Today I begin a series on the things that poison believers , and we will look at the poison of pride. Regardless of who you are, where you are from and what your background is, these poisons are very real and can completely kill you relationship with the Lord and ruin your life. Essentially over the next few weeks I am going to be preaching holiness.
They won’t take your salvation necessarily, but they can infect your life, destroy ministry and relationships and stunt your spiritual growth.
Ultimately sin is the poison. It may take many forms and shapes, just as a diseases can have many symptoms. A doctor’s first choice is to attack the disease itself, not just relieve the symptoms. If you have a bacterial chest infection, you can treat a sore throat, coughing, aches and pains or fever… But you are better to treat the disease itself with an antibiotic, right?
As I go through the this series, you are going to be confronted by a variety of deadly sins, and I will point you towards a range of successful treatments. But bear in mind that they are all part of the one, overriding disease we all have… Sin!
This series is not designed to attack you as a believer, or to make you “feel bad.” You may feel uncomfortable at times, but let the Holy Spirit bring some conviction, not condemnation, to your heart. And trust me, I will squirm as much as you on some of these, but it is in confronting and dealing with our sins that we will be set free.
Don’t cover up your sin… Confess it, and let Jesus cover it over!
THE POISON IS UNDETECTED
Bill Newman tells the story of a young boy going fishing. He collected what he thought were little worms, and started to fish. He’d take a worm out, it nipped him a little on the finger, but he didn’t care, he was catching lots of nice fish.
Later when he was happily walking home with a load of fish, the local sheriff stopped him and asked what he used for bait. The boy proudly showed his collection of worms, and the sheriff froze.
He ordered the child into the car and rushed him to hospital, the doctors worked on the boy for hours but it was too late… The boy died! Why? Because they were not little worms at all but baby rattlesnakes. So all the time while the boy enjoyed his fishing and felt like a success, the poison was coursing through his veins, silently and slowly killing him!
So this series is designed to pin point these potentially fatal areas of sin in our lives and give us the antidote to the poison.
We are going to look at 7 poisons, and we’ll start with the granddaddy of them all… The Poison of Pride…
THE POISON OF PRIDE
As Aussies, we hate pride in others and nothing else gets us offside like seeing someone who is overly prideful. Yet we all have this horrible poison somewhere in us, and although we hate it in others, we tolerate or excuse it in ourselves.
Pride is the only disease that makes everyone sick but the one who has it.
Which is crazy, because we know where this poison is going to lead, right?
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
We also know that God hates it within us, and He will oppose it whenever He can…
1 Peter 5:5-6
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
So let’s have a look at what pride is, how it poisons you, how to detect it and what to do about it…
WHAT IS THE POISON OF PRIDE?
Pride is defined as undue confidence in and attention to one’s own skills, accomplishments, state, possessions, or position. It is the opposite of humility, the proper attitude one should have in relation to God. Pride is rebellion against God because it attributes to oneself the honor and glory due to God alone.
Benjamin Franklin said, “There is perhaps no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive. Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.”
They gave me a badge for humility, but took it off me because I wore it!
Funny thing is that pride is easier to recognize than to define, and it is much easier to recognize in others than in oneself.
While there are many biblical words describing various aspects of pride, and there are many synonyms for pride including arrogance, presumption, conceit, self-satisfaction, boasting, and high-mindedness, I want to consider the main two words in Greek.
The first is alazoneia. In ancient times, the alazon was a wandering charlatan and was a favorite comedy character in Greek plays. One Greek authority puts it this way: “It means, originally [in Classical Greek], empty, braggart talk or display; swagger; and hence an insolent and vain assurance in one’s own resources, and a contempt of divine laws.
It’s arrogance personified as the vainglory of life. Alazoneia appears in 1 John 2:16, where it is one of the three categories of sin, along with the lust (see May 11) of the flesh and the lust of the eyes.
1 John 2:16
For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.
The other word is Huperephanos, which pictures arrogance and haughtiness. It appears, for example, in the list of sins that characterises man’s fall and depravity (Rom. 1:30), as well as in the list of sins that characterises man in the last days (2 Tim. 3:2).
At the very root of man’s fallen condition is pride. These two Greek words sum up our world today, and people’s attitude to the gospel. This is a poison that will keep you from receiving Jesus, because in your pride you will simply see no need for Him.
