Consider the Haughty Worshiper
The haughty worshiper considers himself a self-made man. He reviews his track-record and likes what he sees. He is proud of himself for taking advantage of opportunities, setting higher goals, choosing the narrow road, having a great work ethic, making something of himself, and being exceptional. In reviewing himself, he is not characterized by awe-struck gratitude. He smells of arrogance.
In addition, the haughty worshiper is self-righteous. When he looks into the mirror of God’s Law, he comes to the conclusion he is a cut above. Now, how does he come to such an evaluation? He plays games with the high and holy Law of God:
- He must compare himself to man-made, extra-biblical rules added by himself or others. In doing so, this provides him some laws he can keep and consider himself godly.
- He must compare himself to select ordinances found in God’s Word. Consequently, by his highlighting and majoring on some while winking at others, he adds to his righteous resume.
- He must focus on his external obedience and forgo assessing his internal affections and emotions. This external focus allows him to claim to be righteous as he does what he really does not wish to do with all his heart.
- He must compare himself to sinful neighbors and not compare himself to Jesus Christ — the perfect standard. This way, he can always claim his maturation and superiority.
- He must totally forget the clear teaching of Jesus and James regarding God’s grading scale, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” (James 2:10)
It is then that he can go to church and pray the pharisaical prayer denounced by Jesus, “Oh God, I am so thankful I am no longer like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11)
He is self-made; he is self-righteous; he is self-deceived. He is a proud and haughty worshiper, and God opposes such.
Consider the Humble Worshiper
In contrast, consider the attitude encouraged by James. In his epistle, he writes to blood-bought Christians who have been entirely and irrevocably graced by Jesus Christ with atonement, regeneration, justification, union, adoption, sanctification, preservation, and glorification. And to them he writes:
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:6-10)
The humble worshiper longs for “more grace.”
The humble worshiper understands God “gives grace to the humble.”
The humble worshiper “submits to God” that he might “resist the devil” and send him running.
The humble worshiper “draws near” to God, that God might draw even nearer and bless with even more grace.
The humble does not “claim he is without sin.” Instead, though knowing he is an eternally graced saint of Jesus Christ, he sees himself as a “sinner” and does not recoil when James calls him “double-minded.” He then eagerly and seriously engages in heartfelt confession. Through prayer he “cleanses his hands … and purifies his heart.” (No, he does not justify himself and partner with Christ, but he does freshly experience spiritual cleansing and who would not want this? So, for a brief time, he is “wretched, mournful, and gloomy” over his sin, and this is natural. He has been given a new heart by the Holy Spirit, and with such he is learning to loath Satan and sin. He can’t stand it. He wants to be totally rid of it. With ever-increasing passion he wants to practice holiness. He is desperate to love, think, talk, and walk like Jesus. At this point in his worship, heavy confession and passionate supplication are intermixed.
But then he smiles.
The humble worshiper, he who “humbled himself before the Lord,” finds the Lord “exalting him.” How does this happen? The Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and all his Gospel-believing friends remind him he has been …
- Chosen by God to receive grace.
- Covered by the substitutionary obedience and condemnation of Jesus.
- Affected by the Holy Spirit. He believes, repents, and loves differently because of God.
- Declared and made just, holy, blameless, pure, and saintly through the work and merit of Jesus.
- Released of all fear of divine retribution; Jesus has received all such wrath and condemnation on his behalf.
- Inhabited or possessed by the Holy Spirit. God dwells and communes within, and will never leave.
- Adopted into God’s family. Consequently, as God’s son, he is entitled to all family benefits and inheritances.
- Given the power to walk in the Spirit, say “no” to sin, and practice his gifted sainthood.
- Granted the promise of preservation. Though he desires to persevere, God desires even more to keep him.
- Granted the promise of glory. One day he will see the new heavens and earth. One day, he will be joined to a glorious host of redeemed loved-ones. One day he will receive his new body. Yes, one day, he will see Jesus face to face, and never again will he be forced to endure Satan, sinners, sin, and its horrid consequences.
Therefore, the humble worshiper, after having his moment of wretched mourning and weeping, cannot help but smile, look up, laugh, relax, rest, and dance. He has been humbled by the Law. He has been humbled by his sin. He has been humbled by his God. He has been humbled by the Gospel. He has been exalted. He is being exalted. He will be exalted.