Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Shadows of the Past. . .

. . . A nameless fear.

Sorry. *snaps out of Lord of the Rings mood* :)

You know, I was rereading some of my archives from last fall, in conjunction with a post I was drafting, and two things stood out to me: (1) how insanely long most of my posts were, and (2) how downright bitterly-sarcastic and holier-than-thou I sounded at times. *cringe* I'm not planning on deleting any of my past posts, but I would definitely say that some of my posts from last fall were not written in love.

So, I would like to make a disclaimer that I do not ringingly endorse my tone in all of my past blog entries. In general I still agree with the content, though there are likely a few exceptions. My prayer is that my posts in the last several months (since God slapped me awake) have had a spirit of humility and broken-heartedness, quite different from some of my posts last fall. I am but a broken Pharisee, not someone who "has it all together." I am a broken vessel that the Lord chooses to use, and it is through my brokenness that God's grace so often shines.

My blog anniversary is bringing to mind many of my old posts - the good, the bad, the ugly. I think I subconsciously started this blog with the intention of broadcasting my correct, conservative opinions to the world, in the hopes of finding cookie-cutter replicas of myself (since the general rabble weren't good enough for me) and in the hopes of setting other people straight on just how wrong they are.

Many of my past posts give hints of that, though I hid it pretty well, even from myself. I was in self-denial that I had legalist tendencies, especially since these tendencies were literally years in the making. My motives were to forward my own good reputation, not primarily to glorify God. And I had even tricked myself. Legalism is one of the most blinding of sins.

If I could summarize these past 9 months, it would undoubtedly be "the grace of God." I have walked through so much this past year, as God has answered my prayers in ways I would not have guessed, yet ways I would not trade for anything. He had to break me to mold me. He had to shame me to begin to exalt me. He had to reprimand me to love me. And He had to sacrifice His own son to forgive my own sinful pride.

That is love.


ashley said...

Susan, I really appreciate your honesty here. Not many people are willing to admit when they've been prideful and arrogant! (Myself, for example...) I know for me, I have always appreciated your friendship and your quiet, gentle spirit. I know God has amazing things in store for you!

Adrian C. Keister said...

On the other hand, don't forget that wonderful chapter 14 from The Screwtape Letters:

Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is especially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, "By jove! I'm being humble," and almost immediately pride - pride at his own humility - will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt - and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don't try this too long, for fear you awake his sense of humour and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed.

In Christ.

Susan said...

I will attempt to humbly accept Ashley's kind commments, while not falling for one of Uncle Screwtape's traps. In all serious, thank you for the encouragement, Ashley. And thank you for the warning, Adrian. Both are appreciated :). I've actually had many struggles with my "humility" in the past. What a paradoxical thing! It's sort of like praying to the Lord, "How much longer do I have to be patient?" Anyway, a timely quote, to be sure.

Adrian C. Keister said...

Ah, yes; as my father would say, the most dangerous thing in the world is to pray for either humility, patience, or contentment. God tends to answer those prayers by putting you in situations in which the corresponding virtue is required!

Still, it is not a bad thing to build up our brothers and sisters. May I say how impressed I am at your ability to take constructive criticism? As the Proverb says, "Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you."

I've found Lewis's comment at the tail end of that quote to be very helpful, since I've been in those sorts of situations. Where does this infinite regression end? I've found that praying to God for His strength (can't do it on my own), and then resisting that devil usually does the trick.

In Christ.

Becky Miller said...

I had sort of an opposite journey with blogging...I started out just posting about whatever...I didn't want to reveal too many of my (in formation) very conservative opinions in fear of being controversial, etc. I had to learn how to be bold and handle disagreement and rejection when I posted about "issues."

Susan said...

Hmm, my previous comment wasn't clear. It should have read:

"I've actually had many struggles with pride about my "humility" in the past."

Ah well. The Typo Queen strikes again.

Still, it is not a bad thing to build up our brothers and sisters.

Ah, yes, and see, that is where balance is the key. How does one encourage another without encouraging pride in the person? I'd say the same way one fights pride in oneself: praying for strength, as you suggested. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. What an encouraging verse!

Thank you for the compliment, Adrian. Any ability I have to take constructive critism certainly comes from God, that is for sure! I'm still learning much on that score.

That is interesting how our blogging experiences mirror one another, Becky. I had no trouble being bold and posting on issues when I first started blogging. I had to learn to do it in love :). I've really enjoyed some of the recent discussions on your blog, by the way :).

Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

"How does one encourage another without encouraging pride in the person?" That's a good question. I'm not sure I have a great answer, but my gut reaction (I know, very logical, isn't it?) is to say the following: it might not always be your province to curb pride in others in this way. Now I'm sure you would agree with this once I say it, so I'm just reminding you: our sins are our sins. No one else, not God, not any other human being, not Satan, not an angel is guilty for our sins. We are. So if we're doing the right thing by building up our brothers in a sincere and not a flattering way, then it seems to me the recipient's pride might not always be our concern. It seems to me a matter of wisdom, for surely constructive criticism done in a loving way would tend to counterbalance compliments done in a loving way. So a healthy mix might be good.

