Singleness – A subject for married and single people

Before I get into this blog I want to make a large disclaimer. I know that in so many ways I am unqualified to write it! I was married very young and have been married for a long time. I don’t have experience of being single.

However, as a Christian leader I feel that I should reflect on a Christian perspective on singleness, because it is such an important subject and I have concluded there is much unhelpful thinking about the subject out there that needs to be addressed. I think it is a subject that both married and single people need to think about.

It is a subject I have been reflecting and thinking about for a while now, as a married man. I feel it is my responsibility to say something as a married Christian leader. Which is what I intend to do in this series of blogs.

Please see beyond my personal circumstances and see what I have to say. Whether you are married or single!

The first and most important thing I want to say is that singleness is not just the absence of marriage, but is a good and blessed thing in and of itself.

The Bible is very positive about singleness. Jesus himself was single, and this is very significant. He was the most fully human and complete person who ever lived. His singleness in no way diminished his humanity. He was not less of a person for it. No one is. Marriage, for all its blessings, is not intrinsic to being whole and fully realised as a person. Jesus himself stated very clearly that in the new heavens and new earth we will not be married. Marriage is only temporary, singleness is eternal! E.g. Matthew 22v30.

No-one needs to be married to be a complete human. However, the assumption that too many make is that you do. Parents make that assumption, looking forward to their offspring getting married, putting pressure on their children to marry. Friends make the assumption when they see couples getting together. I have realised that I have subtly fallen into this wrong thinking myself and have put unhealthy pressure on single people, I will do all I can to not do it again. I ask you to do the same.

We need to be very clear on the subject. Each state (married and single) has its own ups and downs, opportunities and challenges, grief and joys. One is not superior to the other.

You can often tell what an organization values by what (or who) they celebrate – we need to be better at celebrating all of the Christ-like single men and women (for whatever reason) in our midst. They have been given a precious gift that deserves a party or two as much as any marriage does.

There are many advantages to being single. Single people often have a greater capacity for friendship, greater flexibility of lifestyle, and are free to serve in a greater range of ministries than might be the case with their married friends. Pastorally, I’ve actually discovered more loneliness in marriages than among single people, because marriage can isolate people from their friends; it’s always worse in a context where no-one expects it.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Tony Thompson

To Weaken Pride and Cultivate Humility

as suggested by C. J. Mahenny

  1. Reflect on the wonder of the cross of Christ.
  2. Begin your day by acknowledging your dependence upon God and your need for God.
  3. Begin your day expressing gratefulness to God.
  4. Practice the spiritual disciplines—prayer, study of God’s Word, worship. Do this consistently each day and at the day’s outset, if possible.
  5. Seize your commute time to memorize and meditate on Scripture.
  6. Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.
  7. At the end of the day, transfer the glory to God.
  8. Before going to sleep, receive this gift of sleep from God and acknowledge His purpose for sleep.
  9. Study the attributes of God.
  10. Study the doctrines of grace.
  11. Study the doctrine of sin.
  12. Play golf as much as possible.
  13. Laugh often, and laugh often at yourself.
  14. Identify evidences of grace in others.
  15. Encourage and serve others each and every day.
  16. Invite and pursue correction.
  17. Respond humbly to trials.

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How to Cultivate Humility

In previous blogs we have been looking at humility, servanthood and pride. Hopefully done enough to help you see the importance of cultivating humility, being a servant. For us as individuals and for us as a church, a community of God’s people.

Looked, mostly in passing at how we can cultivate humility. This week want to look at it in much more detail.

Prerequisites.

  1. Admit we are proud and that is a bad thing!

You will make no progress in overcoming pride as long as you deny that it exists in you. We can easily see it and recognise it in others, need to be willing to admit it exists in ourselves as well.

  1. Sincerely want to get rid of it.

He has accepted the command to be humble, and seeks to obey it, though only to find how utterly he fails. He prays for humility, at times very earnestly; but in his secret heart he prays more, if not in word, then in wish, to be kept from the very things that will make him humble.

Consider God, especially the cross

To truly be serious and deliberate in mortifying pride and cultivating greatness, you must each day survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died.

Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.

