Preaching to the Choir

These are some sermons, but mostly lectionary discussions. It also has prayers for some Sundays.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pride part 3 of the 7 Deadly Sins

In Mark (12:38-40) Jesus said "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely."Those are strong words, and not to be taken lightly by those of us who sometimes wear flowing robes, sit up front in church, and may at times be tempted to call attention to ourselves rather than the Holy One we profess to serve. he made it clear that those who would be "the greatest" must become the least in the eyes of men. Pride is an ancient enemy, driving a wedge between God and humanity. Listen to more of Jesus words in Luke 18: 9-15
"Jesus told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people. Two men went up to the temple to pray. One a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this. "Oh God, I thank you that I am not like other people, robbers, crooks, adulterers or heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income." Meanwhile, the tax man slumped in the shadows. His face in his hands, not daring to look up and said, "God give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner." Jesus commented. This tax man, not the other, went home, made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you are going to end up flat on your face. But, if you are content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself."
There was a man who seemed to have the Midas touch in business. Everything that he touched turned to success. He was active in his community and active in his church. One day he walked into his pastor's office. He just looked as the weight of the world was on his shoulders. He confessed to his pastor that he had become involved with a woman in his office and his wife had become aware of it and confronted him. The pastor and the man talked for a while and the pastor recommended that he seek long term counseling, which he did. For several months he was going to a counselor every week. It seemed as things were getting better with his family, but with this man, it just seemed like he was in a rut. He wasn't getting any better and he came back and he talked to his pastor again. He explained to his pastor all that had been happening, . . . how he tried to mend fences and to apologize appropriately to people and to own up to the mistake that he had made. His pastor said "Maybe that's the problem. You keep thinking that you made a mistake, like an arithmetic error." He asked, "Have you accepted the fact that what you did was sin against God and sin against your wife and sin against your family and sin against your church and sin against your community?"
The man was a little defensive to be thus confronted. But he thought about it for a moment and realized the truth. He had been treating his adultery like he has just made a mistake, . . . it was like a bad business deal and he hadn't accepted how he had turned his back on Jesus Christ and on his family. That day he got down on his knees and he offered a prayer of confession to God and he received the forgiveness of God. He also received courage to go home and truly confess to his wife with deep brokenness and recognition of the gravity of what he had done. This man said to his pastor, "I knew there is a law against adultery, I guess I just didn't think it applied to me." How blind we can become when pride and other sins begin to work their way in our lives and no longer can we see clearly. God offers us His vision, He offers us the mind of Christ, but when we let sin get a foothold in our life, our vision becomes blurry and we cannot see. It causes us to begin to trust in ourselves, just as the Pharisee trusted in himself. It was his fasting that he thought made him righteous. It was his prayers that he thought made him righteous. He lost sight that it was the grace of God, - - - God choosing to love us and to accept us - - - that makes us righteous.
In Ecclesiastes, we are told, "The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord; the heart has withdrawn from its Maker." This suggests that, whatever the degree of pride, it is rooted in our unwillingness to trust God, our determination to be in control.
flourishes in good soil. The danger of pride is that it feeds on goodness.”

pride can trip us up. Benjamin Franklin understood this. He once said, “There is perhaps none of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases—it is still alive. Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it I would probably be proud of my humility

PART of the problem with pride is that it is easy to see in other people but hard to see in ourselves. This was illustrated in a satirical carton that The New Yorker magazine ran several years ago—a cartoon in which a smiling woman was jabbering nonstop to a glum-faced companion. The smiling woman finally said, “Well, that’s enough about me. Now let’s talk about you. What do YOU think about ME?” Pride is deceptive isn’t it? As this cartoon shows, it blinds us and gives us a tunnel vision such that we see everything through the lens of “me.” ( the country song about the woman always talking about herself and he wants to talk about himself, Toby Keith I WANNA TALK ABOUT ME
In fact, SELF is the FOCUS of pride. Pride seeks to defend and advance SELF in every way possible. In his book, A Love Worth Giving, Max Lucado writes, “The self-centered see everything through self. Their motto? ‘It’s all about me!’ The flight schedule, the traffic, the dress styles, the worship styles, the weather, the work....everything is filtered through the mini-ME in the eye.”
we need to realize that PRIDE is not always a sin—I mean, there is such a thing as GOOD pride. GOOD PRIDE is seen in healthy self-respect, dignity dignity, satisfaction in a job well done, joy in seeing others succeed...those kinds of things. But the other kind—BAD PRIDE—is conceit, egotism, it’s an attitude of superiority that manifests itself in ARROGANCE and BOASTING.

Pride can even make us think we are more important than God. In fact, it was this sinful way of thinking that entangled satan and led to his fall. Isaiah 14:13-15 records satan’s proud words, “I will ascend to Heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountains. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” And of course, once satan fell, he successfully led Adam and Eve to commit the same prideful sin. Remember? They ate of the forbidden fruit so they too could be equal to God.

