I am the light–“the light of the world.” I am your light and the love of your life. When your world feels cold and dark, you can count on me to warm you from the inside out. You will never stumble and fall if you allow your prince to light your way. I see perfectly in the dark; never fear–I am here to move all the obstacles out of your way, my beloved. And if ever you do stumble in the dark, I will always pick you with my loving arms. Rest assured that there will always be a light on so you find your way back to me.
Love, Your prince and illumination
You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. – Psalm 18:28
This devotional is written by Sheri Rose Shepherd. All content copyright Sheri Rose Shepherd 2015. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Visit HisPrincess.com for devotionals, books, videos, and more from Sheri Rose Shepherd.
1 John 4:18 – ““Fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.””
Many Christians fear that setting and keeping limits signals rebellion or disobedience. In religious circles you’ll often hear statements such as, “Your unwillingness to go along with our program shows an unresponsive heart.” Because of this myth, countless individuals remain trapped in endless activities of no genuine spiritual and emotional value.
The truth is life-changing: a lack of boundaries is often a sign of disobedience. People who have shaky limits are often compliant on the outside, but rebellious and resentful on the inside. They would like to be able to say no, but are afraid. So they cover their fear with a half-hearted yes.
Take Barry for example. He had almost made it to his car after church when Ken caught up with him. Here goes, Barry thought. Maybe I can still get out of this one.
“Barry!” Ken boomed. “Glad I caught you!” The singles class officer in charge of Bible studies, Ken was a dedicated recruiter to the studies he presided over; however, he was often insensitive to the fact that not everyone wanted to attend his meetings.
“So which study can I put you down for, Barry? The one on prophecy, evangelism, or Mark?”
Barry thought desperately to himself. I could say, “None of the above interest me. Don’t call me—I’ll call you.” But he’s a ranking officer in the singles class. He could jeopardize my relationships with others in the group. I wonder which class will be the shortest? “How about the one on prophecy?” Barry guessed. He was wrong.
“Great! We’ll be studying end times for the next eighteen months! See you Monday.” Ken walked off triumphantly.
Let’s take a look at what just happened. Barry avoided saying no to Ken. At first glance, it looks like he made a choice for obedience. He committed himself to a Bible study. That’s a good thing, right? Absolutely.
But take a second look. What were Barry’s motives for not saying no to Ken? What were the thoughts and attitudes of his heart? Fear. Barry was afraid of Ken’s political clout in the singles group. He feared that he would lose other relationships if he disappointed Ken.
Why is this important? Because it illustrates a biblical principle: an internal no nullifies an external yes.
God is more concerned with our hearts than he is with our outward compliance. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).
In other words, if we say yes to God or anyone else when we really mean no, we move into a position of compliance. And that is the same as lying. Our lips say yes, but our hearts (and often our half-hearted actions) say no. Do you really think Barry will finish out his 18 months with Ken’s Bible study? The odds are that some priority will arise to sabotage Barry’s commitment, and he’ll leave — but without telling Ken the real reason why.
Here’s a good way to look at this myth that boundaries are a sign of disobedience: If we can’t say no, we can’t say yes. Why is this? It has to do with our motivation to obey, to love, or to be responsible. We must always say yes out of a heart of love. When our motive is fear, we love not.
The Bible tells us how to be obedient in 2 Corithians 9:7, “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Look at the first two ways of giving: “reluctantly” and “under compulsion.” They both involve fear—either of a real person or a guilty conscience. These motives can’t exist side by side with love, because “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts our fear” (1 John 4:18). Each of us must give as we have made up our minds. When we are afraid to say no, our yes is compromised.
God has no interest in our obeying out of fear because, “Fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). God wants a response of love.
Are boundaries a sign of disobedience? They can be. We can say no to good things for wrong reasons. But having a “no” helps us to clarify, to be honest, to tell the truth about our motives; then we can allow God to work in us. This process cannot be accomplished in a fearful heart.
This devotional is drawn from Boundaries, by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.
The Boundaries devotions are drawn from the Boundaries book series, which has transformed marriages, families, organizations, and individuals around the world. The Boundaries series is written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Copyright 2015 by Zondervan; all rights reserved. Learn more at BoundariesBooks.com.