When grace goes sour

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Periodically in history, spiritual revivals burst upon the world . . . The Spirit breathes, charity spreads. The greatness of God and His love are rediscovered and human pettiness is pushed aside. At the same time, the unlimited nature of God’s requirements is re-discovered, and the boundlessness of His grace. It is proclaimed. Men feel called, welcomed and not judged. They are overwhelmed, their conduct and way of life are changed, they become fervent, practising Christians.

And then gradually, inevitably, in that more virtuous, more austere environment, a new conformity emerges. Grace becomes conditional. Judgement appears.

Anyone who does not subscribe
to certain standards is suspected
of infidelity and hypocrisy.

And that is what awakens hypocrisy, for everyone, in an attempt to live up to his faith, seeks to appear better than he is and begins to hide his faults instead of confessing them…

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Moralism has returned, and with it the breath of the Holy Spirit is stifled. In order to ensure the lost treasure people cling all the more to certain ‘principles’ inherited from the heroic period, to a new limited morality. What was a spontaneous impulse, free and joyful obedience to God, responding to His wonderful grace, becomes constraint, legalistic obligation and fear of criticism… Above all, people begin to pretend to be more virtuous than they are. That was the fault of Ananias and Sapphira, which the Apostle Peter reproved so sternly (Acts 5:1-11).

–Paul Tournier
Guilt and Grace

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Mud or miracle?

Jewish tradition says that the splitting of the Red Sea was the greatest miracle ever performed. It was so extraordinary that on that day even a common servant beheld more than all the miracles beheld by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel combined. And yet we have one midrash that mentions two Israelites, Reuven and Shimon, who had a different experience.

Apparently the bottom of the sea, though safe to walk on, was not completely dry but a little muddy, like a beach at low tide. Reuven stepped into it and curled his lip. “What is this muck?”

Shimon scowled, “There’s mud all over the place!”

“This is just like the slime pits of Egypt!” replied Reuven.

“What’s the difference?” complained Shimon. “Mud here, mud there; it’s all the same.”

And so it went for the two of them, grumbling all the way across the bottom of the sea. And, because they never once looked up, they never understood why on the distant shore, everyone else was singing songs of praise. For Reuven and Shimon the miracle never happened.

–Lawrence Kushner

The main source of mischief

Spiritual pride is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christianity.  It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind and mislead the judgment.  It is the main source of all the mischief the devil introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God.

Spiritual pride tends to speak
of other persons’ sins
with bitterness or with laughter
and levity and an air of contempt.

But pure Christian humility rather tends either to be silent about these problems or to speak of them with grief and pity.  Spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others, but a humble Christian is most guarded about himself.  He is as suspicious of nothing in the world as he is of his own heart.  The proud person is apt to find fault with other believers, that they are low in grace, and to be much in observing how cold and dead they are and to be quick to note their deficiencies.  But the humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own heart and is so concerned about it, that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts.  He is apt to esteem others better than himself.

–Jonathan Edwards
(1703-1758)

A serious disease

Petty people are ugly people. They are people who have lost their vision. They are people who have turned their eyes away from what matters and focused, instead, on what doesn’t matter. The result is that the rest of us are immobilized by their obsession with the insignificant. It is time to rid the church of pettiness. It is time the church refused to be victimized by petty people. It is time the church stopped ignoring pettiness . . . Pettiness has become a serious disease in the Church of Jesus Christ—a disease which continues to result in terminal cases of discord, disruption, and destruction. Petty people are dangerous people because they appear to be only a nuisance instead of what they really are—a health hazard.

–Mike Yaconelli

Published in: on 11/02/2011 at 8:58  Leave a Comment  
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Pettiness

Petty people are ugly people. They are people who have lost their vision. They are people who have turned their eyes away from what matters and focused, instead, on what doesn’t matter. The result is that the rest of us are immobilized by their obsession with the insignificant.It is time to rid the church of pettiness. It is time the church refused to be victimized by petty people. It is time the church stopped ignoring pettiness. It is time the church quit pretending that pettiness doesn’t matter. Pettiness has become a serious disease in the Church of Jesus Christ a disease which continues to result in terminal cases of discord, disruption, and destruction. Petty people are dangerous people because they appear to be only a nuisance instead of what they really are a health hazard.

–Mike Yaconelli

Published in: on 12/11/2010 at 2:34  Leave a Comment  

Trivial pursuit

Our small view of Christ leads us to see many other things much bigger than they really are. When one fails to appreciate the unspeakable wonder of God’s Son we can find ourselves fascinated by so many other topics of marginal importance. And “Trivial Pursuit” becomes more than a game—it becomes a lifestyle. We get taken up with all kinds of “winds of doctrine.” Max Lucado put it well: “How many pulpit hours have been wasted on preaching the trivial? . . . How many leaders have saddled their pet peeves, drawn their swords of bitterness and launched into battle against their brethren over issues that are not worth discussing?” Lord Chesterfield wrote in a letter to his son, “Frivolous curiosity about trifles, and a laborious attention to little objects which neither require nor deserve a moment’s thought, lower a man.” How often have we not succumbed to this foolishness! It becomes all to easy when we loose sight of the incomparable glory of Christ. It was spoken of disciples long ago that “they no longer saw anyone . . . except Jesus.” They saw all that really mattered. When the indescribable Christ starts to fill our vision, everything else, as Fanny Crosby put it, “grows strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

–Jurgen Schulz

Published in: on 12/10/2010 at 13:02  Comments (3)  

Pettiness

The problem with the church today is not corruption.  It is not institutionalism.  No, the problem is far more serious than something like the minister running away with the organist.  The problem is pettiness.  Blatant pettiness.

–Mike Yaconelli

Published in: on 10/22/2010 at 15:56  Leave a Comment  
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