The Pride of Life is Not of the Father, Part 1

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.                                                                                            (1 Jn. 2:15)

From The High Standards of God for End-Times Christians

What gets people into trouble in terms of pride is that they want more than Jesus.  Human nature wants Jesus plus worldly recognition and acceptance.  We want Jesus plus the moniker of outwardly visible success.  The problem with a genuine biblical walk of faith with God is that there isn’t anything honorable, pure, holy, or commendable beyond Jesus.  Wanting more leads to the dispute of the apostles as they journeyed toward Jerusalem as to who should be the greatest.  At that precise moment in time, the apostles possessed Jesus in the form of an intimate, accessible, physical person more than anyone has enjoyed in history.  Yet they wanted more according to their fallen human natures.  This character flaw had to be corrected if the new Christian church was to survive, flourish, and grow.

Paul honestly admitted that there was a part of him that “would desire to glory” (2 Corinthians 12:6).  In Romans 7:15-25, Paul talks about the conflict of his two natures, the one that delights in the law of God after the inward man, and the other that attempts to bring him into captivity to the law of sin in his members.  Also in Romans 12:3, Paul warns “every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

John 7:17-18 reads “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.  He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory; but he that seeketh His glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.”

For every Christian who is serving God in some capacity, there is a daily decision or bent of the heart to seek His glory and/or our own glory.  The Holy Spirit reveals to us the spiritual pride that would tempt us to take what God has provided to us in terms of wisdom and light to use for our own glory.  How do we rid ourselves of this tendency to seek recognition, attention, and acclaim for ourselves?  The answer is to constantly remind ourselves to ask God to give us the strength and wisdom to “seek His glory that sent us,” to stay within the parameters of our mission as agents of the King, to stay within our calling as servant-leaders.

The context within which we live and work has a lot to do with how well we can resist the urge to dispute along the road who should be the greatest, and conversely how well we can focus instead upon being a “servant to all.”  Being caught up within the center of God’s plan for us provides the protective context that wards off destructive spiritual pride.  Being focused upon God’s leading takes our eyes off ourselves.

Spiritual Pride Needs a Context, Part 2

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.                                                                           (1 Jn. 2:16)

From The High Standards of God for End-Times Christians

But the events of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, in place of a worldly coronation and political reign in Jerusalem, also removed from the apostles the previous context of determining who would have high positions in the supposed new government.  The first century church of new converts was the actual kingdom that resulted from the ministry of Jesus, not the worldly reign of Jesus the political King in Jerusalem.  In the context of the New Testament church, Jesus’ teachings about the least being the greatest, Jesus washing the apostle’s feet, and Jesus using a young child as the example of the correct attitude for spiritual leadership, now made perfect sense to the apostles.

Luke 20:46-47 reads:

46 Beware of the scribes, who desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the market places, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts.

47 Who devour widow’s houses, and for a show make long prayers, the same shall receive greater condemnation.

When the apostles disputed among themselves who should be the greatest, they were on a parallel road in terms of attitude with these scribes.  Although they did not realize it, they too were similarly thinking about wearing long robes, being greeted as “somebody” in the market place, having the highest seats in the synagogue, and occupying the chief rooms at festivals.  The sinful pride side of their natures was showing itself in this dispute, on account of the context of the possible upcoming rulership of Jesus in Israel.  This would have been the beginning of church leadership personality conflicts, power structures, political intrigue, and unholy ambition in the Christian church.

That is why Jesus took the time to speak to them about this important issue on several occasions. And that is why, in God’s infinite wisdom, He produced a different context for His bride the church from what the apostles had in mind as they disputed on their way to Jerusalem who would be the greatest. God had in mind the humble New Testament church that could evangelize the world without the burden of worldly ambitions and concerns.  The three thousand new converts on the Day of Pentecost would need church leaders who were humble shepherds and “servants of all”, not self-important people more concerned with their outward appearances, titles, and reputations like the scribes of Luke 20:46-47.  In Peter’s speech to the multitudes on the Day of Pentecost, there is not a hint about himself, or about any personal ambitions regarding what he plans to do or to build in Jerusalem.  Everything in Peter’s message is about Jesus, and about people coming to Christ through faith.  Peter is no longer thinking about having drapes measured for his large corner office in the Temple.  Peter is fishing for men according to his true calling (Mark 1:17), not fishing for financial donations to build something.

