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

Stewardship Of Time

I have written previously about the importance of a biblical understanding of the stewardship of money, what is often overlooked is a biblical understanding of stewardship of time. For some our time is in shorter supply than our money! For others we seem to have too much time on our hands. In both cases it is important we use the time we have at our disposal to the glory of God. Time is a valuable but limited recourse of 24 hours in a day, for a finite life time, it is important how we use that time.

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10v31, so whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

This verse is the climax of a section in the letter discussing the relationship between freedom and responsibility. The conclusion is we need to take responsibility for how we use our freedom. Whatever you do, do it ALL for the glory of God. Everything, including time is a gift from God, use it for His glory.

In the gospels we see Jesus being very purposeful in his use of time; time alone with his heavenly father; choosing to spend time with followers rather than nuclear family; spending 30 years as son, carpenter etc.; time alone, time with crowds, time with disciples, spontaneous, structured. He purposely invested his time, so must we. But how?

I have concluded that we need to serve God with our time in each of four areas. Work; church; family and friends; leisure. I came to this conclusion after years of getting it wrong, to the detriment of those around me as well as myself!

Things to be considered in allocating between the 4. ALL for the glory of God!

  • Seasons of life – the time allocated between them changes as we go through life. E.g. whether we are a child; single; young married; family; empty nests; older age.
  • Short term circumstances impact the balance e.g. a work project, family crisis.
  • About stewarding time rather than just responding to need. We need to take responsibility rather than allowing others to dictate how we use our time. Sometimes we have to make very difficult and potentially unpopular decisions. We cannot do everything. E.g. I chose to put family before church at one time when I felt it was more important to take my sons to a major football match than attend an important church event. Not an easy decision.
  • Continually re-assess, circumstances are always changing and energy levels change as well. We have to protect ourselves from burn out.

Other thoughts regarding stewardship of time

  • In all areas invest time in the now as well as the future.  Invest in things in which you receive and in things in which you give.
  • Be willing to trade off between areas – e.g. Work may lack fulfilment but provides resources to enable other activities that are more fulfilling. Balance – daily; weekly; monthly; annually
  • Balance creates more energy – eating well, sleeping well, exercising well mean we can do more things.
  • No right answers, but doesn’t happen unless you plan, budget, invest, make choices, make big and little decisions, take responsibility for your use of time.
  • Whatever you do, do it ALL for the glory of God.

Questions to help you.

  • How is your current balance? Which of the 4 areas are you neglecting? Giving too much time to?
  • How is the balance in giving and receiving? This is particularly relevant in our involvement in church. Where am I receiving, where am I giving? What adjustments should I make?
  • How are my energy levels? Should I be doing more or less?
  • Who can I talk to about my investment of time?

Written by Tony Thompson

Tony Thompson

Why I Appreciate Eating With My Hands

I once had the amazing privilege of being invited into a Muslim household. The differences between my culture and theirs were overwhelming – I felt like an alien in a world vastly different from my own; Prayer mats in the corner, texts from the Koran on the wall, I learnt to eat curry with my hands rather than with cutlery, I was kept separate from the women of the house and never had the chance to properly thank them for the meal I ate, their culture was one with arranged marriages – including between cousins.

It was so different from how I would choose to live that it felt wrong. But are these differences ‘wrong’ or just different?

There were things I could appreciate; the incredible food, how I was treated like an honoured guest,  the sense of family from having so many relatives living in neighbouring streets, the way many Muslim women’s dress seems more appropriate, helpful, colourful and graceful than the almost indecent, flesh hanging out attire of some western women.

The roles were reversed in my experience with the EU referendum. One person on hearing how I voted couldn’t help but respond with a sharp intake of breath and wide eyed shock, followed by a hushed list of people who must not find out. For a brief moment I had a taste of what it must be like to be a convicted paedophile. I felt condemned. I was condemned for having an opinion, yet was not given permission to explain why I had that opinion.

A quick flick through Facebook at posts and comments about the referendum reveals how easy it is to assume that anyone with an opposite opinion to one’s own must be mad, bad or stupid. Some of my Christian friends seem to be amongst the worst at this.

People with a different culture or opinion from ourselves give us an opportunity to appreciate the differences before we criticise, to listen for understanding and ask ‘Why do you think that?’ before we condemn, to create an atmosphere where people can be free to express their opinions and disagree without having to self-censor.

Blog Michael-GoveSo how are you doing at this?

