Robert's Sermons

If My People

Part 10: Pride and Humility (3)


2 Chronicles 7:14   “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

It’s no accident that the first thing God asks of us in this verse is to humble ourselves. This is the entrance point to the rest of this powerful verse. Once we have established to whom God is speaking (those who are called by His name) we then are faced with this locked door. It is the doorway to the outcome of this verse, which is, God healing our land. The key to that door is humility – no other key will unlock it. We can run around all we like trying to find another way through; we can explore every option we can think of in our foolishness, arrogance, and pride; but we cannot get off the starting line without this key; we cannot proceed past this point without humility.

I believe the intentional, deliberate structure of this promise from God shows us a truth that is played out on every page of the Bible and throughout all human history.  Without humility – we can’t even begin this journey! By all means, try if you wish. What comes after humble themselves?  “Pray …”  Well, try having an effective prayer life without humility – it won’t happen. 

Keep going in the verse: try seeking God’s face without humility – it won’t happen! Your worship will be man-centred, shallow, and powerless. Try turning from your sin without humility – forget it. You may not even see it as sin without humility! Try experiencing the reality and the release of true forgiveness without humility – it will not happen! Can you see why humility is the key to this door? OK then – how do we get this key?  How do we obtain humility?

Well, some experts would suggest that we can’t. They would say that humility is not something we ‘get’ as much as it’s something that emerges as we deal pride. We know that pride is the opposite of humility and so as we allow the Lord to reveal pride in our attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions and then deal ruthlessly with that pride by changing what we think and how we live, then we will find that humility is the result. 

This view would liken humility to modern medicine’s definition of health. Modern medicine would define health as ‘the absence of disease’ and that is why billions of dollars a day is being spent across the world to help us identify and fight disease. When we get rid of all disease in our body – the result is health. So, according to this view, you don’t set your sights on this illusive thing called ‘health’ … rather you set your sights on those clearly identifiable enemies of health – germs, bacteria, and the diseases they bring. Get rid of them and you have the absence of disease, which is health.

So, if such a view was applied to our quest for humility, then that would mean we should not set our sights on this illusive thing called ‘humility’ but rather, we must set our sights on the enemy of humility which is pride. Therefore, the strategy for getting the key to life in this case; the way we arrive at this destination called ‘humility’ is to clearly identify every manifestation of the ‘disease’ of pride and get rid of it  – then the result is humility.

How does that sound so far? Well, just hold that thought for a minute as we consider an alternative viewpoint.  Let’s jump back for a moment to our example of medicine and the pursuit of health. There is an alternative view to the modern medical view which strongly advocates for preventative methods of achieving health. With this approach, we do focus on health, not disease. We intentionally ‘build’ health by eating the right foods, getting the right exercise, supplementing our diet with natural herbal products and vitamins and minerals etc. This view claims that germs do not cause disease – they only seek their natural habitat, which is diseased or weakened tissue in our bodies. Therefore, if we are strong and healthy and fit and our immune system is working well, then we can live lives which are substantially free from all disease.

So, applying this view to our current issue of humility, we would say that humility is to be our focus and we should draw near to God and read His Word and pray and worship and soak up good teaching and do everything we can to attract His real presence in our lives and then pride will have no entry point in such a surrendered, humble heart.

Two very interesting views – but which one is right? I believe they are both valid, and both need to be embraced. I believe the Bible gives us a mandate to do both. On the one hand, we are told to draw near to God and focus on the positive. “Abide in me and I will abide in you.” Hundreds of verses support this view.  The closer we get to God  … the more we are in His presence … the more we will see His character emerging in us.  We become like those we hang around with most. So, hang around with Jesus long enough and His humility is bound to emerge in you.

On the other hand, we are exhorted in the Bible to deal ruthlessly with pride and the sins which flow from pride. We must allow the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of that sin in our hearts so we can repent. That is, once a particular manifestation of pride is identified, we are meant to turn and walk the other way. That is, we make different choices in the way we think, speak and act so that these manifestations of pride in our lives can be targeted and removed.

So, let’s begin with the not so pleasant stuff first, shall we? Let’s open the mirror of God’s Word and allow Him to reveal our heart and identify some of the many different manifestations of pride. You may recall in Part 8 of this series I listed several descriptions or manifestations of pride. I want us to now work our way through that list, giving the Spirit of God permission to show us actual attitudes and actions which are in our lives right now which need addressing. I want to encourage you to get personal and practical during this teaching. By all means, listen to the sermons first, but then download the PDF and print them off and then work your way through them and write down some specific manifestations of pride in your life as the Spirit of God reveals them.

>  Pride is self-satisfaction

Hosea 13:4-6  “I have been the Lord your God ever since you came out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Saviour except me. I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of burning heat. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.”

