Wednesday, July 26, 2017

God's Protection, Not Pride's

The process of spiritual, emotional, mental and intellectual maturity begins the moment we become disciples of Jesus Christ.

Everything that came before must be analyzed and evaluated before God, properly channeled under His guidance, and more likely than not, shed entirely.

The biggest hurdle—just as it was in our non-Christian life—will be pride.

We may be tempted to think that, since we are now on board with Christ, we have miraculously been made humble. I wish that it were so. But since our Christian faith is not “wishful thinking,” we must be real and honest about the pride that lives on in us, even after being redeemed by Christ.

We must be on guard about our innermost pride, and work with God to root it out. And one of the ways we do that is go to Scripture and read God’s take on pride and the warnings against it. This is difficult work. It is not for the faint of heart.

Thomas A. Tarrants, vice president of ministry at the C.S. Lewis Institute says,

“Truly, humility is our greatest friend. It increases our hunger for God’s word and opens our hearts to his Spirit. It leads to intimacy with God, who knows the proud from afar, but dwells with him “who is of a contrite and lowly spirit” (Isa. 57:15). It imparts the aroma of Christ to all whom we encounter. It is a sign of greatness in the kingdom of God (Luke 22:24–27).
Developing the identity, attitude, and conduct of a humble servant does not happen over night. It is rather like peeling an onion: you cut away one layer only to find another beneath it. But it does happen. As we forsake pride and seek to humble ourselves by daily deliberate choices in dependence on the Holy Spirit, humility grows in our souls. Fenelon said it well, “Humility is not a grace that can be acquired in a few months: it is the work of a lifetime.” And it is a grace that is precious in the sight of God, who in due course will exalt all who embrace it."

Pride springs from a taproot that seems to have no end. But it does have an end, and one end only: Jesus Christ.

He is the path to humility that the above quote by Tarrants talks about.

We can look at our Christian life and wonder why some of the same-old same-old emotions plague us. 

We can kick ourselves that so-and-so got under our skin yet again. 

We can find ourselves venting in an un-Christian manner, and wonder why a person or situation brings out the worst in us.

Additionally, we can ambitiously succeed in an accomplishment and run with it to the point that, weeks later, we realize we never gave God credit, and in the interim have formed a very lofty regard for ourselves that is threatening to derail our faith.

What I’ve discovered from all of this is that when pride refuses to let go of me, it’s because I’ve refused to let go of pride.

If pride is still directing traffic in my life it may be because I am still an offensive driver, promoting myself in pride, or a defensive driver, protecting myself in pride.

I think we all understand the self-promotional aspect of pride, but how is it self-protecting?

The answer is when it becomes our way of enabling feelings and behaviors that we are not yet ready to release to God because we are fearful that to do so will make us even more vulnerable than we already feel ourselves to be.

Self-protective pride nurses wounds to where we never get past them.

It warps our sense of justice, applying it only to our selves.

This sort of pride is one dimensional, frequently making mountains out of molehills, because in our swiftness to be offended we never think to ask for clarification or the meaning behind another person’s actions or statements.

The result is jumping to conclusions, presumptions and assumptions. All because we ourselves want to, because it feeds our habit of self-righteousness.

In areas of life where I could not seem to overcome issues, frustrations, feelings of inferiority and being misunderstood, it was because I was not letting God heal, transform, regenerate and redeem past experiences and relationships. 

I was not allowing myself to become the all-new creation He intends for me to become.

It has taken all of my Christian walk so far for God to grow a right spirit in me to the point that I have been able to begin to discharge the false security of self-righteousness in favor of a sincere trust in God’s righteousness.

Going forward, I’m sure to still be misunderstood, falsely accused and despised.

But now I will stop seeing it where it does not exist, and understand that God sees it too, where and when it does exist.

I no longer need to protect myself, because God, my portion, is the only perspective and affirmation that is necessary (and, I might add, beneficial). He alone is my portal through which I am able to live out Proverbs 4:23-27:

“Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.
Put away perversity from your mouth;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead,
fix your gaze directly before you.
Make level paths for your feet
and take only ways that are firm.
Do not swerve to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.” 

Ultimate freedom in Christ means we no longer rely on our pride to protect us. We rely solely on Him, whose perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

copyright Barb Harwood

“God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” Psalm 46:1-3

“’Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.” Psalm 46:10-11

“Behold, God is my helper;
The Lord is the sustainer of my soul.” Psalm 54:4

“When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can mere man do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4

“From my distress I called upon the LORD;
The LORD answered me and set me in a large place.
The LORD is for me; I will not fear;
What can man do to me? Psalm 118:5-6

“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.’ Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:6-10

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