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Jewels from Romans #8

Romans 2:17-24

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God
18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law;
19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,
20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—
21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?
22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?
23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.
24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
(ESV)

I found a picture of myself as I was reading through the book of Romans this morning. I found a picture of myself and it was not a pretty picture at all. I found a picture of myself which Paul painted with the words of his pen in Romans 2:17-24, as quoted above. Paul used two colors to paint a picture of me in these verses: pride and hypocrisy. Let me describe to you what I found in my own words.

First, consider the description of pride which resides in me that I found in verses 17-20:

But if you call yourself a Jew…” I may not be a Jew, but my pride tells me that I am chosen by God and that makes me better than other people.

“…and rely on the law…” In my pride, I consider myself better than other people because I don’t do certain things. Or, at least I say I don’t do certain things. Or I don’t do certain things when other people are watching.

“…and boast in God…” In my pride, I brag and boast about my relationship to God and look with disdain on those who do not have the same relationship as me.

“…and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law…” In my pride, I think that I have everything figured out, that God has given to me alone the full counsel of His knowledge and will.

“…and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children…” In my pride, I think that I have insight that other people would be privileged to know. That it why I write these blogs. I write because I desire some type of recognition that I have these profound things to say.

“…having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth…” Here is the ugliest picture of my pride of all. My eyes fixated on the word “embodiment.” Surely that describes me. If you want to see what it means to have knowledge and possess truth, you need look no farther than me. What a joke!

But are any of these things true? No, they are all lies which my pride whispers in my ear. And when I listen to what pride whispers, it inevitably leads to hypocrisy. Consider the description of the hypocrisy which my pride leads me to in verses 21-23:

You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” How many times have I stood up in front of people and told them to study their Bibles, to pray, to serve others, to set aside their own desires, and then do none of these things myself?

While you preach against stealing, do you steal?” How many times have I told people that it is wrong to take things that are not yours, and then turn around and steal other people’s ideas or their character by my words?

You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?” How many times have I preached about the need for complete faithfulness in marriage while at the exact same time lusted after a woman who was not my wife?

You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” How many times have I said that God is the only one and true God and then worshipped at the altar of myself through hedonism and materialism?

You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.” How many times have I proclaimed that the commandments of God are good and then turned right around and broken those commandments?

So what is the impact of my pride and hypocrisy? Does it affect only me? Verse 24 answers this question in the most terrible way. “For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (ESV) People see me for who I really am, a man full of hypocrisy and pride. And when they see me thus, they have every right to spit in the face of God because the testimony of my true actions contradicts everything I claim about God.

By Berean Husband

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Perils of Pride #14: Humility of the Incarnation

Philippians 2:5-11

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
. (NIV)

We come today to the last post in the series “Perils of Pride” and also to the final post on the topic of the example of humility found in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We have seen the humility of Jesus Christ in his service and in his sacrifice. Today we will look at the humility of Jesus Christ in his incarnation. The question we must ask ourselves as we begin to think about the Christmas season is this: How could it be that the creator of the entire universe would condescend to become as one of his creations?

Let us suppose that you work in an automobile manufacturing plant. You turn out beautiful cars for a living. Or let us suppose that you enjoy arts and crafts, and you make beautiful trinkets to display on your mantel and to give away as presents. Or let’s suppose you are a writer and your produce excellent books. There is beauty and utility in each of these things. But would you be willing to purposely lay aside your intelligence and your creativity to become just like one of the things which you created? That is exactly what Jesus Christ did.

We are told in Philippians 2:6-8 that Jesus Christ “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (NIV) Jesus Christ is himself God and we are told that he is the creator of all things (see Colossians 1:16). But Jesus did not consider his full equality with God something to be held on to. Instead, notice how the Apostle Paul describes the humiliation that Jesus Christ subjected himself to in his incarnation as a man:

He made himself nothing. This is where we find the Greek word “kenosis,” which means “to empty.” Jesus Christ emptied himself when he became a man. What did he empty himself of? He became no less God, but he emptied himself of the manifestation of much of his glory and the manifestation of much of his power. He accepted many of the limitations that come with being human. He may have at times been hot, or cold, or hungry, or thirsty or tired. He knew what it was like to feel sorrow and rejection. He faced temptation and betrayal by one of his closest associates. He suffered death at the hands of angry and jealous men.

He became a servant. The King of all the universe became a servant to all. He could have been born into a palace. Instead he chose to have a peasant for a mother and to be born into a stable. The one who created everything perfect, but who saw mankind desecrate of all creation through sin, stooped down to touch the eyes of a blind man and the skin of a leper. He touched a funeral bier of a dead man and raised him from the dead. And do you think that these acts cost Jesus nothing? In Isaiah 53:4, we read, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows” (NIV).

He was made in human likeness and in appearance as a man. The holy eternal one took up the body of a temporal man. The creator took on the appearance of the created one.

He humbled himself. No human has any right to have pride in themselves. But Jesus Christ did because he was without sin. But instead of flaunting his perfection before the ones he created, he humbled himself before his creation. He stooped to wash the feet of men he created. And he stood silent before the accusations and mocking of men he created.