What is your immediate response when I tell you I was delighted at the referendum result because I believe it will reduce bureaucracy, bring greater freedom to govern ourselves, keep those in power more in touch with the people they govern, create more stable race relations, waste less money, make us safer, and in the long term be better for our economy?

If I were to tell you how disappointed I am that a great policy intellect like Michael Gove isn’t in Theresa May’s Cabinet, what is your gut response?

Written by Dean Fryer-Saxby

Dean

We Need To Grieve

I recently met someone who has experienced the sudden, simultaneous death of close family members in a horrendous way. I can’t imagine ever personally meeting someone who has been through worse.

Despite bereavement and loss being all around us, I never really know how to deal with it, so I asked this person for their advice.

Here’s what I learnt from them:

We need to grieve for many things, not just bereavement.

Grieving is a process that lasts much longer than we acknowledge – often years.

Even for those people who do incredibly well at rebuilding their life and moving on positively through their bereavement journey, years later the pain can still be extremely deep – like a stab in the heart every day.

We need trusted people (who can cope with us opening the floodgates) to dare to keep asking us how we are really doing over the long term – not just in the initial first few weeks or months.

This conversation provoked me to consider what I need to grieve for. The length and breadth of my list surprised me:

Wasted opportunities in my twenties.
Infertility
An estranged son
A child with a disability
Unfulfilled hopes and dreams
How limited my skills and giftings really are
Loss of close friendships as the church grows
Good things it’s time to let go of in order to embrace change

What do you need to grieve for?
Why not make a list?
What stage in the grief process are you at?
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression or acceptance?

We need to grieve for so much more than just bereavement – even the results of referendums.

Written by Dean Fryer-Saxby

Dean

Is God Really In Control?

posted in: Bible, Jane Reynolds 0

Recently I was preparing an alpha talk on How does God Guide Us? I love this talk I find it such an encouragement to reflect on and write down some of the examples from my journey with Jesus. In the week before the talk I had one of those interesting God Moments, you know the ones; you are busy cooking with a documentary in the background when all of a sudden it’s like the TV got turned up for a second; a sentence resonates and your whole body responds.

The scenario: a man’s wife and children are shot dead by his daughters boyfriend and he’s in hospital recovering.

Friends reassurance ‘God is in Control’.

Red light in me hears these words and shouts ‘No He’s not!’

Now my brain is awake ‘ Can I say that? Is that blasphemy?’

Time out. Step back.

Let’s think this through.

God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. He is present now, has always been and will always be. (Genesis 1, John 1:1-5) He knows us each by name, infact he knew us before we were formed in our mother’s wombs (Ephesians 1:4, Galatians 1:15) . He sees from the beginning to the end of time. He has plans for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11). He is good (Mark 10:18). He is over all things (John 17:2, Ephesians 4:6). He is in control.
(Isaiah 9:7, Mark 13:13)

So if God is in control how did this happen? Did He shut one eye for a second?

Of course not. God is not a created being like us, He sees all things (Isaiah 40:28). He is victorious and all powerful. We do however, live in a fallen world (Genesis 3). God sent His own Son as a sacrifice, as payment for our rebellion, so we could be in relationship with Him again (John 3:16). Whilst victory (through Jesus) is assured, the fighting is far from over. We are not all on the side of ‘team God’ and looking to live life His way.

God, in his love and grace, gives us free will (John 8:32, Genesis 2:19, Luke 22:42) . We are not puppets on a string. God does not control our individual actions, move our arms and legs or make us run. He is moved by injustice, wherever it is found (Micah 6:8). Selfishness and evil; ours and others, unjust and ungodly actions affect our lives. The enemy prowls around like a lion ready to pounce (1 Peter 5:8). Fact. God longs for us to stand up against these things (Psalm 103:6). He will use any situation to bring good; beauty from ashes (Psalm 50:2-6).

Sometimes we say things, however true and well meaning they may be, which do not convey the compassion of God or a full measure of understanding (psalm 103:8). Like the phrase ‘What will be, will be!’ We are not powerless. We can stand against the enemy schemes (Ephesians 6:11). God gives us the wisdom (Ephesians 1:8). Prayer, our weapon of warfare, is powerful. Prayer changes circumstances and situations (Mark 11:24, Exodus 17:10-12) . God does have plans and purposes for our lives and we can search them out (Jeremiah 29:11).

The situation was devastating. God knew. The God of compassion and abounding in love knew what was happening.  (Matthew 9:36) If he was a heavenly holy dictator he might have intervened but being true love and grace he did not (1John4:16,17). It doesn’t mean He is any less powerful. God our creator is always in control.

 

Written by Jane Reynolds

Jane

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