Archive for the ‘Pride’ Category

Pride, Part 72

September 12, 2009

Prov 16:5 – “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished”

Prov 21:4 – “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, is sin.”

Isaiah 2:11 – “The proud look of man will be abased And the loftiness of man will be humbled, And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. 12 For the LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning Against everyone who is proud and lofty And against everyone who is lifted up, That he may be abased.”

The insidious nature of pride is such that it hides itself in the human heart in such a way that the pride of others may be noticed while it hides pride in its own heart. Nevertheless, what we must notice is that Scripture tells us that God is opposed to all the proud in heart whether they recognize it or not. As Proverbs 16:5 says so clearly, “everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD.” It is not just those that profess to be unbelievers or those who are heretics whose pride is an abomination to the LORD, but the verse includes everyone. It is not just the proud heart that is an abomination to the LORD, but those who are proud in heart are an abomination to the LORD. We can smile and think that surely this is for heathen nations or for the Muslim nations, but this was written by an Israelite for Israelites. But within the Church it is thought that as long as a person has said a prayer or walked an aisle that person is fine. No, no, and a thousand times no. The text tells us that “everyone,” that is, every single one “that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD. Each person must tell him or herself that if “I am proud in heart I am an abomination to the LORD.” Even if I am a preacher, a seminary professor, a denominational worker, one who has taught in a church for fifty years, pride in my heart makes me an abomination to the LORD.

Just in case one might wonder what an abomination to the LORD is, it is something that is detestable and an object of loathing. Scripture lists idolatry and homosexual acts as things that are abomination to the LORD. That means that if I have pride in my heart then I am on the level with idolatry and homosexuality. These things are abominations to the LORD and so am I if I have pride in my heart. Pride in the heart spoils and ruins everything it touches and has anything to do with. Pride in the heart means that all that I do comes from pride in the heart and that would include my religious actions and beliefs. Pride in the heart means that the lamp that gives me light or that which directs my path is my pride. In other words, pride in the heart means that all that I do is guided by the pride in my heart. If I am guided by pride in my heart, then I may preach orthodox messages but all that I say will be guided by pride rather than love for God and His glory. If I am guided by pride in my heart, then even my orthodox messages will be for self-centered ends rather than that which is for the good of God’s people which is His glory in them.

The heart is so deceitful because of its pride that it will get very angry rather than admit it. But of course it can also admit pride from pride and be proud that it can admit its pride. One can also be quite proud of its humility, though of course that would not be a true humility but one that is put on like a shirt. What this should teach us is that Christianity is opposed to all pride of the heart because the heart is where God dwells and reigns. He will not dwell in a place where things that He despises are. He does not rule and reign in a heart that is full of pride because pride is ruling and reigning in that heart. When the Lord Himself decides to dwell in a heart, He must cast out the pride and cleanse it with the blood of the Perfect Lamb of God. That Lamb was perfect in humility and all He did was guided by perfect humility. The Lamb of God lived in perfect humility and went to the cross in perfect humility in order that by His sacrifice the proud hearts of sinners could be broken and their sins forgiven.

It took a perfect humility which was necessary for perfect love to go to the cross to be a sacrifice for the sin of pride. The reason for this is that the heart that is full of pride is a heart that God looks in and sees the devil. The devil is full of pride and self-love. When the fall occurred he brought the poison of pride and self-love into the human race. When God looks upon the soul of the proud person, He sees the devil and what he has spawned. However, when He looks upon the soul that has been humbled and has Christ in it, He sees His own glory shining there. Pride is not just a little speck of something in the human soul; it is the very vomit of hell. Humility is not just a human work, but it is instead the work of God in emptying the soul of the vomit of hell and then God Himself takes up residence in that cleansed heart. Pride and humility are not just things in the control of human beings to walk in and out of like doors, but they are the very fruits of the war between the devil and God.

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Pride, Part 71

September 10, 2009

There are many hidden things of pride. This horrible sin which is at the very root of sin hides itself in religious things if not especially religious things. It is obvious that heresy comes from pride but it may not be so obvious that pride is also present with orthodoxy. It is obvious that pride is present with humanists, but it is not so obvious that pride is what drives the modern professing Church in many if not most instances. Listed below is a list of some religious things that churches do that can come from pride. When churches seek God for self-centered reasons rather than for God Himself, they are being religious from out of proud hearts.

As long as a church seeks itself in honor and numbers and things like that, it will not seek God Himself.