He made himself obedient. Jesus Christ has shown us the true relationship between a father and son, and that is a relationship of obedience. Jesus Christ came to completely fulfill God’s set purpose, and everything Jesus did was to please the Father, not himself. God the Father himself would proclaim to all “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17 NIV)

He made himself obedient even unto death on a cross. The obedience of Jesus Christ knew no bounds. Not only was he completely obedient to the Father in the manner of his life, he was completely obedient to the Father in the manner of his death. The creation put the creator to death. A jar of clay stood up against its creator and the creator allowed a jar of clay to take away his life. And there could have been no more humble way for Jesus Christ to die – a criminal’s death for one who had committed no crime.

So let us return our original question. How could it be that the creator of the entire universe would condescend to become as one of his creations? I believe that the answer to this question lies in the fact that Jesus Christ the creator had not ceased from his act of creation. When man desecrated the perfect creation of Jesus Christ, God the Father and Jesus Christ already had a perfect plan to set all things right again. And that plan involved Jesus Christ becoming as one of his creations. Practically every act of Jesus Christ while he was in a human body here on earth was an act of purifying his fallen creation. Every lame person he healed, every blind eye he made see, every leper he cleansed, every person he raised from the dead, was an act toward the restoration of his creation to perfection. The only exception I know of is when Jesus cursed the fig tree (see Matthew 21:19-21). And of course the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary is his ultimate act of the redemption of his creation, because it was through this act that he was able to redeem a people for himself from their sin.

This truth is well-described by Paul in Romans 5:12-19. Let us end with reading these verses together.

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—
13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous
. (NIV)

By Berean Husband


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Perils of Pride #13: Humility of Sacrifice

Isaiah 53

1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
(NIV)

I would like to begin today with the words of a familiar hymn.

Man of Sorrows! What a name
For the Son of God, Who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

This song by Phillip Bliss demonstrates the futility of any pride a sinner might have when faced with the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ. What could we possibly do to merit salvation or in any way assist in obtaining our salvation? Nothing! Left to ourselves, we don’t even know we stand in need of salvation. Notice how Bliss describes the plight of the sinner: “ruined sinners”, “guilty, vile, and helpless”. In Isaiah 53:6, we are described as wandering sheep “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (NIV) Notice the universality of our wandering – “we all, like sheep, have gone astray”. No one is exempt. There is no one who desires to follow after God. And also notice the instinct of our wandering – “we all, like sheep, have gone astray”. It is not that we made a decision to reject Christ and then wandered away. It is in our nature to wander away without ever considering the Savior.

But the plight is worse still for the sinner. Before we were drawn by God to a hatred of our sin and a love for the Savior, how did we view the Christ upon the cross? In Isaiah 53:2-4 we are told

2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
(NIV)

We saw no beauty or majesty in the Savior. We hid our faces in disgust as he hung on the cross for us. We rejected his love, his appeal to us to turn from our sins. We saw the cross as a sure sign of the hatred of God poured out upon Jesus Christ. If we had been there in our unregenerate state, we would have stood in line to spit in our Savior’s face. How can we possibly have any pride knowing how we viewed our Savior in our hearts before our heart of stone was removed and we were given a heart of flesh?

In Romans 5:6-8 we are told

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us
. (NIV)

In the face of our ignorance, in the face of our rejection, and in the face of our scorn, Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. What a sacrifice! It would be understandable if Jesus sacrificed himself because we were good and worthy of dying for, but Jesus sacrificed himself for us while we were still sinners – his enemies. There was a brilliant transaction which occurred for each and every Christian as Jesus hung upon the cross. Isaiah 53:5 describes it like this “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (NIV) Phillip Bliss uses the following phrases to describe what happened: “In my place condemned He stood; Sealed my pardon with His blood.” We were given peace with God and healing for our sin-sick souls. Again, in the words of Phillip Bliss, we were given “Full Atonement!” The price for our sins was paid in full.

How could Jesus Christ condescend to suffer humiliation at the hands of men? Isaiah chapter 53 is replete with descriptions of how Jesus Christ willingly suffered at the hands of men. He was despised and rejected. He was oppressed and afflicted. He was led away to be slaughtered. He was falsely accused and wrongly judged. And how did he respond? How did the one man who had the power to summon twelve legions of angels to his aide respond when he was assailed by wicked men? Isaiah 53:7 tells us “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (NIV)

I ask the question again: How could Jesus Christ condescend to suffer humiliation at the hands of men? It seems to me that there are at least four good answers to this question.

First, Jesus willingly suffered humiliation at the hands of wicked men because this was God’s purpose from the foundation of the earth. Peter states in Acts 2:23 “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (NIV)

Second, Jesus willingly suffered humiliation at the hands of wicked men because that was the will of his Father. And Jesus was completely obedient to the will of his Father. Romans 5:19 tells us “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” (NIV)

Third, Jesus willingly suffered humiliation at the hands of wicked men because there was a prize greater than the suffering waiting for him on the other side. Hebrews 12:2 tells us “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NIV)

Fourth, Jesus willingly suffered humiliation at the hands of wicked me because he was humble. Paul writes in Philippians 2:8 “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (NIV)

It seems to me that there is an example for each of us to follow in the list of four things just given. Just as Jesus humbled himself and willingly sacrificed his bodily life, so should we do the same, and for the same reasons. God has a purpose for us that may require us to undergo suffering or persecution. Humbly accept it. God requires our complete obedience in all things. Humbly obey him. There is a greater joy waiting for those who persevere through the trials of this life. Humbly press on to that prize. The pride in our life stands in the way of all these things. Strive for humility.

