The Fence

Fence-sheepTrying to live by the Law, or any attempt to be sanctified by the Law, is like living by a fence.

I wrote about this is in two other posts, “Why we really do need freedom from religion” and “Is it ‘hyper-grace’ or just God’s radical grace?” which will provide further explanation and allow me not to belabor those points here.

And why is this a problem, you might ask? Didn’t Jesus say He wouldn’t do away with the Law? Isn’t the Law written in our hearts under the New Covenant?

Ah, yes. But that’s not how we tend to apply the Law today, and this is where the problem lies. Let me explain. 

Living by the Law is a fence that puts a boundary around what is acceptable and what is not. Which interestingly enough, is quite subjective in churches today. Some say our clothing matters, the right kind of music, our hair style, no drinking, “bad” movies, etc. And as long as I stay on the right side of this fence of acceptable behavior, I’m okay. But if I go over, I’m condemned. Also, if I see anyone else go over this behavioral boundary, I can condemn them too.

Under the Old Covenant, it was a LETHAL FENCE! For most things, if you violated the Mosaic Law, you were stoned…killed. In Leviticus, the term “put to death” is used 25 times.

Of course, we don’t literally put people to death or stone them anymore, do we. No, here’s what we do. After we’ve decided which sins are acceptable and which are not, we now have the right to judge them. We “stone” them by criticizing, rejecting, hating, demonizing, withholding forgiveness, back-biting, gossiping, etc. After all, they’re not like us–they’ve crossed the fence!

Foolish Galatians–separating the Ceremonial Law from the Moral Law

This is why Paul even called the Law, written and engraved in stone, a “ministry of death” (2 Cor.3:7-8). But which part of the Law was written and engraved in stone? Right, the Ten Commandments–the moral law.

But according to our “foolish Galatian” gospel (mixing Law with grace) popular in evangelical circles today, God only did away with the ceremonial Law but not the moral Law. The problem, of course, is that not only did Paul call the moral Law a “ministry of death” but both he and James said you cannot separate any part of it (Gal.3:10; 5:2-4; James 2:10).

You either have to obey every jot and tittle or you’re under a curse…and you’ve actually fallen from grace (Gal.5:4). You are preaching another gospel” (Gal.1:6-9).

I taught on this subject last year, going through Galatians, and have a much more thorough outline on it. If you’re interested, you can get a copy of that outline here… But for the purpose of this post, I will briefly summarize.

What’s wrong with living by the “fence?”

I will live sin-conscious instead of God conscience. My awareness is on the fence, on “not sinning,” and trying to manage my behavior (staying inside the fence).

It actually hinders me from relying on the Holy Spirit. My focus is on performance instead of abiding in God’s love (John 15:9-10), which is the only thing that fulfills the Law. I’ll continue to live like a religious orphan,  separated from the power of God that actually enables me to live a godly life (Titus 2:11-12). Trying in vain to produce fruit that only comes from the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23).

If I’m focused on the fence (not sinning), I will automatically focus on the behavior of others.  On those I’ve deemed that have “crossed over” my subjective behavior line, comparing myself to them instead of Jesus (2 Cor.10:12).

I will want grace for myself but judgment and retribution on everyone else. I will never hold myself accountable for my own behavior. So, as Jesus said, I automatically become hypocritical and judgmental (Matt.7:1-5). For instance, if I have some weakness–maybe gossip, anger or being unforgiving–you should overlook it with grace. But if you have offended me in any way…how dare you!

If I’m the one getting caught, I will just hide my sin better next time! Just look our prison system. It may restrain but does it rehabilitate? We know that unless they have an encounter with the love of God, they’ll just work harder not to get caught next time. Isn’t this true? Likewise, this is the pathetic state of a church culture of behavior modification and sin-management. It creates a religious façade that only pushes sin deeper into secret–filling people with shame and guilt rather than the freedom promised by the gospel.

There’s more, but you get the idea…

Am I condoning license to sin? Absolutely not!

As Paul said, dead men don’t sin (Rom.6:1-2). I am condoning being managed by the Holy Spirit instead of the fence. For Paul seemed to think that if we walk by the Spirit we won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal.5:16).

Welcome to the New Covenant.