As long as a church wants to be popular in the eyes of the world, it will not be popular with God.

As long as a church wants to be approved by the world, it will not be approved by God.

As long as a church wants have the world be pleased with it, God will not be pleased with it.

As long as a church wants its entertainment that it calls worship to draw crowds, it will not have God.

As long as preachers preach to tickle the ears of human beings, they will not have the ear of God.

As long as people pray for themselves instead of the honor and glory of God, they will have themselves rather than the honor and glory of God.

As long as a church focuses on evangelism to get the crowds in, all it will do is fill the Church with unbelievers who hate God.

As long as a church focuses on external morality, it will not have the inward power and presence of God.

As long as a church focuses on buildings, its focus will not be on the Temple of the living God.

As long as a church has a focus on prayer as a method, it will only pray to itself.

As long as a church only prays for the physical problems of people, it will remain blind to spiritual issues.

As long as the Church has a focus on tithing as a way to bring blessing, it will do nothing but give to self.

As long as preachers gather in conferences to entertain themselves and see friends, they will be entertained and see friends but not see God.

As long as preachers go to conferences just to have their minds instructed, they will just fill their brains while their souls starve.

As long as people just read the Bible as a duty or for reasons other than to know and love God, they will have only fulfilled their duties and God will be unknown to them.

As long as people do good works in order to be good people or to be seen by men, self will only be served.

As long as elders and deacons use the position they have to exalt self, God will not be exalted.

As long as elders and deacons use the position to do their own will, the will of God will not be sought.

As long as a church exists to make “me” happy, the pleasure of God will not be found.

Pride, Part 70

September 8, 2009

What Luther fought against during the time of the Reformation was man-centeredness and pride. While many in our day think that Luther was wrong saying he split the Church, the real problem is that those who say that do not understand the underlying reasons for the Reformation. There are many who want to see all the factions of all who claim to Christian get together and have unity. One massive problem, however, is that it is nothing but the pride of man that wants unity rather than the truth of Christ. There are so many versions of so many things in our day it is hard for people to know what to do. There are multiple voices crying out on each corner and each with a man-centered message. Some say that they are Christ-centered or God-centered, but Roman Catholicism would have said the same thing in Luther’s time. The pride of man is so blinding it will blind man to his own man-centeredness while he is preaching a god of his own making. To be centered upon a god of our own making who had its beginning in our pride is nothing more than man-centeredness regardless of the name it is given.

“In Luther, the theocentricity of primitive Christianity returns; and it is the determining factor of his whole outlook. His opposition to Catholicism is due ultimately to nothing else but this. In the Catholic conception of Christianity, it is in the last analysis man who occupies the centre of the religious stage; in Luther’s reforming conception it is God. Luther seeks to eradicate every vestige of the egocentric or anthropocentric tendency from the religious relationship. There is no place for the slightest degree of human self-assertion in the presence of God. Here, man must be content to receive undeserved the gifts God wills to bestow on him.” (Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther)

It may be thought that too much attention has been given to Martin Luther. But what I would like to point out is that this is also the theme that is all over the Bible. The battle has always been against man-centeredness and pride since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. Eve believed the promise of the Serpent (Gen 3:5) that she could be as God and man has believed that promise ever since. When she believed the lie that she would be as God she actually became like the Serpent who wanted to be God. While it may be hidden from our eyes, this is the problem with Christianity in our day. Each wants to worship as self wants to worship and to be pleased as self wants to be pleased. We want preaching to please “me” rather than preaching that will please God and bring our souls to God. Too many preachers are concerned with nickels and noses rather than to know God and to proclaim the truth about Him. Throughout the Bible and history this has been the plight of true religion. People want to speak for God when they have not been sent and they want to speak what they think is right rather than the Word of God.

The prophets had to stand virtually alone many times in Scripture. They proclaimed the Word of God and virtually all the people would laugh at them and at times kill them. Jesus stood against the religious world to proclaim the Word of God. Paul stood alone at times and even took on Peter for the sake of the Gospel. In history God would raise up men who had to stand virtually alone against the whole world. Athanasius stood alone for the deity of Christ against the whole world. Luther stood alone against the Church and the State as he stood for the Gospel. Throughout Israel’s history their sacrificial system and worship fell from what God commanded it to be in order to be like men wanted it to be. This is nothing but the pride of man and the love of self. It is the same today.

