Tuesday: Formalism, Fanaticism, and Faith
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One of the challenges of true revival is breaking through the icy surface of cold formalism, while at the same time avoiding the fiery flames of fanaticism.

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

Formalism is rigidly locked in the status quo. It is satisfied with the external husks of religion while it denies the living reality of faith. Fanaticism tends to go to extremes. It goes off on religious tangents. It tends to be unbalanced, focusing on one aspect of faith to the neglect of all others. Fanaticism is often self-righteous and judgmental. The apostle Paul longed that the Christian church “no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Eph. 4:14, NKJV).

What do we learn about cold formalism in Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees? Matt. 23:27-28Luke 11:39-40Mark 7:5-9.

What do we learn about those who thought that signs and wonders proved that they were Jesus’ faithful followers? Matt. 7:21-23.

The deeper issue in both of these experiences is the commitment of the heart. Signs and wonders can never take the place of authentic biblical faith. They are not a substitute for surrendering to the will and Word of God. The essence of real revival is a faith so deep that it leads to an obedient life committed to do God’s will. A biblically based revival echoes John’s words, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith” (1 John 5:4, NKJV).

“What kind of faith is it that overcomes the world? It is that faith which makes Christ your own personal Saviour-that faith which, recognizing your helplessness, your utter inability to save yourself, takes hold of the Helper who is mighty to save, as your only hope.”-Ellen G. White, Reflecting Christ, p. 21.

Which side do you tend to lean toward: formalism and tradition, or more toward experience and excitement? If, perhaps, you lean too much toward one side or the other, how can you find the right balance?

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Tuesday: Formalism, Fanaticism, and Faith — 24 Comments

  1. It has been our greatest hinderance to evangelism also,where the souls we want to reach are discouraged by the 'hard laws of God'that we present instead of the love of God he has for humankind. As long as fanaticism n extremism are reigning,there is no revival n no evangelism as well. May God help us to realise our state so that we may change ncarry out his work of Matthew 28vs18-20.

    Like(11)
      • I believe Slevy was focusing on the way we present the truth. If we focus on law and what we "must do," souls are discouraged and turned away.

        If, instead, we focus on God's magnificent love for us, souls will be drawn to Him. When we love someone, we naturally do things that please that person. And when we love God, we will not find His laws burdensome.

        Like(11)
  2. Striking the ballance in this context is very challenging and can only be achieved through the Grace of GOD. The fact is the more you stand for what is right the more people will brand you of fanaticism.And we can't just let go and sit down and watch things unfold either.

    Like(10)
  3. I do wonder why sd adventisrs are branded "pharisees" but I think we ought to stop seeming to critisize or pointing at the dangers of being "out of the fold" but focus on Jesus Christ's love, grace, patience and kindness. I suppose we should attract people to hism rather than scaring people; the latter has a far reaching side effect.

    Like(4)
  4. I really like this sentence "One of the challenges of true revival is breaking through the icy surface of cold formalism, while at the same time avoiding the fiery flames of fanaticism."

    Just wondering, could the continuous personal struggle to resist the pull of fanaticism on one side and the pull of formalism on the other side, lead one to become luke warm that the Laodicean Church is warned about?
    I mean, fanatics see formalists as being too cold, and formalists see fanatics as being too hot. And the Lord would rather see us being one or the other Rev 3:16 KJV
    So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.

    But then again... Jesus is NOT knocking the Pharisee's formalism for teaching the traditions of men, Jesus is knocking them for ignoring "Love" toward men by replacing formalism towards God for love towards men.

    Like(5)
  5. [Moderator's Note: Please use full names when commenting.]

    I also agree that when one looks to the standards of God they are branded as old fashioned and legalistic. Yet the "new version" of adventist that allows everything is lauded as been loving and non-judge mental. The result is now a church that behaves and sound like all the churches around and suddenly there is no difference between Adventist and other faiths because we no longer want to be different less we are seen as "fanatics". May God help us to know where we stand with Him and not worry about labels.

    Like(8)
    • I have not heard of this "new adventism" that allows everything. I do take to heart the instruction though about not judging others. Our actions and behaviour is important, not as the root of our salvation, but as the fruit. Much of the "judgement" that I see Christians indulging in is directed at showing that their behaviour is better than others. There is ample room for encouraging others to grow in Christ without condemnation.

      My wife who is a primary teacher has got it right. She says there is no need to tell children that they have done something wrong. They know that already. The role of the teacher is to show that making wise choices and doing the right thing is the better alternative. Wise words from a much loved teacher.

      Adventist Christians can do better than condemn those with whom they disagree. We need to live the better alternative.

      Like(6)
    • Elaine we need to know your last name. That way we won' t think that Elaine Smith in my home church is picking on us, because we know your name may be Elaine Henedy, or Elaine Limbaugh.
      Anyway I believe in going down the middle of the road, thus I would never fall off the path. Yes discipline is necessary, to keep us in the middle of the road, but in a loving way as Christ did, unless it is to a pharisee, then He became fire breathing as Tyler Cluch puts it in another day of this weeks lesson.

      Like(0)
  6. In of our need to follow in the real Christian experience we need to pray earnestly to understand the Holy Spirit and once we have done this can we desire to call upon His infilling every day and be free of worrying about the measuring of finding the balance of Formalism, Fanaticism, and Faith. God will not leave us without this experience if we truly seek it.

    Like(3)
    • The early, or former rain of the Spirit, which is the
      baptism of the Holy Spirit, began on the day of Pentecost.
      Peter pointed this out when he said to the crowd
      on that day:
      "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet
      Joel; and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith
      God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and
      your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your
      young men shall see visions, and your old men shall
      dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens
      I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and
      they shall prophesy" (Acts 2:16-18).
      Spirit baptism, or the early rain of the Spirit, brings
      us to the spiritual maturity required so that we can benefit
      from the latter rain:

      Like(1)
    • Eudora Stephens. Excellent point Hector. With the Holy Spirit guiding us we are not in danger of either extremes. As someone else already said we underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. Let's allow Him to lead us today.

