He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30
How can we do this? I have learned that I need to shut my mouth and renounce my pride and arrogance so I can trust in my Lord. I have learned that pride corrupts, twists, and hinders faith like no other entity or action. Being sinful creatures, we have no right to boast. Christ lived the perfect life, on our behalf, by obeying His own law for us that we were not able or willing to do for ourselves. He was both able and willing. Thus, the Judge, who is rightly able to condemn us for our sins, is now our Savior. Since we had nothing to do with our place in eternity, we have no reason to be prideful of anything, either because of our accomplishments or for our salvation. In like manner, we had no right to boast prior to our salvation because of our condemnation. We are saved; and all that we are, and all that we have is from Christ alone, by His grace, and by no real or true effort of our own. Christ covered and protected us from the wrath of God, which is something we truly deserved.
The world may see pride as a sign of respect and dignity, that our worth as human beings is supreme, and that we deserve respect and even worship for ourselves. The world may take pleasure and satisfaction in pride because it represents achievements that we think we deserve. But, the source of pride is ourselves; it elevates us as a god when there is only One True God! Pride is conceit; when we are filled with conceit, we have an extremely exaggerated opinion of ourselves. We become the main show, and we are filled with self-righteousness. This is the result of our imaginings about ourselves, not from the reality of who we are, or who and what we were made to be. Pride dissolves the work of faith like strong acid on paper.
We cannot hide in our pride, as we cannot hide from God's wrath within the church. We cannot boast, because of our condemnation. Once we are saved, we still cannot boast because it is not a result of our effort. If we dare do so (and we will at times), we need to realize that it neuters our faith by keeping us from reproducing it. And, when we do not produce faith, we are not doing anything of worth for His Kingdom!
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." John 10:11
We cannot use pride to move forward in our faith, nor can we move the church where it needs to be by legalism. When we allow legalism to work in us, we elevate our traditions and ideas to the same level as God's Law. Thus, it blinds us to the fact that we have been freed by Grace. Legalism also serves as a power and control over others. Legalism opposes real faith. If we are confident, pride and legalism are not problems, but we need to be aware of them so we will not leave even a trace of self-satisfaction within us. We have to realize that just having knowledge puffs us up. However, the demonstration of love and care-put into action because of the example and knowledge we have in Christ-builds us and others up. The Pharisees were puffed up even with good knowledge. But, their faith was not puffed up because of God; rather, it was with themselves and their accomplishments!
We must ask ourselves if our deepest desires and pleasures in life are dedicated to please Christ. Can we take a hard look at our lives and see how others see us, how God sees us? Are our actions in life the result of our will, our desires, our inspirations, and our motivations, or, are they the result of living our lives to please God? Is there a distinguishable reality of the Lordship of Christ, versus the non-sequitur of living the lie of our desires? We must be set apart to be promoters of our Lord's Kingdom and Grace, and to live a life of distinction-a life that both honors Christ and also motivates and encourages others. God increases our faith when we develop more dependence on Him and less dependence upon ourselves. What does this have to do with faith? Everything you do in life-how you respond to God and to others-is found in the foundation of your will. Is your will focused on Christ by faith or by your own means? What does following your own means get you? In my experience, it only bring us disillusionment, bitterness, loneliness, and despair. Yet, with faith, we have freedom and contentment!
John the Baptist was the road builder for Jesus, laying down the path for Him. He removed the rocks of sin by tearing them up and exposing them without fear of reprisal from the arrogant and prideful hypocrites. He was indeed extreme, and was needed to show a corrupt religious system its errors and point to the truly righteous Messiah. I wonder if such a person would be welcome in a church of today. Such extreme commitment is considered foolish amongst the world, and even among many Christians. We may not be called to eat bugs or curse pious frauds, but we are called to be obedient in our hearts, minds, and actions. This will force us to take an extreme stand.
Faith is more about duration than amount. When we understand our sinful nature and our reluctance to follow Christ, we can more ably allow the work of the Spirit in us. When we have the Spirit, we can understand what He is doing; we can understand His Word, and take our faith into the realities of life. We will be able to hand over our will to Him and deal with others longer and more strongly. We will know them; we will know the net of our faith and be able to use that net for His glory.
Remember that people will always disappoint us; we will even disappoint ourselves. But take comfort and heed, Christ will never disappoint us! He gives us the care, love, and His grace that we do not deserve. Submission is a risk; there is a danger to it because people may take advantage of or lead us astray. However, this can only happen if we take our eyes off our Lord.
If you want to grow your church you have to get this imperative fact: Faith is the realization of God's providence and sovereignty. This means that God is in total control, and thus, we can trust our Lord completely. So, do you?
Questions to Ponder
1. Why are we called to learn and develop faith?
2. What would happen in your life if faith was of essential and utmost importance in every aspect of your life?
3. How is faith simple yet not simplistic? Is it not just simple belief?
4. Picture how your life would be at work, school, in tough relationships, and with relatives and strangers if you really took hold of God's providence and sovereignty? This means that God would be in total control, and thus, you could trust Him. How can you achieve this?
He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. Proverbs 3:34
Some passages to consider: John 1:1, 14; 8:32; Romans 10:17; 12:1-3; Hebrews 11:1-3; 2 Peter 1:5-21
© 1999, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org