DL Moody writes, “Pride can grow on any soil, in any climate; no place it too hot for it, and no place is too cold for its growth. How much misery has it caused in the world! How many men here are kept from salvation by pride? Why, it sprung up into heaven, and for it Lucifer was cast out; by pride Nebuchadnezzar lost his throne. As he walked through Babylon he cried, “Is not this great Babylon which I have built?” and he was hurled from his throne. How many men who have become drunkards, who are all broken up—will gone, health gone—and yet are just as full of pride as the sun is of light. It won’t let them come to Christ and be saved.”
But this poison doesn’t leave you when you come to Christ, it simply morphs into a more subtle, more acceptable and often far more destructive form.
THE ORIGIN OF THE POISON OF PRIDE
So where did it all start? Many scholars believe it began when Lucifer attempted to set his throne on high in proud independence of God (Isaiah 14:12–14). The fallen devil (Lk. 10:18) then instilled the craving to be as gods into Adam and Eve (Gn. 3:5), with the result that man’s entire nature was infected with pride through the Fall (cf. Rom. 1:21-23). The devil is associated with pride in 1 Tim. 3:6 (cf. ‘the snare of the devil’ in 1 Tim. 3:7; 2 Tim. 2:26); So pride was his undoing, and it remains the prime means by which he brings about the undoing of men and women.
Us church folk are not immune, as I said before, but suffer from this poison in a slightly different form. We might call it being right or hearing from God in ourselves, or a religious spirit or self righteous attitude in others, but God still calls it pride and sin.
Tragically, today’s Christians are more and more being drawn into pride and self-glory, whether it’s in their jobs, in the virtual god of “sports,” success or even in church ministry.
We give lip service to the Bible, but disregard what it actually says. We ignore, for example, the clear fact that in the forty-nine occurrences of the word pride and in the forty-eight occurrences of the word proud in Scripture (AV), not a single one is used in a positive way.
Never is pride tolerated, much less praised, as it is today. Some teachers talk of “positive pride” and the building up of self. And the arrogance of pastors and leaders or top Christian business people is evident for all to see. The very fact that our Coast is littered with fine, godly people who don’t attend church due to the arrogance of pastors stands mute testimony as to how the poison of pride has infected us!
If someone us good, or talented, we out up with their pride, even in the church.
THE POISON OF PRIDE IN LEADERSHIP
This phenomenon is not new. Jesus spoke of the Pharisee…
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The Pharisee was a religious man, but he was also an arrogant man. He thanks God that he is better than the next guy. He then lists the religious duties he fulfils like God owes him something. He is solemn and puffed up by his own perception of his own self worth. And, surprise surprise, he’s in leadership!
Listen, no one ever does God a favour! Whatever you have achieved in the Kingdom, it is all in God, in His power, His opportunities for you and His Spirit. How dare we stand self righteously judging others, when the best of us are dressed in rags!
If I have ever acted pridefully before you, I confess it now as sin. As your pastor, I must lead with humility and a serving spirit. Mark 10:45. That is why I have a team around me, lest I start to believe my own press releases. They not only share the load, but they keep me grounded and real.
If you want to lead anything in Coast Church, you’d better dig out that root of pride and get ready to serve.
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
Or what about this from Paul…
2 Corinthians 1:24
Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.
So humble leaders work with people, rather than exercising their authority or lording over them.
THE POISON OF PRIDE IN MINISTRY
We minister not for ourselves, but for the Lord, and the body. Yet there is a satisfaction that comes from doing Something well, and if we are not careful this can become pride.
Pride in ministry almost always comes with comparison. As a pastor, I can compare myself with others. If I am more successful in some way, this causes pride. If they are better than me in some way, this causes insecurity. Why compare? You lose both ways, right?
But we do it all the time! So if you are a connect group leader, is your group better than the next one? If I preach, am I better than Pastor Keith, or is he better than me? Is Leanne a better worship leader, or is Michelle, or am I? Who wins in any of these comparisons? Only the devil!
Paul faced exactly this in 2 Corinthians 10…
2 Corinthians 10:10
For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.”
He goes on to say,
2 Corinthians 10:12
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
And completes the argument by saying…
2 Corinthians 10:17-18
But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
In ministry, often well meaning people will commend you, and that’s fine. You need to learn to receive graciously compliments from well meaning people, and give the glory to God.
