Pulpit Today Sermon
Robert D. Pace
I want to talk about “boundaries.” Maybe you’re thinking, What type of boundaries? I hope this message will answer that question because the Bible mentions them more than seventy times and they’re found in every sphere of creation.
Numbers 34:2 speaks of Israel’s boundaries by saying: “When you enter Canaan, the land that will be allotted to you as an inheritance will have these boundaries.”
Job 26:10 says God etched a nearly indiscernible boundary between the day and night when it says God “marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness.
Psalm 74:17 details seasonal boundaries by noting “It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.”
Genesis 2 mentions boundaries between the species noting that God made each creature “after their kind.”
Jeremiah 5:22 says: “I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it.”
The Ten Commandments set boundaries. The Prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles set boundaries for Christian living.
(Harbinger) God sovereignly set the boundaries for the entire universe and their purpose is to maintain structure and order. When those parameters are trespassed it creates disorder. We lose authority by violating the boundaries God ordained.
(Illustration) I remember March 30, 1981 when John Hinkley tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan. Only a handful of reporters waited outside the Hotel where Hinkley sprayed his bullets but minutes later the media clamored to report the episode. What I remember about the initial coverage was the on-screen pandemonium that erupted. First, the President was reported to have escaped being shot. Then, he was reported shot. Later, the news changed again reporting that the President was not shot. Finally, the ABC News anchorman exploded, swearing with God’s Name, demanding that somebody straighten out the facts. (I think everyone would appreciate the media getting the facts straight!) Eventually, news agencies confirmed that President Reagan was wounded and headed for surgery. With reporters still frenetic, they immediately delved into the chain-of-command issue. Who was now running the country? That’s when Secretary of Defense Alexander Haig rambled into the White House Press Room with his infamous words: “I’m in charge here.” That assertion would later evict him from the President’s Cabinet.
Despite this misjudgment Haig had a brilliant career: In 1961 he served as staff assistant at the Pentagon; later he was White House Chief of Staff (1973-74); from 1974-79 he commanded the NATO forces. His military decorations included the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Purple Heart. But on March 30, 1981 he overstepped his boundaries and lost his position. Alexander Haig teaches us an important lesson. We must operate within the parameters of our position or we won’t endure! Mr. Haig would have probably served two terms in the President’s Cabinet had he not overstepped his boundaries. It’s a grave mistake to step outside the arena of your calling and try to claim more than God ordained. When we do, we give Satan legal authority to attack us. I saw this happen years ago to a godly man.
(Illustration) Through the years I’ve maintained a great respect for David Wilkerson. He was tremendously used during the Charismatic Movement in the 1970’s. He was anointed to write The Cross And The Switchblade, and his book, The Vision shook the Church of that day. But he wrote one book that was terribly flawed and filled with unmerited criticism. His book was entitled, “David Wilkerson Speaks Out.” His statements brought tremendous confusion to the Church and proved to be totally wrong. For several years following the publishing of this book Wilkerson encountered terrible heartache and spiritual attack. He and his wife were literally assaulted with sickness. His life ended tragically when he inadvertently drove his car into the path of an oncoming truck.
You see, in some way, a hedge is lowered when we operate outside our divinely apportioned boundary. Moses performed more miracles than anyone but Christ. He secured the Ten Commandments. He wrote more Scripture than anyone. But Moses never wrote a book, “Moses Speaks Out!”
(Illustration) I had a college professor that taught Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology investigates the nature of God, man, angels, and demons. It interprets the atonement, salvation and its security (or lack of security depending on a Calvinistic or Armenian approach); it investigates eschatology, eternal retribution, and eternal life. (By the look on your faces I can tell you can’t wait to enroll in a Systematic Theology Course!) Anyway, a student would occasionally ask one of those questions that only Jesus could answer. And the professor, not being Jesus, would reply: “We just don’t know.” When the Professor would answer a question in this manner, I recall him as exhibiting both honesty and humility. He never tried to be a “know-it-all”!
