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Posts tagged ‘self-righteousness’

Please Break This Rule

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 120.

When our wrongs are too obvious to ignore, we practice what I call the 40/60 Rule.

It goes something like this:

“Well, I know I’m not perfect, and I admit I am partially to blame for this problem. I’d say that about 40 percent of the fault is mine. That means 60 percent of the fault is hers. Since she is 20 percent more to blame than I am, she should be the one to ask for forgiveness.”

I never actually say or think these exact words, but I often catch myself resorting to this tactic in subtle ways. By believing that my sins have been more than cancelled by another’s sins, I can divert attention from myself and avoid repentance and confession.

Food for Thought

Jesus tells the perfect “40/60 Rule” story in Luke 18:10-14.

In this passage, Luke says that Jesus addresses the story to those “who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else.”

This is the story:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Next time you’re tempted to invoke the 40/60 Rule to minimize your part in a conflict, remember that few subjects raise more disdain in Jesus than moderated mercy or a “righteousness ranking” where we give ourselves an unequivocal first place vote.

Self-righteous Goodness OR Unrighteous Badness: GRACE Will Cover It All

SOURCE:  Tullian Tchividjian

Nothing is more difficult for us to get our minds around than the unconditional grace of God.

It offends our deepest sensibilities. We are actually conditioned against unconditionality–we are told in a thousand different ways that accomplishment precedes acceptance and achievement precedes approval.

Grace Messes Up Your Hair

Society demands two-way love. Everything’s conditional; if you achieve only then will you receive: meaning, security, respect, love, and so on. But grace, as Paul Zahl points out, is one-way love, “Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable.”

Like Job’s friends, we naturally conclude that good people get good stuff and bad people get bad stuff. The idea that bad people get good stuff is thickly counterintuitive; it seems terribly unfair and offends our sense of justice. Even those of us who have tasted the radical saving grace of God find it intuitively difficult not to put conditions on grace.

The truth is that a “yes grace, but” posture is the kind of posture that perpetuates slavery in our lives and in the church.

Grace is radically unbalanced. It has no “but”; it’s unconditional, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and undomesticated. As Doug Wilson put it recently, “Grace is wild. Grace unsettles everything. Grace overflows the banks. Grace messes up your hair. Grace is not tame. In fact, unless we are making the devout nervous, we are not preaching grace as we ought.”

Grace Wrecks, Then Rescues

With this in mind, let’s look at Luke 7:36-50. This is the famous account of the sinful woman (most likely a prostitute) barging into a party of religious leaders and washing the feet of Jesus with her tears of repentance. Two rescues are happening in this passage: the obvious rescue of the immoral person but also the rescue of the moral person.

Only in the gospel does love precede loveliness. Everywhere else loveliness precedes love.

Normally, when we think of people in need of God’s rescuing grace, we think of the unrighteous and the immoral. But, what’s fascinating to me is, throughout the Bible, the immoral person gets the gospel before the moral person. It’s the prostitute who gets grace and the Pharisee who doesn’t. What we see in this story is God’s grace wrecks and then rescues, not only the promiscuous, but also the pious.

The Pharisee in this story can’t understand what Jesus is doing by allowing this woman to touch him because he assumes that God is for the clean and competent. But Jesus shows God is for the unclean and incompetent, and when measured against God’s perfect holiness, we’re all unclean and incompetent. Jesus shows the Pharisee the gospel isn’t for winners, but losers. It’s for the weak and messed-up person, not the strong and mighty person. It’s not for the well-behaved, but the dead.

Mortal Not Moral

Remember: Jesus came not to put into effect a moral reformation but a mortal resurrection (moral reformations can, and have, taken place throughout history without Jesus. But only Jesus can raise the dead, over and over and over again). As Gerhard Forde put it, “Christianity is not the move from vice to virtue, but rather the move from virtue to grace.”

Wrecking every religious category he had, Jesus tells the Pharisee he has a lot to learn from the prostitute, not the other way around.

What we see in this story is God’s grace wrecks and then rescues, not only the promiscuous, but also the pious.

The prostitute, on the other hand, walks into a party of religious people and falls at the feet of Jesus without any care as to what others are thinking and saying. She’s at the end of herself. More than wanting to avoid an uncomfortable situation, she wanted to be clean–she needed to be forgiven. She was acutely aware of her guilt and shame. She knew she needed help. She understood at a profound level that God’s grace doesn’t demand you get clean before you come to Jesus. Rather, our only hope for getting clean is to come to Jesus.

