(November 30, 2021) Dr Jim McClure, noted theologian, shares a warning …
Can you imagine what your attitude would be if you went on a short holiday and returned to find that your next-door neighbour had expanded his block of land by moving the fence separating his property from yours?
You would not be at all pleased! Your relationship with your neighbour would become hostile and significant personal and legal argument would begin!
Fences are ‘landmarks’ that determine limitations and if they are ignored the consequences can be quite severe at many levels.
When the Israelites entered the Promised Land following their wandering in the wilderness, God assigned particular areas to each tribe and an allocation of land was made to each family. The boundaries of the land were marked by stones that were required to be recognised and respected. To move or remove those stones was a major offence.
In the Old Testament we are told that such boundaries established by God were definitely not to be violated. This was such a serious injunction and it is mentioned in a number of passages in the Old Testament (for example, Deuteronomy 19:14, Deuteronomy 27:17, Proverbs 23:10, Hosea 5:10).
While those references refer to boundary stones that defined land borders and must therefore be valued and not changed, they are also true regarding the moral boundaries that God has determined and which are recorded in his word, the Bible.
In Proverbs 22:28 we read,‘Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.’ The Hebrew word translated ‘ancient’ refers to that which is eternal or perpetual. God has given us eternal boundaries in life that must not be transgressed. He has clearly spelled out in the Bible the values by which he wants us to live in relationship with each other. Violation of those values, removing the ancient boundaries in our relationship with other, leads only to trouble!
Spiritual and social boundaries
On the day of Pentecost the church grew to over 3000 people! Jesus had an enormous mission for that church – to take the good news of God’s sovereign rule to men and women throughout the world ‘teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:20).
That was not to be an easy task to perform as the disciples soon discovered. Opposition to those early Christians was volatile and resentful and the powers in authority on one occasion had all the apostles arrested and imprisoned.
But ‘during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life”’ (Matthew 28:2).
Those Christian leaders were instructed to declare the ‘full message’ of the Christian life. The church of God was called to be God-centred, Bible preaching, grace infused and determinedly committed to sharing the whole Christian message and not just those things that were not too challenging. The ‘full message’ included, of course, the spiritual and moral boundaries that God had previously given to his people and which are recorded in the Old Testament.
The church was not given the right to ‘move the stones’ and modify the message so that people who would hear the message of salvation and of the consecrated life would not have any objections to it!
However the church has often failed in its task and modified the message, sometimes to make it more acceptable to those who heard it. And this is true in many parts of the church today. Let me give an example…
Jesus said that he was the true and living way and that ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John14:6). That perfectly clear and simple statement has been changed by some church leaders and preachers who teach that the way to God is by the path of sincerity regardless of what the Bible actually teaches. And other biblical affirmations regarding belief, practice and moral values have also been modified to appeal to the whims of people today.
The result has been a watering down of the gospel that Jesus commanded us to proclaim and a restatement of Christian values and which excludes those that are not in accord with contemporary social thinking. The eternal boundary stones are being moved! Once those spiritual foundations are tampered with, the social consequences are great.
In a letter to his young friend Timothy Paul wrote about ‘… God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth’ (1 Timothy 3:15). How critical it is for Christians to grasp this challenge – we are to be uncompromising truth-bearers in a truth-rejecting world.
Moral boundaries discarded
Sadly the moral ‘boundary stones’ have been repeatedly moved over many decades but I have never before witnessed such frequent examples and radical evidence of it that than what I see happening today.
The moral values of most Western countries for almost 2000 years were generally based on biblical principles. That is not to say that people always lived by those values – far from it! But no longer are they considered to be moral ‘boundary stones.’
In recent decades we have witnessed the erosion of those godly values to the point where they have been dismissed as irrelevant and have therefore been replaced by the subjective and deviant values that support the claim, ‘What I want and do and say are ‘right’.’
Inevitably there are casualties. Here are just a few…
Sadly truth has been increasingly edged out of contemporary society!
Isaiah’s words, addressed to the people of his own day, very aptly describe what is happening in the world today: ‘… rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey’ (Isaiah 59:13:15).
