Wednesday, October 20, 2010

God's Glory Crushes Pride


By Dr. Les Lofquist
Executive Director, IFCA International

In my ministry, I work with pastors and church leaders. I’ve seen the subtle (and not so subtle) demonstrations of pride in their lives and in my own life. This always saddens me.

In a world that emphasizes aggression and rewards self-made men, what is the place for brokenness, humility, and dependence in a person’s life? What does the Bible say about the strength that comes from submission to Christ? What does all this mean and how important is all of this anyway?

Look at the catalogs of sin in Romans 3 and Galatians 5 and realize how desperately ugly sin is. Then look at the majestic beauty of our holy God. The result of this comparison and honest appraisal is that God’s holiness becomes severe and an encounter with Him becomes awful and painful and shameful and shattering. All pride is crushed under the weight of God’s glory and holiness.

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for “glory” is kavod and it means “to be heavy, weighty.” This is a description of God’s glory: His person is substantive while we as humans are all lightness and nothingness in comparison. Under God’s kavod, under His glory, we are crushed.

Men in Bible Who Were Crushed
Just take a look at some of the men in the Bible who encountered God is His glory and as a result were crushed. Here are a few examples of these broken men.

Job, after debating with his friends over the reasons and meaning of his trials, heard from God in His majesty. Here’s how Job responded to God’s revelation of His glory: “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

Moses, after forty years of quietness as a shepherd, encountered God’s glory at the burning bush and it says: “he trembled and dare not look” (Acts 7:32).

Isaiah, the godly court prophet who had been faithfully serving the Lord saw the LORD high and lifted up in His glory and responded this way: “woe is me! I am undone [lit. destroyed]” (Isaiah 6:5).

Ezekiel, after seeing the vision of God in His throne room “fell on his face” (Ezekiel 1:28).

The great Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, after his incredible pride was crushed with a seven year bout of insanity, spoke these incredible words: “At the end of that time [seven years], I Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:17, 25, 32).

Peter, after fishing all night, with reluctance obeyed the Lord and then caught a net-breaking load of fish. In that moment Peter realized how proud and arrogant he was and responded in this way: “depart from Me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8).

John, the closest of Jesus’ earthly companions, saw the Risen Lord Jesus in His glory on the Isle of Patmos and it records that “when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17).

God’s glory is crushing! It crushes our pride and breaks us in our sin. Our pathetic, weak, worthless, feeble, puny pride gets crushed under the heavy weightiness of His awesome glory and holiness.

Some Demonstrations of Pride
As I wrote above, I’ve seen the subtle (and not so subtle) demonstrations of pride in the lives of many pastors and other Christian leaders. Here is a list of some of them I’ve seen. And yes I’m ashamed to say, I’ve been guilty of some of these in my own life:

Unwillingness to listen to advice, instruction, correction, information, and / or suggestions.

Prayerlessness: relying on your own abilities, strength, and self-sufficiency.

Reluctance to submit to authority, even anyone else’s set of rules.

Arguing and quarreling to prove you’re always right, even to the point of anger and rage.

Dominating conversations, saying something about every subject on every occasion (“with my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to help others with all their questions and difficulties”).

Maintaining an unteachable spirit (because you already know everything you need to know).

Responding to everyone around you with mockery, ridicule, and sarcastic put-downs YET you are unable to laugh at yourself along with everyone else.

Eagerly promoting yourself, who you know, what you’ve done, magnifying your achievements, illustrating your conversations with all the times you were right or you came to the rescue.

Enjoying the admiration of others, even secretly reveling in it.

Unwillingness to submit to the small indignities of daily life (like standing in a line, waiting your turn, driving an older used car, performing menial tasks or doing some manual labor).

An over-concern with externals, appearances, numbers (all designed to make you look good).

A reluctance to associate with people who cannot advance your status or enhance your image (like the poor, the shut-ins / infirmed, the severely handicapped, the elderly, or children).

You must always be in the role of teacher; you never listen to others as a student.

Being unwilling to admit you are wrong, apologize, seek forgiveness.

Controlling meetings by commenting on every subject and demanding your solution(s) be the final outcome for every agenda item.

Ungrateful for your present circumstances (“I deserve better… larger… more significant”).

Always having your family in charge, or up front, or in the spotlight.

Correcting others, even if they don’t ask for it (“they so desperately need my advice”).

Pride in you and / or your family’s intellectual development, acquisition of knowledge, academic achievement, class rankings, prestigious scholarships, awards / honors / trophies.

Knowing the truth, and defending the truth, because you are right (and you are!)… but doing so from a position of spiritual superiority and pride because it feels so good to be right.

Conclusion
In a world that emphasizes aggression and rewards self-made men, what must be the place for brokenness, humility, and dependence in a man’s life?

The proud and unbroken man’s only hope is found in experiencing the crushing glory of the Lord of the universe. Only then can he experience the freedom that comes from knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Galatians 5:1). Only then will he know the death of his arrogant, proud, sinful nature (Galatians 5:24). Only then will he come to the end of his self-importance and be able to surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).

If we fail to renounce our pride and submit to the glory of the majestic King of the Universe, then we will experience the tragedy of 1 Peter 5:5. “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” If we fail to clothe ourselves with humility, God will oppose us. It doesn’t say He will passively remove His blessing from us and our ministry… it says He will actively oppose us. Can you imagine anything worse than being actively opposed by the Lord God Almighty, all the while deceiving yourself into thinking you’re actually serving Him?

May God help us to see His glory and respond by renouncing all our pride!

Editor's Note: This article is being used with the gracious permission of Dr. Lofquist, IFCA International and VOICE magazine, Volume 89 Number 5 published September/October 2010. If you'd like more information on IFCA, please visit their website at www.ifca.org

1 comment:

Eddie Eddings said...

I have been there. When I first became a Calvinist, I thought I would set the world on fire with the truth. God was gracious and lovingly sent rebuke through a man I highly respected. He taught me not to forget the Grace in the Doctrines of Grace, and to develop a gentle dogmatism.