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Shepherds Hill Homestead » Messages » Straddling the Fence

Straddling the Fence

          Angie and I had an interesting discussion this afternoon about people we know who are living with the Devil at the wheel and yet believe they are going to heaven. Their lives are no different than anyone else in the world and they are lead by their flesh. At some time in their life they made a statement that they wanted to live for God. Then, it seems that they slid over to the other side. This week I’m going to talk about fence straddlers.  As a shepherd it is my duty to provide food for my sheep. A few years ago, just after we had moved here we had a drought. It was a real challenge to get pasture for the sheep as our new farm did not have any fences. We had to stay busy at fences for the first few years. I even put up a fence around our entire yard as it seemed foolish to be mowing grass when the sheep needed it anyway. I used an electric fence as it was not meant to be permanent and since it was much less expensive.

          When I opened the area up to the flock they immediately had a beautiful area of thick grass to graze on. It was a good sized area and I sat out in the heat to enjoy watching them graze. I was not there two minutes when one of them got into the fence trying to go for some of our shrubbery. I sort of expected that to happen except I anticipated a short bump of the nose and the animal doing a rapid about-face. What happened was that the sheep, with the extra wool for insulation, had gotten halfway through two strands when the current hit and then began to thrash my work.

The wire I used was aluminum (which I thought would be better than steel). Aluminum is softer than steel and so it stretched to the point of hanging on the ground before the poor animal got out. It was not funny. I had spent several hours to put this fence up and now it was down in two minutes of time. It is so irritating to have an animal with plenty of good, thick grass pursue what they are not supposed to have. God must feel the same way about us.

We are given boundaries to stay in with plenty to satisfy us and yet the grass does seem better on the other side. Our old carnal nature leads us to where that fence bites and then it takes some time to get over it. If you read the Bible through as a continuous story of the history of God’s people it is incredible to see where man failed God repeatedly. Over and over again he did the same thing. As you read, the story gets irritating at how men walked away from God and fell for the temporary pleasures of the pagans around them.

I often wonder how people get to such sin. When you read the news today you see atrocities that humans commit against their fellow men without blinking an eye. The horrors that are done with no shame or regret is unbelievable. Here’s the truth about the matter. No one commits such crime unless they drifted that way for a long time. Let me explain further. Let’s suppose that the enemy tempts me today to rob a bank. He throws the temptation in where all I would have to do is reach around the counter and grab money and run. I would not be tempted in the least. Right now, I have all my bills paid and my family is taken care of. I have a good paying job and I would never risk all of that to do something so foolish. I have never stolen before and am not about to start now. So how does a person get to the point of robbing a bank?

Well, it doesn’t start with a bank teller’s cash drawer being the temptation. The way it is worked up to is that a person starts years back with candy or some toy at the store and then it progresses up. That sounds foolish to some people. They see no harm in a child taking candy that doesn’t belong to them. I personally know men who are in jail for theft and none of them started their path of crime with a bank robbery. They took during their high school years and stole from their families. They got by with it or worse yet, were caught but no one ever made them pay restitution. Later it was so engrained in them that it was an automatic thing to do. No one ever did a heinous crime for their very first act of sin. They slowly drifted into it. They may have let un-forgiveness grow into real hatred and then committed murder. The sin was growing inside all the time though. Read James 1:13-15. Sin is progressive.

Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived and wrote down many Proverbs for us to ponder. He wrote the Song of Songs about Christ and the church and there are some nuggets of wisdom hidden in the midst. One of them is in chapter 2 verse 15. It speaks of the little foxes spoiling the vines. It truly is the small sins that cause us to fail. We always get caught when we do something as blatant and brash as robbing a bank. There are cameras and alarms that provide some level of accountability for keeping the majority of crimes away. Major robberies always get solved and the thief is always prosecuted. What happens is if someone doesn’t get caught in the lesser crimes they feel like they are immune to the rules and will repeat it again. Eventually, we all get caught in our sin.

