Summary: Message focuses on setting boundaries in our lives shows how God Himself is a boundary setter. This message deals with the discipline of setting boundaries for our own behavior. The next message will deal with setting boundaries on others in our relations
This morning I want teach on the subject of boundaries. What are boundaries? Why are they important? What happens when I don’t set them? How do I establish healthy boundaries?
I was going to share this in the Monday, Overcomers Outreach because it is so important to staying clean and sober. But setting boundaries is something every one of struggle with at some level. The health of our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with God, and our relationships with others all depend on this issue of boundaries. Codependency is particularly driven by a lack of healthy boundaries in a relationship. But other addictions are also seriously affected by this.
Let me quickly tell you how that happens. When I don’t establish healthy boundaries for myself and toward other people, I can feel used; I can feel violated; I can feel disrespected. My emotional state is affected and resentment can come into my heart. Webster’s Dictionary defines resentment in this way, “a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.”i When that feeling robs us of joy and peace, when those feelings drain the life out of us, then we are particularly tempted to self-medicate with an addictive substance or activity. We try to escape from the feeling by “using” and that only brings temporary relief.ii Therefore, one aspect of our healing is learning how to set boundaries that minimize the resentment and pain. Boundaries are important.
Notice that God Himself is a Boundary Setter!
The Bible (reading from the Living Bible) opens with these words from Gen 1:2 “the earth was a shapeless, chaotic mass….”iii How do you bring order into a chaotic situation? You establish boundaries! The first boundary God established was on darkness. He divided the light from the darkness. Gen. 1:5 says, “God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night.” Then we see Him setting another boundary, this time on the waters. He separated the waters so that we have the firmament and dry land in the earth rather than the oceans flooding over everywhere.
He set boundaries on reproduction so that seed produces after its own kind. He establishes seasons; boundaries on the weather. Then He creates man: male and female with boundaries on human sexuality. He placed Adam and eve in a specific place called “The Garden of Eden” which also had boundaries.iv Now follow with me as we read the specific boundary He communicates to them. Gen 2:16-17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
Did you notice that the violation of that boundary had a built-in consequence? It’s not a threat. God didn’t say “If you step over that boundary I will kill you!” He simply let them know that the boundary was a protection from something detrimental, and to overstep it would expose them to something called “death.” So in creation we see God bring order where there was chaos and He does it by setting boundaries. I want to suggest that where there is chaos in your life, establishing some boundaries may be a key to bringing order, productivity, and fruitfulness.
Throughout Scripture we see God setting boundaries. In Gen. 12 He had told Abram to leave Ur of Chaldees and He gave Abram Canaan land; that would be his inheritance. God set limits on where Abram was to be. When God gave Moses the Law he set limits on specific behavior. The Ten Commandments identify boundaries: “Thou shalt not….” When Israel came into the Promise Land God gave each tribe an allotment of land and specifically told them what their boundaries were.v When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples in Matthew 10 He specifically told them who to preach to, what to preach, and how they were to conduct themselves. He set boundaries on all those things. When Jesus was ready to ascend into heaven after His resurrection, He told His followers to “Tarry in … Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Boundaries are a good and necessary thing. God sets boundaries.
The most amazing thing to me is that God even sets boundaries on Himself! People argue over whether God is sovereign or man has freewill. Which is it? It is both! In His sovereignty, God has chosen to give man freewill. He has the power to not grant that and He has the power to grant it. In His place of infinite power God has chosen to grant freewill to people. This is illustrated in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” God desires that all come to repentance and be saved. In His omnipotence, He could force that on everyone. But He sets a limit on His own use of power, so that everyone’s freewill is respected. I have the power to cheat on my income tax. But I have decided not to do that. Out of integrity every year I honor that limit I have set on my behavior. Out of integrity God continues to honor the decision He has sovereignly made to respect the freewill He has given man.