One of the most painful things I have had to experience is personal criticism, both in the workplace and in the family. Far easier it would have been to ignore, bite back or turn elsewhere for support. Now I am thankful it came. I see it as a God-given opportunity, not only for improvement in performance but also in change from the person I used to be and the lie I used to believe. Why criticism hurts so much is that it threatens the very image we have of ourselves and try so hard to protect (like a shiny shell of self-admiration). When we are painfully honest, we see such moments of reflection as the breakdown of pride. Is it a good thing? If we consider the removal of a faulty foundation for the construction of a safe and lasting home…it is a good thing, and well worth the building inspection.
The Bible states that, of the things that God hates, “a proud look” is first on His list (Prov. 6:17). Of all the creatures that God ever created upon the earth, Leviathan is described in the book of Job as the most terrifying…”Upon earth there is not his like..”, and concludes by saying …”he is a king over all the children of pride” (Job 41:33-34). Pride may very well be the greatest hindrance and deception preventing spiritual revival and victory among the children of God as well as the salvation of the lost. Pride, which attempts to rob God of His glory (claiming that which is “of Him, through Him and to Him”-Rom 11:36) is of our own doing and for our own glory, and places us in a tragic position with God. The One whose help we need most will resist us and cause us to fall (James 4:6,Jer.50:31-32). Most of us can identify the annoying and prideful expression of arrogance, but fewer recognize the root of the plant where the problem of pride arises.
A popular American dictionary defines pride in part as “the pleasure and satisfaction which comes with achievement, possessions and associations.” As a memory aid, we might think of the three A’s as accomplishments, acquisitions and acquaintances. Are these things in themselves evil? I find no evidence of that; however, because of the innate deceitfulness and wickedness of the human heart (Jer. 17:9) we are all in danger of feeding our own foolish and hurtful lusts (1 Tim 6:9) with the things God intended for blessing. We unknowingly instill this worldly and prideful spirit within our children by comparing ourselves with others, and boasting of the things we accomplish, our earthly wealth and the people that we know in positions of importance. We measure our success by ungodly standards, forgetting or never realizing that those things that are highly esteemed among men are an abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15). We receive honor and recognition from one another and do not seek the honor that comes from God alone, wondering why it is so difficult to have faith (John 5:44). No matter how the world applauds, we fail to see our failure and have used a false standard, deceiving ourselves into believing that we’ve done pretty well for ourselves. Even Jesus, the Son of God, stated that He did nothing of Himself, but only as He saw the Father doing (John 5:19). How arrogant we are to think that we’ve done pretty well for ourselves. Apart from Him we can do absolutely nothing by God’s standards (John 15:5). One day, the motivation for our life’s works will be revealed and will either stand or be consumed (1 Cor. 3:13). Do we really want to wait until it’s too late to find out?
Let’s begin with our accomplishments. How many faded certificates and dusty awards have been passed down through family generations, once proudly framed and displayed, but now lay unnoticed in boxes. Some men build edifices for themselves, or memorialize their names on objects, but for what? Do the feeble praises and honors of men give us any assurance of our standing before God? Have we not considered that this life will soon be over and that we “shall all stand before His judgment seat...”(Rom. 14:10)? Why do we look to others for temporal approval when it is God, and God alone, whose judgment matters? What better words to hear than those from Jesus, “Well done…my friend…enter into the joy of thy Lord.” (Matt. 25:23, John 15:15)
As for the things that we own--and often the things our thoughts dwell upon--listen to what God’s Word declares: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3: 10-13). The things that most people value in this life will have no attraction in the next. The purest gold will occupy the place of asphalt on the roads of heaven. Those who were least in this world will be given preference in God’s kingdom. Those who had the most may be like the rich man Jesus described (Luke 16), who found themselves suddenly debased, in a place of torment, cut off from the comfort and blessings of God forever.
What help will our influential friends be at this time? The writer of Hebrews states, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:23). Will our family or even the church be able to offer assistance? Will it matter that some were born and raised in a Christian home? If our name is not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life, there will be nothing we can do or say in that day (Rev. 20:15). Now is the time to bow and surrender all pride, gratefully accepting the cleansing from our sin that only the Savior Jesus Christ can offer. ”Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:23). What many do not see is that there are none righteous, of ourselves…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:10,23). We can be sure that our sins will one day be uncovered (Luke 12:2). Those things we thought were done in secret will be revealed to our eternal shame unless we confess them to Jesus today, receiving His promised cleansing and forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Now is the day of salvation, not a time to harden our hearts (2 Cor. 6:2, Heb. 3:15). The fallen angel, lucifer / satan, is doing everything he can through his many lies and manipulations of this world system to prevent us from realizing and receiving the truth and transforming power of God’s love (2 Cor. 4:4)—the love demonstrated through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross (Rom. 5:8). The punishment we all deserve, Jesus took in His own Body on the tree (1 Pet. 2:24). Full forgiveness is now ours if we will humbly turn to Jesus Christ, confessing our sins and rebellion. He alone paid the price in full for our sins (Acts 4:12). Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, is the Holy and unblemished Blood Sacrifice, the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).
The most deceitful form of pride is “religious pride”. It is a most tragic deception to think that our own good works or religious exercises will provide another way to heaven or somehow excuse us (Titus 3:5). Listen and let there be no misunderstanding: “How shall we escape, if we neglect (turn away from and ignore) so great salvation…” (Heb. 2:3). There is no other name under heaven given, other than Jesus, by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Let there be no doubt concerning the things that God has written of eternal life (1 John 5:13). There is no greater position that we can take than to bow our stiff necks before His throne of mercy, giving due honor to the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, the exalted Son of God who lives and reigns with all power and authority and all glory forever (Matt. 28:18; Rev. 19).
Who am I to make such statements? I am a self-declared nobody, that Jesus Christ may be everything… my life, peace and glory. My accomplishments are not worth examining…It is His! “Christ in us, the hope of glory..”(Col. 1:27). Of course, anyone is free to search the Scriptures, like a good Berean, for himself, to see if these things are true (Acts 17:11). What is there to lose (?) except our reputation in this passing world. What is there to gain? All that the Father has; but most importantly…His love, which can never be taken away from us, if we are His children (Rom 8:38-39), through faith in His Son.
Don’t play with pride. It is a terribly deceitful ruling spirit in direct opposition to our well-being. The only way to truly be free is to accept our position on the cross with Christ (Gal. 2:20)…then we may say, like Paul, “It is no longer I…but Christ..” It is something He has accomplished for us, which we reckon true by faith in His Word (Rom. 6). Dead men are not wanted by the world; neither do they lust after the things of this world. There are other things far more satisfying and eternally rewarding. Don’t worry over the things you need… “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)