Quote: Externals vs. The Heart

When I was growing up, I was not allowed to go to the local pool halls. As I look back, I’m sure my parents did not want me to come under the influence of the unsavory characters who frequented those halls. So they built a fence to keep that from happening: “Don’t go into those pool halls.” The problem was I didn’t understand why, so I grew up thinking it was a sin to play pool (don’t laugh, I really did). Imagine my consternation when I moved to a Christian conference center and saw a beautiful antique pool table in the recreation room and godly men playing pool.

That is the way a lot of manmade “dos and don’ts” originate. They begin as a sincere effort to deal with real sin issues. But very often we begin to focus on the fence we’ve built instead of the sin it was designed to guard against. We fight our battles in the wrong places; we deal with externals instead of the heart.

— Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace

4 thoughts on “Quote: Externals vs. The Heart

  1. Our mission board had a pool table behind the worship center. It was a very strange feeling watching all those godly men knock balls around it. The same could be said for a lot of different activities.
    This is a vital truth all of us need to grasp. Personally, I think it’s one of the big reasons we lose young people from the church it also gives far too much credibility to license. Rules without meaning just to have rules is crazy and often leads to pride.


    1. My last church established a sudden rule about “no secular music” if you were a member of the praise team (or dance team, skit team, etc.). It was such a harsh mandate that mostly everyone quit. I stayed out of faithfulness, but man was it frustrating. Not so much because of the rule itself, but the very idea of having a rule like that at all. At least we could’ve been taught why secular music needed to be cut or be shown some options about Christian music.


      1. Oh, yes. I’m a musician myself, and have a strong sense of what is more likely to draw out the flesh vs. connect with God through the spirit. It sure isn’t based on whether the composer was a believer or not!
        Unfortunately, it’s one of the things hard to explain to a non-musician which means many church leaders have a vague sense of trouble without the words to describe it.


  2. We need more debate on the balance of works and faith, of rules and liberty. All things are lawful but not necessarily helpful. The good can be the enemy of the best. Even when I carefully explained to my children the purpose of the rules and the danger I was trying to protect them from, it did no good unless they had a relationship with and were in love with the originator of rules. Take alcohol, one in 9 social drinkers will become alcoholics, so drinking at all is playing russian roulette with your life and that of your friends. Despite sharing this truth four of my five children have decided to socially drink and one is the town drunk.


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