By Lori Wagner
The Blessings of Biblical Boundaries
We’re Christians. If God Almighty says “no,” that should be the end of the discussion … right? But something in us wants to know the whys. Why should a young single Christian adhere to old-fashioned, irrelevant concepts like purity or modesty? Why should people respect those in authority over them? Why wait for marriage to experience the pleasure of our God-given gift of sexuality?
In our world today, godly virtues are not simply ignored, they are mocked. Television shows ridicule people with Biblical convictions. Magazine covers and billboards feature models more nude than clothed. But although society continues its moral downward spiral, God’s Word remains unchanged.
When Jesus taught, He often used parables to relay spiritual principles in ways His followers could understand. In our world today, God still uses natural examples to give His people insight into spiritual matters. All across the country, we see gates and fences of all sizes and shapes. In the spiritual world, there are also gates and fences that define our boundaries and provide structure and security for our lives.
Although we can’t see them, they are there. Understanding that Biblical “fences” were established by God for our benefit enables us to live more peacefully within their protection. Every year in high school classrooms across America students study Robert Frost’s famous poem “Mending Wall.” The composition examines several questions: Why do good fences make good neighbors? What is the purpose of a wall anyway? What is being walled in? What is being walled out?
In his poem, Frost examines how a strong, accurate fence benefits the relationship between two neighbors. Applying this concept 5 Spiritually, we understand the unseen “fences” (or boundaries) set by God were established for the good of His people. Strong, true spiritual fences benefit our relationships both in the natural and the spiritual.
The Word reveals that our lives and our bodies do not belong to us, but to God. They were purchased through the cross of Jesus Christ, and He has the authority to draw our boundary lines. As the servants of God, we join the company of many great people who have also been called His servants: Moses (Deuteronomy 34:5), the Apostle Paul (Romans 1:1), King David (II Samuel 3:18), and Joshua (Joshua 24:29).
During the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, an estimated half of all people in the Roman world were slaves or bond servants. These were prisoners of war or the poor and indebted who actually sold themselves into slavery. When they did this, they voluntarily chose to forfeit their rights and became the literal possessions of their masters.
Today every Christian believer is the possession of God (I Corinthians 7:22, Ephesians 6:6) not because God wants to prove His power and superiority, but because He knew our great need of redemption. Being bonded to Christ means we release our rights to control our own lives in exchange for our salvation and the joy of serving the one true and living God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! This is a high honor and privilege, and the rewards are not only great, but eternally wonderful!
The Lord’s guidelines are more than “good” fences. They are “God” fences that keep us from falling prey to the very real attempts of our spiritual adversary to separate us from the beautiful plans God has for our lives. Jeremiah 29:11 assures us God’s plans are for our good – to give us hope and a future. We like all the good parts of God’s plans, like being overcomers and having eternal life, but living with boundaries doesn’t sound like much fun. Why can’t we live by the 70s motto, “If it feels good, do it”?
Robert Frost understood man’s struggle and expressed it well when he wrote “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.” Our natural response is to want the walls down. But is that what’s best in the long run? In the coming chapters, we’ll examine some fences and gates in great detail. Hold on to your hats as we explore some controversial and delicate subjects.
Jesus, help me approach the subject of Biblical boundaries with an open mind, understanding that you have far more insight and wisdom than I have. Your Word reveals that your purposes and plans are for my good, even when I don’t understand them. Give me a heart that seeks to please you and reveal my love for you by following Your commandments and instructions.
The major theme of this chapter is:
How are godly values portrayed in the media today?
What is your attitude towards Biblical boundaries (rules)?
Taking a moment for an honest evaluation, analyze the following questions: Are your values more in line with secular society’s or God’s Word?
Are the choices you make and your reactions to Biblical boundaries evident as nonbelievers observe your Christian walk?
As a believer, what does the Bible say about who should have control over your life and for what reason?
Why would a loving Father establish guidelines for his children?
Through God’s help, what types of improvements would you like to make in your attitude towards Biblical restrictions?
As you purpose to please God by honoring and respecting the guidelines He put forth for you in His Word, take a moment to write your personal prayer to Him.
The Fence of Submission to Authority
The first and most important section of our spiritual gates and fences is the vital area of submitting to authority. I know, we don’t really want to go here, but we would be wasting our time with chapters 3-13 if we didn’t. Respecting authority is not merely a fence in itself. It’s more like the concrete footings poured around the base of the fence posts keeping them securely in the ground.
So, here we go. As believers, we like to hear about the protection of God. That makes us feel safe. Everyone wants to feel sheltered from the storms of life or the threat of enemy attack. But do we have any obligation to God in order to receive His divine protection? Or is He that sweet, loving, “Sugar Daddy” in the sky just waiting to pour out blessings on us, His beloved children?
We appreciate verses like James 4:7b “… Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” But, we have to take Scripture in the context it was written, and the first part of this verse instructs: “Submit yourselves therefore to God …” To have the authority and power to resist Satan, we must first be submitted to God.
The Concept of Spiritual Covering
Picture yourself out in a storm. It’s raining cats and dogs, but you are safe and dry under a big umbrella. Now, you have a choice. You can choose to stay dry beneath the umbrella’s protection or step outside the covering. If you do, however, there will be consequences. You will expose yourself to the physical elements and definitely get soaked by the rain.
