Running The Race (Part 5) Developing The Right Stuff

     Last month I spoke of one of our greatest hindrances when it comes to spiritual growth, revival, and running the race. The greatest hindrance for most people is pride. Our pride sits on the throne of our self-life and ever succumbs to a tyrannical type of rule, always proving to be unmerciful in its judgments, cruel in its demands, unreasonable in its conclusions, and opposite of godly love.

      When it comes to understanding how pride looks and operates all one has to do is consider the opposite definition of charity in 1 Corinthians 13. My, how we Christians expound the characteristic of God’s love as we hide or justify our own moral flaws, but how many of us practice the attitude of love in our lives? In fact how many of us show that our real motivation for the things we do is not the love of God, but pride? When we do things in our pride, our actions become sounding brass or an obnoxious tinkling cymbal, having no constructive impact, and will never profit anyone because it is self-serving. Keep in mind God’s love will always choose the high road when it comes to doing the right thing, but pride in its self-serving mode will choose the low road where self must come out on top because of the clouded perversion that such pride is worthy of being exalted and worshipped.

      Unlike godly love, pride is impatient, inconsiderate, and displays jealousy when not recognized, while exalting personal rights to have its way because its sees itself superior in what it thinks it knows. It is unbecoming in its behavior towards others, it seeks its own agendas regardless of who it sacrifices along the way, is easily provoked because of a fragile ego, and is suspicious of everything because it is ever operating in the darkness of wickedness.

      Pride rejoices when iniquity wins and rages against the truth that would expose it as being evil. Since the world around pride must serve the comforts, desires, and whims of self, it will not tolerate any inconvenience, nor believe in that which is just, will be skeptical towards any hope based on the unseen, and will be void of any character to endure the tests and trials of life.

      Let’s consider what the Bible tells us about pride in the three Scriptures that have challenged me the most in this subject. Romans 12:3 gives this insight about pride, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” First, we do not walk according to what we think we know, who we think we are, or what we think is right, rather we are to walk according to the measure of faith God gives us. A measure of faith is the grace allotted to us to obey what we already know to be scripturally true. In order to properly obey we must be sober about what His Word says about a matter. Sadly, many Christians are flippant towards God’s Word and fail to take a step of faith by obeying what has been established in His Word. Whether they think they have it covered, or that that particular responsibility is not necessary, or it does not warrant their consideration because it does not appear to apply to the matter before them would be speculation on my part. What I can reiterate for sure is that grace only reigns through righteousness (acts reckoned as being so), reminding us that everything we do must be traced back to obedience to God and His Word because by faith we have counted His command and/or instruction as being true, right, and just (Romans 5:21). At the point of unfeigned faith all intellectual debate stops about the validity of the Word, doubts towards God’s intentions are taken away with confidence that our Sovereign Creator means what He says, and that all that has been established is meant to bring a believer into a state of perfection before Him.

      In 1 Corinthians 10:12 we have this warning, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” It is natural for pride to give us a type of euphoric feeling about matters that appear to be going our way. Whether we are deceived to think we have it all together, or have everything under control, or that we will come out on top, in the end it will all prove to be shifting sand (Matthew 7:24-27). There is only one way we can stand and that is on who Christ is (1 Corinthians 3:11). There is only one way we can withstand, and that is with His Word, and there is only one way we can continue to stand, and that is according to His promises (Ephesians 6:11-17; Hebrews 6:12).

      As you connect 1 Corinthians 10:13 to 1 Corinthians 10:12, you will see that the sin of pride is what usually sets us up to fall into temptation because we are blinded to the trap that has been set for us; and, ultimately we will also fail to see the true way out of all temptation, which is to humble ourselves before God, repent of our self-sufficiency, flee the snare that is set before us, and cast ourselves on Him who is the Rock, seeking His mercy, knowing that in the end we will obtain grace (James 4:6-10).

      As stated before, pride is a sense of self-sufficiency that often gives us the false feeling of infallibility in a matter. In fact, if you feel a sense of infallibility or euphoria in a situation, watch out, you are going to fall when your strength to maintain the feeling becomes putty as reality proves to be different, flinging you into a pit of despair. Meanwhile at such times of infallibility you cannot perceive that there is any way that you can be wrong, fail, or not have your way, but that is when you will fall.

