Bound By Will

18199513_10155279453618343_4362821349261414053_n.jpg


It is in our atlases, in the boundaries which carve our dynasties.[1] It is in the skies above us, whose lines find new territory beyond the bounds of what’s been seen.[2] It is in the moments marked by sounds uttered from the mouth of our Maker.[3] It is in the shores which authoritatively stop wild tides, serving as lines drawn in sand to keep the waters of the world within their pen to play.[4] It is in the cords constraining fallen men and wicked kings,[5] the clouds above our heads,[6] the wind passing through the trees, and the dust fluttering through the sunlight in our offices.[7] The Word of the Lord binds His creation to the imperatives and consequences of His will.

Created order fills the measures He ordained. We are bound by limits He has placed upon us, mankind, just as the ocean is stretched and swayed by waves which may move only so far across the globe. He holds our bounds, forms our frames, and knows all our limitations.[8] We are without help, shape, or form without His Word.[9] Even upon entering the fold of our saving Shepherd, we are yet bound by the new freedom we enjoy.[10] By His own will and self-initiating volition, He spoke and brought us forth. By that same will and volition, we exist still.[11] We are, in this way, bound altogether by His perfect, righteous, and unwavering will.[12]

This kind of sovereignty rightly causes us to shudder and bow low. Truly, our Maker’s matchless control over created order does not necessitate He also reign with kindness, righteousness, or an unquenchable zeal for justice. It is only to our benefit that the throne from which He rules is founded in these things and adorned with mercy, and we have much in Scripture to give us courage.[13] Immeasurable, unquantifiable good is for those to whom He is covenantally committed. Mercy meets us when we respond to the repentance graciously given to us. Seen-ness when we’re at our lowest. Hope when we’re most fatigued. Gold when the fires of life have all but ravaged us. Character when fortitude required maturity of us. Provision for our lack. Cleanness for our filth. Treasure for our trash. Bread and His Spirit in a world so often filled with stones and snakes.

These signed-and-sealed promises encourage us to rest in His goodness, trust in His purposes, and altogether lean on Him as He leads us into new territories and uncharted waters. They are what we must refer to when we learn from the apostle Paul that this age is orchestrated to showcase His manifold, magnificent wisdom to the unseen powers and principalities of the air—through the Church.[14] So many societal ills and so-called “culture wars” would be resolved within the Church if the Body of Jesus could reckon with the Divine’s purposes behind our design: to display Him, and Him alone. The pursuit of pleasure and dreams is secondary, at best, to His ultimate aims (and are, indeed, only fulfilled as a result of pursuing Him alone) and thus our minds, bodies, emotions, and desires are subject to the One so crudely crucified so long ago, a mind we are to “have in [us] also,”[15] a daily crucifixion of our dreams, desires, physical frames, and emotional roller coasters to create walking mirrors of the crucified Son, cruciform to the murdered One. This is our portion in this age of Gethsemanes and Golgothas. Indeed, let us seek first the Kingdom.[16]

Our sanctification is the promised process by which the Helper helps us “walk worthy of this wonderful calling with which we’ve been called”[17] and become every glittering jewel and crown that will be given as an inheritance to the Son of God, Man, and David. He is the Potter shaping our proverbial clay; He is the Master directing all our steps with His Word. We are made by, through, for, and to do His will—and this age is about our conformation into His Image, the fame of His Name, and the praise of His glory. We will make mistakes, but He will finish what He started. Full stop.

Jesus is trustworthy. We can follow Him into the dark, into war, and onto green pastures; our confidence in His leadership need not waver with the varied landscape. This does not mean that our wills will comfortably synchronize with His automatically. On the contrary, we will share similar experiences with the apostle Peter, who could eat breakfast and go for a walk with the Man he betrayed, abandoned, and refused to confess. In the undercurrent of restoration, he received both mercy and a chilling prophecy: “You’ve gone where you wanted. You won’t always. You’ll go where you don’t want to go, and die a death you don’t want to die.”[18] Having just witnessed the brutality of the crucifixion, he was in no rush to undergo the same and wondered immediately if it were some kind of penance for his crimes, asking first if the perceived “favorite” disciple would be sentenced to the same bloody end.

Eventually, Peter went exactly where Jesus said he would go. Peter died exactly the way Jesus said that he would—the death by which he would “glorify” the Lord—except that Peter asked for a last-minute amendment; history records he requested to be crucified upside down, considering himself unworthy to bear the dignity of leaving this life in quite the same fashion by which his Master had been murdered. Peter’s crucifixion didn’t glorify Jesus simply on account of dying in a similar manner. Peter’s crucifixion glorified Jesus because this young buck who challenged everything Jesus said, condemned the atoning death of the Son of Man before it happened, who refused to comply when Jesus served him, and who so quickly recanted every bold vow he’d ever made, matured into a man who, like Paul, considered so much of life and the world to be frivolous and unnecessary at best, rotting trash at worst. By the time he woke up on the last of his numbered days, sanctification had carried and shaped him through decades of ministry, relationships, worship, and his own individual discipleship. It must have framed his days a certain way to know exactly how the last one would end. By the time Peter came to die, he didn’t quite mind the manner anymore, and could echo Paul: “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”[19]

We may not have the luxury—or curse?—of insight Peter had about the end of his life, but we do know we’ll stand before our Master, with clearer vision than we’ve ever had, watch all our fleshly endeavors burn, hear the exposure of every idle word, and personally receive our King’s acknowledgment and praise, because He is not unjust to overlook or forget even the smallest service we paid to Him in this age. Armed with this knowledge, we are commissioned to navigate every day of our lives and make decisions with this thing we’ve been given in Christ that J.C. Ryle called “sanctified common sense." With a will liberated by Jesus, we can ourselves decide to submit to our Master, knowing ours is not to write our own story. Ours is to submit to His “good, pleasing, perfect will,”[20] trusting in His faithfulness to hold to His Word and lead us well. 

This is the fire-forged confidence that eventually led an argumentative man named Peter to turn from stubbornness to submission and bow low before a bloodthirsty stranger and allow his hands to be bound.

This is the sanctified will submitted to the Shepherd and overseer of our souls that puts the manifold wisdom of God on display before all the heavens and their occupants.[21]

This is the cruciform glory given to cross-bearing disciples as a shining reward, then brought to the feet of the King born in Bethlehem.

All to Jesus, I surrender,
All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and serve Him
In His presence, daily live.

 

Stephanie Quick serves as a lead writer and producer of the Covenant and Controversy film series and resource library, and Editor In Chief of FAI Publishing and Pilgrim Media. She lives in the Muslim world and can be reached for queries and bookings at stephanie@stephaniequick.org. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or sign up to receive her ministry updates.


 

[1]   Jeremiah 51:64
[2]   Psalm 19:
[3]   Ezekiel 12:28; Job 38:5
[4]   Job 38:11
[5]   Psalm 2:3
[6]   Matthew 5:45
[7]   Charles Spurgeon on the sovereignty of God: “I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes—that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens—that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses. The creeping of an aphid over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence—the fall of...leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.”
[8]   Psalm 103:13-14
[9]   Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3
[10]  Galatians 3:1-9; I Corinthians 6:12, 10:23
[11]   Revelation 4:11
[12]  Romans 12:2
[13]  Psalm 89:14; Revelation 4:3; Jeremiah 33:9; Luke 15:14-18; Romans 2:4; Genesis 16:13; 2 Corinthians 4:9
[14]  Ephesians 3:8-12
[15]  Philippians 2:5
[16]  Matthew 6:33
[17]  Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10
[18]  John 21:18
[19]  Romans 12:2
[20] Ephesians 3:8-12