Tag Archive: Stumbling Blocks



“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” -Romans 12:3

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"The Confusion of Tongues," by Gustave Dore. engraving, c. 1865

In my earlier post concerning 2 Corinthians 10:7 entitled, “On Proper Pride and Humility,” I discussed a little about the relative aspects of pride and a few ways one can avoid this particular sin in their life. Yet, I feel some added clarification is required, that we may gain a deeper understanding of this sin, in order that it might be identified. Pride has great ability at concealing itself in ones life, by defining it with more clarity, we may illuminate it.

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Pride at its very core is a lie and deceitful. To have pride in oneself, is to take those attributes one has been granted by God and embellish upon them so they become more than they are. As Paul urges, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” This in essence it what pride is, to think of oneself more highly than you should, or to think about a particular attribute more than you should.

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Therefore, if you stand in front of a mirror and suck it in and flex periodically, as I have been known to do, you are exercising that pride. Also, if you are a big, “Rock Band” fan and picture yourself in your minds eye playing in front of a crowd of screaming women, or men, this is also prideful. Do not use your mind and heart to exalt and exaggerate the self, for to do so is incredibly sinful. In addition, because you will fall short in this elaboration, this can lead to extreme depression, when one doesn’t match up to the conception offered up by the sinful mind.

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In atheism, a popular argument against God’s being, is that if He existed or exists than He is an extremely prideful being. Yet, when we take Paul’s definition, we find this not to be the case at all. God knows exactly who He is and cannot be anything different. Furthermore, because he is the thing-above-which-no-greater-can-be-thought, as defined perfectly in St. Anselm of Canterbury’s Ontological Argument, He is perfectly worthy of worship. In fact, due to God’s knowledge of exactly what He is, this is humility.

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"Sistine Chapel Ceiling (detail)," by Michelangelo. fresco, c. 1508-1512

Paul continues saying, “think of yourself in sober judgment.” This is what humility is when it is in, “accordance with the faith God has distributed.” This being the case then it negates the idea of God being a prideful, and thereby sinful deity. God cannot deceive Himself, for this would present an irreconcilable contradiction, for He would have to imagine Himself greater than He is, which is an impossibility when one applies the definition of God offered by Anselm.

This verse suggests something which may give some insight into what human nature consists of. We are told, again, to think of ourselves in sober judgment in accordance with our faith in Christ. Thereby, since faith plays such a roll in the sober judgement of self, the question arises if we can have any victory against pride away from Christ? I would argue we can’t for the world is based on the self and the flesh. This sin of pride is the very same that drove Adam and Eve from the Garden. In a world where even good actions are self serving and motivated by the self, this doesn’t seem like a complete absurdity.

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"Adam and Eve Expelled," by Gustave Dore. engraving, c. 1865

To be in accordance with one’s faith, we need to realize that we are indeed imperfect and sinful. This is how Paul had such a lowly conception of himself without sinning. Paul realized how much of a sinner he was and how unworthy he was to both serve God, and be offered grace through Jesus Christ. Paul was completely humble in that he knew what he was and worked for God to serve all man and almost singlehandedly brought about the New Israel among the Gentiles.

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Remember to use discernment and do not elaborately adorn yourself with things like makeup, clothing (but please do wear clothes), jewelry, and anything that you use to magnify your being. This goes for both men and women. Yet, at the same time, we do not need to look like we just crawled out of a gutter whenever we go out in public, but we should use, “sober judgement in accordance with the faith.” Do not attempt to hide the beauty of being that goes beyond mere appearances, but be modest. God has granted you many things and because God is perfect, they are perfect. Do not magnify it by means of worldly things to either please the self or others, for this is a stumbling block to both, and sinful.

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Finally, God has distributed the Spirit to all those in the faith. I can’t address every context and every situation, for such wisdom and omniscience belongs to God alone. Pray to the Lord that He may reveal you by the Spirit of Truth, if such sin is present, and to what degree. Pray that He would help and instruct you how to walk that thin line between both pride and envy, that you may see yourself for who you are, a precious child of the Most High.

