Your Church has no Rules!
By Eli Stutzman
May 1, 2018
This is what some local Amish have observed with regard to non-Amish churches in this area. Why, they exclaim, with no fences the sheep will all disappear! Funny they should say that, since sheep are such a good example of the difference between the Old Testament and New Testament system of governing. Also I appreciate the honest comment that permits a conversation. And my thanks to Andy who told me of this.
In the old system of governing by laws and rules, the penalty is like a fence or wall that prevents straying. You can look at all the green pastures out there and wish you could get into those lush pastures, but fences can not be moved to allow that. If some sheep get outside the fence, the farmer will make sure that the sheep are returned and repairs are made to prevent that from happening again. Laws always need to be tinkered with, since loopholes are found. Farm fences always had to be repaired when I was young, and most likely still do. As do rules.
The name of this particular fence is fear. Break the rules and you will fear the consequences. All governments in the world use the fear principle. For example If the penalty for texting while driving does not stop the violation, then the penalty is increased. Increase the fear factor until you comply. Raise the fence. Turn up the pain for those who do not comply. Such is the thinking of some of my people. Therefore the strictness is increased expecting better compliance. How then does your church even function? All the sheep will be going to the neighbors and never return!
However, under the new covenant, the system is very different. We have a shepherd. The fences do not even exist. “What then”, you may say “keeps the flock together”?
No, we are not serving God out of fear, but out of love. The shepherd has said, in John10, 27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” That sure makes a difference! Now we have the whole world as pasture! Just ask the shepherd if we could go to those green hills way off on the distance, and you can be sure that if there is a good way to get there safely, he will take you there. This is how the gospel will be taken to the ends of the earth. People called to be a pastor or other service usually are glad to do so, because they love the shepherd.
This verse above also reveals that a relationship exists between sheep and shepherd. I once had a man tell me that God had told him women were to have their dresses a certain distance below the knees. This would mean the shepherd could not tell a female what was proper and a man had to pass on the information, which made me doubt that was indeed true.
There is a vast difference between the two systems. One is driven by fear of breaking through the fence and being punished. Others see what has happened to you and fear doing the same thing. That system works, but there is no relationship needed. In other words, love is missing.
Now we come to the most important command in the Bible. The Sadducees had just been stumped. So an expert in law asked Jesus as written in Matthew 22:36-40. Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
How, then shall we love God whom we have not seen? Does it seem that love cannot control the sheep? Ah, yes it can! He has shown his love for us by giving his very life for us! The shepherd has redeemed us with his own life. That is the basis of faith in my life, and for countless others. I have to know God loves me for this system to work, otherwise it seems dangerous to step out where others sheep have not gone. That is the core of the New Testament. Unsure of your faith? Don’t stay there, read the promises, get the assurance and trust the Lord of our salvation. Otherwise the danger is to get back to fences and that requires no relationship.
Are Christians then obliged to follow the Old Testament law? It was and is a system using fear and punishment. Romans 10; 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. If you believe and obey Jesus, the law is fulfilled. My yoke is easy and my burden is light. If you want some guidance on this, start with Matthew’s account of the sermon on the mount. What is written seems to apply to everyone that believes. Many missionaries and pastors are called to carry the word of God to various other places. Those are called individually. To hear what God wants for an individual requires a relationship, and that relationship requires knowing first, that God loves me and second that I am to love him. This particular view of how the New Testament kingdom works has helped me sort out some things and hope it helps you too!
— Eli Stutzman
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