Letting Go Of Pride

Biblical counseling, when done correctly, always aims at the heart. Jeremiah tells us that “the heart is wicked and deceitful above all things…who can understand it?” (17:9). This may sound depressing, but it is the root cause of our problems, God says, and getting down to our real problem (versus biochemistry or our dysfunctional families) at least “gets us in the right game.”

From many years of biblical counseling experience, I have noticed that in the end there are really only two heart issues that we struggle with: pride and idolatry. These are, in essence, the “heart” of our sinful nature (pardon the pun!).

In counseling from biblical truth, therefore, a huge issue is pride. Pride is a focus on self, whether you have the arrogance of Nebuchadnezzar or are the clinically depressed person who does not stop thinking about how worthless he or she is. Both these folks are equally prideful because their focus is on themselves and not on the One True Living God. This is the evil one’s singular strategy: to keep us focused on the horizontal (ourselves and our circumstances) instead of the vertical (the person, power and glory of God). This is because in the horizontal exist all the problems, all the sin, all the powerlessness, all the destruction, all the decay and death. In the vertical, however, is where we find all the answers, all the holiness, all the power, all the life. Why wouldn’t the enemy want to keep us from that? If he can keep our focus on ourselves and our circumstances, then he succeeds in keeping us from abundant, victorious life that God designed and desires so intently for us to possess. Sad to say, this simple strategy seems to work over and over again on us as we are, after all, “like sheep!”

In a men’s Bible study that I attend, we were looking at Romans 10 and the issue of self-righteousness vs. Christ being the full completion of the Law. In that examination John Calvin was quoted as saying that “the thief on the cross next to Jesus was the world’s ultimate theologian” (Luke 23:40-43).

This is powerfully and amazingly true. He understood his complete powerlessness in that moment. He was nailed to the cross, just as Jesus was. He understood that he was a lost sinner, unlike his companion on the other side of Christ. He knew that there was no work he could perform to get to heaven.

He could not walk anywhere to do a good work. He could not even put his hands together in prayer. All he could do is die. He could DO nothing but believe in the Messiah who hung next to him as his only hope for salvation and righteousness. He understood that it is only by grace, through faith.... that Jesus Christ is the complete fulfillment of the Law that we cannot keep, and that He was taking the penalty that we deserve.

I had a client recently who said “I keep trying to crucify myself but I can’t do it. I can nail my feet, and then one hand, but I can never finish the job.” This is pride—the attempt to do what only Christ can do. He was crucified for us. We cannot do it ourselves, and we should stop trying to do what only He can do for us. Receive the gift of grace and give up the notion of self-righteousness. Remember, as Jesus admonished the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3, that we are truly “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked” (v.17) and have nothing but “filthy rags” to offer a holy God.

We are all in the exact position of the thief on the cross. We have no righteousness whatsoever in ourselves. All we can do is to accept Christ’s righteousness by faith—this incredible gift of grace—and die to ourselves. Seeing the truth of what the thief on the cross understood so clearly, we are cured of pride. It is not about us; what we do or what we do not do. It is all about the risen Christ and what HE did for us.

As Max Lucado states on the CD He Chose the Nails, “the only thing we contribute to our redemption is our sin!”

Give up the totally futile attempt to find any righteousness in yourself, just as the Good Friday thief did, and throw yourself with complete abandon and surrender on the Cross, the place of perfect and absolute grace where no sense of self (pride) can rightfully exist…I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)

Lifeline Christian Counseling Center