Archive for the ‘Pride’ Category

Pride, Part 62

August 20, 2009

It is so hard to see our own pride apart from having it shown to us by God in His Word or His opening our eyes to see His glory shining out. This is why the method of setting out a true and God-centered Christianity is necessary. No one will ever see his or her own sin until s/he sees something of God shining forth in His truth. A true sight of our own pride and the sinfulness of that will only come when what happened to Job and Isaiah happens to us to some degree. “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; 6 Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). Before Job was claiming that he was innocent and righteous before God. God never really answered Job’s questions directly, but once Job saw something of the glory of God he had no more questions. It was enough that God was God. This is what has to happen to the soul today as well. We must see God and His truth in order to see the depths of our own pride.

Then there was Isaiah. He was a prophet and a well-known man in the land. Surely he was a righteous man if there was one. However, everything changed the day or time he saw God.

“6:1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ 4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.'”

This text shows us what would happen in our day if God would open our eyes to see Him in His glory. He is not a safe God that we can just casually get along with, but He is the God of glory that if we saw Him without Him hiding Himself to a great degree we would die. It is in the light of God that our own sin and pride becomes obvious. It is like letting light into a dark room so that we can now see the dust and the dirt. Isaiah saw himself for the first time and he cried out in anguish that he was unclean.

“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)

True Christianity is theocentric as the heart of all truth and love. Luther’s opposition to Roman Catholicism was due to its inherent man-centeredness. Would Luther oppose the professing Church of today? Would he oppose so-called evangelical Christianity and would he oppose what passes today as Reformed because of man-centeredness? I believe that he would. But let us not forget that Luther’s view of God was also developed by a dark view of his own sin. In our day we have virtually done away with sin and have replaced it with a few mistakes of people. This would not happen if we saw ourselves in light of the glory of God. During the Reformation we also had the teaching of John Calvin. He said this: “We must infer that man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty.” And again, “it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself. For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy-this pride is innate in all of us.” Man is full of pride in religion and in all areas until he sees something of the truth and glory of God. Christian practice can be nothing but the efforts of self and pride until a person sees God. Roman Catholicism was swamped with the pride of man-centeredness in Luther’s day and needed to be awakened by a God-centeredness. The same thing is true today. Christianity would hardly be recognizable by Luther and Calvin because of its man-centeredness. We must have God come down to show us our pride.

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Pride, Part 61

August 17, 2009

We are somewhere in the thick of looking at the true nature of pride. The effort is to show the pride of man in relation to what true God-centeredness is. If we try to judge pride by its effects on human beings or by how it appears in human beings in relation to other human beings, we will miss what it is by virtually an infinite distance. Pride is only seen in relation to the glory of God and His rights and demands on human beings. Pride is seen in human beings by how they do all for self and the love of self rather than doing all out of love for God and His glory. Pride is the worship of self and it is idolatry, yet this is hard for religious people to see in themselves. They think of themselves as doing things commanded in the Bible and they think this is done in love and for God. What they might not see, however, is that the feelings they feel are really feelings for themselves rather than God. They only love Him because they think He has done something to benefit them and so in reality they love themselves.

“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)

For Luther, who found this idea in Scripture, man must become centered and focused on God in and for all things. Man does not do things for God because God will do something for man, that is nothing but an idea that destroys the truth of grace and makes salvation and sanctification out to be by works. If man does things for God in order to get something from God, then regardless of what else man believes or does that man is in a system of works rather than one of sheer and glorious grace. The pride of the heart is seen in that self determines man’s whole outlook rather than God which is man choosing self rather than God. Man’s outlook on God and the things of God can be nothing more than ways that the self can look out for self. It is impossible for human beings to be anything else but man-centered in their outlook unless God changes their hearts by grace alone. The outlook cannot be changed by a self-centered human being to be anything other than self, and grace will not change a human’s outlook to be anything but according to grace which is a thorough God-centeredness in all of its parts.

This is a vital point that cannot be missed. There is nothing in all of Christianity that cannot be believed or done that is not self acting for self. This is perhaps the greatest way that people are deceived. The ringing words of Paul in Philippians 2:21 concerning those who were ministers: “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” These were evidently men who were quite religious and quite interested in the things of God, but evidently they were only interested in the things of God in order to further their own interests. They were like Simon in Acts 8 who was interested in purchasing the power of the apostles to give the Holy Spirit. He was very interested in giving people the Holy Spirit, but it would have been a way to make money or gain honor. What a beast a person must be to try to make money by giving the Holy Spirit. What pride it must take to do that sort of thing, but probably no more pride than it is to preach in order to be honored by men. That which must determine the whole outlook of a preacher must not be self in looking to obtain honor, prestige, applause, and even larger pay packages, but it must be a love for God in all things. Without this the man will do nothing but serve self.

