Pride & The Problem Of Self

For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? – 1 Corinthians 4:7

Kevin talks about more ways in which the devil tries to deceive the Christian and rob you of your joy.


"For who sees anything different in you?" Rather confusingly translated in my ESV. The New American Standard renders this: "For who regards you as superior?" Or perhaps the Old King James is better. "For who maketh thee to differ from another?" What is the difference between you and someone else? The verse continues: "What do you have that you did not receive?" The point this rhetorical question is making is; nothing! All your giftings and abilities are God given graces. "If then you received it," If all you have, any good in you, any abilities, were given to you by the grace of God why do you boast as if you did not receive it? Why do you boast as if you were better than others? Why do you act and boast that you are, somehow superior in some area, as if its all down to you, when all the abilities and giftings you have, are only down to the grace of God, that gave them you? Why are you proud of your achievements and seeking self claim? Why do you think of yourself as superior, and look down on others who can't see things and do things like you, when anything good in you, is by God's grace. So lets pray. Father, I just pray that you would show us this grace now. That, as you expose the blackness of our hearts, your grace would be magnified. May it never be that we should boast, save in the cross of Christ Jesus, our Lord. In Jesus name, Amen. You may be seated. OK so, what we're looking at tonight, is pride. How the Devil attacks us, with his fiery darts of subtle thoughts and suggestions he puts into your head to try and make you proud, and boast in yourself. The Devil is a flatterer, very good at congratulating. If he's not condemning you, he's trying to puff you up so you'll condemn others. Now, why does he want you to be like this? Well, let me give you two reasons. Number one, when you are proud, and self seeking, you're not looking out for God and others first; but you become mostly selfish, thinking of me, myself, and I. Whether its the outgoing person, the confident person, who is trying to get a claim. Or whether it's the sulker who closes them self off, trying to get attention that way. Still not thinking of others. And number two; The Devil wants you to be proud and self-seeking because, when you are, you are not in contact with the person of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Because, no one can boast in His presence. No one can be proud in the presence of God. So this means, brethren, that when you are thinking, "Oh, I hope people will think well of me." and you say things, and you do things in order to try and impress people, to try and make them think how great you are, or how spiritual you are, listen, when you're like that, you're not in contact with God. Martyn Lloyd Jones once said that "It is the universal testimony of the saints, of Christians down the ages, that the greatest problem a person has to face is self" We don't get the new body until the resurrection. "Self" is always there, trying to rear it's ugly head. The greatest battle you're going to have, Christian, is not with other people, but with yourself. And the sooner we all realize this, the better. Pride and self is what brought down Satan in the original rebellion. And when Satan brought down mankind in the Garden of Eden, his tactic was to appeal to their pride. "You will be like gods" Be you're own god. Don't live for the Lord, you decide what's right and wrong. You decide what you can and can't do. You decide what's truth and what isn't truth. It's all pride. In fact, all sin is the product of pride and self. In Galatians 6:14 the apostle Paul said; "May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ." But you see, what the Devil wants you to do is, he tries to trick you and deceive you into making something else your boast. And so, rather than wanting, and being jealous of praise for the Lord, you end up wanting and being jealous of praise for yourself. Your flesh craves it. But, as Christians, we should not be ruled by it. At one extreme you have the more confident, outgoing person putting on a show before others of their giftings. But then, at the other extreme, you have the sulker, the depressed person withdrawing themselves, but both are doing it in order to try and get attention. The Devil may try to make you proud of your gifts. This was the problem with the Church in Corinth. I have this gift, so those who don't are a lesser Christian than me. "But what do you have that you did not receive," "and if you receive it, then why do you boast?" The Devil sometimes tries to make people proud of musical and singing abilities. Hoping people will praise them. "You know, I'll just let that note go on a bit longer, so that people can hear what a beautiful voice I've got." You know, several people in our Church have lead worship, or played guitar to other Christians. Do you ever find yourself afterwards, craving for compliments? Many only want to enter into the ministry and preach because, in Christian circles, it's a