The Pharisee Trap

pharisee“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 5:20 (ESV)

Chapter         (ESV)

Audio              (6:46)

Yesterday, I introduced the topic of spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are personal habits that facilitate our spiritual growth. However, before I begin examining the disciplines, I want to address a great danger that might arise.

As we engage in spiritual disciplines, we run the risk of becoming a Pharisee.

The Pharisees were the religious elite at the time of Jesus. They were very diligent to follow certain rules…rules and practices established to bring them closer to God.

Unfortunately, instead of becoming more spiritual, the Pharisees became hypocrites.

They adopted the mindset that their holiness was directly proportional to their level of adherence to these practices. They equated holiness with obedience to external practices, not internal change. And they also began to evaluate others on the basis of their adherence to these practices.

As we increase our engagement of the spiritual disciplines, we can fall into the same trap of equating our spirituality with our outward obedience.

We avoid this danger by understanding that the purpose of the disciplines is to create opportunity…opportunity for the Holy Spirit to do the necessary work of conforming us into the image of Christ.

We become like Christ solely through the work of the Holy Spirit.

The spiritual disciplines simply create the conditions that allow the Holy Spirit to work within us. Thus we do not “earn” our spiritual growth through the disciplines.

The spiritual disciplines soften our “clay” so that the Holy Spirit can mold us into the image of Christ at the pace He desires. Therefore, we should not expect spiritual growth to be proportional to our effort in the spiritual disciplines.

Finally, our spiritual growth is solely between the Holy Spirit and us. We should never judge others who are less engaged in the disciplines.

It is the Holy Spirit who makes us more like Christ.

The spiritual disciplines are the tools He chooses to use to make that happen.

Our choice and responsibility is our level of engagement in the disciplines. The time and energy involved are worth the long-term investment…even in the midst of a busy medical practice.

Prayer: Lord, help me fully understand the importance that the spiritual disciplines play in my spiritual development.

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