When I first began walking closely with the Lord, there was a sort of righteous fear that overwhelmed me. His presence, His glory, and His authority went beyond the scope of my finite understanding. Because of that, I held His Word preciously in my heart. I fearfully examined and readily applied any directive, despite several failings.
Being reminded of the emptiness I felt before walking with the Lord, I discovered a heart posture of humility that no book, sermon, nor song could teach.
As an unfortunate parallel to this holy fear, I often became overcome with condemnation when I stared into the contrast between the holiness of God and my personal sinful condition. Aware of His holiness, I constantly found myself taking my eyes off my Perfect Savior and settling onto the view of my own shortcomings.
Condemnation often led to guilt. Guilt then led to deep shame. This wasn’t from the Holy One.
Thankfully, His Word healed my own self-inflicted wounds.
The Lord taught me that shame was not from Him. He taught me the power of His Blood. He gave me freedom, secure love, and peace.
But now that I’ve been in the “Christian” circle for a couple of years, there’s something that the Lord is now teaching me to be very wary of.
And it can come upon anyone without advanced warning.
There are two sides to spiritual pride. On the one hand, you might find others who base their salvation in the things that they do and judge others’ salvation or righteousness based on their human-made list as well.
For instance, the list could be, “I fast once a month. I pay my tithes. I read the Word every day. I go to church every Sunday. I volunteer in the children’s church. And I don’t use social media. ”
The list itself isn’t the problem. In fact, this list contains some pretty powerful spiritual practices that could really help some grow in their faith.
The problem is when a person believes that “because I do (___), I am (saved, righteous, or pleasing in the Lord’s sight)”. This belief cheapens the blood of Jesus Christ. By trying to gain with human works that which could only be done through divine sacrifice, cheapens the blood of Jesus Christ.
The essence of salvation in Christianity, which makes it different from all other religions, is that Jesus literally did it all. We don’t have to “do” in order to “be.” We are already righteous in the eyes of God. Rather, it’s because of our gratitude for this overwhelming grace of God and our love for God that we voluntarily fast, give, spend time with God, and serve others.
Do you see the difference?
Okay. But that’s just one side of spiritual pride.
There’s another. This “other” is growing more prevalent within Christian culture and even in my own heart. It’s something that the Lord is warning me about. Perhaps, you too.
The second side of spiritual pride is the hidden belief that one is Christ or above Christ.
If you just wrenched your nose and inwardly shook your head and said to yourself, “Blasphemy. That’s not me at all, Jessica!” hold tight and keep reading, because it may very well be you.
Yes, there’s legalism. But the opposite extreme of a legalistic culture is an elitist mentality that one is above the commands of God. This too is spiritual pride. And both are equally as dangerous.
Luke 6: 40
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”
The temptation (notice that this can be a temptation and not an automatic trap we fall into) that can arise from drawing closer to the Lord, from receiving divine revelations, from becoming acquainted with one’s own spiritual gifts, and from recognizing one’s spiritual authority...is that one can hold the subtle belief that he/she is Christ or above Christ... rather than like Christ.
What do I mean by this?
The attempt to be Christ or to be above Him is to… pick and choose what is right and wrong, to casually consider what to apply and what to ignore, and to compartmentalize what is significant versus insignificant. It is to know the Word, teach the Word, but not follow ALL of the Word—especially parts personally deemed insignificant.
This sort of spiritual pride can take on various forms. But I’ll name some hypothetical thought patterns most culturally relevant:
I know that it’s important to renew my mind and that I’m commanded in the Bible to do so, but I’ve gotten older. I used to read the Scriptures and even memorize them, but now that I’m older, I already know what’s in the Bible. There’s no use studying it with the same level of fervency as before. Been there... done that. Besides, at least I'm not in the streets like I used to be and like some of these lost young people.
Or...To be holy is to be set apart. I know this and can break down scriptures that speak on the differences in being sanctified, reconciled, and redeemed. But I can curse a little. It’s not that big of a deal. They’re just words at the end of the day. I just won’t say it around my children. And if I’m excited or frustrated, I can throw around God’s name irreverently. God knows my heart.
Or...I know all about spiritual soul ties and the importance of waiting to have sex until marriage. I could teach an entire lecture on 1 Corinthians 6. But when it comes to me, God understands. I personally can’t do it. Yeah yeah yeah, I know 2 Peter 1:3 states that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness, but I’m human. But hey, I’ll fast from sex for a couple of months. But that’s all I can commit to.
Or... God says the eye is the lamp of the body, but I’m not affected by what I see on TV, Netflix, or Youtube anymore. So I can watch whatever I want and listen to whatever I want. But I’ll make sure to tell the little ones to close their eyes when that sex scene comes on. My soul will remain unaffected.
Or my favorite..I know that God sees lying as an abomination, but I need to take a day trip. So I'll call in sick. They don’t give me enough days off anyway. At least I show up to work faithfully.
Be wary of this, beloved.
As we Christians become more aware of the dangers of self-righteousness and legalism, let us also be just as vigilant to beware of an elitist mentality that attempts to put us above the commands of God. All of the Word of God is true and ought to be applied.
Hear me. There is a difference between the person who curses like a sailor, struggles with porn, has illicit sex but repeatedly reaches for our loving Father, confesses wrongdoing, and makes sincere efforts to walk back on the straight and narrow... and the person who knows a way is not pleasing to God and pridefully justifies a continued trek.
How can someone arrive to the latter? How can one become hardened to sin? I honestly think it boils down to 2 things:
Not having a healthy fear of the Lord
Forgetting one’s spiritual depravity before Christ. And forgetting one’s continued need for Christ.
Do you have a healthy fear of God? I know He’s your homie, but is He your Lord, Master, and King too? If a believer, do you vividly recall the darkness that God brought you out of? Do you wake up each day with the sense of indebtedness in acknowledging who Christ is to you, what He has done for you, and that you are nothing without Him? Remembering lends itself to humility. Forgetting, is a black hole to spiritual pride.
If this is you, don’t be discouraged. It was also me like yesterday (hence, the birth of this blog post). There’s hope for us.
Turn away from pride and to God— in the most transparent of ways without shame, knowing that Your God is gentle. He is not going to throw fire on You. He rejoices more than anything in You coming to Him humbly as a child in need of forgiveness (Luke 15:1-7). For me, sometimes this one act can sometimes take a while (um...days sometimes) because pride has to literally GO in order to do this. In doing this, the Lord will really show you how He views that particular act of sin that you thought wasn’t a big deal. He will never condemn.
However, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in a state of mourning. Sin is serious. And when the Holy Spirit shows you the actual severity of your actions that you thought was no big deal—you should mourn. When you read the Psalms, you witness King David literally mourning over his sin (Psalm 51). He is not wallowing in condemnation. He is mourning, which is a healthy practice after realizing what breaks God’s heart.
Secondly, pray fervently for a righteous fear of God.
Remember it is dangerous to be in a place where you think you can live outside the commands of God’s Word. It’s so easy to do when approaching the Word while in a state of spiritual pride. Remember, the goal is to be like Christ. Even as God and man, Jesus humbly submitted himself to the will and word of the Father, and that is our call as well. You never want to assume that you possess the authority of Christ to pick and choose what is right and what is wrong, what to apply and what to ignore, and what is significant and what is insignificant.
PonderedThought: Do your actions sometimes reflect the belief that you have the same authority as Christ? Do you subtly gloss over some scriptures and pick and choose which scriptures to ascribe to? Praise God for revealing that to you. Now, Confess. Repent. And Remember. Remember that we are all wretched sinners in need of a Saviour on a daily basis.