Note: I've had this post "stewing" in my drafts folder because I felt compelled to broach this topic but unsure of how to go about it in a way that made it applicable to today's Christian society.
This still isn't a post following the Promises series, but I really wanted to share some things I've been reading with you guys.
Currer Bell, better known as Charlotte Bronte, wrote a preface to her second edition of Jane Eyre basically because the book stood very controversially against the standards of the time. I will leave you to meditate on the following.
"Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.
"These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are distinct as is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them: they should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken from truth; narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be substituted for the world-redeeming creed of Christ. There is - I repeat it - difference; and it is a good, and not a bad action to mark broadly and clearly the line of separation between them.
"The world may not like to see these ideas dissevered, for it has been accustomed to blend them; finding it convenient to make external show pass for sterling worth - to let white-washed walls vouch for clean shrines. It may hate him who dares to scrutinise and expose, to rase the gilding and show base metal under it, to penetrate the sepulchre and reveal charnel relics; but hat as it will, it is indebted to him."
Now perhaps this description of "Christianity", while true enough when written in its day, is rather unfitting for the more sincere outlooks of many churches today. But after all these hundreds of years after Bronte wrote this preface, we have not got past actions, which Bronte describes as appearances.
Actions do not define a man. Were that true, every single one of the elect should perish. No one shall be saved for not sinning; but everyone may be saved by the virtue of the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent. (John 17:3). In every single circle people's worth is still judged largely by their actions, especially in churches, where the "correction gospel" is taught so often as people try to fix their actions, instead of falling deeper in love with Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:12: "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient. All things are lawful unto me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."
John 14:15: "If ye love me, keep my commandments."
As my pastor down in Dallas has long said, it's a love affair. Christ liveth in me. There are Christians out there, living like the rest of the world, but eventually the Christ in them will come out. He has to, assuming the person's faith is real. Eventually they will fall deeper in love with Jesus, and their mood, their speech, their thoughts, their actions will become more and more aligned with the Christ in them.
Back in the early 19th century, people's actions did not match the state of their hearts. Back then, Bronte would expose this. Today, the situation seems to be reversed, and many Christians would focus on the symptoms, and insist that the flock read their Bible, pray every day, and in essence fix their actions. But what good does it do to read one's Bible if one does it under the compulsion of anything besides a love for Christ? No, it's not a matter of waiting for the right "feeling" to come over one, it's a matter of people's hearts being turned to the Lord and performing these actions because they love Jesus.
Love is not a feeling. Love is a sacrifice. Love is an outworking of the state of the heart. "Faith without works is dead," but all the works in the world done for the wrong reasons will not revive one's faith. Fall more deeply in love with the Christ in you, and pray for those who haven't. Let each be governed by his own conscience, not another's; but let no man's freedom hinder his brother's faith. It is then that the actions and the heart will align themselves, and Pharisees may be altogether done away with.