My pastor once claimed something I found remarkable, but once I really thought about it, very true as well. He said that only in the Gospel can you be both humble and bold at the same time. Think about that for a second. The gospel of Jesus Christ tells us two critical things. First, we are lost in our sin and without hope of ever being good enough or of saving ourselves. That’s humbling. But second, we are also of infinite worth due to the price God himself paid for our sins, and as eternal heirs of the King, we have been granted truth, salvation, righteousness, and power in this world and the next. That should make us bold and confident. If we can remember and embrace both of these truths, we may be able to balance humility and boldness in our walk with God and before men.
Many men, perhaps most men historically, have a tendency towards pride or even arrogance. Many men without the truth of their lost and sinful state go about their lives bragging, competing with the other alpha males, and living for their own selfish indulgences. Still, I was shocked when I saw an extreme example of this on the bookstore shelf this week.
It was the title of the book which caught my attention first. I’m Awesome. The subtitle was even sillier and just as arrogant – One Man’s Triumphant Quest to Become the Sweetest Dude Ever. No, I didn’t see this in the Humor section, it’s a real autobiography of an ex skateboarder, ultimate fighting enthusiast, and now radio talk show host. I was disgusted but intrigued by the title so I had to at least read the intro.
“My book has it all: Drugs, alcohol, wild boars, prostitutes, skateboarding, guns, motorcycles, broken bones, fire, and Tony Hawk. I’ve been knocked out more than ten times, and done a ludicrous amount of drugs, but this is the whole story, as best as I remember.”
Despite the author’s claim that his book “has it all”, I’m pretty sure there’s at least one thing missing – humility. This guy seems to be reveling in, bragging about, and now profiting from a wasted life of hedonism, abuse, and juvenile foolishness. This kind of guy gives the rest of us men our unwanted reputation as adolescent idiots, who without the wise restraining protection of our mothers, our wives, and the government, would have burned out or killed ourselves by age 25.
Could the power and truth of the Gospel message instill some much needed humility in a man such as this? Just consider one passage from James 4 to get God’s perspective on a life lived (and wasted) in the prideful pursuit of self.
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:6-10
Fortunately the church may not have too many macho fools like the author of the book I saw. Maybe a few with a colorful testimony of past sins, but hopefully not many still glorifying such a lifestyle with the arrogant conclusion of “I’m Awesome!” No, for most of us Christian men, our problem in this balance tends to be our lack of boldness.
We go about our lives acting as if we don’t have the Truth or the confidence of being indwelled with power by the Holy Spirit. We are often timid and sheepish in our interactions with others, believing the world’s lies of relativism, coexistence, and equality of ideas. We find ourselves passively accepting what we know is wrong, afraid to confront or even disagree with others. We make excuses for our inaction and silence like “Who am I to say what’s right or wrong?” “How could I make a difference?” or “I don’t want to start any trouble.”
Maybe we have the humility thing down (although I doubt it if we’re honest), but most of us could still use a good dose of Gospel truth to bolster our boldness in this world. Consider Paul’s encouragement in Ephesians 3 and Philippians 4 that “in Christ Jesus our Lord…we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him,” so that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
No men, we have no business going around telling everyone I’m awesome, but we should never forget that we serve and are saved by “the great, the mighty, and the awesome God.” The truth of the Gospel should keep us humble, reminding us daily of our depravity, our helplessness, and our total dependence on God’s saving and sustaining grace. And the Gospel should also motivate, encourage, and inspire us to confident boldness in the name of Christ. Yes, only the power of the Gospel can equip us to be both humble and bold.