Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Thorn of Pride and the Humility of Grace

I recently finished reading Jonathan Aitken’s new book “John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace.” Newton has been always been one of my favorite “dead guy” mentors, one whom from whom continue to learn what it means to be both a follow of Jesus Christ and a pastor. The outstanding trait that defined John Newton’s life was that he never lost the sense of the undeservedness of God’s grace in his life. Aitken writes:

The outstanding features of Newton’s’ private character were faith, humility, and gratitude. The faith was his certainty of God’s faithfulness. The humility was a genuine sense of a sinner’s unworthiness. The gratitude was the overflowing thankfulness of his heart to God for the “amazing grace” that in the lines of the immortal hymn, “saved a wretch like me.”

Of late I have been overwhelmed by my own sense of unworthiness, which at the same time has brought great conviction regarding my own sense of pride. Pride, as we all know, is the root of all sin, as pride is the centering our hearts and our lives on self rather than on God. This is an issue for all of us, especially for those of us who pridefully don’t think we have a pride problem! "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).
On the retaining wall of our driveway we have picture of our struggle in this. The thorn of pride can grow out of the smallest crack of our character, crowding out the beauty of the God in whose image we were created after.

I am deeply grateful that God loves me enough to convict me of my pride and that He is leading me in these days to the place of ever-deepening humility. I do have far to go, but rather than being discouraged by my struggles in this area, I again found solace in the example of Newton’s life, which reflected that “a sinner is not transformed into a Christ-centered soul by a single conversion experience but by the long, unremitting, and courageous effort that conversion begins.”

Newton grew in humility through his prayer life – “giving glory to the sovereign God, struggling to obey and suffer with the crucified Christ, and confiding in his Heavenly Father with a heartfelt penitence of a sinner.” And so this is also my heart commitment in these days – to seek an ever-deepening relationship through a life of prayer with the source of humility: the sovereign God of all grace.

I praise God for his love, mercy, and faithfulness in the unworthiness of my life because - in the words of Jonathan Aitken regarding John Newton’s life – “grace, like water, always flows downward, to the lowest place.” That place is the low humble place before God - in constant and continuous need of his undeserved grace.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

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