Friday, September 17, 2010

The snare of a step in the right direction

The following is excerpted from Shepherds Balm, a devotional for Christian leaders by Rich Earl now available at

I have found my time of greatest peril and temptation
is not in the hour of deepest distress, but in the hour just after a great spiritual victory. It is then that our guard must be up, and we must position ourselves to fight, for the enemy knows we may be unprepared. We must be careful as pastors not to excuse ourselves from the conviction of the Holy Spirit and working of repentance. We are just as prone to “go easy on ourselves” as anyone else. This word from JB Stoney should serve as a warning and reminder to us all.

"When the conscience is in exercise, there is great
need that it should not be checked or quieted by
partial action, or by imperfect intelligence. The
conscience of a saint is awakened by the spirit of God
to seek relief from the presence of evil around. This
is a true, healthy purpose, and most blessed if
effectively carried out according to the word of God.
The danger and consequent loss is when compromise
is entered into, when the conscience is quieted by
one step, rather than by a definite and clear escape
from a place of grievance. And thus, alas! The flesh is
spared and the spirit of God grieved, and there is
really no progress.

This often occurs in our Christian history; the
conscience has been aroused, but to meet it fully as
in the light of God’s presence would cost our nature
too much. Of course we do not reason in this plain
way with ourselves; but do we not often, perhaps
years afterwards, discover that it was really sparing
ourselves which led to our resisting the demands and
strivings of our conscience? For now, being in the
place of blessing which our conscience had long
before indicated, we see how we had deceived
ourselves, and thus had hindered our own blessing;
and all because we feared the personal trial to which
we should have been exposed in reaching it.
It is well to be warned of this device or weakness,
from which all suffer many times and in many ways –
one which I may call an effort to appease the
conscience without putting the flesh to much
sacrifice – because if we see how we have been
deceived in this subtle way, we are the more careful
to attend to our conscience, and how God is speaking
to it, and how we may quiet it at the smallest cost to
ourselves. In short, as a rule, when the conscience is
arrested or exercised, the first thought is, not what
will at all costs satisfy it according to God, but on the
contrary, how I can answer its demand without
involving myself in loss and pain.

Finally, if I make my own ease of mind or
judgment the measure of my action, instead of the
revealed will of God and the leading of the Holy
Spirit, the consequence will be that it will be more
difficult for me to be led on than for those who have
not moved at all. For at the bottom the hindrance to
me is the desire to spare myself the sacrifice; and
according as I spare myself I deprive myself, in a
hundredfold proportion, of the blessing contingent
on faithfulness; and hence they who rest satisfied
with the right step never advance in truth or
knowledge beyond a certain point."

— JB Stoney, The Refiner’s Fire Journal

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue
righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience,
— 1 Timothy 6:11 (NKJV)

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