Thursday, February 22, 2007

Baptist Identity Conference & Humility

The Baptist Identity Conference held here at Union last week has been the topic of much blogging, for which I am glad. If you have not seen the links elsewhere, you can look here to download audios of all the sessions.

These presentations are useful for pastors. If you are a Southern Baptist pastor, these are significant discussions about the future of the denomination with which you affiliate. If you are not a Southern Baptist, there are some helpful deliberations in general about how we interact with fellow believers, cooperating, etc.

The thing that was most encouraging to me, however, was the tangible sense of humility present in most of the sessions I was able to attend. Humility was even specifically addressed by many of the participants. Regardless of your denominational affiliation (or lack of), humility is something which desperately needs cultivating in American Christianity. When too many pastoral bio’s describe ourselves in embarrassingly glowing terms, when the culture around us sees “arrogance” and “pastor” as practical synonyms, we need a fresh baptism of humility- and in this case I think my paedo-baptist friends will agree with me in desiring a full immersion rather than just a sprinkling. :)

To this end, let me again recommend C. J. Mahaney’s book, Humility: True Greatness (previously commented on here).

While reading another book (Kim Riddlebarger’s The Man of Sin) I was struck by how often pride/arrogance is the mark of those who rise up against God. The building of the Tower of Babel is an effort in self-exaltation:

"Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." (Gen 11:4, ESV)
Any time our efforts in building any institution (denomination, school, programs, etc.) has as its goal making a name for ourselves, we will deserve the same condemnation as those in Babel. In this situation, we cannot expect God’s blessing and must expect to find him destroying our works.

Or note Nebuchadnezzar who when he expresses his pride in building his own kingdom is humiliated by God being turned into a beast for a time (Daniel 4). Could it be that some “Christian” beastliness which occurs is the result of our proud, self-centered efforts to wrest praise for ourselves?

Note also Daniel’s prophecies of key anti-God leaders. While Christians differ on the referent of these prophecies, the mark of arrogance is unavoidable.
Daniel 7:8, 11- This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully… Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.
Daniel 8:25- By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great.
These words describe arch-enemies of Christ. Woe to us when they too easily describe us.

We claim to follow the one who said:
“How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44, NIV).
We cannot truly pursue the glory of God and our own glory at the same time.

Rather than new initiatives or campaigns we need a serious and sober call to humility. I see it being modeled by some leaders. We pastors must lead the way in our example. Truly the way forward is down. May with the hymn writer be:
Content to fill a little space,
If Thou be glorified

2 comments:

Adam Winters said...

I wish I could have been there for the conference, but listening to the Audio is the next best thing. So far, I'd heard Dr. Thornbury, Dr. George, and Mike Day. All were excellent examples of huimility and conviction.

Joel Maners said...

I think that it's interesting that the first thing on God's hate list is "haughty eyes" (Proverbs 6:17). Great post.