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The Solution To Pride

March 24, 2011

What is the greatest problem in this world? I believe that it is Pride. Even in the life of a true child of God pride rears its ugly head. Pride keeps us from doing what we know is right and leads us by the nose into that which we know is wrong. The scriptures tell us that pride goes before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction. Pride destroys everything in its path.

Consider the destructive power of pride in these biblical examples. First there is the devil and I am using him as an example because his sin was indeed the sin of pride.  He was once the anointed cherub that covereth: a title that designates Satan as one of the highest-ranking angels before his fall. Note Ezek 28:14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there: you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked in the midst of the stones of fire. What a glorious position to be in. But he was not content to be in the exalted position in which God placed him for we read in Isa 14:13-14  “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. 14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” And what fate awaits him? The lake of fire!

Was it not proud thoughts of godhood that led Eve to eat the forbidden fruit? And what was the result? Cast out of paradise! See proud Samson strutting forth, arrogance blazing from his eyes as he remembers past glories. Hear his proud boast, “I will go forth as at other times and shake myself free. He had so debauched his life that he didn’t know the Lord had left him. His pride ate away at his life till he was left blind and abandon by God, grinding at the mill of his enemies.

Pride is a destructive monster.

Now I would have to say that the most prideful thing any person can do is declare that he or she has achieved salvation apart from Jesus Christ or with His help plus their own works. And the theme that we have continually encountered through Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is that sinful man cannot earn salvation, he cannot work for it. He cannot achieve a righteousness of his own because he has none. Salvation is by grace, not of works so that no one can boast.

And where Christians are concerned, we should be the most humble people on the planet. We of all people should understand that we have been saved from God’s wrath…wrath that we deserved. But instead of giving us what we deserved, God had mercy upon us and sent His Son to die in our place. So the main characteristic that should be manifested in the life of a true child of God is humility, the exact opposite of pride.

In fact, we are called to emulate Jesus; Let him who says he is in Christ, live as Jesus lived. 1John 2:6. In Matthew 11 Jesus says that he is humble in heart. And what was the description from Zechariah 9:9 concerning the coming Messiah? It was a picture of humility.  Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Remember that Jesus humbled Himself and took on a body of flesh and died for us. On the night in which He was betrayed Jesus wrapped Himself in a towel like a common servant and washed His disciples’ feet, the task of a common servant. And He taught us a lesson; whoever wishes to be great must be the servant of all.

We are called to follow Jesus which involves more than just walking behind Him. It involves emulating His life, His example. Our hearts desire should be to live as He lived, to have the testimony that we always do that which pleases our Heavenly Father.

Our text for this morning is found in Rom 12:3-5 but before we get to our text I want do a bit of a review to get the context of what we are to see in our passage today. So return with me to Rom 11:32. Now what is stated in this passage that gives us a picture of ourselves? Paul declares that 32For God has shut up all in disobedience… The first thing we can see is that we are all disobedient…we are shut up in that state. Romans chapter 3 tells us that there is none righteous, not even one, no one does good. We are all shut up in disobedience. Let me ask you, could Adam and Eve get back into paradise once they fell? The answer is no! God had barred the way back and they were shut up to their fate. And how does that apply to us? Through Adam’s fall, we fell: “by one man sin entered the world and death through sin so that death spread to all men because all have sinned.” Rom  5:12  Just as Adam could not get back to his former state,  in the same way we could not make ourselves right with God through our own efforts. We were shut up in this horrible state of rebellion and death.

But notice the last part of verse 32 so that He may show mercy to all. While we were shut up in the body of this death, while we were bound in iniquity, we were also shut up to the mercy of God: for this purpose, so that He may show mercy to all. Praise God that He did not leave us without hope. Rom 5:6 tells us “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. And verse 8 says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” When all seemed black and hopeless Christ Jesus saved us. I would like to share a poem that illustrates the mercy of God so clearly. It’s title is “The Stairs”

O long and dark the stairs I trod; With trembling feet to find my God
Gaining a foothold, bit by bit, Then slipping back and losing it.
Never progressing, striving still With weakening grasp and faltering will,
Bleeding to climb to God, while He Serenely smiled, not noting me.
Then came a certain time when I Loosened my hold and fell thereby;
Down to the lowest step my fall, As if I had not climbed at all.
Now when I lay despairing there, Listen, a footfall on the stair,
On that same stair where I afraid, Faltered and fell and lay dismayed.
And lo, when hope had ceased to be, My God came down the stairs to me!

How glorious is the mercy of God. We were without hope and without God in this hopeless, dark and sinful world. Every endeavor, every scheme that we attempted in the effort to find happiness and fulfillment fell flat. Earthly joys were fleeting at best. Each time we thought we had arrived pride reared its ugly head and blew our peace away with the fury of a hurricane. Is it any wonder that men turn to drugs and alcohol in an effort to mask the results of a debauched life? But even these artificial stimulants don’t’ work…they only dull the pain and misery of sin.

