? Who in the world are we trying to impress?

When we live an excessive lifestyle, what do our children learn from it? What do young Christians, whose eyes are turned to us, learn from it?

What kind of move of God is it going to take to lift us up from our plush, comfortable surroundings and drop us into a dirt-floor grass hut in Burma?

How much more could we give to God’s work if we bought that $20 shirt at the discount store instead of the $50 one from the “cool” store? How many orphans in India or impoverished people in your own home town could be fed if you bought a two-year-old car instead of a brand new one?

Bar-by-bar we build our cages. We huddle in these prisons of our own making, saying “God, please use me” or “God, please help me,” still unwilling to surrender every aspect of our life, heart, and mind to the King of Kings.

And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

2 Timothy 2:24-26

Day by day we oppose ourselves, limiting our ability to be used by God by choosing selfishly, pridefully, or ignorantly those things which lead to imprisonment and captivity. Of the Bible-believing Christians in our country today, probably 95% are held captive by the enemy, unable to truly give and serve as He would have them.

How can such an army be effective, when most of the soldiers are bound and caged by the enemy? We holler “Amen” to the preacher, full of pride and zeal, shouting through bars of our own making, unwilling or unable to actually do something.

There’s a lot of amening in our churches and precious little doing.

Today is Independence Day in the USA. Today, brother and sister, let us not only resolve but act to break those bars that imprison us and hold us captive. Let’s have a renewed commitment to not only studying the Bible but to applying its clear teaching to our lives. Let’s be providers and producers, not consumers. Let’s begin a debt retirement plan rather than binding ourselves with more debt. Let’s surrender every corner of our selves to God, letting Him shine His light into each dark, protected closet and hide-away.

Let’s break every yoke and loose every burden (Isaiah 58:6) that we might be free to carry His yoke and bear His burden (Matthew 11:30).