by Ray Gentry
Hopefully we all have memories of learning how to ride a bicycle. We started with training wheels that kept us from falling over. While they were on, they kept us from falling over onto either side, but one day our father took them off and gave us a push and let us try to balance ourselves. But that balance didn’t last long before we inevitably fell. Our father was right there to help pick us up, give us motivation and another push in order for us to try again. This is similar to what our Heavenly Father has done for us, and the fundamental principle we learn from riding a bicycle is BALANCE.
This concept can also be applied when learning to be Spirit-led in the New Covenant. The original national Israel was given the Old Mosaic Law which was their training wheels (see Galatians 3:24-26). But now that FAITH in Jesus has come, we now no longer have a tutor that functions like training wheels. Instead, the Bible teaches that in Christ, the age of maturity has arrived, and we now have the greater ministry of the Holy Spirit that leads and guides us. But even with the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we’re still quite human and inevitably make mistakes. We still might crash, and our Heavenly Father is there to help pick us back up. Sometimes we even hit rock bottom after receiving our Heavenly Father’s discipline (as we just learned in Hebrews 12), but once we’ve been brought that low, we learn to not make those same mistakes. Fortunately there’s only one way to go from those depths, which is straight up, and it’s quite empowering when the crushing weight of sin is lifted and we observe that we’re beginning to bear fruit from the lessons we’ve learned as we’re molded into His image.
Not only does the Holy Spirit help us with BALANCE, but He also tries to steer us away from dangerous paths. For example, going back to our bicycle analogy, if you’re riding along and see a sign that warns of danger ahead, then clearly those aren’t paths that would be safe to travel. Likewise, while our New Covenant life is known for LIBERTY (2 Corinthians 3:17) and there are countless different paths we could take, we should be earnestly listening for any indicators from the Holy Spirit that might alert us to paths we should avoid. We should also be aware that there are some paths that we should avoid at all costs, and flee from once we become aware of them.
To further explore the concept of BALANCE, we’ve most likely observed how sometimes young and immature Christians have the tendency to be overzealous and view almost everything as being sinful and should be looked down upon. They can also be critical and judgmental of others. However, towards the other extreme, there are some that feel there are no limits and that everything is permissible for everyone. This is an important practical application of recognizing that God is the One who teaches us how to live. He not only uses His Holy Spirit as well as His benevolent discipline to lead us, but He has also instructed us with His Word. Therefore, in further evaluating this specific example, what can Scripture teach us about how we should treat others? Should we be known for grace towards all, or should we apply the rigid legalism found in the Old Mosaic Covenant?
In the New Covenant we shouldn’t judge others for how much progress God has made in leading them in their walk with Him. Remember:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you,” (Matthew 7:1-2).
If this were the only verse on this topic, it might lead us to the extreme where we would leave other believers alone to live however they might feel like living, even if a crash is imminent. Thankfully there are many other verses to help us find the Biblical BALANCE. We shouldn’t judge others, but instead of simply allowing them to painfully crash, if we care about someone we should seek to know the difference between resorting to harsh, divisive, unfruitful, condescending, critical “judgment,” versus learning how to offer an edifying rebuke and exhortation. Here are some helpful verses:
“Reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).
“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).
“As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Timothy 5:20).
“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).
“Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
These verses encourage us to assist God in the growth of others while we trust God to do the work in His children as He uses His Holy Spirit as well as occasionally using His benevolent fatherly discipline to mold us into His image. Notice again that our job of exhortation is for the constructive edification of believers already in the Church, rather than unfruitful criticism directed at unbelievers outside the Church. When we present the Gospel to unbelievers, it is to be “Good News” to help them, rather than self-righteous condemnation that pushes them away.
In conclusion of this example of how we treat others: we can’t be legalistic and cast stones in judgment of others (see John 8:3-11), and we can’t only distribute grace, but we must instead find the proper BALANCE in applying Truth from Scripture as we help others grow to be more like Christ.
In the New Covenant, having LIBERTY and learning BALANCE is better in every way than having to meticulously follow a list of rules and regulations based on fear. The New Covenant is instead our new God-given desires rooted deep down inside of us, and this love in us is a much greater motivator than fear. This God-given love will help empower us with Balance in order to live our New Covenant lives to the fullest as we willingly submit to Him guiding us with His Holy Spirit.