Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Richard Barcellos on Marriage and the Sabbath

[The following is an excerpt from Dr. Richard Barcellos' new book Getting the Garden Right: Adam's Work and God's Rest in Light of Christ, page 178.]

"[M]arriage, from the beginning, was designed by God to be a type of Christ and His church. Marriage, as a divine creational institution, continues until Christ returns. It is not abrogated by His first coming. So, just as the creational ordinance of marriage is an age-long divine institution pointing to Christ and His church, so similarly with the Creator's rest and a Sabbath day rest for man. A Sabbath day for man is a creational ordinance pointing to eschatological rest. As a type of the ultimate rest to be enjoyed in Christ, the earthly symbol remains as a Sabbath rest, or a Sabbath-keeping [now taking place on the Lord's Day], for the people of God."

MY NOTES:

1. Regarding marriage: Christ in His redemptive work secured the Church as His bride, and yet marriages, which point to this spiritual reality, continue until the spiritual reality is consummated in the "marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev 19:9), after which there will be no more marrying or giving in marriage (Matt 22:20).

2. Regarding Sabbath-keeping: Christ in His redemptive work secured the believers' rest, and yet Sabbath-keeping (Heb 4:9, rightly translated), which points to this spiritual reality, continues until the spiritual reality is consummated when we are brought into the ultimate Promised Land of the New Heaven and New Earth, free from sin, temptation, and all misery (Rev 21).

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Form of God Assuming the Form of a Slave: The Humiliation and Exaltation of the Incarnate Word (Philippians 2:5-11)

[The following blogpost is re-edited from a post published on 7/27/14. After prayerful consideration of the text itself, the first commentaries that I looked to were John Chrysostom and John CalvinAdditionally, my understanding of this passage has been sharpened by comments in Simon Gathercole's book The Preexistent Son, James White's book The Forgotten Trinity (Chapter 8), and class notes from Dr. Stephen Wellum.]

Text

Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who–existing in the form of God–did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead, He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men, and–when He had come as man in His external form–He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even to death on a cross. For this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that–at the name of Jesus–every knee will bow (of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth), and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (HCSB)

Observations

In Philippians 2:5-11, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul commands us to humility. This passage calls us to follow Christ as our example for humility. It also, implicitly, holds out a promise to us. God the Father exalted Christ Jesus due to His humble obedience. We who have been united to Christ by faith (1 Cor 6:17) will share in His exaltation as we follow His example.

John Calvin
Paul gives an argument from the greater to the less. Christ exercised humility, as Calvin notes, “[B]y abasing Himself from the highest pinnacle of glory to the lowest ignominy.” We, on the other hand, exercise humility simply by not thinking higher of ourselves than we ought.

In this argument from the greater, Paul presents the highest Christology: a proclamation of Jesus as God. The high Christology of Philippians 2:5-11 is seen in at least two ways: 1) in Philippians 2:6, Christ Jesus is declared to be “in the form of God;” 2) the language of Philippians 2:10-11 directly parallels that of the statement about the LORD God in Isaiah 45:23. The remainder of this article will explore the first of these two ways.

Christ Jesus was “in the form of God.” “Form” in Philippians 2:6-8 is equivalent to “nature.” Christ emptied Himself by taking on a human nature. The Word became flesh (John 1:14). The Word—who “was God” (John 1:1)—was called a man (1 Tim 2:5). Christ forever retains His bodily form (Col 2:9). So both forms—the divine form, which is eternal, existing before His incarnation, and the human form, assumed in time—now remain everlasting.
John Chrysostom

Of these concepts, while commenting on Philippians 2:5-11, John Chrysostom helpfully remarks: “Let us not then confound nor divide the natures. There is one God, there is one Christ, the Son of God; when I say ‘One,’ I mean a union, not a confusion; the one Nature did not degenerate into the other, but was united with it.”