Pride and ‘self’ are inseparably linked.  Pride glorifies our fallen human nature  i.e. ‘self’, or ‘the flesh’ as the Bible calls it. So, it’s not surprising to see the term ‘self’ included in any description of pride. Self-satisfaction plays a significant role in pride.  ‘Looking after No. 1’ they call it.  That statement alone is very revealing.  The fact that we would even colloquially refer to ourselves as No. 1 identifies the root of this prideful attitude.

When we think, even for a moment, that we are No.1, then everyone around us, including God, gets relegated to second place and lower. Our satisfaction, our comfort, our needs become primary. Choices we make are made on the basis of what serves us, not others or God. Some of these can be little choices like what will I do tonight?  Through to choosing a Church or a career or a husband or wife. Be they small or large choices, we face them all the time, all through life and at each point we have an opportunity to do what will serve our needs or what will serve others and God.

We can become satisfied with ourselves as we are and pride will grip our hearts and affect, if not direct all our choices and, as that reading from Hosea reminds us, the result is that we forget God. So, this week, take some time to let the Holy Spirit reveal specific areas in your life where self-satisfaction has become a problem. Write them down, confess them, and ask for God’s enabling power as you make different choices in the days ahead.

>  Pride is self-sufficiency and self-reliance

Moses warns the people of God about what will happen when they have rest in the promised land:

Deuteronomy 8:11-17  “Beware … lest, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply … then your heart becomes proud, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt … [and you] say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.”

God’s goodness can be turned into self-sufficiency. It is so easy for our prideful human heart to grow out of needing God. The world, our fallen flesh and the enemy of God will convince us to think that we are growing up and maturing and so we can stand on our own two feet now and we don’t need a crutch. Therefore, in effect, we don’t need God.

When we were little children we desperately wanted to do stuff by ourselves didn’t we?  Learning to tie our shoelaces is a classic example.  We struggle and try and keep getting it wrong and a parent offers to help, and we protest, “No!  I can do it!”

Sadly, many of us reach our adult years and we are still protesting, in so many areas of our lives, “I can do it!  So much we do is done in the power of our fallen flesh, without really relying on God.  We insist on doing it our way. Of course, in many areas we can do it without any direct intervention from God. That’s how He made us, and He expects that we will grow up and mature and do things ourselves that He once did for us.  However, at no point should we ever forget those words of Paul we have read many times now:

1 Corinthians 15:10  “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

Everything I am and ever hope to be, is only mine, by the grace of God.  Everything I achieve that is worthwhile and good is done through the power of God’s grace working in me.  The moment I forget that, even for a second, I become arrogant and proud and start relying on myself and not on God. That stubborn, childish insistence which continually says, “I can do it!” needs to be broken in us until we begin saying, “I can do it … by the grace of God.”  That takes humility; that takes surrender and submission and honesty and vulnerability and none of those things will be present when pride is there. So, take some time this week to let the Holy Spirit reveal specific areas in your life where self-sufficiency and self-reliance have become a problem. Write them down, confess them, and ask for God’s enabling power as you make different choices in the days ahead.

>  Pride considers itself above instruction

Jeremiah 13:9-10  “I will destroy the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts.”

These are strong words from Jeremiah, but they are so true – then and now.  Our fallen, sinful, rebellious nature fights against instruction. Pride stubbornly refuses to be taught the way of God and makes its own wishes the measure of truth.  A teachable spirit is a rare and precious gem in a human being and something that God uses so powerfully when He finds such a spirit in a believer.

I would love to say that every Christian I have met has a teachable spirit, but I can’t. A teachable spirit does not come automatically with the package of salvation.  Like most character traits, it is primarily a choice we must make – every day.  There are many people who choose to not keep learning.  They arrive at a certain viewpoint, and they camp there, refusing to move. 

I know many notable leaders in the Christian Church – many of them are scholars with incredible intelligence and wisdom.  I know of many such people who have taken a black & white, dogmatic stand on some issue which is grey at best in the Bible, and they argue that point with their last breath and refuse to be open to the possibility that they may be wrong. They have set themselves above instruction. They no longer have a teachable spirit.

This does not only apply to academics, prominent Bible teachers and those who have spent years in higher education, although I do think they are more susceptible to this kind of intellectual pride.  The more we learn, the higher the risk that we will one day begin to rest on that knowledge and not the grace of God. However, even uneducated people can manifest this kind of arrogance and pride as they refuse to be told or accept a different view to their own.

I have always tried to remain open to new information and new insights of truth.  Some of the struggles I have with Christian brothers and sisters are caused by me not taking a definitive stand on certain issues and remaining open to differing points of view – not coming down hard on one side of the fence or the other.  There is a price we pay for having a teachable spirit, but I see no alternative, if we are to truly humble ourselves before God.

