The Francis Asbury Society

FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 7/26

Posted on | July 26, 2015 | Comments Off on FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 7/26

Scripture reading: John 1:16–18

The Well or the Fence?

If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink (John 7:37)

I am told that ranchers in Australia have two methods for keeping their cattle. Some build fences. A fence imposes boundaries so that cows are restrained from wandering into someone else’s field. These cattlemen know which cows are theirs and which cows belong to someone else. The fence clearly defines who is in and who is not. Other cattlemen use another technique. These ranchers have discovered that fences are unnecessary if you dig a well. A thirsty cow that knows where to find water will simply not wander that far away! True, sometimes this method permits some rather strange characters to show up among the herd, but the basic philosophy is sound. No outward constraints are necessary when a thirsty cow knows where to find water.

Both strategies work and produce roughly the same outward results: the herd stays together and behavior is controlled. However, the inner motivation of the cows is radically different. When the fence is used, cows stay in the herd because they must. They have no choice. But when the well is used cows remain because they want to. Their behavior is controlled by their thirst and not some external boundary.

In a similar manner, churches tend to opt for one of two methods in caring for their flocks (sheep, not cows!). Some use the fence method. They believe that well-defined boundaries are needed to make clear just how far a sheep can wander before he leaves the flock. These churches want to make it obvious to everyone who is in the fold, and who isn’t. The “fence” makes it perfectly clear what expectations are demanded of the sheep: ethical behavior, doctrinal beliefs, ministry involvement, financial participation, etc. There is no ambiguity in these churches. Everyone understands who belongs, and who doesn’t.

Other churches have a different philosophy of shepherding. Rather than emphasizing the boundaries that define those who are in and those who are not, the shepherds in these churches simply create a source of life-giving water and make it freely available to all. They know that sheep will keep coming back to the place where their thirst is satisfied. These churches seldom talk about the “fence.” They don’t need to. Sheep in these pastures know where to find water; therefore, they seldom wander very far away. Why would they? They remain in the fold not because they have to, but because they want to. The motivation for right living and right thinking comes from within. These sheep are defined by their thirst and not by their conformity to some imposed standard.

The fence and the well help us to understand the difference between a religion based in law and a Gospel based in grace. Moses gave us the fence. Jesus gave us the well. He did not come to remove the fence of the law (Matthew 5:17–20). Jesus knew the value of a well-placed fence! However, his emphasis was never the fence but the well. The sheep in his pasture seldom even think of the fence! When they have access to the water of life, why would they ever even think of leaving?

What keeps you in the fold? The fence or the well?

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17)

The two major causes of most emotional problems among evangelical Christians are these: the failure to understand, receive, and live out God’s unconditional grace and forgiveness; and the failure to give out that unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace to other people. —David Seamands

point to ponder • Does your church manage the flock by the fence method or the well?

prayer focus • Thirsty sheep. Pray for any fences surrounding well-fed churches to be removed so that those sheep can come and drink.

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