The incarnation and crucifixion were due to a voluntary act of the divine will as expressed through the subsistence within the Trinity known as the Word (as in John 1) or Son, and identified in the text under present consideration (Phil 2:5-6) as Christ Jesus. As Simon Gathercole notes, "[Christ's] act of emptying himself in the incarnation is paralleled with his act of humbling himself to the point of death." As Christ chose to go to the Cross (John 10:18), He had previously chosen to be born of the Virgin Mary. No one chooses the manner of his own birth: no one save Christ, "emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men." Notice the human existence the Christ chose: not a life of fame and fortune, but one that (for most of His time on this earth) was characterized by obscurity and poverty.

In Philippians 2:7, "assuming" and "taking on" modify the ‘emptying’ that is mentioned. Contrary to the kenotic theory, which teaches that Christ lost or set aside aspects of His divinity in the incarnation, the ‘emptying’ is not a losing but a gaining. The Son does not lose anything of His divinity, but he adds a human nature to His divine nature. This is an ‘emptying’ because it temporarily masks His divine glory and becomes the opportunity for His suffering on behalf of others

As Calvin notes, “[T]he abasement of [Christ's] flesh was… like a veil, by which His divine majesty was concealed. On this account, He did not wish that His transfiguration should be made public until after His resurrection” (Matt 17:9; Mark 9:9; Luke 9:36). The incarnate Christ was publicly manifested as the Son of God by means of His resurrection (Rom 1:4)

Prior to His resurrection, Christ suffered humiliation in the manner of His death: “cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Deut 21:23; Gal 3:13). Christ was hanged between two robbers, sharing in their ill repute, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “And He was numbered with the transgressors” (Isa 53:12). Christ crucified is a stumbling block and considered foolishness by those who are proud in their religious or philosophical endeavors (1 Cor 1:24)

Once the incarnate Christ was exalted, following His resurrection, the Word was returned to the glory that He had with the Father from “before the world began” (John 17:5). Nothing was added to the Son’s divinity (for it is impossible that the all-glorious One could increase in glory), but now His humanity, which was previously a vehicle for humiliation, has become glorified, manifestly partaking in the divine nature, allowing everyone who is united to Christ by faith (1 Cor 6:17) to become a partaker in the divine nature as well (2 Pet 1:4).

The above thoughts are key to rightly understanding the term "emptied" as it is used in Philippians 2:7 and help indicate how Christians must obey the command to 'make our own attitude that of Christ Jesus' in the way indicated by this passage (see Phil 2:5). Humility, as James White has observed, consists of: "having privileges, and laying them aside in service of others." As Martin Luther noted in On the Freedom of a Christian, whereas a Christian is "a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none" (due to the privileges we have in Christ through faith, John 8:36; Eph 2:6), a Christian is also "a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all" (due to the fact that the Holy Spirit has commanded us to practice humility). We cannot empty ourselves of divine attributes (as those holding to the kenotic theory would wrongly suggest is indicated by "emptied" in Phil 2:7), but we can empty ourselves of privileges though self-sacrificial service to others.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

“The just shall live by faith”


The central Bible teaching of the Reformation
[In addition to being recognized as "Halloween," October 31st is the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, which is traditionally viewed as the symbolic beginning of the Protestant Reformation. In celebrating the 500th anniversary of Luther's nailing of the 95 Theses, the following is a reflection on the core gospel emphasis of the Reformation.]
In the life of Martin Luther (1483-1546), we see the struggles of a man who wanted to know for sure that God loved him and that he would be accepted into heaven when he died.

Most people, when asked how they can know that God loves them, reply that they have to be good in order to know his love. For them, the good things that we do are the key to experiencing God’s love and obtaining eternal life in Heaven.