For we must understand that Jesus obliterated our living by the fence so that we could live by the Holy Spirit. As Dr. Andrew Farley has pointed out, Jesus came for two reasons: to bury us under the Old so He could establish the New. For, without this fence, there’s no more subjective standard to judge others, no more hypocritical and self-righteous pretenses. We can’t go on figuring out all our legalistic loopholes to make us appear like we’re living inside the fence. We must live by faith.

The only thing managing us is the Holy Spirit. But fear not, He’s pretty good at it. 🙂

And the “new” is the freedom from this lethal fence, freedom from religious bondage. It’s the freedom that Christ died for (Gal.5:1).

And that’s called the GOOD news that brings great joy!

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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19 Responses to The Fence

  1. Ayanda says:

    Hi Mel I’m just laughing to myself a bit here across the world from you. A few posts ago you had on ” Quote: Unhealthy Extremes On the Right and the Left of Grace” I remember feeling very perplexed because when I read the post I qouted above, I thought but Mel where is the line you were pointing out the extremes but there was no midway. I remember feeling knocked back and winded a bit, I realised the thought of freedom terrified me. As a person I always functioned better when I knew where the boundaries were. So after a couple of days I started feeling restless like I’m looking for something usually I’m looking for a question when I get like that, eventually the question came into focus. It was ” what is freedom and why does it terrify me?” so I went back to your church page and spotted a series called “Freedom” I helped myself to it :-). So I’m giggling to myself because this post is kinda like “Just incase I missed it” I think for me freedom is daunting because I cannot control it (the freedom) or Him ( the Holy Spirit) I have to surrender the need to know where the boundaries are. There is a song you had in one of your worship times “Oceans”. When I first heard it I came alive because that’s what I want, but in order to attain that I need to stop being preoccupied with the boundaries. A place where “My trust is without borders” is definitely not inside a fence. Exciting times!!!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Ayanda, you’ve pretty much summed up all of my teaching on grace and freedom. 🙂 Praise God! I’m so happy you’re finding freedom in Christ. And you bring out other important aspects I didn’t say here, like living on the “ocean” of God without borders. Yes, freedom is scary because we can’t live in our cage anymore. I wrote about that in my post, “Why do we have such a problem with freedom?” But once the bird flies out of the cage we will never be satisfied with religion again. And that’s a good thing. Blessings to you.

    • Ayanda says:

      Hi Mel, just read the post ” on why are you afraid of freedom, wow I’m gonna start looking at your older posts before I started following you, its going to save me a whole lotta time. :-). I’ve been following you since beginning Jan but that feels like a life time ago. Brother I’m blessed by how you divide the word, I’m getting real food.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thank you for your kind comments. I’m glad you’re blessed by them. 🙂

  2. marklhen says:

    Love it, Mel. But if you aren’t careful, you’re going to let the rabbits out of the cage… and you’ll never get them back in!! Just sayin’ 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      Oh, I hope so. 🙂 Been working on dismantling that cage for a while now.
      It’s time we stopped being scared little bunnies and started walking in the light of freedom with the Lion of Judah! (My wife said that. She’s pretty awesome! )

  3. You can only live by the Spirit if you have the heart to. There is no point in even trying to teach these things to a group of people in a collective gathering called “the church” if they have not come to the place where they utterly desire to live by the Spirit and be led by Him. This does not come from hoping they will get more revelation through hearing more truth. It begins in the heart condition. Whatever religious gathering you are part of, people essentially want to hear a gospel that liberates them. They follow a cultural Christianity of comfort and ease. There is plenty of focus on this in western post-modern Christianity and seems to colour a lot of teaching. Even the Cross is not really taught in its fullness these days. There us so much of a half gospel on offer all over the place. The radical self sacrificing call of Jesus has been replaced with a teaching that, when you get to its core, asks very little of the individual. Folks run from the deeper challenges of following Christ.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Martin, this is absolutely what the Cross brings us to–the life in the Spirit. There is no other version of New Testament Christianity. It doesn’t come in our trying to crucify ourselves, but receiving the crucified life that was fashioned on the Cross. You are still trying to do something Christ has already done. You need to get on the right side of the Cross, brother. This is the very heart of the New Covenant.

