BY: BRENDA IMUS
Last spring when a sudden blizzard kicked up I decided to bring my three youngest horses in from the pasture a couple of hours earlier than usual. I called the horses – who always come running at the sound of my voice – but only the two older two-year old colts responded. As soon as they were settled into their stalls I went out to search for ‘Ditto,’ my darling yearling colt.
Before long I saw him standing on the other side of a new fence line, and wondered how he’d managed to cross that fence. As I drew nearer, however, I realized that he hadn’t crossed the wire fence, but was dangerously entangled in it. This can be a life-threatening situation for a horse–particularly a young one. They tend to panic and fight the fence wiring until they’re hopelessly entangled. As they struggle to be free the wire cuts into the soft tissues of their vulnerable lower legs. The harder they fight, the greater the damage.
But Ditto was standing calmly, nickering to me as he saw me approaching. As I approached him – praying earnestly – the Lord spoke very clearly to my heart: “I will use this to teach Ditto some important lessons.” Little did I realize that He would also use the experience to teach me profound truths.
I tried for a few moments to unwrap the wire from his right front leg, but discovered that several strands had somehow become tightly wrapped around his leg, and he would have to be cut free of them, as well as of the wooden fence post that had come loose and was dangling under his belly. I gave him a reassuring pat and headed back to the barn for wire nippers. As I started walking away he began to jump around, not willing that I should leave him – but became quiet again as I reassured him and then rushed off through the nearly-blinding snow.
To my continued surprise, Ditto – normally a very feisty young horse – stood absolutely still as I sorted through the maze of wires, carefully cutting and snipping them away. Since the wire was too tightly wrapped around his leg to be cut directly off, I had to concentrate on cutting him free of the fence on both sides, and then worry about unwrapping the wire from his leg once it was no longer connected to the fence line. I could see matted spots of blood on all of his legs, the fence post, and the snow beneath him, attesting to the fight he’d initially put up. Since he’s a big powerful fellow – and I was forced to deal with this situation entirely alone – I was grateful for his cooperation. If he’d suddenly started resisting again, we could have both been in trouble! I was concerned, however, for the damage that had almost surely been done to his legs – and continued to pray earnestly as I worked.
With a sense of relief I snipped through the last wire that held him. After Ditto was free of the fence, he could have yelled a horsey “yahoo!” and struck off for the barn – with the several loose wires wrapping his leg still cutting and marking his flesh. Instead, he seemed reluctant to move. So I bent down and started working at untangling the loops of wire that were wrapped around his lower front right foot and leg. Again, he was a perfect gentleman. When I saw how tightly the wire was wrapped, I worried that his injuries were serious – but had to put that thought on hold until I could get him to a place where he could be examined properly.
Though it took me awhile, I eventually managed to untangle each strand of wire from the others, and from his leg. Once free he was hesitant to walk. When I started walking back to the barn for a halter and lead rope, he perceived that I might go back to the barn without him and began to take halting steps toward the barn, following me as I encouraged him along. I comforted myself with the knowledge that at least he could still walk – albeit stiffly – and prayed for much more.
Once in the barn, I tied Ditto to a safe place and went to the house to get a bucket of warm water and a clean rag. For the next half-hour I washed each of his legs, starting with the right front, looking for the inevitable damage, praying only that it would be superficial. As I continued to examine him, I could hardly believe my eyes. In spite of the blood, and the dangerously wrapped wire, Ditto had no more than a couple of light surface scratches on his legs! He’d come away from his escapade entirely unscathed. A tetanus injection and a day of rest, and he was as good as new–better, since he’d learned a couple of very valuable lessons!
The next morning when I picked up the Bible for my daily portion of spiritual bread, I sensed the Lord leading me into the book of Romans, the sixth through eighth chapters. These Scriptures have long seemed very complicated and difficult to me, and I’ve sought many times for a greater understanding. As I read, I began to see close parallels between Ditto’s experience and these verses. In fact, by the time I was done the Lord had opened them to my understanding!
Rom 7:6-10 6] But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. 7] What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8] But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. 9] For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10] And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
As I read these Scriptures I suddenly saw Ditto in the field. Before we put the new fence line in place, he was free to wander beyond the boundaries of the cultivated pastures immediately surrounding our barn. But beyond those boundaries lay dangers – apple trees whose fruits could cause a horse to colic and die, chuck holes that seemed to multiply every time we attempted to fill them, woods that are often filled with hunters who can’t always tell a horse from a woodchuck. And so we decided to put a boundary line in place that would help keep the horses out of dangerous territory – land that may be owned by us, but often ruled by other factors.
Likewise the law was a boundary line that the Lord gave His people to keep them out of ‘dangerous territory.’ If they stayed within its boundaries, they would be kept safe from harm. Before the law came, they had no idea that many of the things they did were spiritually dangerous – sin. But the law (fence) informed them: Do not go beyond this point, at risk of death.