Now, how does all of this have anything to do with sheep and straddling the fence? No animal is tempted when they are in the middle of the pasture. The closer they get to the fence the more they see that grass on the other side. If you ever drive by a field full of cattle you will notice that the ones that get close to the fence are usually eating through the fence. If I took you to the edge of a cliff and we stood twenty feet away you would be in no danger of falling off. If you walked closer you would slowly risk more. Standing three feet from the drop-off seems fun to some but a big gust of wind or a little vertigo and you could fall right off. The point is, the closer you are to “the edge” the closer you are to falling. Back to my story; my sheep ate on the new area of grass and now there is a band of grass near the fence. They only come within a foot or so of it.

What about those who literally try and stand on both sides? Well, the sheep that got half way through the electric fence thrashed around and then ended up on the other side. She could not get back with the rest of the flock.  She looked for another way to get through but could not find one. I had to catch her and put her over the fence. Once you have fallen away it is hard to get back (Luke 11:24-26 and Hebrews 10:26-27). In Revelation 3:14-22 God speaks harshly to the church at Laodicea because they are neither hot nor cold. He states that it is better if they were hot or cold but since they are neither He will spew them out.

Samson drifted little by little in failing his Nazarite vows. Look at Judges 16:20. The scripture says that Delilah had tricked him and found the secret of his strength. He had done what he wanted up until now and he went in the direction he chose. He had already failed the first two of his vows (drinking alcohol and touching the dead). The only one left to break was to cut his hair. After toying with him she finally broke down his will. Samson thought that everything was as it always had been. Look at verse 20. “And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him”.

Samson had no idea that he had been going through the fence. At times he had actually been on the far side. But the jolt hadn’t come just yet. That next line says “but the Philistines took him and put out his eyes”. When we straddle the fence we won’t even aware of it until the fence charger gets us. Then there can be so much confusion that after the struggle we could be on the other side. Have you ever seen a brother who was not really serious with God and then when tragedy struck he got mad at God and walked away? The transition happened and that brother never knew when he crossed over.

If we are wise and we straddle the fence we will use the experience to put us back in the middle of the pasture. Peter was one who did just that. He ran when Jesus was betrayed and then tried to loosely follow Him to see what happened. He was asked on three occasions if he was associated with Jesus denied even knowing Him. Peter certainly felt that jolt on the third pass when the fence hit him. He discovered that he was on the other side. Later, we see the Merciful Master pass him back over to the other side. Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to declare his commitment for Him. (John 21:15-17) There’s one thing I learned from the sheep that got out. She wanted back in but didn’t know how. She required a shepherd to put her back in.

Are you on the outside or the inside today? Are you possibly straddling the fence? If you are, the shock is surely waiting to be felt. You don’t have to be like Samson and experience the Lord’s presence gone from your life. Come back home. If you are near the edge you are sure to be tempted. Run to the middle of the pasture! Perhaps you are like Peter today and through testing you have found that you are over the fence. Let me tell you from experience that we have a Loving Savior who is just waiting on you to ask forgiveness. His desire is to return you to the fold.

He has plenty to keep you satisfied in the place where He’s placed you. Let Him pick you up and put you back on the right side.

 

Prayer—Father God, our desire is to never stray from You or Your will. We often lose focus on what we have and instead desire what we don’t have. Father, help us to be content on what You have given us. Lord, if someone today has passed over the fence I pray that they would recognize where they are. You are waiting on them to return. Give them the knowledge of Your great Mercy.  Forgive us all for wandering from the fold and bring us back to You.

In Jesus’ Name-Amen

paul

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Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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2 Responses to "Straddling the Fence"

  1. Ron M Dewberry says:

    Thanks Paul. I too sometimes drift and get close to the fence. Thank God for his reaching his hand out to pull me back. I am just a sinner saved by His Grace!

  2. Virginia says:

    Thank you Paul for this wonderful message today.

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