Tag Archives: Humility

desolation

The Desolation of Smug

Trials have a way of killing smugness. I suppose some little wave crashes upon a boulder and he doesn’t feel it much. But there are waves that beat upon a stone without relent, and sometimes he thinks “I’m surely going to crash into this sea like so many tiny pebbles do.”

It’s the long relentless trials, often repeated, in which desperate men cry out for deliverance with parched throats and eyes that dim of scanning the horizon (Psalm 69:3)- these are the trials which put a knife to smugness.

To be smug is to “be contentedly confident of one’s ability, superiority, or correctness; complacent.” You can see it in the life of people who store up their treasures and say to themselves “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry (Luke 12:20).” We see it in those who simply live without acknowledging God or His ways, fill up their measure of sin, and tell themselves “He will do nothing; no disaster will come upon us (Jeremiah 5:12).”

It’s easy to identify smugness in unbelievers isn’t it? And we might have some patience for that, since after all, they don’t know God. But there are some sins, or struggles the smug believer thinks he or she would never be tried with. The things “good” and “real” Christians just don’t do, or even think of doing. Good Christians don’t get divorced. They don’t curse, or hit things, or hit others. They don’t hurt themselves or have “mental breakdowns.” Good Christians aren’t tempted to use alcohol or drugs to dampen the pain and difficulties of life. They don’t get bitter. They don’t experience large scale moral failures. The “true” Christian doesn’t question God’s purposes and never thinks- “perhaps a different path would have led to a happier, easier life.” That “real” Christian never has doubts about His God or His faith.

The smug believer thinks he doesn’t do those thing because he simply couldn’t do those things. He is too good a Christian in fact. It would be impossible for him because he has climbed too high for such a heinous, ignorant, and disgraceful stoop. He knows too much truth and has too pure of motives. His reasons for coming to Jesus were right; he follows Christ for Christ alone, and nothing else that might be gained. Take the world but give him Jesus, and he will be just fine. He is sure.

The problem is not that he despises the thought of ever sinning or struggling in such ways, but rather that his trust is in himself, and his attitude towards failing believers is one of quick readiness to judge and deem them cut off. But trials are not so easy and glamorous a tool of refining believers as sometimes they are made to sound. People talk about their victories but we often don’t hear how trials will prove you ugly before they start to make you pure. Consider this excerpt from a poem I have written reflecting on this topic:

“Did you think
To put you in a furnace
Would not scorch your skin?
To come out gold
With easy glee
And not the surfacing of sin?
Or that boiling water hot
Would like a warm bath
Scathe you not?
Like sinking in so comfortably
To fire should come easily?”

When a Christian goes into the boiling pot and stays in it for a long time, God will undoubtedly grow and refine that Christian. I look back on this long trial with chronic pain and I see a hundred idols slain. But it is not as if they crumbled down themselves. They’ve been slain through tears, constant battle, and much travail in prayer. The longer I go through the trials, the more I see that there is no temptation uncommon to men (1Corinthians 10:13), and there is no temptation or sinful thought too sinful for myself. I see those idols slain, but I know their root lies in my own heart and when my eyes go off my God how quickly they resurrect. I see that this battle isn’t won until I finally find myself safe in the arms of God. I will overcome and conquer one doubt or one sinful wish, but it will rear its head again. I’m not sure there’s such a thing as killing a sin (including smugness!) once and for all. When you’re living in a trial it is constant war and you must kill the flesh daily or quickly lurch towards destruction.

If it were not for God you’d find my faith somewhere dashed upon a rock. I’m certain of it. Trials have had their way of desolating smugness in me, but there is (thank God!) a higher rock than I (Psalm 61:2). Smugness and security are not the same thing. Eternal security- the promise of God that He who began a work of salvation in me will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6)- is my hope and joy. It is my confidence in the day of trouble.

My confidence is a person. My trust is in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I’ll echo these words from hymnist John Berridge:

“Thou poor, afflicted, tempted soul,
With fears, and doubts, and tempests tossed…
What if the billows rise and roll,
And dash the ship-
It is not lost;
The winds and waves and fiends may roar,
But Christ will bring thee safe on shore.”

About the smug heart, I have written previously:

Did you think endurance
Meant to never fall?
So with steady steps
To conquer all?
So worthily you might
Win the crown?
And say at last
“Was me who won
By never falling down”?
The valiant and strong
Shall win the prize!
All Heaven will esteem me
With their eyes!

Do you see how that attitude differs from the Christian who has seen they are a ship who left to their own will drift off in the turbulent seas and be dashed? Oh, but even if he drift for a time, even if the winds, and waves, and fiends assail him, and he approaches his shore as one almost sunk- be it certain, Christ will bring him safe on shore. He is not lost.

