Avoiding the Presumption Zone

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been several lists released describing the terms, items, activities and things that have become part of our everyday world since the year 2000.  Facebook, Twitter, “googling”, I-Phone and “going green” were some of the entries.

            One item I did not see listed has been mentioned with regularity on hundreds of newscasts about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:  IED. That’s shorthand for “improvised explosive device”, the small and potent bombs that terrorists have hidden next to roadways and in public spaces. Detonated by motion or by a remote device, IED’s have been responsible for many of the most devastating injuries to our servicemen and ordinary citizens in those countries.

             A hidden threat has deadly consequences.           

            In our spiritual lives, there is an IED of sorts. It’s not hidden in the sand, but lurks in the shadowed corners of our souls.  It may be as deadly to far-from-God people as to highly committed Christ-followers.

We rarely (if ever) notice it, never but it may impact more negatively than other, more widely-noticed vices. We never talk about it, preach about it, small-group about it, curriculum it, or conference about it, which buries it even deeper—and makes it more likely that we will trip the detonator.

            What is this deadly threat?

            Presumption. 

            Presumption is an attitude that takes it for granted that something is true, often without warrant or without facts being fully established.

            In this case, the question is over how God deals with people.  We can far too easily slip into presumptions about God that are consistent with what we want to believe about Him—but are not at all supported by what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture or history.

            How does presumption work in you and me?  Consider your soul and see where this threat may be lurking…

            + If you have not yet entered a relationship with Jesus, is it possible that you “presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Rom.2:4) Do you always think that you’ll get around to the faith-thing sooner or later, that there are other people worse than you—like Hitler or that Madoff guy, that you have questions you want answered before you’ll trust God?  Or have you bought the popular notion that when all is said and done, a good God would never punish a person who did his or her best in life, and that everybody gets in, so long as you were sincere to believe something about a being you call God?

                  That is a deadly presumption about a holy, perfect, just, loving God because He is a King who does not negotiate about eternity. If that stirs a nagging in you, check out the Truth: Rom. 3:9-20; John 3:16-18, 5:24; Rom.6:23, 5:6-8, 10:9-10:13.

             + If you have entered a relationship with Jesus, is it possible you presume on the largeness of God’s holy grace?   The Psalmist prays, “deliver me from hidden faults….keep me back from presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over me.” (Ps.19:13). I don’t think this is sin of which I am simply unaware or ignorant, like not seeing the city limit sign and continuing at highway speed into town.  In context, these verses follow a discussion of the revealing of God’s glory in His perfect word.  In that word, there is warning and reward. 

              These hidden, presumptuous sins are the ones we redefine and rationalize, excuse and privately enjoy.  They may be attitudes or actions, patterns of speech or behavior that we know in our head are a violation of God’s Word.  But somehow, we keep repeating them. We feel guilty. We pray and ask forgiveness.  And it will be given by our gracious Savior.  But the presumption comes in anticipating the forgiveness while we sin. What a distortion of grace!

            Another version of Christian presumption is when we act as if God owes us something for our hard work for Him.   Remember Jesus’ parable of the workers in the field?  (Matt.20)  The ones who had been there since early morning felt they deserved more because they had worked longer.  Some Christians, especially those of us who have been on the journey a long time, can act as if we have the God-business down cold. We presume God always – and must–act according to our well-worn formulae.  I serve, he blesses; I pray, He acts; I give, He provides. And if He doesn’t…we pout.

                       Interesting, isn’t it?  Both far-from-God and seemingly near-to-God people can approach Him with a presumption that can only be described as arrogant.  ‘God, I have got You all figured out….just the way I like You…and it matches my life perfectly”.

            Arrogance or pride is a hidden threat with deadly consequences.

It is quiet and subtle. It can burrow into small places in our souls and grow almost undetected, like black mold from a small leak under the sink.  But it is much more lethal. 

Arrogance is a soul IED that is devastating to your soul. It always pits you against Him. “God opposes the proud.” (1 Peter 5:5) And being on the other side from God is, to borrow the words of Luther, “neither right nor safe”.

             How do I guard my soul against the self-inflicted wounds of such arrogant presumption towards God?

           By the cultivation of authentic gratitude— a deep awareness of my limits and my dependence on Him and of His outrageous generosity to me—no matter what I’ve done with Him to this point in my life.

 If you have not come to a relationship with God through Jesus, it’s crucial to realize that the Sovereign of the universe is beyond what you can figure out—even in His mercy.  “Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways.” (Rom.11:33)  Be grateful that He loves you and has literally moved heaven and earth to pursue you, so you can know and enjoy Him.

If you have come to a relationship with Jesus, authentic gratitude begins by simply remembering that you are a child of your heavenly Father.  Children trustingly rest in their Father’s care; they don’t demand or coerce or negotiate or pout or scheme to get around the boundaries He has set.  They simply trust His goodness, which is enough, and respect His ways, which are always right.  So be grateful for a God who is not just another guy we can manipulate to our desires, but a God who is utterly sufficient for all things. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?  Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid?  For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom.11:34-36)

 Cultivating authentic gratitude from a deep place in our souls will expose and defuse our arrogant presumptions—and enable us to enjoy the abundant life Jesus has for us.

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