Early in his life, Luther was of this same opinion. But Luther came to understand something that deeply troubled him. In order to gain the love and acceptance of a perfect God through good works, a person’s works must be completely perfect: without the slightest flaw. Most people, when realizing this truth, decide to ignore it and just hope that God will overlook their many imperfections. Luther was far too serious a thinker to just pretend that God would forget the wrong things that he had done and continued to do, so he was tortured by the thought that God was not happy with the good things that he tried to do: he realized that life was very short compared to eternity and he had to know for certain that he would not be sent to Hell forever.
Luther tried to do many good things to make God happy with him. He would pray for days at a time, going without food so that he could focus more on his prayers. He took a vow of poverty so that gaining money would not become something that distracted him from thinking about God. And he spent hours confessing all of his sins. Still, Luther realized that he was far from perfect and he had no confidence that God loved him or that he could have eternal life in Heaven.

Luther came to understand the love, forgiveness, and acceptance of God after a serious, in-depth study of the New Testament book of Romans. What did Luther read in Romans that made such a huge change in his life? From history we know the answer; while studying Romans, Luther was thinking about Jesus’ death on the Cross when he came upon this verse: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written. The just shall live by faith.”(Romans 1:17) As he studied more he found this same thought expressed again in the book of Galatians: “But that no man is justified by the Law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.”(Galatians 3:11) Luther continued to study the teaching of justification in the New Testament. (“Justification” means “to be declared completely innocent of any wrongdoing by God.”) Justification is the way by which sinners gain righteousness. (“Righteousness,” in this sense, means “brought into a right relationship with God.[1]”) Luther realized that he, like everyone else, had done things that he knew were wrong and against God’s commands, and he had proven himself to be as sinner, as the Bible says: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So how could he gain justification? How could he be declared innocent of sin before God? The answer, according to the verses mentioned above, was that sinner must be justified by faith. As Luther continued to think about the Cross-- and about justification by faith-- he realized the meaning of the whole New Testament: indeed, the whole Bible. He saw that the Laws were given to show us that we could never do enough good things to earn the love and forgiveness of God. We always fall short and deserve nothing but punishment in Hell. But the Good News is: Jesus took that punishment for us in order to give us life in Him.

Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took on human nature as God the Father Almighty sent the Holy Spirit to the Virgin Mary. Jesus lived the only absolutely perfect human life, perfectly keeping all of God’s commands that we have failed to keep.

Jesus was arrested and He was condemned to be crucified on false charges during the government of Pontius Pilate. On the cross, Jesus died as a substitute for sinful people, taking all of the suffering, death and punishment in Hell that sinners deserve.

Jesus was buried, and on the third day after His death, He rose again from the grave, proving Himself to be the champion over death and Hell, offering you life and freedom from sin if you will believe in Him.

Jesus ascended into heaven and now is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, freely offering new, eternal life to anyone who believes in Him.

Luther saw these truths in a new light when he realized that he could have perfect peace with God simply through faith in Jesus Christ. When Luther came to understand this, he wrote, “I felt myself reborn and to have gone into open doors through paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning…This passage of Paul [Romans 1:17] became to me a gate to heaven…”[2]

After he truly placed his faith in Jesus, trusting in Him alone to make him right in God’s sight and save his soul, Luther knew that justification by faith in Jesus was the Truth of God’s Word, and he was willing to risk death for that truth, even defying the Pope and the Emperor in order to continue preaching God’s forgiveness.

You too can know the love, acceptance, and forgiveness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Simply confess to God that you are a sinner and that you can do no good works that will earn His love. Then, call out to Jesus in faith.
Faith is complete trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from sin, death, and Hell and to give you eternal life.

I urge you, dear reader: place your faith in Him today!

[1] See W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Oliphants Ltd., 1952).
[2] Quoted in Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Pierce and Smith, 1950; reprint, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1978), 49-50.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Ryle on the Remedy for Spiritual Poverty [= Spiritual Reformation]

[The following was originally posted on September 22, 2007. The subject-matter of the below post, focused on the continuing need for spiritual reform, is especially appropriate now, as tomorrow is the 500th anniversary for the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.]

