Humanity’s sin nature wants to go beyond the boundaries, whatever they may be. As I read through the Bible and observe the culture, even church culture, I see a visible thread of dissatisfaction with the boundaries and guidelines God has set for Christian practice, worship, and the way of salvation. It was true in Old Testament times, New Testament times, and it is true today. There are several contributing reasons for this: Sinners crave the sensual, fleshly experiences, which are rooted in a focus on self, rather than a focus on God. And we sinners are prideful and self righteous, and long to be doing so as to satisfy that sense of self contribution (which is again rooted in a inward self focus, rather than an outward God focus).
Today, this ‘going beyond’ God’s prescribed way is seen in the issue of salvation, and plainly demonstrated in the myriad of false religions that base salvation on performing good works. God has said that there is only one way to Him, and that is belief in His Son (John 14:6). Works are evidence of a changed heart that has been saved, not a means to gain salvation (Ephesians 2:8-10). Yet Catholicism and the church of Latter Day Saints teach just the opposite. It appeals to that sin nature that wants to do; that wants to point to self as righteous.
Within the professing church the sin of dissatisfaction and wanting to go beyond God’s prescribed boundaries is found in the prevalence of continually invented trends. Awhile back there was the unbiblical trend of prayer labyrinths. More recently, we’ve seen the nonsense of prayer circles. There is just something about sinners, that wants to add to what God has outlined; wants to contribute. There is also that sinful urge to elevate fleshly experience over the obedient discipline of the study of the Word, baptism of new believers, and the taking of communion which are the only ordinances commanded of the Church.
In the Old Testament, Israel was continually wanting to adopt the pagan idol worship and rituals from the cultures surrounding them. The most striking example that comes readily to my mind is when Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and the people decided it was too long and they needed to take matters into their own hands. Now, might I remind you that these were the people who were part of the exodus from Egypt. They had seen miraculous divine demonstrations: the 10 plagues, the destroyer who passed over their blood marked doors, the Egyptian peoples hearts turned so as to give them great wealth when they fled, the parting of the Red Sea. They were not short on divine experiences and evidence. They had been given ordinances through Moses, so they had lots to do. Yet after 40 days, in sinful dissatisfaction (and some of them, unbelief) they trespassed beyond God’s boundaries and turned to idol worship!
We see this sinful dissatisfaction with God’s way again in the example of Nadab and Abihu . These were Aaron’s sons, who had just been through specific training on their priestly roles. They knew what to do, they knew what was expected, and they had witnessed the miraculous. There was no question as to God’s existence or expectation. Yet they decided to cross those divine boundaries and do things their own way. They did not perform their duties in the way commanded by God. They offered strange fire before the Lord and he killed them. God is serious about His prescribed ways.
I lay these examples out for several reasons. One, we need to be aware of how powerful our sin nature is. It is impossible to overcome for the unregenerate. But even for those regenerated by the new life, it is easy to fall into sin when we are not relying on the Lord, keeping our eyes on Him, and staying close to Him. Two, we need to recognize the seriousness of the sin of dissatisfaction. If we are believers, we believe God is perfect in all of His ways. That includes His boundaries of determining how He wants to be worshiped, how He chooses to operate in believers lives (Bible, baptism, communion), and the way of salvation. It would be wise of us not to underestimate the depth of our sin natures. Even those who are saved are susceptible to going beyond what God has prescribed, seeking fleshly experience or wanting to work our way to Him. I urge us to be satisfied with what God has deemed best. He is God, we are not. He makes plain in scripture that He chooses to work in the lives of believers through His Word, and ordinances (baptism and communion). There are some things we adopt in the church that are neutral, neither bad nor good. But I would caution believers, myself included, to carefully examine our motives when we want to go beyond what God has communicated as His prescribed way. Are we craving experience over obedience (which many feel to be dull and boring)? Is our motive to glorify Him, or glorify ourselves?
The way is narrow. Let that sink in. I fear it is so familiar that people pass over it without serious consideration. Jesus was very clear that MANY would follow the broad path and FEW would find the narrow gate. He has given us His way in His Word, the Bible. Be satisfied, believer, with this great gift! Be obedient to the One who knows best.
Soli Deo Gloria!