Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The Wretchedness of Pride

…Pride is a protean thing; it changes its shape; it is all forms in the world; you may find it in any fashion you may choose, you may see it in the beggar’s rags as well as in the rich man’s garment. It dwells with the rich, and with the poor. The man without a shoe to his foot may be as proud as if he were riding in a chariot.

Pride can be found in every rank of society—among all classes of men. Sometimes it is an Arminian, and talks about the power of the creature; then it turns Calvinist, and boasts of its fancied security—forgetful of the Maker, who alone can keep our faith alive. Pride can profess any form of religion; it may be a Quaker, and wear no collar to its coat; it may be a Churchman, and worship God in splendid cathedrals; it may be a Dissenter, and go to the common meeting-house; it is one of the most Catholic things in the world, it attends all kinds of chapels and churches; go where you will, you will see pride. It comes up with us to the house of God; it goes with us to our houses; it is found on the mart, and the exchange, in the streets, and everywhere. Let me hint at one or two of the forms which it assumes.

Sometimes pride takes the doctrinal shape; it teaches the doctrine of self-sufficiency; it tells us what man can do, and will not allow that we are lost, fallen, debased, and ruined creatures, as we are. It hates divine sovereignty, and rails at election. Then if it is driver from that, it takes another form; it allows that the doctrine of free grace is true but does not feel it.

It acknowledges that salvation is of the Lord alone, but still it prompts men to seek heaven by their own works, even by the deeds of the law. And when driven from that, it will persuade men to join something with Christ in the matter of salvation; and when that is all rent up, and the poor rag of our righteousness is all burned, pride will get into the Christian’s heart as well as the sinner’s—it will flourish under the name of self-sufficiency, teaching the Christian that he is “rich and increased in goods, having need of nothing.”

It will tell him that he does not need daily grace, that past experience will do for tomorrow—that he knows enough, toils enough, prays enough. It will make him forget that he has “not yet attained;” it will not allow him to press forward to the things that are before, forgetting the things that are behind. It enters into his heart, and tempts the believer to set up an independent business for himself, and until the Lord brings about a spiritual bankruptcy, pride will keep him from going to God.

Pride has ten thousand shapes; it is not always that stiff and starched gentleman that you picture it; it is a vile, creeping, insinuating thing, that will twist itself like a serpent into our hearts. It will talk of humility, and prate about being dust and ashes. I have known men talk about their corruption most marvellously, pretending to be all humility, while at the same time they were the proudest wretches that could be found this side the gulf of separation.

Oh! my friends, you cannot tell how many shapes pride will assume; look sharp about you, or you will be deceived by it, and when you think you are entertaining angels, you will find you have been receiving devils unawares.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon Pride and Humility,
delivered on August 17, 1856, at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark

A Faith Worth Imitating

faith-imitating

Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

 

Seven times—in 1 Cor. 4:16 & 11:1, Phil. 3:17, 2 Thess. 3:7, 1 Tim. 4:12, Titus 2:7 and 1 Pet. 5:3—we’re told to follow the example of others who are following Christ’s (imperfect as they may be).

It seems that the Holy Spirit was pretty emphatic on this point when inspiring the Scriptures.

The example of others is a critical part of our growth as Christians.

Of course, this also means that as we follow the example of others, we must be an example worth following.

I guess, then, the question for me becomes:

How am I doing with that?

Is my faith worth imitating? Am I an example that should be followed? [Read more...]

The Gift of Enemies

enemies

In Paul’s extended teaching on election, Romans 9-11, Paul stops to lament that the Jews, his people by ethnicity, were blind to the finished work of Christ. In the midst of this, Paul writes, “As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake” (Rom. 11:28, emphasis mine).

In context, Paul says that the Jews had become the enemies of God for the sake of the gentiles—in other words, folks like me, and quite possibly you as well (though I don’t presume to know your ethnic background)—so that we might come to repentance. That we might also know the one true God and glorify Him.

On an infinitely smaller scale, I wonder sometimes if some of the men and women who I care about are enemies of God specifically so that I might learn humility and wisdom—that I might learn to be godly and repent of my sins of arrogance and pride?

Here’s what I mean:

Historically, I’ve not dealt with criticism well. I don’t like it, because I feel like it’s an attack on my character. This is perhaps because I’m secretly afraid that people will learn that I’m actually a bit of a nitwit. Perhaps. [Read more...]

Book Review: Humility

humility

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).

Purchase your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca

Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 32

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit
(Psalm 32:1-2).

This psalm opens with this bold statement: We are blessed when the Lord forgives our sins and transgressions. This weekend, Christians have celebrated the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus—by which all our sins are covered and our transgressions are forgiven. Because “He who knew no sin became sin,” we can now, in Him, “become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

Those who have trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sin, who have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, have been given the greatest blessing of all.

But sometimes I wonder—do I really see repentance as the blessing that it truly is? [Read more...]

Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 25

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
    for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies
(Psalm 25:8-10).

Humility is crucial to understanding and obeying Jesus. We cannot be obedient when we are so consumed with pride that we will not accept teaching or correction. And God will not lead the proud. Indeed, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6, 1 Pet. 5:5, emphasis mine).

Psalm 25 is a recognition of this fact. The Psalmist is crying out in repentance: “Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions” (v. 7); “For your name’s sake, pardon my guilt, for it is great” (v. 11). [Read more...]

Lessons from Nehemiah 1: Humility

Artwork © Justin Gerard. Used with permission.

This morning I began reading the great book of Nehemiah, the “sequel” to Ezra and one of my favorite books in the Bible. So this week, I’ll be sharing a few lessons from Nehemiah.

Nehemiah was the cupbearer to Artaxerxes, king of Persia, and a very trusted part of the king’s court. His job was to make sure no one was poisoning the king’s wine; this would often include swallowing some of the wine before serving it. Nehemiah regularly put his life on the line for the king.

He was also one of the Jewish exiles, sent into captivity because of Israel’s apostasy.

When his brother Hanani arrived to bring him news of Jerusalem, his heart broke, and he wept and mourned for the destroyed city of of his fathers. After much mourning, Nehemiah prayed for the mercy of the Lord to fall on him and the exiles, that they might rebuild the walls of the city and that the king would have mercy on him when he would ask to do this very thing.

Four months later, he approached the king. He had not been sad in the king’s presence (since part of his job was to be uplifting and encouraging), but now he could not hide the condition of his heart. And he was afraid. Asking to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls could be seen as disloyalty to the king—the punishment for this: Death. And Nehemiah prayed to God, then made his request. Mercifully, God softened Artaxerxes’ heart, and Nehemiah was permitted to return to the city of his fathers to rebuild the walls.

From the first chapter and a half of Nehemiah, we learn about character; and more specifically, humility.

[Read more...]