Brothers and sisters listen to me, in Jesus’ name … you need to be ruthless in dealing with pride in your heart if it is stopping you from learning. The moment you think you are above instruction on any issue … any issue at all … you have hit a major ditch on the side of the road to an abundant, effective, powerful Christian life. A teachable spirit is a sure sign of humility, and it is essential if we are to travel far in our desire to see God heal this land. I remember a statement coming from my father’s lips when he was with us – a statement I have never forgotten. He said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that really counts.” 

So, take some time this week to let the Holy Spirit reveal specific areas in your life where may be considering yourself ‘above instruction’. Write them down, confess them, and ask for God’s enabling power as you make different choices in the days ahead.

>  Pride is insubordinate

When the decrees and Word of God are spoken, pride forces us to turn away and not submit. It rejects the right and authority of God to tell us anything. Now you might be thinking at this point that you are OK in this department.  You can’t think of any areas where you reject the Word of God and refuse to listen to Him. However, I am not just talking about those who boldly look God in the face, put their hands on their hips, stomp their feet and say “No!  I will not do what You ask.” That kind of bold (but refreshingly honest) insubordination is not how most of us operate. We are more subtle. We just ignore God’s Word. We just turn our backs and pretend we didn’t hear Him. We conveniently forget what God has clearly told us.

God’s decrees, God’s instructions for daily living; the Father’s heart-cry and His will have all been declared, proclaimed, and shouted from the mountain tops for centuries. Every one of us has more than one Bible in our homes – a Book which, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, contains the instructions of God to His children. It doesn’t contain all that God ever spoke or will speak, but it does contain more than enough to reveal His clear purpose for you and for me in this life. There is enough of His Word in the Bible to answer every major question in life for every human being. We are without excuse when we lose our way because God has already illuminated the path for us. When we slip and fall or find ourselves groping in the darkness and cutting our way through the thorny bushes – more often than not it’s because we refused to listen to God and chose to do it our way.

We simply didn’t follow the instructions.  We ignored the Word of God.  We made deliberate choices to do it our way and there are consequences attached to those choices for which we can blame nobody but ourselves. We can cry, “the devil made me do it” all we like; we can even try the old line, “God is testing me at the moment through this trial and tribulation.” And my all-time favourite: “I am under spiritual attack.” 

I want to be so bold as to suggest that 99% of the time we are in that ditch, it’s because we refused to listen to God.  We can soften it a little and call it ignoring the clear advice of a loving Father, or we can call it what the Bible calls it: DISOBEDIENCE.  Either way, it doesn’t matter, we are just reaping what we sowed, and we need to face that truth and get back on the path God has laid out for us.

Go through the Bible and highlight the hundreds of “If…then” statements and see how clear God’s instructions are.  We encounter horrible stuff in our life; things aren’t working out; God doesn’t appear to be very real; our prayers aren’t getting answered the way we want; so, we look to blame our spouse, or our family, or our boss at work, or our Church, or the Pastor, or Satan or even God Himself.  All the time, making sure we don’t go anywhere near a mirror – when in fact that’s the very first place we should go – every time!

Before you even pray; before you even bother God with your woes; look in the mirror of God’s Word; examine your own heart and life and choices and more often than not you will find that you have been insubordinate, disobedient; you’ve chosen to think, speak or act in a way that is contrary to the clear, fool-proof, guaranteed-to-work-every time clear instruction of Scripture.

Take time this coming week to let the Holy Spirit reveal specific areas in your life where you have been insubordinate. Write them down, confess them, and ask for God’s enabling power as you make different choices in the days ahead.

We will pause here and pick up from this point next time, but hear this, in Jesus’ name, hear this: PRIDE HATES A MIRROR. The greatest enemy to pride is a mirror. This applies to every one of these issues I am outlining here. Pride will go to incredible lengths to stop you looking in the mirror and dealing with the stuff inside you. Pride will always convince you to look for someone else to blame and someone else to whom you can pass the buck and get off the hook.

Yes, there are times when someone else is to blame for things that come into your life unexpectantly.  We live in a fallen world where bad things happen to good people – that’s life – welcome to planet earth!  However, you, and only you, are the one responsible for your reaction to those things. 

You may not be able to control some of the things which happen to you, but you have total control over your response and it’s often in those responses where pride kicks in, smashing all the mirrors around us – as we start complaining, crying poor, wishing God would hear us and blaming everything and everyone for our lot in life.

It’s your choice how you live and how you respond to what happens to you in this earthly journey. Pride will prevent you from accepting that truth. In fact, pride will stop you from even hearing that truth most days! Regardless of what life brings your way, it is always your choice whether you submit to the circumstances and stumble or fall – or submit to God’s Word and make the most of whatever comes your way each day, knowing and trusting that God has already gone ahead of you and laid out the path to overcome whatever you are facing at any point in your journey.

Let those who have ears to hear, listen to what the Spirit of God is saying today. Amen.