When we see the Bible commanding us to do all things out of love for God, it is not commanding us to find the strength within self to love God. It is commanding us to deny self so that God will be loved. But once again, it is not commanding us to deny self with self because that is still nothing more than the efforts of self. What should be clear, then, is that the proud soul must be humbled which is to say that the proud soul must be emptied of self. Humility is the emptiness of self and not the work of self in bringing self down to a point of lowliness. It is only when the soul is emptied of self can the soul be full of the living God and then and only then will it be God-centered in all it does. Only God can work God-centeredness in the soul that He lives in and that is only by grace.

Pride, Part 60

August 15, 2009

The motive of the heart in being God-centered in one sense can be nothing but self-love and self-preservation. The heart can see how biblical it is to be God-centered and so talk that way and set out theology in that way. But the heart can have its own motives in doing things that way. The real love of that heart may be nothing more than self. In the last BLOG part of the quote from Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther was this: “In Luther, the theocentricity of primitive Christianity returns; and it is the determining factor of His whole outlook.” The assertion that I am making is that anything but that is pride. All things are from God and all things are to be to the glory of God. Anything less than the glory and beauty of God being the chief love of the heart and intent in what is done is pride and self. The following quote is from Samuel Rutherford.

“Oh, what pains, and what a death it is to nature, to turn me, myself, my lust, my ease, my credit, over unto “my Lord, my Savior, my King, and my God, my Lord’s will, my Lord’s grace!” But alas! That idol, that whorish creature myself is the master-idol we all bow to. What hurried Eve headlong upon the forbidden fruit, but that wretched thing herself? What drew that brother-murderer to kill Abel? That untamed himself. What drove the old world on to corrupt their ways? Who, but themselves, and their own pleasure? What was the cause of Solomon’s falling into idolatry and multiplying of strange wives? What but himself, whom he would rather please than God? What was the hook that took David and snared him first in adultery, but his self-lust? And then in murder, but his self-credit and self-honor? What led Peter on to deny his Lord? Was it not a piece of himself, and self-love to a whole skin? What made Judas sell his master for thirty pieces of silver, but the idolizing of avaricious self? What made Demas go off the way of the Gospel to embrace the present world? Even self-love and a love for gain for himself. Every man blames the devil for his sins; but the great devil, the house-devil of every man, the house-devil that eateth and lieth in every man’s bosom, is that idol that killeth all, himself. Oh! Blessed are they who can deny themselves, and put Christ in the room of themselves. O sweet word; ‘I live no more, but Christ liveth in me!'”

Rutherford points out the deadly and wicked enemy of each soul. It is that devil in each of us that is termed “self.” The same self that leads unbelievers to drink iniquity like water is the same self that leads unbelievers to seek honor in religion. The Pharisees were rigid in their religious beliefs and activities and yet they were all about the self. The self that Rutherford speaks of that drove Eve, Abel, Solomon, David, Peter, Judas, and Demas is the same in all souls. Those souls driven by that self will seek honor and credit in the world and/or in religion depending on where it can find it first or perhaps even most. The self is simply another way of stating that a person that is proud. It is the heart that is proud and lifted up against God that is the heart of self. One could take the whole Rutherford quote and use the word “pride” in place of “self” and it would mean the same thing. Those who seek self do so because of pride in the heart and those who are proud seek self instead of God. What is it but pride in the heart of a piece of dust from the earth that would seek self rather than the living God?

