Words of Faith 7-19-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.  Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him.  Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all he is the greatest."
The greatest snare is spiritual pride.
There is a frightening line that we cross between boasting in the goodness of the Lord and boasting in our own spiritual position and place. With the latter we are no longer talking about pride in our wealth or accomplishment or national achievements. This is a particularly deadly type of pride. It is spiritual pride.
Spiritual pride divides, deceives, and wounds. It's not the sort of pride that the world usually has, pride in wealth or job or achievements or national identity. But in many ways it is much worse. We see spiritual pride among these disciples as they argue about who is the greatest in a Kingdom that is defined by servanthood and humility.
The first attack that came against the disciples in the valley was designed to make them feel like nobodies and failures. But if the devil can't get you to feel like a nobody then he will try to get you to feel like you are really somebody very, very important. Spiritual pride.
Don't misunderstand. You are special, so special that God sent His Son to die for you. But you are not more special than any other soul God has created. He sent His Son for each of them as well.
These are the two extremes we often see in the Body of Christ, those who are defeated because of some failure and those who are full of themselves because of some victory. The three from the mountain top can be very irritating to the nine who just failed and vice versa!
We also see some people who vacillate between to two extremes. We may work hard to build up those who are defeated and discouraged, only to have them bounce into a state of spiritual pride where they are telling everyone how great they are. One week they are in defeat under the accusations of the devil, and the very next week they are so haughty they are condemning everyone else as wrong.
Spiritual pride is a huge block for us in our relationship with God. C. S. Lewis once said that a proud man is always looking down on things and people-- and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you can't see something that is above you.
Spiritual pride blinds us to God. We cannot see God or hear God when we are looking down on others. This is why Jesus called some of the religious leaders of His day "blind guides". In religious pride they were always looking down at people and could not see God when He was standing right in front of them!
It is probably not an overstatement to say that spiritual pride is the single biggest attack that comes against the modern church. It comes clothed in such spiritual language and lofty expression that it can sneak up on us.
It is a snare that pastors and teachers can fall into.
Tony Campolo tells the story of how he was in seminary he had a class in preaching. He prepared a sermon for evaluation by the class. He says, "I vividly remember my homily. It was well-constructed with three points which I deemed to be profound and biblically sound. The body of the sermon was laced with illustrations and witticisms. I delivered the sermon with practiced gestures and made sure to employ the techniques of proper eye contact with my listeners. In short, I knew I was good. Following class, I was handed a bundle of papers containing the evaluations of my fellow students. They offered praise for my sermon and assured me that I would really go places after graduation. The last evaluation in the pile was from the professor. His one sentence was concise and cutting: 'Tony, you can't convince people that you're wonderful and that Jesus is wonderful in the same sermon.' I have never forgotten that simple line" (Seven Deadly Sins. p 78-79). Ouch. Pride can snare us even in the most holy of endeavors. We who are religious can fall into the pit so easily.
The witness that this leaves with the world is shattering. Albert Camus, the existential novelist and essayist observed that, "Too many people climb onto the cross merely to be seen from a greater distance, even if they have to trample somewhat on the one who has been there so long."
After the death of Princess Diana there were arguments about who was most worthy of praise-- a philanthropic princess or a missionary nun. One seems to represents the humanitarian religion of the world and the other the servant ministry of Christ. But any time we begin to argue about who is first or whose is first we are walking into areas ripe for the attack of pride.
Even when we attempt to claim some holy ground that is "above all that" and "genuinely focused of serving" we may become self-serving without even knowing it! That is probably why Billy Graham's only comment on the princess and the nun debate was that we should not judge.
The truth is that the more I try to convince you how humble I am or how much more humble my cause is the deeper I dig my pit of pride. That is just how slippery this slope is. Spiritual pride is probably present anytime we do any less than quietly serve in humility with the attitude that we are, in fact, serving Jesus himself-- the least of these.
In the Body of Christ, we see spiritual pride erupt when we argue about who deserves to serve or who deserves to be in charge. When we are offended by the way someone leads or acts, we are sliding fast into the pit. When we are so certain of our own spirituality that we forget that we are sinners saved by grace and constantly in need of grace we are headed into the pit. When we are offended that someone else was asked to serve or lead or was given attention and recognition. When we feign modesty and point to "others" more deserving, while really thinking about ourselves, we are over the edge and we did not even know when it was we fell.
Father God, help me to discover the genuine humility that comes from knowing You. May my only boast be in understanding that You are the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight. In Jesus' name.