This is an excerpt from an article in Leadership magazine written by John Ortberg:
Conforming to boundary markers too often substitutes for authentic transformation.
The church I grew up in had its boundary markers. A prideful or resentful pastor could have kept his job, but if ever the pastor was caught smoking a cigarette, he would've been fired. Not because anyone in the church actually thought smoking a worse sin than pride or resentment, but because smoking defined who was in our subculture and who wasn'tit was a boundary marker.
As I was growing up, having a "quiet time" became a boundary marker, a measure of spiritual growth. If someone had asked me about my spiritual life, I would immediately think, Have I been having regular and lengthy quiet time? My initial thought was not, Am I growing more loving toward God and toward people?
Boundary markers change from culture to culture, but the dynamic remains the same. If people do not experience authentic transformation, then their faith will deteriorate into a search for the boundary markers that masquerade as evidence of a changed life.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with boundary markers. Every culture, every family and every individual needs boundary markers. We need to be able to say when a line has been crossed, whether we were crossed or the one doing the crossing. We need to be able to say, “These are things we will not do to ourselves or to God or to one another.”
The problem comes when there’s nothing in a relationship besides boundary markers. If the only way we relate to God is by finding out what we can and can’t get away with, it turns God into nothing more than “The Great Warden in the Sky” with all of us as His inmates. Or it leads to us following a shell of the rules. We will keep ourselves presentable on the outside and ignore the condition of our hearts. That’s how you become what Jesus calls a “white-washed tomb.”
God has greater hopes for you and me. And He’s stated them very clearly in a number of places. They are surprisingly simple to understand and attempt. We’re going to start talking about them this Sunday.
This year especially, we want God to speak to us, to call us into His presence and give us a purpose. But in one way of thinking about it, He has already done so in language that is crystal clear. God has already spoken. We’re going to take a look at this very simple message.