September 6, 2013

Pride goes before a fall

Lately I’ve been reading several books that come together with one message; the old nature, that self-life that is to be abandoned by Christians, still rules. We may not realize it. We can be as devoted as Peter who said he would never abandon Jesus, who followed His every bidding, even walked on water with Him. Yet Jesus had to say to him, “Get thee behind me Satan” because this seemingly loyal man had no concept of suffering’s part in the plan of God. He also wound up denying Jesus three times.

I think that I am loyal to God, but then my faith is tested. It usually isn’t about blatant sin, but has been. Sometimes the tests are over His blessings that I’d rather not lose if He asked me to suffer. Most of the time it is my pride. I think I please God or am special because He has blessed me.

The disciples had that problem. They argued over who was the greatest and Peter was right in the middle of it. The gentile believers in Rome must have had the same problem when they put themselves in a higher position that the Hebrew people who had been “children of God” for centuries. Paul had to remind them…

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. (Romans 11:17–21)

“So do not become proud, but fear.” I don’t think Paul was warning them they could lose their salvation. Other Scripture does not support that. What he seems to be saying is the same thing Jesus was telling Peter; that his firm faith and position in the kingdom depended completely upon Jesus’ firm hand.

Despite my strong resolve to surrender all and totally obey Jesus, that sinful nature rises up. Just like the disciples, I find out the hard way how self-confidence gets the best of me. I go into the test thinking I am bold and wanting so much to glorify God, even saying what Peter said, “Even if all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29). But I do.

Peter was a good man who resolved honestly, but he did not know he was a feather in the wind of temptation if God left him to his own fears. He had no idea that his faith, salvation, sanctification, and ability to stand was of Jesus. He thought he could do it himself. Jesus warned him, and then tested him.

Today’s devotional reading hits this theme too. It says, “Every merit without the prop of divine preservation is but a weight that tends to a fall. What becomes of the stream if the fountain supplies it not? The best people will show themselves but human if God leaves them. He who has set them up must also keep them.”

It goes on to say I am far safer to be a humble worm than a proud angel. Adam had a more favorable opportunity to maintain his place with God than I ever will. He was created upright, without corruption, and left to the freedom of his choices with only one command to obey. Yet he fell.

“Do not become proud, but fear.” Consider the strong saints of old. Noah, Lot, David, and Solomon were renowned in their generations and all fell. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples scattered like silly sheep when Jesus needed them most. Apart from the grace of God, where would they or Peter be?

“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12) “O do not be arrogant, but be afraid.”

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