Living for the Lord – Bareback!

Thinking about the difference between old covenant lifestyle, under the Law of Moses, and new
covenant lifestyle in the Spirit of God, perhaps we struggle to find the agreement between obedience and our freedom in Christ. The vigorous, ongoing debate between the respective views over whether there is or there  is not a 'law' in play for believers contrasts two legitimate desires.

On the One Hand ...

Those who want to insist there is such a law are concerned with our obedience to God, in committed and specified choices and activities in our Christian living. Thus, they say, there have to be law-like commanding going on in the New Testament Scriptures which function in the same way as Mosaic Law did in the old covenant, binding the believer in law-like function, and holding him accountable. There is, then, a definitive prescribing in God's word for our lifestyle, which stand against any thought that we can just do as we 'feel' the Spirit is leading us.

... And On The Other ...

Those who want to emphasise that we are not under law, but rather under grace, and that we are to live lives led by the Spirit who indwells us are concerned to explore, to the glory of the risen Lord, all the joy and freedom, within the parameters of a holy life, unrestricted by the law-keeping of the old covenant. In its place, they argue, is the guiding hand of the Spirit, who imparts not only God's standards, but the very desire to live to them.

Concessions and Allowances

There needs to be grace on both sides. For the concern on the other is good. But the tendency is for both 'sides' of the argument to push the conclusions of the other to extremes, and then to accuse accordingly. Law-obedience tends to legalism (but doesn't have to end up there). No-Law living looks like, or could lead to, licence and licentiousness (but, again, doesn't have to end up there).

On Both Hands!

I have recently discovered what appears to me to be an excellent - and in my view, quite beautiful - analogy to illustrate this difference. It comes from an area of life I know very little about. Horseriding.

Cowboys and Native Americans!

We are used to seeing riders on horseback, if not in the flesh, on the TV. We view them adequately equipped with all the 'tack' which has become part and parcel of that scene. Saddles, stirrups, bits and reins all contribute to the horseman or horsewoman's control of the animal they are mounted on. But my mind goes to the Wild West movies of my youth. When the cowboys rode as described. But the 'native Americans' did not. They rode - bareback! Vastly different styles of riding, I am sure you will agree. The question arises; how do riders control their mounts without any of the 'gear'? And this is what I researched. The answers are intriguing. A quote from the website www.equinespot.com:
"The Native American Nez Perce Indians were some of the greatest horsemen on the Plains. They rode their bareback horses with such skill as to be the envy of Lewis and Clarke, the settlers of the Old West and the American cavalry too."
How did they do that? Here's how it works. I quote again:
"Developing as great sense of balance isn't the only benefit to riding bareback. You will find a beautiful channel of communication opens up between you and your horse. Without several inches of blanket and leather saddle between you and your horse, you will feel their every move. Your horse was always been moving and sending signals to you, but now you are suddenly much more aware of them. When bareback, you can feel your horse’s intentions clearly and respond faster. This channel of communication goes both ways. The horse can feel your every move as well. With such close contact between horse and rider, you’ll find yourself responding too and sending out ever more and more subtle signals. This beautifully silent communication between horse and rider becomes nearly invisible to the observer. Horse and rider are like one. It doesn't get any better than that!"
Essentially, the artificial aids may make life easier for the rider to control the horse, but that is the lazy way. What they do is to impose several 'layers' between horse and rider, which destroys much of the communication between two living beings. Bareback riders learn how to so interact with their animal, that the horse responds to subtle signals - and co-operates. Something in the horse's makeup delights to do so, to please its master. And vice-versa. Because their is no intervening, sensory depletion in cues which flag the horse's behaviour, the rider can anticipate and respond accordingly in a speedy manner. The summary above is apt. The horse and the rider are as one.

Spiritual Horseriding

This seems to me to exactly illustrate the way that external, law-command-and-keep dynamics work in the old covenant. God's law imposes His will on a people who are resistant in their nature to obedience to it. Structure and function make it work. Even where the hearts of those within the covenant are faith-filled and complicit, yet this law is an imposed law, not-natural to those it is placed upon. The requirements of God may well be called 'demandments' rather than 'commandments'. This Law  is described in the New Testament as "a burden neither we nor our fathers were able to bear" (Acts 15 vs 10). Faith in those time points God's true Israel, the remnant within physical Israel, to the day when the love of God's standards will be implanted within the hearts of His own children. When the Messiah came and the Spirit was poured out.

But the way the poured-out, Christ-exalting Spirit of God now works within believers is no longer like that. What God has done is to remove the intervening insulating and artificial 'saddlery' from His interaction with the believer. The Spirit-believer relationship works like the bareback rider-horse does. The will of God for us is communicated by this amazing presence of God, right within our being, in the Person of His Spirit. He speaks still, authoritatively, from His word, and its importance and place in all of this is unquestioned. But because of the 'skin-to-skin' contact, He is able to relate to us - and from us - all that Christ wants for us in our new life in Him. We become 'as one'.

Thus the picture of obedience within each and every believer is still that of volitional and active response and responsiveness - and responsibility (and 'response-ability'!). And yet, there is also an intensely personal 'woven-in' experiential aspect of this which employs our faculties. Paul counsels, in Ephesians 5:

"Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (vs 1&2)

and ...

" Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness,righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord." (vs 9&10)

'Follow God's example' - 'Christ's example'.
'The way of love' - 'all goodness, righteousness and truth'.
'What pleases the Lord'

'Understand what the Lord’s will is'
'be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.'

The intimate interface between our spirit and God's Spirit is a part of what is essentially new in the new covenant. God does not drive us from His 'saddle', as the old covenant had Him do. God rides 'bareback.
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About David White

Until recently David White served as a leader and preacher at a small village church in Lavendon, Buckinghamshire, England. At the present time he resides in Barton On Sea in the UK. He has been a Bible-soaked Christian for half a century, trained at London Bible College (now London School of Theology), but more importantly in God’s school of life.