It is quite fashionable in certain circles to be Christ-centered or God-centered. But because it has become fashionable it is also a way for some to seek honor from others. That horrid self can use words that seem to be God-centered for the purpose of seeking its own honor and credit. While it is an awful thing to have a heart that is so proud that it will seek self in the world, it is far worse to seek the things of self in the things of God. Yet, this is seemingly encouraged in the modern “Church” with so many activities regarding salvation, sanctification, the Bible and other things seemingly focused on the advantage of self. If we teach people the truths of Christianity in doctrine and in morality and never teach them the hideous nature of pride and self, we are doing nothing but leading them in the way that God hates more than anything. It has been noted by many people in many ways that Jesus was harsher with the Pharisees than anything else. It is easy to point the finger at the Pharisees and see just how focused on the self that they were. But it is far harder to see that in myself because of the blinding influences of pride. The churches are full of many gods and many idols because they are full of many selfs. The churches are full of people who want to have taught what their itching ears want to hear, but that is nothing but self. How awful it is when we try to get people in church with the ways of self and then try to keep them with even more of the things of self. It is nothing but pride in us and does nothing but increase the pride in them. Luther’s God-centered outlook must become ours. If ours is not truly God from the heart in all things it will be self in all things. Pride is so despicable that it will try to appear God-centered to others and self in order to obtain honor for self.

Pride, Part 59

August 11, 2009

When one examines a theologian or a system of theology, one will usually find one driving thought or perhaps just a few driving thoughts that form the core of the theologian or the system of theology being examined. While some think of Luther as being focused on justification by faith alone, there are reasons to think that Luther had something even deeper driving him. If the author of the quote below (Philip Watson) is correct, then what drove Luther to the Gospel that had justification by faith alone at its core was a driving theocentricity or perhaps an insatiable appetite for soli deo glory (to God alone be the glory). The core of true Christianity is at precisely this point and the core of false theology is its exact opposite. It is true that various theologies differ in many ways, but the heart of all false theology regardless of its external adherence to a creed is that of man-centeredness. What is needed today is not just better creeds or men returning to Reformed theology, but men returning to the heart of true Reformed theology which is to be centered upon God and His glory in all things and in all ways.

“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)

In the modern day Christianity is virtually unabashed in its man-centeredness. God is thought to be good only if He is centered upon man and is more concerned to make man comfortable than with His own glory. God is sought in order to make men healthy, wealthy, and wise. God is said to save men from hell because He cannot bear to see them suffer. Men set up meaning that they find in the sacraments and in the activities of the church from man-centeredness rather than that from a thorough and exhaustive pursuit of the glory of God. The God of the Bible forgives sins in order to be just and to justify sinners. This is a God that saves sinners in order to manifest the glory of His own name. This is a God that those who love Him pray and cry out this: “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Your name give glory Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth” (Psa 115:1). The kind of God that we are to proclaim is the God who “is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psa 115:3). The God who created all things created for His own glory and pleasure. “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Rev 4:11). The command of Scripture is for men to do all things for His glory (I Cor 10:31). We can deduce that since all things were made for His glory all things are to be used in a way that manifests His glory.

The determining factor in Scripture does seem to be of the God of all glory who does all things to manifest His glory. Luther discovered the God-centeredness of Scripture and from that the doctrines of the Reformation boomed forth from his pen and his mouth. We have not discovered the God of Luther or his understanding of the Gospel until we have discovered in our hearts the God-centeredness of God and therefore of all things. It is only when we begin to grasp the true nature of all things that we can begin to understand the nature of pride. The heart of man was created to love God and do all things out of love for God, yet man has loved himself and uses all things for himself. Humanity has become so man-centered that its conscience is seared as with a hot iron and thinks that humanism and man-centeredness is what Christianity is all about. Instead of that, its teaching is from the pit of hell. How utterly wicked it is for man in his pride to do what is called worship when it is based on what man wants. How utterly vile is the pride of man to think that God would save sinners for some other reason than the glory of His own name. How utterly despicable it is to measure the love of God by what He has done for human beings. Man has simply done what his father the devil has done. He has sought himself rather than God. He has turned it all upside down and now tries to be as God in seeking self from his own wisdom.

Pride, Part 58

August 9, 2009

Luther began seeking God out of the pride of self-love and when grace overcame him and gave him a love for God Luther lived out of that love. The Reformation was a song to the glory of God in all things. Luther was the one that found that song written in the Scriptures and set it to modern (for him) music. This is to say that the unregenerate sinner desires grace in the sense that s/he desires God to save him or her based on something other than total merit. The sinner might think that some merit must be obtained, but they know that they need something called grace to save them. Luther’s desire for grace brought him into the ways of seeking God and he then found the truth about grace. In his pride of nature he could not think beyond the way of obtaining merit or working for God, but God in His grace taught Luther the true nature of grace. The biblical doctrine of grace will not operate or function according to man, but it must be given according to who God is. Luther had to learn the true nature of grace.

