Branches of Pride- Self-Pity

A couple weeks ago I decided to start a series focusing on the various sins that result from pride. My belief is that pride is the root cause of many of the sins we struggle with. Looking at the various branches and tracing the roots back to pride will hopefully help us as we learn what we need to repent of and how to ask the Lord to grow some weak areas in our lives.

This week I want to take a look at another branch of pride that many of us fail to recognize as pride: self-pity. Self-pity can be found in pretty much all of our lives. Some seem to pity themselves frequently while others have only the occasional struggle. Either way, self-pity is a sin.

For most of us, self-pity usually comes from a feeling of being treated unfair. Next, we start to compare ourselves with others and start to feel sad for ourselves. This could be at work, school or with family. Self-pity says “I deserve better than what I have.” So maybe your boss doesn’t give you that promotion you felt you deserved. Often, the result can be you going into a lot of self-pity and possibly starting a pity party, (more on pity parties later). Or maybe you see the other students at your school with a boyfriend or girlfriend and start to feel self-pity because you don’t have one.

Self-pity also can come from suffering. No one likes to suffer but most of us recognize that suffering is an inevitable part of life. So when suffering does come, many of us start to feel sad for ourselves. “Why me?” “What have I done to deserve this?” These questions are common self-pity responses to some sort of suffering.

The danger of self-pity is that it causes people to believe that somehow they deserve better. This is where we find the root of pride. Just like entitlement, self-pity says I deserve better or that this shouldn’t be happening to me. Self-pity tries to remove us from the realities of life by believing the lie that only good things should ever come our way.

Read this quote from Pastor John Piper to see what I mean:

“Boasting is the response of pride to success. Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering. Boasting says, “I deserve admiration because I have achieved so much.” Self-pity says, “I deserve admiration because I have sacrificed so much.” Boasting is the voice of pride in the heart of the strong. Self-pity is the voice of pride in the heart of the weak. The need self-pity feels does not come from a sense of unworthiness, but from a sense of unrecognized worthiness. It is the response of unapplauded pride.”

We struggle with self-pity not because we feel worthless but because we feel what we have done or sacrificed deserves praise. And this is why self-pity is ultimately rooted in pride. It is an elevated view of self and glory seeking.

So how can we deal with self-pity? I think the first response has to be humility. Because self-pity is rooted in pride, the solution for dealing with it is attacking the root. Philippians 2:3-8 gives us a great formula and example for being humble:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Jesus left us the greatest example of how to quench self-pity. If anyone should have had self-pity it was Jesus. Not only did he suffer unjustly more than any of us ever have or will, (a sinless man being executed as a criminal), but He also should have been praised because He alone was worthy of praise. No man has ever had a greater reason to have self-pity. Yet, Jesus humbled Himself and followed the plan of the Father.

In doing so, Jesus left us three important lessons. First, Romans 8:18 tells us “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” That any suffering or sacrifices we make today are nothing compared to the glory of experiencing God. So instead of feeling pity we push on and focus on the glory ahead of us. Jesus willingly gave up His life, (greater sacrifice then we give), in order to get more glory for God.

Second, that God sees the things we do that go unnoticed. That Jesus was killed in this life as a criminal, but that isn’t how God viewed His only Son. Maybe you feel like all the good you are doing doesn’t matter. Maybe you feel like no one notices or cares. This is where self-pity can start. But remember Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” We are working not for our praise but for our Father’s praise. We don’t give up because we know God sees our works.

Finally, Jesus shows us that we are to count others better than ourselves. He gave up much so we could gain. The lie of self-pity is that if I give up much I deserve much. But this is a self-focused statement, (which is why it is called self-pity). Instead of being so focused on how this effects our lives, shouldn’t we follow our Lord Jesus who gave much of Himself for the benefit of others? Notice in Mark 12:30-31 that we are commanded to love God and love others. Jesus doesn’t tell us we need to love ourselves first. We are commanded to put God first, people second which means we must put ourselves last.

If you struggle with self-pity and are always feeling bad for yourself, I hope these points can help. The last thing you want to do is having a pity party. This is where people will find others to also feel sorry for them which only causes the pride of self-pity to grow stronger and stronger. We see it all the time on Facebook and Weibo: people posting about their own self-pity and hoping others will join in their pity party.

Don’t fall for this foolish mistake. We were not made to pity ourselves but rather to rejoice in our God. Philippians 4:4 says it like this: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” That is the life we were called to. So stop allowing pride to create self-pity in your life. Follow our Lord Jesus’ example, humble yourselves and rejoice in the Lord.

Branches of Pride- Entitlement

I feel like I write about pride very often. I think I do this for two reasons. First, it’s a sin I struggle with. I find it easy to write about something I struggle with because I face the battle with pride on a daily basis. The second reason is because I believe it is probably the most prevalent and devastating of all sins and can be found as the root cause for many of the other ugly sins we commit.

While I usually try to deal with the roots of our sins, I want to change gears for the next couple of weeks and focus on the branches. My hope is that my recognizing some of these more obvious sins in your own life that you would be able to trace it down to the root of pride and start working on pulling that sin out. So the next couple weeks we will look at some sins that are rooted in pride.