Jeremiah 37:2 – “But neither he nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the LORD which He spoke through Jeremiah the prophet. 2:8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me; The rulers also transgressed against Me, And the prophets prophesied by Baal And walked after things that did not profit. 5:31 The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?”

The nation of Israel was brought out of Egypt and given the land they were to live in. Yet they did not follow the Lord despite chastisement after chastisement. They were a stiff-necked people who were full of pride and self. They wanted to be rich and to follow after the lusts of their own minds and hearts. They chose to follow those while trying to keep the externals of their religion. They hated it when people spoke the truth to them of a God who would not put up with their sin. The heart of man is the same as of all men throughout history. They will be religious or irreligious but the real issue is that they are oriented to pride and self. The proud heart will oppose the truth and yet do that in the name of truth. We must learn to hate our own pride or it will destroy us and the churches. The professing Church of our day has been brought very low by the pride of men in their man-centeredness. Will there be found any who will weep?

Pride, Part 69

September 6, 2009

We live in a day where it seems that the pace of the world and the advancements in science and technology have made the Church irrelevant. The only reason it even seems that way is because of the pride of the heart in what appears to be human achievement. The nature of the heart that is born spiritually dead wants to shed its dependency on God and live by for itself and by itself. The advancements of technology combined with the pride of the heart have led many to renounce Christianity as outdated and superstitious. That is nothing more than the idolatry of the heart that is focused on self being unleashed to some degree. Another side of the problem, however, is that this has also happened in the professing Church. The professing Church wants to survive and has thought that it must turn to entertainment and focus on being relevant. It may be shocking to many to think this, but the focus on entertainment and relevancy is nothing more than another version of the same old man-centeredness that the Church falls into through the wiles of the devil. We want people to come to church and so we entertain them, but in doing so we forget that we are at a church building to worship God rather than entertain men. If men are entertained rather than brought to worship God, we join them in their idolatry. When we desire to be relevant to men, we forget that true relevancy is to show men the truth of God and of eternity. When we change things in a desire to be relevant, we have done nothing but join men in a man-centered focus. That is egregious pride on our part and does nothing to show them their own pride that they must repent of.

“In Luther, the theocentricity of primitive Christianity returns; and it is the determining factor of his whole outlook. His opposition to Catholicism is due ultimately to nothing else but this. In the Catholic conception of Christianity, it is in the last analysis man who occupies the centre of the religious stage; in Luther’s reforming conception it is God. Luther seeks to eradicate every vestige of the egocentric or anthropocentric tendency from the religious relationship. There is no place for the slightest degree of human self-assertion in the presence of God. Here, man must be content to receive undeserved the gifts God wills to bestow on him, and to obey without thought of reward the commandments God pleases to give him. In other words, he must let God really be God, the center around which his whole existence moves. This theocentric emphasis can be described as the fundamental motif of Luther’s entire thought.” (Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther)

The Church is accused of being out of touch with reality, yet it is the world that is out of touch with reality since Christ Himself is the real reality that entered into the world (John 1:14-18). Reality has to do with what is real and there is nothing and no one more real than the source, foundation, and source of all reality and that is the living and true God. The Church must declare what is the reality behind much of the façade and false realities that the world wants to stand for and has brought into the Church. It is not humility and love that brings entertainment and so-called relevancy into the professing Church, but rather it is pride. It is pride in the disguise of humility that does these things. It is pride in the disguise of love that does these things. Perhaps it appears as humility and love to try to be relevant to human beings, but it is nothing but pride to try to reach men in ways that make them temporarily happy rather than to try to do what is good for their eternal souls out of love for God. What is truly good for human beings will offend them at first. The glory of God shining through the Gospel of Christ is offensive to fallen human beings, but it is that alone that will bring what is truly good to them.

Jude 1:16 speaks to our day: “These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.” False teachers in the days of Christ and just after Christ followed their own lusts. They spoke arrogantly and flattered people in order to take advantage. While men in fancy suits, perfect hair, and smooth words go around today speaking of God, they are flattering people in the name of God in order to take advantage of them and get their money. We need to have a new Reformation in our day where at least a few will arise and begin to pursue the truth and show others what is really going on. We must learn to look beyond the fancy suits, buildings, flattering language, and bold promises about what God will do if we do what these men say. We must begin to understand the real nature of pride and that it is not inconsistent with a lot of religious success in a fallen and deceived world in which God is withdrawing His restraining hand from. We must have biblical reality crash our false worldviews and begin to see that man-centeredness has taken over in the professing Church as well. It is under the guise of many things and done with the name of God and conservative uttered over it, but unless we have a true Reformation of true God-centeredness we will truly perish.

