Self-Exaltation and Humility | thebereancall.org

Self-Exaltation and Humility

Hunt, Dave

An excerpt from Chapter 9 of Beyond Seduction, published in 1987 (currently out of print).

Many Christians living under persecution in Communist countries are confused when they hear how socially acceptable Christianity seems to be in the West. Since Paul's statement that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy:3:12) has proved true for Russian or Polish or Chinese believers, they wonder why the same is not true for Christians in the West. And they pray that God will help us not to compromise under the pressures of popularity and success, just as they have refused to be corrupted by Communism. These believers would find it astonishing that Christians in the West spend months and even years in "therapy" to overcome the damage to their psyches allegedly caused by "rejection." Those who grow up under totalitarian regimes hostile to the gospel expect to be rejected, despised, ridiculed, and even imprisoned or killed for their faith, and would not understand the importance that Christians in the West place upon self-esteem, self-acceptance, and self-fulfillment.

It would be even more incomprehensible to such suffering Christians, many of whom have never owned a Bible (and who long for the day when they will receive one smuggled in from the West), to be told that the church in the West considers the Bible to be inadequate and the Holy Spirit insufficient to provide complete spiritual guidance and power for living the Christian life. Indeed, they would find it astonishing that the Western church would so enthusiastically open its arms to embrace new theologies that are founded upon the theories of psychology....

Part of the problem [in the West] with such thinking is caused by confusing inferiority feelings with lack of self-esteem. The former involves performance or ability while the latter pertains to one's feelings of personal worth. Clearly the greater a person's self-esteem and self-love, the more disappointment there will be if abilities and performance are not comparable. No one hates himself, but he may hate his circumstances or appearance or lack of ability. The very fact that we dislike our appearance or lament our inability or become upset when people or circumstances abuse us is proof that we love and esteem ourselves, for if we did not esteem ourselves we would be glad when things go against us....

To feel inferior to others or to feel inadequate for the task at hand is not a defect that must be remedied before one can be useful. On the contrary, recognizing one's inability is the prerequisite for genuine victory, for it is when we are delivered from self-confidence that God can use us to His glory. Jonathan's lame son, Mephibosheth, called himself a "dead dog," but King David insisted that he eat with him daily at the royal table (2 Samuel:9:6-13). Gideon considered himself incapable, his family poor, and himself "least in my father's house" (Judges:6:15), yet he learned to trust God and became one of Israel's greatest deliverers. Isaiah shrank from God's call, considering his "unclean lips" unworthy to speak for his Lord (Isaiah:6:5). Amos was no prophet but a mere herdsman (Amos:7:14) whom God used to pronounce judgment upon nations. The turning point in Job's life came when he finally hated himself (Job:42:6): Then and only then could God restore him. When called by God, Moses responded, "Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh?" (Exodus:3:11) and he insisted that he was "slow of speech" and incapable (Exodus:4:10-13). God's answer to Moses should bring courage to everyone who feels inferior: "I will be with thee!"

Far from dealing with Moses' inferiority and building his "poor self-image," God promised His presence and power. In fact He chose Moses, the meekest man on earth (Numbers:12:3), to confront the world's mightiest emperor in his palace and deliver His people so that God and not man would have the glory. So it can be with everyone who admits his own inability and unworthiness and then, instead of either groveling in self-deprecation or seeking to overcome his inferiority through humanistic methods, turns from himself to God and in his weakness relies upon God's strength. Instead of bemoaning his handicap, Paul gloried in his weakness:

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake, for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians:12:9, 10)

Of course, those who brought selfism into the church (even though they acknowledge that the idea first came from humanistic psychology) attempt to support it from Scripture. One leading Christian psychologist quotes Psalm 139 and suggests that the "wonderful pattern for growth, fulfillment and development" that "God built into our genes...is the ultimate basis for self-esteem." Surely the genius of the genetic code should cause me to bow in wonder and worship at the wisdom and power of God—but self-esteem? [This] is no more cause for self-exaltation than seeing God's creative power in genes in general or in a sunset or in a beautiful flower—I had nothing to do with creating any of it. Standing awestruck before the beauties and marvels of creation doesn't...cause me to feel good about myself, but it does move me to worship the Creator. "The heavens declare the glory of God," not my glory....

Even if I were physically or mentally or socially better endowed than anyone else in the world, that would be no basis for boasting, according to Paul: "For who maketh thee to differ from another?" he asked. The answer, obviously, is God, though I can't blame Him for defects I have inherited from sinful ancestors. But as to his talents and opportunities, and any goodness that was manifested through his life (and particularly his apostleship), Paul declared, "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Corinthians:15:10). No basis for self-esteem there!...

No one but saved sinners will be in heaven....Christ will forever bear the marks of Calvary. The scars of what He suffered for our sins will never be erased. Dare we think that we will ever be able to erase from our memories the fact that we are sinners saved by grace? Who would wish to forget the debt that we owe to the One who redeemed us? The throne of God will be forever known as the throne of the Lamb (Revelation:22:3). Our glorified Lord and Savior in His resurrection body will appear throughout eternity as the newly slain Lamb, and our song will be forever "unto Him who loved us and loosed us from our sins in His own blood!" The crucified and risen Savior bearing the marks of Calvary will be the glory of heaven. [Martyn] Lloyd-Jones expressed it well:

Pride is ever the cause of the trouble, and there is nothing that so hurts the natural man's pride as the cross of Christ.

How does the cross do that? What has happened that there should ever have been a cross? It is because we are failures, because we are sinners, because we are lost.

The Christian is not a good man. He is a vile wretch who has been saved by the grace of God.

It is impossible to know the true God in His splendor without seeing ourselves as very small indeed. There is no surer way to lose one's inflated sense of self-importance.

 
 
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