The Cancer of Pride

Sunday, April 15th, 2012
Sermon Series: Topical

Sermon Manuscript . . .

The Cancer of Pride

1 Peter 5:5-7

 

“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:5-7).  Humility is essential in the life of the Christian, and Peter gives five reasons why our humility is so urgent.

1)       Humility is the root of godly leadership and genuine submission (verses1 to 5)

2)       God is actively opposed to the proud (verse 5)

3)       The humble receive extra grace from God (verse 5)

4)       God does and will exalt the humble (verse 6)

5)       God specially cares for the humble (verse 7)

 

In the fall of 2007, I was diagnosed with cancer.  We had just had our first little girl a couple months earlier.  Within a couple of days, I was scheduled for surgery to remove the tumor and nearby salivary gland.  After I’d recovered from the surgery, I began radiation treatment for a few months.  It was tough physically, but definitely not as bad as chemo.  The doctors learned of it, and they went after it.  My trip to Uganda was cancelled—my doctoral studies were affected.  By God’s grace, I’m over four years out and there are no signs.

I don’t know if you take pride in your life as seriously as you would an aggressive form of cancer, but my hope this morning is to help you see the danger of pride and the value of humility.  Pride is the sin of our age, and of mankind in general.  Pride is etched into the very being of each of us.  Non-Christians are enslaved to their own pride and self-satisfaction.  And Christians like you and I battle it too.

It is the cancer that eats away at us internally.  For some, there are visible, outward signs that others can see.  For still more of us, it is a disease that hides, festers and grows internally, while we remain self-deceived and blissfully unaware of the damage being wrought within us.  By the cunning of the evil one, we have allowed lies about pride and humility to seep into and infect our souls.

We take pride lightly, regularly hearing, “You have a right to be proud, take pride in yourself.”  We eat things marked, “Prepared with pride.”  We say to our children, “I’m proud of you.”  We forget that pride was the cause for which God cast Satan, his highest angel, from heaven.  We buy into lies like, “If you think you’re humble, then you’re not,” and believe that humility is unknowable, and unable to be pursued and cultivated.

Pride is the sin of our age, and I know that it thrives even within our church because I see and fight it within my own heart, and I’m sure you do too.  Are you proud?  Let’s start with a little humility test.

1)  You have just received a big promotion at work–do you:

a  Let everyone else in the office know

b  Let it casually drop in conversations with friends

c  Decide that it’s time to upgrade your ride

d  Try to turn down the promotion, citing all the bad work you’ve done lately

2)  How would you describe your physical appearance?

a)  Super-hot

b)  Cute

c)  Average

d)  Not so good

3)  During the Christmas holidays, you most enjoy:

a)  the food

b)  opening your own presents and getting phone calls from family

c)  finding good gifts for people whom you love

d)  giving gifts to people who really need them

4)  When you play a game against someone and win, your response is to

a)  Celebrate openly in front of your opponent

b)  Immediately ask them to play again

c)  Congratulate them on a good game

d)  Make a mental note to let them win next time

5)  When you play a game against someone and lose, do you respond by:

a)  Becoming emotionally distraught

b)  Giving them the quiet, cold treatment

c)  Congratulating them on a good game and asking to play again

d)  Saying good things to them that you really don’t mean

I don’t know how you did, but I do want you to realize that each of those answers can indicate pride.  It’s possible to proudly think of yourself as average, when you’re quite good-looking, and refuse to acknowledge it.  It’s possible to most enjoy giving gifts to needy people because it makes you feel better about yourself.  Pride is a heart condition that can infect anything we do.

At the core, pride is at work whenever you aspire to the status and position of God, and refuse to acknowledge your dependence on Him.  At the root, it is self-glorification–making yourself equal to or better than God.  Pride seeks to uproot or deny the supremacy of God.  CJ Mahaney has written that the proud person is “motivated by self-interest, self-indulgence, and a false sense of self-sufficiency, pursuing selfish ambition for the purpose of self-glorification.