But God in mercy reached down in to the pit into which we had sunk and delivered us from the power of the devil. He raised us up to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

What a glorious, merciful God who loved the unlovable! What amazing grace that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see! And why did He do what He did for us? Eph. 2:7 gives us the answer: “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassingriches of His grace in kindnesstoward us in ChristJesus.”

God did all this for His own glory. The scriptures declare that He will have mercy on whomever He chooses. And He chose to have mercy on us. Have you seen any place for pride yet? Let me ask you this; was it because of something good in us that God chose us? Did He see a glimmer of goodness in our sin blackened lives? Again listen to the word of God. Paul makes a startling statement: for you were formerly darkness.”

I want you to understand the language being used here. Paul isn’t saying that we were in darkness but that we were darkness. The word Skotos means moral or spiritual darkness. The picture here is one of horrific ugliness and we can all testify to the times when our debauched sinful nature put on a show. John in his first epistle speaks of those who walk in darkness and what he is talking about are people who are living in sin! But Paul is making an even more pointed statement here when he says that we were formerly darkness meaning that we were formerly sin; WE WERE FORMERLY MORAL AND SPIRITUAL DARKNESS! And this makes 2Cor 5:21 come to life in a whole new way. “He God made Him His Son Jesus Christ who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Indeed the whole realm of mankind is under the curse of Adam’s fall. But in mercy God didn’t leave us there. Before the foundation of the world God chose some to be in Him, not because of anything good in them but simply for the praise of His glorious grace. We were under the curse of God for our rebellion. But in mercy we have been delivered from the curse by God Himself. We were formerly darkness, past tense. But because of what God did in sending His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, Paul can declare “but now you are Light in the Lord” Eph 5:8.  According to the sovereign grace of God who calls and chooses whom He desires, indeed who chose us from before the foundation of the world, we are now His children. We were darkness, we were slaves of sin, self and the devil. But God purchased us out of the slave market of sin and now we belong to Him.

He has come to us and has cast out the evil spirit which once controlled our lives. And He has sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within us; “who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” Indeed He has done all things for His own glory. It is He who made the choice in eternity past and His ways are past finding out…or as Paul states it in verse 33 “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”

Then Paul asks a rhetorical question. He asks 34For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? The answer is nobody. And so those who claim to have some new revelation, some new information on the character of God are lying. What we know about God is written in His book and in His creation. In fact I think it’s safe to say that God has spoken clearly so that every mouth may be stopped and that the whole world may become accountable to Him! He then asks another rhetorical question. 35Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?

The picture here is of someone who made a loan to God. Now I ask you, who loaned something to God or gave something to God and now God is in His debt? In keeping with the context, who was righteous enough that God just had to save him? Who was so good that God under an obligation to save his soul? Nobody! Let me make this as clear as possible. I have absolutely nothing to give to God in exchange for my soul. What can we give in exchange for our eternal souls? We have nothing to offer to God. We were born in sin. We were born condemned already because of Adam’s sin. And God, according to His own sovereign grace chose some to be saved by the blood of His Son. And he gets all the glory. I did nothing but shake my fist in His face and blaspheme with every breath.

It is He who has saved us and not we ourselves. We who are Christians are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Like everything else in this universe, salvation is from the Lord: 36For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Moving into chapter 12 Paul appeals to our sense of gratitude to God for saving our souls and he says 1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Since we have had such glorious sovereign mercy lavished upon us and since we are His purchased possession, Paul calls us to lie down upon the altar and die to ourselves and our self seeking ways. This is not a bargain where we make God indebted to us…we saw in verse 35 of Chapter 11 that this line of reasoning is nonsense. We are not making some kind of deal with God. What this is is a call to service: we are being called by God Himself, to die to ourselves to be crucified with Christ, so that we no longer live but Christ lives in us and the life we live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us. We are called to set our minds on things above and not on things of earth for if we are truly born again, we have died and our lives are hid with Christ in God. And the life God leads us through is to be to the praise of His glorious grace!

Building on that thought Paul says: 2And do not be conformed to this world, for to be worldly minded is death, enmity with God, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, we are called to be spiritually minded which is life and peace, to hide God’s word in our hearts so that we may not sin against Him…so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  Let me ask a few rhetorical questions. Considering what God has done for us, don’t you think that we have spent enough time as slaves to sin, self and the devil? Don’t you think that we have spent enough time wallowing in the mire of our sinful ways? And don’t you think that we have spent enough time in the pride of our evil hearts? Haven’t we had enough of that old evil life?

Indeed we have been called out of that. God has called us and said “Come out from among them and be separate!” It’s time to die to all of that, to lay down on the altar and die to self, It’s time lay aside every weight, every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. It is time to stop playing childish games. It’s time to grow up, to mature; to be men and women of God, not ruled by pride and laziness but by the Holy Spirit of God! Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by sacrificing Himself. He gave His all, and we must go and do likewise. We must die to self. We must no longer yield to the pull of our old sinful flesh.

Indeed we have been called to purge ourselves of our old sinful nature, to die to our old life and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We must renovate ourselves through the Word of God, setting our minds on things above. When we see ourselves in the light of the Word of God we will be humbled: we will have a proper perspective, a godly perspective.

