Phil. 3:13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
Humans are quite interesting, if we ever see The Lord do anything through us we suddenly become spiritual experts. Martin Luther said there was a little evil monk in all of us. Obviously I speak from experience. I have seen The Lord do amazing things in our ministry over the years, inevitably each victory leads to another fight with that blasted evil monk. Years ago a nationally known ministry used our facility for a regional conference. I was looking over the promotional material just before it started and got quite a jolt. The main selling point was this, “come learn from the experts”. I couldn’t believe my eyes, they were actually serious. What is so shocking is our tendency to think any time The Lord does something it must be because of something I am doing, what happened to the grace of God? Like Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” Martin Luther recognized this tendency in ALL OF US. Here is his take on it.
“Each one of us carries in our heart a horrible religious fanatic. We would all like to be able to do something so spectacular that we could brag, “Look what I’ve done! With all my prayers and good works, I’ve done enough for God today that I can feel at peace.” This happens to me too after I have accomplished something in my ministry. I’m much happier than if I hadn’t done it. Being happy isn’t wrong in itself. But this joy is impure because it isn’t based on faith. It’s the kind of happiness that can make your conscience confused. Consciences are delicate. We need to guard them against the sin of arrogance. So we can’t be overconfident. We who confess Christ should always walk in fear and grow in faith. We should realize that we all carry in our hearts a horrible religious fanatic, who will destroy our faith with foolish delusions of good works.”
I think the thing that disturbed me the most about the conference is that I saw so much of myself in their arrogance. That was terrifying! My eyes were being opened to the human tendency to take credit for everything. The scary thing is, that tendency is in all of us.
How do we combat what Luther called religious fanaticism? Actually, the same way we deal with every spiritual challenge, with the Word and the Spirit. God’s Word, especially the Pauline epistles, is saturated with grace. Drinking from Paul’s cup of grace will deal a powerful blow to that horrible evil monk. Focusing on the power of redemption; Christ’s sufficiency and our depravity and our neediness, can keep our own pride in check. Also, drinking daily of His Spirit is essential. As I drink this Living Water, Christ becomes bigger and bigger to me and I become smaller and smaller. The beginning of freedom from this kind of religious fanaticism is simply recognizing we are part of the problem, not the solution.