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Craig Smith - Pride

Craig Smith - Pride
TOPICS: Potholes, Pride

Hey, welcome to Mission Hills and week number three of our Potholes Series. If you’re just joining us, I’ll catch you up real quick. What we’re doing in the series is kind of on a search for wisdom from the Book of Proverbs in the Bible for how to understand and avoid the potentially disruptive and destructive potholes that we can encounter in the road of life. So far we’ve talked about the pothole of apathy and the pothole of anger. Today, we’re gonna dig into the pothole of pride. Interesting reaction. Interesting, okay.

It’s interesting actually. I realized as I was studying for this message that it’s a little bit of a confusing topic because we use the word pride in a lot of different ways, and they’re not all bad ways actually. So, for instance, we might say, you know, it’s good to have school pride, or national pride, or Bronco pride, and I’m not going after that. So, if you’re a Bronco fan, just relax, okay? You’re good. That’s not the kind of pride we’re gonna deal with. Sometimes we use the word pride just to mean that we’re pleased with somebody, right? That they’ve done a good job, and we say, you know, “I’m proud of you.”

So we might be proud of our kids, and that’s okay. I’m proud of my kids. Is that okay to say, church? I’m proud of my kids. My oldest daughter graduated college this spring. She’s had an internship this summer, and she just signed her first official contract for an actual real full-time adult job. She’s adulting, and that is awesome. I’m super proud of her. She’s working with Compassion International. So, she’s on mission with Jesus, and I love that. And my youngest daughter, great student. She, kind of, has sort of a plan right now, and both of my kids have deeply missional faith, so we’re looking to extend God’s influence in the world.

I’m proud of both of my kids, and that’s an okay thing to be, okay? That’s not the kind of pride we’re talking about. You can even be proud of yourself, and it’s not a bad thing. In the sense that we might say, you know, “I’m proud of the way I handled that situation.” Maybe you handled a difficult situation with wisdom, with integrity, and you’re proud of yourself for that. That’s okay. We’re not going after that kind of pride. What we are gonna do is we’re gonna go after the kind of pride that other people have.

The pride that you occasionally see in others that lead you to say, “That person is prideful. They’re full of pride.” Maybe we’d even say that they’re arrogant. That’s the kind of pride we’re gonna deal with. What we’re really talking about here is this, is pride is an overvaluing of self, and it’s an undervaluing of others, okay? It’s an overvaluing of self, and it’s an undervaluing of others so that we think we’re all that, and we don’t really need what anybody else has to offer. We don’t really need anybody else.

Ultimately, we don’t even need God because we’ve got everything that accounts. Being prideful doesn’t necessarily mean that we think we’re the best at everything, but it does often mean that we think the things that we’re not good at don’t really matter, right? We don’t need those. “Yeah, I’m not as good at that, but who really cares? That doesn’t count, right?” It’s an overvaluing of self. It’s an undervaluing of others. That’s the kind of pride that we’re gonna talk about. Why don’t you go and grab a Bible? So, we’re making our way to the Book of Proverbs 16.

While you’re doing that, I’ll just say real quick. What we’re doing in this is a little different than what we normally do at Mission Hills. Mission Hills typically practice what we call expository teaching, which means that we walk kind of verse by verse through a passage of Scripture, either from a section of a book of the Bible, or even the whole book of the Bible. But the Book of Proverbs doesn’t really allow us to do that because it’s more like soundbite wisdom, and what the Bible has to say about something like pride is actually scattered throughout the book.

And so rather than going verse by verse, we’re gonna jump around a little bit more than is typical for us, but that’s the only way that I know to be faithful to the Word of God that we’ve been given in the Book of Proverbs. So what we’re gonna do today is basically three things. Number one, we’re gonna understand why it is that pride is such a potentially destructive pothole. Number two, we’re gonna reject some bad ways, some unhelpful ways of dealing with pride. And number three, we’re gonna adopt some useful strategies for dealing with pride.

And, I thought we just start off in terms of understanding pride. We’ll start off with one of the most familiar Proverbs. In fact, even if you’ve never been a part of a church or had very little church involvement in your life, you’re probably gonna recognize this Proverbs. This is Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

How many of you have heard something like that before? Yeah, we have an abbreviated version that you’ve probably heard at some point, and maybe you can fill in the blank for me. Pride goeth before the fall, all right? And really what’s happening there is they’re kind of smooshing the first part and the second part together, but it’s the same basic idea, which is that pride sets the stage for destruction. Pride sets the stage for destruction.

