Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Baxter, Storms, Jeremiah, and PRIDE

I love it when God orchestrates my sanctification through multiple avenues. For some reason, this captures my attention and helps me process and progress the lesson at hand. I am even learning to like it when it comes with a punch to my pride and a sidekick to my selfishness.

Last night I was roasting coffee and reading The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter. A lengthy tirade against pride in the clergy caught my attention. It is a long excerpt, but well worth the read.
One of our most heinous and palpable sins is PRIDE. This is a sin that hath too much interest in the best of us, but which is more hateful and inexcusable in us than in other men. Yet is it so prevalent in some of us, that it inditeth our discourses, it chooseth our company, it formeth our countenances, it putteth the accent and emphasis upon our words. It fills some men’s minds with aspiring desires, and designs: it possesseth them with envious and bitter thoughts against those who stand in their light, or who by any means eclipse their glory, or hinder the progress of their reputation. Oh what a constant companion, what a tyrannical commander, what a sly and subtle insinuating enemy, is this sin of pride! It goes with men to the draper, the mercer, the tailor: ‘it chooseth them their cloth, their trimming, and their fashion. Fewer ministers would ruffle it out in the fashion in hair and habit, if it were not for the command of this tyrannous vice. And I would that this were all, or the worst. But, alas! how frequently doth it go with us to our study, and there sit with us and do our work! How oft doth it choose our subject, and, more frequently still, our words and ornaments! God commandeth us to be as plain as we can, that we may inform the ignorant; and as convincing and serious as we are able, that we may melt and change their hardened hearts. But pride stands by and contradicteth all, and produceth its toys and trifles. It polluteth rather than polisheth; and, under pretense of laudable ornaments, dishonoreth our sermons with childish gauds: as if a prince were to be decked in the habit of a stage-player, or a painted fool. It persuadeth us to paint the window, that it may dim the light: and to speak to our people that which they cannot understand; to let them know that we are able to speak unprofitably. If we have a plain and cutting passage, it taketh off the edge, and dulls the life of our preaching, under pretense of filing off’ the roughness, unevenness, and superfluity. When God chargeth us to deal with men as for their lives, and to beseech them with all the earnestness that we are able, this cursed sin controlleth all, and condemneth the most holy commands of God, and saith to us, ‘What! will you make people think you are mad? will you make them say you rage or rave? Cannot you speak soberly and moderately?’ And thus doth pride make many a man’s sermons; and what pride makes, the devil makes; and what sermons the devil will make and to what end, we may easily conjecture. Though the matter be of God, yet if the dress, and manner, and end be from Satan, we have no great reason to expect success.
Pride is an oft-encountered obstacle in my walk with God. Baxter's keen writing caught my attention and caused me to contemplate my corrupted confidence ill-placed on myself.

This morning I read the devotional on 2 Corinthians by Sam Storms entitled a Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ. In the third devotion, Storms considers 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 which reads,
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
Of this passage of Scripture Storms suggests that "as overwhelming, excessive, and burdensome as this brush with death was for Paul, he knew that God was in it!" (32). Paul realized that there was a point behind the tribulation, and that the point was to "make us not rely on ourselves." The crystal-clear clarion call was the second step in my recent sanctification.

The process was continued as I read in Jeremiah this morning, chapter 44 to be precise. In chapter 44 Jeremiah prophesies to the remnant of Israel who have traveled to Egypt, contrary to Jeremiah's instructions, for fear of the Chaldeans. Jeremiah urges, repeatedly, the remnant to stop whoring after their idols. However, the people reject his God-backed rebuke and aver that they will continue to worship their gods and goddesses. This passage also spoke loudly to me; let me put it all together.

Baxter reminded me that I am a prideful person prone to promote myself. Storms sought to show me that one area in which my pride surfaces is in self-reliance in struggles. Jeremiah's jolting of the Jews helped me realize that my continual returning to relying on my own means in the midst of difficulties was akin to the vulgar ignorance and conceited indifference that the Israelite remnant displayed when they refused to refrain from worshiping their idols.

God help me to rely on you and refrain from returning to my idol of self-reliance. Use your rod of discipline, particularly in my current difficulties, to cure me of whoring after the glorifying of self. Your love is evident in this as true joy can only be found when I glorify you and recognize your rightful place; first and foremost. Thank you for your teachers, dead and alive, who help to point me in this direction. Thank you most of all for your Word, which contains Your words, and leads into truth.

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