Context or pretext: The greatest lie
The name of this column, “Context or Pretext,” focuses on the unhealthy presuppositions or misinterpreted excuses believers or unbelievers grasp onto throughout Scripture. Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, have a direct line of guidance when it comes to the interpretation and application of the word that we have received by the grace of God. Through the past few months, I have studied and written about salvation, deity and baptism. I hope I have been clear with the intent of each piece through this semester. Which do you value most: the context of the Bible or the pretext you have already created and embraced in your own mind?
Instead of directing this last article in a specific passage or theological concept, let’s explore the greatest pretext of all: self-deception.
Self-deception is commonly thought of through Scripture as someone thinking too highly of themselves. Whether it be a parable from Christ about placing yourself in an esteemed seat and needing a time of humility or thinking you don’t sin at all, human beings often convince themselves they are too good or too bad. Jesus Christ attacks both mindsets.
Of course, one who thinks of himself as righteous or too good turns out to be just like everyone else: sinful and in need of a Savior. Scripture teaches that every single human being starts at the same level — lost, broken and sinful. Romans 3:23 puts it plainly: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Any thought that lifts oneself above this standard composes pride. Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.”
However, understanding one’s position in relation to God through the gospel holds importance. If you are redeemed, you are righteous before God, as all four gospels and the apostles teach. Your position has changed before God, but you are still to understand your daily need of him, which spurs on humility.
In Luke 14, Jesus offers a logical parable for this type of thinking. He was at the house of the ruler of the Pharisees. Christ quickly noticed how most of those who were also invited into the house automatically tried sitting in an honored seat. Christ says, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor.” He then explains how someone more important or esteemed than you could be present, and that it would be extremely shameful if you were asked to move so someone else could take your place. This is equivalent to attending a wedding, feeling important to the groom and sitting with his family in the reserved section. The groom never asked you to sit there; you just took the initiative.
Then, the groom notices his grandmother sitting in the row or table behind you that isn’t as close. He asks you to move to the back of the room so his grandmother, more admired than you, can sit closer. You then get up, embarrassed as you walk to the back of the room and sit with everyone else who isn’t family. What a humbling experience.
He ends the parable with, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
While you were sitting in the reserved section at your friend’s wedding, attempting to exalt yourself, the groom’s grandmother humbly sat behind you where she could see the beauty of her grandson’s wedding. The groom exalted his humble grandmother in the end.
The principle here shows that, as Proverbs 16 also says, pride comes before the fall. God himself raises the humble. He tears down the pride of man and will continue to do so. On the flip side, thinking of yourself too lowly is equivalent to the grandmother refusing to move up because she thinks of herself as too old or undesired even though the groom wants her.
And this introduces the unhealthy mindset of “I’m too bad or sinful for the gospel.” Let me assure you, everyone is too bad and sinful for the gospel. No one deserves what the gospel provides. In fact, Christ attempts to lift you up in Matthew 5 when he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom that God dwells over belongs to you who think of yourself as too sinful and unrighteous. Christians often turn to John 4, where Jesus speaks to a woman at a well. She chose sin over and over. She cheated and lied her whole life. But Jesus wanted to free her from the addiction of sin. More than that, he wanted her peoples’ freedom. She was ashamed of the life she lived, but Christ came to her and gave her a new one.
Find freedom in the gospel and stop listening to the lies of your flesh. Christ died for your sins — he paid the penalty. Then he rose from the dead so that you could experience a new life in him. The gospel is sufficient to change lives. His grace is sufficient to change your heart. Surrender, submit and accept this truth.
Duvall is the graduating opinion editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on Twitter