position of claim it seems. You know, I've lost count of the number of times when someone has got up to do even a little, mini sermon, perhaps something to the children or even read the announcements to the Church; don't get me wrong, not everyone has done this in this way, but so often people get up and they are consumed with pride. It comes off them almost like steam, wanting others to think that they're the next Spurgeon or whatever. They've completely lost sight of the souls they're speaking to. They have little, or no burden for them. They're only burdened about how good they'll look, and that people will think they're a great orator. You know, sometimes I've given people the announcements on Sunday to read. They are so keen on trying to not look at the sheet, that they end up giving totally different announcements. I get texts "Is this not on?" It doesn't matter, it's just announcements. No one should ever get into the pulpit when they're like that. And the Devil tries to deceive and make a Christian proud of their experiences. They've had some great past spiritual experience. Maybe a true one from God, or maybe a false one from the Devil. But the Devil tries to make them think that they are superior to other Christians because of it. He tries to get you to look down, and despise others. Perhaps he even tries to suggest to you falsehood; "well, they're not saved if they haven't had this experience because they would have had what you had." I mean, you know there are only five Christians in the world. (laughter) I've seen people where they get to think like that. With some, the Devil tries to attack you, and deceive you by being proud of how caring you are. You know, you start off by doing a good thing, with a good motive of helping people out of love. But then the Devil comes in, and he whispers to you "If only others were more like you. Oh!" (laughter) "This world would be such a better place if everyone was like you!" You aught to tell him "You should see my thought life, and what I'm really like." Of course, he knows what you're really like. He's a liar. But this is to try and get you to despise others and start to grumble, that you're not getting the praise that you think you deserve. The wicked one, even tries to trick Christians into being proud of their spiritual growth. You struggle and you fight against a certain sin that is doging you and then, one day by the grace of God, after months and months, or maybe even a year or two; victory! It just falls off God gives you the victory just like that. Well then what happens is, rather than being understanding, compassionate, and patient to others who are going through the same or similar battles or struggles. You instantly start to judge them "Maybe they're not even saved." Like the person who becomes free of masturbation and pornography for a week, so he uploads a video on YouTube condemning everyone else. You see, the Devil, he's put thoughts into your head appealing to your pride, appealing to your un-redeemed flesh that wants to be exalted. He doesn't want you to praise God. He doesn't want you to think; "Apart from Him, I am nothing." The Devil wants you to take glory in your growth, so you will look down on others. I mean, sometimes someone will do something as a Christian, for two years, not even realize it's wrong, then they learn that something is wrong, they stop, but then instantly, "Oh! So and so is not saved because they're doing that." And then the Devil tries to trick some Christians into being proud of their evangelism. They're preaching, maybe preaching open air, and suddenly they have a crowd around them and they say "Quick! Get a picture of me with this big crowd! "Quick so I can post it on the internet," "hoping that people will see me as the next " "George Whitefeild." Someone said; "Oh, So and so says Come and take me picture" "while I've got this crowd around me." And I says, "Well, that's why "I don't want to take the picture, 'cus they just asked for it." We'll not have this next problem in our Church because everyone goes out and evangelizes. But I've seen it how it's where, time and time again in street evangelism, where they start despising others in the Church who don't do it like them. What is that? It's pride. Thinking; " I'm superior, because I'm a mouth. You're a lesser Christian, because you're only a toe." Not realizing that God has made it so that there are different parts of the body, and all are necessary. Another thing the Devil tries to get people to take pride in is their intellect. Some people are always trying to show off how clever they are, in the hope that others will praise them. The Devil tries to trick some people into being proud of their Christian knowledge. Some people's boast is how many Christian theology books they've read. There are two great dangers here. One is becoming the theoretical Christian, the one who is like Talkative in Pilgrim's Progress. The one who has an answer for everything it seems. Or they are Ivory Tower Christians. They are just happy to compile stacks of knowledge all the time. Largely without being able to put it into practice, or not even desiring to. One of the dangers of seminaries, I mean beside