“He himself began with an egocentric conception in his quest for a ‘gracious God.’ His problem was: ‘How can I attain such conformity with the Law of God that I may be sure of acceptance with Him and secure peace for my troubled mind and conscience? He found a gracious God, as we have seen, but not by the way he had sought, not by becoming worthy of God’s approval. Indeed, it was rather the gracious God who found him and took him to Himself, despite his unworthiness and sin. Luther did not win God’s favor by his merits, but God’s unmerited grace overmastered Luther and became the compelling force in his life. To his egocentric question, we might say, Luther received a theocentric answer, which became thenceforward his dominant and all-absorbing theme. We can certainly speak of a Copernican revolution here.” (Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther)

The proud and self-centered heart of human beings wants to be saved, but it wants to be saved from hell on its own merits and in its own way. It will bargain with God to some degree, but ultimately it wants things its own way. Luther sought the grace of God as he understood it, which was from an egocentric way of looking at it, but in that pursuit God taught him from Scripture and experience about the true nature of grace. True grace is all about God. Pride wants to think that grace is all about self. It thinks of God’s greatness and grace as being great because it is focused on man and delivers man from hell. The Bible speaks of grace in differing ways, but one thing about grace is that it is always focused on God. The living and true God who keeps the Greatest Commandment by loving Himself as triune with all of His being will only show grace based on Himself and His own glory. God must show grace based on His love for Himself as triune or it would be idolatry. When human beings want grace based on what they do or on who they are they are asking God to commit idolatry for them. That is pride in its sheer ugliness and hatred of God. Pride is always opposed to God receiving all of the honor and glory.

Luther became God-centered in all that he did because he learned the Gospel at the hands of God’s sovereignty and grace. The Bible knows of no other Gospel than one that is fully centered upon God and His glory. In their pride human beings want grace to be about them, but that is not out of love for the glory of His grace (Eph 1:5-6). If we love God with all of our being we should want to be saved according to a grace that displays His glory in the fullest manner with His love for Himself as triune as the supreme love in the universe. So when “God’s unmerited grace overmastered Luther” it “became the compelling force in his life.” This grace is not one that saves from a future hell and nothing else, but this is a grace that has to do with actually changing the supreme love of the soul. This is a grace that has to do with God living in the soul as His temple and His activity of love for Himself is worked in and shared in the soul. The redeemed soul is one that the triune God dwells in and in some way makes the human soul a part of the activity of the Trinity which is love. This can be nothing else but a grace that is moved by God and His love for Himself. The redeemed soul would want it no other way. The redeemed soul knows that the proud soul is opposed by God and yet the humble soul receives grace.

The soul that has been mastered by grace is a soul that has had its pride defeated by Lord Jesus and will now humbly lay down at His feet. This is a soul that is dominated by grace and is a soul that is absorbed with this theme. After all, Christ was the tabernacle of glory and that glory was full of grace and truth. A soul that is mastered by grace will be a soul that has been mastered by Jesus Christ who is grace incarnate. The soul that is mastered by Christ is a soul that cannot be tired of the grace and truth that the glory of God in Christ was full of. But pride will always be opposed to God’s glory because it is always opposed to true grace and true truth.

Pride, Part 57

August 7, 2009

In the beginning God created all things. If we begin to think about this and ask why an eternal God that exists in three Divine Persons in perfect love would create, we are left with only one answer. This God could only create out of love for Himself as triune and to manifest His own glory. The Scripture declares this as well: “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Rev 4:11). Colossians 1:16 echoes this thought in a different way: “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created through Him and for Him.” The Father, who lives in perfect unity and love with the Son, tells us by the inspiration of the Spirit that all things were created for Christ Himself. God is certainly God-centered in all that He does, and all things were created for God-centered purposes.

