When our lives are not marked by genuine, God-directed spiritual change, we tend to look for substitute ways to distinguish ourselves from those we consider less spiritual than us.
We adopt what John Ortberg has called “boundary markers” – highly visible, relatively superficial practices intended to quickly separate the “insiders” from the “outsiders.”
These boundary markers may include:
- conformity to specified forms of dress and speech.
- adherence to certain rules of behaviour.
- participation in prescribed activities and so on.
Boundary markers provide a false sense of security and superiority.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day focused a great deal of their attention on boundary markers. Many of their conflicts with Jesus occurred because Jesus took a radically different approach to assessing spirituality.
Instead of focussing on visible indicators of spiritual transformation, Jesus focussed on what was happening in the heart. His concern was whether or not people were being transformed and growing in their love of God and love of people. His concern was whether or not they were being transformed into the masterpieces God created them to be.
5 warning signs of pseudo transformation
These come from Matthew 23, where Jesus denounced the religious leaders of His day for their lack of true spiritual life.
1. Demanding obedience from others, but not practicing what they preach; burdening other people with the pursuit of exhaustive, external rules and practices yet not helping to bear the burden (Matthew 23:1-4).
2. Doing their spiritual duties so that other people will notice and honour them; expecting others to honour them; taking pride in their knowledge, position and influence (Matthew 23:5-8).
3. Making it difficult for other people to enter (and in some cases preventing people from entering) God’s Kingdom; refusing to enter the kingdom of heaven themselves (Matthew 23:13-15)
4. Following the letter of the law but violating the spirit of the law such as tithing every little thing to God, yet neglecting justice, mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23).
5. Preoccupied with appearing to be spiritual; cleaning up the outside, but doing nothing to clean the mess on the inside; being hypocritical (Matthew 23:24-29).
Which of these signs of pseudo transformation are showing up in your life today?
***** This is taken from, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People” by John Ortberg