Maybe in some ways worse than any other pothole because pride is not only the pothole that we can hit while we’re going along in life that can do some damage, pride is also the attitude that says, “I don’t need to worry about no potholes. Pedal the metal 100 miles an hour, so when we do hit the pothole, it’s way worse than it would have been otherwise.” And so pride sets a stage for destruction. Why is that? Well, check this out. Proverbs 21:4 gets to what I think is some really interesting insight into why it’s so destructive.

It says this, “Haughty eyes and a proud heart,” so prideful eyes and a proud heart, “the unplowed field of the wicked produce sin.” I think it’s so interesting that Proverbs compares pride to an unplowed field of the wicked. It says that it produces sin. I think that’s so interesting because, you know, if you think about an unplowed field, a field that hasn’t been tended, it hasn’t been cared for, it hasn’t been weeded. It’s not that an unplowed field produces nothing, it’s that it produces nothing good, right? I mean, stuff grows in unplowed fields.

You get weeds, you get the thorns, you get thistles. And so, as he says, the proud heart is like an unplowed field. It produces sin. It causes us to do bad things. But, you know, what’s interesting too is that it’s more than that. It’s not just the bad things grow up because sometimes, even in an unplowed field, you know, there might’ve been some good things that have been planted over the years, some leftover from previous seasons. And so, you know, there might the occasional stalk of corn or the stock of wheat that grows up here or there.

But the problem is you don’t get any good out of it because the bad stuff that goes up chokes it out, right? And so I just think this is such an interesting way that God’s given us to think about pride. But what he basically says is this, he says, “Pride sets a stage for destruction by producing sin directly but also by choking out virtue.” And, some good things might’ve been planted in your life. Wisdom might’ve been given into your life by your parents, or maybe teachers, or other people in your life.

And yet, pride not only produces the bad stuff, but it also chokes out any potential good we might have gotten from those virtues that have been planted. So pride is a destructive pothole, but why exactly is it? Why does it do this? Let me give you three reasons. The first one is just this, pride keeps us from learning wisdom. Pride keeps us from learning wisdom. I don’t know if you know this or not, but there’s no such thing as a wise toddler, okay? Kids aren’t born with wisdom. We’re not even born with knowledge.

We don’t know things, right? And wisdom goes a step beyond knowing things. Wisdom is like, how do we use what we know to accomplish good, okay? Nobody’s born with that, which means we have to learn it from others, okay? The problem is that pride disrupts that process. Pride keeps us from learning wisdom from others. Check this out, this is Proverbs 11:2, and says this, “With pride comes disgrace.” And the word “disgrace” or the Hebrew word basically means contempt from the community because you’re acting like an idiot, okay? That’s basically what it means.

It means that people look down on you. They look at you with a certain amount of scorn because you’re acting foolishly, you’re acting stupidly, you’re acting like an idiot. So it says, “With pride comes this view from the community because you lack wisdom.” But he says, “With humility comes wisdom.” Now, pay attention to that. With humility comes with wisdom. It says that humility is ultimately required to gain what? Wisdom. Without humility, there is no wisdom. Pride gets in the way of that.

Without humility, we can’t gain wisdom. And pride is exactly the opposite of humility, which means that we’re kind of in this place that we’re lacking wisdom, we’re not able to acquire it. Or maybe check this out, this is Proverbs 13:10, “Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” Wisdom comes from taking advice, right? Which is exactly the kind of thing that pride keeps you in it? See, pride keeps us from recognizing that we don’t know everything we need to know. You got to have humility to be able to go, “Yeah, I don’t necessarily know what the best thing to do here is.”

And then you got to have the humility to look around and go, “I think that person might actually know something I need to know.” And then you got to have humility to go to that person and go, “Hey, would you speak into my life?” And then you have to have humility to take that advice. But that whole process is how we acquire wisdom. It’s how we learn wisdom. So, humility is necessary for gaining wisdom, and pride derails that whole process. And so, pride keeps us from learning wisdom.