“He himself began with an egocentric conception in his quest for a ‘gracious God.’ His problem was: ‘How can I attain such conformity with the Law of God that I may be sure of acceptance with Him and secure peace for my troubled mind and conscience? He found a gracious God, as we have seen, but not by the way he had sought, not by becoming worthy of God’s approval. Indeed, it was rather the gracious God who found him and took him to Himself, despite his unworthiness and sin. Luther did not win God’s favor by his merits, but God’s unmerited grace overmastered Luther and became the compelling force in his life. To his egocentric question, we might say, Luther received a theocentric answer, which became thenceforward his dominant and all-absorbing theme. We can certainly speak of a Copernican revolution here.” (Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther)

The love of God for Himself as triune is so great that He cannot do anything that does not have the primary motive of manifesting His glory. Human beings are commanded to love God with all of their beings and yet we are commanded to be holy as He is holy. If love for God is the Greatest Commandment for human beings, then it is clear that for God to love human beings more than Himself would be idolatry for Him too. The Greatest Commandment is given to human beings so that they may be like God in doing that but also that they may go to Him as the only origin and source for love.

God cannot give the greatest good to human beings apart from giving them a love for Himself. The greatest thing in the universe is love for God as God which is to say that God shares His love for Himself with human beings. The triune God lives in perfect love within the Trinity. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love (Gal 5:22) and the love of God is poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). The Gospel is not about just delivering people from hell, but it is also about delivering people into eternal life and having eternal life in them. Eternal life is to know God and Jesus and to know them is to share in their love for one another. The believer has Christ and is beloved for the sake of Christ. The believer has access to the Father and the love of the Father for the Son is then given to and shared with the believer. The Gospel is about people having eternal life which is to know God (John 17:3; I John 4:7-8). The Gospel is about having the Spirit who enables people to love the Father by sharing the very love that flows within the Trinity. The Gospel takes God-hating sinners and turns them into those who love God and do all out of love for Him and His glory.

Pride is living in the love of self, though it is not the pure love that flows from the throne of God. Pride is to be focused on self and doing all for the sake of self which ends up being nothing but enmity with God. Unbelievers live at enmity with God and doing all that they do out of hatred for Him. This is not according to what they think, but it is what they do when they live out of love for self. To love self is to be in direct contradiction to the Greatest Commandment that commands us to love God with all of our being. That means that the one that loves self is living in hatred of the living God. Living out of love for self is to love self rather than God and is an act of great pride. This is what the Pharisees did. They loved self rather than God when they prayed so that others would honor them when they prayed. Their very act of “praying” was the height of pride and an act of enmity with God. Salvation from that is to deliver sinners from pride and self-love so that now they would be God-centered.

Pride, Part 56

August 5, 2009

One obvious question is how Luther found his way out of the egocentric thinking of the world and of the professing Church at the time. The quote from below shows how this happened and it also informs us of the basic nature of the driving questions people have today. Jonathan Edwards spoke of how evangelism starts with recognition of the selfishness of human beings. That cannot be bypassed, and it can even be useful in talking to people in their fallen condition. No person that is interested in the absence of pain and the presence of the greatest good will want to go to hell. That is the place we start because that is the only place an unregenerate person can start. But the answer to the egocentric question must become, as it did with Luther, theocentric as indeed the Gospel is. We cannot stay with the egocentric question but move the issue to God.

“He himself began with an egocentric conception in his quest for a ‘gracious God.’ His problem was: ‘How can I attain such conformity with the Law of God that I may be sure of acceptance with Him and secure peace for my troubled mind and conscience? He found a gracious God, as we have seen, but not by the way he had sought, not by becoming worthy of God’s approval. Indeed, it was rather the gracious God who found him and took him to Himself, despite his unworthiness and sin. Luther did not win God’s favor by his merits, but God’s unmerited grace overmastered Luther and became the compelling force in his life. To his egocentric question, we might say, Luther received a theocentric answer, which became thenceforward his dominant and all-absorbing theme. We can certainly speak of a Copernican revolution here.” (Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther)

This is the cry of the penitent Publican in Luke 18:13. “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'” The tax collector saw his sin and that drove him to God asking for grace. This was the issue with Luther. He was a brilliant man who was trained in the legal field. He became a monk and was severe on his body with the whip and sleeping on cold floors in an effort to attain righteousness. It is said that he confessed sin to his confessor for hours. His brilliant mind had been opened by God to see to some degree the extent of the Law and he saw that the number of his sins were more numerous than he could imagine. But in seeking God to save him in the way of his own efforts, honesty and biblical training forced him to see that this was not possible. He was driven to a Gospel of grace alone. What we see, then, though for Luther this agony of soul lasted for years, was that his egocentric drive to obtain salvation drove him to the point where God opened his eyes to true grace. From then on Luther grew in his God-centeredness.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Gospel of God and the Gospel of the glory of God. This Gospel is fully centered upon God and His glory. It is a Gospel of the cross of Christ where the glory of God shines forth through Jesus Christ. It is the Gospel of a resurrected Savior because now He lives in the souls of His people. The God-centered Savior that saves sinners will save them from their self-centeredness and be the life of God and God-centeredness in their souls. The Lord Jesus Christ who is the life of those He saves is thoroughly and perfectly God-centered. He is perfect in His love for the Father and His God-centeredness. He also has perfect love for His people and out of His love for the Father and for His people He will only do what is the very best for them. He will work a love for God in them which is to say that they will become God-centered.

