Pride Won’t Get Us Where We’re Going

The church follows what God has said in Scripture, which is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). To do this in any meaningful sense, Scripture must be both clearly expounded and applied. As Elizabeth Charles said, “Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved.”[1] The realm of application is where commitment to God is put to the test.

Today, this means the church must stand firm and speak boldly on the topic of sexual immorality, as she once did—knowing full well she will be misunderstood at best, and demonized at worst.

While offensive to many, the Christian sexual ethic as set forth in Scripture is relatively clear, though it presents a host of challenges to all of us. Lewis was surely right when he said the Christian sexual ethic is so difficult that either Christianity is wrong or human desire has gone wrong.[2] I don’t know about you, but I’d say it’s the latter.

Misdirected human desire (i.e. rebellion against God) shows itself in manifold ways, although today it seems to be especially pronounced in the area of sexual immorality, which the apostle Paul characterized as something “earthly” and a “[work] of the flesh,” ostensibly capable of disinheriting persons from the kingdom of God (Col. 3:5; Gal. 5:19–21).

Notwithstanding the hard truths set forth in Paul’s letters (and elsewhere in Scripture), Bible-believing Christians know—or ought to know—that passages like these aren’t supposed to be deployed for crisis conversion or to strike terror into the hearts of people already oppressed with the law and terrified with sin. After all, whatever righteousness any of us has in the sight of God is, as Luther put it,  passive: “We do nothing . . .; we give nothing to God but simply receive and allow someone else to work in us—that is, God.”

That said, Christians can—and must—wisely exegete the whole counsel of God to warn a watching world of the dangers of living in unrepentant sin, including sexual sin. It won’t make us popular, but we must openly warn those who reject the Christian sexual ethic. Their lives depend upon it. The sexually immoral lifestyle isn’t just an incoherent road to nowhere; it’s a highway to hell.

What about those who seem to live (more or less) in line with the requirements of Scripture? It can be easy to find comfort by comparing outward appearances. “I don’t live like that person, so I must be safe.” But to those who feel safe in their external behavior, I say beware. As counselor David Powlison taught, “The Bible is always about behavior, but it is never only about behavior. God’s indictment of human nature always gets below the surface, into the ‘heart.’”

In the eyes of our thrice-holy God, we all stand indicted. Indeed, “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). Although Scripture teaches that every sin deserves eternal condemnation (Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10), Scripture also indicates—as John Frame has helpfully explained—that some sins are worse than others (Ezk. 8:6; John 19:11), and that even in hell there are likely degrees of punishment (Luke 12:47–48). Sexual immorality, which has more harmful consequences relative to other sins, and deeply offends God, is one such sin (Lev. 18:22).

But make no mistake: Outside of Christ, death is coming for everyone. This is on account of our sinful hearts (Gen. 6:5; Rom. 5:12), wherein the deadliest kind of pride lurks. This pride is certainly related to the “pride” platformed annually during June, but it is more fundamental. It’s the pride which not only causes quarrels and fights among us, but also teaches us to boast in ourselves, which counts for nothing (Gal. 6:14–16).

But pride doesn’t have to get the last word. As singer-songwriter Thad Cockrell sings:

Truth will keep on shining /

Like a morning sun /

Brighter than troubled winds can blow /

And if you lose your vision /

You can use my eyes /

To see just where it is you need to go /

Oh, pride won’t get us where we’re going...

Thanks be to God; when we were blind and headed for the pit, He gave us eyes to see just where it is we need to go: to Jesus Christ. He alone can save us from our highways to hell, because (as the Creed reminds us) he’s already been to hell—and back again.

Although pride wants to keep us fixated on ourselves rather than the finished work of Christ, pride won’t get us where we’re going. So, let’s surrender our pride and turn to Christ. Let’s learn to boast, as the apostle Paul did, in nothing but the cross where, as the Heidelberg Catechism so powerfully reminds us, Christ “fully paid for all [our] sins with his precious blood” (1 Pet. 1:19).

Grayson Walker (MA, Knox Theological Seminary; JD, University of Oklahoma College of Law) is an attorney in Oklahoma City. He belongs to King’s Cross Church (PCA) in Oklahoma City.

Related Links

Podcast: "Should Anyone Cause These Little Ones to Stumble..."

"Gender Affirmation Surgery?" by Calvin Goligher

"Deadly Sins in a Digital Age: Pride" by Brad Littlejohn

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman

Biblical Personhood & Gender Confusion, with Derek Thomas, Richard Phillips, and Rosaria Butterfield. 


[1] Elizabeth Charles, Chronicles of the Schönberg-Cotta Family (T. Nelson, 1864), 276.

[2] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Harper Collins, 2001), 95.