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Tag Archives: Pride

The Absurdity of Looking Down on Others

To be self-righteous…is to be a fool.

Think about the sad story of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar in Genesis 16. Sarai is unable to conceive a child with Abram; and so she, in a move we can’t imagine a wife making in our culture, offers him her maidservant Hagar as a surrogate. Now mind you, there was no artificial insemination in that day; so, contributing to the brokenness, Abram and Hagar would have needed to spend a little time in the tent alone. And Scripture tells us that Hagar conceived, but that’s not all…

…And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. Genesis 16:4 (ESV)

Let’s get this straight, Hagar now is looking down on Sarai, in effect saying, “I’m better than you because I got pregnant and you didn’t.” This is a perfect illustration of how being self-righteous makes you a knucklehead. After all, what did Hagar do to consider herself better than Sarai? Answer: she did nothing, and yet still considered herself superior.

You say, perhaps, “Well, my situation is different than Hagar, because there are certain things that I actually do to show myself more on top of my game than others.” For instance…

  • You worked hard and climbed the corporate ladder.
  • Your skills on the piano have come after thousands of hours of practice. You can’t help but feel a little superior toward the slackers who gave up after two lessons in the 6th grade.
  • You got into a top-tier college with a full-ride scholarship.
  • You’re crazy good at all kinds of sports; you have the most coordinated eye and hand in the city.
  • Your kids are doing great academically and spiritually. Your wisdom in parenting shows through in everything they do.

Are you actually different than Hagar who clearly did nothing to warrant her self-righteousness and contempt toward Sarai? Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians…

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1Co 4:7 ESV)

Our self-righteousness is always foolish because like Hagar, we cannot take credit for anything we have. You worked hard to become a virtuoso on the piano? Who gave you the self-discipline to do that? Or, better yet, who put you in the particular home you grew up in with parents who would instill such a work ethic? Someone without your skills was born in the slums of Calcutta; are you really better than she is? Or did your cunning enable you to climb up the ladder of success in the marketplace? Well, where did all that brainpower come from? You get the idea.

In the end, we all tend toward self-righteousness because we have a hunger for glory. We’ve had a need to feel special and worthy of honor ever since our first parents lost their original glory in the glorious Garden. We have a sense that we’re missing something, and we long to have it back. Hence comes self-righteousness and racism and bullying and a hundred other ills.

What is the ultimate answer? We will find our lost honor and glory when we look to the cross of Christ where the love of God for us was put on full display (Romans 5:8). Then our glory hunger will be satiated. Then we can look, not with contempt, but only with love toward those around us, no matter their station or ours.

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ… Galatians 6:14 (ESV)

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2016 in self-righteousness, Uncategorized

 

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What To Remember When You Walk Through Suffering

There are people who say that God never wants His children to suffer, that He only wants “blessing” for us and that suffering is never His instrument for this blessing. This, however, is a lie and if you believe it, you will spend much of your life in despair.

You see, suffering is not the opposite of blessing. The Apostle Peter writes…

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.  1 Peter 3:13, 14 (ESV)

My junior year in college was literally the worst year of my life. By the end of fall semester that year I was put on academic probation, and it felt like everything was falling apart…and I was a Christian. I had struggled with OCD and panic attacks, and my mom and dad didn’t know what to do. They wanted to help but had no real idea how to do so.

But God was doing a work in my life – I went into that year a proud young man.  And by the end of the year, like Nebuchadnezzar after his insanity, I was deeply humbled, a different person, no longer thinking so highly of myself.  And even more than that, God was doing something in my father’s life.  I had been praying for his salvation since I had come to Christ 3 or 4 years before, and toward the end of my junior year, my dad, age 63, became a Christian. His words as I remember: “Son, I told you if I ever did this you would be the first to know, and today I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life.”

Later I asked him what led him to finally bow his knee to the Lord. And he said, at least partly in reference to what had been going on with me: “I just didn’t have the answers.”

In other words, hindsight has shown me that God was doing glorious things through the pain I was experiencing.  He was making me more like Jesus, and he was showing Don Knowlton that he needed Christ.  My dad is in heaven today at least partly because of the painful trial I went through that year.

The Lord works suffering out for our good, even if we bring it on ourselves. Romans 8:28 is our rock in this – God causes all things to work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose.  Now Peter is going to go on to say, far better that you suffer for doing right than that you suffer for doing wrong, but the point is this:  in God’s economy, suffering is often the instrument of blessing, not the opposite.

If you don’t understand this, whenever you suffer you will be in despair and unable to rejoice like the Biblical writers tell us to – because you won’t be able to connect the suffering with the often unknown good that God is doing. And He is always doing good for those He loves, even through suffering.