Pride, Part 68

September 3, 2009

If Luther thought of Christianity in terms of being God-centered and then man-centeredness as being in reality a different religion, then it would behoove us to seriously consider these things. If in fact his real opposition to Roman Catholicism was due to its man-centeredness, then we must know that Luther would oppose virtually all that goes on today under the guise of Christianity. As the quote below says about Catholicism, “it is in the last analysis man who occupies the centre of the religious stage.” That is an accurate description of most of what passes as worship, preaching, and activities in the churches in modern American. It is not that we are children of the Reformers because we are not Roman Catholic, but we are not children of the Reformers because we hold to the man-centered teaching which was the heart of Roman Catholicism though we have different rituals.

“In Luther, the theocentricity of primitive Christianity returns; and it is the determining factor of his whole outlook. His opposition to Catholicism is due ultimately to nothing else but this. In the Catholic conception of Christianity, it is in the last analysis man who occupies the centre of the religious stage; in Luther’s reforming conception it is God. Luther seeks to eradicate every vestige of the egocentric or anthropocentric tendency from the religious relationship. There is no place for the slightest degree of human self-assertion in the presence of God. Here, man must be content to receive undeserved the gifts God wills to bestow on him, and to obey without thought of reward the commandments God pleases to give him. In other words, he must let God really be God, the center around which his whole existence moves. This theocentric emphasis can be described as the fundamental motif of Luther’s entire thought.” (Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther)

There were five points that came out of the Reformation. 1) Scripture alone 2) Faith alone 3) Grace alone 4) Christ alone 5) To God alone be the glory. It is true that many think that the Reformation’s main teaching was justification by faith alone, but there are underlying reasons for that as well. The last sentence of the actual quote from above seems to be right on the money. It was a thorough God-centeredness and emphasis that was “the fundamental motif of Luther’s entire thought.” What needs to be done, however, is to demonstrate that in the five points as listed above. We can call those the Five Points of the Reformation. Why was there such an emphasis on Scripture alone? It was because Scripture is the Word of God and men and their councils do not always follow the Word of God. Scripture was to be the authority that was appealed to because God spoke in His Word and He was and is the final authority to be appealed to. The reason that people reject Scripture alone is because they want to insert themselves or human authority in some way into the picture. Justification by faith alone is the Gospel that preserves the Gospel of the glory of God. When people want to assert free-will or some form of human authority, autonomy, or works as having to do with justification, that is rejecting the Gospel of the glory of God alone. Anytime the justification is moved from faith alone, it is moved away from a Gospel that glorifies God alone.

God’s glory is seen ever so brightly in His grace. The grace of God tells us how unworthy human beings are to receive the presence of God but also how God saves sinners and dwells with sinners based on Himself rather than human beings. The whole reason that justification is by faith alone is so that it would be by grace alone (Rom 4:16) and can be by the promise of God. Anytime someone tries to assert something of works into justification, even if it is under another word, that turns grace into something other than grace (Rom 11:6). God saves to the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph 1:5-6) and will not share His glory with another. The reason that He saves by grace alone is so that it will be a salvation to His glory alone. All of God’s grace comes to human beings by Christ alone. It is no contradiction to say that the love of God comes to human souls by Christ alone and then to say that the Spirit sheds abroad the love of God in human souls (Rom 5:5-8). The Spirit only sheds the love of God in human souls because of what Christ has done and because of who He is. Christ has purchased sinners and their release from their sins by His work on the cross. All that He did and all He does is to the glory of God. The primary motif in Luther’s theology was the glory of God. Because of that he was opposed to pride and self in all that he did as well. It is pride that opposes the teaching of Scripture alone. It is pride that opposes justification by faith alone. It is pride that opposes grace alone and Christ alone. That is because pride wants all things to be centered on it and because it wants the honor and glory for itself. Pride also wants to dispose of self and be in control of self. Pride and human self-assertion oppose the heart of the Reformation even if it holds the same doctrines in creedal form.