Spiritual Pride Needs a Context, Part 1

“But so shall it not be among you; but whosoever would be great among you, shall be your minister; And whosoever of you would be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.”                                                                                                                                           (Mark 10:43-44)

From The High Standards of God for End-Times Christians

For it to surface, spiritual pride needs a suitable context in our Christian life.  In Mark 9:33-37 and in Luke 9:46-48, the story is told of the apostles disputing as they traveled on the road, who should be the greatest among them.  They knew by then who Jesus was.  They knew that they had been chosen to be the apostles of the Messiah the King.  They suspected that events were coming to a head and that somehow Jesus would take His rightful place as the leader of the Jewish nation.  They knew this opened up opportunities for them to occupy positions of leadership in Jerusalem.  This new reality occasioned the dispute among them as to who should occupy the highest positions in the new upcoming kingdom.

This internal debate amongst these men could not have happened a few years earlier, outside of the context of their becoming apostles and disciples of Jesus.  The thought of who would be the greatest among them in God’s upcoming kingdom on earth, which they mistakenly thought would be politically established in the very near future in the capital city of Jerusalem, could not conceivably have happened while they were ordinary fishermen, tax collectors, or revolutionary zealots.  Only after successfully following Jesus for two or three years as apostles and disciples did this tempting context materialize into a foreseeable eventuality.

Matthew 20:20-28 tells the story of the mother of James and John coming to Jesus and asking Him if her two sons could sit on His right hand and on His left hand in His kingdom.  This request could not have been made without James and John being in the inner circle of apostles close to Jesus.  The extraordinary ministry of Jesus created high future expectations among His followers for the nation of Israel.  This provided the context for this forgivable and understandable ambition on the part of the mother of James and John.

Jesus did not rebuke the mother of James and John for this request (He probably inwardly admired the courage of her advocacy for her sons), but simply answered that she did not clearly understand the thing she was asking of Him.  The scriptures then say that when the other ten apostles heard what the mother of James and John had done, they did not get upset with her but they were “indignant” against James and John.

The response that Jesus has for the apostles arguing among themselves as to who should be the greatest was to take a child and set him as an example in their midst, and tell them that “he that is least among you all, the same shall be great” (Luke 9:48).  The apostles and disciples learned this important lesson well, and had the right spirit regarding this issue in their first century ministries.  After these specific lessons by Jesus, and after the Last Supper when Jesus washed the feet of the apostles (John 13:2-17), we do not hear anything more about who will be the greatest among the apostles or disciples.

Gethsemane, Part 5

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”                                                                                                     (Rom. 5:1-2)

From The Christian Church in the Last Days

C.S. Lewis said that we are not just imperfect people who need growth, but we are rebels who need to lay down our arms.  Laying down our arms occurs when we repent of our sins, recognize our need for God, and accept Jesus into our lives.  But this is not a one-time event at our Christian conversion.  The Christian life as a disciple involves a desire, a bend of the heart toward daily surrender and yielding to God.  It involves placing Jesus Christ at the top of our priority list.  That is why Jesus said we have to pick up our cross daily (Luke 9:23).

For the Christian disciple, the attitude of “I want to do things my way,” has to be crucified on the cross.  The calling of God for our lives, which displaces our own self-in-charge nature, establishes a Godly context, a clear set of goals, and a very specific arrangement of situations and circumstances, which fashions a path of faith within the course of our lives where the old rebel in us has increasingly more difficulty expressing itself.  A genuine walk of faith set-up by Jesus Christ creates constructive and positive things to do that lead to personal growth and ministry to others, absent the rebellion of self-sovereignty.

When Moses received his calling at the burning bush, and obediently set off toward Egypt to deliver the Israelites, he began living in the non-rebel mode.  After Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, it was the action of following Jesus within this new context of being the missionary evangelist to the gentile world, which enabled Paul to now live as a non-rebel.  When Jesus said to Peter in Luke 22:32, “And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren”, it is within the actual context of strengthening the newly born Christian church in Jerusalem that Peter is fulfilling his calling in living as a non-rebel.

This is why the genuine gospel message of repentance, salvation, faith, trust, and transformation into a new person “in Christ” is so important.  The “truth that will set us free” is the life following Jesus in non-rebellion to His leading.  This is why we follow a crucified Son of God.  The will and way of Jesus was crucified to the will of God the Father, in the Garden of Gethsemane and at Calvary, for the benefit of all of mankind.  Jesus went before us in this regard.  The fact that Jesus Himself was without sin, tells us that the way of the cross is perfect.  This is one of the key character attributes which qualifies Jesus to be our leader.  We learn daily how to “lay down our arms” and become a non-rebel, in terms of our relationship with God by following the sinless, perfect non-rebel in this regard…Jesus Christ.