For Friday, November 13th: 1 Peter 4

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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We Need the Cross Everyday

Here is one of my heroes, D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, writing wisely in his book, aptly titled The Cross, about one of the great verses in Scripture…

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14 (ESV)

“(He does not) say that it is just something at the beginning of the Christian life. There are many Christians who have said that in one way or another. You start with the cross, they say, then you go on to what they call a deeper Christian life. The cross, they say, is only for conversion, the cross only deals with forgiveness of sins. It is something that marks the beginning, and then you go on and you do not come back anymore to the cross. You start there, but then you leave it, and you go onto the deeper depths of the spiritual life.

“That is not what the Apostle Paul says. Here is a man writing at the full height of his maturity as a Christian, the great Apostle to the Gentiles. At the very height of his experience he says, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.” He has not left it to go on to some higher reaches. The cross is still everything to him. Why? Because, he has found that everything proceeds from the cross. It is the source and the fount of everything that he has as a Christian, everything that he has become, everything that he can ever hope for.”

For tomorrow, Tuesday, June 23rd: Ephesians 1

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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What if the Apostle Paul Had Gotten Proud?

It would have been bad, that’s what.

Proud people are pretty unusable by God, and so Paul would have been put on the shelf. And maybe we would have missed half of the New Testament, you know the part that Paul wrote (Just imagine the Bible without Romans). And maybe the gospel wouldn’t have gone to Asia. And maybe Peter wouldn’t have gotten that rebuke from Paul that kept The Rock on the right path (Galatians 2:11).

So God kept Paul from pride, and therefore kept him usable, and take note of how the Lord did it…

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.  2 Corinthians 12:7 (ESV)

Do you see what the Lord needed to do to keep His apostle humble and therefore usable? He had to give him pain.

Now, we don’t know what the pain was – most commentators think it was something physical (because of the word “flesh” – like an eye problem or blindness, for instance), but in the end it doesn’t matter. We just know there was pain…pain enough to make him cry out to the Lord to remove it. But God, in His goodness, refused.

It’s a good reminder, because I know what I do every time pain enters my life – I do what every other believer in all the world does – I ask my Heavenly Father to remove it…and fast.  And sometimes, praise His name, He does.

And sometimes, praise Him again…He doesn’t….because thankfully, He wants to use me too.

For Friday, June 12th: 2 Corinthians 13

 

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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When You Think You’re Something Great

I have a friend who recently needed to talk to a person in charge of a particular organization. What he related about his conversation was interesting. He had the sense that she couldn’t be bothered in dealing with him. She was of the impression that she was someone of great importance who really shouldn’t have to deal with a peon of his sort. She had an assistant for that.

We fall into thinking that we are something or someone special for a number of different reasons, but often it happens because we imagine that our accomplishments are our own. However, as A.W. Tozer once said, “God is always previous.”  Tozer is saying a lot here, but one thing he is saying is that we have what we have because God put it there.  I saw this in reading the 8th chapter of 2 Corinthians. Consider what Paul said about his assistant Titus…

But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 2 Corinthians 8:16 (ESV)

We don’t have evidence that Titus was a prideful person, but suppose that after acting in a caring manner toward the Corinthians, he thought to himself, “My, what a caring and compassionate man I am!”  And come to think of it, don’t we all have thoughts like that from time to time…about whatever we’re doing well? (Don’t leave me out here all alone, please.)

And yet, here is Paul saying that God put the “care” into his heart. God did it. Not Titus.

The Apostle actually says the same thing in a different way at the beginning of the chapter when he talks of the grace of God given among the churches in Macedonia. And here he means that their generosity actually came from God. It was His doing.

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 2 Corinthians 8:1-2 (ESV)

The grace of God which was working in them…resulted in their generosity. So, He made them generous. Now, do you suppose this works in other areas also? I think so. That is, if you are strong in prayer, He put it into your heart to be a person who seeks Him. If you are a person who knows the Bible, He made you to love it. He is always previous. O, I want to remember to think this way! First, it moves me to prayer (“Father, make me___________”), and second, it is a great deliverance from imagining I am superior to anyone else. In fact, it is the only healthy way for a Christian or anyone else to think. So whatever good we have, whether generosity, or intelligence, or love, or prayerfulness, or anything else good, He gets all the glory.

And therefore, as Paul said, “Thanks be to God!”

For Monday, June 8th: 2 Corinthians 9

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Turning Point In My Life, Conclusion

(This is part 3.)

What had I done wrong? What was my problem? Would I ever be able to go into ministry? And then, in a flash, the Spirit of God led me to 2 Corinthians 3:5…

“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” (NASB)

Now, I still had Jim’s word’s floating in my mind, “Prove yourself in the marketplace,” but in a moment I heard different words, not audibly, mind you, but real nonetheless…

“What are you trying to prove? What makes you think you can prove anything?”

