Augustine defined pride as the creature’s refusal to submit to God. Pride was present at the fall of Satan when he sought to escape God’s authority just as pride was present in the fall of Adam and Eve who sought to escape God’s authority by becoming self-gods (Gen 3:5). Pride is an attempted escape from God — and that’s futile. “For the dominion of the Almighty cannot be eluded; and he who will not piously submit himself to things as they are, proudly feigns, and mocks himself with a state of things that does not exist” (City of God, 11.13). God is, thereby making it impossible to live separate from His presence or authority. Thus Satan is forever caught in the vortex of self-mockery, living only for himself and yet forever unable to escape God’s authority and sovereign influence. Therefore, Augustine says, the life of pride is a life of self-destructive fakery, an entrapment to a false and self-created matrix of twisted un-reality. “To exist in himself, that is, to be his own satisfaction after abandoning God, is not quite to become a nonentity, but approximate to that” (ibid 14.13.1). Pride turns a man inward to find his purpose, it makes him feed on himself in the search for satisfaction, pride folds the soul over onto itself, shrivels it, causes the soul to fade and then to nearly disappear like Tolkien’s Nazgûl. The life of pride is a living lie and entrapment to self-mockery. Oh dear God help us! “Who can unravel that twisted and tangled knottiness? It is foul. I hate to reflect on it. I hate to look on it. But thee do I long for” (Confessions 3.8.16). Our only solution is to be found by fixing our eyes on the humble One and by washing in the divine blood that flows from God’s self-humbling (Trinity, 4.2.4).
The doctrine of God’s divine election of unworthy sinners is a humbling truth. Or to use Spurgeon’s words, “a sense of election causes a low opinion of self.” That is the bullet point under which the following quote from Spurgeon comes to us, as recorded in a sermon delivered on July 1, 1888:
Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be no gainer by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted, and it is ugly, be satisfied; for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth.
“We are all expert planners, are we not? Those people [the builders of Babel’s Tower] were planners. They drew the specifications of the city. They had it all worked out. We all do that in life, do we not? You have your plans. Your future life and career are mapped out. You know what you want to do. Where does God come in? Is the plan made under God, or is it made apart from him? The one lesson of [Genesis 11] is that if you plan your life without God at the center, it will come to nothing, nothing at all. It will be as futile and as fatuous as the Tower of Babel. God will come down and will destroy it, whether you like that or not. This is the whole history of the Bible. It is the history of the subsequent centuries after the end of the Bible. It is the history of the twentieth century. The human race is not allowed to build a civilization without God, and you are not allowed to build your life without God.”
—Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Gospel in Genesis: From Fig Leaves to Faith (Crossway, 2009), p. 141.
“The problem of evil is a genuine problem, an enemy with sharp pointy teeth. But it is not a logical problem. It is an emotional one, an argument from Hamlet’s heartache and from ours. It appeals to our pride and our nerve endings. We do not want to hear an answer that puts us so low. But the answer is this: we are very small.
The apostle Paul: Who are you, O man?
Nothing in the existence of evil implies that God must not be in control. Nothing implies that He does not exist (exactly the opposite—without Him, the category evil does not exist; all is neutral flux and entropy). The struggle comes when we look at ourselves in the mirror, a carnival mirror, a mirror that stretches our worth into the skies. Given my immense personal value, how could a good God ever allow me to feel pain?
Our emotions balk at omni-benevolence.”
—N.D. Wilson, Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World (Thomas Nelson 2009), pp. 109-110. My full review of this book is forthcoming.
I had the great opportunity to preach on grace tonight here in Omaha. The sermon notes can be downloaded here (The Grand Canyon of God’s Grace, Tony Reinke, 07/15/06 PM). One of the chief texts was Zephaniah 3:14-17:
“14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. 16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: ‘Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. 17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing’” (ESV).
On this incredible text, C.H. Spurgeon said:
“I can understand a minister rejoicing over a soul that he has brought to Christ; I can also understand believers rejoicing to see others saved from sin and hell; but what shall I say of the infinitely happy and eternally-blessed God finding, as it were, a new joy in souls redeemed? This is another of those great wonders that cluster around the work of divine grace! … The Lord takes pleasure in them that fear him, imperfect though they be. He sees them as they are to be, and so he rejoices over them, even when they cannot rejoice in themselves. When your face is blurred with tears, your eyes red with weeping, and your heart heavy with sorrow for sin, the great Father is rejoicing over you. The prodigal son wept in his Father’s bosom, but the Father rejoiced over his son. We are questioning, doubting, sorrowing, trembling; and all the while he who sees the end from the beginning knows what will come out of the present disquietude, and therefore rejoices. Let us rise in faith to share the joy of God.” (sermons from 1837, #1990)
Amen, let us prepare to rise and share the joy of God in Sunday morning worship! – Tony
“July 8 [1836 diary] – Since Tuesday have been laid up with illness. Set by once more for a season to feel my unprofitableness and cure my pride. When shall this self-choosing temper be healed? ‘Lord, I will preach, run, visit, wrestle,’ said I. ‘No, thou shalt lie in thy bed and suffer,’ said the Lord. Today missed some fine opportunities of speaking a word for Christ. The Lord saw I would have spoken as much for my own honor as His, and therefore shut my mouth. I see a man cannot be a faithful minister, until he preaches Christ for Christ’s sake – until he gives up striving to attract people to himself, and seeks only to attract them to Christ. Lord, give me this!”
– Robert Murray M’Cheyne in Andrew Bonar, Memoir & Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne (Banner of Truth: 1844/2004), p. 45