Humility and Boldness
Pride is the counterfeit of boldness. It strips away the most important foundation of godly boldness, humility. Humility is the secure identity that provides the needed backup for effective boldness unafraid of the opinions or persecutions of others. Because one has a solid base of security in Christ and all value comes exclusively from God, humility becomes bold to boast about knowing God.
Thus says the LORD: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the LORD; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
Pride is a false identity front desperate to convince others of its authenticity. Pride is in denial of the true emptiness of the inner soul driven by fear of discovery of the shame being hidden or repressed. Pride is an artificial facade designed to attract affirmation to strengthen the facade and convince the person themselves of the truth of the facade, thus adding to the self-deception. But pride sets one up for a great fall when the facade finally collapses in spite of all the work to fortify it, leaving one exposed with exponential shame, disgrace and humiliation.
Humility accepts and embraces the truth about what is really inside but depends totally on the new reality created by Christ that all humans now can trace their ancestry back to a new Father other than the fallen, selfish Adam. No longer is shame the only option to believe leaving one hopeless and empty and scrambling for facades. Trust that Christ gives us a new identity as children of God validated by the Holy Spirit given to confirm that reality liberates the soul from fear, provides an umbilical cord through which the soul can receive love and life and experience security and faith.
As the soul embraces the truth as it is in Jesus that supplants the old beliefs that we must take care of ourselves or no one will, confidence replaces insecurity and passion resonating with the passionate love being experienced from the Godhead turns condemnation into compassion.
The law of life in Christ Jesus does what the law of sin and death was powerless to accomplish – produce genuine fruit of righteousness from the heart. The law of sin and death in the heart only generates fear of punishment for it only reminds us of our inability to live in harmony with the purity needed to be in God's presence. Knowing intuitively that rebellion and selfishness always reacts violently in the presence of agape love, the heart controlled by the law of sin and death only feels condemnation and foreboding and thus seeks alternative options to remaining alive. But all other options have fatal flaws and cannot result in the reconciliation with God that must be achieved in order to remain alive.
This requirement for reconciliation to stay alive has nothing to do with threatened death on the part of God but has everything to do with the natural laws that operate totally on cause and effect and that govern all reality in the universe. God is not threatening an imposed punishment of death on those who refuse to love Him. But sin accuses Him of that because deceptive lies of Satan compel us to assume that God is the cause of our problems and we must find a way either to change His mind towards us or find an alternative way to keep ourselves safe from Him and everyone else for a long as possible.
The good news of the gospel is not that God has provided an alternative fall guy to take our punishment but rather the reality that He has never been the source of our problem of death to start with and beyond that He can prove that conclusively in Christ. By coming to this earth in the human Jesus and making Himself completely vulnerable and not resisting in the slightest all of our abuse, hatred, animosity and violence, God proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is not the one threatening us as we have been led to believe all our lives. God is not the threat we have thought He was, but believing lies about Him have power to mangle our hearts so severely that our perceptions of Him will have power to destroy us were we to come into His presence of passionate love. That is the essence of hell.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, (Romans 8:1-3)
What is the law of sin and death? Is it the description of God's character as laid out in what is often labeled the Ten Commandments? Do we find any threatenings of punishment and death in that 'law'? No! It is not actually the kind of law that we think of as law – artificially enforced rules and regulations that define our systems of control in this world. These words of God were not commands but rather descriptions of what a person's life will look like after they will embrace the reality of the truth about what God has done for them – set them free from slavery and bondage to the tyranny of lies about God.
So, what is the law of sin and death that Paul says is weakened by the flesh so that it cannot do what God can do?
The law of sin and death is the kind of law embraced by our first parents and invented by Satan to govern our planet when they chose to embrace it by choosing the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This was not simply an act of rebellious disobedience invoking the anger of an offended deity as most suppose. Rather it was embracing for this planet a way of living and relating to authority and perceiving God that is rooted in lies about reality, about God and about relationships.
That tree that embodied what Paul calls the law of sin and death represented the entire philosophy that permeates all of our thinking, that is until we are liberated by the law of life brought into our awareness by the truth as revealed in Jesus. The old law in the logic of that tree is our system of rewards and punishments enforced by hierarchal authorities of control all based on manipulation of our selfish desires for pleasure or avoidance of pain and suffering.
The law of sin and death so permeates all of our thinking that we intuitively discredit any ideas that might undermine or threaten to weaken its effectiveness. Anyone introducing a different ways of thinking about reality or law or how to live in harmony with others is viewed as a threat to the security of society and must be squelched. This is precisely what happened to the Son of God when He came to this planet challenging everything we think about God, about ourselves and about reality.
Yet the truth is that Jesus was right and our entire mentality of survival of the fittest, the strongest, the richest or the most clever is all a mirage in spite of how long it has been around. Jesus' version of reality and the truth about how God feels about is a very real threat that has power not only to dissolve the apparatus and systems we depend on for law and order, it is the only way we can find what our hearts were designed to experience – life, love and joy.
Religion seeks to hijack even the language describing this revelation of God in Christ and distort it into supporting our old ways of living and thinking. Thus it often takes great effort to break out of the false ideas embedded in the very words of religion to discover the seeds of truth and life and liberation as introduced by Jesus. His truth has the power to bring us out of the darkness of misapprehensions and fears about God into the glorious light and excitement one can experience when they discover that nearly everything they have assumed is backwards and upside down from what is true.
