God Opposes the Proud
Michael CravenS. Michael Craven is the President of H.I.S. BridgeBuilders and the author of Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity (Navpress, 2009). H.I.S. BridgeBuilders is an urban missionary ministry that works to bring the redemptive power of God’s kingdom to bear upon the poverty-ravaged areas of our city, restoring people, families, and communities through spiritual, educational and economic development to the glory of God. To learn more, visit: www.hisbridgebuilders.org
- 2006 May 22
The Lord has recently, and it seems repeatedly, called this passage (Proverbs 3:34) to my mind and I confess, with considerable discomfort. There is within me a deplorable tendency to think more highly of myself than I ought. This is often a particular point of struggle for those who work in vocational ministry. For me, my struggle comes from thinking that I know more than others or that I am blessed with superior insight or understanding. To be sure, I do believe and the Bible teaches that the Lord most certainly can and does give abundant wisdom and understanding. My struggle is in remembering this important fact. It is the Lord and the Lord alone who gives wisdom and understanding.
Each and every week I attempt to explore some relevant social or cultural issue and hopefully provide a thoughtful "christian" perspective that aids you, the reader, in analyzing a given subject or issue in order to both understand and respond more effectively to those issues that challenge God's truth. Historically, this process has been relatively easy. I search the cultural landscape seeking that which the Lord would draw my attention to and then "listen" as He opens my understanding and clarifies the issue in need of address. I then spend a couple of days in further research, building the case through extra-biblical arguments and evidences for the Christian worldview and finally I write these thoughts down. I am generally and pleasantly surprised by the result and take this as affirmation that the Lord has helped me to see and say something unique, something that apart from His grace I simply could not know much less share.
Lately this process has grown more challenging and I believe the Lord is teaching me something very important - I am full of pride! I think far too highly of myself and my own abilities. I think that I am more important (or at least I should be) than I am. I foolishly think that the Lord needs me - that I am somehow essential to His plan. Even writing this gives me a sense of shame and embarrassment, not because I am afraid of what you will think of me but what the Lord must think of me.
For those of you who know me you know that I carry a deep and passionate burden for the Church and its growing irrelevancy in today's culture and I believe with all of my heart that the 21st century Church in America is in desperate need of revival and renewal. However, this passion can and often has been a cover for my own pride and arrogance. I have pressed, in more militant terms than I would like, friends and co-workers and justified this attitude in the name of passionate service to the Lord. I repent of this and ask forgiveness.
You may wonder, "Why is he telling me this?" The answer is really quite simple; I do not want to hinder in any way what the Lord wants to do in and through me. I am a wretched sinner, who is daily in desperate need of God's grace and mercy. I need to be freed from the last vestiges of willful independence and settled securely in child-like dependence on Jesus Christ and public confession is a part of letting the Lord do what He will in me. To you I want to be transparent in my own struggles because I believe that I am by no means alone in this struggle.
One of the more the destructive effects of the Enlightenment upon us contemporary Christians results from the modernistic emphasis on human reason and by association the belief that we can know truth absolutely and with certainty. That is not to suggest that absolute truth does not exist, certainly not. It merely means that human reason and understanding are limited. In other words, "we see through a glass darkly." As Francis Schaeffer put it, "God's revelation of Himself is indeed sufficient but not exhaustive." There are simply things that the Lord has not revealed to us and thus we cannot know nor can the human mind fully fathom the depths of God. There is much mystery through which our minds are simply unable to penetrate. To think otherwise is supremely prideful and arrogant.
I am in no way suggesting that biblical revelation is irrational and therefore beyond the realm of reasonable analysis. There is an abundance of rational evidence that both edifies our faith and confirms the claims of Scripture. I hold in highest regard the study of Christian apologetics. Suffice it to say that Christianity has and will continue to survive and endure relentless philosophical and intellectual challenges.
What I am suggesting is that too often when we engage the unbelieving world we begin from a point of certitude that is more characteristic of Post-Enlightenment Humanism and thus we argue rather dogmatically that we know the truth absolutely. Our efforts tend to be polemic rather than relational and the result is often mutual hostility. The person to whom we are speaking struggles to see the love of Christ in such an exchange and often perceives Christians in the same vane as an Amway salesman!
This form of pride, of which I am also sometimes guilty, is most often rooted in "winning" the argument rather than the person. I am convinced that we would do much better if we spoke to people as fellow travelers on the road to discovering the truth about reality, meaning and purpose. We simply share with others that in the course of our own struggles with these questions we encountered the Living God through His intentional revelation of Himself by means of the Holy Spirit. We then share that through the person of Jesus, His Word and His creation we further confirmed what we initially came to know by faith. This means that we listen more than we speak and try to understand where this person has themselves been on this journey. We, through dialogue, simply compare these competing explanations of reality and share our own conclusions as to why we believe the Christian view is the one and only truth. Ultimately, it means that I be more concerned about my relationship to that person than their initial assent to my way of thinking.
Suffice it to say that I could stand to be more humble. I would ask you to
pray for me and this ministry if you are so inclined. The fact is I can do
nothing apart from the Lord and I plead for His grace so that He may do in
and through me that which is beyond anything that I can hope or imagine.
Copyright S. Michael Craven 2006
Author's Note: For a full-length version of this article with reference notes visit our website here
You can listen to this message online here
Subscribe to the Weekly podcast here
S. Michael Craven is the Founding Director of the Center for Christ & Culture, a ministry of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. The Center for Christ & Culture is dedicated to renewal within the Church and works to equip Christians with an intelligent and thoroughly Christian approach to matters of culture in order to recapture and demonstrate the relevance of Christianity to all of life. For more information on the Center for Christ & Culture, additional resources and other works by S. Michael Craven visit: www.battlefortruth.org
Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.