that there is no biblical basis for them whatsoever, and listen, I'm not saying all seminaries are bad or are all people who go there. but for the most part, seminary is where someone without the anointing of the Holy Spirit goes to try and get some authority to preach. But there is a danger is there not? In how much someone can learn in a classroom without being able to put it into practice. Because all it's doing, is hardening self. As if you were listening to sermon after sermon after sermon. How are you going to put it into practice? You could sit and listen to five sermons a day, but if you're just learning it and you can't put it into practice, then you just become hardened to it. Lloyd Jones spoke of pastors falling into the trap of trying to be intellectual, and they get so consumed with it, that, eventually they end up just teaching, and they stop preaching evangelistic messages. Because they have been more concerned with being seen as such great, intellectual teachers, who know a few Greek words and can explain things with great knowledge, than they are concerned for souls. Sometimes, I've said this before, Pastors will hide behind cliches like "The primary job of a pastor", or they'll say "The primary function of a Church meeting is not to convert lost people, but to feed the sheep." How many times have I heard that? Well, listen, that's fine, but it's often used as an excuse not to be evangelistic. When I look at the ministries of Jesus and Paul in the Bible I see them doing both. I see that's the emphases of the Pastoral Epistles. I mean, number one, the Gospel message is the driving and motivational force behind what we do as Christians. You never, never once find Paul exhorting Christians to do something without bringing it back to the cross. Once you take away the Gospel message, once you remove the cross from the teaching, then you end up with just a Christ-less morality. Which is not much difference than what the world has. You end up like an Amish or a Mennonite. So preaching evangalisticly to the lost, and teaching Christians how to live, they should go hand in hand together. It should not be one or the other. When a pastor and people are making excuses why their meetings are never evangelistic, there's something wrong with that. But secondly, according to the New Testament, some of those sheep still need to be saved. Including some people who are in the meetings. The bigger the Church gets, the more people are in who need to be saved. So you have to preach to them evangelistically so to bring them into the fold. We always want this concern for souls. But another trick of the Devil, is he tries to deceive Christians by getting them to obsess over just one part of the truth. How many times have you seen this, people who will only ever talk about one part of the truth. Whether it be Calvinism, or Creation, or family? End time prophecy, sanctification is another one. People will only want to talk about the specific teaching they've learned on holiness. "I've got rid of this, that and the other" And so all of them loose sight of the Gospel. They've lost the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus. There are some who are victims to this. Rather than go around and preach the Gospel, they are trying to convert people to Calvinism. Why be in a debate in the street about the T.U.L.I.P or whatever when the person's not even saved? There are others who are deceived by the Devil's trickery, to think every problem in the professing Church today is down to Evolution. Or some think, every problem that is in the Church today is down to neglect of the family. No, the problem is that they don't know the Gospel. It's not that those other things are not important. The problem with most people in church buildings today is they dont know Christ. Seek Him first and everything else will fall into place. The end product of all this is people end up boasting in something other than the Lord, Jesus Christ. They end up looking down and despising others who don't see things their way that they are obsessed with. Just like many people fall back upon, start relying upon works or experiences. There are many who start relying on their religious knowledge of one particular teaching. "No, Of course I'm saved! I'm a five pointer!" "Of course I'm saved, I believe in a six day creation." "I know the sinner's prayer is not biblical." "I have memorized Paul Washer's 10 incitements." They think "because I can point out all the problems in Christianity, then I'm OK." That is another trickery of the Devil, where he puffs people up with pride, where there are some who love feisty, heart hitting preaching, only in as much as the preacher is condemning other people. "Oh this preacher is spot on. So and so needs to listen to this" "They'll get the black eye they deserve if they listen to this sermon." But as soon as the preacher touches their idol, oh, it's a different matter. "Oh, I'm not coming to Bible study now." "I'm not listening to that." In all your learning of biblical doctrine, of biblical teaching, and all your study of the Bible, one of your tests is; Is your knowledge resulting in your loving and praising God and serving others more? Is