In the same way, there are spiritual umbrellas protecting us in the supernatural realm. These coverings are constructed of those in authority over our lives those responsible for our spiritual well being. We protect our souls when we respectfully submit to their care and instruction. An important aspect of submitting to God is respecting and obeying the authority He established. Jude 1:8 tells us that ungodly people reject authority, but honoring authority is one primary way Christians demonstrate their respect for God to the world. Acts 23:5 instructs believers to refrain from speaking evil of rulers. Romans 13:1 says “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities.”
Here are some additional verses on the subject:
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors … (I Peter 2:13-14 NIV)
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good
(Titus 3:1 NIV)
In I Timothy 2:1-2, Paul exhorts us to pray “for kings and all who are in authority.”
It’s our choice. It’s up to us to remain under the spiritual covering of those who have authority over us. For young and unmarried people, the first level of authority is their parents/guardians. Pastors come next, and they all come under God’s authority. We will not be protected by God if we are out from under the covering of our pastor or parents.
It just doesn’t work that way. Here’s the real kicker. Submission isn’t really submission until you reach a point of disagreement. My husband and I have absolutely no problems in the area of Biblical authority that is, as long as he’s doing everything I want. But that’s not really living under authority, is it?
Search your memory banks and see if you can recall a television show made in this decade where the father or authority figure is an intelligent, respectable person. What about ministers? They are portrayed as narrow-minded, bumbling idiots. Sit-corns in particular almost always depict men as feebleminded and controlled by strong, intelligent women. But kids really rule the roost, going behind parents’ backs lying and manipulating to get around established guidelines. Sadly, these shows are far more than simple comedies. They are broadcast documentaries on the skewed relationships in homes across America.
This is not God’s plan. He is a God of order, and He has established the principle of authority so we can live in peace. Think about the old saying, “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” We need leadership a “pecking order” if you want to call it that to define our roles at home, church, the workplace and in the community. Yes, the “buck” has to stop somewhere … and I’m glad it’s not me! I would prefer not to have to carry the tremendous burdens and responsibilities of those in higher levels of authority and decision making.
One very powerful lesson on respecting authority is revealed in Genesis 16:1-10. The Lord spoke directly to Hagar telling her to return to her mistress and submit herself “under her hand.” That was not an easy thing. Sarai, her mistress, was being unfair. Even so, Hagar obeyed God’s instructions in her very difficult situation, and through her obedience, she and her son gained God’s protection and provision.
The principle of authority also applies to teachers, bosses, public servants, etc. Hebrews 13:17 says to obey them that have the rule over you. This specifically refers to those who are over us spiritually, but the Bible also tells believers to be obedient to civil authority. We are to pay our taxes (Mark 12:17) and “be subject unto the higher powers” (Romans 13:1-7).
God and His Word are One, so when we are obedient to the written Word, we are submitting to God Himself. The Ten Commandments aren’t the Ten Suggestions. The Golden Rule isn’t the Golden Idea. When we live according to Biblical instruction the blessings of God will come into our lives. Even those who don’t serve God are still blessed when they follow Scriptural guidelines.
An experiment was conducted at a school playground. The administration thought the playground fences were restricting the children, so they took them down. Prior to this, the children played safely throughout the entire playground, but after the fences were removed, they huddled in the middle of the playground afraid to venture out. The fences had promoted feelings of safety that permitted the children to relax and enjoy themselves without feeling threatened by outside elements.
When we know where the fences are, we can live freely within their security. When the fences aren’t defined, the result is instability and insecurity. One word of caution, however: we must have confidence that our leadership is taking us in the right direction. Paul said in I Corinthians 1 1: 1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” The things we are asked to do should be backed up by the Word. It’s not wrong to ask for clarification if we don’t understand, as long as we keep a respectful attitude and make sure we are doing so at an appropriate time and place.
We don’t want to be caught wearing the “emperor’s new clothes” blindly following the counsel of one in error. However, most pastors truly seek the wisdom of God in leading their congregations, and they deserve our honor and respect. Lord Jesus, please help me submit with a right spirit to the authority you established in my life.
It makes sense when I think about a toddler obeying his mom and dad who care for him and protect him, but it’s sometimes hard to accept instructions as I mature and want to make my own decisions. Help me realize that the people you placed over me care deeply for me and have more experience, knowledge and wisdom than I have at this stage in my life. Cause me to remember this: instead of bucking against those in authority over me, I should lift them to You in prayer. Thank You for covering me with your divine protection as I follow in Your Word and honor your ways.
The major theme of this chapter is:
Explain in your own words the blessings and protection of living according to the Biblical principle of spiritual covering.
Explain some potential results of choosing to live outside the covering of authority God placed in your life?
What does Jude 1:8 say about the reaction of ungodly people towards authority?
How does this apply to parents, pastors, teachers, civil servants?
What can we learn from Hagar’s example as she submitted to the authority of God in a difficult situation?
Explain what you learned by the playground experiment.
As you purpose to please God by honoring and respecting the guidelines He put forth for you in His Word in the area of authority, take a moment to write your personal prayer to Him.
This article was taken from “Gates & Fences: Straight Talk in a Crooked World” By Lori Wagner