Humility is not just the opposite of pride, but the antidote.  It is the chemotherapy that targets and kills the cancer of pride.  It is the daily cure to the persistent poison that lingers in our system.  How do you think of humility?  People usually think of humility as the absence of pride.  It’s the negative space.  If pride is not visible, then what we’re seeing is humility.  But that’s not really true.  It’s not the absence of pride—it’s not the opposite of pride.

Now what’s the opposite of smart?  Dumb.  What’s the opposite of beautiful?  Ugly.  What’s the opposite of strong?  Weak.  With those, the opposite describes what’s missing.  Humility is not that.  Humility is active.  It’s not just when pride is missing.  Pride is much more like cursing.  What’s the opposite of cursing?  Blessing.  If you remove cursing and don’t do anything, you just have silence.  Blessing is active.  In the same way, humility is active.

Humility is the recognition that you are nothing and God is everything–that you are the creature and God is Creator.  Humility is an attitude of absolute dependence on the one true God.  It’s loving and serving others for the glory of God.  It’s thinking rightly about yourself–not being agnostic or deceitful about our abilities, not saying you can’t do something when you can, not professing ignorance when you know the answer.  Humility is realizing that all you are is from God, and that your strengths are not yours, but instead are to be used for others for God’s glory.

Humility is the pursuit of true greatness through service.  It’s the sacrifice of ourselves for the eternal good of others, to the glory of God.  It’s seen in the Breedvelds who teach your kids the Bible each week in Sunday school.  It’s evidenced in Lynette Varnell’s tireless work in her home to care for Candice, Luke, Noah, Gabriel and the other seven kids.  Humility is seen in the men of the facility team who’ve served us so well over the last couple years.  Humility is the sacrifice of self for the eternal good of others.  It is thinking rightly about yourself, and then acting on what you know to be true.  It is the greatest need of our age, and the strongest antidote to pride.

This morning I want us to look at 1 Peter 5, because the main point of the passage is something simple yet profound–humility is essential in the life of the Christian.  You gotta understand that Peter was not writing to the great and mighty, exhorting them to humility.  His audience is Christians who’d been scattered from Nero’s persecutions.  Believers who’d seen close friends and family members arrested, imprisoned, tortured and martyred in cruel ways.  He’s writing to a small group of people who’re scattered through modern-day Turkey.  They’d been exiled from Rome before Nero started killing people.  From their perspective, Christianity is not a world religion.  It is the one hope of salvation, and it is on the edge of being extinguished.

To these believers, he gives no false assurance or failing comfort.  He doesn’t tell them to lift their heads, for tomorrow will be better.  Instead, Peter points them to Christ and to eternity, and says in 4:12, 13 and 19, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation…19 Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”

Get this–Peter is not writing to the strong and mighty.  He’s not writing to the rich and comfortable.  He’s writing to those who’ve lost home and family–and to them he says, be humble.  So we need this–we are better off than they were, and the temptations to pride are still stronger.

After exhorting the elders to be good shepherds in 5:5-7, Peter gives five reasons why their humility, and our humility, is so urgent.  It is possibly the most desperate need of our life.  Let’s read the passage, and then see why Peter exhorts us to humility.  “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.”  The first reason Peter gives for our urgent need for humility is:

1)  Humility is the root of all godly leadership and genuine submission (verses 1 to 5)

We see this in the middle of verse 5, where he looks back at the two groups addressed in verses 1 to 5, and says “all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.”  “All of you” refers to elders (verses 2 to 3) and younger men (verse 5).  By elders, we can tell from context that he’s referring to the church office rather than the age, for he calls them to shepherd the church, and exhorts them in their leadership role.

The word behind “younger men” here is more accurately reflected in the NKJV and ESV, for it was commonly used to speak of both genders together.  As common experience demonstrates, it is the younger who tend to be the most aggressive and headstrong of any group.  But here in this context, because “younger” is placed alongside the “elders” in a church, Peter appears to be describing those who’re younger in the faith and Christian experience.

In our church, we tend to call these the “young Calvinists”–they love Jesus.  They’ve learned about the doctrines of grace–and it’s like a second conversion.  They’re witnessing to Christians about the sovereignty of God and about election.  They look down on, and argue with, anybody who isn’t a 5- (or 7-) point Calvinist like them.  Somebody’s hurting, and they give them all knowledge and no love.  They don’t cry, they don’t comfort, they don’t love people.  Get fired, they’ll give you Genesis 50:20, “You meant it for evil.”  Lose a baby, they’ll quote Romans 8:28, “God causes all things to work together for good.”