Over a hundred and thirty years ago, J.C. Ryle, the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool from 1880-1900, wrote the following in his classic work on Holiness:

It has long been my sorrowful conviction that the standard of daily life among professing Christians in this country has been gradually falling. I am afraid that Christ-like charity, kindness, good-temper, unselfishness, meekness, gentleness, good-nature, self-denial, zeal to do good, and separation from the world, are far less appreciated than they ought to be, and than they used to be in the days of our fathers.

What was true in England so long ago is no less true in the United States today. But what is the remedy? Ryle gives the following answer:
As to the best remedy for the state of things I have mentioned, I shall venture to give an opinion. Other schools of thought in the Churches must judge for themselves. The cure for Evangelical Churchmen, I am convinced, is to be found in a clearer apprehension of the nature and sinfulness of sin.

He then adds:
We need not go back to Egypt, and borrow semi-Romish practices in order to revive our spiritual life.

Of these "semi-Romish practices," Ryle had previously written:
Music, and flowers, and candles, and incense, and banners, and processions, and beautiful vestments, and confessionals, and man-made ceremonies of a semi-Romish character, may do well enough for him under certain conditions. But once let [a man] “awake and arise from the dead,” and he will not rest content with these things. They will seem to him mere solemn triflings, and a waste of time. Once let him see his sin, and he must see his Saviour. He feels stricken with a deadly disease, and nothing will satisfy him but the great Physician. He hungers and thirsts, and he must have nothing less than the bread of life. I may seem bold in what I am about to say; but I fearlessly venture the assertion, that four-fifths of the semi-Romanism of the last quarter of a century would never have existed if English people had been taught more fully and clearly the nature, vileness, and sinfulness of sin.

It is my concern as well that many today, rightly discerning the impoverished condition of the Church in America, nevertheless turn to the wrong means by which to combat the situation. Turning to unscriptural means such as praying through icons, prayer labyrinths, ringing of bells and other man-made practices and ceremonies may invoke religious feelings within a person, but these have nothing to do with biblical holiness. Instead, let us turn to what the Bible concerning sin and sanctification. Let us study the Scriptures and receive wisdom from older teachers who faithfully expound God's Word.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

On "the Scientific Explanation of the Origin of Life" and the Self-Contradictory Worldview of Anti-Theism


Sir James Jeans

Sir James Jeans [in The Mysterious Universe (NY, 1931), p.3] tells us that some millions of years ago certain stars wandered blindly through space, and: “In the course of time, we know not how, when, or why, one of these cooling fragments gave birth to life.”

The quote above is representative of the kind of “scientific explanation of the origin of life” that can be found daily from multiple sources in educational institutions, public broadcasting, and the mainstream media throughout our nation and beyond. These days, of course, those offering this kind of “scientific explanation” say “billions of years ago” instead of “millions,” in order to give more time for chance working upon natural processes to produce orderliness, intricate systems, and life. But what are we really reading/hearing when we are exposed to supposedly neutral “scientific explanations” like the one above?
Cornelius Van Til

Responding to the quote by Sir Jeans, Cornelius Van Til writes: “Thus, in the same breath we have an assertion of agnosticism [through Jeans’ statement: ‘we know not how...’], a denial of Christianity [through proposing an explanation for the origin of life that is diametrically opposed to the Christian explanation], and the assurance that Chance rules the world.”

Greg Bahnsen
Concerning Van Til’s response to Jeans, Greg Bahnsen notes: “This is a brief but blistering example of Van Til’s internal critique of an unbeliever’s rationalism (a scientific explanation of the origin of life… [emphasis added]) allied with irrationalism (‘agnosticism:’ ‘we know not how…’) for the purpose of precluding Christianity (this much is clear about any possible explanation [for the origin of life by scientists such as Jeans]: it was not religious).

