Man naturally tends to be quite proud of himself, and this innate weakness often gets him into trouble. Scripture informs us: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
“The proud and arrogant man – ‘Mocker’ is his name; he behaves with excessive pride” (Proverbs 21:24).
It should therefore come as no surprise that “the Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: they will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5).
Bishop J.C. Ryle addressed the dangers associated with pride: “Let us watch against pride in every shape – pride of intellect, pride of wealth, pride in our own goodness. Nothing is so likely to keep a man out of Heaven, and prevent him from seeing Christ, as pride. So long as we think we are something, we shall never be saved.”
Preacher Charles Spurgeon wisely stated, “None are more unjust in their judgments of others than those who have a high opinion of themselves.”
I suspect you have found this to be true in your own life. Whenever you pass judgment on others and condemn them, you are engaged in the ugly sin of pride. All of us have been guilty of this wicked behavior. This ever-present temptation led the Apostle Paul to write:
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things” (Romans 2:1).
The apostle knew all about the problem of pride from his past experience with this gnarly proclivity. Prior to meeting Christ and being given his new name, Saul of Tarsus was saturated with an egotistical aura of self-importance and religious arrogance.
“If anyone thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless” (Philippians 3:4-6).
Saul was extremely proud of his religious rituals, religious pedigree, and religious zeal. And he wore his spiteful persecution of Christians as a badge of honor.
Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia:
“For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:13-14).
In spite of his zeal, Saul was spiritually dead, which meant his sins were not forgiven. That all changed once Saul “received the Gospel by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). This good news turned Saul’s life upside down from the moment of his conversion.
Decades later Paul would write,
“Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:7-9).
When God converted this vicious persecutor of Christians, Saul was transformed from a mean-spirited religious zealot into a loving and humble servant of the Lord. And suddenly this new creation in Christ began to boast in what Jesus did to save his soul and make him truly righteous in God’s sight.
Paul explained his astonishing new perspective in this profound declaration: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
What a dramatic difference! What a breathtaking change!
Rather than boasting any longer in himself and his religious credentials, Paul began to boast in the message of the cross. It became Paul’s lifeblood and purpose for living. Everything for Paul flowed from the cross. Without the cross, he would have still been trying to “destroy the church” by “dragging off men and women and putting them in prison” (Acts 8:3).
What could have possibly transformed this tenacious terrorist into such a devoted follower of Jesus Christ? Only one thing has that kind of power, and it is the message of the cross.
Paul wrote, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Zac Poonen is a former Indian Naval officer who has been serving the Lord in India for over 50 years as a Bible teacher and church planter. Poonen wrote, “Sin came through the pride of Lucifer and salvation came through the humility of Jesus.”
You see, Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8)
When a person becomes a Christian through faith in Jesus Christ, it produces the genuine humility that is necessary in order to boast in the cross of Christ and in the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made to pay for our sins.
I love the way theologian and Christian apologist Tim Keller explains it:
“The Christian Gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself or less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”
May God grant you and me genuine humility every day so that we never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Thank you Lord for enduring the agony of the cross in order to pay for my sins. Wash me, Jesus, with your precious blood."
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.