      The theme concerning the pitfall of pride continues in 1 Corinthians 10:14, which gives us this final instruction, “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” It is important to remember pride is the great idol and serves as a tyrannical judge in all matters. It will prove to be a merciless judge when it comes to those who operate in it, and failure on our part to please our own idol ends in it judging us as failures, finding us guilty of failing to honor it, and causing us to walk in condemnation because of it. This should remind everyone of us that only God is a just judge and He is quick to forgive us of confessed offenses committed against Him and restore us back into a relationship with Him.

      The third Scripture can be found in Galatians 6:3, “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” Our pride often causes us to think of ourselves in glowing terms, causing us to be divorced from the reality of our fallen condition. Even though there is scripture after scripture warning, contending, and challenging us concerning our pride, it is hard for us when we are operating from the pinnacle of our pride to believe such an evaluation.

      Pride clearly wants to be served and fails to see itself as a servant to sin, and is the great oppressive tyrant of our lives, homes, societies, and nation. It not only oppresses others to comply to unrealistic standards, but it will box the person in who is also operating in it. Such people struggle with their rights to have life on their terms by trying to control the outcome of situations according to their particular take on a matter. Such people can become almost insane as they try to orchestrate the events of life. It is for this reason that Galatians 6:5 instructs believers to bear their own burdens. It is not unusual for those who are operating in pride to put their idea of happiness, what is right or wrong, and personal responsibilities on others. In pride people see themselves worthy of worship, deserving of obedience, and complete adherence to their personal well-being the priority.

      I have just touched the surface of the subject of pride, but the hard fact is we will not see any changes or revival in ourselves, our homes, our churches, and our nation until this idol is brought down, broken at its point of self-sufficiency, while its claims on our life are ignored, its right to reign in our soul denied, and it is properly dealt with as an enemy of God. We cannot serve two masters at the same time, God and the sins of self, making it clear that if we fail to deal with pride, it will take us on detours away from the race, the goal, and the victory. The question is how can we overcome this tyrant in our lives?

      The first thing we must do is desire the real prize of heaven. If a person does not desire the prize, he or she will never make the necessary sacrifice to possess it. And, what is the great prize the Christian should pursue: great ministry, wondrous spiritual insights, experiences in the supernatural, spiritual gifts, miraculous power from above, etc, etc? In the right spirit, all of these things can be beneficial, but they all pale in comparison to the believer’s real prize.

      As Christians we have two wonderful parables in Matthew 13:44-46 to bring out the type of value we must put on our real prize of heaven. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field: the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”

      It is interesting that Jesus used the term, “kingdom of heaven,” I once read that there is a difference between the terms “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God.” These terms have to do with carrying out God’s will, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). When it comes to the “kingdom of heaven,” it entails carrying out His will on earth, but when it comes to the “kingdom of God,” it includes the broader scope of carrying out His will in every dimension from heaven, the unseen realm, and earth, for God indeed rules over all.

      The question is what is God’s will concerning the world we live in? First we must understand what constitutes the kingdom of heaven. John the Baptist gives us this insight, “And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). What was John referring to?—Jesus, the King from heaven who would establish His kingdom on earth in the hearts of people. There can be no real kingdom established unless there is a King who can rule it.

      Therefore, what is the believer’s real pearl that was hidden in a field, and was sought out by others even though it could not be seen?—the Lord Jesus Christ. We are told to seek this pearl, and when you compare this to God’s instructions in Amos 5:4-8, this set of Scriptures makes it very clear what we must not seek after, while the one main instruction in them is clear, we are to seek the Lord and we will live. Jeremiah 29:13 tells us how to seek Him, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Once we possess this pearl, we become clay jars that carry it wherever we are, offering the riches attached to it to others (2 Corinthians 4:7).

      Jesus gave this instruction in Matthew 6:33 about what to seek, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you.” It is clear that the main emphasis of the kingdom of God is righteousness, but what is the main emphasis concerning the kingdom of heaven? Jesus clearly brought out God’s will in relationship to the earth. John 6:40 tells us, “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” It is clear that the will of God for the kingdom of heaven is that we believe on Jesus to ensure our eternal citizenship in heaven.