Pride, Part 67

August 31, 2009

In the last BLOG the focus was on some words of A.W. Tozer about how much Christianity had departed from a high view of God in his day. While things have changed since his day, instead of changing for the better things have gotten even worse. Our day is a day that still has a lot of religion, but it is not of a God-centered God who brings sinners to Himself and makes them truly God-centered as well. A brand of Christianity that is not God-centered is not Christianity at all. As said before, there is not one theological position that has been stated by man that cannot be held by man-centered people with their own honor or benefit in mind. The heart must be turned from its self-centered pride to centeredness on God in order to truly repent of the sin of the heart.

“In Luther, the theocentricity of primitive Christianity returns; and it is the determining factor of his whole outlook. His opposition to Catholicism is due ultimately to nothing else but this. In the Catholic conception of Christianity, it is in the last analysis man who occupies the centre of the religious stage; in Luther’s reforming conception it is God. Luther seeks to eradicate every vestige of the egocentric or anthropocentric tendency from the religious relationship. There is no place for the slightest degree of human self-assertion in the presence of God. Here, man must be content to receive undeserved the gifts God wills to bestow on him, and to obey without thought of reward the commandments God pleases to give him. In other words, he must let God really be God, the center around which his whole existence moves. This theocentric emphasis can be described as the fundamental motif of Luther’s entire thought.” (Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther)

Notice that the quote above speaks of what must happen in the presence of God. When a soul realizes who He is and what the human soul is in light of whom He is, the soul must turn from any self-assertion. Instead of what Roman Catholicism taught and teaches, which is that man must assert himself in order to be saved; Luther taught a Gospel of grace which man must come to the point of denying any self-assertion or ability. It is only when a person arrives at the point of not asserting self and looking to receive grace if God wills rather than willing it by self that salvation is by grace alone. Ephesians 2:1-3 speaks of how man is dead in sins and trespasses and by nature is a child of wrath. Verses 4-8 is how God raises sinners from the dead by grace alone. There is no self-assertion by a dead person. Those who are dead and who are raised by God have received what He was pleased to give and not because they asserted themselves.

It is also the case that Luther focused on the fact that man must come to the place where he is content to receive the undeserved gifts of God and that solely because it pleased God to do so. This is simply putting an explanation on what it means for a person to come to the place where s/he does not trust in self but looks to the grace of God to do it all. After all, we are told that God “predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph 1:5). The “kind intention of His will” should be interpreted more literally which has the idea of “to the good pleasure of His will.” We then move to verse 6 which tells us that God saves “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Eph 1:6). It is hard to imagine anything more beautiful than the sheer and utter grace of God that saves sinners to the praise of the glory of His grace and according to His pleasure.

Man is also to obey God without thought of an earthly reward. Man’s reward in obedience is God Himself. So man is to obey the commands of God out of love for God. This shows, then, that in salvation and in sanctification man is moved by the grace of God. In this God is truly God in that He is the center of the whole existence of man. For Luther God was the center of it all. The opposite of that is pride. It was nothing but pride and self-centeredness that was the cause of Roman Catholicism. It was nothing but pride and self-centeredness that is the cause of the man-centeredness that is rampant in the United States today. In any local assembly where the focus is man, we can know that pride is right there. God opposes pride because it opposes the glory of His grace. Man wants to assert self in some little way in order to maintain some form of control, but that is nothing but pride in the face of the living God. Pride and God-centeredness are opposites. Pride and grace are opposites because sheer and utter grace is always opposed by man-centeredness and because pride will not receive grace. Pride wants grace to help, but pride refuses to bow in the dust and be totally at the mercy and grace of God. When men leave salvation to be by the will of man, that is self trying to assert itself at the throne of grace. Grace will save alone or not at all.

Pride, Part 66

August 29, 2009

What is popularly known as Christianity in our day bears little resemblance to the Christianity of the New Testament and of the theology and practice of believers in the time of the Reformation. What is thought to be conservative Christianity in our day is far below what the New Testament prescribes and what the Reformation shone forth. We have many intellectuals and seminary presidents analyzing the situation, but they must be careful or they will (have?) fall into the same trap at a different point than those they are analyzing. The goal of Christianity must always be the glory of God as God means that. The problems that come from Christianity always come from a low view of God and of pride. A.W. Tozer made some massively important points in his very good and helpful book, The Knowledge of the Holy. In the preface he said this:

“The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic. The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.”