You may know this type of Christian–they are men who’re filled with knowledge, and feel superior to others because of it.  Those are “young men.”  As elders, we’re usually tempted to take them down a few notches, to help God humble them.  To the church elders, and to those younger in the faith, Peter calls out, “all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.”

Notice the integral connection here.  Shepherd the flock of God.  Be subject to your elders.  All of you–clothe yourselves with humility.  Humility is a key aspect of shepherding and submission.  It is the root and basis for all godly leadership and genuine submission.  You can lead without humility.  Elders can be guilty of this.  Husbands can be guilty of this.  Proud elders are the ones who shepherd the church from duty.  Men who think, act, and sometimes ask, “What’s in it for me?”

Husbands who lord and rule from on high, as autocrats, monarchs and dictators believe themselves to be the examples of all godliness, and the source of all truth.

And you can submit without humility.  I’ve seen families in the church do this.  They follow, but they grumble–they complain.  I’ve seen women submit to their husbands, but lack humility.  They argue with him.  They contradict him in public.  They roll their eyes.  I’ve seen men do this at work.  You accept the work your boss assigns, but you complain and grumble about it.  You faithfully serve within the church, but you wish that you were up front instead of me or somebody else this morning.  Leadership and submission without humility is never to the pleasure and glory of God.

It may not have begun that way.  You may start with the best of intentions, but when pride creeps in, it slowly changes your thoughts and your motives, and it never goes well.  For that reason, Peter exhorts us all to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another.  The verb here is a command, which means your humility requires intentionality.

It’s like losing weight–I don’t know anybody who just naturally loses weight.  On the T4G trip, we traveled, we ate, we sat and listened, we walked, we ate some more, but nobody lost weight.  You want to drop from 330 down to 180?  You don’t just sit at your desk, eat, sleep and play with your kids and figure it’ll happen eventually.  You have to be intentional.  You watch what you eat.  You choose to exercise.

Humility is like weight-loss–it is active and requires intentionality.  The actual word Peter chose was one commonly used when slaves tied on an apron.  It was the wearing of that apron that distinguished a slave from a paid servant.  It was the lowliest of positions, and Peter exhorts us–clothe yourselves with that meek, low apron of humility.  It’s urgent that you elders embrace humility in your leadership.  It’s urgent that you younger in the faith embrace humility as you submit to their leadership.  Humility is the root of all godly leadership and submission.  The second reason Peter implores us to humility is that . . .

2)       God is actively opposed to the proud

Verse 5, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  Peter here quotes Proverbs 3:34, and gives the most fearsome reason for our needed humility–God is opposed to the proud.  I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase before, but I don’t know that any of us take it seriously enough.

If you’ve ever seen an early Schwarzenegger movie, you’ve seen the scenes where he claps on various pieces of battle gear, knives, guns, grenades, etc.– all to ominous music.  That is the picture Peter is giving here of God.  He is clothed in battle array before you, and before me, and before any who’re proud.  He is armed and stands in opposition to us.  His grace is meager.  His pleasure is gone.  His hostility is faithful, his might is unequaled, and his opposition is terminal.

The Creator of the universe, the Commander of the Heavenly Hosts–He stands opposed to all who’re proud.  And we feel his opposition and don’t even know it.  We can be like Balaam, striving against God to the degree that even donkeys can tell us what’s the matter.  Do you take pride seriously?  Do you cry out at the sight of it in yourself?  Do you plead for mercy and change?

My view of pride is too low, and I fear that yours may be too.  As Christians, we make much of God’s promises, but I worry that we may be ignoring some:

Psalm 31:23, “The Lord . . . fully recompenses the proud.”

Proverbs 15:25, “The Lord will tear down the house of the proud.”

Isaiah 5:15, “The eyes of the proud will be abased.”

Isaiah 13:11, “I will put an end to the arrogance of the proud, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.”

Habakkuk 2:4, “Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him.”