In Romans Chapter 1, the Holy Spirit declares by the Apostle Paul that unbelievers “suppress the truth” “by their unrighteousness” (verse 18), and “claiming to be wise, they became fools” (verse 22). This foolish suppressing of the truth, though sometimes clothed in educated language, is demonstrated through their implicit embracing of contradictory philosophical pre-commitments and impulses, like: irrationalism and rationalism; agnosticism and assurance. The presuppositional critique of anti-Christian systems demonstrates that denials of the gospel are not what they often claim to be: they are NOT due to a philosophically neutral pursuit of facts, NOR are they due to lack of information [as in: ‘if you would only show me more convincing proof, then I would believe’]. Rather, denials of the gospel are a moral issue. People do not believe in the gospel because they do not want to believe. And in willfully rejecting belief in God, who created the universe in a way that is consistent with the truth of who He is, unbelievers necessarily devolve into self-contradictory positions: not just falling short of the principles that they espouse (as we all do, through weakness), but through clinging tenaciously to self-defeating principles.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Humility, Pride, and the Cross

[The following was originally posted on 10/30/13.]

It is probably safe to say that humility is the one character trait that will enable us to be all that Christ wants us to be. Without humility, we cannot come to God. Without humility, we cannot truly love and serve God. Without humility, we cannot truly love and serve others. A lack of humility will render us unable to communicate properly and will prevent us from resolving conflicts that are sure to come in our lives. In short, we must understand, embrace, and live out true humility in order to truly live and to be who God means for us to be for the magnification of His glory.[1] That is why Scripture says:

God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble
 (James 4:6b NIV 1984)

Now, let me make this clear at the outset– I am NOT writing this today as someone who is under the delusion that I have somehow ‘mastered humility:' I’m not claiming to be an expert on this subject, as if I perfectly understand and perfectly apply everything God has revealed about being humble. Rather, as C.J. Mahaney has said, “I’m a proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God… [I’m] a fellow pilgrim walking with you on the path set for us by our humble Savior.”[2] As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (cf. Phil. 3:12 NKJV).

And so I would now like to share with you a story– a parable that Jesus told about humility:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." 
Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)
In this parable, Jesus brought together two individuals that we would consider to be complete opposites­- one that would be considered notable and one that would be considered notorious:

  • First, we have a Pharisee. Now the Pharisees, as you may know, were the religious leaders of the land during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Many of the Pharisees sought to know God’s Word, to understand it, and to apply it to every aspect of their daily lives. And for the most part the Pharisees held to sound biblical doctrine. For this reason the Apostle Paul, when on trial in Jerusalem, was not ashamed to refer to himself as a Pharisee, as we read in Acts 23:6.
  • In stark contrast to this Pharisee the other character that Jesus confronts us with is known as a tax collector– or, to use the old King James Version term– a publican. Now the publicans, as you may or may not remember, were Jewish people who were working for the Roman Empire, which was the tyrannical government that was keeping the Jewish nation in slavery. Publicans were tax collectors for the Roman government, and they were infamous for hiring mercenaries to aid them in their work and to extract much more than their fair share from the taxpayers around them. As Martin Luther noted when preaching on this text, those hearing this parable of Jesus would have known the publicans to be a group of people “living in open sin and vice… [serving] neither God nor man” and making it their business to rob, oppress, and harm, their neighbors.
Now this word “justified” mentioned by Jesus at the end of the parable means that the publican was counted as righteous in God’s sight. God considered this known sinner– this man who had lived in open rebellion against His Law until this time– to be completely free from sin, whereas the Pharisee, who had devoted his life to keeping God’s Law, went home without even having his prayers heard by God.

How can this be?! As Martin Luther asked of this passage, “Will God now speak and decide against his own law, which justly prefers those who live according to it, to those who live opposed to it in open sin? Or does God delight in those who do no good and are nothing but robbers, adulterers and unjust?” No, beloved, but there is a higher Law at work here– a Law that can only be apprehended by faith– a Law that Christ refers to at the end of this passage, when He teaches, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

This Law– the Law of humility– is absolutely crucial to your life if you wish for your life to have eternal value and to be accepted by God.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, taught concerning this Law of humility:

You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
"God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble
."
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:4-10 NIV 1984. Emphasis added.)