Well, since pride is so destructive—since it can so easily entangles us—it would behoove us to learn to recognize it. So how can we? I mean, how do we know if we are slipping into the grasp of this sin?
Romans 12:16 says, “Don’t be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.”
Here are two verses we will look at as they tell us about ourselves, God and pride: The first is Proverbs 16:16 and the second is 1 Peter 5:5. Proverbs 16:16 - There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: [and the first is] Haughty eyes...
1 Peter 5:5b - All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Pride is foremost. It gets top billing in this list. And here in 1 Peter it says that God “OPPOSES” the proud. Well, why would this particular sin be so upsetting to our Heavenly Father? Why would HE hate PRIDE more than other sins? Why would He oppose those who embrace it?
1. One reason is that He knows that, like all sin, pride HURTS us.
As Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction.” And I like the way The Message paraphrases it, “First pride—then the crash—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.” when we engage in prideful behavior we are setting ourselves up for a painful fall. Pride hurts and God doesn’t want His children to hurt—the thing He wants most for us is that we would experience the joy of living life as He intended. I think this is one PRIDE is listed first in this list of sins that God hates most.
A. And one way pride hurts us is this: it opens the door to other SINS.
Now, remember, pride is an attitude that focuses undue attention on self—and this focus ALWAYS leads to sin.
As C. S. Lewis once said: “There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty of themselves: PRIDE. Pride leads to every other vice; it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
B. And then another way pride hurts us is that it prevents personal GROWTH.

Prideful selfishness ERODES them. You know, so many conflicts in marriage and in parenting and in churches would never happen if it weren’t for arrogance. Usually the key to reconciliation is for us to simply swallow our pride. And if it helps, remember, pride is non-fattening
So, God detests pride because He knows it hurts us—He knows it poisons relationships—but the main reason God opposes pride is because....
3. it makes a growing relationship with Him IMPOSSIBLE.
I mean, you can’t even become a Christian until you first HUMBLE yourself and admit that you are a sinner and that you can’t make it on your own—that you NEED Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. PRIDE is the wall that will keep any sinner from a relationship with God and God loves sinners so He hates pride. Pride can lead us to exclude God from His rightful place in our hearts and to bow down before a mirror instead. It is the main form of idolatry in society today. And we see it so clearly in our culture where people foolishly think they are greater experts on how to live than God is.
Okay...how do we avoid the snares that pride sets? Or...if entangled, how do we free ourselves? I want to suggest two basic principles we need to follow.
1. First to defeat pride we must learn NOT take OURSELVES too seriously
Lewis Smeades tells a wonderful story about Pope John XXIII. Apparently a member of the curia was continually nagging him to fix this or that problem. This official in the curia lived as though he alone saw the severity of the problems facing the church and the world, and as if without his warnings everything would collapse. Finally the pope had had enough, so he took his hyper-conscientious adviser aside and confessed that he, too, was sometimes tempted to live as though the fate of the world rested on him. He was helped, he said, by an angel who would sometimes appear by the side of his bed and say, “Hey there Johnny boy, don’t take yourself so seriously.”
Well, this is good advice for us to heed in our battle with pride because in order to defeat it we must remember that as the Psalmist says, “The Lord is God. It is He Who has made us and not we ourselves. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” (Psalm 100:1-3) Paul refers to this attitude in 1Corinthians 15:10 where he says “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” In other words, Paul didn’t take himself too seriously. He counteracted pride with the knowledge that anything good that he did was due to the grace of God.
Tony Campolo said, "If you ever start to feel proud, just remember that soon after your body has been lowered into the grave, your family & friends will be eating potato salad & telling jokes, & you’ll be history."
To free ourselves from pride we must do the same thing—remembering that as James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father.” And of course the most important PERFECT GIFT to remember is the gift of God’s only Son. Above all else, this memory will help us not take ourselves too seriously. You see, when we look to the cross, we remember our sin.
..but secondly—DO take the needs of OTHERS seriously. (I shared here how pride had effeced m relationships especially with my husband.)
In other words, embrace the opposite of pride—HUMILITY—and put the needs of other people above your own. Make their needs a priority in your life. Now, in our culture, this word “humility” is often given a bad rap. I mean, when we think of humble people we think of doormats and people with self-esteem problems. But that’s not Biblical humility. No—humble people are not people who are always putting themselves down. They are simply people that have been empowered by God to love their neighbors the way they love themselves. Humble people don’t have inferiority complexes. To the contrary, they are secure in who God made them.
In fact, the truth is, humility is the mark of emotionally HEALTHY people whereas pride is the mark of emotionally INSECURE people. (Elena Amos)
Humility is not about convincing ourselves that we are unattractive or that we are incompetent. It’s not about beating ourselves up or trying to make ourselves into nothing. No, humility has to do with a kind of submitted willingness; humility has to do with a healthy self-forgetfulness. Real humility is not thinking poorly of yourself. It’s just thinking more about other people. It’s getting the focus off my needs, my desires, my hurts, my wants, and putting the focus on what other people need. Think of it this way: Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is simply thinking less about yourself.
Another thing—humility is an attitude that expresses itself in action. Humble people don’t just sit around thinking about the needs of others—they do things to help others. Humility not just something a person has—It’s something a person does. 3. Love 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
13If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
So how do we deal with pride in our lives?1). Recognize it—this is the first step!2). Repent of it (the example of the tax collector in Luke)
3). Not taking ourselves so seriously, humility, and God’s love in us.4. God enables us to stand against pride in our lives. But it can only happen when we accept his grace and mercy.

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