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The Classic Pharisaical Trap

March 22, 2011

“It is a tragedy that the matter of nonconformity has been treated by Christians at a shallow level. The simplistic way of not conforming is to see what in style in our culture and then do the opposite. If short hair is in vogue, the nonconformist wears long hair. If going to the movies is popular, then Christians avoid movies as “worldly.” The extreme case of this may be seen in groups that refuse to wear buttons or use electricity because such things, too, are worldly.

A superficial style of nonconformity is the classical pharisaical trap. The Kingdom of God is not about buttons, movies, or dancing. The concern of God is not focused on what we eat or what we drink. The call of nonconformity is a call to a deeper level of righteousness that goes beyond externals. When piety is defined exclusively in terms of externals, the whole point of the apostle’s teaching has been lost. Somehow we have failed to hear Jesus’ words that it is not what goes into a person’s mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of that mouth. We still want to make the kingdom a matter of eating and drinking.

Why are such distortions rampant in Christian circles? The only answer I can give is sin. Our marks of piety can actually be evidences of impiety. When we major in minors and blow insignificant trifles out of proportion, we imitate the Pharisees. When we make dancing and movies the test of spirituality, we are guilty of substituting a cheap morality for a genuine one. We do these things to obscure the deeper issues of righteousness. Anyone can avoid dancing or going to movies. These require no great effort of moral courage. What is difficult to control is the tongue, to act with integrity, to reveal the fruits of the Spirit.

I have never heard a sermon on coveting. I have heard plenty of sermons about the evils of whiskey, but none on the evils of covetousness. Strange. To be sure, the Bible declares that drunkenness is sin, but drunkenness never made the top-ten list. True nonconformists stop coveting; they stop gossiping; they stop slandering; they stop hating and feeling bitter; they start to practice the fruit of the Spirit.”

-R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, p. 229-230, second edition.

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  • Christine May 18, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, Keren! It was a blessing to read it!