Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Pride - the mother of all sins

You have a problem with pride
You have a problem, and it is a very serious problem.  The problem is pride.  Maybe you want to protest.  ‘I am not really that proud.’  ‘There are worse things than being proud.’  Please don’t be so foolish.  Pride is a wretched, foolish and disgusting sin.
When you hold a grudge there is pride.  We are all greatly concerned about what people think of us, because we are proud.  When the photograph is passed around the first face I look for is mine, because I want to ensure that picture portrays me well.  You might be proud of the family you come from, or alternatively, you’re proud of the fact that you have done so well given your disadvantaged background.  We crave applause and approval.  Proud people are really annoyed when people forget to thank them.  We think that everyone needs to hear our opinion.  Racism is a sin of twisted, unbiblical logic that is bathed in pride.  But your pride makes a fool of you—for in pride you seek to be honoured, but your actions leave people thinking less of you.
Do you judge people?  Do you have a critical spirit?  Do you push to get your way?  These are all symptoms of pride.  Maybe you are scared to use your talents, in case people think you are a show-off.  That’s inverted-pride.  Can you be real with people or do you out on a face?  When was the last time you asked another Christian to pray for you regarding a temptation you struggle with?  When was the last time you confessed your failures to people in the church?   Are you willing to be open about your weaknesses?  When was the last time you said sorry to someone?  Proud people flee from intimacy and hate vulnerability.
Pride not only causes us to hurt others, it hurts us.  When you criticise me, it’s not your words that hurt, it’s my wounded pride that causes me to suffer.  Marriages are ruined by a proud spouse that refuses to admit the problem is serious.  Proud people don’t like to seek help, and so the proud person goes on living in pain.  Pride will make you jealous and angry.  It is very hard to say sorry to a proud person because they rub you nose in it.    
Pride is the mother of all evil
The scary thing is how seriously God takes pride.  ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5).  ‘Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than him’ (Proverbs 26:12).  ‘Pride and arrogance … I hate’, says that Lord (Proverbs 8:13).  ‘Everyone who is proud is an abomination to the Lord’ (Proverbs 16:5).  It was pride that led the Satan to fall from being an angel of God (Isaiah 14:12-14).  It was pride that caused Adam and Eve to want to be like God, and so herald the reign of human sin and death.  In the early centuries of the church the great preacher Chrysostom called pride the mother of all evils.  C. S. Lewis wrote of pride saying, ‘there is one vice of which no man in the world is free … the more we have it in ourselves, the more we dislike it in others … it is a completely anti-God state of mind.’
So how can proud people like us know that we are born again?
If the proud are an abomination to the Lord, and I admit I have a problem with pride, how can I have any confidence that I am really a Christian?  I can be sure I am a Christian if the gospel has humbled me.  Has the Holy Spirit convicted you of your sin?  Have your eyes been opened to the fact that in your wickedness you deserve God’s eternal punishment?  Have you being brought to that place where you realise that you have no other option but to cry out with the tax-collector in the temple, ‘have mercy on me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:13)?  Do you see that it is only by the death of Christ that you can experience peace with God?
The Bible gives us a view of ourselves that must make us humble.  We are a people rescued from our evil and rebellion by his unmerited favour (Ephesians 2:8).  Not only that, our every breath is a gift from God.  Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of heavenly lights (James 1:17).  We should know that our talents are his gifts and so we say, ‘by the grace of God I am what I am’ (1 Corinthians 15:10).  ‘What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you received it why do you boast as if you did not receive it?’ (1 Corinthians 4:7). Our desire to please God is because he works within us to will and act according to his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).  It is not so much our love for God that compels us, but the realisation of his love for us (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).  If do anything truly good for the kingdom of God it is only because God enabled it—‘I was not I that worked but the grace of God that was with me’ (1 Corinthians 15:10).
We know that we are born again, because the gospel has humbled us.  The gospel makes a humbled people who struggle with pride, rather than a proud person who refuses to accept God's life transforming truth.  But even as humbled people we still wrestle with pride for the flesh wars against the Holy Spirit in us  The Holy Spirit wars against the flesh so we hate our pride (Galatians 5:16-21).  We actually see evidence that we are God’s humbled people by the fact that we are willing to admit we have a problem with pride—‘if we say that we are without sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’ (1 John 1:8).  Awareness of our own pride actually makes us humble.
God is committed to making you humble through his loving discipline.
Jesus was the only person who had something he could boast about—he was the sinless creator not a sinful creature.  Yet he is described as being gentle and humble of heart (Matthew 11:29).  He actively chose to humble himself, saying that I did not come to be served but to serve, and give my life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  He left heaven, became a human-being, took the nature of a servant, and humbled himself to the kind of death that proud people did not mention in polite company (Philippians 2:6-8).  Reflecting on Jesus should inspire us to be humble. 
God is so committed to our humility that he is willing to humiliate us to deal with this awful sin of pride.  The Proverbs explain that ‘the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in (Proverbs 3:11-12).  The writer to Hebrews explains that no discipline seems pleasant at the time but that God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness (Hebrews 12:11).  We grow more though pain than comfort.  God prunes us to make us more fruitful (John 15).  The apostle Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, to keep him from becoming conceited (2 Cor. 12:7).
It would seem that one of the means that God grew the apostle Paul in grace was the unfair criticism he so often had to endure.  Sometimes it is even harder to accept genuine criticism than such slander, because correction wounds our pride.  But those who want to be more holy should see correction as a blessing.  ‘Reprove a wise man and he will love you’ (Proverbs 9:8b).  But ‘do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you’ (Proverbs 9:8a).  If those who are close to you are scared to challenge your attitudes and actions it may be because they think so little of you.
God wants us to be humble because he cares about our joy
Finally, remember that our gracious and good God wants us to grow in humility because he cares about our joy.  Like any loving father he wants what is best for his children.  Think of the blessings of growing in humility compared to the pain of being stuck with our pride.
Pride makes us bitter, but humility fills our hearts with thanksgiving.  Pride makes us resentful, but humility makes serving others a source of happiness.  Pride makes us defensive, but humility enables us to experience intimacy.  Pride causes us to fall out with people, but humility causes us to be peacemakers.  Pride closes our ears to correction, but humility enables us to change.  Only the humble can be content in all circumstances.  Pride damages our relationship with God, but the Lord declares, ‘this is the one to whom I look, to him who is humble and contrite in heart’ (Isaiah 66:2).  Pride makes you ineffective for God, but humble people are used by God to bring people into his kingdom—‘I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of many, so that many may be saved’ (1 Corinthians 10:33).  Pride stops us marvelling at grace, humility causes us to delight in a God who saves the worst of sinners like me.  Best of all, we want to grow in humility because it makes us more like Jesus.
Final word
In his classic book on holiness J. C. Ryle wrote, ‘surely that man must be in an unhealthy state of soul who can think of all that Jesus suffered, and yet cling to those sins for which that suffering was undergone.’  Similarly, it would be a hard heart that claims to have received Christ’s love and not hate the things he hates.  He loves you, but he hates the pride he sees in you.  So remind yourself of the gospel of grace.  Be inspired by the humility of Jesus, and the beauty of those who reflect his character.  Submit you self to his loving disciple.  Dwell on the great blessings that accompany growth in humility.  Now make ‘every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy’ for ‘without holiness no one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14).

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