Photo above: The Hertford Bridge in Oxford, England. Used by Permission. © Tom Ley 01302 782837

Monday, November 21, 2011

God-Honoring Boundaries

By Gary Roberts
Robertson School of Government

The battle over time is one of the great spiritual warfare struggles. Satan uses our addiction to activity and works to impede our relationship with God. Time can become an idol when our schedules become more important than obeying God. The underlying principle resides in one of the foundational commandments, though shall have no other Gods before me. God created human beings for an intimate personal relationship with God. He implanted eternity in our hearts. We are ceaselessly restless until we make the free-will choice to place God at the center of our universe. The reason is simple. Only God can complete us. To experience wholeness, we require purpose, meaning and transcendence of the self. Only God loves us unconditionally and forgives us unconditionally.

Human beings since the fall and the introduction of sin employ an almost infinite array of strategies and objects to experience meaning. All of these strategies become idols (activity, money, power, prestige, relationships) that temporarily satisfy but ultimately fail us. All of our idols become sources of fear and insecurity given their inability to provide humanity with the unconditional love that is essential for our security and growth. Why is this relevant? Even as Christians, we can lose sight of God. We spend so much time and effort working for God, we lose sight of the critical factor, to be in relationship with Him. Scripture likens our connection to God as being the branches of the vine, when we are cut off from the central vein, and we lose life-giving sustenance.

One of the things we teach in our public administration classes is the need to balance our lives between work, family and leisure. In reality, life is too complicated, there are too many variables, the system interconnections are impossibly complicated for rational calculation. When we attempt to balance on fully human terms, we budget time for discrete tasks making us more sensitive to disruptions impeding our ability to rest in and enjoy the present. The life of Christ demonstrated the importance of the well-ordered life (as John Ortberg stresses in the book the “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”), not the well balanced life. A well-ordered life places Jesus as the center, our most important daily objective is to maintain an ongoing relationship with God through spiritual disciplines such as prayer, bible reading, and most importantly, a conscious commitment to loving God with our entire being (heart, mind, and spirit) and our neighbors as ourselves.

Jesus set priorities, but they were the Father’s priorities. He also demonstrated the ability to improvise, to be sensitive to what we term the ministry of interruptions. The most important parts of our day are frequently unplanned and unanticipated, and we must make a conscious choice to act upon these opportunities. A rigid “checklist” approach to time management increases our resistance and stress to answering these calls. The other major element of the well-ordered life is that our lives are divided into seasons. There are times when our lives are unbalanced for God’s greater glory. Jesus and the apostles spent sleepless nights, suffered hunger and exposure to the elements, forsook material comforts, prayed all night, were persecuted and imprisoned, and exposed themselves to danger. They also recognized that there are times to rest and refresh. The Lord will in subtle ways communicate the absence of Godly order in our lives. God can run the universe without me as I am not its center! We must stop throwing ourselves off the “temple roof” and expecting the angels to save us, a reference to Luke 4:9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. 10For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" 12Jesus answered, "It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Many Christians become prideful, thinking God will protect them no matter how foolish their actions. God will always ultimately protect and save us, but our actions do have consequences. I pray that every human being experiences the reality of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Imagine the joy, peace, excitement when you realize that not only is God real, but that He wants to be involved in every area of your life. This knowledge provides incredible comfort, power, energy, passion, and purpose, but God’s wisdom must govern our efforts.

This zeal is a great benefit, but can develop into a weapon if we lose perspective and it is not directed by the Holy Spirit. Energy and passion channeled and focused in the right direction becomes a laser in the hands of God, but dissipates without the lens of Christ. Busyness overwhelms Christians as we are unable to separate God’s will (the best) from the many good things that can distract us. Seek Godly priorities and cease from your own labors. Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you and be that lamp unto your feet.

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