Far from offering us flattery, the cross undermines our self-righteousness, and we can stand before it only with a bowed head and a broken spirit.

Need to be very practical about this – theory into practise.

Resolve to do it daily – cross rescued us. Remind yourself of it. Do it in the morning – acknowledge your need of God as you start the day, express gratitude to God, use your commute time if required.

In the evening as you acknowledge your need of sleep, remind yourself you are a dependant creature. I ask for gift of sleep.

The apostle Peter clearly and practically describes for us how we can humble ourselves daily in 1 Peter 5:6–7. First he writes, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God.” Then he shows us how: “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Every time you feel anxious about anything, consider God, consider the cross and give him your anxieties.

Whatever successes you experience in your life and ministry and vocation, learn to immediately transfer the glory to Him. Freedom of self-forgetfulness – spoke to me of feeling good after a well-received sermon, bad after poor one. Both wrong – need to transfer glory to God. Focus on my obedience.

Turn these things into habits – let them become second nature to us. Knee jerk reaction.

There is one thing—and one thing alone—that ultimately matters: God’s opinion of you and me.

Be thankful

“Thankfulness,” Michael Ramsey reminds us, “is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.”

This means actively looking for ways that God is at work in the lives of other people. Attitude of mind that doesn’t always come easily or naturally. Work at it. Let it become habitual.

E.G. Paul recognizes evidences of grace among the Corinthians, and he therefore continually thanks God for them. Personally, I wouldn’t have wanted to be involved with this church. E.g. getting drunk at church meals, people gorging themselves whilst others starved. Sexual immorality – someone having an affair with their father’s new wife. The church proud that they are not being judgemental. Factions and division rife.

Paul looks at the Corinthian church as it is in Christ Jesus before he looks at anything else that is true of the church. That disciplined statement of faith is rarely made in local churches; the warts are examined and lamented, but often there’s no vision of what God has already done in Christ.

Be intimately familiar with the list of the fruit of the Spirit— “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). Make a practice of observing how the Spirit manifests these traits in the lives you see around you, suddenly you will be aware that God is at work everywhere!

For too many, their understanding of God’s activity has been reduced to the spectacular, and it appears to them that the spectacular is something that happens only to someone else, never to them.

For us as a church to see what God is doing in other churches, thank God for it.

Other ways

Time and again laughter has provided much-needed help in my ongoing battle against pride. Be willing to laugh at yourself, don’t take yourself too seriously.

Teacher with flies undone. Everyone knows except the teacher, all he knows is that the class is restless, aware humour is spreading but he doesn’t know what the joke is! All have our flies undone. Others clearly see it. And you need their help to identify its presence. Without others’ help to see myself clearly, I’ll listen to my own arguments, believe my own lies, and buy into my own delusions.

Third, avoid any kind of negative comments. Negative is anything that is critical, judgmental, and not designed to bring a good feeling. Avoiding all negative talk is hard.

Fourth, refuse to clear your name. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).

Fifth resist all temptation to promote yourself. These last two things are God’s prerogative alone.

 

Pride is not defeated; humility is not cultivated without effort. Let us resolve to make the effort to  become humble.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Tony Thompson

Benefits of Humility

posted in: Hope Church, Tony Thompson 0

“At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.”

We shall find that the deepest humility is the secret of the truest happiness, of a joy that nothing can destroy.

God gives us grace

“God…gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Contrary to popular and false belief, it’s not “those who help themselves” whom God helps; it’s those who humble themselves.

We get wisdom

Behind the high cost of pride is the absence of wisdom. When pride elbows its way into our lives, wisdom takes leave. The highest cost of pride is to forfeit wisdom.

It is pride that will cause us to forfeit wisdom; it is humility that will lead to the awareness we need it.

“The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honour” (Prov. 15:33).

Wisdom is what we forfeit when the opinions of people mean more than God’s favour.

Points people to Jesus

“I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ,” he said. One could wonder how history could have been changed had Gandhi met a godly person who was both theologically sound and made him think of Jesus.

Does it bless you when a person continually boasts of whom they know, how much time they have spent with them, and how close they are to them? It feeds on their insatiable ego but does nothing for you!

