Pride and Humility

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , , | Posted On Monday, January 18, 2010 at 7:59 AM

In today's Life Journal reading from Luke 18, Jesus tells the story of a Pharisee who exalted all his "holy" habits and actions. He made claims about the sins he had not committed and how he fasted twice a week and tithed a tenth of his income. All very noble...but it seems his biggest reason for doing it was for show. To look good before others.

At the same time a tax collector, whose lifestyle was despised by the Jews, stood before God and humbly declared his sinfulness and sought God's mercy. He was open and honest with God about his struggles, his lifestyle, and his regrets.

In telling this story, Jesus concludes with this: "I tell you, this sinner (referring to the tax collector), not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." (vs. 14)

I have to admit I have found myself in the Pharisees shoes before. Proud of my accomplishments, my position, I may not have bragged about them a lot, but I felt very self-satisfied and was quick to accept the praises of others.

But it seems that the longer I travel this journey, the more I experience God "breaking" me. He shows me how self-seeking my attitude can be. He convicts my heart of pride. And He works very little in my life. In fact, whatever outward accomplishments I gained were all I gained because I sure did not have the applause of heaven nor its power in my life.

These days I'm becoming more and more aware that my talents and abilities - the things that in the past earned me the applause of men - are woefully inadequate for doing real works for God. The more I know, the more I know I don't know. I'm discovering there is really very little that I actually do myself that has eternal significance. Yet, when I feel over my head, when I call out to God for help and rely on Him, He does greater things through me than I ever did on my best day. The more I step aside and offer myself to God, the more He does in and through me. He uses the talents and abilities that He gave me for His purposes, not mine. There's no room for pride - it's all actually very humbling.

I still battle pride. I think my pride is a way I try to compensate for my own insecurities. But, more and more I'm trying to simply trust God and allow Him to do His will in and through me, and then be sure to give Him all the glory for whatever good occurs. Maybe that's why this story from Luke resonates so much with me. I really want to be more like the tax collector than the Pharisee. I want to be humble and trust in God's strength rather than mine. I want Him to get any glory that is due. I know how easy it is for me to fall back into "Pharisee" mode.

I don't know if you battle this same struggle, but my sense from Scriptures is that a lot of us do. On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it's important for me - a white male - to see my proper place in God's plans. It's important for me to not look down on anyone, regardless of their race, place of origin, job, economic status, etc. I have no special place as a white male, as a pastor, as an American, etc. I am who I am simply by the grace of God, and if I do any lasting, meaningful work, it is Christ in me that causes and accomplishes this. To God be the glory!

Neutrality isn't as safe as I thought

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , | Posted On Monday, January 11, 2010 at 7:05 AM

There have been times in my Christian journey when I really didn't want to put myself out. I really didn't want to go the whole way. What Christ was asking of me seemed a little extreme. And so, I admit, I backed off. I didn't do anything to oppose Christ, but I didn't help, either. It seemed to me that neutrality was a safe place.

But then I read in today's Life Journal readings, from Luke 11:23, these words of Jesus: "'Anyone who isn't with me opposes me, and anyone who isn't working with me is actually working against me.'"

In the verses just before this verse Jesus is talking about Satan. Suddenly, as I read verse 23 I felt convicted. I realized that opposing Jesus is obviously working on Satan's behalf. But in this verse it struck me that doing nothing for Jesus is also working on Satan's behalf. Satan doesn't have to get us to do evil to thwart God's plans - getting us to do nothing is also effective.

Doing nothing isn't helping to build the Kingdom of God. In addition, doing nothing becomes a witness to others, an encouragement to others, to do nothing. Working for the Kingdom requires effort. It causes us many times to take a stand. It's seldom the easiest way to go. If Satan can simply keep me from serving Jesus, from doing good things, then he is accomplishing his purposes.

That's why Jesus said that if we aren't with him, we're opposing him. There is no neutrality in the battle between heaven and hell. Neutrality stands on the side of hell, for Satan is just as pleased with us doing nothing as he is if we actively oppose the Kingdom.