Do you take the sin of pride seriously?  Do you understand God’s active opposition to it?  Edwards called pride “the worst viper that is in the heart” and “the greatest disturber of the soul’s peace and communion with Christ.”  He ranked pride as the most difficult sin to root out and “the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all lusts.”  It requires intentionality to root out and put to death.

Eternally, the sins of a believer are washed in the blood of Christ.  There is no doubt.

God humbled Himself by coming as a man to live among us.  He lived entirely without sin for 33 years and was put to death by means of a cross.  It was on that cross that God poured out the full measure of His wrath onto Jesus for all the sins that God’s children would ever commit.  His perfect, sinless life allowed him to make payment for our sins.  And because He was God, He rose from the dead three days later, defeating death.

And if you know Christ, then every sin you’ve committed, every act of your pride was paid on the cross by the most humble man to ever walk the earth.  Yet presently, if you endure and even feed the sin of pride, know that you will experience the faithful and real opposition of God.  His opposition to you will be for your good, though it may seem sorrowful at the time.  But He will not, He cannot, let it pass unnoticed, for your pride is contending with Him for supremacy.

And if you refuse to bow to God’s supremacy now, a day is coming when He will force you to.  And you will not like it on that day.  Do not take the sin of pride lightly, or think little of God’s opposition.  This is perhaps the most significant and urgent reason for our humility.  The third reason Peter calls for our humility is a positive one.

3)       The humble receive extra grace from God

This is the contrast of verse 5, the antithesis of God’s opposition.  We read, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  As sure as the promise of God’s opposition is, so equally sure is it that God will give grace to all who’re humble.  It’s important to understand the type of grace under consideration here.

Generally speaking, grace is the unmerited favor of God.  All people daily receive grace from God–the proud, the evil, the meek, the poor, the Joseph Konys and the John MacArthurs.  All people receive common grace from Him.  It is that particular form of grace that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 5:45, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

It was common grace that Paul spoke of in Acts 14:17, when he says to the Gentiles in Lystra, “He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”  All people receive grace from God.  But that common grace is not what’s in view here.

Rather, this is a promise of additional grace, given specially and particularly to the humble.  As sure and consistent as God’s opposition to the proud is, so the humble faithfully receive extra grace from Him.

I think it’s interesting that Peter does not elaborate on the form in which we’ll see this grace demonstrated.  He seems to leave it open-ended on purpose, knowing that God’s displays of particular grace are unique to each person.  Each display of God’s particular grace to the humble will be uniquely customized to the person.  This is candy to be savored.  This is amazing truth to mull over.  As great a threat as God’s opposition is, so His grace is to serve as a sweet enticement to our humility.

Scripture sometimes gives us extrinsic motivations towards godliness.  Jesus in Matthew 5 said, rejoice when you’re persecuted because your reward in heaven is great.  Moses in Hebrews 11 is said to have set aside the treasures of Egypt for he was looking towards a future reward.  Paul exhorts the Colossians, let no one keep defrauding you of your prize.

Here Peter gives a promise to chew on, and find pleasure in obedience through it.  Just as God stands continually against the proud, so He will also consistently pour grace on the humble.  He will actively respond to and favor the humble.  As you are humble, you will experience His unmerited favor in unique, amazing ways.  And these special encounters with God’s grace will serve to remind you of His greatness and your unworthiness.

And keep a right definition of humility in mind–it is not a performance, or a mere act of virtue.  Humility is realizing that you are not your own, but were created for the pleasure of God.  You have nothing within yourself of real, substantive value.  It’s only as you die to self, through the Cross, by means of the Spirit, that you’re able to genuinely live for the eternal good of others, to the glory of God.

Humility is a lifestyle of dependence on God.  So think of it this way–humility is not a performance that earns grace, but a confession of emptiness that receives grace.  Humility is being “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3)–a beggar.  Those who see themselves as beggars, providing nothing of their own, will receive grace, upon grace, upon grace from God.  That is the third reason Peter says our humility is so urgent.  The fourth reason flows right out of this one.

4)       God does and will exalt the humble

Look at verse 6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”  In light of God’s opposition to the proud and grace to the humble, Peter reiterates his exhortation.  Again he commands us–humble yourselves.