When we hear man-centered sermons and man-centered methodologies we are hearing what the norm is in our day. When we hear people crying out against man-centeredness we are often hearing a protest of a wrong kind of man-centeredness and the people want to replace it with another kind of man-centeredness which is just a different type of wrong. The lofty concept of God that dominated the Reformation and the theology of those that followed it for a while has been utterly lost. Tozer was writing in the 1950’s and would utterly despair if he lived in our day. The God of Scripture is rarely exalted in the modern day from the pulpits of this land. Where do we hear of the God who is so holy that He cannot be seen or approached? Where do we hear of the God that is so holy that angelic beings must hide their eyes and face from His presence?

5 “I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; 6 That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, 7 The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. 8 “Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it. 9 “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker– An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’? 10 “Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to a woman, ‘To what are you giving birth?'” 11 Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Ask Me about the things to come concerning My sons, And you shall commit to Me the work of My hands. 12 “It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands And I ordained all their host (Isa 45:5-12).

The pride of man is so vile that it wants to attribute all things to nature and natural causes rather than God. The pride of man is so great that he will quarrel with God and even question God and His rights. But as Tozer said, this has happened little by little. Through the pride of man more man-centeredness has come in and we even think of God as being man-centered in our day. When we look out upon the barren landscape of our day, the real problem is that of a low view of God and a high view of man. A low view of God and a high view of man will lead to errors in all things having to do with God. All thinking leads from one or perhaps a very few foundational issues. If God is not the center of our thinking, as indeed He is the center of all things in reality, then this one basic error will lead us far astray in all things. If God is not the center of our thinking, then we have the wrong source of thinking and the wrong goal in thinking. We will go nowhere good in our thinking when that is true. Since pride is man essentially trying to take the place of God and exalting himself into the place of God, it can be seen how horrid pride is. Pride will remove the thinking and the foundation of all thought and knowledge from the heart of man. Luther and Tozer agree that we must strive to get man-centeredness out of our thinking at all costs. It is not just a thought here and there; it is the essence of God-centered Christianity.

Pride, Part 65

August 26, 2009

Pride likes to hide itself in ways so as not to see itself in all of its horror. But pride must be exposed in order for Christianity to be centered upon God and to receive all from God as free grace. Pride likes to dress itself in the garb of religion and morality, but even there it is still pride. Pride hides itself in religion and morality by taking what was God-centered in all ways and simply changing a few things at a time until things are now man-centered. Pride hides itself under the guise of the language and perhaps the theology of what was once God-centeredness, but it has gutted the heart from it and turns it into man-centeredness with the language of God about it.

“In Luther, the theocentricity of primitive Christianity returns; and it is the determining factor of his whole outlook. His opposition to Catholicism is due ultimately to nothing else but this. In the Catholic conception of Christianity, it is in the last analysis man who occupies the centre of the religious stage; in Luther’s reforming conception it is God. Luther seeks to eradicate every vestige of the egocentric or anthropocentric tendency from the religious relationship. There is no place for the slightest degree of human self-assertion in the presence of God. Here, man must be content to receive undeserved the gifts God wills to bestow on him, and to obey without thought of reward the commandments God pleases to give him. In other words, he must let God really be God, the center around which his whole existence moves. This theocentric emphasis can be described as the fundamental motif of Luther’s entire thought.” (Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther)

If the Reformation is thought of in terms of God and His glory versus man-centeredness of the slightest degree of human self-assertion, then everything takes on a different picture. It is no longer just a certain theology that the Reformers held that we must return to, because that theology itself can hide human self-assertion as does Arminianism. While Catholicism was inundated with human self-assertion, it hid it very well from most people in the language of theology and religious rituals that were said to bring grace. We live in a day where human self-assertion is rampant in all brands of theology. Clearly, or at least it seems to be so, that what is needed is a new Reformation that sweeps human self-assertion off its legs of pride and fights for a thorough God-centeredness in all things. In the quote above it is said that Luther sought “to eradicate every vestige of the egocentric or anthropocentric tendency from the religious relationship. There is no place for the slightest degree of human self-assertion in the presence of God.” These are the marching orders of a new Reformation. Human self-assertion is nothing but pride and is puny man trying to assert himself into the things of God. This must be eradicated.