The law of sin and death fuels a pride that always denies that the true good news brought to light by Jesus is what He says it is – liberation from the tyranny of fear that sin has over our hearts. The true definition of sin is simply our distrust and unbelief in the truth about how God feels towards us. Sin is choosing to believe lies about God's heart and character and results in being afraid of Him.
So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:16-19)
The good news Jesus brought that liberates us from the tyranny introduced to this planet by the lies believed by our first father Adam is in this passage. To embrace Jesus' version of the truth about God requires rejecting Satan's version of God that has been injected into the very DNA of the hearts of every human since our first parents bought his lies. God does not operate in the ways of reward and punishment like we have been taught or assumed, for our perceptions are infected by the law of sin and death that reigns in our fallen nature, what Paul calls the flesh.
To believe assertions from our flesh means to cling to the old system of artificial law and enforcement ingrained in the psyche of humanity since the entrance of sin on this earth. To believe that version of reality and how God relates to sinners is to add to the internal resistors fighting against the truth as it is in Jesus. These two versions of reality and God are completely incompatible with each other and can never compromise. Either Jesus is right or Satan is right and we are given the responsibility to choose which version will shape our lives and control our thinking. The choices we make about what is true about God's attitude towards us in turn shapes our character which eventually determines the reaction we will ultimately experience when we are fully exposed to the real truth of God's passionate love.
The problems with the law of sin and death are many, not the least being redefining of most of the words involved. This means it can be confusing to even discuss the problem. For instance, sin is defined as breaking rules and thus invoking deserved punishments as a result rather than defined simply as distrust of God's heart resulting in malfunctions. Righteousness is thought of as performance of good deeds used as measurement of how worthy one might be when arraigned before some legal court to receive sentencing from a stern Judge. Religion has invented myriads of ways presumed to find legal loopholes or achieve levels of holiness presumed to get us through judgment successfully. But all of this completely misses the truth that sin is not a legal problem but an issue of distrust resulting in malfunction and alienation from God as a result.
Millions of others, realizing they are too weak or unable to succeed relying on any of the methods offered by religion, simply give up to seek for as much pleasure as possible while they are alive and just hope for the best in whatever might turn out later. Some simply go into denial that any god exists whatsoever which brings them a measure of peace, given that the only versions of God they have encountered offer little sense to the thinking mind. One thing is certain – human perceptions and inventions and religion all falls far short of revealing the truth about God that Jesus came to give.
What is important at this point is to be aware that Jesus' version of the truth about God needs to be discovered from Jesus, not derived from the myriads of religious people touting confusing paths to God in His name. For the heart to encounter the true good news about God, one must go straight to the Source and not allow His truth to become so confused and distorted by others claiming to represent Him that the life He offers is missed because of the cacophony of voices asserting to speak for Him.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. (John 5:39-40 NAS95)
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
This brings me full circle back to where I started. Jesus tells us that when we come to really know Him – the one who is the exact, explicit revelation of who God is (Hebrews 1:1-3) – we will find that God too is gentle and humble in heart, not at all like how we have long perceived Him based on the bias of that Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Believing Jesus is like eating from the Tree of Life which reconnects us to the original Source of love and life, the very essence of God and to the center of truth that has the ability to reconcile us to God by transforming us to awaken trust and love in Him.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
The more we believe this truth about God and embrace it deep at the heart level, expelling every lie that seeks to discredit Jesus' version of God, the more security, rest, peace and joy can fill our minds and heal our souls. As we become filled with the Spirit sent by God to empower us to testify to the real truth about Him, we are reconciled into harmony with His love and experience holy boldness. As this becomes more real we experience the same gentleness and humility that marked the life of Jesus.
Nowhere was this been more clearly evidenced than in the early days of the believers after they received this gift of confidence realized in their true identity experienced and confirmed by the infilling of God's Spirit on the day of Pentecost. When confronted by powerful, hostile leaders heavily invested in religious systems dependent on dark views of God to maintain their advantages and prestige, Peter and John demonstrated unusual behavior totally different than what marked previous encounters with the establishment.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. (Acts 4:13)
When Peter and John returned to the rest of the believers and reported what had happened, they all sensed the tremendous challenge of the new reality they had started living, a challenge from old ways of thinking mounted against them to intimidate them back to their old ways of living. They knew that to preserve what they had received in Christ they had to reaffirm what they had received from God or fear would wrench it away from them and they would be worse off than before.
To counter the intimidation they were confronted with, they collectively turned to God in a prayer that models how we may come to Him, a prayer that resulted in yet another earth-shaking encounter with the affirmation of the power of God's Spirit. In effect they told God, “Look at what they are trying to get us to believe. They are trying to make us afraid again just after You set us free from slavery to fear. This is our real danger – not any physical harm they might do but rather being reinfected by fear that could erode our faith in our true identity and the value we have received as Your children in Christ.”
And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:29-31)
Oh that we could so take hold of our true identity in Christ and experience such a rock-solid sense of value and identity in our new Adam that we too could be empowered by God in a similar shaking event. I long for that kind of experience and boldness. I pray for it. I plead with God to become so transformed in my mental outlook and perceptions of reality that I may be made safe to witness boldly and truthfully about God with the same confidence that empowered those early believers. I want to share in that passionate love flowing directly through me from the heart of the One on the throne in heaven.