In God alone lies our strength to stand. Spiritual arrogance is the deception that our strength is our own and cuts us off from our foundation in Him. What is not rooted in the rock will fall, and only humility can keep us rooted in the Rock.
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)
The outward appearance of something is not always a true reflection of its real condition. I have, once or twice in my life, seen enormous trees uprooted by the power of a storm while their smaller companions easily withstand the elements. The assumption is that the tall, strong tree with its superior roots would stand through anything. It’s an assumption that, when applied to ourselves as believers, falls into the realm of spiritual arrogance. Sadly, like those massive trees, I have seen many seemingly strong and full-of-faith Christians fall. Some of them have been spiritual leaders, highly respected and with seemingly powerful ministries. Yet these great men and women of God have been felled by the storms, and it leaves us wondering how we – who seem so less equipped – would far in the same conditions. It’s hard to grasp how one seemingly rooted in God could be so easily uprooted.
Self, the devil, and spiritual arrogance.
We absolutely cannot question the reality that every Christian is a target for the devil. The moment we are saved, we step over the line from irrelevant to a threat to his purposes. Sadly, though, we can’t lay all the responsibility at the devil’s door. If the real truth be told, most of the time, we do his work for him. Yes, he may send his minions to harry, oppress, and even attack us on occasion. There’s also no denying that they know exactly which buttons to press, when, and how. But one of the devil’s greatest weapons is spiritual arrogance. This is pride on steroids, fostered and fed by self’s need for recognition and, without doubt, helped along by the seduction and interference of the enemy. But we cannot and must not give Satan the glory for bringing down the people of God. The fault lies with us.
Realistically, he has no legal ground unless we give it to him. So while he may tease and tempt and even torment, it’s our responsibility to recognise and resist. Unfortunately, the only real antidote to pride is humility – the very opposite of spiritual arrogance. The problem is this dangerous condition doesn’t happen overnight. We don’t wake up one morning way too sure of ourselves. It’s a patient, insidious condition that infiltrates sneakily over time, slowly shouldering humility out and smothering our discernment. A word of praise here, evidence of fruit there, answers to prayer…these wonderful things of God are hijacked by self. Pride likes the success and the sense of satisfaction it brings. It enjoys the feeling that we have ‘shares’ in spiritual success, however small. After all, God used us, not someone else, and that has to account for something, doesn’t it?
What is spiritual arrogance?
We understand this better if we look at how it comes about. In a nutshell, it’s a shift from He did it to we did it. From there, it’s a simple step to I did it. We may tack on the ‘for Him’ that sounds spiritually appropriate, but for those in the trap of spiritual arrogance, that’s more habit than anything else. This condition blatantly usurps the glory due to God yet cloaks it in suitably spiritual terms. When we begin to speak of ‘my work for God’ rather than His work through me, that’s a warning sign. We forget that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Instead, we assume He has used us because we’re strong. My faith, my commitment, and my ability make me strong enough to stand – without Him. The grace and power of God have become our right rather than a free gift.
Spiritual arrogance also involves deception and manipulation. We hide our true condition, even from ourselves, and no longer rely on God’s Word. We convince ourselves that His spoken Word is sufficient, and that we hear it clearly. Our own agendas creep in, drowning out the purposes of God, and we use our spiritual authority and success to manipulate others into following. Our position needs to be maintained at all costs, and we’ll use the Word of God to achieve this if need be. Through it all, there is a façade of reverence and humility, just sufficient to convince ourselves and the world that we’re the real deal. There is a sense of being untouchable, that we’ve been ‘refined in the fire’ and emerged as ‘pure gold,’ protected and anointed by God. Our authority is not of God but of ourselves and the conviction of our own worthiness.
The consequences of spiritual arrogance.
True spiritual strength can only be found in Christ. Our root is only as strong as that to which we are anchored. If we’re anchored on the rock, nothing will shake us. But if our roots are fastened to the fleshly things of the world, the smallest wind will topple us. This is a spiritual truth that Jesus expounded in His parable of houses built on rock and sand. Spiritual arrogance always starts rooted in the rock. Over time, however, self-confidence and pride start the growth sideways rather than pressing on ever deeper. The visible growth – branches, leaves, and fruit – become our weakness. The very things we take pride in will be the weight that brings us down in the storm. What we have achieved comes to nothing because we’re no longer connected to the power behind it. We lose the vital connection to our anchor and sustainer.
The notion of a root is vital to understanding the consequences of spiritual arrogance. We are only ever as good or as strong as our foundation. If God is our foundation, we will live in the humility that comes with knowing we are and can do nothing without Him. True spiritual humility is coming to the place where we accept the reality of our weakness and frailty and the He is the source of all. When we are rooted in Christ in this way, then we are strong and can stand. But if our root is grounded in self and our abilities, there is no sure foundation. We cut ourselves off from the only thing that will keep us standing. Slowly but surely, our root is undermined, loosened, prised free. What is not rooted in Christ will fall, pure and simple. God does not sustain what is not of Him.
Spiritual arrogance and God’s anointing.
This is perhaps the greatest pitfall for those teetering on the brink of spiritual arrogance. 1 John 2:27(a) says, But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you. It’s a favourite verse used to validate the claim that God does not withdraw His anointing. If we have it, we have it, full stop. The danger here is reading only half the verse and assuming that nothing can touch that which God has placed in us. Part (b) of this verse says this: but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. The warning is clear. We are to abide in Him. He may not withdraw the anointing, but He won’t honour it if we exclude Him.
The anointing of God depends on His empowerment to function effectively. If we cease to rely on Him when we move in His anointing, we will begin to rely on other power to maintain it. This effectively hands over to the enemy what God ordained for His purposes. Obviously, this is not a situation He will allow to continue. While He won’t withdraw the anointing, He leaves us to our own devices. Sooner or later, we’re trapped in the snare of our own making. We’re invincible, swept away on a tide of our own success and achievements, and our root shrivels and dies because it’s severed from the rock. Today’s verse is a warning to us all. When we catch ourselves even thinking that we can stand, we need to examine why we believe it. Pride is in all of us, and spiritual arrogance a small step to the left.
Our protection against spiritual arrogance.
Humility is our safeguard against spiritual arrogance. When we abide in Christ, we abide in the truth that we can do nothing without Him. Intimate relationship with Jesus prevents us from focusing on ourselves. Rooted in the rock means a sure and certain knowledge that He alone is our protection, our source, and our defence. The tragic truth behind every man or woman of God who falls due to spiritual arrogance is that they once earnestly and honestly served the Lord. The other sobering truth is that it’s a spiritual condition that can happen to any of us, but by the grace of God. We don’t remember or weakness and frailty to fall into condemnation. Rather we remember it so we can dig deeper and draw from His strength. Then, and then, only will we stand, strengthened and empowered by our God, our rock, and our fortress.
Thank You, Lord, for reminding us that we all are weak and prey to pride and spiritual arrogance. Draw us close and stir up in us a hunger for You. Help us to dig deep so that we are rooted in the rock and can abide in You, our only protection against the storms and our own weaknesses. Guard and keep our hearts so that we do not fall into the seduction of trusting in ourselves.