12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me): Finding Grace to Live Unmasked by John Fischer on Amazon
STEP 7: "We embrace the belief that we are, and always will be, experts at sinning."
A few notes on the step 7 text:
JF's use of the word evangelical annoys me, as does his talk about being saved! But on page 97 he admits salvation is ongoing and he references the "body of death" Paul talks about. But I gotta confess I can identify with his talking about taking "some pleasure" in the Schaeffer family's "shortcomings." I also identify with his sense of disappointment in finding out a public figure he admired was less than perfect . . . the "perfection is possible" myth. Page 95: " . . . the whole point of the gospel is forgiveness of sin . . . " Well, that's part of it, but forgiveness of sin hardly is the whole point or totality of the gospel; JF seems stuck on a static understanding, though on page 96 I like his reminder "sin is a daily reality." Depth of sin and the corresponding depth of God's mercy and love. Amen to that! More of God in my life leading to greater awareness of sin. That I like, as well! Recovery never is over: we're never recovered, always in recovery – so true, esp regarding sin.
1. Why is it so damaging to both leaders and followers alike to live in an atmosphere of denial? Why do we wish to live in a structured and ranked hierarchy rather than in a community of fellowship and equality?
Frequently I'm not so much in denial as I am in discomfort about living with anxieties, irresolutions and non-reconciliations. Previously on these forums I've mentioned I'm an ENFJ (the natural teacher); that same ENFJ also is The Great Reconciler, and though we're also natural leaders, I need to be aware of that dislike of and discomfort all the time. "Structured and ranked hierarchy?" Gosh, I am so extremely organizationally challenged I find myself wanting others to organize and put things into place for me, including the social and ecclesiastical worlds I inhabit. For me it's not so much rank and hierarchy as it is lack of chaos and, again, a degree of comfort?
2. What are the inevitable messages we send to our struggling fellow believers and also to non-Christians when we claim we are completely victorious over sin?
I don't know a single Christian who claims they, themselves, "are completely victorious over sin." But I think with non-Christians we need to explain the victory has been won in Christ, but we still live in the *tension* of "not yet" as we move toward "That Day" of total Shalom and complete Jubilee.
3. If we are relying on ourselves to "get us through," have we experienced God's grace? Is it possible to truly encounter God's grace by choose to reject it or to supplement it with human effort? What can we learn from the Galatians about the deception of works-righteousness?
Once again, a fine line between trusting grace and responding to grace with the gratitude of faithful, thankful and sacrificial living, because God does absolutely demand of each of us performance of the whole law, in the lively sense of doing the Law, performing the commandments, esp the Great Commandment.
4. Is the experience of confession and forgiveness as fresh in your life as it was at your conversion? If not, do you believe it can be?
JF comes from a tradition that assumes a radical experience of conversion rather than the kind of gradual growth in faith and awareness and works most of us have been experiencing. But I'll confess I don't appreciate the freshness of forgiveness to the extent I used to, and re-appreciating and re-appropriating it is part of my discipline for this Lent 2004.
5. Does the discovery of more sin in our lives mean we are regressing? How can intimacy with God and fellowship with others be compatible with a constant and growing awareness of sin?
No, not at all does discovering more sin in our lives mean regression! As we were saying a while ago, everyone seems exquisitely aware of the times they're sinned against: we need to become more sensitive, aware and perceptive to our own failings and sins. Intimacy with God and community with others (Christian or not) as others serve as mirrors for our behaviors and as we learn to move onto the next moment without become too obsessed over how I, me, my and mine behaved in that last instance.