We can see the awful nature of pride in the souls of human beings. Pride is so hideous that it will take a human soul and blind it to the truth of God and of self. It blinds souls to think that God must be gracious to them. It blinds souls to thinking that God loves them in a human-centered way and that His love will leave them in their self-centeredness and humanistic way of thinking. We would do well to focus on Isaiah 48:11 which says this: “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.” That leads us to the prayer of the saints: “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Your name give glory Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth” (Psa 115:1). The cry of Luther’s life and writings echoed the cry and prayer of the psalmist. It was that no glory would be theirs but instead would be God’s. While the Pharisees sought the honor of others in their self-made religion, true Christianity flees from glory for self in order that it may all be God’s. After all, all true glory is His anyway.

Pride, Part 55

August 3, 2009

It seems quite a stretch to make the claim, as the quote does below, that the history of Christianity is a story of continuous conflict between man-centeredness and God-centeredness. I have been making the claim that the heart of doctrine is that same issue. While people hold to the same external teaching and the same words, there is no real common ground between a man-centered and a God-centered view of doctrine. From a man-centered view of things there is not a lot of difference between Arminianism and Reformed thinking, but from a God-centered view the difference can be quite enormous. The difference between what a proud person says and what a humble person says can also be enormous. While many think that Luther was very proud in standing up to the ecclesiastical and governmental powers of his day, I think that it was done in utter humility. There is also a difference in what a man-centered view says of pride and humility and what a God-centered view says of pride and humility. A man-centered view thinks of humility as being unable to state things with certainty and that humility is primarily shown to men. A God-centered view thinks of humility as the emptiness of self and is primarily before God. A man-centered view of humility is really pride and a man-centered view of pride is really humility. Luther stood before God first and so he stood for the glory of God before men. His humility was seen as pride. The so-called humility of man-centeredness is nothing but pride because it will not stand for God first.

“The history of Christianity is a story of continuous conflict between the two contrasted tendencies. In the light of what has been said, it should be clear what is implied by the claim that Luther is a Copernicus in the realm of religion. Religion as he found it in medieval Catholicism was of an essentially egocentric character-despite the presence of certain undeniably theocentric traits in it. His significance in the history of religion is that in him the theocentric tendency fully and unequivocally asserted, or rather reasserted itself. For it had done so at least once before. In primitive Christianity, God was both Alpha and Omega, both the ground and the goal of the religious relationship. Of Him and through Him and unto Him were all things. But this insight early began to be obscured and subordinated to the egocentric tendency that crept in with moralistic and eudemonistic ideas. Such ideas Luther found playing a dominant role in medieval Catholicism.” (Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther)

When God brought Luther on the scene, He brought a man that He had prepared both intellectually and spiritually. It must be added that Luther also grew in this. Other than Paul and the apostles, he was the epitome of a man that feared God so much that he had no fear of man. This is, after all, true humility. God had trained this man to be God-centered in his thinking and his living. This was why he began to see through the man-centeredness at the heart of Roman Catholicism. God stripped this man of his pride and this man’s sight of the man-centeredness of Roman Catholicism became sharper and sharper. He could see that though Rome used the name of God in what it said it was not truly centered upon God and His glory. It had started off on the Roman road by holding on to something for man to do and it followed that road for centuries. It was at that point little more than human-centered in what it did with a covering of religious language. It was, to put it plainly, a religion built on pride and man-centeredness. It was a religion opposed to the glory of God offering salvation apart from a God-centered grace.

