5 More Signs You Glorify Self

Last week we looked at five ways the pursuit of self-glory shapes your ministry. Here are five more warning signs for you to consider in an effort to pursue wisdom and holiness. May God use these additional signs to expose your heart and to redirect your ministry.

Self-glory will also cause you to:

6. Care too little about what people think about you. 

If you think you’ve arrived, you are so self-assured that you simply don’t think others should evaluate your thoughts, ideas, actions, words, plans, goals, attitudes, or initiatives. You really don’t think you need help. You do alone what should be done in a group. And if you work with a group, you will tend to surround yourself with people who are all too impressed with you, all too excited to be included by you, and who will find it hard to say anything but “yes” to you. You have forgotten who you are and what your Savior says you daily need. You live in a place of both personal and also ministry danger.

7. Resist facing and admitting your sins, weaknesses, and failures. 

Why do any of us get upset or tense when we are being confronted? Why do any of us activate our inner lawyer and rise to our defense? Why do any of us turn the tables and remind the other person that we are not the only sinner in the room? Why do we argue about the facts or dispute the other person’s interpretation? We do all of these things because we are convinced that we are more righteous than the other person. Proud people don’t welcome loving warning, rebuke, confrontation, criticism, or accountability. And when they fail, they are very good at erecting plausible reasons for what they said or did given the stresses of the situation or relationship.

Are you quick to admit weakness? Are you ready to own your failures before God and others? Are you ready to face your weaknesses with humility? Remember, if the eyes or ears of a ministry partner ever see or hear your sin, weakness, or failure, it is never a hassle, never a ministry interruption, and it should never be viewed as an affront. It is always grace. God loves you, he has put you in this community of faith, and he will reveal your spiritual needs to those around you so they may be his tools of conviction, rescue, and transformation.

8. Struggle with the blessings of others. 

Self-glory is always at the base of envy. You envy others’ blessings because you see them as less deserving than you. And because you see yourself as more deserving, it is hard for you not to be mad that they get what you deserve, and it is nearly impossible for you not to crave and covet what they wrongfully enjoy. In you envious self-glory, you are actually charging God with being unjust and unfair. In ways you may not be aware, you begin to be comfortable with doubting God’s wisdom, justice, and goodness. You don’t think he has been kind to you in the way you deserve. This begins to rob you of motivation to do what is right, because it doesn’t seem to make any difference. It is important to recognize that there is a short step between envy and bitterness. That’s why envious Asaph cries in Psalm 73:13, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.” He’s saying, “I’ve obeyed, and this is what I get?” Then he writes, “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast before you.” What a word picture—a bitter beast!

I have met many bitter pastors; men convinced they have endured hardships they really didn’t deserve. I have met many bitter pastors, envious of others’ ministries, who have lost their motivation and joy. I have met many pastors who have come to doubt the goodness of God. And you don’t tend to run for help, in your time of need, to someone you have come to doubt.

9. Be more position oriented than submission oriented. 

Self-glory will always make you more oriented to place, power, and position than in submission to the will of the King. You see this in the lives of the disciples. Jesus hadn’t called them to himself to make their little kingdom purposes come true, but to welcome them as recipients and instruments of a better kingdom. Yet in their pride, they missed the whole point. They were all too oriented to the question of who would be greatest in the kingdom.

You can never fulfill your ambassadorial calling and want the power and position of a king. Position orientation will cause you to be political when you should be pastoral. It will cause you to require service when you should be willing to serve. It will cause you to demand of others what you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. It will cause you to ask for privilege when you should be willing to give up your rights. It will cause you to think too much about how things will affect you, rather than thinking of how things will reflect on Christ. It will cause you to want to set the agenda, rather than finding joy in submitting to the agenda of Another. Self-glory turns those who have been chosen and called to be ambassasdors into self-appointed kings.

10. Control ministry rather than delegate ministry. 

When you are full of yourself, when you are too self-assured, you will tend to think you’re the most capable person in the circle of your ministry. You will find it hard to recognize and esteem the God-given gifts of others, and because you do, you will find it hard to make ministry a community process. Thinking of yourself more highly than you ought always leads to looking down on others.

Personal humility and neediness will cause you to seek out and esteem the gifts and contributions of others. Pastors who think they have arrived tend to see delegation as a waste of time. In their hearts they think, Why should I give to another what I could do better myself? Pastoral pride will crush shared ministry and the essential ministry of the body of Christ.

Personal Grief and Remorse

It is important for me to say that I have written these cautions with personal grief and remorse. In shocking self-glory I have fallen, at some time in my ministry, into all of these traps. I have dominated when I should have listened. I have controlled what I should have given to others. I have been defensive when I desperately needed rebuke. I have resisted help when I should have been crying out for it. I have been too full of my own opinions and too dismissive of the perspective of others.

I am saddened as I reflect on my many years of ministry, but I am not depressed. Because in all my weakness, the God of amazing grace has rescued and restored me again and again. He has progressively delivered me from me (a work that is ongoing). And in being torn between the kingdom of self and the kingdom of God, he has miraculously used me in the lives of many others. In love, he has worked to dent and deface my glory so that his glory would be my delight. He has plundered my kingdom so that his kingdom would be my joy. And he has crushed my crown under his feet so that I would quest to be an ambassador and not crave to be a king.

