A few days ago I wrote about the difference between what we call reality and what God say our reality can be.
History has its prime examples of those who have pursued reality as God said it could be, but there are perils on the journey. Too many have, in their pursuit of God's reality, fallen to these:
1. Pride and Arrogance. Once a person begins working hard in his pursuit of the life that brings about a Christlike character, he will grow deeper in his faith and closer to God. The danger is to see the growth as making him better than anyone else. This leads to a danger of doing the spiritual disciplines and practices because they make him look better in front of all the other Christians. They become a "Man of Prayer" or someone who "knows the Word."
We see this all the time in the church. Many in the Christian community see themselves as automatically better than those outside the church because they have accepted Christ and those outside the church have not. They look at the "poor evolutionist" and, despite the fact that they know nothing about science, use the Jesus trump card to prove they are smarter.
When a person grows deeper in the faith, there is the temptation to take spiritual pride in all the things they are doing to become holy that others in the church are not doing. The person reads his Bible x amount of time per day, pray, fast, attend 5 church services, etc., etc., and others do not!
This is the Big Brother syndrome from the story of the Prodigal Son.
2. Legalism. If a person is not careful, she begins to believe that all her doing is what brought about the holiness and the change in her life. Legalism begins to take root when God's work in her life is abandoned for obedience to God's command. Too often, the pursuit of God is abandoned, and in its stead is the pursuit of obeying God's commands. It is the difference between obeying the law without or having the law written on the tablets of our heart.
Here is an example of what I mean (Dallas Willard uses this same example): If we simply obey God's command to turn the other cheek, we can become bitter at all the people who hit our other cheek and at having to submit to such a tough command. How much better would it be if we are actually people whose character has been formed into Christlikeness? If we obey the command because our character is shaped into Christlikeness, we are truly obeying. Legalism happens when we simply obey because we are supposed to, and then we begin to demand that everyone else obeys.
3. Cheap grace. Some might ask, how is cheap grace a peril of pursuing the life of God? Two ways: first, it is hard and time consuming to develop a Christlike character. Some have fallen away because of the hardness of the pursuit, and settled for a cheap grace that allows for easy entrance. Because they have pursued it and found it hard or that it is not happening fast enough they settle for something far less. Second, are the people who never begin the pursuit, but look at the rigors of the pursuit and say, "I can never do that!" They quit before they even begin.
Jesus offers us a tremendous amount of insight to help us keep from falling for these perils. He says, "do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing."