Sometimes when one Christian sees another Christian’s practices of piety he or she thinks, “That’s a good practice, I should do it.” At one level, this isn’t a bad thing. Those who follow Jesus in faith and obedience should be good examples for others who follow him. On a different level, however, this can be dangerous since the ultimate standard for piety and godliness is not found in one person’s specific practices, but in Scripture. In other words, if one Christian wakes up early to pray for an hour each day, while that’s a very commendable practice, it’s not binding on other Christians. Furthermore, other Christians should not feel badly if their practices of piety and godliness don’t match up with other Christians’ practices of piety because Scripture is our ultimate standard.
Abraham Kuyper addressed one aspect of this topic quite well in a chapter of his devotional, To be Near unto God. Here’s a section from it:
There is an evil among devout friends of the Lord, which must be resisted. In spiritual things each desires to impose a law of his own upon the other. Piety is said to be bound to a given form. One’s own way of piety must be the standard for every one else. Minor differences may be tolerated, but in the main the same sort of piety must manifest itself in all God’s children alike. And so it follows that the piety which they practice is the standard for all their spiritual examination and criticism.
…Our fathers used to say, that this is putting oneself in the place of the Word of God. Not from oneself, nor from any saint whatever, but exclusively from God’s Word the standard must be derived which determines geniune childship, and the true gold of our godliness. These censors did not deny this; only they tried to show that God’s Word posits the claims and marks of true grace, which they themselves imposed upon you, and which they sternly applied in their own circle. But one thing they forgot, and this became the cause of all this injurious spiritual unnaturalness; they did not see, that God’s word, as in every thing else allows play-room in the spiritual life for very great diversity, and in this very diversity seeks strength.
If now the spiritual life of piety is forced into a selfsame mould, the work of man counteracts the work of God; then there ensues spiritual unnaturalness, painted flowers, but no real flowers; then no virtue goes out from it, and this sort of imprinted piety does not bring one nearer to God, but rather builds up a wall of separation between the soul and God
…As God clothes the lilies of the field differently, so he weaves an own spiritual garment for each one of his children.
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015