By Berean Husband


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Perils of Pride #12: Humility of Service

John 13:1-17

1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.
3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.
5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”
11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.
13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.
14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.
15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
(NIV)

The last three posts in this series, “The Perils of Pride”, will be devoted to topics which deal with the subject of humility, particularly the example of humility given to us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The topic for today’s post centers on the passage in John chapter 13 where we read about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and the lessons that they were to learn from this act of humility of Jesus Christ.

In John chapter 13 we come to the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. But before we get to those events, we have what is known as the “Upper Room Discourse”, which covers chapters 13-17. This first section of chapter 13 covers an act performed by Jesus and teaching given by Jesus just before the Passover meal is served.

These verses tell us of the event of Jesus washing the disciples feet before the meal is served. A basin of water was customarily provided for people to wash their feet on entering a house, and sometimes a servant would perform the service in a more wealthy household. But here Jesus becomes the servant of all. None of the disciples would undertake the work, so the only person in the room worthy to be served becomes the servant of all.

In verse 1, the KJV reads “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” (KJV) The meaning of “loved them to the end” is not related to an end in time, but is better translated “loved them to the uttermost.” The phrase is better rendered in the NIV as “he now showed them the full extent of his love.” (NIV) How did the act of Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet show the disciples the full extent of his love? I think that this act was a foreshadowing of the cross. Jesus was demonstrating that the strength of his love knew no boundaries. Just as Jesus was willing to humble himself as a servant, he would likewise willingly humble himself as a sacrifice.

In verses 6-10, Jesus comes to Peter. What is Peter’s response? “You shall never wash my feet.” By the way, I admire Peter’s answer. Tyndale’s original English translation read this way: “You shall not wash my feet as long as the world stands.” That’s pretty strong. But what is Jesus’ reply? “If I don’t wash your feet, you will have no part of me.” So then, what is Peter’s response? “Wash my head and hands as well.” By the way, I admire Peter’s response. In for a penny, in for a pound. But how does Jesus respond? “You’re already clean, just your feet are dirty.”

The distinction between the washing of the feet and taking a bath is much easier to make in the Greek. Everywhere in this passage where you see the word “wash”, except for one place, you have the Greek word “nipto”, meaning to wash a part of the body. The exception is in verse 10 “Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.” (KJV) The first “washed” in this verse is the Greek word “lavo”, meaning to bathe all over, the second “wash” is the Greek word “nipto”, to wash a part of the body. This same picture is given us in the Old Testament, regarding the priesthood. When a priest was consecrated, he was ceremonially washed all over. But in his daily ministrations, he ceremonially only washed his hands and feet before going into the Sanctuary.

There are two primary lessons going on in these verses. The first and foremost is a lesson in service. We will get to that in a minute. But the second lesson is here in verses 6-11. Here are some of the spiritual truths we can glean from these verses:

We all need to be washed all over one time and one time only.

Unless we allow Jesus to wash us completely we can have no part with him.

But even the most devout follower gets somewhat dirty on a daily basis.

And unless we allow Jesus to wash away this daily dirt, we have no place with him.

Verse 12 introduces a point-blank question from Jesus to his disciples: “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.” (NIV) He doesn’t give them a chance to reply. He answers his own question in verses 13-14 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (NIV). Let’s look at Jesus’ answer in parts.

Who do the disciples say Jesus is? They have recognized Jesus as teacher and Lord. Are they correct? Jesus confirms that these honors are indeed his. Then Jesus gives them the teaching. “If I am teacher and I am Lord, and I have served you, then none of you is too good to serve others in a like manner.” In verse 15, Jesus then tells his disciples that what he has just done should be an example to them.

We see something very interesting in verse 17: “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Some of your versions read “happy are ye if you do them.” What does this verse teach is the path we must follow to find blessing, or happiness, as a Christian? The world teaches that the pathway to happiness is getting other people to serve us, but this verse teaches that the true pathway to happiness is in serving others. And that brings me to the primary point of this lesson.

The primary thing that Jesus teaches in these verses is the concept of a servant-leader. Let’s compare and contrast leadership as the world knows it with a leader that Jesus gives us the vision of here:

Worldly leader – people work for, servant-leader – works for people

Worldly leader – for his honor, servant-leader – for Jesus’ honor

Worldly leader – to gain recognition, servant-leader – to evangelize for Jesus

Worldly leader – to gain worldly treasures, servant-leader – to store up treasures in heaven

Worldly leader – proud of his accomplishments, servant-leader – humbled by God’s accomplishments

Now, of course, we have to take this analysis one step farther. How is Jesus the perfect model of the servant-leader? He is of course the perfect example of the servant-leader. He had every right to command the disciples to serve him, but instead he chose to serve them.

We cannot leave this topic without asking ourselves this question – how am I – today – demonstrating this type of sacrificial service to others which Jesus gave us an example to follow? Do you think to measure your service against the ruler that Jesus set forth in this passage?

By Berean Husband

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Perils of Pride #11: Good Pride?

Galatians 6:3-5

3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else,
5 for each one should carry his own load
. (NIV)

Is there such as thing as good pride? When we consider the verses given above, particularly verse 4, it appears that the Apostle Paul is saying that it is o.k. to have pride in yourself if you have tested your own actions and if you are not comparing yourself or deceiving yourself. Does this stand up to the scrutiny of the rest of scriptures, or is it an apparent contradiction?

