The Biblical Focus of a Disciple: Conclusion
I cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper focus in Christian living. Imbalance will adversely affect every aspect of our lives! The following extremes often flow from an unbiblical focus in the Christian life:
- Pride: Men who view their Christianity as a list of rules, rather than an abiding relationship with God that produces genuine spiritual fruit, do not realize the weight of Jesus statement, “Without Me you can do nothing!” When we are focused on externals and substitute man-centered standards for genuine spiritual fruit, religious pride, similar to that of the Pharisees during the inter-testamental period will often follow. We become full of pride as we live to “please men rather than God.” “We already have our reward!”
- Pragmatism: Those who focus on the fruit of a healthy walk yet ignore or misunderstand the Biblical process open themselves up to serious pragmatism. The ends do not justify the means! Those who seek spiritual fruit by the strength of the flesh are still “sowing to their flesh,” by means of a “pseudo-religious process.” Galatians 5 says that those, who “sow to the flesh will reap corruption.” Sowing to the flesh may be as subtle as our motives for obedience, evangelism, choice of dress, choice of associations, music style, entertainments, church attendance, or ministry commitments. External forms and actions are instruments of deception when they are not properly motivated. Practical righteousness is not a means to walking with God, but a result of walking with God. Those who become focused on fruit often are more concerned with the results that bring them comfort, than whole-hearted obedience and fellowship with God!
- Discouragement: Men, who nominally understand the weight of Christ-likeness, are overwhelmed when they attempt to do God’s work by means of the flesh. It is an impossibility! Those who strive in the flesh will fail, and are prime candidates for discouragement. Building a life on what does not work will produce crisis when failure meets reality. Mid-life crisis is inevitable for the believer who strives by means of the flesh!
- Carnality: Pragmatism and discouragement inevitably lead to one dead end, carnal Christian living. Carnal actions are nothing more than the fruit of carnal habits. Striving in the flesh is just as carnal as the tragic carnal actions of pragmatic and discouraged believers. Misplaced focus will always produce carnal living.
- Legalism: Charles Ryrie has an excellent chapter on legalism in his book Balancing the Christian Life. He defines legalism on page 168 as, “A fleshly attitude which conforms to a code for the purpose of exalting self.” Legalism is a term often thrown around without being defined carefully. Holy living is not legalistic! Avoiding places and practices that cause you to stumble is not legalistic. Legalism is an attitude toward God and His laws. It is an unbiblical motive for obedience. My service to God in every sphere of Christian service should flow out of my walk with Him. It is not a means to spiritual growth, but the expression of growth. It is not the focus but, the by-product.
- Emotionalism: Christians who walk with God are emotional people. Joy is an emotion. Peace is an emotion. Love is highly emotional. The fruit of walking with God is highly emotional, and genuine worship is an eruption of emotions that flows from a proper understanding of truth. Sadly, many Christians do not understand that a subtle counterfeit for love, joy, and peace can all be produced by the flesh. Church groups today are masters at producing an imitation of the real thing. Those who seek the fruit of the Spirit by means of the flesh are highly susceptible to emotionalism. This emotionalism is not the fruit of an abiding relationship with Christ, firmly grounded in truth, and produced in the process of sanctification; rather it is produced at the expense of truth by means of the flesh!