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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bowing at the Altar of Self

Habakkuk 2:4 (ESV)
4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.

There are some people who genuinely do not care what others think of them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t full of pride. They often say things like, “I didn’t need the degree to prove I was smart,” or, “I don’t read what others are reading, they don’t interest me.” Each of these statements go unchallenged because they may be genuinely innocent but most of the time they are expressions of pride.

Some people have made themselves elite claiming to listen to a different tune and march to a different drum. They do not need a crowd or even one other person to praise them for their “stand above the crowd” attitude. They are content to worship themselves.

I once had a guy tell me that he couldn’t go to college because he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He made this statement with pride as if this was an accomplishment. I thought to myself, “You weren’t with me when I would write a paper until 2 AM and get up at 4 AM to drive a city bus.” (Take comfort bus riders! I don’t drive buses anymore. You are safe again.) His statement made no sense to me. He seemed successful in his business. Why did he have to make this statement? I believe he took the role of an elitist who stands above the crowd with his non-conformity. He said so with a measure of pride.

The key is knowing what you were created to do and doing it. Then, you do not need to take pride in your lack of non-conformity. It doesn’t matter if you paint houses or canvas paintings, heal people or put heels on shoes, teach at the university or teach new dockworkers to drive fork lifts. It only matter that you are doing what you are intended to do, having the ministry that God is calling you to.

This is the most non-conformist attitude that anyone can take. Too many dance to a different tune with full knowledge that they composed the music. That attitude is very self-contained. It creates the person worshiped by his greatest fan- himself! Listening to God and doing what He desires takes away all pride and all self-worship. It creates a person who loses himself in his work. His work is his worship because God has called him to it. He doesn’t worship the work but worships by working.

I recently told someone that I do not intend on retiring at a prescribed age. I see my calling as something I will do until I am no longer able to do it. I am already asking my church to put in means of recognizing my inability to do it.  I don’t want to be a burden to my church.

So, pride and faithfulness stand in opposition to each other. The one is puffed up and cannot see that he is worshiping himself. The other is merely being faithful to the path that God has created for him.

Yes, I have to watch carefully that even this attitude can become a reason of pride for me. I, too, have to watch that I am not bowing at the altar of self.


Anonymous said...

The straightforward and “easy thing to say” is to “Just do what God will you to do, submit, obey, and follow His prescription for you”; in other words, be in agreement with God. It is the right thing, but it is NOT easy to practise. Hab 2:4 ends with “but the righteous shall live by faith”. I often say, the simple definition of being righteous is being in agreement with God, and so, the righteous are the ones supposedly in agreement with God. The “in agreement” is about what God wants done, and the timing thereof, too; and it is NOT mental assent, it got to be lived out. Why the righteous shall live by faith; it is because we proceed and we are to, proceed (to live) from a “right belief”; NOT any belief, but a belief in the words, will and desires of God. It is the norm that it is NOT robotic, in that it is NOT all pre-programmed in every single step that we are to take, and it is NOT executed entirely from facts. And we do NOT have the full mind of Christ, like we are hollowed of our mind and replaced by Christ’s mind! If you have such a mind, let me know; the righteous are to live by faith. I like this that Ps Prentis said:

“Listening to God and doing what He desires takes away all pride and all self-worship. It creates a person who loses himself in his work. His work is his worship because God has called him to it. He doesn’t worship the work but worships by working.”

Really, worship is more than we singing songs and praising Him, we worship Him in doing willingly and lovingly the works He has us do. But sad, too often, works has been erroneously treated like leprosy (no thanks to overly grace preachers), to stay away from, with a 10 feet pole, so to speak. But “listening to God and doing what He desires” is NOT easy! But who says, when it is hard, we are NOT to do! If there is no hardness, from where would come faithfulness and perseverance; and where would come character building.

The one who is NOT operating from “the righteous shall live by faith”, Habakkuk said, his soul is lifted up, or he is being proud. And he who is proud, uprightness is NOT in him. My check of the Lexicon leads me to believe the right meaning to be assigned (there are several meanings) to the “uprightness” {H3474} is, that which is pleasing, agreeable; and obviously, pleasing and agreeability is from the perspective of God. So, he who is proud does NOT have that which is pleasing or agreeable to God, or he is NOT pleasing or agreeable to God. In other words, Hab 2:4 could read as “Behold, he who is being proud (or prideful) is NOT pleasing or agreeable to God; whereas, the righteous lives by faith or in agreement with God”.

There is of course, time and season (Eccl 3); and so, while we must remain faithful in our works for God, it is never we are indispensable (that is pride), and that God cannot retires us off, or rotate us to any other thing or nothing (for a season)! He is the Potter, we are the clay; He will re-make or re-shape as he wishes (Jer 18:4-5; Rom 9:21).

The Apostle James left us these words (James 4:13-17):

13 Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

Anonymous said...

I timely message for me. I've been talking to the Lord...or He has been talking to me...about keeping my focus on Him rather than diverting my focus to my own problems, plans and agendas. And[-"My heart said,'Your face will I seek.'"

This was an excellent reminder of the subtleness of self.

As far as the comments from those who are lacking a college education: I find that those who insist on making "I dont' need an education like you do" kind of comments are simply fighting their own feelings of inadequacy at not having the degree they are now ridiculing.

I was so surprised the first time that happened to me. I just couldn't understand how working hard to get a degree (I went back to school after my children were born. I got them off to school, then went to school myself, making sure I was home before they got off the bus from their school.) was being used against me.

I'm still surprised by it. Quite frankly, now that I'm retired and have no job title to give me away, I keep the deep, dark secret that I am an educated woman to myself.

Hearing your comments on that whole thing did me good. Thanks.