If you become familiar with the book of James, it becomes obvious that James immersed himself in his half-brother’s teaching. In the last sentence quoted above James wrote, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up,” which seems to be an echo of the words of Jesus from Luke 18:14, mentioned above, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

James 4:4-10 also contains another statement which is crucial in gaining God's perspective concerning humility, specifically, the phrase,

"God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble
."


In the first half of this statement, we are exposed to God’s opposition of the proud. So, the first question here is: what does the word “proud” mean? What is “pride”?

From the very construction of the sentence, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble", it is obvious that the word “proud” is to be understood as the opposite of the word “humble”. And so “pride” is the opposite of “humility”.

According to Strong’s New Testament Greek Lexicon, the word we have translated “proud” is used of one who seeks to be “conspicuous above others” and “pre-eminent” the proud person is one with “an overweening estimate of [his or her own] means or merits,” one who “despis[es] others or even treat[s] them with contempt”.

In the booklet From Pride to Humility pastor and teacher Stuart Scott observes that pride is “the desire to lift up self and serve self.” For “[w]hen someone is proud they are focused on self. This is a form of self-worship.” It is also the inclination of pride "to forget about God or [to] want to be above God." As the Puritan Tom Watson said, “Pride seeks to ungod God." And as C.J. Mahaney notes, “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.”

Hearing these definitions of pride, we naturally shrink away from identifying ourselves as proud or prideful. None of us would like to admit that we wish to be "conspicuous above others," that we treat others with contempt, or that we worship ourselves more than we worship God. But pride is a universal epidemic. This is true to the extent that the Apostle John taught that the entire world system is composed of “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (cf. 1 John 2:15-16). For some reading this, your pride may not be as obvious as in the lives of others, but it is still there all the same. I implore you to examine yourself in the light of God’s Word and see if pride has manifested itself in your life in any of the following ways:
  • First, have you ever complained against or passed judgment on God? As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 9:20, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to the molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” If you have complained against God, you are implicitly making the prideful assertion that you know better than He does and that you could run the universe better than God if you only had the power. Similarly, if you clearly understand a ‘hard doctrine’ from the Bible, such as the doctrine of reprobation, or that everyone who fails to believe in Jesus Christ is destined for Hell, and you say, ‘Well, my God would never do that!’ then you are passing judgment on God and are strongly implying that you are better than God.
  • Second, have you ever failed to express gratitude toward God for something He has given You? Have You ever failed to express heartfelt thanks to God? The Apostle Paul again teaches in Romans 1:21 that God’s wrath is against those who knew Him, but did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him. And in 2 Chronicles 32:25 a direct connection is made between a lack of gratitude and pride.
  • Third, do you lack a focus on the practice of biblical prayer in your life? Do you pray very little? When you pray are your prayers self-centered– like the prayer of the Pharisee mentioned earlier from Luke 18:9-14– or do you truly call out for God’s mercy– like in the prayer of the publican?
No matter how free from pride your life may seem, if your life is characterized by complaining against God or judging Him, if you fail to express gratitude toward God on a regular basis, or if your life lacks regular, biblical prayer, then you can be sure that pride has a foothold in your life and you are in danger: danger of the opposition of God.

Paul Stith, pastor of Grace Heritage Church in Auburn, AL, has noted four ways in which God opposes the proud:

1. By refusing to speak to the proud. (Example: Luke 23:8-9, in which Jesus refuses to speak with Herod while Herod was exalting himself above Christ.)
2. By ridiculing their schemes (Example: Psalm 2:1-4, in which God laughs at those who exalt themselves against Him.)
3. By ruining their success (Example: 2 Chronicles 26, in which God curses King Uzziah’s pride when he taking a priestly job for himself.)
4. By removing their status (Example: Daniel 5, in which Nebuchadnezzar’s loses his sanity and his kingdom due to his pride.)

