Editor's note:

Rep­e­ti­tio mater stu­dio­rum est. (Rep­e­ti­tion is the moth­er of learn­ing.) – Latin adage

When I was the moth­er of a young one, my world con­tained a lot of Veg­gi­eTales. The audio com­men­tary on those DVD’s was the best! Phil Vis­ch­er and Mike Nawroc­ki were always fun­ny as they shared the joys and tribu­la­tions of mak­ing a Bible-based children’s series filled with anthro­po­mor­phic veg­eta­bles (and some fruit) in the ear­ly days of com­put­er ani­ma­tion. One thing that has stayed with me over all the years is Phil Vischer’s belief that for lessons to stick in children’s minds, you must recap the entire sto­ry for them after telling it. Grow­ing minds need to be remind­ed. Often. 

My mind must still be grow­ing – hooray! – because I, too, find myself in need of con­stant reminders of the basics, espe­cial­ly in my walk with God. Thank good­ness I am not alone. The call to remem­ber is pep­pered through­out Scrip­ture, from the ancient Israelites (Deut 24:18) to Jesus’ dis­ci­ples (Matt 16:9). I sus­pect tem­po­rary amne­sia afflicts us all to one degree or anoth­er. This excerpt from John Wesley’s book, Chris­t­ian Per­fec­tion, is full of back-to-the-basics reminders about what it means to love God with one’s whole heart, mind, and strength” and our neigh­bors as ourselves. 

Remem­ber. It is prob­a­bly the great­est bib­li­cal exhor­ta­tion … after love.”

—Justine Olawsky

From Chris­t­ian Perfection

1. The Dan­ger of Pride 

The first advice I would give to those who have been saved from sin by grace is to watch and pray con­tin­u­al­ly against pride. For it is pride not only to ascribe what we have to our­selves, but also to think we have what we do not. One man, for instance, ascribed his knowl­edge to God and was there­fore hum­ble. But then he thought he had more than every­one else which is dan­ger­ous pride. 

We often think that we have no need of any­one else’s advice or reproof. Always remem­ber, much grace does not imply much enlight­en­ment. We may be wise but have lit­tle love, or we may have love with lit­tle wis­dom. God has wise­ly joined us all togeth­er as the parts of a body so that we can­not say to anoth­er, I have no need of you.”

Even to imag­ine that those who are not saved can­not teach you is a very great and seri­ous mis­take. Domin­ion is not found in grace. Not observ­ing this has led some into many mis­takes and cer­tain­ly into pride. Beware even the appear­ance of pride! Let there be in you that low­ly mind which was in Christ Jesus. Be clothed with humil­i­ty. Let mod­esty appear in all your words and actions. 

One way we do this is to own any fault we have. If you have at any time thought, spo­ken, or act­ed wrong, do not refrain from acknowl­edg­ing it. Nev­er dream that this will hurt the cause of God — in fact, it will fur­ther it. Be open and hon­est when you are rebuked and do not seek to evade it or dis­guise it. Rather, let it appear just as it is and you will there­by not hin­der but adorn the gospel. 

2. The Dan­ger of Enthusiasm 

Also, beware of the daugh­ter of pride: enthu­si­asm. By enthu­si­asm I mean the ten­den­cy to hasti­ly ascribe every­thing to God, sup­pos­ing dreams and voic­es and visions to be spe­cial rev­e­la­tions that God has giv­en to you. While they may be from God, they may also be from the dev­il. There­fore, believe not every spir­it, but test the spir­its to see whether they be of God.” Test all things by the writ­ten word of God, and let all bow down before it. 

You are in dan­ger of enthu­si­asm every time you depart even a lit­tle from the Scrip­tures. We must nev­er depart from the plain mean­ing of Scrip­ture, and we must always take it in the con­text in which it was writ­ten. But keep in mind that we must not despise rea­son, knowl­edge, or human learn­ing, every one of which is a gift of God and was giv­en to serve a purpose. 

One gen­er­al inlet to enthu­si­asm is expect­ing the end with­out the means: expect­ing knowl­edge, for instance, with­out search­ing the Scrip­tures and con­sult­ing with the peo­ple of God, or expect­ing spir­i­tu­al strength with­out con­stant prayer and steady watch­ful­ness, or expect­ing God to bless you with­out hear­ing the word of God at every opportunity. 

Anoth­er inlet to enthu­si­asm may be the very desire to grow in grace.” For some peo­ple this will con­tin­u­al­ly lead them to seek new” grace and there­by lead us to seek some­thing oth­er than new degrees of lov­ing God and our neigh­bor. Some will think they have come upon a new grace when they have dis­cov­ered what it means to be one with Christ” or to die with Christ.” When we take a fresh teach­ing from the Scrip­tures to heart, we must not con­clude that it is a new” gift. We have all of these things when we are jus­ti­fied; all that remains is that we expe­ri­ence them in high­er degrees. 

