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Pride, Humility, & Grace

Note: The following is article #7 in a series reflecting on chapters in John Piper’s book Future Grace. More information on the book from Amazon.com is available here. A list of all the articles in this series so far is available here.

Chapter Six of Future Grace is the second applicational chapter, where Dr. Piper specifically talks about dealing with pride through grace.  One of Piper’s central tenets is that true, biblical faith is more than simple acknowledgment of facts; it is “coming to Jesus for the satisfaction of all that God is for us in Him.”  Conversely, whenever we turn to anything else for satisfaction, that is sin, that is unbelief, believing that God cannot provide for our satisfaction adequately and something else can.

Eternal life is not given to people who think that Jesus is the Son of God.  It is given to people who drink from Jesus as the Son of God. (John 4:14, 6:15)

Given this truth, we can see that pride is turning away from taking satisfaction in God to derive satisfaction in self.  As such, Piper states that pride lies at the root of every turning from God. Pride is the very essence of unbelief, and thus, “the battle against pride is the battle against unbelief; and the fight for humility is the fight of faith in future grace.”

Jeremiah 9:23 states, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches.”  We can let all these things become our satisfaction.  Pride boasts, while humility confesses that nothing but God can give us true joy.  Piper wisely observes that even self-pity is a turning away from God in pride: “Boasting is the response of pride to success.  Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering.”

Anxiety is also fueled by pride, because the Bible instructs us to cast our anxieties on God, and yet that requires humility:  “Faith admits the need for help.  Pride won’t.  Faith banks on God to give help.  Pride won’t.  Faith casts anxieties on God.  Pride won’t.”

Piper says that humility can only survive in the presence of God.  But indeed, where else could the delicate fruit of humility possibly be cultivated and nurtured?  Pride can creep in as a poisonous weed into every thought and act, even servanthood and sacrifice.  Only in God’s presence can He pluck up pride by the roots, break up the hard ground of our hearts, nurture humility, and continue to pull out the seemingly endless seedlings of pride that are always ready to sprout anew.

Piper ends the chapter with a passage from his personal journal:

How shall this insidious motive of pleasure in being made much of be broken except through bending all my faculties to delight in the pleasure of making much of God! …(This) is deeper than death to self.  You have to go down deeper into the grave of the flesh to find the truly freeing stream of miracle water that ravishes you with the taste of God’s glory.  Only in that speechless, all-satisfyng admiration (of God’s glory) is the end of self.

The question I am forced to ask myself is:  How deep have I went into the grave of my flesh?  Have I tasted only superficial religion and flashes of emotion, with my pride and self-will intact?  I know there have been times when I have been deeply humbled, and deeply in the presence of God.  But do I live there?  And do I not realize that the only access to this all-satisfying presence of God is through this continual death and mortification of pride?  Only by faith, only by God’s grace, can we walk this road.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:2)