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Tony Thompson

Dangers of Pride

In my previous blog I talked about our desire to be a great church, which according to Jesus is a humble, serving church. I now want to build on that by talking about the dangers of pride, which needs to be overcome if we are to be truly humble.

 

1. Pride was the first sin and the root of all sin.

“Pride,” John Stott writes, “is more than the first of the seven deadly sins; it is itself the essence of all sin.”

Adam wanted to be like God, humans still do, we don’t want to acknowledge our dependence on Him.

Pride is self-glorification – giving ourselves glory – only God is worthy of glory. I am not at the centre of the Universe; the planets do not revolve around me.

The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive.

Pride, in its simplest form, boils down to a lack of the fear of God. When our view of ourselves becomes so lofty that we feel we no longer need God’s hand to bring about our destinies, we have lost the fear of God. When we think God does not care about our sins because we are successful and have influence, we have lost the fear of God. When working for God becomes more important than our relationship with God, we have lost the fear of God.

Everything comes back to pride – C.S. Lewis explains.

Pride is usually the true explanation why we get our feelings hurt, why we hate being passed over for the wonderful invitation, why we feel rejection, why we get into trouble, why we won’t admit to a mistake, why we want to be seen with certain people, why we are afraid we won’t get credit for what we did, why we stay angry, and, yes, why we are jealous. Pride is at the bottom of envy and jealousy. Pride and jealousy are first cousins within this dysfunctional family called the human race.

The truth is, we are all proud men and women. We may pretend to be rid of it, but if we push it down into the cellar, it comes out in the attic.

Helpful to acknowledge it – C.S. Lewis again – Christians only people who do. Others hate it in others, but blind to it in themselves. We need to see it in ourselves and do battle with it daily.

 

2. How does pride show itself?

Pride essentially as taking oneself too seriously. Taking oneself too seriously is the common denominator in all proud people. It describes those who resent criticism, who are insecure, who cannot laugh at themselves, whose need of praise is constant, who see themselves as overly important, who fancy themselves as being very special to God (and think God bends the rules for them), who tend to blame others for their problems, who hate taking the blame, who cannot bear not getting the credit for the good they did, and who have an insatiable need to prove themselves. Remedy – self-forgetfulness!

The need to call attention to what we have done for the Lord originates in our pride—whether we do this to impress God or those around us. Pride is the root of the need to prove ourselves.

Self-righteousness is a particular symptom of pride found amongst religious people.

Pharisees were self-righteous, felt themselves better than others (a major problem within churches!)

Pride is the essential ingredient in self-righteousness. This is the thing about self-righteousness: it is easy to see in others but not in ourselves.

Being judgmental is a prime example of being self-righteous. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1–2).

Another example of self-righteousness is defensiveness. The greatest freedom is having nothing to prove.

Self-righteousness often leads us to being argumentative.

Smugness is a feeling of self-righteousness whereby one does not merely think but knows he or she has got it right and is a cut above others.

Another symptom of pride is self-pity.

Self-pity is feeling sorry for yourself. It is a feeling of sorrow (often self-indulgent) over your own sufferings.

Self-pity is a choice. We may have not chosen the circumstances that brought us to feel sorry for ourselves, and yet it is a choice we make when we engage in self-pity.

Self-pity is at bottom often anger directed toward God. We feel sorry for ourselves because God allowed a situation to happen that makes no sense. (To us)

When we prefer to wallow in melancholy rather than accept a way out, it shows we have chosen self-pity as the way forward.

Self-pity is more interested in defending itself than looking for a solution. We don’t want our problems solved; we want them understood.

 

3. Impact of pride.

Divisions in churches and anywhere.

Pride also undermines unity and can ultimately divide a church. Show me a church where there’s division, where there’s quarrelling, and I’ll show you a church where there’s pride.

because those who are proud are too preoccupied with themselves and think too highly of themselves to care about building others up or to be sensitive to their true needs.

Not just divisions within churches but divisions between churches, divisions within families, friendships. Everywhere we see the corrosive impact of pride.

