By Lauren N.
It’s sneaky. It’s hidden. It takes on many forms and masks itself. It can be so subtle that we are be blind to it. But we find it in all of us.
Pride. Overt pride is easy to spot, in ourselves or in others. But the other side of pride, more subtle yet just as dangerous, is thinking less of yourself. It feels humble. But really, it’s just as prideful because it still has a focus on self. Tim Keller explains this well in The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. He writes, “Gospel humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, ‘I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?’ True gospel humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness… the essence of gospel humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself; it is thinking of myself less.”
The pride that I have seen in my own heart has grieved me. How often I think about myself, my preferences, hurts, desires, etc. I write this not as someone who has conquered pride, but as someone who is greatly in need of grace. Pride is something God has continued to open my eyes to as I have been studying the book of Philippians, especially as it relates to our fellowship with God and with each other.
Why do we struggle at times to be honest before God? Maybe we believe the lie that we have to be worthy enough to come to God, instead of resting in and trusting Christ’s accomplished work on the cross. Or maybe we feel shame or fear over the thought of truly being honest before God, even though He already knows our sin, and desires to cleanse us. 1 John 1:9 reassures us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God desires restoration in our relationship with Him, not condemnation.
In our relationship with others, we might be fearful of others seeing our weaknesses and respond defensively. Or we might allow our own preferences to get in the way and be critical toward someone. More often than we’d like to admit, or may even realize, our lack of humility keeps us from truly being transparent with each other. But instead, Philippians 2 exhorts us to be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Here we see Paul’s desire for the church at Philippi to imitate Christ in humility and how it leads to true unity and love for one another. And God desires the same for us. However, pride can hinder us from experiencing fellowship with each other.
The truth is, if we want to be humble, we must not rely on our own efforts, but instead follow in Christ’s display of humility. In fact, without God’s help and the work of the Holy Spirit we will not even desire humility. Philippians 2:6-8 says, “…though He (Christ) was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
The gospel will free us from pride. As we look to Christ’s example, we can see past ourselves and become more like Him. We should continually pray that God would open our eyes and rid us of pride, all the while praying that God would daily open our eyes to the glory of the gospel, to see both God’s holiness and the undeserved mercy He has shown us through Christ. Prayer itself requires humbling ourselves before God, knowing He is the only one who can work in our prideful hearts.
We find true freedom and joy by shifting our eyes from ourselves and toward Christ. Paul goes on to say in Philippians 2:17, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” Ultimately, our greatest desire should be for God to be seen and magnified. If this is our primary motivation for everything we do, we will find our deepest joy not in thinking of ourselves, but in humbly pouring out our lives for the sake of others and ultimately, for Christ.