In the future, I would look back on this moment as another precious time in my life when the clouds parted and I saw the sun, bright and clear and distinct. Suddenly I understood. In a flash, in a moment of time, everything was absolutely different in my life.

Of course – why hadn’t I seen this before? Undoubtedly, this idea planted in my brain that I should prove myself had some logic to it, a secular logic to be sure, but logic nonetheless. But logical thinking and biblical thinking are often, not always, miles apart. The idea of “proving myself” was actually full of pride, as if I was operating alone in life.

Just suppose that I had gone on to be a 6 figure salesman or regional rental manager. Operating under the premise I had adopted, I would have assumed that I had done it, that I was able, and I would have taken this convoluted thinking into ministry. That would have been a disaster.

Moses warned the people of Israel:

“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth…” Deuteronomy 8:17-18a (ESV)

What makes you think you can prove anything?

For years I had labored to show myself “worthy” of ministry. Now, I understood that the only way I could ever be “worthy” would be under His power, whether that was the marketplace or ministry. I thought I needed to show myself adequate. But I had failed to remember that everything comes from Him.

2 Corinthians 3:5 was doing a work on my heart. I was not adequate, not to be a salesman or a manager, not to be a pastor, or to be a husband or a father…not to be anything. I was totally dependent on Him. And so, that day in Virginia I determined to make a change in the way I prayed. No longer would I ask God for “help”. “Help” was for bodybuilders who had done lots of repetitions but needed a friend to press the weight just one more time. “Help” was what the person asked for who was already doing 90% of the work, who just needed another 10% to get over the top. But I saw that I couldn’t even really muster 1%. I stopped asking Him to help me, and I started asking Him to enable me.

I walked that trail with a song in my heart and a glorious freedom that I hadn’t known for years. Never had I ever been more thrilled to find myself weak and unable. It was a sort of gospel déjà vu.

How so? In days to come, I would see that this Spirit-driven insight – I am unable – was simply another aspect of the gospel for day to day life. Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,” Colossians 2:6 (ESV) Inability was the one key insight I needed to come to faith – I am unable to live a righteous life. I am a sinner. Therefore, I am unable to please God…I need Jesus – His work on the cross and resurrection. But now I was beginning to understand that I was unable to do anything apart from Him. And just as the gospel freed me to rest in Christ’s righteousness, now this fresh view of the gospel freed me to rest in His power for everyday life.   Of course, I would still need to step out and work hard in whatever He called me to do, but now I had a fresh understanding that even this stepping out was driven by His power and grace, and certainly all the results were His as well.

The greatest blessing of that day? I saw that I no longer had anything to prove.

I began to think about how I should go into ministry.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Knowledge…or Love?

Around the Knowlton house, we’ve had a few air mattresses through the years, but I don’t think we’ve bought one lately. As far as I can tell, they aren’t worth whatever money you spend on them.  Just one nick, one tiny little hole, and you’re sleeping on the cold, hard ground. I know you can patch it, but how long does that last? No. give me a firm, real, mattress on an actual bed any day.

I bring this up because of 1 Corinthians 8:1…

This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. (ESV)

Knowledge is the air mattress; love is the real bed.

Now, the whole chapter is about eating food sacrificed to idols, which is something we obviously don’t think anything about today.  But in that culture, it was a huge deal, perhaps akin to the kinds of social questions some evangelical Christians in North America ask today, say about drinking alcohol. In this case, eating food sacrificed to idols was not a problem, Paul said, because an idol was nothing anyway, but some people didn’t see it that way. If these folks had eaten such meat, their consciences would have cried out in horror.

Now apparently, at least some of the Corinthian Christians knew along with Paul that idols were a no-thing. These believers had knowledge and were thus “wise” about these matters. And because of this…they were proud. Their knowledge had puffed them up with conceit. And as a result, they looked down on brothers with weaker consciences who felt the need to abstain.

Paul was not impressed. These believers may have had better ethics, but their love was lacking.  And so the Apostle was basically saying, “If you have a choice between knowledge about right and wrong…or acting in love, choose love every time.” Love is like a firm bed; it’s solid and firm, building up others and helps them grow in grace long term. But on the other hand having knowledge is like an air mattress – it may make you feel good in the moment, but it often only helps for the first night, and that restful feeling wIll soon give way to the hard and uneven ground.

So the application? Well, of course, we should study God’s word and understand the truths of the Christian life as much as possible. But there is a tendency for knowledge, even knowledge about God and His ways, to inflate our ego and make us think we are better than others. And that’s a lie. In fact, ironically, the moment we start thinking we are wiser and thus better than others, we fall behind them in the race for holiness.

So give yourself to loving others, and forsake pride by remembering that you are a sinner like everyone else. And if you do have knowledge, well, remember it came from God, and others probably have knowledge where you are yet ignorant.

For Friday, May 15th: 1 Corinthians 9

 

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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