The Perils of Pride
- Friday, April 20, 2007
For purposes of personal confession, I began adopting this definition of pride a few years ago after I came to realize that, to some degree, I’d grown unaffected by pride in my life. Though I was still confessing pride, I knew I wasn’t sufficiently convicted of it. So rather than just confessing to God that “I was proud in that situation” and appealing for His forgiveness, I learned to say instead, “Lord, in that moment, with that attitude and that action, I was contending for supremacy with You. That’s what it was all about. Forgive me.”
And rather than confessing to another person, “That statement was prideful on my part; will you please forgive me?” I began saying, “What I just did was contending for supremacy with God,” and only then asking for the person’s forgiveness. This practice increased a weight of conviction in my heart about the seriousness of this sin.
Pride takes innumerable forms but has only one end: self-glorification. That’s the motive and ultimate purpose of pride — to rob God of legitimate glory and to pursue self-glorification, contending for supremacy with Him. The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive.
No wonder God opposes pride. No wonder He hates pride. Let that truth sink into your thinking.
God’s Active Opposition to Pride
Now let me ask you: What do you hate?
I’ll tell you what I hate. I’ve got two lists. One is a silly list that begins with foods that I sometimes think must be products of the Fall. I detest meat loaf. I loathe sauerkraut. And I hate cottage cheese. I even hate it when anyone eats cottage cheese in my presence; it ruins my appetite.
I also despise any and all professional sports teams from New York City — that’s simply part of my heritage, being born and raised in the Washington DC area.
But that’s just the beginning, a little sampling of my silly list of things I hate. I also have a serious list of things I hate. I’m sure you have one, too.
I hate abortion.
I hate child abuse.
I hate racism.
What do you hate?
You and I hate nothing to the degree that God hates pride. His hatred for pride is pure, and His hatred is holy.
In his Commentary on the Book of Psalms, John Calvin wrote, “God cannot bear with seeing his glory appropriated by the creature in even the smallest degree, so intolerable to him is the sacrilegious arrogance of those who, by praising themselves, obscure his glory as far as they can.”
And because God cannot bear with this arrogance, He reveals Himself in Scripture as actively opposed to pride.
“God opposes the proud, ” says James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5. “Opposes” in this statement is an active, present-tense verb, showing us that God’s opposition to pride is an immediate and constant activity. The proud will not indefinitely escape discipline.
We would do well to note pride’s peculiarly destructive power. In his Advice to Young Converts, Jonathan Edwards called pride “the worst viper that is in the heart” and “the greatest disturber of the soul’s peace and sweet communion with Christ.” He ranked pride as the most difficult sin to root out, and “the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all lusts.”
Despite this thorough understanding of its ugliness, Edwards himself constantly battled his own pride (a fact which gives me hope, knowing I’m not alone in this struggle). “What a foolish, silly, miserable, blind, deceived poor worm am I, when pride works,” Edwards once wrote in his diary. In his sermons and in his vast writings he constantly warned against pride, especially spiritual pride, which he viewed as the greatest cause of the premature ending of the Great Awakening, the revival that had brought so much spiritual vitality to the church in Edwards’s day.
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