      As far as the “deeper life,” it ONLY comes by the Spirit, not by the evangelical Christian version self-flagellation, or any other subtle form of self-righteous activity. It’s only living from Christ’s love that accomplishes what you are saying we should be doing. Otherwise, we are like the “elder brother” (Luke 15:25-31), living in the Kingdom like an orphan, doing things out of our own insecurities and self-righteousness instead of from the love of God. I should know, I lived that way for 25 years of my Christian life. True self-less living comes from abiding in God’s love as a son. As Paul said, it comes by being in the grip of God’s love.

      “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Cor.5:14-15 NKJV)

      Martin, it’s apparent from your comments here and previous ones you’ve made on my blog in the past, that you have an axe to grind against what you think is a “cross-less” gospel and you wish to go around demonizing the whole movement. That’s your prerogative but you won’t be expounding on those things here. This is why I’ve had to moderate some of your comments because, frankly, your vitriolic attitude does not “impart grace to the hearer.” (Eph.4:29). I’m sorry you’ve been hurt. I pray you receive a revelation of the transforming love of Christ.

      Grace and peace to you, brother.

    • I`ve no axe to grind. I am not vitriolic. I just have my opinion and its not the same as yours. I have had a revelation of the transforming love of Christ. I just think He is looking for full and rounded sons. I just recognise that life in the Spirit comes through death to the flesh. Its not self flagellation either. At some point you have to explain to the Body of Christ why so many sincere folks are going through so much suffering. And its not just the result of the fall and living in a fallen world. Its because the in-working of the Cross in the lives of His children has not been properly understood.

    • Mel Wild says:

      What are you are saying here is not vitriolic but your other comments very much come across that way. All of your comments have been negative generalizations against this particular movement. And if you understood what I meant by the transforming love of God you wouldn’t be saying the things you’ve been saying.

      But I do agree with most of what you say here, as long as you mean that we receive that reality of Christ’s death as our death and now we walk now in His life. Christianity is not about the death, it’s about the resurrection life.

      Yes, there is suffering among sincere Christians, no doubt. But it depends on what kind of suffering you’re talking about. We were not promised freedom from persecution but freedom from all the bondages of the enemy–spiritual, physical or emotional. Of course, it takes exercising faith to receive it. But we are also not alone on this planet–we are in a battle against principalities and powers that are malicious toward us. And, yes, Jesus said we would have trouble in this world, but He has overcome them (Jn.16:33), and we live in Him. That’s where our focus should be.

      Heidi Baker (Iris Global) is a perfect example of someone transformed by the love of God who faces persecution everyday yet reigns in Christ through it all. She’s been stoned, beaten, shot at, yet her ministry has transformed Mozambique, feeding over 13,000 orphans, along with over 10,000 churches planted in 30 countries.

      Martin, I do appreciate your sincere heart. But some of your generalizations and accusations are painting a distorted picture of what God is doing in these people’s ministries that you condemn. I hope you understand that.

      Again, I do wish you the best. Even if we disagree. Blessings to you.

  4. This is my first time pay a visit at here and i am in fact impressed to read everthing at single place.

  5. God blesses for the sake of His name. Doesn`t mean He endorses everything that goes on in His name. Whats good, I`ll call good. Whats bad. I`ll call bad. Another reason the church doesn`t realise that there is no real reformation going on. They exclude anything that is truly prophetic. Theres a lot of talking out there. Not many lives being laid down. Anything that has any charismatic influence in it..well…its own worst enemy. They`ll keep repeating the same mistakes until the foundations are ripped up and the real ones put back in place. Its a flimsy ol house that’s getting built out there.

    Kicked out of your cyber church.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Again, you are making sweeping judgments and generalizations, at best, about what you think is going on. And you could find warts in any part of the Body of Christ if you looked close enough. You don’t need to just pick on the Charismatics for that! And I have yet to hear you call anything good, Martin. It’s all what’s wrong with the Church based on your embittered view of things–apparently, what you think is “truly prophetic.” Again, I’m sorry you feel that way. We will need to end this conversation by agreeing to disagree. I wish you the best.

