Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Behavior and Sanctification

I do not doubt the sincerity of most Christian legalists. Having been one, I know that what drove much of my legalistic views was a sincere desire for holiness. I wanted to be separated from the world so that I could be holy. But there were certain things about myself and others that made other Christian legalists feel like we were not completely dedicated to this quest for personal holiness. I was (and still am) quite competitive, and my desire to win on the basketball court was sometimes mistaken for carnal pride. Others who did not as readily display such emotion were occasionally mistaken to be further along in their sanctification. Unfortunately, my passionate personality for winning a basketball game seemed incompatible with my quest for godliness.

I am beginning to read from the Puritan theologian John Owen, and today found this helpful comment.

Remember that of many of the best Christians, the worst is known and seen. Many who keep up precious communion with God do yet oftentimes by their natural tempers of freedom or passion, not carry so glorious appearances as others who perhaps come short of them in grace and the power of godliness. (Quoted in Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor, eds., Overcoming Sin and Temptation: Three Classic Works by John Owen, p. 30).

We must beware of the all-to-common temptation of judging spirituality by external behavior. While I do not mean to advocate a holiness without externals, I am learning that behavior is impacted by temperament as well as sin.


Kerry Lee Lewis said...

Its interesting that you should use the basketball example, some people at the church that I attend have recently noted that the b-ball game that happens on Sunday afternoons (which replaced our ultimate frisbee games) has become overly competitive and has thus turned several away who no longer find encouragement and even joy by gathering there. One of the moms has asked me about why some of the 'pillars' of our church turn into such competitive ballers and whether or not that displays a truly Christ-like spirit. Who knows, perhaps for our American Christianity, the sports arena does indeed provide a real test of one's 'sanctification.' At any rate, the question of whether or not such a perspective borders on legalism remains, but perhaps legalism is not opposed to 'rules' as such, but just the wrong rules. I.e, to require Christians not to dance would be legalistic, but to require Christians to maintain a gentle/humble spirit in the sports arena would not be.

brad said...

i have also read desiring god. every legalist needs to read that book. i grew up in the same legalist church as ben. i've been away from that church for about 11 yrs, the external judging is still hard to get away from. i think legalism may be the most dangerous thing to a christian.