it making you more humble? Is it drawing you closer to the person of Jesus Christ, or just getting you side tracked on part of the truth? Becoming proud of your knowledge, and despising others who can't see things exactly your way? Another way the Devil tries to work on our pride is worrying about what others will think of you. Even when I was preparing the sermon before, when I was thinking a little bit about seminary the Devil is there for me. "You'll never get to speak in seminary, if you say things like that." The Devil tries to get some people proud, at even their past sins. Instead of giving testimonies, they give braggemonts, and they start exaggerating how wicked they were in order to try and impress others. We touched on this last night at the student Bible study at the Universities. testimonies I've seen lately from guys, they all seem to be drug dealers. They got some drugs a few times for the mates and the brothers and when they give the testimony "Ah, I was a drug dealer, me." (laughter) Or the other one they say, "oh yeah, I just had so many girls' They sound like they miss it! But it all stems from pride. In some circles, the more wicked your testimony is the more people will applaud and think "wow! when's the book coming out?" So people who want a claim, start painting their's blacker. Martin Lloyd Jones said, he was once in a meeting and one guy got up and he gave his testimony he was saying "I did this wicked act and this" and just as you think it can't get any worse "oh I did this as well," and he just went on and on. Then the next guy gets up to give the next testimony, he says "Compared to me, he doesn't even know what sin is." It's unbelievable! But, a word of caution brethren, in giving testimonies, you don't have to give all the details. Be careful you don't stumble others, and bring them into temptations with descriptions of your sins. Be as vague as you need to be. Some things, the Bible says are shameful to speak about. Certainly do not exaggerate your testimony. Where's the glory in that? There are many other ways in which the Devil will try to get you to seek recognition. But all these things spring from a desire for the preeminence. Like Diotrephes who loveth to have the preeminence among them. Who always wanted first place. Like the Pharisee praying on the street corner, hoping to be seen by men. See, that's another whisper of the Devil. "What will people think" all the time. Look at verse 8 here in . Look at the result of falling into pride. "Already you have all you want!" Paul says mocking them, "Already you have become rich!" "Without us you have become kings!" You see, this is the danger of pride. This is the danger of boasting in self in all these various forms, you become like the Laodiceans, and think you are rich and indeed have nothing. And whilst you're thinking how great you are, Jesus looks at you and He wants to puke. That is the true picture. Pride makes you self dependent and draws you away from God. And brethren, think about this. When you try to always put on a front before others, and always try to deceive them that you are more spiritual than you are, when you're doing things and saying things, hoping like a Pharisee people will think "Wow, look at how holy and how good So and so is" But think, the fact is, if they knew your thoughts, if they knew your dark secrets. Probably even what you thought about them in the last few hours, and the weeks, I don't doubt they'd be so impressed. Christ should be your only Boast. That should lead you to it. In Matthew 18:3 our Lord Jesus said there to his disciples, "Truly I say to you unless you turn," or "Unless you are converted" "and become like children," "you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven" " Whoever humbles himself like this child" "is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven." Now, that text there is often used in the terms of justification in evangelism. And it is true that a person needs to be converted and be humbled in order to be saved. But that is not the primary meaning and usage of that text. Because, in the context, Jesus is saying it to His disciples. People who are already saved. You see, the context there is, as they are arguing right before that in Matthew 18:1, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?" "Which of us is going to take the first place?" They're seeking the preeminence. Jesus says the kingdom of God is not like that. It's not like the world. Those verses are not dealing with justification, but with sanctification. The idea there, is unless you become more converted. Like, without holiness, no one will see the Lord. Unless you grow in humility, there's the idea. Unless you crucify your pride. As the Christian grows, and becomes more Christ like, you become less proud, and less self seeking. You become more humble. Think of the apostle Paul. If anyone had anything to boast about, in what he did in his Christianity, it was him. I mean, he wrote almost half of the New Testament. And yet, he wasn't self seeking, seeking the approval of man, he considered himself to be the least of the apostles. You see, that is where you get to in growth. As it says in Philippians 