The grace of God which comes to us through the love of Christ is so open that we often forget that a Christian life is full of boundaries. Instead of focusing on the discipline of a well-lived life, we want to adopt an attitude of “live and let live.” We want to give grace so much latitude that our actions require little or no reflection. As long as we are happy and no one else is hurt, we convince ourselves, whatever we are doing is OK–as long as we are Christians.
But, we are “dead to the flesh,” as Paul explains it, when we accept a life in Christ. We Christians are also the only Bible many people read, including people who feel they are living a Christian life, even though they do not spend time studying His word, praying, or participating in God-centered time with other believers, all disciplines that help us lead the kind of Spirit-filled life that Paul also emulated.
When we fail to acknowledge the boundaries of a Christian life, we harm not only ourselves, but so much more those who only know Christ through us. When we fail to acknowledge the boundaries of a Christian life, we increase the likelihood that we have created or are creating false idols–made things that mean more to us than God does.
In Isaiah 44, God draws a clear line between Himself and idols made of wood: “No one stops to think,” he says, “no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, ‘Half of it [the figure made of wood and worshipped] I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?’ Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?'” (verses 19-20).
Every moment of every day, we have decisions to make, from how we react to the person cutting us off on the freeway to how we respond to the person begging for money on the sidewalk. Do we turn to things of this world, made things like television shows or comfort foods, to help us cope with the state of being human? Or, do we choose to look toward the One thing that has always been and will always be?
Isaiah has the answer: “This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come—yes, let them foretell what will come. Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one” (44:6-8).
Boundaries keep us in our known places, but they also keep out that which would destroy in the name of goodness, even when it is not good. Like the serpent in the Garden tempting Eve to taste the forbidden fruit, the evil one is actively pushing against our defense line, trying to break through the boundaries set by God for our protection. Free will necessitates that our boundaries are only as strong as our faith, our worship and our discipline will allow. With God all things are possible.
But there is only one God, only one “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” As He has been since the beginning, so shall He be. No where does He more forcefully proclaim His uniqueness than in the prophecies of Isaiah. Read them the next time you feel tempted to let someone else’s version of the One and Only rule your thinking. The God of the Hebrews declared Himself to be the only God. He made promises and fulfilled them. He was no block of wood or stone. He will continue for always. He is the only boundary we will ever need.