  6. Ayanda says:

    Hi Pastor Mel, please excuse me for butting in with your conversation to Martin, I see you haven’t left in the option for us to reply to his post directly, I understand that. However I would like to comment to Martin. Martin please don’t think I am attacking you, I am not you are my brother and you are in some sort of pain. Martin you say you have had a revelation of the transforming love of our beloved Lord Jesus, and that you THINK that He is looking for full and well rounded sons ( I’m paraphrasing a bit). Firstly Martin the thing about a revelation is that it is also a shaking, shaking down everything that we’ve believed and held until then and in my experience it is a process until we don’t have to THINK what we know and be sure of what we know. Secondly you talk about good people hurting and wanting to know why, I get the impression that you feel Pastor Mel is feeding you porrige instead of meat or even worse, rat poison. Not very long ago actually for me in November last year I was still holding on to a belief that Christianity is suffering, I declared as much to a group of friends. I’ve suffered a lot in my life and the period before Christ revealed Himself to me the pain was so intense I couldn’t stand it. One distinct part of my revelation was Christ saying why do we worship at the cross, whereas the cross is the gate to the Father. Martin I had no concept of how else to live, but when I finally surrended got through to the Father side of the cross all the “New teachings” made sense to me, but first I had to let go of my need to be in control, the need to justify myself. On the side of the cross you are worshiping from you are separating yourself from the Father or see yourself as separate and whilst we are still trying to justify and perfect ourselve God, our Dad had to watch on because He will never ever go against our free will, also during this time on the ” world side of the cross” we are basically saying to our Father that we can handle ourselves against the enemy, if you can’t see and can’t hear can you really protect yourself? When I was on that side I couldn’t tell the forest from the trees, I resisted letting go, when I read comments from people demonising what the Holy Spirit is doing in this generation, I used the them to justify why I was still on the world side of the cross but I realised it wasn’t setting me free, instead it was frustrating me, terrorising me and confusing me, it seems to me I was fighting the enemy on my strength and trust me he didn’t want me to know who I really am ( My Father’s son). Eventually I got so fed up I asked God the following questions straight out, brother I mean I felt like I was getting all up in my Father’s face about it because I was fed up. The questions were God who are you? Can you really actually protect me? Will you actually protect me? Do you want to protect me? Its not like I just got born again, I’ve been born again more than half my life. Martin since you are a man of revelation then maybe you can appreciate what my Father did, He sent me to Mel’s page and the discovering the Father’s Heart series, He used Mel’s teaching to start binding and nursing my wounds on His side of the cross. See you issue is not that Mel is giving you rat poison, your issue is you don’t know if you trust God to keep you, you come to the blog but with your fingers in your ears. God wants nothing more than to show you who He is and who you are. Last thought Martin if all this teaching is making you so edgy my question is have you found any other teaching that satisfies you, feeds, shows you the Father, binds up your wounds and assure you and believes the work Jesus Christ did on the cross? If not Martin then you have to consider your steps carefully make sure you don’t call unclean something from the Holy Spirit and once you are certain this teaching is not from the Holy Spirit hey I will even give you my e-mail address and you can have free access of telling how wrong or mistaken or deceived I am and I will tell ” I was lost, but now I am found, I was blind, but now I see. Thanks Martin for hearing me brother I hope you break through soon because the harvest is ready.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks for sharing your testimony, Ayanda. It’s truly a joy to my heart that you are getting free in the love of the Father. I say, Amen. Praise God! And I appreciate what you’re trying to say to Martin here. I feel the same way when people come against what I’ve experienced in the Father’s love. I just don’t want this to turn into a lengthy debate so I will have to moderate a few comments on this thread if they become argumentative. I hope you understand.

      Sincere Christians who love God as much as we do will disagree with this and that’s okay. God is ever working on us all. And it’s all good. 🙂

    • Martin says:

      Thanks a lot Ayanda. I truly found this helpful and greatly appreciate you taking the time to explain it. I think that your suffering will have brought you closer to Christ and many pastors have never really been there…

      (the rest of this comment was moderated because of content)

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Martin. Those were very graceful comments to Ayanda. I’ve moderated the rest of your comment because it went back into what you believe is wrong with me and others like me. I get that. As I said, we will just have to leave it here…agreeing to disagree. I want only the best for you. Blessings to you.

  7. Pingback: Our problem with correction | In My Father's House

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