      God’s will is constantly confirmed through Jesus’ example. As the begotten Son of God, He always sought to do the will of the Father, and in John 4:34, He stated, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work,” and what is at the crux of Jesus’ works on earth: our redemption, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he has sent.”

      When it comes to the crux of the matter in relationship to the kingdom of God and righteousness, it has to do with reaching our potential in the kingdom of God by fulfilling our real calling. The bottom line in the kingdom of God has to do with bringing glory to God in all that we do. To effectively be a recipient of the Father’s numerous gifts and promises through Christ, we must first seek the Lord in order to properly pursue the upright life before Him. Righteousness is about doing the right thing in relationship to God in order to ensure the integrity of what is being done to bring Him the due recognition or glory He deserves.

      On earth we must believe on Christ and in His work of redemption to be identified to His heavenly kingdom that is now being established in His Church and will eventually be established in Jerusalem during His millennium rule on earth, but we do so in order to fulfill our high calling to reflect the glory of God to all of creation. This is the ultimate will of God for all of His creation because He designed and created it with the goal that it would bring Him glory, for He is worthy of all praise and worship. Therefore, whatever and whoever is reflecting His glory is doing the will of God.

      The second step we must take has to do with disciplining ourselves. Jesus mentioned the first and foremost discipline in light of the call to discipleship—deny self (Matthew 16:24-26). This instruction is before the command to pick up the cross and follow Him. “Deny” in this text means “disown” self.

      The idea of being Jesus’ disciple can be romanticized when we think of the cross. We can see ourselves becoming martyrs as we nobly carry the cross to follow Jesus, but the truth is there is no nobility when it comes to the life of a disciple. The concept of disciple comes out of the idea of a disciplined life.

      Discipline at any level can prove to be hard and trying. It is not meant to be a walk in the park, but a rigorous training to discipline one’s soul. Jesus’ call to discipleship points to a very important order when it comes to following Him. Before you can pick up your cross, you must first deny self of its right to have life on its terms. Clearly, the great idol of pride must be first denied any right to reign in our lives. It must be stripped of its scepter to judge, its authority must be silenced before it will cease to sit on the throne of our self-life, and it must be recognized as a great enemy of God before we can successfully address any of its attempts to once again claim the throne of the self-life in the future.

      We must disown the old life with its idol before we can address the next enemy of God with the cross, our flesh. The idol of the self-life must be dealt with first in order to ensure the flesh with its lust is actually crucified. If pride is allowed to remain on the throne of the self-life, the flesh (also known as the “old man”) will be made a martyr that simply needs to be reformed and not mortified. Pride will logically declare the judgment of death upon the “old man” as being extreme and unwarranted because the old soulish disposition is “not so bad,” while justifying why the flesh has a right to be happy, and that without its influence in our life we will never know satisfaction.

      However, Jesus’ command is clear, once self is denied, the flesh must be crucified. The flesh serves as a platform in which the self-life can be aided because it is what connects us to the world around us. Without the mortification of the flesh, the world still holds the means in which to tempt, ensnare, and destroy a soul. Jesus is clear when he added to the call of discipleship this question, “What does a man profit if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul”? Paul made it clear that we must be crucified to the world and the world crucified to us, but the only way to do that is to shut down the avenue of the flesh in which the world can take our lusts captive to its false light and promises (Galatians 6:14; Colossians 3:5-8).

      The Apostle Paul also made it clear that the real discipline when it comes to being Jesus’ disciple is not a one-time exercise when he stated, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). The apostle was only reiterating what Jesus had already stated, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). (Emphasis added.)

      It is clear that in order to follow Jesus we must get rid of the besetting sin of the excess garbage of the old man to reach our final destination. The call of discipleship is not some great sacrifice on our part, but a necessity in order to do our reasonable service in God’s kingdom to ensure He alone is glorified.

      Next month I will explain the other characteristics that must be developed in our character to overcome the influence of pride on our lives, but meanwhile ask the Lord to show you how much pride still rules your life and is besetting you in your Christian walk.