I faced this some years ago on the question of photos and autographs at concerts and crusades. Many people wanted photos, and ask me to sign a CD or their Bible. Initially, in false humility, I refused, and hurt some people.
But God challenged me in this way… “I give you the opportunity to speak into their lives long after you have left their town, and you turn it down?”
So I sought the Lord and made this decision… I will stand there for hours being photographed with people, and I will sign everything, quoting a verse and telling them to read the verse. Years later I have had people tell me how this ministered to them when they later read that and remembered.
So if you are in ministry, don’t let pride or false humility rob you of the chance to bless someone!
That being said, it’s not just pastors. We often talk about “Have gift will travel,” and this is alive and well in church today. Many people feel their gift is not recognised, or celebrated enough where they are, so they move from church to church thinking they are serving God, but in reality they are victims of pride. They don’t wait and stay and serve until God raises them up, they just leave. While ever they sojourn from church to church, they will never see their gift elevated, and it’s their pride that stops the full manifestation of God’s working in their lives, and in the church.
THE POISON OF PRIDE IN EVERYONE
What about each of us as individuals? How often have to you walked past a drunk or a drug addict and thought, “I’m glad I’m not like them.” How often have you dealt with others in the church in the same way.
I remember a friend who fell in sexual sin, and in my religious arrogance I rejected him, not wanting to have anything to do with such evil. I deeply hurt him. A decade later he came to a concert I did, and the Lord prompted me to apologise for my arrogance and self righteous attitude.
I was right hating the sin, I was wrong to hate the sinner. My pride drove him away from Christ, away from forgiveness, away from fellowship. I had nothing to do with him and missed large chunks of his life because I thought I was so right. Sometimes we can be right, but if we have not love and unity, we can be right and self righteous all at once.
In our pride we condemn others. In our pride, we try and make it on our own in life. Just like the rich man in Luke…
He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
If you are proud, the Lord calls you a fool. No matter how successful you are, no matter how much money you make, or how good your kids are compared to others, or how big your house is, or what car you drive, or what church you go to, or how good looking you are…
If you’re proud, you’re a fool, and I for one don’t want to be a fool! How dare I see someone else in sin and not think, “there but for the grace of God go I.” How dare I consider myself better than someone else and above reproach, when the reality is that we are all of us sinners to some degree or another.
WHAT ARE YOU BUILDING?
1 Corinthians 3:11-15
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
Let me make this clear… You can be saved but still have pride, loads of it, and thereby build something that, when Jesus returns, will be worth nothing!
Many people who work or minister hard are in danger of building a house of straw, because they do so in the wrong spirit! I am not saying they lose their salvation, but what I am saying is that they are investing in something that, ultimately, will be worth nothing in eternity! This is foolishness!
In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul is addressing the wayward church in Corinth, and he uses the Greek word phusioo, which is derived from the word for bellows, implying that they are puffed up with pride.
They were prideful about which pastor they followed, their gifts and their money, and Paul likened it to a procession. If you’ve ever seen the move Patten, the great general finishes the movie walking by himself and thinking these words…
For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters, musicians, and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments.
The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses.
A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.
And that’s the truth of it. Whatever it is that poisons us with pride, whatever we think we might get back from it, it will at best be fleeting, and at worst be a disaster for our Christian walk!
THE ANTIDOTE OF THE POISON OF PRIDE
If you get infected by the poison of pride, it can ruin your life and ministry. But I am not here to accuse anybody, but to highlight this poison so we can together make sure we take the antidote.
The antidote for the poison of pride is humility.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Paul directly attacks pride in ministry in Romans also…
Romans 12:3 says,
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Whatever your gift is, serve humbly and faithfully. In the church, serve even if you don’t agree, even if it costs you, even if you are never recognised. Don’t take your gift and travel, come and talk to us. If you are willing to stay, and serve and wait on God, He will raise up your ministry at some time!
If you struggle with pride, you won’t want to respond to an altar call. But you need to! This thing is a poison in your veins, and you need the antidote, the sooner the better. Be sure this sin will find you out if you suppress it, so it’s time to take the antidote.
If you have a ministry burning in your heart, and if you feel overlooked, then I want you to respond also. If you serve faithfully, He will amaze you!
1 Peter 5:5-6
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.