Theme: Burdens Rolled Away: Pretense and Artificiality
This week’s lessons talk about the need for every Christian to be marked by humility, and that the sins that fight against this humility can only be taken away by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose own humility took him to the cross for us.
Scripture: Matthew 20:20-28
2. The burden of pretense. The second burden Tozer writes about is the burden of pretense—of pretending to be something we are not and of hiding what we truly are. The man who is moderately successful in business tries to look wildly successful. He is ashamed to be thought of only as a moderate achiever. A person of limited education pretends to be more highly educated than he is and fears to meet a thoroughly educated man. Even if he is well educated, he fears to meet a person who is better educated or to be in a position where the unfavorable comparison shows. A cultured person fears to be with those who are even more cultured. Tozer says, “Let no one smile this off. These burdens are real, and little by little they kill the victims of this evil and unnatural way of life.”2
The reason for pretense is that we fear to be seen as we really are. But the real problem is that the issues are deeper than the things we normally fear to have known. We pretend because we do not want another person to think us ill-informed, gauche, unsophisticated, or other such things. But the real problem is that we are sinners, and our real fear (although we do not often admit it, even to ourselves) is that someone will find out that our lives are corrupt and our hearts desperately wicked, as the prophet Jeremiah writes (Jer. 17:9).
Jesus delivers us from pretense when we follow Him. He does it by bringing us before Himself, and thus face to face with God before whom “all hearts are opened, all desires known,” as The Book of Common Prayer expresses it. If our basic problem is sin and the desire to hide our sin from others, then the cure is to have sin dealt with by Christ and know that we are accepted by God on the basis of His atoning work, regardless of what we are or have done. Another way of saying the same thing is that the cure for our fear is knowing that we are known already—deeply and exhaustively by God Himself, and that He has loved us and receives us as we are anyway. Humility begins by knowing that I am accepted by God, sinner that I am. Therefore, since I can stand before God without the need to pretend, I can also stand before others. If I am accepted by God, I do not need to worry about what others may think of my performance.
3. The burden of artificiality. Artificiality is a problem closely linked to pretense, as Tozer indicates. But it is a step beyond it—a step in the wrong direction. It involves a fear of relaxing and an enforced affectation. It is what we mean when we say that a person seems always to be “playing a role.” It can be amusing at times; but it wears thin, and we come away feeling that we really do not know the person. “I wish he or she would just relax and be himself,” we say.
Artificiality falls away at the cross of Christ. The cross is so real, so brutally authentic, that standing before it is like standing before a bright light that probes into every recess of our being. Before the cross we have the experience of the children in the Chronicles of Narnia, whenever they were with Aslan. Before him any dishonest word, any self-serving statement tended to dry up—not so much because they feared he would punish them for deceit but because evil simply could not stand before one who was both all-powerful and completely good. The one who is following Jesus will have precisely this experience. If we walk with Christ, we will grow in humility. If we are not walking in humility—if pride, pretense, and artificiality are not falling away in our lives, we are not living for Christ. If we are as proud as we were before our alleged “conversion,” we are not His.
What are two other of Tozer’s “crushing burdens” talked about in today’s devotional? How is each one described?
How does the person and work of Christ deliver us from them?
Application: Do you battle against either of these burdens? Ask the Lord to give you the grace to demonstrate the humility and honesty that Jesus calls his disciples to have.
Key Point: The cross is so real, so brutally authentic, that standing before it is like standing before a bright light that probes into every recess of our being.
2Ibid., p. 114.