Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The REAL Problem with Grace? Pride

One of the most tedious arguments that you get against the grace message goes something like this;

"Oh you are just giving people a license to sin - you are saying that holy living doesn't matter!".

Rubbish. Politely. Sin is happening in churches everywhere whether they have a "license" (whatever that would look like) or not. Public legalistic ministries are falling into moral sin - sometimes the same sin they have preached against and judged publicly. I've been puzzling what the real root problem with the grace message is and I found a quote that I think answers it. It's by R C Sproul (not Rob Rufus before you pre-judge me!);

"Perhaps the most difficult task for us to perform is to rely on God's grace and God's grace alone for our salvation. It is difficult for pride to rest on grace. Grace is for other people - for beggars. We don't want to live by a heavenly welfare system. We want to earn our own way and atone for our own sins. We like to think that we will go to heaven because we deserve to be there".

I know if I am honest I can testify that is exactly my problem. We live in a culture where you work for what you want. You earn what you "deserve" and if you don't work or earn then you get nothing. We resent people on social service support who don't bother getting jobs and just ride the system! We call them "free-loaders" and get especially mad if they have more lavish material possessions that we do! In a sense we are proud when we have worked for something and earned it - that is life's culture.

And that somehow transposes into our relationship with God. We are insulted in a sense to be told clearly by Scripture that there is NOTHING that we can do to earn or deserve our salvation by justification through faith and NOTHING that God wants from us to "repay" Him for the grace He has poured out on us! He wants absolutely NOTHING from us and is in fact insulted when we try and match our spiritual disciplines to "repay" somehow what He has done for us at the Cross. That's why the Bible calls them "dirty rags" or "dung" or "poo"!

Jerry Bridges commented on why more Christians do not experience the full blessings of God's grace and said;

"Perhaps the larger reason why we do not experience more of God's grace is our misconception that, having been saved by grace, we must now at least to some degree, "pay our own way" and earn God's blessings in our daily lives ... In fact this misconception that we must pay our own way is more than a mistaken theological notion. It actually springs from the perverse disposition of our hearts - the disposition of pride".

For goodness sake. We've got nothing to lose because we've got nothing anyway! So let's just give up on this ridiculous notion that we have to "earn" this and just sit back and let the blessing flow! God came to Abraham and said; "I want to bless you". Abraham said; "Okay". God said; "Right - that acceptance I see as righteousness! Right standing with Me!". Let's copy Abraham!


Nick Cameron said...

This is such a great point Dan - thank you for once again providing food for thought and consumption on the journey of learning about grace. The thing is that legalism actually breeds pride - that aim to get everything perfect and to be the perfect Christian, that legalism encourages results in a pride that we are ok thanks very much etc etc.

This has been a timely nudge for me to not let my pride get in the way of accepting and living in the fullness of this awesome grace!

Dan - you're a star!
Nick x

lydia joy said...

Yup and what does the bible say "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" Oy!

We think we can do it ourselves!! Every day, I think it's a conscious decision to say, I trust God, I rest in His strength not my own, and I believe He is good, He is for me, He loves me and wants to bless me!!! Not I, but the grace of God, within me.......

Part of the problem is we think life has to do with our effort - we were dead in our sins and trespasses. DEAD!! Which problem do you think is bigger, the sin or the dead part. We needed life also, not just our sin issue dealt with, a whole new life. When we don't see we have had an exchanged life and are totally new, we can be tempted to figure out how to live life, when what we really need to do, is figure out how to let Christ IN US, live out through us!!! We don't see that our humble spirit, is us cooperating with Him and resting in Him and letting Him live the life only He can, otherwise we are living by the flesh, self efforts and our own resources, or our 'pride'.

Good stuff as always Dan!!! I agree with Nick you are a star, a shining star!!!

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks girls! I think those quotes were a revelation to me. The lie of legalism is that we are actually being "humble" because we have to "work to prove our faith". Whereas the insidious lie is that actually it's PRIDE NOT to believe grace!

Rob has just said EXACTLY the same point in his sermon "Stress-Free Living" from last Sunday as I was driving home! Will type it up in next few days!

Peter Day said...

Excellent stuff as ever!

Chris Welch - 07000INTUNE said...

Did you ever see the rerun of the 60s sketch about upper, middle, and lowerclasses?
Well you could do one analysing the position of us in our flesh coming towards God and the Truth in the Spirit as we approach God.
The position of pride says we don't need Jesus for our salvation.The position of humility says we cannot even approach God except through Jesus.
Then next the position of pride says I'll worship jesus how I want thankyou....and I definitely won't be doing silly things like raising my hands. The position of humility says.,"Jesus You are amazing, fancy filling someone like me with Your Spirit. i worship You with my whole being and raise my hands to You."
The third step in a proud heart would say the same as you have just said. And the humble heart would say what Lydia has said.

Now here is the amazing thing...both hearts are looking at identical situations and coming up with diametrically opposing arguments. An Anglican looks at a Pentecostal and thinks "Poor thing.Sheer emotionalism. How shallow." A Pentecostal looks at an Anglican and thinks "Poor Anglican. Sheer dead intellectualism. How spiritually shallow!"
A secondleveller looks at a thirdleveller and thinks "Poor thing! Can't even fit in with our Holy Spirit network ministry. Obviously a bit off! Means well but very unstable.Obviously why he's a piano tuner after all these years."
Third leveller thinks..."Wow Jesus you not only want to make me good at meetings...You actually want me to learn this walk of grace and Your Life in the worst of every day situations like running your own business in a recession...and believing your way through it, while providing for a family!!! Poor secondlevellers, all relying on their stipends coming from network ministry, and from selling their books on how you live the abundant life and /or grace or whatever the latest "in" subject is.

Do you see how we all have different angles on the same things?