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Don’t Move the Fences

Researchers tell us that groups of small children play with greater freedom and security when playing in an area with a well-defined perimeter like a fence.  If you remove the fence, the children become uneasy and fearful; and they cluster together in a central area as if danger were near.

Parents know that the most well-adjusted teenagers are those who live in well-structured homes with well-defined guidelines and limits on behavior.  History has proven as well that any unit of people—whether as small as a city or as large as a country—live with less stress and greater happiness when the laws and values that affect and control their behavior are clearly articulated and promptly enforced.

Looking around at the world scene, there is a real sense of apprehension—a genuine uneasiness, a pronounced fear, and a bewildering confusion which have all increased steadily as we have systematically rejected and cast aside values, morals and convictions long held by civilized people.

Unfortunately, the church has not been exempt from this menacing uneasiness.  Church leaders have betrayed their trust by casting aside as burdensome baggage the long-held convictions and traditions that have guided and aided God’s people for centuries.  They have suggested that they are only the useless fodder of the biblically illiterate.  They have tossed them aside without ever really examining why they were there to start with.  G.K. Chesterton said it pointedly, clearly, and almost prophetically: “Whenever you remove a fence, it is imperative that you find out why it was put there in the first place.”  Fences are being removed, and nobody is really asking the question why they were there to start with.  In our mad haste to accommodate uncontroverted worldlings seeking a self-centered hedonism rather than a Christ-centered holiness, we are casting off what the church has held dear for hundreds of years.  This so-called attempt to show our openness has instead only advertised to the world our decadence and has left the faithful feeling betrayed, confused and empty.

If confusion and betrayal were the only consequences of our present dilemma, we would still have sufficient reason to raise our voice.  However, they are only the firstfruits of our folly.  The more serious consequence is the destruction of some of the very foundational beliefs that keep the church anchored in God and obedient to Scripture.  Any time behavioral patterns change, theological positions (belief about God) must be altered to accommodate those changes.

Looking around the world scene, we note a real sense of apprehension—a genuine uneasiness, a pronounced fear, and a bewildering confusion. The church has not been exempt from this menacing uneasiness. The church and world alike are suffering from the systematic rejection of values, morals and convictions long held by Christians in particular, and by western civilization in general.

When these restraining principles for life and practice are lost, then we lose the very “retaining walls” that keep the foundation of civilization from being washed away in an onslaught of secularism. I would suggest to you that we are experiencing erosion of these foundations in three very important areas in today’s Christian culture.

First, we have lost a sense of eternity.

When men no longer feel that life has destiny, they soon cease to believe that life has meaning and value. A lost sense of eternity will redefine our existence. John Wesley, who spent countless days on horseback, sleeping her and there and preaching the gospel, was a man with a keen sense of eternity. He wrote in his journal after spending a delightful evening in a very palatial home, “I like a nice bed, a beautiful room, and lovely grounds; but I believe in eternity. Hence I will arise early and be on my way.”

When we lose a sense of eternity, we become materialistic. Materialistic causes us to view life through a totally different lens than God intended us to use. We begin to focus on what we wear, what we eat, what we live in, and how much we make. Like Lot we view the well-watered plains of Jordan as something desirable and drive out tent pegs deeply in this modern-day Sodom. Materialism quickly leads to secularism; and secularism will take us down a treacherous slope to hedonism, where we shamelessly “belly-up” to this world’s cafeteria of constant pleasure. Fun and folly become the norms of life.

Once a sense of eternity has slipped from our consciousness, we next lose a sense of morality.

When a man’s moral compass can no longer point to absolute truth, his ability to discern right and wrong become impossible. With right and wrong disregarded, decency, propriety, and purity are no longer virtues to emulate, but something to mock. Issues of clean language, modest attire, and sexual purity become irrelevant matters of legalistic behavior that ought to have died sooner. In the words of Chesterton, “We insist on becoming completely unstrained but will only succeed in being completely unbuttoned.”

The last foundation we lose is a sense of accountability.

When accountability goes, so does our conscience. With no conscience to guide, men suppress, subvert and ultimately scorn God’s truth. The cry of the pagan, “evil be thou my good,” becomes the philosophy of the man from skid row to Wall Street. Abortion, euthanasia, adultery, lying, and stealing are only methods to accomplish

When accountability goes, so does our conscience. With no conscience to guide, men suppress, subvert and ultimately scorn God’s truth. The cry of the pagan, “evil be thou my good,” becomes the philosophy of the man from skid row to Wall Street. Abortion, euthanasia, adultery, lying, and stealing are only methods to accomplish a desired end rather than sins that would damn a man to Hell.

Reader, be careful! Recklessly removing the ancient landmarks of our godly forefathers can result in a dangerous confusion of where the lines really lie in the land. Before you remove the fence, make sure you ask yourself why it was put there to start with. The cost of defiance and reckless destruction of God’s fundamental truths can be eternally devastating.

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