Two Ways to Live: Regulated or Free

Several years ago, at the Golden Globes, Christian Bale (the actor who plays Batman in three of the more recent movies in that franchise) accepted an award. In his acceptance speech, he said it was Satan who gave him “inspiration for playing [the] role.”[i] The Twitter account for the “Church of Satan” later tweeted a sort of thank you, saying, “To us, Satan is a symbol of pride, liberty and individualism, and it serves as an external metaphorical projection of our highest personal potential.” Note that they speak of Satan as a “symbol,” and not a person, a symbol of pride, of liberty (freedom to do what you want), and of individualism (freedom to be who you want).

More recently, at the Grammys, two performers displayed an all-out worship ceremony for Satan. (Just in case you’re wondering… I don’t watch the Globes or the Grammys, but I do know how to do research.) One of the performers at the Grammys later said that the whole thing was “a take” on “being able to live the way [you] want… to live.”[ii] For this person, the satanic imagery was a way to pay tribute to the idea of personal autonomy – to live how you want without anyone giving you limitations.

It seems to me that one of the main assumptions in our culture today is that our highest good is achieved when we are completely free to be and to do whatever we want. We assume that our desires must have no restraint, and anyone who thinks or says otherwise is “judgy” or a bigot or oppressive. Now, very few people actually argue in favor of worshipping Satan, but all of us are affected by the water we swim in everyday. And all of us have a sort of built-in expectation that “nobody is going to tell me what to do or who to be.”

I’m going to argue here, however, that we all desperately need limitations or regulations. In fact, to put it plainly, living without limitations is an illusion, and giving free reign to your own personal desires and preferences is the fastest way to self-destruction.

Letting your desires run free leads to death, but living within a regulated set of boundaries leads to life and flourishing.

From the earliest days of Christianity, Christians have committed or “devoted” themselves to learning and to living according to “the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). That is, Christians devoted themselves to living limited or regulated lives. This’s what we read about in the book of Acts, and we see it taught and exemplified all throughout the New Testament letters.

One of the earliest Christian documents (other than the Bible) is called the Didache, which simply means “teaching.” It was compiled soon after the close of the apostolic period, and it’s a list of Christian regulations, both for individuals and for the local church. The Didache begins by saying, “There are two ways [to live], one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between the two ways.” And then it describes rules for Christian living in 16 short chapters. Christians are to “love the God that made [them],” they are to love their “neighbor as [themselves],” and they are to practice this love as defined in God’s commands.

In short, Christian living is the constant striving against the temptation to do and be what you want and the constant striving toward doing and being what the Bible says we ought in every area of life.

We might be tempted to think that Christian living is especially hard or counter-cultural in our own day, but the fact is that Christian living is the opposite of human nature since Genesis 3. It’s always counter-cultural to live as a Christian in this fallen and sinful world, and it’s always hard to war against our own sinful desires. And that’s why we need help to do it.

We need God’s authoritative word. The Bible is interested in teaching us what to believe and also teaching us how to live based on that belief. We need to know what God says about how we should live, and we need to aim for submission and obedience.

We need God’s authoritative people. The local church was designed and instituted by Jesus Christ, and this institution is the only one authorized by Christ to provide the context for genuine Christian community. We may enjoy a whole host of Christian friendships, but we need more than mere companionship. We need other Christians to tell us when we’ve gone too far or stopped too short of the biblical instruction and command.

Much more could be said or written about each of these needs – God’s word and God’s people – in our lives, but this brief post is only an introductory argument for the need of such things.

May God grant us the humility to live regulated lives, and may He grant us the life and flourishing that only comes from such living.

[i] See the full Vanity Fair article here:

[ii] See this quote among others listed in the article here:

Author: marcminter

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

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