Home Menu

Pride and Prejudice

About five years ago, God began to teach me what it means to be in Christ. I was a very dedicated Christian, but I was definitely missing something. Of course, the missing element was to let Christ live through me rather than to approach life on my own.

The immediate relief was wonderful! God was letting me recoup from 14 years in the Christian life going at it solo. When God first began to open my eyes to this truth, I was so excited that in ignorance I thought everyone else would be excited about it, too. I felt as though I had found the cure for cancer, but to my amazement, many Christians wanted nothing to do with the "cure." In fact, some even violently opposed this simple truth. I’ve been called heretical, misinformed, ignorant, etc.

My struggle is one of two extremes: 1) doubting what the Holy Spirit teaches me because of the opinions of highly intelligent and godly people; and 2) the temptation to have an elitist attitude and make the one-nature truth a litmus test for true spirituality. I’d already abandoned a system of legalism that demanded that the "truly spiritual" ones fit exactly into my doctrinal position, and I do not want to go back to one of making the exact explanation of how the Life of Christ flows through us as the "one sign of true spirituality." I do not at all want to have an elitist attitude, or think that I have the answer that everyone else just can’t seem to find. I simply want to know Christ and live in the victory that He brings. Can you help me sort this out?

This graduate student’s letter points out a problem which is common among the faculties and students of Bible colleges and seminaries: it’s difficult for most of them to accept the truth of our identity in Christ because they embrace the unbiblical tradition that Christians have two natures. Although a verse-by-verse study or Romans makes it clear that the two-nature view is simply not documented by the Bible, Satan is right there suggesting to their minds that we are teaching everything from sinless perfection to mindless passivity. So, it’s easy to see why the well-meaning brothers referenced in this man’s letter felt duty bound to "protect" him from being carried off into "error."

As to helping this brother with the temptation toward spiritual pride, consider this: have you ever ruined your appetite for the entrée in a restaurant by eating too much of the appetizer? I have. This diversion can happen in our spiritual life as well. When God feeds us revelation, the enemy immediately serves up a heaping appetizer of spiritual pride, hoping to blunt our desire to savor and digest the main course. When we fall for this ploy, the Lord sometimes has to remind us to guard against giving "opportunity" [to] the flesh" (Gal. 5:13).

This occurred in the apostle Paul’s life when he was given an awesome revelation. (I believe one of the things he was shown is the Christian’s identity in Christ, the truth the young man is speaking of in the letter). Paul was "caught up into the third heaven… where he heard words, which a man is not permitted to speak… And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh to keep me from exalting myself" (2 Cor. 12:2,4,7). It’s irrelevant that we’re not told what the thorn was, but it’s imperative that we identify what the Bible says the thorn was for: it was to keep Paul from tripping out on pride.

Now gang, Paul would hardly become proud just because he happened to know a guy 14 years earlier who was given a round-trip ticket to heaven (v.2)! He has to be speaking of his own experience. Paul was given a guided tour of heaven, then put on the next return flight to earth with orders to feed sheep. Hey, Neil Armstrong, compare that with your trip to the moon! That’s how this man recorded such mind-blowing revelations for us. He was an eyeball witness to God’s plan for His human project! Is it possible the he may even have seen the finished church in all her glory? That would certainly make a man abandon his do-you-own-self-esteem project on the spot—which is exactly what Paul says he did in Phil. 3:8-9.

God knew that this revelation was simply too much for Paul to handle, so He let the delivery boy Satan give Paul a thorny little "gift" to help him stay humble, and it worked wonders! Paul bent over backward to communicate that anything he understood about Christian living is purely by God’s grace, not by his own smarts.

Paul was the penman of practically all of God’s revelations concerning our identity in Christ, and he often recorded these in a rather disguised fashion. The passage above says he was "not permitted to speak" of certain revelations. Jesus used the same teaching technique, disguising truth in parables so that only those who were given revelation would comprehend. "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get everything in parables, in order that while seeing, they may not see and may not perceive; and while hearing, they may not hear and not understand…" (Mk. 4:11-12).

