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Archive for the ‘Pride’ Category

In Luke 19 we find Jesus and his disciples nearing Jerusalem. Because his disciples assumed that the kingdom of God was about to appear, Jesus told them a parable, beginning in this way: “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’” Jesus was pointing to his death and going to heaven, but he would return one day to establish the consummated kingdom of God.

For those who reject the biblical Christ, this is the bottom line: “I will not have him to reign over me.” The bottom line really is whether we retain our autonomy or surrender it to Jesus.

Many mask their rejection of the rule of Christ by claiming they do follow him, but everybody else who follow the Bible are the ones who misunderstand the real Jesus. The real Jesus, they say, is all about love, and that’s the Jesus they follow. This love is one that allows all things, whether it is same-sex marriage or folks changing their gender or women having the right to abort their unborn baby, etc.

The Bible, of course, calls such things “sin,” but these “Christian” rebels claim that the Bible is simply a manmade book and really doesn’t carry any authority.

Amazingly, many of those who refuse to bow to Christ are in the Christian ministry. With academic degrees and ministerial standing, they undermine the very faith that they claim to follow.

One such minister is in a mainline denomination that endorses same-sex marriage and legalized abortion. Without shame he claims: “I think the Bible is wrong about most everything. It is wrong about evolution, slavery, women, and gays. It has no authority on those topics. I think the Bible is wrong about cosmology, history, our future, Jesus, and God. The texts were all written by human beings without any supernatural or special revelation. Yet I preach in a PC(USA) pulpit.” He mocks, “Run! Flee! Escape while you can into the refreshing waters of pure doctrine!”

To those who leave the denomination because it refuses to address such heresy, he taunts: “We will need plenty more break-offs before we finally give up on the oppressive notion of the Authority of Scripture. The Bible contains no truth outside of what we can discover through public means of inquiry. Don’t misunderstand. I enjoy the Bible. It is a marvelous human book. I read it and study it with all the critical means at my disposal. In so doing, I will do my part to undermine its Authority which I think is the next important step for religious freedom.”

And so we learn that his issue is the authority of Scripture. This minister enjoys the prospect of a god of his own creation, a god who basically endorses all that he himself approves, a god who is basically a mirror image of what he conceives as good. No holiness. No righteousness. No divine justice. No fear of God.

This minister and countless others discount the Bible because it doesn’t endorse such a view. It presents a holy God who requires perfection in order to dwell in God’s presence. The Bible takes issue with sin, but the Son of God came to earth to satisfy divine justice for those who will submit to Christ. But that’s the thing — this minister, who happens not to believe in the afterlife, refuses to bow.

But bow he shall, as will all of creation: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11 [ESV]).

 

 

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Amanda Criss has provided some very helpful thoughts in how to respond properly to criticism. Here’s a taste:

I realize now that my feelings were so hurt because my pride was so devastated. A proud heart like mine is shocked and offended at an accusation of imperfection. I want to be liked and admired, but instead, my desperate need for a Savior was shamefully exposed.

But the gospel frees me to receive criticism without anger and indignation. In the reflection of God’s holiness, I realize and embrace that I am much more sinful than my accuser can ever think to express. Even if the specific accusations I receive are without merit, when it comes to my deceitful heart, they don’t know the half of it.

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The words in the title are lifted from a line in D. A. Carson’s Worship by the Book and provoked some thoughts pertaining to how we view worship.

We mortals are quite adept at finding ways to admire ourselves even when we appear to be admiring something else. Literary societies doubtlessly have many members who are less enthralled with good books than they are enthralled with others’ perceiving them as being enthralled with good books. They like the idea of fine books and may have even read some of them, but they like even better the esteem others place upon them for liking fine books. As others have pointed out, these folk admire themselves for admiring the sunset.

We can do the same thing in our churches, especially our churches which are associated with Reformed theology. Other churches are just seeking fun and entertainment and more decisions to gain more members to build larger and finer buildings in order to have even greater fun and entertainment—all in the name of worship and the glory of God, but we see through such things. We are more noble, more God-centered, more concerned about truth. We are not like all those others.

We find at least a couple of problems here. First, we have managed to make ourselves superior to others. Those poor, deluded folks go to church because of family or tradition or earning God’s favor or wanting to appear religious or get a spiritual high or whatever, but we . . . . Jesus illustrated such a spirit with these words: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get’” (Luke 18:10-12).

Even as we acknowledge the reality of grace, that only by God’s grace do we see what we see and understand what we understand, we manage to elevate ourselves to a position of superiority. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18) should serve as a constant warning to us.

A second problem with the attitude of putting ourselves above others is that we are guilty of admiring ourselves admire God instead of admiring and pursuing God. We admire ourselves for admiring truth instead of actually admiring and pursuing truth. We admire ourselves for understanding something of the centrality of God in worship instead of actually and intentionally worshiping God. We admire ourselves not succumbing to the entertainment-driven mindset of our day instead of focusing upon God in every hymn we sing, in every prayer we pray, in every creed we recite, and in every sermon we hear.

We recognize that worship is not about us. It’s about God. We know that truth is not about us. It’s about God. We know this and express this, and yet the focus manages to drift back to us. We admire ourselves for admiring God and find ourselves not really admiring God at all. With the apostle Paul we find ourselves doing what we hate and failing to do what we ought. His words become ours:  “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

What to do? There are probably more than these, but four suggestions come to mind. First, we have to recognize that admiring ourselves for admiring even the most noble pursuit, the pursuit of God, is sin. We must confess our sin to God for elevating ourselves above others, and we must repent and seek his forgiveness.

Second, we must be conscious of our weakness and call upon God to aid us. We must be aware of our tendency to exalt self, and we must rebuke ourselves whenever we find our gaze shifting from the Almighty.

Third, we must keep the truth of grace ever before us. Indeed, not only are we capable of following the lead of the world, we have actually done it: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3). Whoever we are and whatever we believe result solely from the grace of God. “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Fourth, we must be conscious of our fleshly ability to substitute ourselves for God, to usurp his place, and we must consciously and intentionally focus upon him. Keeping our gaze upon him reveals his beauty and his holiness and his matchless glory. May God alone be the desire of our hearts.

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President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize today in Oslo, saying that he accepted it with “deep gratitude and great humility.” The president acknowledged the controversy over his being awarded the prize in the first place, a proper response considering that nominations had to be in before he had served as the nation’s chief executive for one month.

Acknowledging that he accepted the award with “great humility,” however, fails to resonate with me. Saying it doesn’t make it so. An exhibition of humility would have been to decline the prestigious award when first notified. Americans of all political persuasions believe that the award is premature at best. Humility would have said, “While I appreciate the honor which the committee has sought to bestow upon me, I cannot accept it because I simply have not earned it. May it go to someone who has invested years, if not decades, to the pursuit of peace.”

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