      Like(2)
  7. Full spiritual growth under the early rain baptism of
    the Spirit is necessary for us to be able even to recognize
    the latter rain of the Spirit when it is falling. Ellen White pointed this out when she wrote: "Unless we are daily advancing in the exemplification of the active Christian virtues, we shall not recognize the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain. It may be falling on hearts all around us, but we shall not discern or receive it" (Testimony to Ministers
    and Gospel Workers, p. 507)

    Like(2)
  8. If you have not received the baptism of the Holy
    Spirit don't delay another day. His reception should be
    first and foremost in our lives, for this Gift will bring
    all other gifts to us. The Spirit's infilling will enable
    Christ to live in us and to change our lethargy to excitement,
    our weakness to strength, and our witness will be with a power not seen since the day of Pentecost:
    "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet
    not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now
    live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,
    who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
    "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria,and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts1:8).

    Like(1)
    • What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? What does it mean in practical terms to be "Crucified with Christ". Sometimes we quote these phrases as being the key to Christian living without really taking on board what it means. My guess is that it may mean moving out of our comfort zone. It may also mean a lot of hard work. We need to think carefully how the Holy Spirit can use us - it may be quite different to our expectations. Maybe we have not even heard the Holy Spirit calling!

      Like(5)
  9. The question I have is don't we want a faith and religion that has no brakes never stops and is driven by the holy spirit? Don't we want to lean a bit towards fanaticism. Weren't the apostles fanatic about their faith when the Holy Spirit was poured out on them? Was it not their passion and excitement for God that helped them spread the word of God. I realize we need a balance but is excitement really bad?

    Like(3)
    • Inonge, it all depends on what you mean by "fanaticism."

      No, I don't think we should be "fanatics," because, as I understand it, fanaticism means taking one aspect of truth to an extreme that eclipses all others. (Some are fanatics on food, some on dress, some on Sabbath keeping, etc. Usually fanatics focus on externals -- what we must do, rather than what we should be.) We need to embrace all of the truth, not just a little bit. And all of the truth is demonstrated in Jesus. He said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the life." (John 14:6)

      If you mean that to be a "fanatic" is to be radically committed to Jesus Christ, I'm with you.

      A radical commitment should make us like Jesus. We should be loving and lovable Christians, so sinners would be drawn to us as they were drawn to Christ. I believe that's what the world needs today -- a demonstration of God's character of love in His people.

      Like(17)
      • Human Communications is performed through written words in these SSNet discussions. Therefore we need to be able to agree on definitions of the labels we use we write. So, do you Inonge and Inge agree on the meaning of the label fanaticism?
        It is also possible for you two to agree on the definition of fanaticism and for you two to observe the behaviour of a believer and both of you would apply a different label on the behaviour of that believer because of the differences of your, Inge and inonge personality types.

        Like(0)
        • Hi Neven,

          The World English Dictionary defines fanaticism thus:
          fanaticism (fəˈnætɪˌsɪzəm)
          — n. wildly excessive or irrational devotion, dedication, or enthusiasm (http://dictionary.reference.com/cite.html?qh=fanaticism&ia=ced)

          The world would likely attach this label to committed Christians, and that is the meaning that I suspect Inonge had in mind. And on that basis, I agreed with what Inonge worte.

          However, from the Christian point of view, this is not fanaticism, but commitment. However, there is fanaticism in Christianity, and this is a matter of focusing on some external thing to do, while essentially ignoring the more important issues. The Pharisees were fanatics about tithing. They went so far as to tithe the insignificant herbs of the garden, but they neglected the important things - justice and mercy and faith. (Matthew 23:23) Modern fanatics demonstrate the same imbalance in their eager promotion of things to do, while neglecting to be just and merciful and full of faith.

          And on the basis of the Christian meaning of fanaticism, I disagreed with the call to fanaticism. :)

          Like(5)
      • Thank you Inge, yes the word fanatic is defined the way you put it. And I agree with you. I do mean should we not be fanatic about Christ and his word. Everything else by the Holy Spirit will fall into place, not by our doing but by the Holy Spirit.

        Like(0)
  10. When Christ threw out those who were selling merchandises in the temple, He was upset at those who were turning the house of God into a den of thieves. Also, when He was approached by the hypocrites in reference to Cesear, He said give to Cesear what's his and to God His also. Now, you look at both pictures here and leads one to wonder, are we drifting away from telling the truth like it is and allowing the devil to take over the hearts of the weak who don't know Christ? Formalism should not be associated with true connection with God, rather it should be seen as stepping out of darkness into the light.

    Like(1)
  11. thanks so much Inge. let our actions speak louder than words sothat we can be a good example to others and attract them to God

    Like(4)
  12. I believe we would not know how far the Holy Spirit can take us when we allow Him to use us. Formalism. fanaticism will have no place in our live.
    When we look at the life of Saul then, and his life, Paul after. what do we learn from him? can the above terms apply to him?
    What we need is a life wholly dedicated to the cause of our redeemer. We need to fall at the Rock- who is Jesus, empty our soul temples of every defilment and allow His spirit to fill in the vaccum. when this is done, we will be better Christians- our lives will not lean more on the other side of the above contoversial terms, but will be directed and strike a good balance.
    The Holy Spirit will not use someone who has not allowed his/her Will to be on the side of Christ. This power of choice lies squarely in our own hands.
    Once we choose the side of Christ- He who knows our limitations and capabilities will come to our aid- to supply our deficiencies.
    Happy Sabbth to all.

    Like(1)

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