But there is further way that God opposes the proud, which is more terrifying than all the others: more terrifying than His silence or His ridicule; more terrifying than having Him ruin your success or remove your status. This most terrifying way in which God may come in opposition against you if you persist in pride against Him is for Him to harden your heart against His Word. We see this opposition by God in the life of Pharaoh in the Old Testament book of Exodus. When God’s people were kept in slavery down in Egypt, God sent His servant Moses to deliver the message from Him: “let My people go!” Pridefully, Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, refused to listen to the Word of God, though Moses spoke to him several times and the LORD brought numerous plagues against Egypt. The Bible repeatedly says that “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened,” making it clear that God was hardening Pharaoh’s heart in order to bring judgment against Egypt. And this hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, due to his pride, was so severe that Pharaoh would not release God’s people until his firstborn son was killed in a plague from God. And even then, Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and having released God’s people from bondage, he led his army to pursue them in order to recapture them, at which time God destroyed Pharaoh and the entire Egyptian army in the Red Sea.

And so if you allow pride to go unchecked in your life, you should take care. For the opposition of God may mean that your heart becomes hardened to His Word, and you will not hear God’s message of grace until it is too late, and you are destroyed. This is serious, for if you die in opposition to God, then you will remain in opposition to Him for eternity, a fate that the Bible calls Hell: an existence that is completely devoid of the goodness, love, kindness, and blessing of God, which you have benefited from in this life, and yet you have despised due to your pride. Once you begin to recognize pride in your life and to realize the weight of the opposition of God against pride, it is vital that you do not move ahead too quickly. It is of the utmost importance that you truly see pride for what it is in God’s sight and that that you understand just how deeply it runs in your life. You must be ready to confess your pride before God and to truly repent. You must acknowledge that pride is an offense against God, rightly earning His opposition, and you must humble yourself before God.

It is only once you have been convinced of your own pride that you are prepared to hear the message of grace. Grace is the unearned favor of God. God’s favor must be unearned, for all of our works are tainted with pride. The exaltation of self plays some role in any ‘good’ thing that we do. And so, there is nothing that we can do on our own to earn God’s favor. For if we rely on our own strength, we only earn the opposition of God. And so, if we are to be found acceptable in God’s sight, it has to be by His grace: by His unmerited favor. Martin Luther taught that grace “denotes God's kindness or favor which He has toward us and by which he is disposed to pour Christ and the Spirit with his gifts into us… grace takes us up completely into God's favor for the sake of Christ.” An acrostic that is helpful in understanding God’s grace teaches us that grace is “G-R-A-C-E”: “God’s Riches AChrist’s Expense”. For whereas we cannot do any good work untainted by selfish pride, Jesus Christ truly humbled Himself and was completely submissive to the will of God our Father. Jesus practiced perfect humility, as He stated in Mark 10:45, in that He came “not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Jesus came as a ransom on our behalf, for whereas we had earned the opposition of God due to our pride, Jesus took God’s opposition upon Himself, suffering death and Hell on the Cross for our sake, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

James 4:6b proclaims that God gives grace to the humble, and it is only by the Holy Spirit working a realization of the truth of the Cross into our lives that we can have true humility. As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:
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 this spirit of humility.

And the Reverend Doctor John Stott explained:
Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to be saying to us, “I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.”
Our pride is only dealt with by God’s grace, benefits us only as we humble ourselves before the Cross of Christ. We must see ourselves on the Cross: for due to our pride, which has earned the opposition of God, we deserve to have borne His holy wrath against sin. And we must see Christ on the Cross, practicing perfect humility, dying in our place, bearing the opposition of God on our behalf, that the Father may regard us as completely righteous if we place our hope in His Son.