The “therefore” links this exhortation to what just preceded:

Because God continually resists and combats the proud . . .

Because God faithfully pours out grace on the meek . . .

therefore humble yourselves

Now remember the audience–Peter is not writing to the strong and mighty, but the persecuted and afflicted, the minority group, the ones who hope in Christ and see other believers being martyred.  He writes at a time of distress.  There is no doubt they will suffer.

Look down at 5:9 to 10, “But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”

Their suffering appears to be guaranteed–not just due to general hardship, but due to specific persecution.  Peter’s encouragement here is coming at a time of distress, and he tells them, “Be humble.  Realize that you’re a beggar under the mighty hand of God.”  That phrase, “the mighty hand of God,” was used repeatedly in the Old Testament to describe His sovereignty (Deuteronomy 3:24 and 9:26, Job 30:21, Ezekiel 20:33).  In this context, Peter is saying to them, voluntarily accept the humility that is coming through your suffering.  God is sovereign.  He is doing it.  Humbly accept this fiery trial as from God.

 

Having cancer tested my humility.  Terror and fear and worry are signs of pride.  I am afraid and I worry, because I want control, and there are things out of my control.  Humility rests in God and His control, freeing you from fear and anxiety.  I had days of fear when my thoughts would spiral downward.  I had to fight complaining.  My wife had tough days too.  But confidence in God and His ways defeated my pride.  It held my fear in check.

A trust in God’s sovereignty is crucial for humility.  It’s required.  True humility requires a great and mighty God who has power over all things.  Your humility flows out of God’s sovereignty, preparing you for exaltation.  Peter says, “God will exalt you in due season.”  But be humble–without fail.  Too often we feel responsible for our own exaltation.

If I don’t speak up, nobody will say how great I am.

If I don’t tell my boss the great stuff I’m doing at work, my successes will never be known.

If my husband doesn’t praise me for this clean house, I’m going to make sure he knows it.

But if there was someone who ever had justification to declare their own excellence, it was these persecuted Gentile believers.  They lived peaceably, morally and in subjection to the Roman government.  They faithfully paid their taxes.  They sought the good of others.  And they were being arrested and killed for things they didn’t do.  They could argue with integrity for their innocence and their blamelessness.  They could exalt themselves as model citizens and of great value to the Empire.

Peter says that humility doesn’t seek exaltation.  The humble man doesn’t sing his own praises.  Instead, God by His mighty hand will exalt the humble at the proper time.  God will exalt the humble.  He will take care of it so that you don’t need to be concerned about it.

In fact, He has the timing already worked out.  Peter says that He will exalt you “at the proper time.”  God knows the best time for everything.  As 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, He knows how much you can endure, and will not allow you to go beyond what you can bear.  God will exalt the humble man/woman when, in His wisdom, it brings Him most glory and is the best time for you.

Do you realize what this means?  Our attempts at self-exaltation are pitiful and weak, compared to the exaltation God has planned for the humble.  The best accolades and praises you might wring out of others are pathetic compared to the exaltation that God has awaiting the truly humble.  For He will exalt you in due season in a way that most magnifies Him and is the very best for you.

So why should we be humble?  Because God will take care exalting you.  And He will do it in a way that’s far better than anything you could plan.  God does and will exalt the humble, and fifth . . .

5)       God specially cares for the humble

This also flows out of His sovereignty.  Verses 6 and 7, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,7 casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.”

Here, Paul emphasizes what we talked about a minute ago.  When we recognize that God is in full control of our suffering and our exaltation, then we are able to cast our anxiety upon Him.  That transferal of worry is a mark of humility.  It is a sign of your dependence on Him and your recognized need for Him.  This is evident in the text.

In the original language, and in most Bibles, you’ll see that verse 7 is subordinate to verse 6.  The action of casting your anxiety on Him is written as a description or outworking of humility.

Humility causes you to pray and seek God, to depend on Him, to trust Him and to rest in Him.  When you worry and are anxious, you are not manifesting humility, but pride.  If you are the sort of person characterized by undue worry, then realize that the root of it is likely pride.  Anxiety typically comes from an internal trust in self-sufficiency, self-reliance and a lack of trust in God.  Isaiah 51:12 to 13 says that anxiety comes from forgetting the Lord.