You're welcome. *smiles*

In Christ.

Susan said...

Well, there you have a good point that it's not ultimately up to us to curb pride in others. That does relive pressure, and that did make me stop and think.

I would add, though, that we also are not to do things that cause our brother to sin. That means that it is partly our responsibility to not encourage a brother in such a way that will knowingly cause him to struggle with pride even more. . . if that makes sense. For example, I am less likely to compliment someone I know who already struggles with pride. Why encourage it? Or, an alternative is to word compliments and/or encouragements in such a way as to take the focus off them. . . which is always a good idea anyway.

So yes, I would agree that if we are building another up in a sincere, non-flattering way, ultimately it is not ultimately our responsibility how our brother receives it. But if we know of specific struggles, it is good to help our brother by carefully wording (or maybe for a time avoiding) such compliments/encouragements.

Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

What you say makes eminent good sense. It is a sin to provide a temptation to another. So you're quite right about being sensitive to that and not causing our brothers to stumble.

One way to compliment someone struggling with pride (isn't that everyone?) that might be less problematic is to say something like, "God is doing such a wonderful work in you."

Interesting point came up last night when we were discussing the Sermon on the Mount, the salt and light portion. The phrase "Glorify your Father Who is in heaven," was under consideration. We were talking about ways that this happens. Someone pointed out that if you praise a man, even without reference to God, you are indirectly praising God because of the image of God in that man. Naturally, you can praise God more directly by recognizing that it is God Who is working in him. It seems to me that the more direct approach would work better for someone in the grip of pride.

Or your approach will certainly work as well: forbear complimenting such a person. That's the traditional Keister approach.

In Christ.

Susan said...

Interesting that you say that everyone struggles with pride, because some people would disagree with that statement. I would not, however, because truly every sin comes back to pride - an exhaltation of humanity over God. Was it C.S. Lewis who called it the Chief of Sins?

Often the most "humble" of people are also those who do not see their need for a Savior, which seems so paradoxical, for you would think the truly humble would most see their sin. I think the key is spiritual humility, with a proper view of God, not just a general, "Yep, I'm not worth much" assent.

What an interesting discussion on the Sermon on the Mount. Was that during a Sunday night sermon or Bible study? Speaking of your church, thank you for suggesting your pastor's Ecclesiastes sermons. I've been enjoying them, as has Mother Dear :). Your pastor is very gifted. Am I right that you were the scripture reader for the sermon on Chapters 7 & 8 ("Meaningful Righteousness")?

Adrian C. Keister said...

Lewis certainly came down hard on pride, and rightly so. Pride is the mother of all other sins, like you said.

Interesting that you say, "not just a general, 'Yep, I'm not worth much' assent." Lewis combats this, too. And also interesting that you say "proper view of God." Andrew Murray would define humility as a right view of self and a right view of God. That means, among other things, that your view of self should not be lower than you truly are. As I've said elsewhere, the world's greatest pianist would not be humble if he said he was only a beginner. He would be exhibiting false humility.

Wow! That's my voice? It has to be, because I do remember reading that passage, and of course Chris mentioned me in the prayer (I think I'm the only Adrian in my church). It just goes to show you how different your voice sounds from a recording versus when you're actually saying something. When I talk, though, I don't imagine my voice sounds anything like that! It makes me laugh. I daresay that's what my voice sounds like to others, though, because Chris's voice certainly sounds like that all the time to me.

Ah, well. Toodles.

In Christ.

Adrian C. Keister said...

O, and you're certainly welcome for the recommendation. Glad you're enjoying them; I certainly did. Ja, isn't Chris great? Our pastoral search committee did a great job getting him, along with God's guidance.

In Christ.

Susan said...

I think a truly proper view of God will result in a proper view of self, so it sort of follows directly. When we see God for who He is, we also see ourselves for who we are. Interesting point about the pianist.

I had the pleasure of hearing R.C. Sproul speak in Atlanta this summer (WCF conference just before GA), and his talk was on the Doctrine of God. It was very good! He said that our doctrine of God shapes every other doctrine, necessarily. That is why reformed folk, incidentally, are so big into God's sovereignty. A right view of it shapes our every other doctrine and our actions. And, also incidentally, on paper our doctrine of God's sovereignty isn't often that different from non-reformed doctrine (except predestination, although even that, many people grudgingly agree to, if you know what I mean); how many Christians really will say that God isn't sovereign? - not many. The difference is that God's sovereignty is the cornerstone doctrine in reformed theology. But I digress. . . It was a good lecture, to say the least.

Yep, I guess that's your voice. I wouldn't know. I'd never heard it before ;). You do have a nice voice, even if you won't claim it. Father Dear thinks you sound like Merlin Olsen (professional football player, sports announcer, FTD florist spokesman - or more affectionately, Jonathan Garvie in Little House on the Prairie.


Incidentally, Jonathan Garvie has a beard.

Adrian C. Keister said...

