There is a thin, but definite, line between confidence and arrogance. And this is a line that should be clearly drawn in the heart of the Christian. There is a unique kind of security that can really only be found in Christ, and ironically, this unique security is a blend between the absolute confidence in God alone and the absolute lack of confidence in oneself. Here’s how Paul wrote about a similar idea in a well-known passage from Philippians:
For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh—although I have reasons for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless. But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ (Phil. 3:3-7).
Once upon a time, Paul had a ton of confidence in himself. He had the perfect pedigree, perfect education, perfect passion – and yet he had come to the point when he counted all that as loss. That counting as loss came from a true encounter with the living Christ, and beyond that point, Paul realized the true extent of his sin and the true power of God. What resulted was this unique kind of Christian security and confidence in which we are sure of who God is and what He can do and equally sure of how powerless we are in and of ourselves.
To put it into a modern context, there might be all kinds of evidence of personal security in a person, apart from Christ. We might be secure because of our bank account. Or our position in a company. Or because of the number of followers we have garnered. For the Christian, though, there is a unique kind of security. This security is marked in the same ironic fashion as the basis of that security, in which we are confident in Jesus but not confident in ourselves. Here are three examples of how confidence and security looks different in a Christian:
1. The ability to apologize.
Think about it for a second – what enables a person to truly, unequivocally, apologize without justification? It’s only when a person is truly aware of how wrong they were, and they are willing to own that wrongness. This is one of the marks of Christian security. When we are truly secure in Christ, fully aware of His sacrifice on the cross and the fact that He has taken our sin, we can really acknowledge what we have done to its true extent. When we are confident in Jesus, we can own our sin against others without having it crush us.
2. The willingness to ask for help.
Similarly, what keeps us from asking for help? What keeps us from acknowledging that we don’t know how to install a ceiling fan, or put together a report at work, or don’t understand the terms being used at a meeting? What allows us to ask questions about biblical concepts we don’t understand? It’s our own insecurity – the fear of what people will think of us. But when we are secure in Christ, we are free to acknowledge we aren’t an expert at everything else. And we are free to willingly seek the help of others.
3. The practice of confession.
The Bible is clear in that we should, as Christians, help each other follow Jesus. One of the ways we do that is through confessing our sins to one another. That’s not so that we can heap guilt and shame upon one another, but so that we can remind each other of the forgiveness of Jesus that has been given to us. So what keeps us from obeying this biblical command? Again, it’s our insecurity. It’s our worry about what people will think. It’s our anxiety at being found out. And so we are willing to hamstring our own spiritual growth for the sake of our perceived reputation.
But when we are secure in Jesus, we are willing, within reason, to practice confession with a trusted group of friends. For Jesus has approved of us, what do we fear from men?
Security and confidence is a beautiful thing in the Christian. It’s the ability to live above the self-consciousness that so dominates the rest of society. What’s more, it’s waiting for us all who are willing to count all else as loss besides Christ.