Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Battling Sin: Pride and Strife

(by: me)

“Whoever loves transgression loves strife; he who makes his door high seeks destruction.” (Proverbs 17:19. ESV.)

It is my opinion that pride is such a difficult sin to fight against. Mainly, I feel it is because it changes its shape, is very sneaky, and often hides in our blind spots making it hard to detect. C.S. Lewis said,
“If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, you are very conceited indeed.”

Benjamin Franklin said,
“There is perhaps not 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.”

Jonathan Edwards said,
“The first and worst cause of errors that abound in our day and age is spiritual pride. This is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christ. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit to darken the mind and mislead the judgement.”

Proverbs 11:2: When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

Proverbs 29:23: One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

I feel pride can be exceptionally tricky when we as followers of Christ hold each other accountable like Nathan did for David regarding his adultery with Bathsheba and then the murder of her husband, Uriah (2 Samuel 12). But not only did David receive rebuke from Nathan, God also “afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick” (2 Samuel 12:15) and “on the seventh day the child died” (2 Samuel 12:18). So even though the Lord sent Nathan to David to act as the Holy Spirit does for us, God still disciplined David for his sin. David did not have the Holy Spirit but thankfully we do!

Rebuking one another seems to be a hot topic right now as I have been seeing it over and again in the past few weeks on many different levels. This is in no way directed at anyone but rather is me preaching to myself as rebuking and being reproved are very tough tasks for me! I have only dared to rebuke or hold various persons in the body accountable three times…and none of those went well. The reason…PRIDE! And it can rear its ugly head on each side of a reproof. Before I approach someone in the body I first have to make sure my own heart is right. I have to evaluate myself before going any further and ask, “Is this really a sin issue or just my preference?” If it truly is a sin issue then I need to consult God prior to speaking to the individual. Surely if the Holy Spirit is offended in me then the other Christ follower most likely has felt the Holy Spirit convicting them. Do they really need me to bring it to their attention as well? If I for some reason feel the answer to this is yes then I believe I must talk to the person at the right place and time with them being properly prepared. If I confront someone in a public area or take them off guard I will most likely embarrass them and might even provoke them to anger. It is my opinion it must be done privately…just one on one.

Matthew 18:15-17 says,
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

When a rebuke does not take place properly and without pride I believe it causes strife…and none of us are without pride! So if I am doing the reproving or being rebuked then I feel I must take strife into consideration.

Isaiah 54:15: If anyone stirs up strife, it is not from me; whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you.

Isaiah 8:9: Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered; give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armor and be shattered; strap on your armor and be shattered.

Isaiah 8:10: Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.

Jonathan Edwards said,
“Alas, how much pride the best have in their hearts! It is the worst part of the body of sin and death; the first sin that ever entered into the universe and the last that is rooted out. It is God s most stubborn enemy!... Pride is much more difficult to be discerned than any other corruption because of its very nature. That is, pride is a person having too high an opinion of himself. Is it any surprise, then, that a person who has too high an opinion of himself is unaware of it? His thinking is that he thinks that the opinion he has of himself has just grounds and therefore is not too high. If the grounds of the opinion of himself crumbled, he would cease to have such an opinion…. Spiritual pride takes many forms and shapes, one under another, and encompasses the heart like the layers of an onion: when you pull off one, there is another underneath. Therefore, we have need to have the greatest watch imaginable over our hearts with respect to this matter and to cry most earnestly to the great Searcher of hearts for His help. He that trusts his own heart is a fool.”
(Emphasis added.)

Edwards goes on to say,
“The spiritually proud person shows it in his finding fault with other saints, that they are low in grace and how cold and dead they are, and are quick to discern and take notice of their deficiencies. The eminently humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts. He complains most of himself and complains most of his own coldness and lowness in grace. He is apt to esteem others as better than himself and is ready to hope that most everybody has more love and thankfulness to God than he, and cannot bear to think that others should bring forth no more fruit to God s honor than he….”

Now, on the opposite side of the coin, when I am rebuked…and yes, I have been rebuked much for I am not without wretchedness, ugliness, and sin…I must receive this information with a humble heart! If I have offended the Holy Spirit in someone else then a self assessment is in order. Perhaps I have failed to completely comply with conviction from the Holy Spirit in myself and have to remedy the issue.

Jonathan Edwards taught,
“Spiritual pride takes great notice of opposition and injuries that are received and is prone to be often speaking of them and to be much in taking notice of their aggravation, either with an air of bitterness or contempt. Pure and unmixed Christian humility, on the other hand, causes a person to be more like his blessed Lord when reviled: quiet, not opening his mouth, but committing himself in silence to Him who judges righteously. For the humble Christian, the more the world is against him, the more silent and still he will be, unless it is in his prayer closet, and there he will not be still…. One under the influence of spiritual pride is more apt to instruct others than to inquire for himself and so naturally puts on the airs of control. The eminently humble Christian thinks he needs help from everybody, whereas he that is spiritually proud thinks everybody needs his help. Christian humility, under a sense of other's misery, entreats and beseeches, but spiritual pride tries to command and warn with authority….”

Lastly Edwards noted,
“Another effect of spiritual pride is to make the subject of it want attention. People often tend to act in a special manner as though others ought to take great notice and regard of them. It is very natural to a person that is very much under the influence of spiritual pride to take all the respect that is paid to him.”

This can take place on each side of a rebuke. So no matter which position I am in, I must take special care when it comes to pride. Should I rebuke or should I leave it to the Holy Spirit? Should I become downcast when I am held accountable by another? How can I make sure pride is not an issue? The answer I offer is this:

“Nothing sets a Christian so much out of the devil s reach than humility and so prepares the mind for divine light without darkness. Humility clears the eye to look at things as they truly are. Psalm 25:9—He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way."
~ Jonathan Edwards.
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