There are Bible mysteries too dark and complex for any academic mind to untangle. And there’s nothing wrong with taking the road of humility when questions are unanswerable. Proverbs 17:28 says: “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”
Turn to Matthew 16. This episode reveals Simon with both feet stuffed in his mouth before he finishes talking.
Matthew 16:21-23 (Read)
Earlier in this chapter, Peter uttered Scripture’s greatest revelation: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But moments later, when Jesus spoke of His crucifixion, Peter, full of wisdom, couldn’t resist correcting Christ. And how did Jesus respond? “Get behind me Satan.” You see, answers are appropriate. But no one should act as an Authority where the curtain of darkness has been drawn.
(Transition) And it’s not only important to keep silent on issues of darkness but it’s also needful that we accept truth when it’s revealed.
Accept Truth When It’s Revealed
(Illustration) Some years ago I had a discussion with a friend, George, about the age of people in heaven. I based my answer on two passages that indicated we would appear as thirty-three years old. First, I reasoned that Jesus was thirty-three when He died. Consequently, 1 John 3:2 notes: “we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is . . .” appearing thirty-three years old! I don’t know how old George thought we would appear in Heaven, but he rejected my opinion without offering a shred of Scriptural support. Well, the discussion didn’t end there. He wanted to know if Christ foreknew His betrayer. I explained that Jesus, indeed, realized Judas would betray Him. But the more I explained the more George disagreed. Finally, I said “George, open your Bible to John 6:64.” When George read the passage he was forced to see Jesus addressing His Apostles and saying: “There are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.” Do you know what George’s response was? “Well, that’s not what that Scripture means!”
Folks, there’s no way we can enjoy God’s blessing if we close our ears to truth. And this is what Genesis teaches in Genesis as it discloses Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Immediately after introducing Adam and Eve to their pristine surroundings, God showed them their boundaries. And they were virtually unlimited. The whole earth was theirs. Their only prohibition was to refrain from two forbidden trees. But they disobeyed. And their rebellion disqualified them from governing the earth as God intended.
And there’s another lesson we can learn from the Garden of Eden. Theologians apply a principle known as “The Law of First Use.” This law recognizes how God treats “first occurrences” in Scripture and then continues to treat the remaining occurrences the same way. “The Law of First Use” actually reveals the consistency of God and man’s need to live obediently. Thus, the consequence of man’s first act of disobedience was punishment. And throughout the Bible we notice that God punishes man’s rebellion. “Whatever a man sows that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:9).
God Placed Boundaries Upon Israel When They Conquered Canaan
Read: Joshua 6:27 7:1
According to verse 27 Joshua’s exploits brought widespread fame among the Canaanites. His parting of the Jordan River and overthrow of Jericho were Headlines in Canaanite towns. But while Joshua conquered Israel’s external foes, rebellion erupted from within Israel’s camp. Listen to the first sentence of Joshua 7. “The Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things.” Achan, Joshua’s kinsman, confiscated a beautiful Babylonian robe, 200 shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold during Jericho’s destruction. Something God strictly prohibited. Let me reiterate, God deals with those purposely violating His commands.
After Jericho was toppled Joshua prepared to attack Ai. An intelligence report concluded that only a few thousand soldiers would be needed to overthrow this city. But when the battalion was deployed, the few men of Ai repelled the attack and killed about 36 troops. When Israel heard the news Scripture says: “the hearts of the people melted and became like water.”
Notice something: Achan, one of Israel’s twelve leaders, wasn’t the only one God held responsible for this sin. God held all Israel liable for Achan’s sin. Why? Perhaps, because Israel didn’t hold Achan accountable for his sin. Look at verse 11: “Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.” God blamed Israel, not just Achan, for this act of defiance. To God it was a corporate sin. Operating behind the scenes in a crime is no less wrong than single-handedly committing the offense yourself. The one sitting back and masterminding a bank robbery on paper or the one driving the getaway car is just as guilty as the masked thugs holding the tellers at gunpoint.