Here is another example. It is found in James 1:9-10.

9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.
10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower
. (NIV)

Should I have pride in the fact that I am humble, or pride in the fact that I will be humbled? As I stated in an earlier post, humility is the only thing that vanishes once it is mentioned.

We see the Apostle Paul mention his own pride in a positive light several times in his epistles. Here is an example from 2 Corinthians 7:4 “I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” (NIV) Was the Apostle Paul sinning when he took pride in the church at Corinth, or is there some positive aspect of pride that runs counter to our belief that the scripture condemns pride in man?

The quandary regarding so-called “good pride” is really very easy to set straight. It all depends on your definition of the word “pride.” When the words “pride” or “proud” are used in a negative sense in the New Testament, it is usually the Greek word “phusioo”, which means “to be puffed up”. However, when the words “pride” or “proud” are used in a positive sense, it is the Greek word “kauchaomai”, which means “to rejoice.” In all the examples given above of apparently positive instances of pride, the word is always “kauchaomai.” In fact, you can read each of the verses above and substitute in the word “rejoice” for the words “take pride” and you will find that you get a much better sense of what the verse really means. However, in verses where pride is used in a negative sense, you cannot do this. Take for instance the familiar verse from the “Love Chapter”, 1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (NIV) Here the word translated “proud” is the Greek word “phusioo”. You cannot substitute the word “rejoice” into this verse and have it make any sense whatsoever.

So is there a lesson to be learned from our discovery that there really is no such thing as “good pride”? I think there are three lessons we need to learn.

First, we need to learn that it is not enough to just read the scriptures and call it Bible study. We need to learn to dig into the scriptures and pull out the intended meaning of the original authors. We should not trust any translation of the Bible to accurately translate every word in a way that we can readily understand its meaning. Obviously, the word “pride” had a different meaning to the translators of the New International Version than it does to me.

Second, we need to learn that there are no contradictions in the Bible. The matter of “good pride” is just one of the examples of contradiction in the Bible that is easily explainable when we take the time to look at the issue in depth.

Third, there is no lipstick that you can put on the pig of pride to make it look better. The idea of “good pride” runs contrary to the integrated message of the Bible. The Bible condemns pride universally. An attempts to disguise pride by calling it “self-esteem” or “good pride” is nothing more than trying to put lipstick on a pig.

By Berean Husband

Perils of Pride #10: Self-Esteem: Pride’s First Cousin

I was baptized and became a member of a church in 1976 when I was in the fourth grade. But it was not until 1990 that I became a Christian. I distinctly recall, even to this day, the morning I was driving my car on my way to work, when God confronted me. His message was this: “You are wasting your life.” Now I see that this was God’s way of telling me I was a sinner and needed to repent and be saved. The first thing I did was to tune my car radio away from the rock-and-roll station to which I had been listening over to a Christian radio station. It was on that day that I was introduced to David Jeremiah, James Dobson, and Larry Burkett. I attribute these three men to putting me on track spiritually, in my family, and in my finances. David Jeremiah taught me to love the Word of God, James Dobson and “Focus on the Family” may well have saved my marriage, and Larry Burkett made it possible for me to see the pit of debt I was in and he also showed me that my wife needed to be a stay-at-home mom. 1991 and 1992 were two great years and also terrible years. I learned a lot about being a Christian in 1991 and 1992, but they were also years that I paid the price for many bad decisions. The morning my wife and I put our firstborn six week old baby in daycare, so my wife could go to work because of our debt, was one of the worst days of my life. It took the entire year of 1992 to set things right.

I share this bit of my personal testimony in order to get to this point. One of the first books that I read by James Dobson was “What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew about Women.” I recall that the basis of this book was surveys that Dobson conducted on the sources of depression in women as he spoke at conferences across the United States. The top source of depression among women cited in Dobson’s book was low self-esteem. Dobson’s arguments for the need for self-esteem among women made sense to me back then. I found that self-esteem was a theme for Dobson. Not only did women suffer from low self-esteem, but so did children. It seemed to me that Dr. Dobson’s prescription for everyone was a good dose of healthy self-esteem.

Unfortunately, I believe that we have turned self-esteem in modern-day American idol. I looked up the word “self-esteem” in Webster’s Dictionary and found these definitions: “a just opinion of oneself”; “an overestimate of oneself”; “conceit.” I think what has happened in America is that well-meaning mentors have told us we need to have self-esteem according to the first definition – “a just opinion of oneself.” However, we Americans heard this message as the latter two definitions – “an overestimate of oneself”; “conceit.” Just glancing through a website with a page dedicated to self-esteem quotes will verify that my supposition is true. I could have spent the next hour cutting and pasting quotes on self-esteem into this post to show that the notion of self-esteem we have in America today is in direct contradiction to the Word of God. I will suffice it to give only my “favorite” quote. This is from Golda Meir, a former Prime Minister of Israel.

Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”

When I read this quote, I read “Believe that you are a god unto yourself.” The message of self-esteem we hear today is nothing but the message of pride inside a different wrapping paper.

So what is proper self-esteem? Can we have a proper self-esteem? I believe that the answer to this question is “Yes.” The Bible tells us in Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (NIV) How should we think about ourselves? We do not need to turn to the world to answer this question. Psychology cannot answer this question. Self-help books cannot answer this question. Neither Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura. Dr. Ruth, or Dr. Spock have the answer to this question. And Joel Osteen definitely does not have the answer to this question. Everything we need to know about ourselves can be found in the Bible, in the very Word of God. And when we take the Bible as a whole, we can have a right view of self-esteem. How should we think about ourselves? I call this “the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful.”

