Are we, the weak, endeavouring to prove our strength? Are we, the poor, pretending to be rich? Are we, the kin of the lowly One, operating with a detestable loftiness of spirit? We boast so much, forgetful of the modesty with which we ought to conduct ourselves. And we can’t help ourselves. Pride is our native, natural, fundamental characteristic. It flows from an unstoppable fountain, forms a putrid pool within in which we vainly search for a flattering reflection of self, rather than occupying ourselves with mirroring the magnificence of God and ascribing all credit to him. We are to be wholly offerings to the Lord but we are off-centre in terms of our vocation before him. Our existence is askew. The ungodly are unaware that this malady of conceitedness is the clue to their lives and all that they enterprise. Our vanity consumes us, our time, our assets, our occupations, our aspirations. Life is the beauty parlour in which we adorn ourselves for the admiration of others. It makes us self-conscious instead of being God-conscious, and our real self, when it is permitted to emerge, makes us miserable. It can do no other when our makeup is removed. The loathsome ego always dogs us, feeding our illusions and fuelling our illness of heart. Even the godly are terrorized by this monster, this tormentor from the deep that we cannot ourselves fathom. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9). Redemption or wrath must meet us at this point in ourselves. We cannot defile God’s domain forever. Our inner evil must arrive at a terminus eventually through renewal of our entity or divine rejection forever. Our dependence on grace is total. Our plea for grace must be earnest.
In the meantime our pride, so subtle in its manifestations, so guileful in its disguises, enfolds us in a sense of security and smugness. The godly may congratulate themselves on their supposed stability and degree of sanctification. The election of grace soon becomes misinterpreted as preservation by merit. Salvation to purity becomes qualification for privilege and misled believers, bathing in the favour of the power of God, infested with presumption, so identify themselves with the purpose of God and their centrality to it, that they become pompous and consider themselves ever prosperous through the divine dealings on their behalf. Peter assumed a strength in himself that he never had. He crowed about it until he was corrected by the call of a rooster. His accurate confession of Christ was a gift (Matthew 16:13-20). He met head on with his frailty in his craven disowning of Christ before a serving girl and a stranger. His fallibility appeared again when Paul rebuked him for his disregard toward Gentile believers, having received such emphatic intimation from God that Gentiles were fully integrated into his people. Paul himself, a notoriously boastful individual, had to be humbled continually by a “thorn in his side” following an extraordinary revelation of God imparted to him in the third heaven. If we are witnesses of apostolic arrogance, given the grace accorded to them, we must be watchful over our own inclinations that can gain a grip and move apace before we know it. We live in continual need of forgiveness and renovation.
No writings anywhere surpass the Psalter in its insight into the human condition, the corruption and motions of the heart, the helplessness of our condition, and our only ground of hope in God. The psalms acquaint us with ourselves and point us to God introducing us to his kind awareness of our plight and disposition to deliver. They speak truth to every phase of our experience and every attitude of mind. They monitor the seasons of the heart wintry or wonderfully bright. They follow the fluctuations of our moods and chart our passage through varying circumstances. They astonish us with their pertinence and wisdom. Through godly poets they are God’s description of our internal state and our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual leanings. The author of Psalm thirty is shrewdly familiar with our habit of smugness and complacency: “When I felt secure, I said, ‘I will never be shaken’. O Lord, when you favoured me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face I was dismayed” (vv6-7). We only stand when God supports us. Our only strength is his. He makes our foundation firm. When we are pleased with ourselves and in self-congratulatory mood his disciplinary withdrawal can leave us shattered and humbled. He punctures the puffed up spirit. When we have recognized our folly we turn to him for mercy. We forsake our bragging for his blessing which is only bestowed upon the humble and not those who feign humility. Haughtiness within Christians and among Christians is a total contradiction of the character of Christ, especially the tendency to talk down from the heights of super-spirituality or superior knowledge (head only). Our confidence is in God exclusively and is cautious of self-importance. It avoids self-sufficiency. “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it why do you boast as though you did not?