Now as we look at our text we see that Paul speaks about this proper perspective, this godly mindset when he says in verse 3For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Paul is speaking to us in all of his apostolic authority. He had been called to this ministry by Jesus Christ Himself on the road to Damascus and been sent as an apostleship to teach and preach the truth. And in all the authority of the office of apostle, Paul says each of us “not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think.” This is a clear warning against pride.

The word Phroneo speaks not only of thinking but of the affections and the will or moral consideration. It speaks of being of an opinion and having an attitude characterized by that opinion. To think, in this sense is to set our minds upon some object, to literally obsess or cherish thinking about something. Hupo-Phroneo which is used in this verse means to over-think about something. The picture here is of someone who is literally obsessed with himself and his self importance. He continually thinks about himself and his self importance.

Did you  know that there are people who look at themselves as God’s gift to the Church…they believe themselves to be indispensable: without them the church cannot continue. Diotrepheswas one of these people. John described him as one ‘who loves to be first and does not accept what we (the apostles) say.” Do you see pride here? Diotrephes was so full of himself that he thought he was above the Apostles, who had been sent by God to teach the truth! Amazing.

And do you see the danger to yourselves here? If you relax your guard and let pride take over, horrible things can happen. If we are going to Hupo-Phroneo, if we are going to over-think anything we must keep this fact in the forefront of our minds: that we are sinners who were sold under sin, consumed with sin in its every form and fashion. We were enemies of God who shook our fists in His face. We were part of the worldly crowd who said “We will not have this God reigning over us.” Our spiritual father was the devil, our human father was Adam and our brother was Cain. 

We have nothing to commend ourselves before a Holy and Righteous God. Indeed it would have been right and good for God to have cast us all into hell! But He didn’t leave us to our fate. Instead He chose some to be His from the foundation of the world. He sent His Son to die for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. In mercy He saved our souls so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassingriches of His grace in kindnesstoward us in ChristJesus.  Where is boasting in any of this? Indeed it is excluded is it not! We have nothing to commend ourselves before an Almighty, Righteous and Thrice Holy God.

So we are “to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” In other words, our opinion of ourselves must be a scriptural opinion, based on what God has sad about us. We must take every thought captive to the Word of God. In 1 Thess 5:21-22 Paul tells us “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.” And the form of evil we are concerned with this morning is pride. One of the most evil things in the Church today is the idea of some, that there are people in the Church who are unnecessary. They are deemed dead weight or excess baggage. This is the same spirit that possessed the Pharisees. They believed they were a special class and everyone else was cursed. John 7:49 

Paul, using the human body demonstrates to us that each part of the body is necessary. He says 4For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (1Cor. 12:14-31)  The bottom line is that each part of our bodies is necessary: it has a function and a purpose. Just because you’re not one of the ‘good parts’ doesn’t mean you aren’t necessary. And who determines what is good and necessary and what is dead weight? I’ll tell you who they are, they are people who have elevated themselves to a position they have no business being in.

In James chapter 2 he gives us a scenario in which a finely dressed rich man comes into a church followed by a shabbily dressed poor man. Someone tells the rich man to take the best seat in the house while pushing the poor man to the back of the building. And he says in verse 4 “have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?”

And in chapter 4, verses 11 and 12 he says “Do not speak against one another, brethren He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” It is not our place to decide who is good enough and who is not. In fact if God hasn’t declared that there are certain people in the church who are useless who do we think we are?

Not only is each part of our own physical body necessary but each part of the Body of Christ is necessary too. For we read in 1Cor 12:18 “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.” And in our text we read 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Christ Jesus knew us by name before the foundation of the world having chosen us Himself in eternity past to be His children. He called us by name at the moment He desired and saved us from the wrath of God. And he has called all of His children to service, having given gifts to all of us according to His own will.

We are His body, handpicked by God Himself to inherit eternal life. And we have been called to seve Him with all of our hearts in whatever He has called us to do. We are to serve Him alone, for His glory alone. If we understand this truth, if we understand that we are His people, His own purchased possession, that we are His slaves, called to be heirs of the kingdom of God, that we have been called out of our old life to serve the Living God, I believe that we will never seek to promote ourselves but Him.

We will obey His command to esteem others better than ourselves; look to the welfare of our fellow believers, their good and their happiness, not under compulsion but out of genuine love for them. In doing this we will be lights in this very dark world as we love as Jesus loved and live as Jesus lived. But it starts with us doesn’t it. We don’t need to be looking at the faults of others, we have a veritable boon of faults within our own hearts don’t we. We need to face the reflection in the mirror: a reflection of a sinner saved by grace, a hell deserving rebel to whom mercy has been shown.

We are God’s own purchased possession, the sheep of His pasture, former slaves of sin, now slaves of righteousness, called sons and daughters of God and part of the Body of Christ. If such a vision is ours, such a self abasing view of ourselves, coupled with a vision of the glory of God and the mercy of Christ, then God will be glorified in my life for He alone will honored and served as I die to self, renew my mind through His Word and follow Him. Self will be put down, our sinful flesh will be starved and we will be slaves to the sin of pride no more.

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