Second thing that happens is this, pride connects us to dangerous people. Pride connects us to dangerous people. I learned this pretty early on in my life when I was a freshman in high school. I was playing with the junior varsity soccer team. But midway through the season, I got drafted to the varsity team. It’s was kind of a big deal. We were a pretty large school, and so that didn’t happen necessarily automatically. And so, it’s kind of a big deal. And I’ll be honest, I did not handle it with the utmost of humility.

I made sure people knew, you know, you drop little hints here and there like, you know, ‘Well, last night at varsity soccer practice,” right? Just wanna make…because pride never stays inside. Pride always makes sure that it gets out there, right? And so, you know, I was handling it prideful. I was struggling with pride at that period of my life, and what’s interesting is that there was a guy on the soccer team who was incredibly prideful.

He was the captain of the team. Maybe one of the most arrogant people I’ve ever met, incredibly prideful person. But it was interesting when I was struggling with pride, I was not at all put off by his pride. In fact, there’s a part of me that was attracted to it. There was a part of me that looked at his pride and went, like, “I admire that.” You know, he’s confident, he’s bold, and those kinds of things. Not only was I not put off that I was attracted to it, but I found myself, kinda, honestly, I wanted to be like him, and I wanted to hang out with him.

Now, sometime during my high school career, God really got ahold of me and began to change me from the inside out. And, over the years, I have developed what I think is some legitimate humility. Now, I’m not saying I’m the best at humility, okay? Let’s just be really clear about that. I think humility is actually something we continually have to put on, right? In fact, this is probably an important thing to understand. Pride is a perspective. It’s an internal thing. It’s the lens that we look at things through. Pride is a perspective, but humility is a practice.

We practice humility. I don’t know that we necessarily are humble, but we choose to practice it. And God got a hold of me, and he began to teach me the importance of practicing humility, began to develop that. And what’s interesting is that as the time has gone by, what I found is the more genuine humility God builds into me, the less tolerance I have for prideful people. When I was in high school, I was like, “I wanna be like that guy. I wanna hang out with that guy.” Now, that guy would be like fingernails down the blackboard for me.

I know this because I was just at a conference this past week, and there was a speaker who, at some point early on in the message, said, “I’m the best at, blank.” And, I laughed. I thought this person was kidding. And then I was like, “Oh, you’re serious about that.” And then it came up three or four more times in the talk. “I’m the best at this, I’m the best at this,” like four times. “I’m the best at,” and I realized this was a pride problem going on here. But here’s the interesting thing. I think there might’ve been some really good things said in that message, I didn’t hear them.

All I heard was, “Eeegh,” fingernails down a blackboard. It’s so interesting. Humble people really can’t stand prideful people, which, follow me on this, church, it means that the only people who will hang out with prideful people are, in fact, other prideful people. And the truth is that prideful people are dangerous. Prideful people are dangerous. Check this out. This is Proverbs 16:19, “It is better to be lowly in spirit,” to be humble, “along with the oppressed,” to be connected with, associated with those who are being taken advantage of, “than to share plunder with the proud.”

Hang out with the proud, you’re gonna have plunder to share. But where did the plunder come from? It came from those who were being oppressed, those taken advantage of because pride, it’s predatory. Pride preys on other people, and, you know, it builds itself up by tearing them down. It takes from them what isn’t deserved. Pride’s predatory. And so, he says, “Yeah, if you’re prideful, humble people aren’t gonna want anything to do with you. The only people who’ll hang out with you are other prideful people, but prideful people are dangerous.”

And you know what happens when you put a bunch of prideful people together? It’s bad. It’s really bad. The second way that pride causes this kind of destruction is that it connects us to dangerous people. Third thing is this, pride puts us in conflict with God. It puts us in direct opposition with God. It puts us in conflict with God. Let me just share a few Proverbs starting with Proverbs 3:34. “He,” that’s God, “He mocks proud mockers.” You know, mockers are prideful people that are putting others down, making fun of them. He makes fun of them who are making fun of others, “but he shows favor to the humble and the oppressed.”

The favor of God comes upon those who practice and who have humility but not upon the proud. Proverbs 16:5, “The Lord detests,” that’s a strong word, isn’t it? “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this, they will not go unpunished.” How about this one? Proverbs 15:25, “The Lord tears down the house of the proud, but he sets the widow’s boundary stones in place.” He tears down the house of the proud. God is in conflict with proud people. Why? Because, as we said, pride is predatory. Pride is predatory. Pride only is able to feed itself by feeding on other people, and it causes damage.

