Experience shows that pitfalls surround those who make moral struggle central in their thinking about the Holy Spirit.  Their tendency is to grow legalistic, making tight rules for themselves and others about abstaining from things indifferent, imposing rigid and restrictive behavior patterns as bulwarks against worldliness and attaching great importance to observing these man-made taboos.  They become pharisaic, more concerned to avoid what defiles and adhere to principle without compromise than to practice the love of Christ.  They become scrupulous, unreasonably fearful of pollution where none threatens and obstinately unwilling to be reassured.  They become joyless, being so preoccupied with thoughts of how grim and unrelenting the battle is.  They become morbid, always introspective and dwelling on the rottenness of their hearts in a way that breeds only gloom and apathy.  They become pessimistic about the possibility of moral progress, both for themselves and for others.  They settle for low expectations of deliverance from sin, as if the best they can hope for is to be kept from getting worse.

Such attitudes are, however, spiritual neuroses, distorting, disfiguring, diminishing and so, in reality, dishonoring the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit in our lives.

Granted, these states of mind are, usually, products of more than one factor.  Accidents of temperament and early training, meticulous mental habits turned inward by shyness or insecurity, a low self-image and, perhaps, actual self-hatred often go toward the making of them.  So do certain in-turned types of ecclesiastical culture and community.  But, inadequate views of the Spirit always prove to underlie them, too. . .These folk. . .need a different focus for their thinking about the Spirit, to move them on from the somber spiritual egoism that I have just described.

From: Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God by J. I. Packer; 2nd edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005), pp. 34-35.  First edition published in 1984.  Italics are in the original.  Bold type is supplied by me.

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