Every born-again Christian can examine themselves as to who is in charge in their lives…self or Jesus Christ.  Every Christian can enter into their personal “prayer closet”, get on their knees, lift their arms up to God, and ask God to assume a greater role in their lives.  Every Christian can ask God in prayer to open up their spiritual eyes, and unclog their spiritual ears, so that they can see and hear God better in the specific ways that God would like to lead them.  If it is possible for God to weep in heaven, this is the type of sincere request from His saints that will probably bring tears of heartfelt joy to God’s eyes.  Our walk of faith means that much to God.  Jesus died and rose again that we might have an abundant life through this living journey of faith, now and forever.

Gethsemane, Part 4

“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is not difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;                                                                                                               (Rom. 3:22-23)

From The Christian Church in the Last Days

If ever there was a persuasive and clearly demonstrated argument for the wrongness of man going his own way apart from God, the cross is that argument.  Man’s actions on that day condemned not Jesus, who had done nothing wrong, but the practice of a religion that conspires with a “civilized” Roman judicial system that can both be so far off-the-mark that they end up killing the God and Creator of the universe.

If ever there was a well-stated, practically demonstrated argument for trusting and relying upon a capable and loving God to show us the correct approach to life, the cross is that argument.  Salvation, redemption, and a new resurrected life of love and peace is made possible by God through this enormous blunder by mankind in putting to death the Creator of life itself on a cross fashioned crudely out of two large, heavy pieces of wood and some metal spikes.  That God is intelligent and well-intentioned enough to take the worst action in all of human history, in all of eternity, and turn it right-side up into the very means to provide forgiveness, cleansing from sin, and re-birth into a new spiritual life of joy and peace, is something so sublimely powerful it may take a lifetime in heaven to comprehend and appreciate.

On one side of the cross was the enormous tally of all of history’s offenses, misdeeds, sorrows, injustices, and shortcomings that are a result of fallen mankind going its own way apart from God.  On the other side was the contrasting approach of Jesus using surrender, faith, dependence, and reliance upon the Father’s uniquely ingenious plan to cancel out the weight of this massive debt of human sin.  No wonder Jesus sweated great drops of blood when finally confronted with the insurmountable task of nullifying this great mass of self-centered rebellion, using only His own spotless and blemish-free life, and a lamb-like surrender and reliance upon the will of the Father.  No wonder Jesus had to return moments later to the same spot in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray a second time “more earnestly” (Luke 22:44).

At the cross is where Christians must take their cue to strike out on the path of faith and trust in God, to match the stories of the lives of people of faith as patterned in the Bible.  Self-autonomy, self-reliance, and self-direction are on the wrong side of the cross, in the territory of man-made religion, in the camp of the spiritually blind religious leaders and the worldly-minded Roman authorities who crucified Jesus.

Gethsemane, Part 3

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.                                                     Rom. 1:16

From The Christian Church in the Last Days

In Isaiah 14:13-14, it is the “I will” portions of Lucifer’s statements “I will ascend into heaven” and “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God,” that is the official start of sin in the universe.  Lucifer, like many of us today, thought he knew better than God.  This is where the “I will do this and I will do that,” self-serving, God-less attitude comes from.  By contrast, the example that Jesus sets for us with enormous personal difficulty in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the way that He opened up for us in life through His own painful death on the cross, is based upon the words: “nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.”

Lucifer and unregenerate mankind, by contrast, hate the idea of submitting themselves to the loving and unselfish rulership of God in their lives to such an extent that they will actually go to the extreme measure of attempting to kill God Himself to get rid of this idea.  When God willingly allowed Himself to be crucified through the Second Person of the Trinity, through Jesus the Son of God, He unmasked the truly evil character of the go-it-on-our-own-without-God approach to life.  Stubborn pride is that strong within self-autonomy. It will refuse God any participation in our lives if this participation infringes even a little upon our own will and way.  That is why the world pushes Jesus Christ away.  That is why the gospel message of love and forgiveness is so inexplicably offensive to the world.

This is the central issue at the core of our existence.  When we are operating as our own god, atop the throne of our lives, we are lost.  This is the root cause behind humanity’s problems.  This issue cost Jesus Christ His life, on our behalf, through the cross.  It will cost us death to our self-in-charge natures when we choose to follow Christ.  An essential part of becoming born-again in the Spirit is not only acknowledging Jesus Christ as Savior, but also restoring Him to His rightful position as Lord in our lives.

