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What Limits Us, What Frees Us

March 6th, 2018

You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. (2 Corinthians 6:12)

What a common complaint this is among Christians of their spiritual leaders – IF those leaders are truly spiritual people – that they restrict the church from doing what it wants to do. You can hear the grumbling in the hallways in many Bible-believing churches, “The pastor (or the elders, or the deacons) won’t let us do this.”

Paul made it plain to the Corinthians, to whom he had written two long letters, that their problem was not with him but with their own hearts. They had not longed for the glory of Christ, for the will of God, for His holiness in thought and action to become theirs. They had instead desired their own ways and had campaigned to get them, and grumbled when they did not have their own way. Their affections were to the world, or to fear, or to their own egos, or to their friends.

The only heart that truly belongs to Christ is one that is wholly given over to His glory and His will, that is obedient in thought and in action. We should be careful with trusting anyone who is expedient for the sake of expediency alone. There is nothing wrong necessarily with being wise to the ways of the world. Christ said, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). Yet the world’s ways must never become our ways, its goals our goals, nor its values our values. “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (2 Cor. 14:20).

“Can’t we bend a little here or there?” is often asked. Where there is no command from God on a certain subject, we should be as flexible as possible. Often we can feel too strongly about a matter that is merely a matter of interpretation of scripture, or a cultural application, and not a clear command. We can err when we enforce these rules or insist on them when, in fact, they are more man-made than God-commanded.

But where there is a command of God, where there is clear teaching on a subject, we should hold to God’s command entirely. It is not the command of God that holds us back, nor the desires of holy spiritual leaders for the people to be holy. It is the disease called sin at work in some of the people who wish merely to compromise the holy standards of God.

Graciousness, mercy, forgiveness, and patience should always be the character of God’s people. When someone has confessed and asked for help to overcome a weakness, we should seek to restore him. “Receive the one who is weak in the faith” (Rom. 14:1). “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand” (Rom. 14:4).

Yet this should never be bent to twist the truth or to condone what is clearly wrong, what is clearly unholy or likely seen to be unholy. What limits us is our lusts that war within us, that tears our hearts away from the things of God and draws us into the world’s priorities. What limits us is our fears that make us doubt that God is able to bless and to move and to empower. What limits us in the fulfilling of the will of God is the moral pollution of our souls. What limits us is our pride.

What frees us is the Word of God, the obedience to the Holy Spirit, and the common desire and commitment among God’s people that Jesus Christ be exalted. If you have spiritual leaders in whom there is no compromise, who care more about the glory of God than their own popularity, then you are blessed.

Daily Devotions, Leadership