Since the time of the Reformation the battle has continued to be with men who in their pride want to allow the foot of man-centeredness in the door. Instead of a true and whole-hearted “to God alone be the glory,” they want to use those words while in reality allow some of the glory to be taken away from God. The words “grace alone” and “faith alone” are used a lot, but in reality they are used to mean something a lot different than the Reformers had. Even more importantly, they are used a lot differently than Scripture uses them. We live in a day where man-centeredness and pride rules both in the nation and in the “Church.” We live in a day where there is still a lot of religion going on but man-centeredness has rotted the core of it so that it is in reality nothing more than idolatry. The same pride and man-centeredness that took Roman Catholicism down its path is now taking much if not most of Protestantism down a path as well. It is interesting to note that both Rome (in its history) and modern Protestants began down the road with pride and man-centeredness and what Rome was at the time of the Reformation much of modern Protestantism is now though with different rituals. Both had man having part of the salvation process. Both had rituals for men to go through. Both were filled with immorality and claimed that grace would cover that. Both used biblical language. But both came from pride. We badly need a Copernican revolution of God-centeredness now. If we do not have that, the vestiges of truth in America will be gone along with the nation.

Pride, Part 54

August 1, 2009

It may seem like a stretch to some, but reality tells a different story. We are looking at the history of Christianity and of the world in a sense by looking at it through the lenses of God-centeredness and man-centeredness. This is simply to say that each even in Church History can be interpreted according to the pride of man or the glory of God. The pride of man may even use God and a form of God-centeredness, but it is not the same thorough God-centeredness that Luther and the Reformers had. The pride of man will speak highly of a God that is good to him (as he thinks) and think of the goodness and greatness of that God in man-centered terms. Thus the pride of man will deceive man into thinking that he is God-centered. But the real God-centeredness is of a God that is God-centered and all of His dealings with man flow from His love for Himself and His own glory.

“The history of Christianity is a story of continuous conflict between the two contrasted tendencies. In the light of what has been said, it should be clear what is implied by the claim that Luther is a Copernicus in the realm of religion. Religion as he found it in medieval Catholicism was of an essentially egocentric character-despite the presence of certain undeniably theocentric traits in it. His significance in the history of religion is that in him the theocentric tendency fully and unequivocally asserted, or rather reasserted itself. For it had done so at least once before. In primitive Christianity, God was both Alpha and Omega, both the ground and the goal of the religious relationship. Of Him and through Him and unto Him were all things. But this insight early began to be obscured and subordinated to the egocentric tendency that crept in with moralistic and eudemonistic ideas. Such ideas Luther found playing a dominant role in medieval Catholicism.” (Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther)

In the last BLOG I gave a quote that said Arminianism was really a return to Rome in principle. This would likely raise howls of protest in many circles, even of some so-called Reformed circles, if they read it. However, the question is not who howls about it but if it is true or not. The essential problem with Arminianism, at least with the older Reformed thinking, was that the core of it was man-centered rather than God-centered. If you simply looked at a chart with the doctrines of Arminian thinking and Reformed thinking lined up side by side, you may not notice a whole lot of difference. After all, on paper a lot of the same language is used. Both sides agree with justification by faith alone. Both sides agree with salvation by grace alone. However, if we begin to look at these things in terms of whether God is the very core and substance of the theology, the view of these things will begin to change.

Roman Catholicism did not appear fully developed. Instead it started with a “small” deviation. That deviation was that it began to see theology in terms of man-centeredness and the freedom of man’s will. The core deviation was over man-centeredness versus God-centeredness. Man-centeredness is the flow of pride expressed in the desire to see things from man’s view and to cast out the total need of God. The heart of Roman Catholicism is that God has made a provision and has turned these things over to men to apply them. That is also the very essence of Arminian thinking. It sees God as having provided salvation and all that is needed is for man to exercise His will in order to be saved. However, Ephesians 2 says this: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (vv. 8-9). Romans 11:6 gives an emphasis on this: “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”

The pride of man will always leave something for self to do. The pride of man cannot bear to give up all rights and power to another and will refuse to give up all hope concerning his eternal destiny to another. But this is what must happen if salvation is truly to be by grace alone. Despite the clarity with which Scripture speaks on this issue the pride of man wants to retain some little something for himself to do. The doctrine of grace in Scripture teaches us that God finds nothing in man to move Him to give salvation. This means that God must find something in Himself to move Him to give man salvation. But man wants to reserve some little act of the will that God will respond to and save man. This little something is not thought to be all that important by many, but in fact it is nothing but the pride of man in his man-centeredness and is an overthrow of salvation by grace alone. That so-called little something takes salvation out of the hands of God and puts it into the hands of men which makes salvation out to be less than all grace and therefore not all to the glory of God. Once the pride of man takes that apparently little step on the road of leaving man something to do, that road leads to Roman Catholicism. It may not seem like much at the start, but pride is the hateful thing in the heart that opposes true grace and God-centeredness in all things.