In my July article Truth or Dare, I wrote, ‘Truth is a dominant theme in both the Old and New Testaments. The word ‘truth’ is found 127 times in the Old Testament and the Hebrew word refers to things that are sure, authentic and permanent. For the Hebrews truth lay at the very core of morality and integrity.’ Yet daily we see that the large ‘boundary stone’ of truth has often been far removed from its God-appointed place and replaced by the ‘deadly nightshade’ of lies which continues to poison society.
In the latest series of The Block on Australian television one of the contestants consistently denied that she had cheated as she declared that her account of events (which she later admitted being false) was ‘my truth.’ ‘My truth’ (which more people seem to be quoting today) may be defined as ‘What I chose to say is true whether or not it is.’
John gives this advice, ‘… let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.’ The Greek word for ‘truth’ also means ‘reality.’ If something is not real it is not true! The importance of a life reflecting truth is a major focus of the Bible – it is indeed, one of God’s primary boundary markers.
However, tragically today we are witnessing an increasing abandonment of truth which has resulted in the wrecking of society at all levels. Much of the media no longer objectively reports the news but repeatedly misrepresents the facts or reinterprets them to promote particular political agendas. An insightful comment, often attributed to George Orwell, states, ‘In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.’ That is certainly true for today when either speaking or writing the truth can lead to the writer or speaker being ‘cancelled’ or even prosecuted.
As Christians we really need to hear what Paul has written in Romans 1:18, ‘The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.’
As truth has been discarded, so too have the core moral values that have been a solid bedrock of societies and have guided good and godly relationships for centuries.
For example, the discarding of the biblical guidelines for sexual behaviour has resulted in ‘sexual licence’ in which any sexual act is considered acceptable as long as assent is mutual. What was once a private expression of love within marriage has now become an act of entertainment in movies and television programmes. In recent years there has been an increasing (and irrelevant) inclusion of such acts that add nothing but titillation to the plot.
Furthermore the boundary stone of gender was once not in dispute as it was acknowledged that there were clearly only two genders – male and female. This was how God intended it to be: ‘God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them’(Genesis 1:27).
Jesus confirmed the importance of this ‘boundary stone’ when he said, ‘Haven’t you read … that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female’ (Matthew 19:4). But now government legislation in many countries requires us to acknowledge that there are many more than just two gender! Of great concern is that children are now being brainwashed to believe this evident fallacy. In2019 the BBC produced a video for school children that states that there are 100 or more gender identities! How very far this boundary stone of gender has been moved!
Associated with this false teaching has been the flourishing of homosexuality and so-called transgenderism in recent years. We are now required to accept the falsity that men can have husbands, women can have wives and that some of those ‘husbands’ (who are transgender) can give birth and breastfeed babies!
And on it goes…
Further and further away the eternal boundary stones are being moved and more and more we are witnessing the disintegration of society. History has so definitively demonstrated the truth of Proverbs 14:34, ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.’
I believe that we Christians have been too complaisant, perhaps also we have been too accommodating, as we have witnessed steady social disintegration of moral values and practices. The ‘boundary stones’ have openly been removed and we have remained much too silent!
How much we need the church, the people of God, truly to arise, and be ‘the pillar and foundation of the truth’ (1 Timothy 3:15) and ‘a light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden’(Matthew 5:14).
O church, arise, and put your armour on;
Hear the call of Christ our captain.
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given.
With shield of faith and belt of truth,
We’ll stand against the devil’s lies.
An army bold, whose battle cry is love,
Reaching out to those in darkness.
(Keith and Kristyn Getty)
Dr Jim McClure, author of several books and Bible study series, welcomes questions from Christians seeking enlightenment on biblical perspectives.
His helpful book, Looking for Answers in a Confusing World, is offered free, all of Dr Jim’s writings are highly recommended – such as Grace Revisited, Looking for Answers in a Confusing World, Overview of the Old and New Testaments, Love, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, The Masonic Deception, Word of Life in the Old and New Testaments, Interpreting the Letter of James, and Faith Works – A Commentary on the Letter of James. All are available in electronic version in EPUB, Kindle and PDF formats with hyperlinks and. Link for orders and questions: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com