Pride is like a ninja

I am in a small group of sorts that meets on Saturday evenings. It’s part of a program called Starting Point, and I have really enjoyed it. It’s not exactly a class but it is at the same time. It’s an open environment where anyone can ask any question about faith without feeling silly about it. It’s really great, and we have a really great group.

We have an assignment coming up pretty soon where we need to bring a list of the sins that we struggle with. Not an easy assignment, let me tell you. And I really had no intention of talking about this today, but then I read today’s verse and it was all I could think about.

Romans 3:23-24

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

Everyone has sinned. Not one person is righteous. Not a single person can meet God’s standards. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re going or where you’ve been or how you got there; nobody is good enough. But God declares us righteous through Jesus’ sacrifice. So because of Jesus, our sins can’t control us.

But, because we’re human, even though we don’t have to live in sin, our sin still follows us around. And I’m pretty sure I’ve nailed down the big one that always trips me up.

Pride.

I truly struggle with pride.

But it’s not the pride you normally identify as “the sin of pride,” with all the strutting and bragging. No, I’m too smart for that. I’ve grown up in the church, after all, and I know pride is a sin. So I learned at a young age to conceal my pride behind a mask of false humility.

For example, when people complimented my writing, I used to dismiss it. I used to thank them for their kindness but insist that I really didn’t know what I was doing. I think in some way I was trying to be humble about it, not taking credit for something I did. But that’s not true humility. Even as I was telling someone that I didn’t really know what I was doing when I wrote a script, inside I was telling myself that I was such a good Christian for not taking credit for it.

Do you see the disparity?

True humility acknowledges the gifts God gave you and redirects the credit to Him for any results those gifts have brought about. Denying that I have a gift for writing is not only dishonest, but it diminishes the glory that rightfully belongs to God.

Okay. Imagine that someone gives you a beautiful piece of jewelry. Or a really expensive car. And they just give it to you. And when people come up and tell you how awesome it is, you just say, “Oh, this? It’s just some trinket.” Or you say, “It’s not really that special. Everybody has a car.” When you should say, “Isn’t my friend the best? Look what he’s done for me, and he’ll do the same for you too!”

Pride manifests itself so many ways in my life. I was talking with one of my best friends this past weekend about my inability to ask for help. Ingrained in my mind is this desperate need to do everything myself. I have this petrifying fear that people will think I’m weak if I ask for help, even when I need it. And that is pride.

And in many of my relationships, pride rears its head too because sometimes I’m tempted to think people owe me. Not money, though. More of the time, I just feel like people should appreciate the sacrifices that I make for them. I spend a lot of money on other people. I invest a lot of time in other people. And many many times, I don’t get anything in return. Sometimes not even a thank you. And when that happens, pride rears its ugly old head and tells me that I should be offended. That I should never do anything to help anybody again. But what did I give to someone else that actually belonged to me? It’s not my money. And it’s not my time. So what right do I have to be offended that someone else didn’t express appreciation to me for something I gave them that wasn’t even mine in the first place?

And that’s the danger of pride. Not the strutting and boasting kind of pride. The quiet, stealthy, Christian pride that creeps into our lives when we don’t expect it. It convinces us that we are good people and that our time belongs to us and that our money is something we earned or that our work is something we did all by ourselves. This kind of pride tells us that we’re justified to seek recompense or to feel slighted if we don’t receive it.

But are we really?

What kind of pride did Jesus have?

Did He dismiss His gifts when people praised Him? No. He always redirected the praise to God instead of hiding it behind a mask of false modesty. Did He ask for help when He needed it? Heck, yes. He had an inner circle of friends (Peter, James and John) who went everywhere with Him, who He asked to pray for Him (granted, they were losers and went to sleep when they were supposed to be praying, but He still asked them). And did Jesus expect recompense for His sacrifice? Absolutely not. What could we pay Him anyway? Did He die on the cross so we could thank Him for His sacrifice? No. He died on the cross to make a way for us to reach God.