(Transition) Note one other Bible Example. It’s located in Acts 5 where the Apostle Peter deals with the deception of Ananias and Sapphira. Let’s read:
Ananias And Sapphira
Read: Acts 5:1-6
A casual reading of this passage renders this as terribly harsh judgment upon this couple. And it is! But while the Lord is patient and compassionate, He isn’t soft on sin. Nothing about God’s nature changed between Malachi and Matthew. Hebrews 13:8 says: “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” The age of grace doesn’t negate judgment. It doesn’t mean God now condones misbehavior or doesn’t correct wrongdoing. Grace doesn’t mean God blinks at sin. That’s sloppy-agape.
Calvary offers grace, and grace for any sin! But those persisting in sin can’t enjoy the fullness of grace. God’s grace can’t be fully enjoyed by people unwilling to confess their sin and turn from it. Grace is activated through humility, confession, and repentance. And these verities were absent in Ananias and Sapphira. Look at their transgression:
Their sin involved hypocrisy. They pretended to donate the full price to the Church.
Their sin involved pride. They were ambitious and wanted to be touted as benevolent. “Hey, look at our liberality!”
Their sin was covetous. Once they sold the property and pretended to donate the proceeds to the Church the money became God’s. That meant they actually stole from God. They were money-lovers and that’s the “root of all evil.”
The sins of hypocrisy, pride, and covetousness wreck lives and divide Churches. And that’s what brought such swift judgment upon Ananias and Sapphira—they were guilty of each of these sins. God’s actions don‘t appear so harsh when they’re viewed in this light.
(Transition) And that brings us to another point. It’s not only important to operate within God’s boundaries but to manifest godly character within those boundaries. If Ananias and Sapphira had displayed humility and not tried to make a name for themselves they would have avoided this judgment.
Operate In Humility
Jesus is the perfect example of how we should serve God. He was bold, full of faith, powerful, and popular but He was also humble. Turn to John 13 and let’s read.
Here was the King of kings washing the Apostle’s smelly feet. When is the last time a king bathed the feet of fishermen? 2000 years ago when Jesus did it! Had Jesus been a deluded wanna-be messiah He couldn’t have washed those feet. But people that understand how promotion comes will humbly serve God and others. If you want to succeed in life, conduct yourself as a humble servant of God. Nobody’s irreplaceable, invincible, or omniscient. Life goes on no matter who dies.
(Illustration) Awhile back, I read the story of Allan Meyer, a member of Phoenix’s First Assembly of God. Pastor Tommy Barnett tells of Allan “setting tables for the needy when the Church will feed 1,500 people . . . As he moves among the people, serving caring, and loving, he walks unnoticed except in the book of God’s remembrance.” Who is Allan Meyer? He is a multi millionaire and works with the company his grandfather, Oscar Meyer, started.
One of your keys, my keys, this Church’s keys to success this year depends on our commitment to humility. It’s not the only key because we have to exemplify faith, love, mercy, and other acts of righteousness, but without it we can’t succeed!
No one wants to lose God’s blessing upon their life. And to keep it you must stay within your allotted boundaries. If you’ll stay there and operate as God has anointed you He will bring blessing.
Micah 7:11 says: “The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries.”
Exodus 23:31 says: “I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the desert to the River. I will hand over to you the people who live in the land and you will drive them out before you.”
Isaiah 26:15 “You have enlarged the nation, O LORD; you have enlarged the nation. You have gained glory for yourself; you have extended all the borders of the land.
There’s a great Scripture in Psalm 16:5 that discusses God’s boundaries for us: “LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. (6) The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
As the saying goes: “Bloom where God planted you.” As you do that, God will enlarge your borders and even reassign you to greater places of service.