In the motion picture Ben Hur, staring Charlton Heston, toward the end of the movie Judah Ben Hur, his future wife Esther, and his mother and sister are sitting on the side of a long stairway as the condemned prisoner Jesus is ascending the steps carrying his cross.  Judah Ben Hur’s mother Miriam, and his sister, Tersa, both have contracted leprosy.  Esther had thought to bring the two women to hear Jesus preach, and thus give them the hope that there was a life after death, free of leprosy.  But instead of being able to listen to the teaching of Jesus as they had hoped, all four were surprised to find that Jesus had been tried, condemned, and sentenced to death by crucifixion.  As Jesus approached them carrying his cross, Esther asked in amazed astonishment “how can this be?’  How could the religious rulers in Jerusalem and the Roman authorities have condemned Jesus, a teacher of righteousness and the healer of so many people, to something as unthinkable as execution by Roman crucifixion?

At the cross is where the contrast between the reality of human sin crashes up against the divine love of God.  Mankind at that moment was unwittingly displaying its own worst condition.  In open view, for all to see, was the futility of man’s wisdom and works when they exist apart from God, as mankind was performing the most embarrassing indignity possible in putting to death its own Creator.  Nothing remotely imaginable could be more wrong than this.  To God’s everlasting credit, this very same misguided and inexcusable action by the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and Roman rulers, was providing the means for salvation and eternal life to mankind through a divine atonement for man’s sins.  At that moment in history, the two opposing viewpoints and lifestyles available to all human beings through the freedom of choice…self-autonomy apart from God leading to sin, and fellowship with God leading to holiness…violently collide with deadly impact at the cross of Christ.

Gethsemane, Part 2

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”                                                                                                                              Rom. 1:17

From The Christian Church in the Last Days

However we interpret the many sides of the agony of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, in trying to understand the limitlessness of the divine love of God, one important lesson stands out.  If God is going to ask me to give my all, and He is offering His help in this regard, then I must have confidence that He has actually been there Himself ahead of me.  I must have absolute confidence that my Guide through this adventure of faith truly knows the best possible route to take.  In some way that we can only begin to discover through our own God-composed biblical walk of faith, the human side of Jesus Christ gave His all in Gethsemane and at Calvary, in exhibiting unselfish love and pure righteousness in the face of enormous opposition, in order to pre-qualify Himself to be the way, the truth, and the life.

One of the accounts of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is recorded in Luke 22:39-46:

39 And he came out, and went, as he was accustomed, to the Mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.

40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.

41 And he was withdrawn from them a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,

42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.

43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven strengthening him.

44 And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow.

46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.

The previous chapter noted that Luke 22:44 says that Jesus prayed “more earnestly” and that this is a remarkable statement.  We would naturally think that the initial earnest prayer of Jesus regarding any issue would always be entirely adequate the first time, seeing that He is the eternal, perfect Son of God.  The fact that Jesus (God) had to go back a second time and pray more earnestly, tells us just how difficult it was to take upon Himself the sins and transgressions of mankind.

We see in the divine approach that Jesus takes in the Garden of Gethsemane toward this great challenge, a pattern for how we are to confront the difficulties and challenges in our own lives.  Jesus was spiritually battling and overcoming the world’s sin, which is based upon rebellion and self-autonomy in mankind, by using the opposite, counter-balancing weapons of surrender, dependence, and reliance upon God the Father’s way instead of His own way (Luke 22:34).  It took the direct opposite attitude of living for oneself, of putting one’s own interests first, of side-stepping a difficult situation, of saving one’s own skin, and of running away from a challenge, for Jesus to cancel out the sum total of mankind’s sin and fulfill His role as the Lamb of God sacrifice for sin.  This is the part of the first advent, messianic scenario that the self-absorbed Lucifer totally miscalculated.  This is how God used the short-sighted blindness of evil, rooted in self-centeredness, to turn the lowliness of the cross into the exalted glory of the resurrection for our benefit.

This is precisely why the cross of Christ, for man, is the way back to God (Isaiah 53:6).  The way back to God is not through self-autonomy or self-direction, using our God-given natural gifts and abilities independently apart from God.  These are the “fallen” tendencies that got us into trouble to begin with in the Garden of Eden, that actually separated us from a relationship with God and that Jesus is redeeming us from on the cross.