Forget the Facade and Enjoy the Benefits
by Joseph Franks
An arrogant individual thinks pretty highly of himself. In his own estimation, he is mostly a self-made man. Sure, he recognizes that he stands on the backs of others, and he does have some gratitude for the service and sacrifice of those who have gone before him. However, it does not take him long to congratulate himself for setting higher goals, making better choices, taking the narrow road, working the plan, and taking advantage of the opportunities set before him. Therefore, according to his own thinking, while he is thankful for the contributions of others, he really has no one better than thank than himself. He is the self-made one reaping that which he has sown. He is the self-made one ultimately responsible for the profitable progress seen in his temporal life.
Additionally, in his own estimation, the arrogant individual is mostly a self-righteous man. Sure, he recognizes the help of God. He even goes to church on a regular basis to speak of and sing about his trust in a bloody, substitutionary sacrifice. However, it does not take this worshiper long to congratulate himself for his progress in piety. He is faithful and not fickle. He is consistent and not a compromiser. He is not luke-warm like most but holy dedicated to God. He is one of the sold-out ones to be praised for the profitable progress seen in his religious life. Oh, most times he applauds himself within his own heart and head, but sometimes it leaks out in his worship as he proclaims:
Oh God, I am so thankful I am no longer like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. (Luke 18:11)
However, this arrogant individual thinks more highly of himself than he ought; he is a self-deceived man. In order for him to feel so good about himself, he must do four things:
- He must selectively compare himself to small segments of God’s Law. It is only then that he can find areas to highlight in which he has been somewhat successful. (I.e. The materialistic man congratulates himself for paying his tithes and taxes. The unforgiving woman prides herself on not having an affair. The obese one thanks God he is not a homosexual.)
- He must manufacture extra-biblical rules and standards and then consider them equal to the inspired Law of God. (I.e. Abstaining from alcohol, going to church three times each week, not playing the lottery, refusing tattoos.)
- He must compare himself, not to Jesus Christ the perfect standard, but to other men and women around him. He notes their particular transgressions, especially the ones he deems to be more serious, and then congratulates himself on being free of such odious transgressions.
- He must forget the clear teaching of the Bible regarding God’s grading scale. Surely God and James do not really mean:
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. (James 2:10)
Yet there is hope for such a proud parishoner. All this arrogant one must do is forget the facade, take off the mask, proclaim the emperor has no clothes, and enjoy the benefits that follow. He must heed the inspired words of the Apostle James:
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:6-10)
The humble sinner knows he is neither self-made nor self-righteous. He knows he continues to do that which is wretched in the sight of God. He knows he continues to practice that which is devilish and offensive to God.
The humble sinner submits himself to God’s Substitute, God’s righteousness, and God’s acceptance. He recognizes his total and persistent need of God’s mercy and grace.
The humble sinner then rejoices afresh in the fact that he and God are not in opposition to one another. He keeps not his distance in any way, but boldly draws near to God. And the glorious thing is he sees God drawing nearer and nearer to him — as has been presented to us in the love of the Father for his Prodigal Son.
The humble sinner still knows he is not able to keep the Law. He knows he is double-minded. Therefore, he regularly, boldly, and passionately confesses his sin. He persistently repents and cleanses his hands and heart. He mourns over the wretched influence of his old flesh.
The humble sinner is then quickly exalted. He experiences in his heart that which is true in God’s heart. He relishes in the fact that he can do nothing to affect his Father’s love. He knows it is all of grace, and this is exhilarating to him.
But friends, all of this experiential grace is missed by the arrogant worshiper who thinks of himself more highly than he ought. Therefore, let us take off the masks. Let us quit the facade. There is no need for us to hide our dirty laundry from ourselves or one another. Jesus is the gracious friend of unpretentious and humble sinners. Today, proclaim again who you really are. Proclaim afresh the unchangeable and inestimable benefits of Jesus. Then enjoy the exaltation; enjoy the undeserved benefits of of God who adores you with undeserved, unconditional, and unfathomable love.