It destroys marriages. It destroys lives. It takes people off mission. Pride’s predatory, and God cares about the people who are damaged by our pride. Do you understand that? In fact, I think this is important to understand, God cares too much about those that will hurt with our pride to leave our pride unchallenged. He cares too much about our spouses. He cares too much about our children. He cares too much about our coworkers. He cares too much about the people in our community. He cares too much about those who will be hurt by our pride to allow it to go unchallenged.

By the way, that also includes us. He cares too much about us and the damage that we will do to our lives and to our ability to be on mission in the world in the way he designed us for. He cares too much about us to allow our pride to go on unchallenged. And so, pride sets us up for being in conflict with God because he cares too much letting it go unchallenged. Okay, so what do we do about it? Let me give you two things we’re not gonna do. Number one, we’re not going to deny that we have a pride problem. We laughed about it earlier.

Yeah, other people have pride problems, but there’s a kernel of truth in that, right? Because we tend to compare ourselves. That’s how pride functions. Pride is always about comparison. And so we tend to look at people, and we go like, “That’s a really prideful person right there. I’m nowhere near that bad, so I must not have a pride problem,” right? And we can find ourselves in this place where, honestly, we deny that we have a problem with pride, but I think you’re probably wrong. Let me give you some meddlesome questions. Can I do that? Can I meddle, church?

How about this? Ask yourself this question. “Am I angered, jealous or frustrated by other people’s success?” When you see somebody else succeed in life, is that hard for you? Because you might have a pride problem if you do. It’s hard for me. I had to really grow in this over the years. You know, as an itinerant speaker, I often found myself at conferences. Maybe I’d get to do a breakout session, but, you know, there are certain people that would show up on the big stage that you kind of expected, and then people would come out of nowhere and get the big stage.

And that was hard for me, and I’d find myself go, “Why do they get that opportunity?” And I wasn’t pleased at all. I was jealous. I was frustrated. I was angry. And the Holy Spirit began to go, “You know where that comes from, right? I think you have a pride problem. Maybe you struggle with that.” Or let’s flip it around, how about this? Do I feel pleased, relieved, or vindicated by other people’s failure? You see somebody else who’s marriage falls apart, whose career suddenly tanks, somebody who falls hard, and there’s a little secret chamber part of you that goes, “All right.”

I mean, we hate to admit that. I hate to admit that, but if I’m gonna be honest with you, I’ve been there. Some of those speakers who got those big stages, a couple of them over the years, they fell hard. Moral failure, it was all over the headlines, and there was a really secret, disgusting part of me that felt good about that, felt vindicated somehow. And the Holy Spirit, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’ve got a pride problem. Maybe you struggle with that.” How about this? Am I highly critical? Am I highly critical? Can nobody ever do it good enough because I’ve got three ways they should have done it better and four things they should not have done that they did?

I would’ve made it better, I would’ve made it perfect. Are we highly critical? Can nobody please us? That’s something I’ve struggled with. That can be a sign we have a pride problem. Am I defensive or dismissive of feedback, especially well-intentioned feedback that, in our hearts, we know they’re trying to make us better? And yet, we’re like, “I don’t need that. Who are you? You don’t have anything to offer. No, you don’t understand why I did that. You just don’t get the situation,” and we’re defensive and we’re dismissive. We are not able to receive it.

That might be a clue that we have a pride problem. Do I make compromises to get attention? Do I act in ways that honestly I’m a little bit ashamed of, I’ve compromised my integrity, my character, maybe even my faith at work or on the internet, on Instagram, or whatever it is, right? It’s something that we know it’s not good, but we’re willing to make a compromise because it’ll get us something that we’re desperate for, some attention, that could be a sign you have a pride problem.

I don’t know how you’re doing. Anybody feel like they’ve gotten off the hook so far? All right. One more question. Have I ever sinned? And I know you’re like, “That’s cheating,” right? But actually, it’s a real question because I honestly believe that pride is at the root of all sin. I don’t believe there is no sin that’s ever been committed that ultimately didn’t have in its root pride because it’s pride that causes us to look at God and go, “Hey, God, I appreciate the life and everything, but I’ll take it from here.” I got it. I’ll call the shots. I’ll decide what’s right and wrong for me, I’ll be in charge from here on out.” That’s pride.

