I recently read this quote from a monk, “The problem with religion is that it can make you pure as an angel and leave you proud as a devil.”
This is exactly what happens in a faith rooted in outward observance, image maintenance, and performance orientation. It is precisely why Christianity advocates the ongoing work of grace after conversion.
It’s why holiness is the “big Bible word” in all Christian traditions–a word that will not allow us to stop with new birth (which only creates babies and narcissists), but rather calls us to go on to maturity, defined essentially as Christlikeness.
This is why the fruit of the Spirit is the post-conversion message–why the gifts of the Spirit (important as they are) are never used in the Bible to assess maturity–even though some Christians try to use them that way.
If we stop with “looking good” (any form of works-oriented, image-polishing faith) and fail to move into “being good” (in character, not just conduct), we will have embraced only half the Gospel–and the monk’s words will come to describe our brand of Christianity.
In the Wesleyan tradition, this is what John Wesley meant when describing his experience at Aldersgate on May 24, 1738—“I felt my heart strangely warmed…” For the rest of his life he proclaimed “full” salvation, believing that God raised up the Methodists to preach and personify the whole Gospel. It is why Wesley, and Christians before and after him, named humility as the evidence of perfect love and pride the enemy of it.