I’ve written before that pride is not only when we think we’re so great, it’s also when we think we are such unprofitable worms. I battle both in a schizophrenic way. One minute I am puffed up in my knowledge, next minute I am chastising myself for my wicked, wicked pride and arrogance. For me personally, pride manifests itself not only in thinking highly of myself, but also and especially in self-condemnation and recrimination, self-chastisement, self-absorption, fear and anxiety.
The other night at the TGCW12, Jenny Salt spoke from 2 Cor. 12 “In The Third Heaven: The God Who Can’t Be Talked About.” (If you scroll down you can see the notes on several posts from that session. My website was crashing at the same time–speaking of a hit to my pride). I was acutely convicted by the Holy Spirit as Salt spoke about boasting and the distinction of boasting in our good abilities and boasting in our weaknesses–which actually portray the power of God. See, the world tells us to boast about all the good things about ourselves: our abilities, gifts, education, status and so on. But how does the gospel lens shape our boasting? She didn’t say that the opposite to boasting/pride is to become self-flagellating worms. This, frankly, is what my heart wants to leap to as a way to assuage the guilt of thinking too highly of myself. But that is not a gospel-centered answer to my guilt and shame for the sin of pride! No, the opposite of worldly boasting is not self-chastisement, it is boasting in the gospel. Furthermore, repentance does not come in the form of self-recrimination and hand wringing, but in crying out, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Matthew 18:13) As Tim Keller says, the opposite of thinking highly of ourselves is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less. That is, we are to be so busy shouting out about the gospel in word and deed, that we begin to decrease and Christ begins to increase. This tempers us from thinking too much of ourselves or beating ourselves up (another manifestation of pride). We will just not think so much about us, period.
So the answer to how the gospel lens shapes our boasting is found in the way Paul “boasts” in 2 Cor. 12. He eschews boasting in his blessed experience in the third heaven and the “surpassingly great revelations” he received. As a matter of fact he goes so far as to even distance himself from this amazing experience he had with God by speaking of it in the third person, “I know a man in Christ….” Instead he glories in his weaknesses:
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
—2 Corinthians 12:9–10
The Cross is the ultimate power portrayed in weakness. As Salt said in her talk, “in our weakness, it is there we are driven to God alone. In our weaknesses we are stripped of our delusion of our strength.” And therein we have the key to our self-deception—we think we in ourselves have strength. But Paul pulls back the curtain and exposes the delusions of our hearts when he asks in 1Cor. 4:7, “…What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” Biblically, we are told that we have nothing in and of ourselves. All that we have is what we receive from our heavenly Father through Christ our Lord. Salt says, “The Lord is not limited by what I can bring to the table.” And she is absolutely correct. In the end, it doesn’t matter what we bring to the table, even our God-given gifts are in actuality nothing. It is only what God brings and bestows upon us that truly matters.
So have I overcome pride and arrogance now that I have glimpsed some of these blessed gospel truths? O goodness no! This is only one tiny step forward as God demolishes me and lifts himself up in me. It’s still me, and yet it is Christ in me.
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.