And at the root of every sin, big and small, is ultimately pride. So, we’ve all got a pride problem, we do. The first thing we’re not gonna do is we’re not gonna deny that we have a pride problem. The second thing we’re not gonna do is we’re not gonna devalue ourselves. We’re not gonna devalue ourselves. Some people seem to have this idea that the way you deal with pride is you adopt humility. And the way they define humility is thinking nothing of us is good, or worthwhile, or useful. That I have nothing to offer, that, you know, I’m dirt.

I think Rick Warren said this best, the pastor at Saddleback, he said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less,” Less often. It’s not thinking you have nothing to offer. Honestly, when we think we have nothing to offer, that we have no gifts, that there’s nothing that we can contribute, what we’re really doing is we’re insulting the God who made us, the God who gifted us and equipped us and called us to be on mission with Jesus in the world. When we say, I”‘ve got nothing, that there’s no value in me,” what we’re really saying is, “God, you did a terrible job on me.”

That’s not how we deal with humility, that’s not even humility. It’s not thinking less of ourselves, it’s thinking about ourselves less. It’s getting our focus off of ourselves and onto others, right? So, we’re not going to devalue ourselves. Some people do this by, you know, like anytime you say, you know, “Good job,” they just can’t take a compliment, right? Maybe you know somebody like this. Any time you say, “Good job,” they’re like, “Oh, now here’s three things that were wrong with, and there’s five things I should have done.” And you’re like, “Well, I guess I’m stupid. I didn’t see that.

I just thought it was a good job, whatever.” Right? Or maybe the person who always…you know, the credit always goes somewhere else, you know, “Not me, it was the team,” or, you know, Christians are the worst at this. “It’s not me, it’s God.” No, listen, there’s a root of truth in this, okay? Recognizing where the gifts come from and pointing the glory ultimately back to God, that’s a really good thing. But sometimes Christians are just weird about it. I played a soccer game once with a Christian. And when it was over I said, “Hey, dude, good game.” And he goes, “It was all God.”

And I was like, “Yeah, I wasn’t that good a game.” Yeah, God gives us the gifts, but he also calls us to be faithful. He calls us to identify them, to develop them, and to deploy them on mission with him. There’s a sense in which we can say, “I’m glad that I was able to be faithful, and I’m glad that that did good for you.” That’s not what humility is, not this denying there’s any value. That’s what we’re not gonna…we’re not gonna devalue ourselves. What are we gonna do? Three things. Number one, we’re gonna restrict our expressions of pride. See, pride is like a fire, okay?

The more you feed it, the more it grows, the harder it burns. We don’t get rid of pride by feeding it, we get rid of pride by suffocating it. We restrict the expressions of it. Check this out. Such an interesting Proverb, Proverbs 14:3, “A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride.” The pride leaps out. It’s out in the world, it’s expressed, “but the lips of the wise protect them.” The fool lets his pride out there. He expresses it, and it fuels the fire of pride. But the wise, their lips protect them. And you know the number one way that the lips of the wise protect them? They clamp together, and they stay that way.

Sometimes they involve the gluteus maximus muscles. And what I mean by that is they sit down and they shut up. They stopped going, “Hey, here I am. Take a look at me. Look at who I know, look at what I’ve done, look at what I can offer you.” No, no, no, they clamp down, and they don’t let that out. They don’t give expression to it. And what happens is when we restrict the expression of pride, we begin to suffocate it. And that’s the important first step. Now, sometimes that’s verbal, sometimes it literally is clamping your lips together.

And so, you know, for you, if the typical expression of pride is boasting, dropping names, those kinds of things, then we literally just go, “I’m just gonna shut up. I’m just not gonna say it.” It’s an important first step. But it may not be that. It might be some other things. For instance, maybe your expression of pride is that critical spirit we talked about. Maybe it’s criticism, in which case it’s not maybe enough just to not voice the criticism, maybe what we have to do is we have to make a decision to voice something else, to voice praise, to find something in that person we’re tempted to criticize that we can praise to somebody else.