The cost of pride is evident so often in time lost, energy wasted, money misused, losing friends, forfeiting wisdom, opportunities blown away, embarrassment, how one deals with their enemy, wanting to upstage a rival, overestimating one’s own gift, not living within the limits of one’s particular calling or anointing, not listening to advice or seeking a second opinion, not listening to God, not confessing sin, and refusing to admit to mistakes.
Let us then do everything in our power to destroy pride, as a church and as individuals and cultivate humility. More on cultivating humility next week.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Tony Thompson

Humility and Servanthood – True Greatness

Every church, in fact every organisation has its own particular culture or flavour. The question is whether the culture develops by default or on purpose.

We want to be a great church and that desire shapes the culture we want to cultivate as a church.  Jesus is very clear on the subject of what true greatness looks like, but his definition is at odds with the understanding of many.

Jesus says that the truly great person is someone who serves, a servant. To serve you have to be humble, proud people don’t serve. We defeat our pride by serving. This is at odds with way of the world. Great people have servants, they don’t serve.

The great church that we desire to be is therefore humble and puts a very high value on serving.

This understanding on greatness comes through very clearly in Marks gospel, as well as so many other places in our Bibles.

Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time Mark 9

Jesus and disciples are purposefully on their final journey towards Jerusalem where he was going to die. A series of events are recorded that happened on the way. We will look at two of them.

30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Jesus Predicts His Death a Third Time Mark 10

32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”

The Request of James and John

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

39 “We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 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.”

41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In both incidents Jesus predicts his death, an extreme example of his humility and serving others, immediately followed by the disciple’s example of pride and arrogance. Jesus lovingly corrects them, helping them see a new way of living and thinking.

Things we are meant to see.

  1. We are meant to see ourselves in the disciples.

For the disciples’ greatness was linked with selfish ambition, they want positions of power, they are even willing to use Jesus to achieve it. So easy to want greatness at the expense of any or everyone.

These are men receiving intensive training from Jesus, yet they knew no better.

If you’re like me, you find it easy to compare yourself to others and look for opportunities to claim greater importance than them, just as the disciples did. C.S. we don’t want to be rich – we want to be richer than others, don’t want power, want more power than others. We want to be great, really means we want to be greater than others.

We see ourselves in the disciples, we are meant to.

  1. Jesus does not categorically criticize or forbid the desire and ambition to be great. Instead, He clearly redirects that ambition, redefines it, and purifies it:

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (vv. 43–44).

‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all’” (Mark 9:35).

Serving others for the glory of God. This is the genuine expression of humility; this is true greatness as the Savior defined it.

So important for us as individuals and as a church. A great church is therefore a serving church. A great person is therefore one who serves.

  1. How we obtain true greatness.

We cannot free ourselves from pride and selfish ambition; a divine rescue is absolutely necessary. It is not a coincidence that these episodes are in the context of Jesus talking about his death.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

James and John were ransomed by the Savior’s death and forgiven of their pride and all their sins. And they would be transformed as well, from self-confident men into humble servants who would live to serve others with the gospel for the glory of God. And they would suffer.

And the explanation for this transformation wasn’t just our Lord’s example but our Lord’s sacrifice. His life for us. What a powerful death! The cross ransoms, the cross liberates, the cross transforms!

Trying to be humble doesn’t work we need to be transformed. Since humility is an obvious virtue and admired by most people, many try to feign humility. Jesus death enables us to follow his example.

Jesus not only chose to empty Himself, but He also never told anybody He had done this. Neither did Jesus have a need to get anybody’s approval. Can you imagine Jesus saying to the disciples after the Sermon on the Mount, “How did I do? Was that not a pretty good sermon, Peter?” Jesus got His approval from the Father. Not only that, but after Jesus was raised from the dead, He did not show up at Pilate’s house and say, “Surprise!”

And in true humility, our own service to others is always both an effect of His unique sacrifice and the evidence of it.

Conclusion.

In every step of our Christian growth and maturity, and throughout every aspect of our Christian obedience and service, our greatest foe is pride and our greatest ally is humility.

Let us desire as individuals to be great. Let us as a church want to be great – to be a great church.

Let us do that by serving, by considering others as better than ourselves. Who are you serving?

In some circles people talk about resource churches – no serving churches! Who can we serve?

Revolutionary – even in church circles. But at the heart of the gospel. Only possible by the sacrifice of Christ.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Tony Thompson

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