Catholicism used the word “grace” a lot, but it was not biblical grace. It was a grace invented by men so that they could dispense it as they willed rather than proclaiming the grace of God who gives grace at His good pleasure. Romans 3:24 is quite clear that we are justified by a grace that is a free gift. What it really means is that the grace that saves finds no reason or cause to save a person in the person. The reason or cause of salvation is found in God. Catholicism did not use grace like that, but rather human self-assertion had made grace available to man by the works, merit, or even money of man. Arminianism has human self-assertion in that salvation is left up to the free-will of man which is to say that grace is available to a human being when it is willing to assert itself to do so. Ah, but Reformed theology has its own problems. It many corners it seems to have a grace available as long as people are baptized. In other circles it seems that grace is available to those that will believe certain things. But where is human pride denounced and trounced on so that the freeness of God can be seen in showing grace to whom He pleases? Oh no, we are told, we should not talk like that because it will run people away. Jesus talked like that and He ran almost everybody off too. If we don’t make clear what the term grace really means and who the God is that shows grace according to His own pleasure, we leave the door open to human self-assertion.

It is true that life may be easier in many ways when we allow the foot of human self-assertion in the door, but that is nothing but allowing pride to come in the door in disguise. Where there is pride grace will go the other way. If we would rather be nice and gracious (in a manner of speaking) and get along with everybody, we will be found to be the enemies of grace while we hide ourselves with the words. The Reformation was a time when men stood up and gave their lives in an effort to stamp out human self-assertion in Christianity. This is why we must follow Scripture alone and why we must preach a Gospel of grace alone that God shows as He pleases. We may lose friends and money, but our true goal must be to love God and His glory above all things.

Pride, Part 64

August 24, 2009

While Luther found no real grounds of unity with Catholicism because of the difference between God-centeredness and man-centeredness, that difference has been shrinking for many years. John Owen and many others thought of true Arminianism as being the heart of Catholicism and so fought Arminianism as a step back toward Rome. Some did not see a major distinction between Arminianism and Pelagianism. Today we think of people who fight against Arminianism as something less than gracious or charitable. The majority view seems to be that Arminians and Calvinists preach the same Gospel but have differing distinctives. Perhaps, however, the real issue is God-centeredness and it has dropped out because man-centeredness has taken over again. Pride can seek unity under the name of charity and graciousness as well.

“In Luther, the theocentricity of primitive Christianity returns; and it is the determining factor of his whole outlook. His opposition to Catholicism is due ultimately to nothing else but this. In the Catholic conception of Christianity, it is in the last analysis man who occupies the centre of the religious stage; in Luther’s reforming conception it is God. Luther seeks to eradicate every vestige of the egocentric or anthropocentric tendency from the religious relationship. There is no place for the slightest degree of human self-assertion in the presence of God. Here, man must be content to receive undeserved the gifts God wills to bestow on him, and to obey without thought of reward the commandments God pleases to give him. In other words, he must let God really be God, the center around which his whole existence moves. This theocentric emphasis can be described as the fundamental motif of Luther’s entire thought.” (Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther)

Luther thought of Catholicism as being man-centered in its theology and practice. If we take away certain rituals of Catholicism, does it really differ from Arminianism at its heart? If we take away the veneer from a lot of Reformed theology, does it differ in the essence from the man-centeredness of Catholicism and Arminianism? What is the essence of Arminianism if it is not free-will? Yet for Luther this was nothing less than human self-assertion in the presence of God. The Gospel of grace alone is a Gospel that looks to God to bestow repentance and salvation on human souls apart from anything they can offer in terms of merit or worth. Luther would have looked on our day and have seen very little but human self-assertion in Arminian and Reformed theology. Faith is that which receives grace from God and it is not that which does things on its own power. Faith receives grace from God because that is the only thing it can do when the soul is emptied of all of its power and merit of man-centeredness.

As we look out upon the landscape of all that is Christianity in name today, we see a religion that has all but been swallowed up by man-centeredness. This may sound like the words of one in despair, but it is a settled belief. There is a lot going on in the name of God and of Christianity, but that does not mean that proud hearts have been broken and God is living in those hearts. There was a lot going on in the name of Christ in the days prior to the Reformation as well. But Luther saw how man-centered it was and began a battle against man-centeredness until his dying day. Well, one might say, this sounds like the beginning of a diatribe against Arminianism. No, whatever else this is it is an effort to point out the pride of the human heart and how we must be centered upon God. Much if not most of what is going on under the guise of Reformed theology today also has a lot of man-centeredness in it as well. The pride of the human heart can find places to hide among all branches of theology. The pride of the human heart can find words like humility to hide behind as well.