It’s to silence the criticism and give voice to praise, and in that way to restrict expression of pride. Maybe it’s defensiveness for you. Maybe that whole business of dismissing or being defensive about criticism, maybe, like, “That’s my struggle. That’s how it expresses itself in my life.” And what you need to learn to do is to adapt to it. It’s a very difficult attitude, but it’s an incredibly powerful one. When you sense that feedback coming and you sense the defensiveness coming on, what you do is you go, “You know what? I’m gonna be honest, this is hard for me to hear, but I wanna get better.

Would you help me understand? Oh, that’s hard, but it’s powerful. I’m just not gonna let pride do what pride does. I’m gonna admit that it’s difficult, but I’m gonna understand what it is that humility could actually gain me, and I wanna act on that rather than on the pride.” Whatever your particular expression of pride is, you need to find it and you need to silence it. You need to restrict it. That’s the important first step. Second thing we’re gonna do is this, we’re gonna redirect our energy towards helping others.

We’re gonna take all that energy that we naturally want to use for self-promotion, self-protection, self-congratulation, self-advancement, we’re gonna take all that energy and we’re gonna redirect it towards helping other people. Hands down without any possible close second, best example of this is Jesus himself. Check this out, this is Philippians 2, blows me away every time I read it. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Do nothing out of pride.” Clamp it down, restrict it. “But rather, in humility, value others above yourself.”

Not meaning that they’re more valuable, but if I’m gonna choose to look to see what difference can I make in their life, what value can I add to their lives, “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude, the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who, being in the very nature, God…” That’s valuable, isn’t it? And he didn’t say, “No, I’m nothing. I have nothing to offer.” No, in the very nature, he was God. His value was without question, but he did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.

But rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, as one of us, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on the cross. Jesus didn’t say, “I have no value.” He said, “I’m just gonna take all of that value, and I’m gonna use it to serve other people. I’ll take all that energy that could have been used making sure everybody understood who he was.” And instead, he redirected it towards serving us. Interestingly enough, towards serving the very people whose pride created the problem in the first place.

You’re gonna take that, and you’re going to redirect it towards serving others. And seriously, that’s an interesting thing about this approach. Humility provides what pride pursues and fails to accomplish. Humility provides, it gives to us the very thing that we are searching for with pride and always, always failing to hold onto. Because what we’re looking for in pride is we’re looking for recognition, we’re looking for significance, we’re looking to matter to people, right? Pride’s looking for that, and it’s always slipping out of our grasp. And yet, humility leads to exactly the same thing. Check this out.

Proverbs 29:23, “Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor,” real honor, real significance. Humility produces what pride pursues and fails to get a hold of. Jesus, he gave it all up and yet, he was exalted. He is the name over every name, right? Humility provides what pride pursues and fails to accomplish. So much we can say about that Philippians passage. I’m not gonna really get into it right now because, in a few weeks, we’re actually gonna start a verse-by-verse study of the entire Book of Philippians. And, you’re gonna see some really practical wisdom about what it looks like to get a handle on this pride issue I think we all struggle with.

But for now, just understand this, Jesus is the preeminent example of this choice to redirect our energy towards helping others. That’s the second thing we’re gonna do. The third thing we’re gonna do is, we’re gonna redefine our identity as children, not as champions. Let me explain what I mean by that. We live in a culture that has taught us that our significance rests in what we have achieved. It’s the awards we’ve gotten. It’s the promotions we’ve earned. It’s the money that we’ve managed to bring in. It’s the possessions that we’ve gotten a hold of, and there’s three problems with all of that.

Number one, it’s all external to us, which means it’s not really under our control, which means our sense of identity is always at risk. Number two, it’s temporary. All of those things can be taken away from us at a moment. And number three, it’s always relative to other people, right? A promotion means nothing if everybody gets a promotion. When I was like, I don’t know, I must’ve been like 10, 11 years old, I was living in Japan. I was part of a judo contest. We had a bunch of American kids who went up against a bunch of Japanese kids at Judo, and they kicked our butts. Like, every one of us lost big time.

I got slammed to the mat so hard, I saw stars for three days. And then they gave me a trophy, second place. Oh, come on, right? It doesn’t mean anything. See, we build our identity on that stuff that means something, and it only means something if we’ve actually beat somebody else out. Only the first-place trophy matters, right? How much money you have doesn’t mean anything unless you have more money than those people. The possessions you have don’t mean anything if everybody’s got all the same, right?

