The series The Gift of Limitation serves as the supplemental Bible study guide to the sermon of the same name available here as a podcast (February 28, 2016). This series aims to highlight how the power of God at work in your life entails honoring specific divine limits. If you respect these limits, God offers protection and will demonstrate His divine power. If you overstep these limits, you fall out of the domain of God’s protection and are left to your own devices.
Having the gift of limitation means that you accept God’s limits and can therefore receive God’s power. If you reject this gift, you have to rely on yourself. The problem with the gift of limitation is that we live in a culture that hates limits, yet we serve a God that likes limits. For example, our culture says that success invariably means more of something: more house, more congregants, more money, and more achievement. This insatiable desire is driven by comparison, which has the detrimental side effect of crushing contentment. Compare this incessant desire for more with a God who says, “Thou shall not covet.” Culture says that death is a weapon. So whether we terminate life before it is born, electrocute convicts on death row, or use machines halfway around the world to destroy a village to take out one person, life in present times has been devalued to the status of a commodity to be traded. In fact, every “great” empire in human history—whether it be Egypt (enslaving the Israelites), Babylon (conquering the Israelites), Rome (war), Germany (holocaust), or America (slavery)—has exerted its power by destroying life. Compare that with God, who says that life is sacred.
In a spiritual sense, limits are protective. In a secular sense, limits are restrictive. The gift of limitation gives you a sense of peace within the limits set by God. If you go over the limit, you now have to deal with the consequences without the protective covering of God. In fact, in Isaiah 43:25, The Lord speaks through the prophet and says, “I am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (emphasis added). Transgression is translated from the word pesa, meaning a revolt or to trespass. Trespass means what? To step over a limit. To cross a boundary that you are not supposed to. What God is saying here in Isaiah is that He is in the business of restoring broken relationships with people who sin or who break limits. The gift of limitation, then, also empowers believers to execute obedience and stay within the limit of God’s Law.
And before we move on, this is worth mentioning: Psychologically speaking, the sheer existence of a limit is what compels us to long to break it. A speed limit of 55 is what compels you to go 65. The limit is actually the sign for revolt, and sin is what turns the limit into a motivation for insurgence. Yet, what many people fail to realize is that sin always creates evil out of limit-breaking. God creates good out of limits. Indeed, there is always more room to roam outside of the limit, but the demands placed on you outside are always greater than what you are personally capable of meeting. Hence, the gift of limitation empowers us to discern what the best response is in the long run (limit-keeping) rather than what seems easiest to do right now (limit-breaking).
So, what are three specific gifts of limitation? Join me next week to find out.