Recommended: A helpful, Christ-exalting look at the pursuit of a most elusive character trait.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5b)
We live in a culture that is built on pride. Facebook, blogs, podcasts, vodcasts, our self-esteem centered education system (our city has a no-fail policy), marketing… Everything about our culture is centered around “me.”
The message we constantly receive is, “You’re special. You’re worth it. You’re a winner. You’re unique. Be the best you that you can be.”
It is a message designed to bolster our pride. Without question, pride is considered a (if not the) primary virtue in our society. And, most troublesomely, it’s an attitude that’s crept into the church. It affects how we serve, how we give, how we participate in corporate worship, how we interact with non-believers.
But, God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, doesn’t He?
In Humility: True Greatness, C.J. Mahaney reminds us of the spiritually-critical need for every Christian to pursue humility by the grace of God, and provides readers with some helpful tools to aid us in our pursuit.
Humility is, without hyperbole, is the most needed character trait for all Christians. It’s also the most elusive, because as soon as we profess to be humble, we reveal ourselves to be proud. But what is biblical humility? Mahaney defines is as, “honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness” (p. 22). It is an honest assessment that affirms the need of the Savior. We cannot possibly hope to be holy as God is holy without grace. And grace requires humility.
As Mahaney methodically moves through both his arguments about the perils of pride and how we can cultivate humility in our own lives, he reminds us that pride is not simply a sin, but it is one hated by God with a particular passion—indeed, John Stott calls it “the root of all sin.”
Because of pride, we make idols for ourselves (or of ourselves). Because of pride, our first parents rebelled. Because of pride, Satan fell. Because of pride, Jesus was beaten and crucified.
This book is particularly helpful to me because I struggle with pride to a frightening degree. As those who know me can attest, I can be extremely prideful about everything. It tempts me to rebel against the authorities over me. It tempts me to indulge my selfish desires over the desires of my wife and friends.
I’ve read this book several times, and every time I’ve found something that I didn’t notice or appreciate in the previous reading. But every time, I’m struck by the profundity of what I believe to be the heart of the book:
Reflect on the wonder of the cross of Christ… To truly be serious and deliberate in mortifying pride and cultivating greatness, you must each day survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died.
And (quoting D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones):
Nothing else can do it. When I see that I am a sinner…that nothing but the Son of God on the cross can save me, I’m humbled to the dust…Nothing but the cross can give us the spirit of humility (p. 66).
The cross destroys our pride as we see our true selves when we gaze upon it. May we gaze upon it all the more as we appreciate the important reminder from a “proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God” (p. 13).