In this violent mercy there is hope for everyone. Your Lord is not just after the success of your ministry; he is working to dethrone you as well. Only when his throne is more important than yours will you find joy in the hard and humbling task of gospel ministry. And his grace will not relent until our hearts have been fully captured by his glory. That’s good news!

  • http://brandatthebrink.blogspot.ca/ Ron Van Brenk

    Thanks Paul.

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  • http://www.apoorwretch.com Seth Fuller

    I love these posts. For someone considering ministry like myself, the blessing of reading these wise cautionary tales are so so appreciated.


    Seth Fuller

  • http://inehemiah.wordpress.com/ Jason

    I appreciate your article, especially this part:

    “It is important for me to say that I have written these cautions with personal grief and remorse. In shocking self-glory I have fallen, at some time in my ministry, into all of these traps. I have dominated when I should have listened. I have controlled what I should have given to others. I have been defensive when I desperately needed rebuke. I have resisted help when I should have been crying out for it. I have been too full of my own opinions and too dismissive of the perspective of others.”

    Praise God that He has shown you your sin. If you have not done so already, I encourage you to follow your public confession and apparent repentance with making things right on a personal level with all of those whom you have domineered over in the past. Domineering is the biblical term for what you describe, and it is a particularly pernicious sin in a pastor, and results in considerable and lingering pain for those on the receiving end of it. I suggest that you help those people heal by contacting them, apologizing, and doing what you can to make restitution. I send this with prayer for you.

  • http://reaganreview.wordpress.com Jimmy Reagan

    Great article! The book he just wrote is full of this type of thing. As a pastor, I found great help in that book!

  • Annette

    Thank you for this article and the previous one as well. My ministry is as a wife and mother, but each point was still easily made applicable to me. I, too, have found it easy to point out a fault in others, only to have Christ show me that I was as guilty, if not more.(case-in-point: being critical of my MIL being critical! :-) Praise Him for His constant work in our lives! And again, thank you for this (ouch!) exhortation.

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  • Marcy

    I agree with Annette that your points were easily made applicable to oneself, not being a pastor but a sinful follower of Christ. This was helpful especially because of something I went through with a friend just in the last few days.

    Your writing is always such a blessing. To God be the glory.

  • http://www.takeacopy.com/ John Dunn

    The sin of self glory can be directly traced to one’s view of God.

    Too many Pastors/Christians hold a high view of God that is frankly idolatrous and unbiblical, perhaps because they’ve cast Him in their own contemptuous, self-important image.

    Here’s what I mean . . . the inscrutable, thrice-holy God did not merely condescend to undeserving sinners in a magisterial and dignified accomodation befitting of His sovereign glory, demanding to be served and adored.

    Rather, the fullness of God took on flesh and personally descended to the lowest place of servanthood, immersing Himself into the reek of our fallen humanity, veiling his glory, becoming poor and ministering to the poorest, the lowliest, the broken, the despised, the outcasts . . . daily pouring out His Word, His power, His physical strength, His redeeming love, and ultimately, His life unto death for us. Behold the Lamb of God, our glorious Servant King! Who was dead and yet who lives and reigns forever more.

    And directly related to this idolatrous view of God is the idolatrous high view of professional ministry. Many a reformed pastor views himself as the ordained professional, not needing to submit to anyone from the common “laity”.

  • Jason

    11. You position yourself at the front of the church on Sundays, per American Protestant tradition, and not the altar of Christ’s body and blood (which the historical churches have traditionally placed at the front of the churches from the very beginning of Christianity). The early practice was (and still is) widespread throughout Christendom despite geographical and cultural separation, indicating early and Apostolic tradition.

    12. You speak your own words more than the Words of God. I’ve noticed on Sunday mornings in historical (orthodox) churches, the amount of Scripture read is more than the amount of sermon spoken. Quite the opposite is true in American Protestantism. Typically just a few verses (or at the most a short passage) is read for a minute, and then the sermon lasts 20 to 30 minutes.

    2 Thess. 2:15 – “With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter.”

    1 Cor. 11:2 “I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.”

    1 Tim. 4:13 “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” (notice the order and the early Christian, and still orthodox Christian, practice)

  • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com Steve Cornell

    The tension has long been between living out Matthew 5:16 without drifting into a violation of Matthew 6:1. We always face the danger of extremes on these matters. While exposing sinful pride, we can open the way to a kind of prideful false humility. Some people are so humble they’re proud of it. Pretending to be humble isn’t the same as actually being humble. Pretentious humility is self-refuting. Those who use humility to seek out praise are perhaps the most proud. Humility doesn’t require one to continually engage in self-deprecation.

    • Jason

      The tension between Matthew 5:16 and Matthew 6:1 is simply the difference between doing good works so that others glorify God and doing good works so that others glorify you. We must keep the motives of our heart pure. Those who work for the the praise of others will get the praise they seek along with a proud heart and a world of trouble. Those who work so that God will be praised will inherit the earth and eternal glory.

      Praying the Jesus Prayer continuously, with our heart and mind, throughout the day is a very old, orthodox monastic practice intended to keep us humble. It works wonders. (“Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, a sinner.”)

      • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com Steve Cornell

        Ah yes, and there is good reason for Jesus to say, “Προσέχετε”. The heart is a deceitful place – “perverse” and “devious above all else” (Jer. 17:9). “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). “Teach me your ways, O Lord,
that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you” (Psalm 86:11).

        There are many truths for the heart (see: http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/prayers-for-the-heart/)

  • CWC

    Thank you!

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