We should always remem­ber that love is the high­est gift of God. All of our rev­e­la­tions and gifts are lit­tle things com­pared to love. There is noth­ing high­er in reli­gion. If you are look­ing for any­thing else, you are look­ing wide of the mark. Set­tle in your heart that from this moment on you will aim at noth­ing more than that love described in the thir­teenth chap­ter of 1 Corinthi­ans. You can go no high­er than this.

3. The Dan­ger of Antin­o­mi­an­ism, or Lawlessness 

Third, I cau­tion you to beware of antin­o­mi­an­ism, which is the belief that there is no need for laws in the life of the believ­er. That great truth that Christ is the end of the law” may betray us into this belief if we do not con­sid­er that Christ him­self adopt­ed every point of the moral law! Beware of think­ing, Because I have the love of God I do not need holi­ness,” or Since I pray all the time I have no need for set times of pri­vate prayer,” or Because I am spir­i­tu­al I have no need for self-examination.” 

Instead, let this be our thought: I prize thy com­mand­ments above gold or pre­cious stones. O, what love I have found in your laws! All the day long I will study in it.” We must beware of self-indul­gence, or of mock­ing self-denial, fast­ing, or absti­nence. We can­not cry out, Only believe, believe!” and call oth­ers legal­ists” who are try­ing to live as Scrip­ture teach­es. We must remem­ber that by works our faith is made perfect.” 

4. The Dan­ger of Sins of Omission 

Sins of omis­sion are avoid­ing to do good of any kind when we have the oppor­tu­ni­ty. We must beware of these sins and, instead, be zeal­ous of good works. Do all the good you pos­si­bly can to the bod­ies and souls of your neigh­bors. Be active. Give no place to lazi­ness. Be always busy, los­ing no shred of time. What­ev­er your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. 

Also, be slow to speak. It is said, In a mul­ti­tude of words sin abounds.” Try not to talk too much, or for a long peri­od of time. Not many peo­ple can con­verse prof­itably beyond an hour’s time. Espe­cial­ly avoid pious chit-chat” or reli­gious gossip. 

5. The Dan­ger of Desir­ing Any­thing but God 

Also, beware of desir­ing any­thing oth­er than God. Jesus said, If your eye remains sin­gle your whole body shall be full of light.” Do not allow the desire for taste­ful food or any oth­er plea­sure of the sens­es, the desire of pleas­ing the eye or the imag­i­na­tion, the desire for mon­ey or praise or pow­er, to rule you. While you have the abil­i­ty to feel these desires, you are not com­pelled to feel them. Stand fast in the lib­er­ty where­with Christ has made you free! 

Be an exam­ple to all of deny­ing your­self and tak­ing up your cross dai­ly. Let oth­ers see that you are not inter­est­ed in any plea­sure that does not bring you near­er to God, nor regard any pain which does. Let them see that you sim­ply aim at pleas­ing God in every­thing. Let the lan­guage of your heart sing out with regard to plea­sure or pain, rich­es or pover­ty, hon­or or dis­hon­or, All’s alike to me, so I in my Lord may live and die!”

6. The Dan­ger of Schism 

Beware of schism, of mak­ing a tear in the Church of Christ. Ceas­ing to have a rec­i­p­ro­cal love for one anoth­er” (1 Cor. 12:25), is inner dis­uni­ty which is at the very root of all out­ward sep­a­ra­tion. Beware of every­thing which leads to this sep­a­ra­tion. Beware of a divid­ing spirit. 

There­fore, do not say, I am of Paul,” or I am of Apol­los.” This is the very thing which caused the schism at Corinth. Do not say, This is my preach­er, the best preach­er in Eng­land. Give me him and you can have all the rest.” All this tends to breed divi­sion, to dis­unite those whom God has joined. 

Do not despise or run down any preach­er. Do not exalt any­one above the rest lest you hurt both him and the cause of God. Do not bear hard upon any preach­er because of some incon­sis­ten­cy or inac­cu­ra­cy of expres­sion; no, not even for some mis­take, even if you are right. 

Do not even give a sin­gle thought of sep­a­rat­ing from your brethren, whether their opin­ions agree with yours or not. just because some­one does not agree with every­thing you say does not mean that they are sin­ning. Nor is this or that opin­ion essen­tial to the work of God. Be patient with those who dis­agree with you. Do not con­demn those who do not see things just as you do, or who think it is their duty to con­tra­dict you, whether in a great thing or a small. 

O, beware of touch­i­ness, of testi­ness, of an unwill­ing­ness to be cor­rect­ed. Beware of being pro­voked to anger at the least crit­i­cism, and avoid­ing those who do not accept your word.

Excerpts tak­en from Devo­tion­al Clas­sics: Select­ed Read­ings for Indi­vid­u­als and Groups (Richard J. Fos­ter & James Bryan Smith, Edi­tors. Harper­Collins, 1993.).

Join the 2020-21 Renovaré Book Club

An inten­tion­al way to read for trans­for­ma­tion. Cur­rent­ly under­way and runs through May 2021.

Learn More >