Continuing our series on “reflecting Christ’s image,” the whole point of our being “born again” (John 3:3) is so that we might, through the sanctification process, once again regain the image of God. Our purpose as Christians is to glorify and reflect the Lord, not ourselves. We must learn not only how to follow His Spirit and be cleansed by His Spirit, but also how to walk by His Spirit, so we can show forth His likeness to the world, not our own.
Reflecting our own image to the world and not Christ’s is really the definition of pride. It’s putting ourselves and what we want, think and feel ahead of God and what His will is. Pride is a choice we make to rely upon our own mental, physical and soulish self, not the Lord. The essence of pride is self-centeredness and often develops when we exchange our intimate, experiential knowledge of God (gained through life experience) for intellectual knowledge of Him (head knowledge only).
The Bible tells us that humility is the opposite of pride. A humble Christian is one who is content to know the Lord from his heart, not his head. He readily recognizes, acknowledges and confesses his sin and self; thus he is able to be filled with the Spirit and reflect Christ in all He does. A humble person will not try to draw attention to himself, but to his Lord and others. The essence of humility is always other-centeredness.
Conversely, a prideful Christian will covet all the attention he can get and do whatever he can to make a name for himself. No matter how many masks he has to put on and no matter what he must say or do, he’s committed to maintaining his own notoriety and position. Thus, he must continually keep up a facade, hide his insecurities and master his failures because he has a very difficult time acknowledging his own faults. A prideful Christian is also disappointed when someone else is praised or thanked or somehow gets the glory because, again, he covets all the attention for himself.
I once read a very provocative statement about pride verses humility. I can’t remember exactly where it’s from, but it goes something like this: “If Christians are not growing into humility-constantly denying themselves and elevating Christ, then they will be swelling up in pride-parading their own image, gifts and anointing. There’s no in between!”
Along this same line of thinking, something that has always puzzled me is how many so-called “great men of God” on stage are totally different people off stage.
Chuck and I have had the “privilege” of knowing many such men and had the opportunity to see them in both situations. And I will tell you, it’s a shock, because so many of these preachers’ words on stage and their lives off stage don’t match. On stage, they spout Scriptures and speak about the importance of humility. But off stage they act like raving maniacs if they don’t get their way. Something is desperately wrong! And it’s always been a mystery to me as to how God can continue to use them.
But, Judson Cornwell, the author of the book Forbidden Glory, gave me the answer to this. He says that “God’s anointing is not to be taken as an approval of a lifestyle.” In fact, Cornwell goes on to say that in the Old Testament, God even used a donkey to bring about His will. This explained a lot to me personally, but the sad truth is that this kind of hypocrisy does cause many to stumble.
God’s glory is something that doesn’t belong to us. It’s God’s glory! And His purpose is that our lives reflect it. As Judson Cornwell puts it: “to bask in our own image or glory is forbidden.”
Again, it’s called pride.
God Hates Pride
The Bible tells us that “God hates pride.” (Proverbs 16:5, 18)
The reason He hates pride so much is because pride separates us from Him; it quenches His Spirit in us; and it prevents His Life in our hearts from flowing out into our lives. Pride not only builds walls between God and us, it also puts a barrier between others and us. It constantly brings contention, division and strife. Therefore Satan revels in the proud. He will do anything he can to get us to trade in our humility and intimate relationship with Christ for pride and intellectual knowledge of Him. He presses, pushes and drives to this end because he knows these kind of prideful believers present a false image of what real Christianity is all about. And that, of course, is his real intent and motive-to divide and conquer.
Here are some other interesting facts about pride:1
Pride is an acid that turns the finest fruit bitter.
Pride is a superficial weed that grows in all soils, without need of water or care. It consumes and destroys every living thing that it overshadows.
Pride is a swelling of the heart filled with ego and self-importance.
Pride raises us above others until we look down upon them.
Pride is a cancer that rots the soul. A man infected with pride needs nothing...not even God.
Pride is the total inability to see beyond ourselves.
Pride is spoken of leaven in Scripture because it corrupts by puffing up.
God exhorts us, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (Philippians 2:3)
Jesus, of course, is our perfect example. Listen to how Paul describes His humility in Philippians 2:5-11:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was make in the likeness of men: And, being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth: and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God, the Father.
If anyone had a legitimate reason to be prideful, it was Christ. He was God’s only beloved Son. Yet He, even He, humbled Himself and became obedient unto death. Humility, therefore, is the only pathway to genuinely reflecting Christ and being a living example of all that He is.
What’s the Problem?
So, what’s the problem? Why can’t we all just humbly reflect Christ? Well, unfortunately, being endowed with the image of God in our hearts (at our new birth) does not guarantee our ability to manifest that image out in our lives. In other words, being “born anew” by His Spirit does not assure us of being able to “walk by” His Spirit. Why? Because there’s a war going on in our souls. A huge war! A war between our flesh (our natural life in our soul) pulling us one way and the Spirit of God (God’s supernatural Life in our hearts) pulling us the other.
Paul warns us about this conflict in Romans Chapter 7 when he says: “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do. If then, I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.” Paul goes on to explain, rather strongly, sins’s power to derail us. “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (verses 15-18) “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” (v.21) “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (vv.23-24)
Paul is saying that after our commitment to Christ and His Spirit coming to indwell us, there are now two natures in us-our old, natural self and our new, spiritual one. Consequently, the rebirthing of our spirit by God makes absolutely no changes whatsoever in our flesh. It’s still incurable. It’s still fleshly and will never change on its own. Paul confirms this when he says, “in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” (Romans 7:18)
Paul knew the choices he had to make to continually free himself from this war and walk humbly so that Christ’s Life might show forth. Listen to how he expresses it: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, [so] that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
We, too, must understand this perpetual struggle-flesh against spirit, pride against humility-as well as know the exact steps to overcome it so that we, like Paul, can reflect Christ’s image and not our own.
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To be continued next month: A Carnal Christian vs. a Spiritual Christian. This article has been excerpted in part from Nan’s new book Reflections of His Image: God’s Purpose for your Life.