Have you ever known someone so focused on his own ability that he abuses the grace of Jesus? He sees grace as a means to an end instead of the precious gift of righteousness that it is. You might call him a self-righteous Pharisee—someone who lives a holy life trying to impress the Lord. Jesus said that the Pharisees were like white-washed tombs, beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with all sorts of impurity. Outwardly they looked righteous, but inwardly they were filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:27-28).
“God opposes the proud,” James wrote, “but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6, NLT). Our lives in this world are performance-based. We want to be rewarded based on how we do. Pride keeps us competing to get ahead and be the best. God's Kingdom is the opposite. His grace is unearned and not based on us at all. The least is the greatest. We don’t have to perform well enough to win God’s love, acceptance, and favor. We received all that when we believed by faith in Jesus.
Am I a self-righteous Pharisee who believes that living holy will give me a better standing with God? I don't need to prove myself to God. He accepts me based on His merit and not mine. Our righteousness is a gift from Jesus. We have none of our own. The only sin that Jesus rebuked on earth was that of self-righteousness. He never rebuked sinners—only the Scribes and Pharisees. The problem was not that the Pharisees were not doing good things. They were doing good things but for the wrong reason. They were trusting in their own goodness.
Do I expect God to answer my prayers based on how good I have served Him? No one is good. All of us have fallen short of the glory of God. But if I ask God for something because of what I have done, I ask Him to reward my religious performance. And that is an insult to Him. Doing things to earn God’s grace is promoting myself and trying to relate to God based on what I have done instead of what Jesus has done for me. When I do this, I operate in pride. Pride will never raise anyone up. The only way up in God’s kingdom is down.
Living a separated life is not the same as living a grace-filled life. Holiness does not render grace. Only Jesus gives grace. Humility is our response to the grace of the Cross. It is not demeaning ourselves—humility is laying down self and recognizing the omnipotent power of God. Humbling yourself is not a one-time thing. You have to deal with “self” for the rest of your life. Everything good you have in your life comes through God. If self is on your throne, your goodness becomes your own.
“I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own,” Jeremiah prayed. “We are not able to plan our own course" (Jeremiah 10:23, NLT). Man is not able to direct his steps. But self-made men do things their way. Belief in what they can do instead of faith in God's ability leads to pride. God is not the author of pride. He is the one whose glory raises the humblest heart.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV). Pride is the result of doing what you think is right. Humility is trusting God and recognizing that He is the source of all good things in your life. Pride leads to death. Humility before God gives life.
God imparts everything He has available to us through grace. His unmerited favor rewards someone who has humility in his heart. Grace abounds when you humble yourself and admit you need God. Honestly, ask yourself if you are trying to win God's love and acceptance based on your performance in serving Him. You don't have to prove yourself to God. He already approved of you on the Cross. When you encounter God’s amazing grace, you are humbled by His goodness. You know you are unable to direct your own life. And you learn that God’s plan is better for you than anything you could have dreamed.
©2020 Lynn Lacher