And so we’re seeking to be champions because that’s where we’ve learned that our sense of identity is in. And it can all be taken away from us at a moment and our identity crashes. So, what do we do instead? We begin a shift. We begin to shift our identity from being a champion to being a child of God. And we begin to recognize that it’s not about who we are from the world’s perspective, it’s about whose we are. If we are sons and daughters of God Almighty, we have significance that it’s not outside of ourselves. It cannot be taken from us, and it’s not about where we stand in the rankings that the world is constantly calling us to keep our eye on, okay?

So what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna recognize it’s not about who I am, it’s about whose I am. We’re gonna move our identity that, and we’re gonna say this. We’re gonna say, “I matter because I’m a child of God, not a champion of men.” In fact, why don’t we just say that together? Can we do that, church? “I matter because I’m a child of God, not a champion of men.” Now, it takes a long time to make that shift, but the first step is recognizing it needs to happen, to declare that to ourselves right here, right now and maybe on a regular basis in the weeks going forward to begin that process of shifting our sense of identity.

So, we’re gonna redirect our energy toward helping others, and we’re gonna redefine our identity as children not champions. Why does it matter? What happens if we make this shift? One of the most amazing things about what I get to do as a pastor of Mission Hills is I get to stand up here week after week and deliver a message from God’s Word that hopefully makes a difference in people’s lives. And I get to deliver this to thousands of people here and several thousand people around the world, which is an incredibly humbling experience to know that God uses it in that way.

And it’s a blessing when people come to me, and they tell me how God used the message. It’s encouraging to hear, and I always say I’m really glad God used it. It’s great to know that it’s being used that way. What’s really always interested me, though, is that often people will push in a little bit in, and they’ll go, “You know, here’s what I love about your message. I love how practical they are. I love the fact that you really kind of put, you know, feet to the concrete and you figure out how to help me put this into practice in my life.” And that’s always interesting to me to hear because, can I be honest with you? I’m not good at that.

See, when I first started out preaching, I was really bad at that. In fact, my wife and I had conflicts over it. Whenever I would preach, I’d always share my message with her and, you know, and what I really wanted her to do was go, “That was awesome.” Period. We’re over. We’re done, right? But that’s not whatever happened. Well, what typically happened, she’d go, “That’s really good. Aghh.” “What? What?” And almost every time when there was that little but, it was like she would go, “Can you help us figure out how to put that into practice? Can you help us figure out what that looks like in day-to-day? Like can you make this a little bit more applicable. And my response was always, “No.”

Because I wasn’t good at that. I didn’t understand how to do that. And I would spiritualize my lack of skill in that, and I’d go, “No, no, no, no, no. You know, they have the Holy Spirit. My job is to do what I am good at, what God’s gifted me. Help make Scripture clear, make sure they understand right-thinking proceeds right living.” That was a phrase I used all the time. “If I just help them think right, then the Holy Spirit can take it from there. I’d be practical.” I’d say, “No, no, no, no, no. If I tell people it looks like this, or this, or this, then you’re gonna have some people that none of that applies to them.

And so they’re gonna be kind of left out, and then they’re gonna be upset, or they think it won’t apply to them. And so it’s better to not apply it to anybody than just only apply it to some.” But honestly, what was going on was just pride. I wasn’t good at that, and so I didn’t want to do that. Somewhere throughout the years, God began to build in me genuine humility, build in me the practice of humility. And somewhere along the line, I started getting that little bit of feedback and going, “Oh, what do you think that would look like? I mean, how would you help people apply this?”

And my wife has tremendous wisdom, and she began to say, “Well, you know, I think this might be useful, or this might be useful.” And then I began to go, “Huh. So that’s what that looks like. Huh? That’s… Yeah, okay.” And sometimes she’d go, “I’m not really sure how to apply that. You should talk to some other people,” and I’d be like, “Nah, it’s not gonna happen.” Like, it’s bad enough that you know I’m not good at this, there’s no way my pride’s gonna let me tell other people, “Hey, I’m not good at this. Welcome to my shame.” Right?

And then pride began to work in me, and then the Holy Spirit began to work in me counter to that working of pride and began to move me to go, “Okay.” And so I’d invite other people in specifically that kind of a thing. And, over the years, that’s really developed to the point, now, it’s interesting. Now, on Tuesday afternoons, I have a team that I meet with. I write the sermon for the most part on Monday, and I’ll work on it throughout the week. But on Tuesday, I share the whole message with the team of about 8 to 10 people. And I lay it all out, and then I ask honestly some kind of scary questions.

I go, “What didn’t work? What was confusing? What caused you to go off on bunny trails? What wasn’t clear? What do I need to spend more time on? What do I need to spend less time on so I can focus on something that I’m leaving out? Does this help you figure out how to live this out? What else could I do to make this more practical?” And to the extent that the messages are practical, it’s because of what I’ve learned from my wife and other people, and it’s because of what I continually learn from those teams, none of which would have been possible if pride had continued to have its way in my life.

Here’s what I learned, and this is so important. We’re better together. Do you hear me, church? We’re better together. We’re better in our marriages. We’re better at work. We’re better in our neighborhoods. We’re better on mission with Jesus in the world. When we are together, when humility allows us to receive from others what pride pushes away, we’re better together. Here’s what I want you to hear today. We are better together, so don’t let pride derail your potential.

God has purposes and plans for you, and pride will keep you from realizing the potential that God brought you into existence to experience. We’re better together. Do not let pride derail your potential. Don’t let it be this pothole in your life. Three quick questions for you. You can always get these online and continue to wrestle with them. Question number one, what are the clearest signs of pride in my life? What are those expressions of pride that we all struggle with that are the clues that pride is somewhere under the surface? What are the clearest signs of pride in my life?

Question number two, what’s one step that I will take this week to restrict those expressions, close the lips together, or redirect it towards praise, or whatever that happens to be? What’s one step you can take to restrict those expressions of pride in your life? And question number three, what’s one thing, not five things, not 20 things, just one thing. Pick one thing, if you pick five things, you’re not gonna do any of them. Pick one thing. What’s one thing I can do this week to redirect my energy towards helping others? Have the same attitude as Christ Jesus? We’re better together. Don’t let pride derail your potential. Would you pray with me?

God, we just come before you as your people, as the followers of Jesus, saved by your grace. We come before you, and we recognize why we needed your grace. We admit to you that we have a problem with pride, all of us do. We asked for power through your Holy Spirit to get ahold of it, to set ourselves free from it by your strength, by your power, by your spirit, so that we wouldn’t be derailed from the mission you’ve called us to, from the potential that you’ve given us. And, we thank you for your love. We thank you for a love that was willing to send your own Son to die for us, to die for our sin, sin that was caused by our refusal to love you, our refusal to submit to you, our refusal to obey to you, pride that drove us away from, you said, “I’ll take it from here.” That’s what led to the sin that your Son died to set us free from. An incredible grace and mercy that is. We thank you for it. If you’re a follower of Jesus, just right now, would you begin praying for the people around you, for the people watching online from all over the world that don’t have a relationship with that gracious God.

And if that’s you, if you don’t have a relationship with God by faith in what Jesus did for you, I just wanna speak to you for just a moment. My prayer has been all week that a light bulb would turn on, that you would realize why it is ultimately the pride creates this barrier between us and God, why it is that sin creates this barrier because it’s this attitude, this, “I don’t need you, God. I’ve got this,” and so you’ve gone off on your own, and so many of the difficulties that you face in life come because you have chosen to be in charge.

The thing that we call sin, it’s driven by this sense that you don’t need anyone, you don’t even need God. Maybe for the first time, the light went on and you realized, “That’s what created the barrier, and that’s what Jesus came to die for.” That he loves you that much. God loves you so much that, even though in your pride you walked away, He chased after you. He allowed his own Son to carry our sin on his shoulders. He died in our place to pay for our sin and ultimately for the pride that drove him. If you don’t have a relationship with that God who loves you so deeply, you can have it right here, right now. Wherever you are, you just have this conversation with God. Say to him:

God, I have done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. I understand it was driven by pride, and I’m sorry for that. Jesus, thank you for dying in my place. Thank you for paying the penalty for my sin and my pride. I understand that you rose from the dead, I believe it, and you’re offering me forgiveness, love, adoption into the family of God. I’m ready to receive it. Jesus, right here, right now, I’m saying yes to you. I’m putting my trust in you, my faith in you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.

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