Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Spirit of "Phariseeism"

My friend and mentor, Eric Johnson, has some thoughts on sanctification that I've been meditating on in recent weeks (as far as I know, unpublished paper on Baptist sanctification):

"Were Christians thoroughly grounded in justification, there would be no defensiveness/hurt/anger when their sins/limitations are exposed (perhaps through criticism). This is because when one would confront such a person about some inconsistency (sinful or otherwise), they would be knowingly grounded in a perfect goodness established in Christ through justification. (Such a deep grounding will only fully happen in heaven.) Therefore, there are only two possibilities regarding the alleged inconsistency: 1) the accuser is wrong and the accused does not have the inconsistency (so there’s no need to be hurt/angry, etc.), or even better: 2) the accuser is right, but since the inconsistency is already taken care of in Christ and the accused is already perfect in Christ, the identification of the inconsistency can be received as a pure gift from God, to help the believer release that pattern that is inconsistent with their justification (thus furthering their sanctification).
Sanctification Alert: emotions of hurt/anger/anxiety in response to criticism are nonetheless very good! Because they signal to Christians their unknown (unconscious) self-deception regarding the independent establishment of their perfect goodness. To grow in grace Christians must develop and maintain an openness to these emotions regarding such matters. These emotions are the best signs of a remaining “spirit of Phariseeism.”

I'm trying to apply this to an at-times-crippling sense of failure as a parent, husband and father. I often feel immobilized by the overwhelming shame of my failure. When looked at objectively, it is rarely anything big. It is usually an awareness of my limitations, my inabilities, my failings, especially when comparing myself to others (I know, I know, foolish!). I am trying to learn to bring this entire dark cycle to Jesus, accept my failures/limitations and weaknesses as real, but not defining. They can be opportunities for the power of God's grace to be displayed (2 Cor 12).

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