In order to make practical application of the statement in James 4:6b, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble," we must continue on to examine James 4:7-10:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:7-10 NIV 1984)

This passage gives us six actions that we should take in response to the truth that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble:”

  1. We must submit to God: James 4:7a, “Submit yourselves, then, to God." We must surrender our plans for our lives to the will of the Father, forsaking all of our ungodly desires and acknowledging our dependence upon Him each day.
  2. As we submit to God, we must resist the Devil: James 4:7b, “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” We resist the Devil and cause him to flee through avoiding temptations that are possible to avoid– for example, as the Bible says, “flee from sexual immorality” (cf. 1 Cor. 6:18) so that we do not, for instance, view movies that we know will tempt us through the lust of the eyes. If there are temptations that we cannot flee, we must stand firm and refuse to compromise to sin. (Since we can’t flee every temptation: for example, if someone on your job is acting rudely toward you and tempting you to sin by becoming bitter or hateful toward them, you can’t necessarily 'flee temptation' by walking out of your workplace, but you CAN continue to remember that Your heavenly Father is watching and that He is in control, and you can turn your cares over to Him, standing firm through the temptation.)
  3. As we resist the Devil, causing him to flee from us, we also must draw near to God. James 4:8a, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” As Pastor Stith of Grace Heritage Church pointed out when preaching through this passage, we sometimes fail on this point because we do not 'feel close' to God. But notice the order of this statement. In context of our growth in grace, we first obey the command to draw near to God and then He fulfills His promise of drawing near to us. Drawing on the familiar parable of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15:11-32, Pastor Stith said, "I see the prodigal son sitting in the pigsty and saying to himself, you know, I just don’t feel that close to my father, so I’ll just wait until I feel close to him before I start on the road back to his house." But we know that in the actual story, when the prodigal came to the end of his pride and recognized his need for the father, he immediately set out on the road to the father’s house, and the father ran to meet him, to kiss his face and forgive him. So we must draw near to God through the means He has given us– through the regular fellowship of believers on the Lord’s Day, through the ordinances of the Church, through calling out to Him in humble prayer, and through studying His Word.
  4. Drawing near to God, we must cleanse our hands: James 4:8b, “Wash your hands, you sinners.” This phrase speaks of having unblemished, holy works of service before God. As was stated before, this is absolutely impossible in our own strength, but as we draw near to God, He gives us His grace and the gift of true repentance so that we may please Him, even with our imperfect works.
  5. Cleansing our hands, we must also purify our hearts: James 4:8c, “and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” We cannot truly serve God, we cannot draw near to Him, or resist the Devil, or even submit to Him if we remain double-minded. In order to grow in God’s grace, we must have a single-minded passion for His glory: we must desire Him above all things, so that our love for God shapes all of our decisions.
  6. Finally, in purifying our hearts, we must mourn over the sin in our lives: James 4:9, “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” We cannot fight against sin– we cannot cast away our pride and our lusts– if we are still content in our pride and entertained by our lusts. We must strive with all of our might to develop holy attitudes so that we see our sin as God sees it– as something that is vile, detestable, and responsible for the death of His Son.
Friend, I implore you now– anyone reading this post– search your heart: if you have never acknowledged your sinfulness before God, if you have never called out for His mercy and submitted your will to Him, then do so right now. Do not delay out of pride and risk having your heart hardened against God’s grace when He is so near to you at this moment. You can call out to Him right where You are, offering your own heart up to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I plead with you, too. Do not become complacent in God’s grace, but be diligent to search out any areas of pride in your hearts. Meditate on James 4:7-10 and put these verses into practice, submitting to God and drawing near to Him, resisting the Devil, washing your hands and purifying your hearts, mourning over Your sin.

Above all else, I hope that we will all make a regular practice of looking to the Cross and allowing the message of the Cross, the message of perfect humility, to transform our lives. And I would like to close this post with the words of the Apostle Paul from Philippians 2:5-11:


Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death--even to death on a cross. For this reason God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow-- of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth-- and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11 HCSB)


[1] From Pride to Humility booklet by Stuart Scott (Bemidji, MN; Focus Publishing, 2002), 1.
[2] Humility: True Greatness (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2005), 13.

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