First, the good.

You were created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (NIV)

You were fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:13-14 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (NIV)

God knew you before you were ever made. Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (NIV)

God has a plan for you. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

But now for the bad.

Because of sin, the image of God created in you has been corrupted. Genesis 6:5-6 “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” (NIV)

Nothing that we do is pleasing to God. Isaiah 64:6 “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (NIV)

There is nothing good in us. Romans 3:10-11 “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” (NIV)

But it gets worse. Here is the ugly.

We are all sinners before God. Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (NIV)

We deserve nothing but death because of our sins. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death” (NIV)

We should be separated from God forever because of our sins. Galatians 5:19-21 “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (NIV)

We deserve to spend eternity in hell because of our sins. Revelation 21:8 “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake
of burning sulfur. This is the second death
.” (NIV)

But for all those who have been called by God, those who Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, there remains the beautiful.

Even though you are a sinner, Jesus Christ died for you. Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

Jesus Christ died for you because of his great love for you, enough to call you his friend. John 15:13-14 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (NIV)

We are no longer alienated from God because of our sin. We are, in fact, the children of God. John 1:12-13 “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (NIV)

Because we are the children of God, we are also heirs of all the riches of God. Romans 8:16-17 “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (NIV)

And finally, we can look forward to the day when we will be re-created in the image of God. We close with a chance to meditate on these verses found in 1 Corinthians 15:51-57.

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—
52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ
. (NIV)

By Berean Husband

Perils of Pride #9: Pride of Trivial Pursuit

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are,
29 so that no one may boast before him.
30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
(NIV)

Let me begin with a story from our family’s dinner table last night. Each time we sit down to eat a meal together as a family, we discuss one question from the Westminster Catechism. As we were finishing up, the conversation turned to questions and answers like “What is the longest verse in the Bible?” “What is the shortest?” “What is the longest book?” etc., etc. And around the table the kids had the answers to all these questions. It was then that I realized just how guilty I am of the sin of using the Bible as a game of Trivial Pursuit. How is it that I have taught my kids how to say the books of the Bible backwards, but have not instructed them adequately in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Believe it or not, this sin in my life stems from my pride. I am guilty of being proud that I think I know more about the Bible than other people. I thought people were privileged to be in my Sunday School class to hear my latest insights. Now I am beginning to realize that I know nothing of the Bible and do not have a clue how to share the Bible with others. The things I do know about the Bible are nothing more than Trivial Pursuit.

The Apostle Paul describes the plight of those who are filled with pride because of their knowledge, worldly wisdom, and scholarship in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, which is quoted at the beginning of this post. In America today, we are taught that knowledge and education are the paragon to strive for. The goal of the typical parent of a high school student today is for them to score well enough on the SAT or ACT in order to gain admission to a prestigious university. Never mind that the world’s system in that university will probably destroy what little faith the student has. And then our children must be well-rounded, so we shuttle them to soccer, music lessons, and karate. We expect our children to learn all they need to know about God, Jesus, and the Bible from an hour or two on Sunday morning in a church that is probably providing nothing more than watered-down milk to the sleeping congregation. (By the way, if you have never heard Jeff Noblit’s two sermons on the “Milky Way”, I encourage you to find time to listen to them. You can download the messages from the internet at the link below. Look for the sermons on January 15 and 22, 2006.)

http://www.anchoredintruth.org/resources/sermons/hebrews

I hear an objection from a reader now: “Are you saying that education, sports, and music lessons are bad?” No, and yes. No, there is nothing wrong with these things in and of themselves. But yes, these things are bad when they stand between us and the true knowledge and true wisdom that only comes from time spent in the Bible and in communion with God. And one more yes: these things are bad when we are so filled with the pride of our own knowledge and our own worldly wisdom that we find the message of the cross of Jesus Christ to be mundane, trivial, useless, and foolishness. Read 1 Corinthians 1:18. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (NIV) I find myself guilty in being so puffed up by my little bit of knowledge that I have gloried in my superior knowledge and denied the power of the cross of Jesus Christ. There is a word used in verse 18 which describes the state of those who do not know the power of the cross of Jesus Christ: perishing. It literally means “to be destroyed fully.”

Now I hear another person out there asking a question: “But can’t a good education and being well-rounded help me out in my Christian walk?” Surprisingly, the answer to this question for the majority of us is “No.” We are told that God must undo our intelligence and worldly wisdom in order for us to come to salvation. We read this in 1 Corinthian 1:19-21.

19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
(NIV)

Notice what Paul says in verse 21. All the wisdom that this world has to offer can never lead us into a knowledge of God. God has chosen a very peculiar way to impart the knowledge and wisdom required for salvation – the foolishness of preaching. No matter how much of the Bible you think you know, there is always room in your head and in your heart for a good sermon. I am dismayed by the way the modern church treats evangelism. We have all these programs to attract people to the church and call these programs evangelism. We think people can get saved by listening to Christian music, or playing on a Christian basketball team, or by eating hot dogs at an “evangelistic block party”, or attending a Christian finance course. But the method of evangelism that God blesses is preaching. Why is it that we have thrown preaching out the window and then expect people to get saved? Oh, they may make a decision for Christ, but that makes them nothing but a two-fold son of hell (see Matthew 23:15). Why do we do this in our churches? The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 1:22-23.