Do you enjoy a good mystery story? Jesus told mystery stories. Paul speaks of the gospel as a mystery calling himself "a steward of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1). The word "mystery" communicates that only the Holy Spirit—who knows God’s mind—can unravel His mysteries to us, and these come only as we humble ourselves before the Lord.

God says, "For you have died and your life is [now] hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). Hidden—did you know that every Christian’s life is hidden? Your true life, your actual life, can neither be discerned nor appropriated via human logic. "The thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received… the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, not… by human wisdom, but … by the Spirit… They are spiritually appraised" (1 Cor. 2:12-14).

Thus, no one can justify being proud for whatever truth he may know about Christian living. Where does such understanding come from, human intelligence? No Trial and error? No. Experience? No. Spiritual maturity? Wrong. Human mentors? Wrong again. It is revealed to us purely by the grace of God. All spiritual truth (revelation) is revealed to us by its Originator, God, according to His will alone. Like Francis Schaeffer says, Human logic says 2+2=4, but in the spiritual realm it may equal 5. No man will ever understand spiritual truth except by revelation.

God wired all of my circuitry, added a sprinkle of intelligence, saved me, endowed me with spiritual gifts, revealed a few things about Christian living to me through other Christians, the Word, books, experiences, or in the shower, and then whistled for me to come join Him as He feeds His sheep. What did I have to do with this process? Nothing; I guess you could say I responded to it, but that about sums it up. It’s all His doing.

So, when a revelation is given to me, and an "appetizer" is quickly served ("You know, Lord, You and I together make a pretty good team"), the bubble quickly bursts as I acknowledge that He got along just fine before He created me in my mom’s womb and then recreated me in Christ. To be real honest, He had one less problem to bother with before I showed up! When prideful thoughts come, based upon the knowledge above, I can say, "Rain on you, Deceiver! Take your lyin’ tongue elsewhere."

Now, as to the verbal majority and their power to intimidate, I know of a town that has a large population of legalistic Christians. While they are quick to acknowledge on Sunday morning that salvation is by grace alone, come Monday morning you have to chin on their version of the "Christian" chinning bar lest you be classified as a second-class citizen in the kingdom. You get the idea that some folks are not physically able to join their denomination. I mean, they’d have to hit the gym for months to build up stamina for the task. I became contemptuous of these dear folks. You see, I knew some things that they didn’t know. I was free. I was further along in maturity than they. (Come into my parlor, Mr. Pride…). The longer I embraced this posture, the more condescending I became toward them. Then the Holy Spirit revealed the meaning of Romans 14:1-4 to me:

"Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own Lord he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand" (emphases mine).

Of course you know that this passage is not about diet; it’s about faith, freedom in Christ, and pride. Human logic (2+2=4) evaluates the "veggie-eater" as strong in faith; God says (v.2b) that he is "weak in faith" (2+2=5 in v.2a He identifies the one who is free to "eat all things" as having stronger faith (2+2=5).

The veggie-eater, believing himself to be strong in the faith, measures the smorgasbord-man against himself and judges him (pride). The smorgasbord-man, measuring the veggie-eater against himself, looks down his nose with a patronizing attitude (pride).

Both men are proud, and both are exhorted: Where do you guys come off pridefully judging one another? That’s My job! Cool it. That has no place among brothers. Neither of you will fail in your pilgrimage. I will see that this never happens, not because of the magnitude of your faith, but because of the Object in Whom you place your faith… Jesus Christ.

Now why not just enjoy the trip together and leave the driving to Us?

About the Author

Bill founded Lifetime Guarantee Ministries to encourage people to experience the reality of Christ as life. His transparent, humorous, down-to-earth style and sense of humor made him one of the most effective teachers of his time. He communicated with great clarity the full extent of what God accomplished in Christ and what that means for the Christian identity. Although Bill passed away in June 2011, his messages are timeless and will continue to impact generations to come.