That is the hope I’m clinging to, and am learning to embrace with godly fear- fear that takes seriously the warnings in scripture that urge us not to fall away, while clinging to the only Savior who can sustain our hope, our faith, and our strength. Eternal security is not a doctrine that leads to sin, unless we have careless hearts which cast ourselves on a doctrine rather than a person (Christ), with an attitude of smugness. That is dangerous, and a real threat. But when shattered hearts lean into the Everlasting Arms, resting safe and secure from all alarms, that indeed, is a beautiful thing. God who sees the heart knows the difference.

I end with a portion of scripture that seems fitting:

1Corinthians 10:12-14 “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”

sheep

The Unveiling is Not Cruel

Did you think
To put you in a furnace
Would not scorch your skin?

To come out gold
With easy glee
And not the surfacing of sin?

Or that boiling water hot
Would like a warm bath
Scathe you not?
Like sinking in so comfortably
To fire should come easily?

Oh, perhaps some seasoned saint
Could stand unflinching at a cross-
I doubt it.

There was man- Him without dross
Who fell face down before His cross,
An angel sent to strengthen there
The Son of Man weighed down with care.

Surprised?
By this: The Man of Sorrows
Pausing, praying at the cup?
What an awful load to bear
And what a sip to sup.

But you,
You know your lot is small
Compared to Jesus
Or to Paul,
‘Tis not a stake,
Or stones, or whips
Or hungry nights and sinking ships.

“Some men by worthy trials be
Cast low,
But who should pity me?”

So in your little furnace flame
A crying up-reaching
Burns with shame,
You see you are a smoldering wick,
Should wrath be kindled
Hasting quick? Continue reading

Hdr_The_Death_of_Christ_Our_Example

The Death of Christ: Our Example

2 Peter 2:20-21 “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

How often have you considered that the manner in which Jesus Christ suffered and died has been recorded that you might follow His example? The cross is the apex of everything. It is humility pressed to the farthest extreme. Selflessness poured out in blood. Forgiveness in the face of false accusations, ridicule, and torture. Trust in God even when His presence is not felt, even when it feels He has turned His back. Resistance against all temptations to escape the Father’s will when it is tremendously costly. It is love, with every stumble beneath the weight of a cross, with every pounding of the nails, with all that He fulfilled like a lamb lead to the slaughter who did not open up His mouth(Isaiah 53:7). It is the pinnacle of obedience and faith; You will not find a better example. “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6).” Where do we turn when we feel like the cost is too high? When we want to give up? We look “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).” We “consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that (we) may not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12:3).” Continue reading

Part 6: His Call For You

1Corinthians 2:14 “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

We discussed above that it is salvation that Jesus talked about as being impossible for men, but possible with God.  You may have tried in your own strength and wisdom to comprehend the Bible and even to live like a Christian and found yourself greatly discouraged and frustrated.  Such was the case with me.  You cannot rightly understand the gospel, nor respond to it, in and of your own desire or striving.  It must be spiritually understood, and this can only be granted as a gift from God.  Our lack of capability serves a glorious purpose: “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1Cor 1:29),”and “that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1Cor 2:5).” Continue reading

Lovers of Self: Become Lovers of God!

True Christianity is under attack.  It is under attack in so-called churches and by so-called ministers of light; it is under attack by New York Times bestsellers, by the mainstream media, and the by popular philosophies that drive today’s thinking.  The world hates the true Jesus Christ.  There is for many of them a God in Heaven they love, who has made the exaltation of man His highest goal, but when faced with the true God of the Bible and His heart piercing Son Jesus Christ they will certainly cower.

Christianity doesn’t need rescuing.  Through all ages God has faithfully preserved His word and a remnant of those who worship Him in spirit and in truth.  I have no fear of God’s plans being thwarted by man’s cunning.  I do however fear when I think of the millions of lost souls who are puffed up under these false teachers, and encouraged by worldly philosophies to renounce what the Bible clearly teaches. Continue reading

Consider His Death

(I am, Lord willing, writing a book titled (as of now) “The Complex Nature Of God’s Heart For Lost People.”  I don’t think that this chapter (or intro) “Consider His Death” is finished yet.  It is highly likely that a lot of editting is yet to be done.  This is what I have written, prior to editting.  Please let me know if anything is confusing or needs clarifying. Also if you could tell me if there is anything you particularly like about it.  Any comments or questions are appreciated!)

There is a fair amount of “gospel preaching,” that goes on today.  The vast majority of it is being done in our churches, which is all together necessary because the gospel is not only for the unsaved, but for the saved as well.  Yet, I long that much more gospel preaching would go forth from out of the church and on to the streets.  Some people see the cross as only a stepping stone to move on to better and more glorious things.  I pray that this is not how you learned Christ.  I remember a time before I was saved when I Continue reading