Do you know the old saying, ‘The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence?’ So it is with the law. As soon as we see that something is off-limits, our flesh is bound and determined to go and taste the forbidden fruits. It’s a law of nature – in humans as well as horses. No matter how large the territory that we’re allowed, those things that we’re not permitted are the very things that our flesh insists we must have. Our hearts earnestly desire to do the right thing, to stay safely within God’s boundaries–but our flesh has other ideas entirely.
Rom 7:15-23 15] For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16] If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17] Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18] For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19] For the good that I would I do not: but the evil, which I would not, that I do. 20] Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21] I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22] For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23] But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
That fence line in our pasture could be likened to the system of God’s laws. As soon as Ditto realized that he was not permitted to cross that fence he wanted nothing more than to get to the other side. As could be expected, the fence – which was in place for his own good – ensnared him. No matter how hard he tried to get free of it on his own, he was totally unable to do so. The more he fought to be free, the more entangled he became. He needed someone to come and cut him loose – just as we need the Lord to set us free from the written laws that so ensnare us. We cannot do it in our own strength any more than Ditto could have freed himself from the wire fencing. The harder he tried, the worse things got. So it is with us.
Finally, Ditto gave up the fight and simply stood, calling for help. He would have probably died had I not noticed his predicament and had mercy on him. Just so, when we give up the fight and call out to the Lord for help, He has mercy on us, and comes to set us free from the system of laws, which hold us helplessly captive.
Once I got on the scene Ditto could have easily resisted my ministrations. There was every possibility that he would immediately figure he was ‘home free,’ and start trying to battle the fence on his own again. This happens with many who call on the Lord for help – He comes to their aid, and they immediately begin to try obtaining freedom in their own strength. But it doesn’t work that way:
Gal 3:3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Titus 3:5-7: 5] Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6] Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; 7] That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Eph 2:8-9: 8] For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9] Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Once Ditto was free from the fence, it became possible for me to deal with his other problems. Before then, it hadn’t been possible. So it is with us:
Rom 8:1-2 1] There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2] For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
But even though Ditto was ‘free’ of the fence – law of sin and death – he wasn’t out of danger by a long shot. His freedom only made it possible for me to work on him. He carried the consequence of his behavior on his body–the fence wires were tightly bound around his foot and leg. If they weren’t removed, it would cut off circulation and lead to infection and death. Likewise, once we’re set free from the system of written moral laws, we still carry the consequences of our trespassing those laws around in/on our flesh, like a spiritual ‘bracelet’. We need to continue to rest in the Lord’s ministrations as He works to free us from all the consequences of/desire to sin in our lives. This can take some time, and many young, rambunctious Christians are impatient with the process, and think that it can be cut short. But what if Ditto had suddenly run off, thinking himself free? He certainly felt some discomfort as I twisted the tightly bound wire away from his foot and leg. As long as I left it alone, it really didn’t bother him very much. He had to stand still, and trust that I would do the right thing, even if it made him uncomfortable.
How many Christians do you know who accept the grace of God through salvation in Jesus Christ – they get cut free from the system of laws that cause offence – only to spend the rest of their lives carrying around ‘bracelets’ of sin. They refuse to allow the Lord to set them completely free, once and for all – until eventually the sin, which they hold onto causes a rotting, infected mess in their lives. For sin always results in death.
Rom 6:1-2: 1] What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2] God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Rom 6:19, 23 19] I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness… 23] For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Once I’d cut the wires from Ditto’s foot and leg, there was one more important process that needed to take place: washing and healing his wounds. For those of us who have been freed from the system of the law and sin, and even from the individual sins that want to cling to our flesh, still need to be washed and healed from the effect that sin has had on our lives. We offer the Lord our wounded hearts, and allow Him to minister healing grace into every corner. If we resist this part of his ministry, then dirt will cling to the wounded parts of us, and give the enemy a place to work in our lives – a spiritual stronghold. The amount of time the healing process takes depends on how deeply we’ve been wounded, and upon how completely we yield to the Lord’s loving hands. Will we continue to rest in His grace and ability, or will we deny and hide the problem, or try to clean up the mess ourselves? It’s our choice.
And spiritual choices continue to be ours, right through the rest of our lives. The Lord never takes away our sovereign right to choose: obey him out of a pure heart, or get entangled in the struggle to overcome sin on our own strength. Do battle with the law, or rest in the Lord. Ditto has learned the consequences of trespassing. . .the lessons of the fence have been ‘imprinted upon his mind and heart,’ and will cause him to voluntarily refrain from trespassing. So also does the Lord do for us:
Heb 8:10-12 10] For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11] And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12] For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
You see, the Lord sets us free from our sins so that we can be free to serve Him from a heart of love and gratitude. No longer need we become slaves to desire for the momentary pleasures of sin. Rather, we are free to seek after the things of the Spirit – the things of Life. Moreover, because we finally realize the effect that sin has on our lives, and the grace of Jesus Christ in setting us free from it, we begin to obey His commands because we want to, and not because we feel we have to. There is a world of difference.
Rom 8:1-6 1] There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2] For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3] For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4] That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5] For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6] For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Respectfully submitted to the church by: Brenda Imus
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