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Man: The Dwelling Place of God: Chapter 18. Boasting or Belittling

By A.W. Tozer


      WE ALL know how painful it is to be forced to listen to a confirmed boaster sound off on his favorite topic - himself. To be the captive of such a man even for a short time tries our patience to the utmost and puts a heavy strain upon our Christian charity.

      Boasting is particularly offensive when it is heard among the children of God, the one place above all others where it should never be found. Yet it is quite common among Christians, though disguised somewhat by the use of the stock expression, "I say this to the glory of God."

      Some boasters appear to feel a bit self-conscious, and apologize meekly for their outbursts of self-praise. Others have accepted themselves as being all their doting relatives and friends claim they are, and habitually speak of themselves in reverent terms, as if their superiority was a matter of common knowledge too well established to require proof. Such a one was the concert singer who replied to a glowing compliment after a performance, "Well, what did you expect?"

      God is very patient with His children and often tolerates in them carnal traits so gross as to shock their fellow Christians. But that is only for a while. As more light comes to our hearts, and especially as we go on to new and advanced spiritual experiences, God begins to impose disciplines upon us to purge us from the same faults He tolerated before. Then He permits us to say and do things that react unfavorably against us and expose our vanity for what it is. It may then happen in the providential will of God that the very gift we have boasted of may be lost to us or the project we are so proud of will fail. After we have learned our lesson the Lord may restore what He has taken away, for He is more concerned with our souls than with our service. But sometimes our boasting permanently hurts us and excludes us from blessings we might have enjoyed.

      Another habit not quite so odious is belittling ourselves. This might seem to be the exact opposite of boasting, but actually it is the same old sin traveling under a nom de plume. It is simply egoism trying to act spiritual. It is impatient Saul hastily offering an unacceptable sacrifice to the Lord.

      Self-derogation is bad for the reason that self must be there to derogate. Self, whether swaggering or groveling, can never be anything but hateful to God.

      Boasting is an evidence that we are pleased with self; belittling, that we are disappointed in it. Either way we reveal that we have a high opinion of ourselves. The belittler is chagrined that one as obviously superior as he should not have done better, and he punishes himself by making uncomplimentary remarks about himself. That he does not really mean what he says may be proved quite easily. Let someone else say the same things. His eager defense of himself will reveal how he feels and has secretly felt all the time.

      The victorious Christian neither exalts nor downgrades himself. His interests have shifted from self to Christ. What he is or is not no longer concerns him. He believes that he has been crucified with Christ and he is not willing either to praise or deprecate such a man.

      Yet the knowledge that he has been crucified is only half the victory. "Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Christ is now where the man's ego was formerly. The man is now Christ-centered instead of self-centered, and he forgets himself in his delighted preoccupation with Christ.

      Candor compels me to acknowledge that it is a lot easier to write about this than it is to live it. Self is one of the toughest plants that grows in the garden of life. It is, in fact, indestructible by any human means. Just when we are sure it is dead it turns up somewhere as robust as ever to trouble our peace and poison the fruit of our lives.

      Yet there is deliverance. When our judicial crucifixion becomes actual the victory is near; and when our faith rises to claim the risen life of Christ as our own the triumph is complete. The trouble is that we do not receive the benefits of all this until something radical has happened in our own experience, something which in its psychological effects approaches actual crucifixion. What Christ went through we also must go through. Rejection, surrender, loss, a violent detachment from the world, the pain of social ostracism - all must be felt in our actual experience.

      Where we have failed is in the practical application of the teaching concerning the crucified life. Too many have been content to be armchair Christians, satisfied with the theology of the cross. Plainly Christ never intended that we should rest in a mere theory of self-denial. His teaching identified His disciples with Himself so intimately that they would have had to be extremely dull not to have understood that they were expected to experience very much the same pain and loss as He Himself did.

      The healthy soul is the victorious soul and victory never comes while self is permitted to remain unjudged and uncrucified. While we boast or belittle we may be perfectly sure that the cross has not yet done its work within us. Faith and obedience will bring the cross into the life and cure both habits.

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See Also:
   Preface
   Chapter 1. Man: The Dwelling Place of God
   Chapter 2. The Call of Christ
   Chapter 3. What We Think of Ourselves Is Important
   Chapter 4. The Once-born and the Twice-born
   Chapter 5. On the Origin and Nature of Things
   Chapter 6. Why People Find the Bible Difficult
   Chapter 7. Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine
   Chapter 8. True Religion Is Not Feeling but Willing
   Chapter 9. How to Make Spiritual Progress
   Chapter 10. The Old Cross and the New
   Chapter 11. There Is No Wisdom in Sin
   Chapter 12. Three Degrees of Religious Knowledge
   Chapter 13. The Sanctification of the Secular
   Chapter 14. God Must Be Loved for Himself
   Chapter 15. True Faith Is Active. Not Passive
   Chapter 16. On Taking Too Much for Granted
   Chapter 17. The Cure for a Fretful Spirit
   Chapter 18. Boasting or Belittling
   Chapter 19. The Communion of Saints
   Chapter 20. Temperament in the Christian Life
   Chapter 21. Does God Always Answer Prayer?
   Chapter 22. Self-deception and How to Avoid It
   Chapter 23. On Breeding Spotted Mice
   Chapter 24. The Unknown Saints
   Chapter 25. Three Faithful Wounds
   Chapter 26. The Wrath of God: What Is It?
   Chapter 27. In Praise of Dogmatism
   Chapter 28. What Men Live By
   Chapter 29. How to Try the Spirits
   Chapter 30. Religious Boredom
   Chapter 31. The Church Cannot Die
   Chapter 32. The Lordship of the Man Jesus Is Basic
   Chapter 33. A Do-It-Yourself Education Better Than None
   Chapter 34. Some Thoughts on Books and Reading
   Chapter 35. The Decline of Apocalyptic Expectation
   Chapter 36. Choices Reveal - and Make - Character
   Chapter 37. The Importance of Sound Doctrine
   Chapter 38. Some Things Are Not Negotiable
   Chapter 39. The Saint Must Walk Alone

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