Blessed are the Pacesetters (3)

So what are my thoughts about being a pacesetter? If you haven’t read the previous posts on this topic, please go back and do so, as I can’t spend a lot of time on rehashing those ideas here. [ Post #1 | Post #2 ]

Come back with me to the analogy of driving on the freeway, and we’ll work a few of those ideas out.

As we continue, consider as a starting point that God gives us boundaries. Much like a highway has lane dividers, marked on- and off-ramps, and speed limits, our journey on the Highway to Heaven has boundaries.

In our day and age we’re scared to talk about boundaries. Parents are unwilling to place them around their children’s activities. Adults believe that as long as they are happy or fulfilled, or based out of “love,” whatever they are doing is condoned by God.

Scripture is often spoken of as our field manual for living. But we’ve been carried away by the freedoms it contains and forget (or ignore) the boundaries God puts around us in His love and foresight.

Some will disagree with me on a fundamental level here, but I believe that it possible to go after the things of God too much. We can be overly zealous. We can offer an impure offering, even though we believe our motives are pure.

How is that possible? Let’s look at both an Old Testament and New Testament example.

~ Nadab and Abihu

Aaron was chosen to be the first High Priest of the people of Israel. He was a member of the tribe of Levi,  whose families were given different roles, serving God’s people as priests, mediators between God and man.

As the High Priest, the men of his line helped serve in the Tabernacle (from Moses to David), and in the Temple (from David until the first Temple was destroyed by Babylon, and in the Second Temple built by those returning from exile through about 70 A.D.). Also, the office of High Priest was designated as a hereditary role; the son of the passing High Priest would take his place.

Imagine the joy he must have felt seeing his sons anointed to serve in the Tabernacle, to make sacrifices, offer incense, and perform other duties before the one true God. One of these sons would be groomed to follow him, being only the second High Priest Israel had ever known. Two of these sons were Nadab and Abihu.

We are told the story of Nadab and Abihu in just two verses from Leviticus 10:

That same day Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, took their censers, put hot coals and incense in them, and offered “strange” fire to God-something God had not commanded. Fire blazed out from God and consumed them-they died in God’s presence. (The Message)

Scripture never spells out for us what the “strange fire” consisted of, though there are many theories by theologians. Personally, I think they were so excited to be fulfilling their special duty before God that they lost sight of what they were doing because they were caught up in doing it.

What was your first day of work like? How about your first day of high school, college or university? Maybe a better example is a first date. You’re totally nervous, unsure exactly what to expect, and often find yourself tripping over words or actions or your two left feet. You’re so excited to be in the game that you forget the way it’s played. (You can find some more thoughts on Nadab and Abihu in Worship Theory.)

~ Peter

I know, we always pick on Peter. But Jesus knew what He was doing when he asked this old fisherman to be part of the group. You can teach an old dog new tricks, but in the process, he’s going to trip over the ones he’s known since he was a pup. Talk about a picture of the old man versus the new man.

Peter’s zeal often got the better of him. There are two occurrences that stand out above the others in my mind.

In the case that shows up later in the story, Peter’s zeal is harmful to another person. Jesus was being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter didn’t like it. So what did he do? Peter cut the ear off one of the guards sent to get Jesus.

How do we know this may not have been the best reaction? Look at Jesus’ reaction:

Jesus ordered Peter, “Put back your sword. Do you think for a minute I’m not going to drink this cup the Father gave me?” (John 18:11, The Message).

Jesus didn’t pat Peter on the back for his courage or bravery. Nor did the other disciples present didn’t pull out their swords and start attacking the rest of the guards.

Peter was told to keep his eyes on the goal, to understand that Jesus was filling a purpose. No matter how loud the voice in his heart screamed, “Kill the man who’s taking your Lord,” Peter was supposed to let God’s plan unfold. (I’m still trying to figure out why Peter took a sword to a prayer meeting.)

The background for this failure to stay within his boundaries was probably the result of the other instance that comes to mind regarding Peter. It’s a story found in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke).

Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?”

So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”

Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:29, NKJV).

Peter had figured out Who Jesus was. It was a truth revealed by God that this was no ordinary man standing before him, doing miracles and preaching God’s Gospel to His people. He wasn’t an angel or a prophet reincarnated. He was the Son of God, The Messiah whom the prophets foretold, the coming King now in flesh ready to bring in His Kingdom.

There was just one problem. Peter’s ideas of what this King was supposed to be and do didn’t gel with the plan of God. He saw the various pieces of the greater story but didn’t realize they had to fall in a certain order, more like a bridge being built than a puzzle fitting together.

His zeal for the King of kings to reign in His forever Kingdom was so great that he tempted Jesus to follow a different path than the one laid out by the Father. It would be the same sin that held him back in the Garden. Here Jesus rebuked him, an unwitting tool of Satan.

Have you overstepped your boundaries with God?

Maybe you’re not aware of the boundaries He has placed as a hedge of protection around you. The following questions will help you learn about some of those boundaries, and help you determine if you’ve crossed the line, and need to find your place behind the pace car again.

  • God establishes all authority in our lives; governmental, familial, spiritual. What guidelines have your authorities set up for you? Which ones do you follow? Which do you find a way around, with whatever reasoning, to get what you think is waiting for you?
  • Paul tells us that in the Body of Christ, each member belongs to the others. When it comes to your participation in and place within your local church body, whose needs and desires do you seek to fulfill? Your own, or those of the body God has determined that you are a vital part of?
  • James tells us that our spiritual are given to us so we can be a blessing to the rest of the Body of Christ. What do you do with your spiritual gifts? Do you share them with the local body God has called you to? Do you use them for your own gain, whether monetary, or for the advance of your reputation, or to stroke your own ego? Are you making use of them at all? Do you even know what your gifts are?
  • Peter had his eyes on a day of glory and fulfillment. So often we see what can be, what should be, but we do not understand the steps needed to get there. What end have you worked towards by shortcutting God’s plan? Have you sought God’s direction on what those steps might be? Are you sure that the end you’re working towards is even in God’s plan?
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