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“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” -Hebrews 12:1

Verse one begins one of my favorite chapters in all of scripture, Hebrews Chapter 12. Despite the subject matter of discipline and judgement, which can have the tendency to make people cringe, especially while they live in sin, it is one of the most beautiful passages in all the bible. Of course, that’s a personal conclusion and not made from any independent study. It could have something to do with the fact that this chapter is the one that led me to the Lord. Thus, it has a deep personal significance for me.

Nobody knows without a doubt who wrote Hebrews, for the writer does not identify himself. Though it was accredited to Paul in the past, he seems an unlikely candidate, due to the style of writing differing from his. For instance, Paul identifies himself in his letters, but Hebrews is void of any such attribution. Yet, there are a couple candidates, and it appears that whoever the writer of Hebrews was, was indeed a close friend of Paul’s. Verse one suggests this by presenting the allegory of an athlete, which Paul was a frequent user of. Paul’s metaphors found in his other books and the allegory used by Hebrews’ author are so similar, it seems logical that the writer knew Paul intimately. Scholars have narrowed authorship down to two possibilities, Apollos or Barnabas. Whoever it was, they wrote a book equal to that of Paul and of vast importance for any Christian. Not only does Chapter 12 remain one of my favorite sections of scripture, Hebrews remains my favorite book outside the gospels. I recommend it to anyone engaged in an in depth bible study.

"St. Jerome in His Study," by Albrecht Duerer. engraving c. 1514

Verse one brings to mind the familiar image of an athlete. The cloud of witnesses, refers to great holy men of the past who gave all for their love of the Lord. Their faith led them to obedience and by that obedience, the Lord’s will became known on earth. These witnesses prepared the way for the Lord Jesus Christ so that by and through Him we may be reconciled unto God.

Sir Isaac Newton and earlier John of Salisbury brought into the common lexicon the phrase, “standing on the shoulders of giants.” What is meant by this is that progress is made by carrying on those things pioneered by what and who has came before. It is no different in Christianity. The Kingdom of God is not meant to be stagnant, but rather to be forwarded by those who belong to Christ Jesus. Thus, because we are made aware of this by the Spirit and the Word, we are called to remove those hindrances and stumbling blocks that prevent us from doing our part in moving the Kingdom forward.

Sir Isaac Newton

Christ opened up the Kingdom to and for us that we may be admitted by faith rather than by works and He being human for a season, can readily identify with man, for He was tempted by sin as we all are, yet remained in perfect obedience to the Father. In fact, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say He must have been tempted beyond all men, due to Satan’s awareness of His true nature.

We have a merciful God who doesn’t just reside in the heavens, but became man, and experienced all the grotesqueness of sin. At the same time He underwent the struggle we all encounter, but was victorious. Amazing as it is, we have a God who knows what it’s like to fight against sin and thus verses that hint at how easily sin overtakes us are not infrequent in the scripture. This should give us hope and we should praise God for this, that He can identify with even the most lowly of us.

Again, the athlete allegory is mentioned at the close of the verse. “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Christians aren’t called to just skate by going to church just on Sunday’s and Easter, but to take an active role in the mission God has set out for them. This requires effort and perseverance, for it will not always be easy, for sometimes we will be ahead and other times behind. Yet, we are called to keep our eyes on the goal, and the prize that we will receive when we cross that finish line.

In life, we often convince ourselves that we have to run from something, like a bad circumstance or sin, but we rarely tell ourselves that we need to run towards something. In life, you are always running towards something. Don’t focus on what you are running from, for when running a race, a participant is discouraged from looking back, lest they slow down and stumble. Keep you eyes forward along the track that the Lord has set out for you and the magnificent finish line that marks the end, for it is there we will gather with Christ and all the other racers in the glorious winners circle that is promised to those who run and finish the race.

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