Jesus had the right to be as proud as He wanted. But He left heaven (where He is worshipped every second of eternity) and came to Earth as a blue-collar worker. And even beyond that, He gave up His right to humanity and made Himself a sacrifice for us. Beaten until He wasn’t even recognizable. Hung on a cross to die in a humiliating way. And for what?

So that God could declare us righteous.

Where’s the pride in that?

So am I saying that I’ve got this pride thing all figured out? No way. All I’m saying is that I’ve identified it in my life and that it’s the biggest sin I struggle with. But it certainly does make dealing with it easier if I know what to call it.

Everyone struggles with sin. That’s what the verse today says. Everyone has fallen short of God’s standard. It’s different for every person, though.

But all sin has one thing in common: Jesus defeated it.

And that’s a pretty cheery thought for a gloomy Wednesday morning, don’t you think?

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One on one

I have a confession to make. I am both a terrible control freak and a perfectionist. But they say admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery, right? . . . Although, I have to say I’ve never figured out who “they” are . . . In any case, I really do struggle with this. I have a real problem letting go of things and trusting other people to get them done correctly. And many times, it’s not healthy for me. I load myself down with too much stuff.

On the other hand, there are times when doing something yourself is better than letting someone else do it. It’s one of those things in life where you have to have a balance. Because sometimes God has given you a unique gift to be able to accomplish something, and if you aren’t paying attention — or if you’re refusing to listen — you’ll miss the opportunity to be personally involved in something lifechanging.

The verse this morning is 1 Peter 2:24.

24 He personally carried our sins
      in his body on the cross
   so that we can be dead to sin
      and live for what is right.
   By his wounds
      you are healed.

I think this verse is really interesting because it stresses the fact that Christ personally carried our sins on the cross. Redundant language in the Bible always catches my attention because God never repeats things unless He wants us to pay attention to it.

This verse could have just said that Jesus carried our sins. Wouldn’t that be enough to communicate that He did it for us? Why does it stress that He did it personally?

So I decided to check it out in the Amplified version of the Bible to see another translation’s take on the language:

24He personally bore our sins in His [own] body on the tree [a][as on an altar and offered Himself on it], that we might die (cease to exist) to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.

It’s similar, stressing the fact that Jesus did it Himself.

Reading this verse helps me remember that sometimes I forget how personal God is. It’s easy to put Him in religious box and stuff Him high on a shelf and only go looking for Him when I run into trouble, but that’s wrong. God is bigger than any box I can imagine, and not only is it foolish to try to contain Him, it’s detrimental to your health.

God is a personal God. He sees every aspect of our lives, and He wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. Every step we take, every decision we make, every though we have, He wants to be at the center of it because He wants to be in a relationship with us.

When you’re in a close relationship with someone, don’t you make decisons based on them? Don’t you choose to spend time with them because you love them? Or go places with them? God wants to be that close of a friend to us.

Christ died for us personally so that we could have a personal relationship with God through Him. Read the rest of the verse, though.

24 He personally carried our sins
      in his body on the cross
   so that we can be dead to sin
      and live for what is right.
   By his wounds
      you are healed.

He died so that we could be dead to sin and live for what is right.

Before He died for us, we had no escape from the sin that controls our lives. By trusting Him, by accepting Him, He becomes our personal God and offers us freedom. We don’t have to sin anymore. We have a better choice.

Do we still sin? Well . . . yes, unfortunately. Because we’re still human and still dealing with a dark nature we won’t be rid of until Christ comes back for us. But because of Christ’s personal sacrifice, we have hope. We can get up in the morning and decide that we’re going to do what is right, to live without letting sin control us, through the power of God’s Spirit in our lives.

What we have with God through Christ is a one-on-one relationship. It’s personal. It’s alive. God should be shoved on a shelf, ignored until we need Him. He is moving and alive and interested and invested in each of our lives on a personal level and He wants to be our friend.

I don’t feel like I’m making a lot of sense this morning. It’s earlier than usual because I have to be at work two hours ahead of normal, so I’m going to stop rambling and end with another version of this verse that really encouraged me this morning.

I don’t often study from the Message since it’s a paraphrase version of Scripture, but there are times when it really captures the meaning of a verse or series of verses very clearly. This is one of those passages:

 21-25This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.