22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles
(NIV)

We do these foolish things in our churches in the name of evangelism because the unsaved world expects these things: miraculous signs, big productions, worldly wisdom. The world calls the cross of Jesus Christ foolishness, so we are ashamed to hold up the crucified Christ for the world to see. Instead, we hide Him behind a curtain in our church while we try to reach the world using methods and programs of man’s devising.

Someone out there may be saying “But we have a fall carnival every year and people from all over the community come and are exposed to the church in a fun and enjoyable setting.” I am not against fun. I love a chili cook-off just as much as the next guy. But don’t call it evangelism. “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” (NIV)

I believe I diverged some from my theme of pride stemming from a false assumption of superior knowledge of the Bible, so let’s get back on track. It is important for us know everything we can about the Bible. It is important to know enough to be able to share the truths of the Bible with other people. But what is the difference between having Bible knowledge for the purpose of Trivial Pursuit and having a knowledge of the Bible that makes a real difference in our lives? I believe that the answer to this question is found in the principle which is expounded in James 1:22-25.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror
24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does
. (NIV)

The true test of the efficacy of our knowledge of the Bible lies in the evidence of our obedience to what it says. Anyone whose head is full of Bible trivia but has no fruit in their lives is deceived. Such knowledge does not lead to salvation. It leads to pride.

How do we go about fighting the pride which has a tendency to fill our hearts because of our knowledge of the Bible? As we consider 1 Corinthians 18:25-31, we can find three most excellent weapons for fighting our own pride.

First, we can have knowledge of the Bible and still be humble when we realize that what we do know of the Bible the world calls foolishness. This is seen in verse 25. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (NIV) You will not be able to impress the average person you meet on the street by your knowledge of the Bible.

Second, we must realize that there is nothing in ourselves which has helped us really understand the Bible. Your IQ has nothing to do with your ability to comprehend the Bible. God did not choose you because he saw you have a superior mind. God chose you in spite of the fact that there was nothing superior about you in order that His purpose could be fulfilled. That is the message of verses 26-29.

26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are,
29 so that no one may boast before him.
(NIV)

Third, we have something much better than our pitiful knowledge of the Bible to boast about – the Lord Jesus Christ. We are nothing, but through Jesus Christ we have wisdom, righteousness, holiness and redemption. Boast in the greatness of Jesus Christ. That is the message of verses 30-31.

30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
(NIV)

As we close today, contemplate on the words of the first verse of the hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts.

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Perils of Pride #8: Pride of Self-Righteousness

Luke 18:9-14

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:
10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(NIV)

The third type of pride which I confess that I find resides in my heart is the pride of self-righteousness hidden behind a thin veil of dedication to holiness. I am guilty of being proud that I do not do certain things that the world does. I am proud that I don’t go see movies with any sex or cussing and I don’t drink beer. I think that sets me apart from a vast majority of people in the church. Now I see that this is nothing but self-righteousness and a cover-up for sins I do commit on a regular basis. There is a parable in the Bible in which I star as the main character. It is the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14, as quoted at the beginning of this post. When I examine the pride of my heart, I realize that my prayers and my attitudes are the same as that of the Pharisee. Let’s take a look at this parable.

The first thing we notice about this parable in verse 9 is the audience to whom this parable is addressed. It is addressed to those who are confident in themselves. It is addressed to those who are self-righteous. It is addressed to those who look down on other people. In other words, it is addressed to me. I am guilty of all these things. I am guilty of all these things in my heart. And many times these sins in my heart flow outward toward others in my actions.

The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is a story of similarities and contrasts. Let’s look at the similarities in these two men first. This will not take long. The only similarity between these two men is that they both went to the temple to pray. Everything else in this parable is a study in contrasts.

The contrasts between these two men are the theme of the parable. The first contrast to notice is their station in life. The first man was a Pharisee, a highly respected member of society, known for his piety and holiness. The other man was a tax collector, perhaps the most hated member of society. How often does our pride and self-righteousness show through because we have a respectable job, keep a clean and orderly house, and go to church on Sunday morning? How often do we look down on people because they don’t measure up to our standards in these areas?

The second contrast to notice is their non-verbal attitude in prayer. The Pharisee stood up to pray. The Amplified Bible tells us that the Pharisee “took his stand ostentatiously” (AMP). The tax collector stood far away and would not even look up to heaven as he prayed. And he also beat on his breast as he prayed. How often does our pride and self-righteousness drive us to want to stand in front and be noticed?

The third contrast to notice is the audience of their prayers. The NIV says that the Pharisee prayed “about himself”; however, I like the KJV better which says that the Pharisee prayed “thus with himself”. Why did he pray with himself? Because no one else wanted to listen to his prayer. Especially not God. But how about the tax collector? What is the first word out of his mouth? God. The tax collector is praying to God. How often does our pride drive us to speak things in order to toot our own horn?

The fourth contrast to notice is the length of their prayers. The Pharisee prayed a long prayer. But why? In Matthew 6:5 Jesus says “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (NIV) But the tax collector’s prayer was short and to the point. Maybe you can identify with me here: Have you ever thought about what you would have prayed when someone else is praying in church instead of listening and praying along with the person who was praying? I think this shows pride and self-righteousness.