The humble cast their cares upon God–not just some, but all of them.  In the original, the words “all your anxieties” are placed first, indicating their priority.  The concerns you have about the past, the pressures of the present, the fears about what’s to come–all those things are to be transferred to God, because He cares for you.  Should I take the new job?  What does my boss think of me?  What will happen to my children?  What school should I go to?  Where should I live?  How do I escape my in-laws?  All of those things go to God.

In fact, the word “casting” refers to a decisive, energetic action.  It’s a picture of the humble believer throwing off concerns–intentionally hurling them onto a great, wise and sovereign God.  But for the humble, this is a response of overwhelming need.  There is no confidence in yourself.  There is no hope that others will lead.  You don’t give it to fate or karma or luck.  If you are really thinking rightly about yourself, and seeing all that you are as from God, then the only answer to discontent, despair and discouragement is to pray to God and trust that He will take care of it.

And Peter reminds us that God is faithful.  He says, you can confidently throw all your anxieties on God “because He cares for you.”  God specially cares for the humble.  All that creates anxiety for us, God is concerned about.  He cares for you so that you don’t have to care about yourself.  This is why Peter could say earlier, “Entrust your soul to a faithful Creator in doing what’s right.”

John Piper said, “Casting your anxieties on God means trusting the promise that he cares for you and has the power and the wisdom to put that care to work in the most glorious way.”  God is sovereign.  He will exalt the humble.  And He will specially care for them.  He gives the humble extra grace, and stands in opposition to all who’re proud.

And humility is just as required for those who submit as those who lead.

For all these reasons, Peter exhorts us—be humble.  Clothe yourself with humility.  How essential do you really believe humility is?  I believe that it may be the most urgent need of Christians today, even as it is my own most urgent need.

Are there hints of self-satisfaction in your life?  Maybe you find fulfillment in the things of this life.  With wealth can come self-reliance and self-sufficiency, and you begin to treat your money as yours instead of His.

Have you stopped listening to counsel from the Word, from preaching or from other godly people?  Pride considers itself above instruction.  Perhaps you have grown insubordinate to your spouse, your boss, or your parents.  The proud view themselves above others.  You probably won’t see it, and others may be afraid to tell you until they are so threatened that they grow angry.  Ask people you trust if your relationships are marked by humility.

Do you consider others better than yourself?  Maybe you take credit for the work of others.  We all seem to enjoy being made much of.  Pride aspires to the place of God and seeks to usurp His glory.

Do you believe that the decisions you make are better than others?  The choice you made for a house, a school or lack thereof, a church?  You find yourself regularly comparing your clothes, your family, your ministry, your knowledge, your maturity, your grades, your appearance with others?  Pride is concerned for position and exaltation.

Just like cancer, pride can appear in many forms.  Not everyone has the same form.  But you must grasp the seriousness of it.  The stories of Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, and Ananias and Sapphira show its danger.  Realize that you are risking the direct opposition of your Creator.  The only antidote is repentance and humility.  Change only comes in this way, through the cross and the work of the Spirit of God in your life.

If you need help working this out in your life, let me encourage you to study the character of God.  Get a bigger view of who He is.  Read books and Scripture on His attributes.  Study the doctrine of sin, and get a new view of how deeply sin grips our being.  And meditate on the cross–begin to think daily of why your life required Christ’s death.  I don’t mean to just contemplate the pain–I mean that you should think about the reason and cause.  Live by truth–internalize and believe how great God is.  Embrace what a sinner you were and are.  Wonder at the love, mercy and need of Christ on the cross.  The Word will cultivate humility in your heart, and have lasting effect on your relationship with God and with others.  God is looking for those who are humble and contrite, who tremble at His Word.

Jesus, I my cross have taken,

All to leave and follow Thee.

Destitute, despised, forsaken,

Thou from hence my all shall be.

Perish every fond ambition,

All I’ve sought or hoped or known.

Yet how rich is my condition!

God and heaven are still my own.

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John serves as a pastor and elder at Faith Bible Church

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