Hmm, I wonder about the doctrine of God doing all that for us. I haven't read much of Calvin's Institutes (shocking, I know), but I remember how he starts:


Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern. In the first place, no one can look upon himself without immediately turning his thoughts to the contemplation of God, in whom he “lives and moves” Acts 17:28. For, quite clearly, the mighty gifts with which we are endowed are hardly from ourselves; indeed, our very being is nothing but subsistence in the one God. Then, by these benefits shed like dew from heaven upon us, we are led as by rivulets to the spring itself. Indeed, our very poverty better discloses the infinitude of benefits reposing in God. The miserable ruin, into which the rebellion of the first man cast us, especially compels us to look upward. Thus, not only will we, in fasting and hungering, seek thence what we lack; but, in being aroused by fear, we shall learn humility. For, as a veritable world of miseries is to be found in mankind, and we are thereby despoiled of divine raiment, our shameful nakedness exposes a teeming horde of infamies. Each of us must, then, be so stung by the consciousness of his own unhappiness as to attain at least some knowledge of God. Thus, from the feeling of our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity, and — what is more — depravity and corruption, we recognize that the true light of wisdom, sound virtue, full abundance of every good, and purity of righteousness rest in the Lord alone. To this extent we are prompted by our own ills to contemplate the good things of God; and we cannot seriously aspire to him before we begin to become displeased with ourselves. For what man in all the world would not gladly remain as he is — what man does not remain as he is — so long as he does not know himself, that is, while content with his own gifts, and either ignorant or unmindful of his own misery? Accordingly, the knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him.


Again, it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself. For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy — this pride is innate in all of us — unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity. Moreover, we are not thus convinced if we look merely to ourselves and not also to the Lord, who is the sole standard by which this judgment must be measured. For, because all of us are inclined by nature to hypocrisy, a kind of empty image of righteousness in place of righteousness itself abundantly satisfies us. And because nothing appears within or around us that has not been contaminated by great immorality, what is a little less vile pleases us as a thing most pure — so long as we confine our minds within the limits of human corruption. Just so, an eye to which nothing is shown but black objects judges something dirty white or even rather darkly mottled to be whiteness itself. Indeed, we can discern still more clearly from the bodily senses how much we are deluded in estimating the powers of the soul. For if in broad daylight we either look down upon the ground or survey whatever meets our view round about, we seem to ourselves endowed with the strongest and keenest sight; yet when we look up to the sun and gaze straight at it, that power of sight which was particularly strong on earth is at once blunted and confused by a great brilliance, and thus we are compelled to admit that our keenness in looking upon things earthly is sheer dullness when it comes to the sun. So it happens in estimating our spiritual goods. As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power — the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness. What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness. What wore the face of power will prove itself the most miserable weakness. That is, what in us seems perfection itself corresponds ill to the purity of God.

This seems to be saying something different, at least a little. Now, Sproul is right in that the way we view God will certainly alter the appearance of anything else we see. But if you want to say that the doctrine of God determines all other doctrine, I'm not so sure. Thoughts?

Thank you for the double compliment: on my voice and my beard. *grins* And you're right, I won't claim a nice voice. I figure that job belongs to anyone who cares to undertake it, and not me. Better that others should sing my praises, eh? ;-)] Well, I will say that I think God gave me a decent voice and beard.

So you like the smiley, eh? It is a bit elaborate. I think the limitations of ASCII text get in the way of anything simpler. Oh, well. And you have to do the smiley on a new line, which is probably a bit of a pain. We men with beards do have it easier than you ladies with long hair! ;-)]

In Christ.

Susan said...

Confession: I haven't read much of the Institutes either. *shhh* This summer when I got to go through my grandfather's library, I found a nice, 2-volume copy, but I've barely cracked the covers :(.

*rereading what I wrote*

Hmm, I see that perhaps I wasn't clear. I don't mean that all other views are automatic (though "follows directly" sure sounds like it!), but that a view of God shapes all other views. In the past few years, as I've studied God's character more, my views on other things have changed as well.

I very much liked Calvin's excerpts, so thank you for pointing to them. He made good points on both ends. Sort of the old "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" - which of course has an obvious answer for creationists :).

*pulls out conference notes*

Sproul calls the doctrine of God the controlling doctrine of all other theology, for Reformed folk. That's a nice way to put it. Sort of the "mother of all theology," or "theology proper." This doesn't mean that one begins before the other, or that the doctrine of God fatally decides other doctrine; just that it is the overriding framework, if you will, for how our other doctrines are formed. And I would agree with that.

Incidentally, I don't think Calvin and Sproul are at odds; I think they are just looking at slightly different roles that the doctrine of God has. What think you?

We men with beards do have it easier than you ladies with long hair! ;-)]

In more ways than one, indeed. Try hair care v. beard care, for starters. :)

Adrian C. Keister said...

I can agree with that. So it was perhaps your wording that was throwing me off, eh? *ahem*

Yes, yes; male hair care is usually much easier than female. That's practically a given. So you don't have to rub it in, ok? And I don't mean the conditioner.

In Christ.

Susan said...

Well, I'm so glad I finally made myself clear :). Is it all right to TIOC?

Adrian C. Keister said...

Sure, let's TIOC.

In Christ.