The Gospel Coalition

If you have the reputation of being somewhat critical, "hard edged", and defensive--it may reveal much more than you realize. Believe it or not, there is a direct and explicit connection between a lack of confidence in God's unconditional love for you and your tendency to be critical, assertive, and defensive. When you function as if God's love and acceptance of you depends on your spiritual achievements, your obedience, and your performance, you develop a "defensive assertion of your own righteousness and defensive criticism of others."

Big thanks to Tom Wood for highlighting these insightful words from Richard Lovelace:
Christians who are no longer sure that God loves and accepts them in Jesus, apart from their present spiritual achievements, are subconsciously insecure persons--much less secure than non-Christians--because they have too much light to rest easily under the constant bulletins they receive from their Christian environment about the holiness of God and the righteousness they are supposed to have. Their insecurity shows itself in pride, a fierce defensive assertion of their own righteousness and defensive criticism of others. They come naturally to hate other cultural styles and other races in order to bolster their own security and discharge their suppressed anger. They cling desperately to legal, Pharisaical righteousness. But envy, jealousy and other branches on the tree of sin grow out of their fundamental insecurity.

It is often necessary to convince sinners of the grace and love of God toward them, before we can get them to look at their problems. Then the vision of grace and the sense of God's forgiving acceptance may actually cure most of the problems.

This may account for Paul's frequent fusing of justification and sanctification.



Paul ST Jean

August 31, 2012 at 07:08 AM

you nailed it, pride is the opposite of the humility we need to be in. We also need to display the fruit of the spirit Joy, peace,love,etc. The Apostle Paul was reminded daily of the need to be humble. 2Cor 12:1, 2Cor 12:7
Thanks Jeri

Jeri Massi

August 30, 2012 at 04:46 PM

Oh, I dunno, the idea that sin comes from misinformation may be partially accurate. But sin also comes from pride. I know plenty of people who are perfectly sure that they were elected by God a kazillion years ago, and they are absolutely righteous in Christ, predestined to eternal fellowship with the beloved, and they are still harsh, cruel, and just plain mean spirited. Ever heard of Ian Paisley?

Be careful you don't boil sin down to cognitive or academic problems. Cruelty and hatred come from pride. Period. It's sin, man, it's not a clerical error. K?


August 30, 2012 at 01:06 PM

...Real freedom happens only when the rich provisional resources that are already ours in Christ smash any sense of need to secure for myself anything beyond what Christ has already secured for us. It came to me that this great truth can be used as an ideal introduction to presenting the Gospel. Like, did you know real freedom happens when the rich provisional resources(that is God's resources) that are already ours in Christ smash any sense of need to secure for myself - yourself anything beyond what Christ has already secured for us and to prove that He says For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, How providing is that, I mean my faith your faith all believers faith is a gift of God...not even our own faith to believe comes from us by any effort on our part but, Is a gift of God not a result of works, so that no one may boast or say I had a part in it or I had something to do (with) it. God's truth clearly states - And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. Really good news so far right?...and then get to the meat of the matter. What do ya think? I know it's a new idea and could use a little tweeking but I believe it has potential.

Walter Flach, Geneva-CH

August 29, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Thanks to Mitchell and Paul St Jean

Kathy Morse

August 29, 2012 at 08:02 AM

Because of our sinful pride we need to be careful not to give in to the temptation to touch God's glory which could result in a fall. I don't think people who hold others accountable are as much critical as they are being protective.

Paul St Jean

August 29, 2012 at 03:52 AM

this "Christian teacher" must be Wesleyan in his theology. I was taught the Wesleyan theology for much of my Christian life.
John Wesley was not totally wrong but I can poke holes in his theology. He believed that you could reach perfection for one. And he espoused a two stage salvation vice a fused justification/sanctification as Pastor Tullian commented on here.


August 28, 2012 at 11:20 AM

I agree totally.

Insecurity is based in fear. And when a person is afraid, they try and compensate and puff themselves up to make one self feel like more than what they really are. That's where pride comes in.

Walter Flach, Geneva-CH

August 28, 2012 at 11:20 AM

Steve Martin,
I give you an example to what statements somebody is capable of when law and gospel is not properly divided. I just got an e- mail from a Christian teacher asking "Can a Christian not sin"? His answer is "Yes"!!! Quote:"God indeed, in Christ, has made every provision necessary for a believer never to commit sin, and we are without any legitimate excuse whenever we do.
This must be so for at least two reasons. In the first place, Jesus Christ in His humanity is our example and He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He accomplished this, not because of His deity, but solely in His humanity.
Secondly, God has commanded us not to sin, and He would never command us to do the impossible", end of quote.
To say I was stunned is not adequate.
Have you or anybody else a comment for such statements? How would you describe such a person?

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Mitchell Hammonds

August 28, 2012 at 08:33 PM

How about we deceive ourselves if we say we have no sin (1John). Or Paul's reality of the Christian life laid out in Romans 7 where he admits his wanting to do what is good but finds himself unable to carry out the good he wants. As a Christian I wish and hope that I do get better at living the Christian life... however I'm knocked off of my rocker repeatedly in some way. I need a "Savior" that saves I have concluded because I ultimately find myself "unfixed" all too often.

I remember my days when I thought I was doing pretty well. The problem is it's a delusion that one doesn't know they're in. I'm convinced it is the result of poor interpretive principles employed. Distinguishing Law and Gospel "blew" the delusion apart.

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Paul St Jean

August 28, 2012 at 03:54 AM

thanks, you know how to clear things up when one is living on the NOHT Sure.

Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

August 27, 2012 at 06:34 PM

The estimation that ‘hardliners’ might just hide their threatening shadow inside of them by adopting a defensive, critical stance is psychologically absolutely infallible (like the Pope :) ). And it’s right to say,

“It is often necessary to convince sinners (even sinful Christians) of the grace and love of God toward them, before we can get them to look at their problems. Then the vision of grace and the sense of God’s forgiving acceptance may actually cure most of the problems.”

Much agreed. But how does this work? By telling/preaching them that God loves them? That’s important, but I’m afraid that won’t be enough – at least this is my conclusion since it didn’t work for me.

I think we are never mistaken when we are indeed looking through the eyes of the heart (of Love), which are enlightened by His Spirit who enables us to connive at any wrong doing, and simply perceive the wonderful, loveable creature/child of God. Alhough it is not possible by our own “Try harder” attitude, through the eyes of our Lord who died once for every sin of every sinner ever because He loves the whole world, it is possible. And so, step by step, the thick defensive wall that protects the heart against being hurt by others, begins to crumble.

This is the very way I have experienced Jesus for many years. He loves me always in the same manner, even if I am bad-tempered or a real jerk. Thus I opened my heart more and more, and showed Him what was broken, so that He could start to heal me.

Astonishing for me to realize was the mystery that our enlightened heart, soul, and mind cannot help but loving what they perceive, they only see perfection. No sinners anywhere, but only perfected children of God. Therefore, in my life I want to see all the things through His eyes. Forevermore.

Steve Martin

August 27, 2012 at 06:32 PM

I don't see how anyone in a church that does not properly separate the law form the gospel can be a secure person. It is impossible.

You'll either end up prideful, or despairing.


"(even sinful Christians)" - are there any other kind?