2:3 "Do nothing for selfish ambition or conceit," "but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." "Let each of you look not only for his own interests," "but also to the interests of others." "Have this mind among yourselves," "Which is yours in Christ Jesus," "who, though He was in the form of God," "did not count equality with God a thing to" "be grasped, but emptied himself" "by taking the form of a servant being born" "in the likeness of men." "And being found in human form," "He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death" "even to death on a cross." So then, the remedy to all this. It's important we see that. I want to do away with it. The remedy; Number one: Realize that we have nothing in ourselves to boast about. The big basket ball player, who boasts about how good he is. Like he made himself 7' tall. But listen, we are sinners save by grace. As we've learned in Romans 1 and 2 recently, all of us were equally vile before God, and equally condemned and deserving of his wrath. So realizing that truth alone should stop our mouths from boasting and seeking to boast in us. Realizing that truth should shut our mouths. It's when we forget where we've come from. Realizing that truth should make us just want to boast in the Lord, Jesus Christ Say "Amazing love! How can it be?" "That thou my God should die for me?" Even me! And number two: As our text says here in 1 Corinthians 4, "What do you have, that you did not receive?" "And if you received it, then why did you boast?" Realize that any good in you. Any good you have, is only down to the grace of God. Realize that you can fall just as easy as the next person. "He who thinks he stands," "let him take heed lest he fall." When you see another person fall, be angry at sin, don't excuse sin, but don't take pride, and be un-sympathetic. Be like John Bradford saying; "But for the grace of God, there go I." Number Three: Realizing God's economy, that the last will be first, and the first will be last. The one who is always self seeking, looking for the preeminence, looking to further his own ambitions, in this life, is last in God's economy. Realize that, when you are doing and saying things in order to seek praise and the recognition of men, Jesus looks on that, the one who counts, looks on that, and He's not impressed. As he said to the Church in Leodicea, it makes me puke. The fallen world seeks after the titles and the best robes, wanting the praise of men. Well that's not how it is in the kingdom of God. Realize that growing in humility, being crucified to the world is true Christian growth. Being crucified to the world there, doesn't mean throwing the TV out, although you might be better not watching certain things. But the idea there, is just the pride of life. Wanting that first place in the world all the time. Not putting on a show. Not putting on for men to make them think you are more spiritual Number Four: Follow the example of Jesus. He was concerned about His Father's glory even Christ pleased not himself. He was concerned about honoring His Father in all that He did. That should be your question. "How can I honor the Lord in this?" Be like Spurgeon, who would always say "my master" He considered himself the slave of his master. Crucified to his own will, but doing the master's will. Number Five: Look at the example of Paul in these verses here. "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you," "or by any human court." Of course as a Christian he would seek to do good works before men, that his father in heaven be glorified. He would want to be blameless in testimony, he was careful. But he did not live in fear of other people's opinions or criticisms. "Oh! What will people think?" "It is a very small thing" what you think, is the idea here. Is it a small thing to you? In fact I do not even judge myself wasn't consumed with every minute detail. Verse 4, "For I am not aware of anything against myself" He lived with a clear conscience. "but I am not thereby acquitted." "It is the Lord who judges me." That's what matters you see, what the Lord thinks. That's the one you should want to impress, in what you do. Your master, when He comes home, let Him give you the praise. Say "Well done good and faithful servant." We need to seek the praise of Him. Be like Joseph, "How could I do this sin?" He had a sense of the presence of God upon him that God was present, I mean. So how could I do this sin? To one, to fellow men, but to two, to God? Let's pray. Father, I just pray, that through this word you would help make us wise, to the Devil's treachery, and his subtle suggestions of flattery. where he tries to make us boast in other things except in you. Help us to boast in you Lord. To love you with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself. Oh Lord, may we become more like children. May we crucify the flesh and all it's desires for preeminence. May we be concerned with what you think because it is you who matter. May we only do good works for you, and that people would honor you, and out of love for people. Genuine motives, not what we can get. We praise you we thank you, for the example of Christ In Jesus name, Amen. You're dismissed.