The fifth contrast to notice is the subject of their prayers. What did the Pharisee cover in his prayer? Take a look at verse 11. He prays about his lack of sin as compared to other people. He prays about his good works as compared to other people. The tax collector’s prayer is significantly different. He prays about his sinfulness when compared to a holy God. At the end of verse 13, we see this phrase: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (NIV). However, this is a poor translation. The words really read like this: “God have mercy on me, the sinner.” The tax collector prays for mercy when his works are held up to God’s standards. If anything in this parable is an indictment against my pride and self-righteousness, it is this. My pride drives me to compare myself to other people, especially those people who I think are worse off than me, instead of looking to the example of righteousness given to us in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The sixth contrast to notice is the petition of their prayers. What does the Pharisee ask God for in his prayer? Nothing. He asks for nothing because he feels that he needs nothing from God. He is satisfied with his self-sufficiency. But what does the tax collector ask for? Mercy. Because he knows that he is damned because of his sinfulness unless God has mercy on him. My prayers are shallow and superficial because they are driven by my pride. I never take the time to examine the ugliness of my heart and confess what I find before God.

The seventh contrast to notice is the result of their prayers. The Pharisee went back home the same way he came into the temple – unjustified before God. The tax collector went home justified before God.

The application of this parable is found in the last half of verse 14: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (NIV) What is it that made the difference in the prayers of the two men? The difference was due to the fact that one man prayed with pride, while the other man prayed with humility. So, let me ask you a question as we conclude our look at this text: Is your attitude toward pride more like the Pharisee’s or more like the tax collector’s? Don’t be too quick to answer that question. Think with me for a minute through these questions:

How often do we ask God to contribute his power to the work we’ve already begun or done ourselves?

How often do we look around at society and thank God that we’re keeping ourselves pure compared to everyone else we know?

How often do we complain to God when we think we’ve been treated unfairly?

How often do we offer to do something for God in exchange for his positive answer to our prayer?

Here is a verse to contemplate as we close today. Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (NIV)

By Berean Husband

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Perils of Pride #7: Pride of Imagined Authority

Matthew 20:20-28

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
21 “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered.
23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”
24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—
28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(NIV)

An ill which we find in too many modern evangelical churches today is their model of leadership. So many churches have a mindset that the church is just like a business. Pastors are sought out who have the skills of a CEO and then they lead the church just like they are at the helm of a Fortune 500 corporation. Men and women in the church assume positions of leadership too often based on their desire for authority rather than based on a desire for service and the use of their spiritual gifts. I have been a member of such churches, and I have been one of those people who have wrongly assumed that power and authority came along with certain positions in the church. I am guilty of being proud that I was entrusted with positions of authority in the church. I used my authority as a source of pride, not an opportunity for service.

I can identify with James and John in the passage cited at the beginning of the post. They desired positions of authority within the kingdom of Jesus Christ. But they were too “humble” to ask for themselves, so they hid behind their mother while she asked for them. Verse 20 says “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.” (NIV) Just like James and John, I am too “humble” to brazenly seek out positions of authority for myself. But if someone would only ask me to serve in a position of leadership, then my pride kicks in because I think that I deserve such authority.

What positions of authority do James and John want? Only to sit at the right hand and the left hand of Jesus in his kingdom. That’s not asking too much, is it? Look at verse 21.”What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” (NIV) What an indictment against my own heart. Just like James and John, I recognize that Jesus is Lord, but I so want to be his partner, his right hand man. I want to be intimate with all the details of all his plans. What’s the problem with this? My heart should long to be Jesus’ slave, not his partner. Paul repeatedly refers to himself as a slave of Jesus Christ. Some versions of the Bible use the word “servant” instead of slave. But we never see the word “doulos” properly translated as “partner” or any such nonsense. What is wonderful is the grace that Jesus extends to those who become his slaves indeed. John 15:15 tells us these words of Jesus spoken to his disciples “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (NIV)

Notice how Jesus sees past the front James and John are using their mother for. In verse 22, Jesus looks past their mother and addresses the two brothers directly. “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. (NIV) Is Jesus amused at their request? Or maybe Jesus is perplexed by their request. We cannot tell his tone of voice. But we do know one thing. It is not a light thing to desire to partake of authority in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. True authority in the kingdom of Jesus Christ involves not positions of power, but positions of service and positions of sacrifice. In John 15:20-21, Jesus tells the disciples “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.” (NIV)

The transition in these verses occurs in verse 24. “When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.” (NIV) The attention shifts from only James and John to the other ten disciples. When the other ten disciples heard about the request of James and John, they were indignant. Why? I think for one of two reasons. First, perhaps they were indignant because each one of them thought that they should be the one to sit at Jesus’ right hand or left hand. Or second, perhaps they thought that James and John definitely did not deserve to sit at the right hand or left hand of Jesus. Either way, this is a manifestation of pride. And does not this same thing happen in our churches today? When someone is asked to serve in a position of leadership, how many of us say that we should have been asked first? Or how many times do we take shots from the sideline when someone takes a job in the church that we don’t think they are qualified for. Or that we think we are more qualified for.

In verses 25-27, Jesus offers the disciples a new paradigm for what authority within his kingdom really means. Notice that Jesus begins with a contrast in verse 25. “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.” (NIV) Here is the world’s model of authority: people who are in charge act like they are in charge. There are any number of so-called “leadership courses” that go about training people how to act like they are in charge. And we carry this same mentality into the church with us. And how can this method of leadership not incite pride in the human heart? When we act like we have authority, it cannot be long before we attribute our authority to our own self worth.

