There are few hindrances to the cause of Christ as effective as a bad disposition on the part of God’s people. It is hardly too much to say that an evil disposition manifested by an evangelical does the Church more harm in the end than anything that modernists and unbelievers can ever do.
A bad disposition has been called “the vice of the virtuous.” The woman who would not gamble or smoke or attend places of worldly amusements may yet manifest a churlish temper and keep her family in terror with her acid tongue. A man who will fight for the faith once delivered to the saints may be so hard to live with that his family actually wishes him gone, and feels little real sorrow when he finally shuffles off this mortal coil to go, as he had fondly believed, to dwell with the saints in the peace of heave forever.
The slick habit of blaming the devil for conditions in the average church is too smooth to escape suspicion. That explanation explains too much. We do not underestimate the ability of the devil to raise trouble, nor do we believe that he has softened up in his attitude towards the followers of Christ. But his power is specifically limited. It is extremely doubtful whether he has any real power unless we give it to him. At least we know that he could not get to Job without special permission from God, and it is hard to conceive that God took better care of Job than He does of the rest of us. Chrysostom once preached a great sermon to show that nothing can harm a Christian who does not harm himself. Over the humble and obedient soul the devil has no power. He can harm us only when we, by unspiritual and unchristlike ways, play into his hands. And we play into his hands whenever and as long as we harbor unjudged and uncleansed evil within us.
Dispositional sins are fully as injurious to the Christan cause as the more overt acts of wickedness. These sins are as many as the various facets of human nature. Just so there may be no misunderstanding let us list a few of them: Sensitiveness, irritability, churlishness, faultfinding, peevishness, temper, resentfulness, cruelty, uncharitable attitudes; and of course there are many more. These kill the spirit of the church and slow down any progress which the gospel may be making in the community. Many a soul who had been secretly longing to find Christ has been turned away and embittered by manifestations of ugly, dispositional flaws in the lives of the very persons who were trying to win them.
Deliverance from inward sins would seem to be a spiritual necessity. In the face of the havoc wrought by dispositional sins among religious people we do not see how sincere men can deny that necessity. Unsaintly saints are the tragedy of Christianity. People of the word usually must pass through the circle of disciples to reach Christ, and if they find those disciples severe and sharp-tongued they can hardly be blamed if they sigh and turn away from Him.
All this is more than a theory. Unholy tempers among professed saints constitute a plague and a pestilence. The low state of religion in our day is largely due to the lack of public confidence in religious people.
It is time we Christians stop trying to excuse our unchristlike dispositions and frankly admit our failure to live as we should. Wesley said that we will not injure the cause of holiness by admitting our sins, but that we are sure to do so by denying them. There is a remedy for inward evil. There is a power in Christ that can enable the worst of us to live lives of purity and enable the worst of us to live lives of purity and love. We have but to seek it and to lay hold of it in faith. God will not disappoint us.
A. W. Tozer The Evils Of A Bad Disposition was published in Alliance Weekly 3 march 1951