Only in the Gospel does love precede loveliness. Everywhere else loveliness precedes love.

Release Your Guilt and Shame

What the Pharisee, the prostitute, and everyone in-between need to remember every day is that Christ offers forgiveness full and free from both our self-righteous goodness and our unrighteous badness. This is the hardest thing for us to believe as Christians. We think it’s a mark of spiritual maturity to hang on to our guilt and shame. We’ve sickly concluded that the worse we feel, the better we actually are. The declaration of Psalm 103:12 is the most difficult for us to grasp and embrace: “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Or, as Corrie ten Boom once said, “God takes our sins—the past, present, and future—and dumps them in the sea and puts up a sign that says ‘No Fishing Allowed.’” This seems too good to be true…it can’t be that simple, that easy, that real!

God’s grace doesn’t demand you get clean before you come to Jesus.

It is true! No strings attached. No but’s. No conditions. No need for balance. If you are a Christian, you are right now under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Christ. Your pardon is full and final. In Christ, you’re forgiven. You’re clean. It is finished.


Tullian Tchividjian is the Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Being Patient Learning Patience With Challenging People

SOURCE:  Counseling Solutions

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. –1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV)

The main part of this verse is the last part, which is no doubt the hardest part. While the idle, the fainthearted, and the weak cover three categories of people we could possibly struggle with, the phrase Paul puts on the end of his sentence is the real challenge.

The idle, fainthearted, and the weak do not particularly bother me all that much unless you’re asking me to be patient with them. Paul puts three difficult people-types into one big basket and then says that you and I are to be patient with all three of them.

And who are these people I am to be patient with?

The Idle – these are the people who are not living the way they should. They are unruly, out-of-order, not walking according to the clear teaching of God’s Word. They know better because they are Christians, but are choosing to do their own thing. Paul says we are to warn them.

The Fainthearted – these are the people with “small souls.” They have limitations that are not altogether character related. Everybody does not possess a 95 mile-per-hour fast ball. There are people in our relational sphere who have certain limitations. Paul asks us to encourage the small souled people in our world.

The Weak – These are the people who are easily tempted toward certain sins. While they may be strong in most areas, there are some temptations that are particularly acute to them. And though they are seeking to fight a good fight against these temptations, Paul’s hope is that we will be extra mindful of our co-laborers by seeking to help them.

And what should be my heart attitude toward these people?

Though there may be three categories of people in your world, there is one common thread that binds them together as far as your heart attitude and response to them. That there is only one common denominator is the good news. The bad news is that the common denominator is be patient with them all.

Here is a guiding truth that I try, though not always successfully, to apply to my heart when I am serving someone who is different than I am and needs to change:

The few things that I have learned in 50 years of living and have somewhat successfully applied to my life, I must not self-righteously expect, demand, or impose that others learn similar things in six days or six months.

A sober assessment of myself and how I have responded to God and eventually changed through years of trying, failing, trying, and succeeding helps me to moderate my heart down to the necessary levels of patience when it comes to working with other people.

Let’s face it: neither you nor I was quick to change in every area of sanctification. And if the truth were known, we’d have to admit that there are still areas of our lives that need to improve. Can we be honest on this one? Therefore, I want to be careful about how I think about someone who is not changing according to my expectations, preferences, or desires.

Being patient with the idle – as you examine the unruly areas of my life, please do not refrain from speaking into my life. I only ask that you be patient with me as you help me to grow into Christ-likeness.

Being patient with the fainthearted – I have certain limitations. However, I do not want to make excuses for sin, therefore I need you to help me discern the differences between God-given limitations that I can’t go beyond and character issues that I may be able to change. This process of discerning these differences will require much patience on your part.

Being patient with the weak – while there are many things in this world that are not tempting to me and I am grateful for the grace God has given to me in each of these areas, there are still areas where I am weak. I struggle with specific and real sin issues. I need your help. And how can you help me? Primarily by being patient with me when I fail and even more patient as you walk me through the reconciliation process with those I have offended because of my failure.

My Impatient Indicators

When I am losing patience with a person there are “indicators” that I feel in my heart and sometimes express through my actions that alert me that I am either sinning against someone or about to sin against someone. Here is my personal short list of sins that manifest in my heart and sometimes expressed through my behavior: impatience, frustration, anger, criticalness, gossip, slander, harshness, not thinking the best of, hopelessness, worry, angst, unkindness, not serving them, demanding, judgmental, and anxious.

It’s pretty straight forward:

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. –1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV)

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