But notice the true paradigm of leadership in the body of Christ in verses 26-27 “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave” (NIV) Here is Jesus’ model of authority: the greatest person is the one who is a servant of all. How is real authority granted within the kingdom of God? It flows from service, not from power. And how can this method of leadership not beat down pride in the human heart? When we act like a slave, we find nothing in and of ourselves to be proud of. Any pride we find is pride in our master, not in ourselves.

But I hear someone out there saying “Someone has got to be in charge or nothing will ever get done around here.” You are exactly right. I propose that we let Jesus be in charge. Now I hear another objection being raised. “That’s not practical,” someone says. “A person needs to be there to lead and direct.” Supposing that is true, I have another proposal for you. Find the person who is serving the Lord and start working for them. Not the person who has the most authority, and not the person who is the most charismatic leader, but the person who is quietly serving the Lord that you never hear get a word of credit or a word of thanks. Go serve that person. You see, the example is given for us in verse 28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NIV) The one man who had every right to be in authority because he was also God, the one man who had every right to be served because he is the King of kings, instead came to serve. And who did he chose to serve? A wretch like me, to borrow words from John Newton. And such a great and marvelous service – he gave his life as a ransom for my soul. How can I not serve such as one as this?

Here are a few verses to contemplate as we end today:

John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (NIV)

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

Philippians 2:5-8
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
(NIV)

By Berean Husband

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Perils of Pride #6: Pride of Over-Commitment

Luke 10:38-42

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.
39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,
42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(NIV)

Beginning with this post, and going for the next three posts, it is my intention to discuss in detail the sin of pride which I find resides in my own heart. Today, I begin with the pride of believing that I am more committed to my Christian walk than other people around me. I am likewise guilty of being proud that I think that I am more committed to church than other people around me. In the past, I have looked down upon those people who missed a Sunday morning worship service or did not come to church on Wednesday night. Why could not everyone commit to church three times a week like me? I thought I was better than those people who were not serving on three or four different committees. But what I find upon reflection is that I was proud of being over-committed and committed to the wrong things. And that reminded me of the story from the Bible which is related in Luke 10:38-42. It is the story of two sisters – Mary and Martha – and what Jesus thinks of being distracted by being over-committed and committed to the wrong things.

Martha was a great servant. When she opened her home to a band of hungry and weary travelers, she was immediately aware of the preparations that needed to be made. There was food to be cooked, places to sleep to be made. But what we find is that Martha became mad at other people because of her serving. She became mad at her sister Mary for not helping. She became mad at Jesus for not making her sister help. Look at the words of Martha at the end of Luke 10:40. “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (NIV)

What is it that made Martha so mad in this story? Was it because she had to cook? No, it didn’t appear that she minded doing the preparations. Was it because no one said thank you? No, she never mentioned the lack of credit given to her. Was she mad that Jesus and his disciples were not helping? No, they were guests in her home and not expected to work. Was she angry that Mary was getting to spend time with Jesus while she was not? That may be getting closer to the answer, but not quite there yet. She was mad because someone she thought was on her level was not also serving the way she was serving. I find that same attitude in my heart. It is the sin of pride. It is my desire that everyone else around me live up to my standards and my convictions.

In these verses we see a contrast between Mary and Martha. Martha was proud of her service to the Lord Jesus. But Mary found something different in Jesus that Martha did not see because of her over-commitment and her commitment to the wrong things. Let’s see what Mary found in Jesus that Martha did not.

First, Mary found a place to calm her worries at the feet of Jesus. Jesus tells Martha that she is worried and upset about many things, while Mary is sitting in stillness at the feet of Jesus.

Second, Mary found a place to get food for her soul at the feet of Jesus. Martha was distracted in preparing physical food for the visitors, Mary was getting food for her soul at the feet of Jesus.

Third, Mary found a place to focus her priorities at the feet of Jesus. Martha was upset about many things, but Jesus tells her that only one thing is needed. What was the one thing that was needed? Jesus doesn’t tell her directly. But I have a feeling that Jesus would have told her the same thing he told the crowd gathered on the day that he spoke the Sermon on the Mount “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV)

Fourth, Mary found a place of service at the feet of Jesus. It may have looked like Martha was doing all the serving, but Jesus says that Mary chose what was better.

Fifth, Mary found a place of eternal reward at the feet of Jesus. In our view, Martha should get the Good Housekeeping reward for entertaining Jesus and the twelve disciples, but Jesus tells her that what Mary has gained at his feet will never be taken away from her.

But I hear someone out there saying, “If I don’t do the work, it will never get done.” Granted, that may be true. But if you heard me say “Don’t do the work,” then you heard me wrong. Let me re-phrase what I said:

Don’t be proud of your work, be proud of your Savior that you are working for.

Don’t be over-committed to your work, be committed to the Savior that you are working for.

Don’t look down on others because they don’t work like you do, look up to the Savior you are working for.

Don’t be worried about your work if something’s not going quite right, rest in the peace of the Savior you are working for.

Don’t be a slave to your work, be a slave to the Savior who you are working for. It may be that he has something better for you to do. It could be he just wants you to sit at his feet and learn today.

By Berean Husband

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