It is not humility that looks at Arminianism and Catholicism wants to be friendly with them. It is not humility to want to be friends with Calvinism either. All of those can be nothing but pride hiding under the guise of humility and graciousness. If we want to seek the living God in truth and love, we must be prepared to fight man-centeredness wherever it is found. We must be prepared to fight “the slightest degree of human self-assertion” if we truly desire God-centeredness in our own hearts, churches, and then our land. We must be prepared to fight with traditional language or against traditional language. Man-centeredness will hide in our own hearts and in the theology and practices of ourselves and others unless we become ruthless to our own hearts and to all man-centeredness no matter what dress it has clothed itself in. Pride, however, will say that we must be like Jesus and be gracious in all ways. Humility, however, will say we must be like Jesus in denouncing the proud in religion too. Jesus fought tenaciously against pride and man-centeredness in religion. It costs a lot to deny self and follow Jesus.

Pride, Part 63

August 22, 2009

The Reformation brought back a true theocentric theology and practice of Christianity from the man-centered ways of Rome. It was not just a Reformation of theology and morality; it was God bringing Himself to the center. Today certain aspects of the theology of the Reformers some forms of morality are being revived, but we will not be like the Reformers unless our pride is repented of and God is the true center of it all. The real issue of the Reformation was God Himself and how He was to be the core and center of all things. It was not just that He was to be focused on, but all things were to come from Him and the glory of His grace. One can have the academic theology of Luther or Calvin and still be full of pride and not know the God that Luther and Calvin knew. Our day must see its pride in its theology and in the churches in order to be on our faces before God. Being on our faces will earn nothing before God if we just drop down and do it, but it is where we belong as sinners before a holy, holy, holy God. Even the angelic beings who have never sinned shield their eyes before the glory of God. Yet in our day we think we can pal around with God. This demonstrates nothing but pride and blindness to spiritual things.

“In Luther, the theocentricity of primitive Christianity returns; and it is the determining factor of his whole outlook. His opposition to Catholicism is due ultimately to nothing else but this. In the Catholic conception of Christianity, it is in the last analysis man who occupies the centre of the religious stage; in Luther’s reforming conception it is God. Luther seeks to eradicate every vestige of the egocentric or anthropocentric tendency from the religious relationship. There is no place for the slightest degree of human self-assertion in the presence of God. Here, man must be content to receive undeserved the gifts God wills to bestow on him, and to obey without thought of reward the commandments God pleases to give him. In other words, he must let God really be God, the center around which his whole existence moves. This theocentric emphasis can be described as the fundamental motif of Luther’s entire thought.” (Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther)

We have looked at, though not at length, how Luther’s opposition to Catholicism was due to its man-centeredness. Luther’s magnum opus was his volume on The Bondage of the Will. He was very clear in that work that justification by faith alone needed to be explained in order for the Gospel to be by grace alone. He was also very clear by what he said and the way he went about it that he was defending the Gospel because the Gospel was of God. Luther was so concerned about the Gospel because in it the glory of God is seen in saving sinners. He defended Scripture alone because it was the words of God. Luther did no just oppose Catholicism because he was an academic who disagreed with them, but he disagreed with them because Catholicism was man-centered in all that they did versus Scripture which set things out as God-centered.

Has Catholicism changed? Not really, but Protestants have changed. The Confessions and Creeds are the same for the most part for Protestants, but the more man-centered Protestants have gotten the less they have disagreed with Rome. Many adherents of Reformed theology have never discovered the real and driving truth of Reformed theology which is that God Himself is the center of it all. It is not enough to know a few doctrines in the head, but one must have the glory of God in the heart as the chief love. It is easy enough for a proud heart to learn some knowledge of the Scriptures and know a few doctrines. It is easy because it is easy on the pride to do so. Knowledge makes arrogant (I Corinthians 8:1) and so proud hearts are not disturbed but are encouraged to grow in their pride if all they are gaining is knowledge. The Pharisees and the Scribes knew a lot, but they were proud people before they learned and became even prouder as a result of their learning.

Unregenerate people will always put man first because that is a way of self being at the center of all things. God will be served as long as it can be with self in control in some way and self gaining an advantage in some way. How wicked a proud heart can be in its self-service and that includes the things of religion. Catholicism was a very man-centered religion in the time of the Reformation and continues so until this day. The Reformation brought back a God-centeredness in fact and in theology and life. While the theology of the Reformers may be making a comeback of sorts, it still seems to be devoid of the driving God-centeredness of the Reformers. When we oppose Catholicism because of theology alone, we are simply fighting their man-centeredness with our own. We must go beneath the theology to see that God must be the true center of all things or our pride will be.