Pride, Part 53

July 30, 2009

In the last BLOG we looked at Martin Luther’s God-centeredness in all things. The real motivation for Luther was God Himself. Luther fought Catholicism in its externals, but the real battle was the essence of it which was man-centeredness. The real battle over Scripture was the author of Scripture. The real battle over the perspicuity of Scripture was God’s ability to reveal Himself to human beings. The real battle over the Gospel was whether God saved man by Himself. The battle over the will was over the Gospel and grace alone. Luther fought the battle on each front with the focus on God. The men that Luther debated may not have understood the real issue. Perhaps they debated with Luther over theological issues at an intellectual level without understanding that he was defending all things with the glory of God at heart. Perhaps this is the real reason they disagreed at the main points.

“The history of Christianity is a story of continuous conflict between the two contrasted tendencies. In the light of what has been said, it should be clear what is implied by the claim that Luther is a Copernicus in the realm of religion. Religion as he found it in medieval Catholicism was of an essentially egocentric character-despite the presence of certain undeniably theocentric traits in it. His significance in the history of religion is that in him the theocentric tendency fully and unequivocally asserted, or rather reasserted itself. For it had done so at least once before. In primitive Christianity, God was both Alpha and Omega, both the ground and the goal of the religious relationship. Of Him and through Him and unto Him were all things. But this insight early began to be obscured and subordinated to the egocentric tendency that crept in with moralistic and eudemonistic ideas. Such ideas Luther found playing a dominant role in medieval Catholicism.” (Let God Be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther)

If the core issue for Luther was God-centeredness in all things, then the modern age can hardly be said to follow Luther in his thinking unless that becomes its focus in all things as well. It is certainly possible, as many have done, to adhere to the theology of Luther (or Calvin) without holding to that theology with the same reasons that Luther did. Unless we have the God-centered view of things that Luther did we will not hold to the same teachings Luther did. Our self-centered approach guts the theology of the Reformation. The pride of human beings has taken the teachings of the Bible which were recovered during the time of the Reformation and have gutted them by making man the center of them. We can have the same outward husk of the teachings the Reformers did and be without the same core or substance which changes everything. The pride of the heart must be humbled and broken so that God is at the very center of all that it thinks and does. Pride in the heart will always rule the heart unless it is broken. This pride will rule the core of theology and it will spoil it altogether.

The battle over the will is not just a small issue because it is at the heart of the denial of the pride of man fighting against God Himself. Is salvation wholly of God or does it depend partially on something man does? This is why Luther fought against the freedom of the will. He saw it as being against the glory of free grace. After Luther Reformed theologians condemned Arminianism as being in principle a return to Rome and a betrayal of the Reformation. “Arminianism was, indeed, in Reformed eyes a renunciation of New Testament Christianity in favor of New Testament Judaism; for to rely on oneself for faith is no different in principle from relying on oneself for works, and the one is as un-Christian and anti-Christian as the other.”

This is strong, but we need to hear it. “With what right may we call ourselves children of the Reformation? Much modern Protestantism would be neither owned nor even recognized by the pioneer Reformers. The Bondage of the Will fairly sets out before us what they believed about the salvation of lost mankind. In the light of it, we are forced to ask whether Protestant Christendom has not tragically sold its birthright between Luther’s day and our own. Has not Protestantism to-day become more Erasmian than Lutheran? Do we not too often try to minimize and gloss over doctrinal differences for the sake of inter-party peace? Are we innocent of the doctrinal indifferentism which Luther charged Erasmus? Do we still believe that doctrine matters? Or do we now, with Erasmus, rate a deceptive appearance of unity as of more importance than truth?” (Bondage of the Will, Introduction, p. 59). Our pride will lie to us by giving us good reasons not to be God-centered in all things. We are told that we are to be like Christ in being nice. But being nice is not the same thing as love and it certainly is not always God-centered. Our pride shows that the battle between God-centeredness and man-centeredness still goes on. The state of the professing Church demonstrates that the battle still goes on. We must be broken and humbled if we want God.