Last time I preached here, we started a study on what prevents us from fully enjoying the inheritance that Jesus left us, viz; the presence of God. What prevents us from enjoying God’s presence? We saw that it is our EGO. Not the Freudian stuff of ego, but really when we Edge God Out.
Today, we are going to continue to look at one of the key ways in which we Edge God Out of our lives. It is called Pride. Sounds familiar? Do we suffer from Pride?
All of us know what Pride is. It is basically an overly high opinion about oneself, an exaggerated esteem of self, which leads to haughtiness, arrogance etc. Romans 12:3 defines it well, “thinking of himself/herself more highly than he/she ought to think..” It happens when we give a lot more value to our own opinions than anyone else’s. When we do all the talking. When start taking too much credit. When we start showing off. Or worse still, when we start demanding service based on your position or title. It is very evident when we start looking into the mirror to find the source of all successes, and look out of the window when we look for the cause of failure. The signs of Pride are very discernable, and yet, many times we ignore it, or even worse, enjoy it a bit.
C S Lewis in his book, Mere Christianity says “According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind…… it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.” Sounds rather harsh isn’t it? Could this be the reality?
Even though this is a much understood problem, we need to be constantly reminded about this sin that we all fall prey to. So, as a reminder, let us look at a couple of Bible Stories to remind us about this and try to consciously avoid falling into this trap.
Let us turn to Daniel Chapter 4. An interesting story is told here. King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream. In the dream he sees a magnificent tree, reaching up to the heavens. It is so high that it could be seen from all over the earth. It has huge branches and lovely leaves and provides shade to all the creatures of the earth. All creatures find shade under it and birds of the heaven find their nest in its branches. Its fruit is abundant, and is enough to feed all living creatures. (Daniel 4:10-12). Till now it is a beautiful dream. But this is followed by a jarring scene. Then he sees an angel coming down and ordering the tree to be cut down, its leaves to be stripped off, fruits to be scattered, and all those who fed from it and took shelter under it to be taken away from the tree. (Daniel 4:13-14). The King is understandably perturbed by the dream and asks the court magicians to interpret the dream. The magicians are unable to do so. Not surprisingly, because the dream has a strong linkage to the prophesy given in Ezekiel Ch 31, about Assyria. Daniel on the other hand knew Ezekiel’s prophesy and hence was able to easily interpret the dream, and he explains the dream to the king saying that the tree is the King himself, and the cutting down of the tree and the subsequent actions are actually about what is likely to happen to the King himself and no one else. Daniel also explains that as per the dream the King will be driven from his men, he will be like a beast in the field, he will eat grass like an ox, and he will be like this for seven years. (Daniel 4:20-25). However, Daniel also explains the silver lining in the dream and gives the King some sage advice. Daniel 4:26-27 (NKJV) 26 And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.”
However, it does not appear as though the King took Daniel’s advice seriously. About a year later, he surveyed his kingdom from his balcony and his heart grew proud. Daniel 4:30 (NKJV) 30 The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” . Note the self-praise in the text, note the attribution of all successes to himself. Note the number of times the words “I” and “my” appear here. This is what pride does. It attributes all success to ourselves. Nebuchadnezzar Edged God Out completely because of his pride on his achievements. And we see the result of such a prideful attitude immediately too. The next verse (Daniel 4:31) says, that while the word was still in in the kings mouth, God responded to him and then all that he dreamt came true. He loses his sanity, eats grass like oxen, he is wet with the dew, his hair grows like eagle’s feathers and his nails like bird’s claws.
We should think about this story every time we are tempted to take credit for successes in our lives. Every time we look at our wealth, our fame, our position, and are tempted say.. look what “I” have accomplished. Every time, our chest puffs up when someone praises us, every time we are tempted to count the number of people whom “I” have helped to become better.. etc etc. We all Edge God Out through our pride when we fall prey to such temptations.
God in his loving kindness always provides a way out. He says in Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NKJV) 23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD. All that is required is for us to acknowledge God and accept that everything we have, comes from Him. We will note that it is exactly how Nebuchadnezzar’s mad story ends. Daniel 4:34-35 (NKJV) 34 And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. 35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, “What have You done?” And it goes on to say that sanity returned to Nebuchadnezzar, glory of his kingdom, his splendor, his people, everything retuned to him once he accepted God’s sovereignty, and His dominion over everything on earth.
Now, many of us might say (and rightfully so) that the Nebuchadnezzar story is not applicable to us. We might base our claim on the fact that unlike Nebuchadnezzar, we are all church going Christians, we are reasonably good people, we are reasonably holy, we are generally good people, and anyway, we don’t have as much wealth and position and power as Nebuchadnezzar had etc. The question that I would like us to consider is this. Is it possible that we are spiritual yet proud? Can we be spiritually proud? I think we know the answer isn’t it? King Uzziah thought he had acquired the right to take on the priestly duties (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). King Saul thought that he as a King need not wait for a Priest to show up and he can perform the duties of the priest himself (1 Samuel 13:8-14). These are some examples of Spiritual pride. But the best example of Spiritual pride can be seen in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax collector Luke 18:9-14 (NKJV) 9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men–extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Spiritual pride can make us look down on others in the congregation, others in Christendom. Jesus is clear, everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted. We all know that BBF is a small/ tiny congregation. Sometimes I wonder, how we will feel if we suddenly become a 1000 member congregation, we had our own church building and had surplus funds. There was a Church at Laodicea which reached exactly a stage like that. The congregation said, Revelation 3:17 (NKJV) 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—. I am sure you know of mega churches that can very well say this. But Jesus reveals their actual state. He says “and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—“. Spiritual pride can be very dangerous, probably even more dangerous than any other pride. Let me quote Jonathan Edwards (from “The works of Jonathan Edwards”)“The first and worst cause of errors that abound in our day and age is spiritual pride. This is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christ. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit to darken the mind and mislead the judgment. Pride is the main handle by which he has hold of Christian persons and the chief source of all the mischief that he introduces to clog and hinder a work of God. Spiritual pride is the main spring or at least the main support of all other errors. Until this disease is cured, medicines are applied in vain to heal all other diseases.”
So what is the antidote to Edging God Out through pride? In my last sermon we saw that the antidote to EGO is EGO. Edging God Out can be solved only by Exalting God Only. We Exalt God Only, when we replace Pride with Humility. Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges define humility like this “Something to hope for but never claim: something to observe in others, a Kingdom Perspective”. It is interesting to note the point about not claiming humility. Have you heard people say, “In my humble opinion”…. They might as well end the sentence by saying “In my humble opinion, you are an idiot”… The point is very valid, you cannot claim to be humble; it is for others to observe in you. You demonstrate humility when you look outside the window to praise rather than at the mirror. We demonstrate humility when we choose not to use any power that has been bestowed upon us. We need not look anywhere else to know what humility is, or how to demonstrate humility. We have a great example in Jesus himself. Philippians 2:5-8 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Jesus exemplified this in his life and in His death. He affirmed in Matthew 20:28 (NKJV) 28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” He did this with the full knowledge of the power and authority that he had John 13:3 (NKJV) 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, .. chose to wash the feet of his own disciples. And then, in order not to leave any doubts about why He did that act, he explained to the disciples John 13:13-17 (NKJV) 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
This morning, Jesus is calling us to let go of our pride that Edges God out of our lives and Exalt God Only by being Humble following His example. How do you want to respond to that call?
Let us Pray
Benediction: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen