Robert Jeffress - Choosing Humility Over Pride
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Did you know that God hates pride more than any other sin? It's at the top of his list. Why do you think that's true? Well, it's because pride harms our soul. And today we're going to talk about the wisdom of pursuing a humble spirit, so that we don't suffer the insidious damage caused by arrogance. My message is titled Choosing Humility Over Pride on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
I love the story that former senator Bill Bradley tells on himself. He had gone to an upscale restaurant for a dinner with his wife and the waiter came by and served rolls, but there was no butter. So Bradley said, "Could we have some butter please"? And the waiter just slightly nodded, affirming he had heard the request. 10 minutes passed, no butter. So Bradley again, politely said, "Could we please have some butter"? Again, the waiter nodded. 10 minutes passed, no butter. Finally, Bill Bradley had had enough and he gave the waiter a piece of his mind he really couldn't afford to lose. He said, "Perhaps you don't know who I am. I'm a Princeton graduate, a Rhode scholar, I played basketball for the New York Knicks. I'm now a United States senator from new jersey. I'm a member of the senate subcommittee on debt relief. I'm also a member of the senate select committee on intelligence". The waiter responded, "Perhaps you don't know who I am. I'm the guy in charge of the butter".
Every now and then we need somebody like that to burst our bubble, don't we? To bring us down to reality, to help us see ourselves as we really are. And that's what we're going to talk about today. Today, we're going to continue our series, Choose Your Attitudes, Change Your Life. We're looking at 11 essential biblical attitudes that we have to embrace if we're going to enjoy that abundant life that Jesus promised us. One common circumstance we all face in life, is how are we going to respond to both our successes and our failures? We can either respond with pride, or we can respond with humility. And today we're going to talk about the importance of choosing humility over pride.
Now it might be helpful to first of all, look briefly at what the Bible says about both humility and pride. And for starters, let's give some definitions. What is pride? Very simply, pride is an attitude that causes us to credit ourselves for our accomplishments and blame others for our failures. On the other hand, humility is an attitude that use both our accomplishments and our failures from God's perspective. Over and over again, the Bible warns against the dangers of pride. I've jotted down just a few of those references for you. Proverbs 16:5, "Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: assuredly, he will not go unpunished". Or Proverbs 16:18, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling". One more. James 4:6, "God is opposed to the proud".
If you want to know how to get God on your bad side, just be prideful. God is opposed to the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. In contrast to that, look at what the Bible says about humility, the value, the premium God places on humility. Proverbs 11:2, "When pride comes then comes dishonor: but with the humble there is wisdom". Proverbs 16:19, "It is better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud". One more. Matthew 23:12, Jesus said, "And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted". Why does God emphasize the problem of pride so much? We think humility or pride, those are kind of secondary issues, they don't rank up there with the really big sins like murder and adultery and so forth. Isn't this kind of a secondary issue pastor? Why in the world do you talk so much about pride and humility?
In Proverbs chapter six, God lists the seven things he hates the most. Do you know what's at the top of the list? Pride. God hates pride more than any other sin. Why is that? Because of the effects of pride in our lives. I want to mention this morning, four sins and they are in order. They're progressive, that are the direct result of pride. First of all, the sin of ingratitude stems directly from pride. Ingratitude. When our oldest daughter, Julia was two, she had a habit of taking whatever presents were given to her at Christmas or every birthday. And she would name those gifts according to who gave them to her. And I remember we were down in Austin, visiting Amy's parents who are here today by the way, Sue and Keith. And it was right after Christmas, and Julia was going through her Christmas gifts, and she held up a gift and she said, "Grandma". The only problem was, grandma had not given her that particular gift. She had given her a lot of gifts, but not that one.
I was the one who had given her the gift. And I'm going to have to tell you, it kind of ticked me off. I wanted her to know, I was the one who gave her that gift. Why did I want her to know that? Because I wanted her to know how much I loved her. I'm the one who gave her the gift. And it's the same way with God. The reason God hates pride so much, is it blinds us to the great gifts he has given us. You see in the individualistic culture we live in, especially here in America, we love these rags to riches stories. We love to think, I am the master of my fate, I'm the captain of my soul. Whatever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve. We want to think that we are the ones responsible for the good things in our life. But whenever we begin to think that we're responsible for the good things in our life, we should remember this very penetrating question asked by the apostle Paul.
It's found in 1 Corinthians 4:7. Paul said, "For who regard you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it"? Paul is basically saying, do an inventory of all the good things in your life and ask yourself, where did these things come from? If we do that, we think about the good things in our life. If we're truly humble, we come to the conclusion that every good thing in life is the result of either what God or other people have done for us. What good thing in your life, cannot ultimately be traced to the generosity and goodness of God? You say, well, my appearance, my appearance is the result of eating right and working out. I take good care of myself, that's why I look so fantastic. Well, before you come to that conclusion, listen to what the Psalm has said.
Psalm 139:13-14, "For thou that's for my inward parts: thou that's weaved me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made". Our appearance is the result of what God has given to us. Other people say, well, my abilities. I'm such a gifted person because I've worked so hard and I've practiced, and I've studied. That is why I'm such a gifted person. Thank again. James 1:17 says, "Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow". What about your children? Oh, my children, they are so wonderful, they are the result of great genes and tremendous child-rearing, that's why they are so fantastic. The Psalm has said in Psalm 127:3, "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward".
What about your possessions? A lot of people think, well, the reason I'm so successful, the reason I've accumulated so much money, the reason I enjoy a great lifestyle, is because of my hard work. Think again. Deuteronomy 8:18 Moses said, "But you shall remember that the Lord your God, it is he who has giving you the power to make wealth". Just think about it. The only reason you are alive and breathing right now, is because God has kept you alive. He has given you the breadth of life. And that's why Paul said, "Every good thing in your life is ultimately a gift from God". Pride keeps us from seeing that. Pride leads to ingratitude. And ingratitude leads to a second sin, and that is, independence. You may be can yourself, is God so petty? Is God so petty that he has to be thanked regularly by us? Is he that insecure that he has to have us glorify him and always compliment him? I mean, is something wrong with God? No, not at all. We don't...
The fact is God doesn't need anything from us, but we need everything from God. You've heard people say, well, the reason God created us was, God was sitting in one day and he had spent billions of years up there by himself and he got lonely and said I need somebody to have fellowship with. Have you heard that before? There's a theological term for that, hogwash. God, isn't lonely. God doesn't need you. He doesn't need me to be fulfilled, he is totally self-sufficient. But we need God. Saint Augustine said, "There is a God shaped vacuum in everything human heart that only Christ can fill". God knows that we need him. And that's why he makes every effort, had to have a relationship with us so that he can meet our greatest need of all.
Now think about this. If you were a parent trying to get the attention of a way word child, how would you do it? How would you try to communicate that you love your child? One way you would do it is by showering great gifts, giving good gifts to your children to show your love for them. That's what Jesus said in Matthew 7:11, "If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask him"! The book of Romans, Paul said, "It is the grace of God, the goodness of God, that leads us to repentance". But when we don't recognize that these good gifts are from God, when we don't express gratitude, we are prone to live apart from God to go our own way. And that's exactly what happened to Lucifer. His ingratitude for the good things God had done in creating him as the head of the angels, led to an independent spirit and rebellion.
God said this to Lucifer, Ezekiel 28:15 and 17. "You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you". Now listen to this, verse 17. "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty: you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor". Lucifer in heaven one day started looking in a mirror. Said, "Hey, I'm pretty impressive. I'm pretty good looking. I'm pretty wise". Satan forgot, he was a creature instead of the Creator. And that pride in his heart led to independence, to a rebellion. And that rebellion is described in Isaiah 14:13 and 14. God said, "Lucifer, you said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven: I will raise my throne above the stars of God, I will sit on the mount of the assembly. I will ascend to the heights of the clouds. I will make myself like the Most High God".
That is always what happens when we failed to show appreciation to God. That ingratitude leads to an independence from God. That independence from God leads to a third sin, and that is intolerance of others. And intolerance for others. You look through the teaching of Jesus. He spoke pretty harshly at times. Jesus wasn't this Casper milk toast guy who walked around in sandals chewing on bird seeds, saying nice things to people all the time. That wasn't Jesus. He could be tough, really tough at times. But his harshest, his toughest words, were spoken not to murder or adulterers, but it was to the religious hypocrites of his day. The pharisees and the Sadducees who had an inflated view of their own righteousness, and looked down upon others with contempt.
Matthew 23:13, Jesus said, "But woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the Kingdom of God for men: for you do not enter it yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in". Probably the greatest illustration of the intolerance of the religious hypocrites is found in one of the parables Jesus told, Luke 18:9-14. This shows how pride leads to a hatred of other people. Listen to this. Luke 18 beginning with verse nine. "And Jesus also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt". You know what self righteousness means? It means looking to yourself for your own righteousness, your right standing with God. It means, believing you're good enough to get into heaven and earn God's approval.
So Jesus told a story to those who felt that way about themselves. And whenever you feel like you're righteous by your own good works, you're going to naturally view other people with contempt. So he told this story, verse 10. "Two men went up into the temple to pray. One was a pharisee, the other attacks gatherer". There was no more hated group in Israel than tax gatherers, tax collectors. After 2000 years some things never change, do they? As April 15th approaches. Well, they hated these tax gatherers. Two men went up to pray, one was a religious leader, the other was an IRS agent. Verse 11. "The pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself". I love that. He thought he was talking to God, his prayer didn't make it above the roof of the temple. He was really praying to himself. But this is what he said to God, "God, I thank thee that I'm not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers or even like this tax gatherer over here. I fast twice a week: I pay tides of all that I get".
This religious leader sounds a whole lot like some religious leaders I know right now. Thank God I'm not like that guy over there. He's an adulterer, he's a crook, he's a liar. If only he could be more like me. God hates that attitude, absolutely hates it. But notice verse 13, "But the tax gatherer, standing some distance away, he felt so unholy and unworthy, he backed up as far as he could from the holy place". And he simply looked up and he said, "God, be merciful to me the center". Simple prayer. God be mercy seated to me.
You remember the mercy seat that was in the holy of holies? The Ark of the Covenant had the 10 commandments. There was a gold lid on it. God was thought to dwell above that mercy seat between the chair beam. And 359 days a year, the picture was God looking down on the law that his people had broken. It was a place of judgment. But once a year, the high priest would come in with the blood of an innocent animal and he would sprinkle it on top of that mercy seat, cover it, so that when God looked down, he no longer saw the sins of his people deserving the eternal death, he saw the blood that covered that broken law. And of course that was a picture of what Jesus the Lamb of God would do for us one day, when he would offer his blood as a covering for our sin. That's what the tax guys we're saying, "God I can't save myself. My only hope is that you show mercy and grace, that you pay the penalty for my sin". Two men with two very different kinds of prayers.
Look at what Jesus says in verse 14. "But I tell you this, it is this man, the tax gatherer who went down to his house justified rather than the pharisee". There were gasps in the audience when Jesus said that this man, the tax gatherer, you're telling me this sinner is the one who God has justified and not the religious person? We can't believe that, God, we can't accept that. But Jesus added, "For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted". Pride, an inflated view of our own righteousness leads to intolerance toward others. And finally, fourth, the result of pride is an inability to accept God's grace. This is perhaps the most damning of all of the consequences of pride, an inability to accept God's grace. In Luke chapter 18:17, we find it intriguing verse by Jesus. He said, "Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all".
I love so many things about First Baptist Dallas, but one of the things I love most is the great children's and student ministry we have here. We don't just babysit kids here. We teach them the scriptures and regularly throughout any year, we give our children and teenagers a chance to trust in Christ as Savior. One of those times we do it is at vacation Bible school every summer. We'll have maybe 2000 kids here and every Thursday I'll stand up and give a Gospel presentation to the children explaining how they can be saved. And when I give the invitation for kids who want to trust in Jesus to come forward, I mean, hundreds of them come sometimes.
And you know, every now and then there are a few adults standing at the back like this, kind of watching all of it. And you can kind of tell, they're not sure what they think about that. They won't say it to me, but they'll say to some other people, "You know, I think the pastor made it too easy". Do those children really know what they're doing? Don't they need to be older. Well, we don't do it with the youngest children, but we do it when they're old enough. But people say, "Well, don't they need to be older before they can be saved"? What did Jesus say? He didn't say children need to become like adults in order to enter the Kingdom of God. He said, adults need to become like children to enter the Kingdom of God.