This is a scary thought to me because many times I like to think that I can be neutral about certain issues within the Christian journey. Who or what am I hurting if I take no stand at all? Yet, Jesus tells me taking no stand is a dangerous place to be. What do you think?

Sometimes I "think" too highly of myself

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , , , , , | Posted On Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 7:14 AM

Sometimes a single word changes the whole meaning of a sentence. I've found that when I read quickly, I sometimes miss that one word because I already think I know what I'm going to read.

This morning as I was reading my Life Journal reading in Luke 5, a word jumped out at me for the first time. I've read this passage many times, but it never struck me. Maybe you'll just laugh at what I missed, because you've always seen it, but it struck home with me this morning.

Luke 5:31:32 (NLT): "Jesus answered them, 'Healthy people don't need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent." (emphasis added)
The word I had missed many times before was "think." Jesus isn't saying that he didn't come for the righteous - he's saying he didn't come for those who "think" they are righteous. Those who think they've got their act together. Those who don't believe they are doing anything wrong. They're the ones who believe Jesus came for everyone else, but certainly not for them because they are righteous - they are living rightly. Or so they think...

The Bible says all have sinned. The Apostle Paul, paraphrasing from Psalm 14, says, "…'No one is righteous - not even one.'" (Romans 3:10) That is, none of us can claim "right-standing" with God based on our own efforts or merits. To claim righteousness is to claim that I'm making no mistakes, I'm doing nothing to hurt my relationship with God. My thoughts and actions are always pure and on track. And Paul says none of us can make this claim. Only God can.

But the Pharisees believed that in keeping the letter of the law, in keeping the appearance of the law (but not the heart of the law) they were righteous. Their pride would be their downfall. Unfortunately, the Pharisees haven't been the only ones whose pride would be their downfall.

In my insecurity, I try to come across better than I am. I shrink from admitting any faults or failings. I have nurtured this belief that by seeking to live this great life, by showing no faults, people will see me as someone special, righteous (though we probably wouldn't use that word). It's how I get people to like me, respect me, look up to me.

But what I'm really doing is trying to compensate for my own shortcomings. And in the process, I "think" I'm righteous, when I really am not. I'm living in pride. And as long as I live that way, Jesus won't break into our lives.

Jesus said, "'God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.'" (Matthew 5:3). He said, "…'I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.'" (Matthew 18:3-4; italics added)

At Christmas we celebrated that Jesus was born in the most humble of circumstances - to a peasant couple, in a stable or cave, and visited by outcast shepherds at first. And he will still only enter into our lives when we humbly submit ourselves to him. Jesus came for those who are willing to admit they are sick, but there's little he can do for those who "think" they are righteous, who have no need for him.

This passage really struck me this morning, and then an earlier verse in Luke 5 brought it home: "But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer." (Luke 5:16) Even the Son of God knew his need for God, and often spent time with God. Wow! How much more do I need that? How much more do I need to be humble and admit my sickness, my sinfulness, my pride, my self-centeredness? How much more do I need to spend time with God? Because it's then that the "doctor," the Great Physician, is welcomed into my life to bring healing. And even to bring His righteousness into my life.

By humbly accepting Jesus into my life, and daily recalling (or confessing) all the ways I fail to be in right-standing (righteous) with God on my own, He lets me in on his ticket - He awards me righteousness out of his grace, which I can receive only by faith.

So, to sum it all up, the doctor is in...

My Choices...and Maybe Yours

Posted by Randy | Labels: , | Posted On Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 7:12 PM

It's a new year, and I plan to share some thoughts here throughout each week. Some will come from Life Journal readings. Some will relate to Sunday's message. Some will just be whatever I feel like writing.

I'm really excited about this new series we're beginning on January 3. It's called, "Choices." One thing I've discovered in my life is that I'm confronted by choices every day. Too often my feelings or convenience or concern about what others will think keep me from making the best choice - the choice that honors God and grows my life for His glory.

So, in case you're wondering, this series is definitely for me. I hope it will help you. I believe it will. But I know I need encouragement to make the best choices in my life. We'll see how it goes. I hope you'll come along for the ride.