I wanted to start this week with a real ugly one, but one we all struggle with at one time or another. It’s called entitlement. What is entitlement? It’s the belief that you deserve or are entitled to something good. Let’s take a look at a few ways entitlement rears it’s ugly head in our lives, how to combat this sin, and how it traces back to the root sin of pride.

Entitlement shows itself in many different ways. Just the other day I was walking and noticed a traffic jam at an intersection. All the cars had decided they wanted to go first. The entire problem could have been adverted had one or two people allowed someone to go first. But these people felt entitled. They felt like it was their turn and they needed to go first. This is especially true for those driving really nice cars. Many of them drive in a way that says, “Do you see my car? I am important, and thus I should get to go where I want, when I want.”

For others of us, entitlement comes out often in what we feel like we deserve. Maybe you feel like you deserve a promotion because you are a hard worker. Maybe you feel like you should get a good grade because your father is an important man. Maybe you feel like others should be nice to you because you are nice to them. These are all entitlement issues.

The way I most often struggle with entitlement personally is based on my learning. I often feel that others should take my advise or listen to my opinion because I have spent extra years studying and thus have more to bring to the table. I feel that my knowledge entitles me to be heard, and my opinion to be respected and followed.

The problem with entitlement of any kind is that is believes a lie. We think we deserve something good. Whether it’s based on our own merit, ability or personal connections, we believe we should be given good things and deserve to be first, top or better than we are.

We do deserve something, the problem is that it is the opposite of what entitlement tells us. The Bible says we don’t deserve good but rather punishment. Psalm 103:10 says “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” Also Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death…”

We deserve punishment and death because we are transgressors of God’s law. Praise be to God that He doesn’t give us what we deserve but sent His Son to die for us and save us from what we truly deserve.

And to me, this is the best way to deal with such an ugly sin: realize that without the grace of God your entitled to punishment, death and hell. In order to combat sin, it is usually doing the opposite of that sin that helps break it’s hold on your life. So for entitlement, opposite acts like humility and gratitude are great ways to break down entitlement. Realize that you aren’t as awesome as you think you are. You don’t deserve good but punishment and any and all good that comes your way is a gift. Be grateful for the good gifts God does give you and realize they aren’t from your hands, but from His.

Somewhere along the way we got this backwards. And this is where pride comes in. Pride is what has caused us to flip from a humble stance that sees all good from God into a prideful stance that believes I deserve good things because of my status, personality or ability.

Celebrities are our best example of this type of lifestyle. These people, because of their fame and fortune, live lives feeling entitled to do whatever they wish. Here you see the most prideful people on our planet. I fear that many of us look at these people and their lifestyles with envy rather than disgust and pity. I have many students who tell me their goal is to be able to do whatever they want all the time. May God have mercy on them and keep them from such an entitled hell as that.

Although brief, I hope you can see some areas where you have been acting entitled lately. Maybe it is obvious, (you are that BMW driver who always goes first no matter what), or something more subtle, (you think you should have good things happen to you because you are a “good” person). Either way, it is entitlement and it is one of the results pride can have on our lives.

My prayer for all of us is to realize how entitled we do act and repent. Ask God to forgive you of your pride and entitled nature. Ask Him to remove this ugly sin from your life. Learn to see that what you really deserve is the fire of hell and that by the grace of God alone you have been saved, (Ephesians 2:8-9). May we stop acting entitled and instead be grateful for the grace of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Jesus is Better Than…. Part 1

Sorry it has been so long since I updated this. I feel like that is what almost all people who blog say at one time or another. I had some problems with the website but have it back running correctly so I thought it’s about time I share some thoughts with you all.

There has been somewhat of a theme lately in much that I have been studying, hearing and reading about. Whether it was from a book called “Future Grace” by John Piper, listening to sermons by Pastor Matt Chandler, or watching a Christian Conference from the US, it seems like everyone is talking about this common idea.

It’s a good thing too because the Bible talks a lot about it as well! So these guys must be on to something. What is so important that all these different people and groups are saying the same thing? Well, it’s Jesus of course! But not just Jesus, the guy who heals, helps, saves and forgives. It’s more about Jesus than about what He does for us, even though the things He does for us are pretty stinking amazing too.

This week I wanted to share some thoughts based on a lot of stuff I have been studying about how we view Jesus. It has greatly helped me and I hope it will help you too.

The thing we need to realize about Jesus is He is more than just what He did or does for us on a daily basis. Yes, Jesus forgives you of your sins past, present and future. Yes, He allowed you into heaven even when you deserved hell. Yes, He took the punishment on His perfect back for you. Let us never forget these things!

But let us also not forget that our love and our faith in Him is not merely based on what He did but more so on who He is. That is why I titled this message “Jesus is Better Than…” My goal and hope is that you can see that Jesus is better and to be more desired that anything in this universe. In two weeks I will talk about why Jesus should be desired more than anything else, but this week let’s look at what happens when we desire Jesus more than anything else.

First, it helps us battle sin. Psalm 119:9-10 says “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” You see that if we are to keep our lives pure and free from sin we must live according to God’s Word. But how can we do that? By seeking Him with all our heart.

Sin is a lie. It promises satisfaction and fulfillment but never comes through. So when we sin we are basically claiming that the promise of the sin is greater than the promise of God. It’s the same trick Satan used on Eve in Genesis 3. Satan put temptation and doubt in Eve’s head completely contradictory to what God had said. That’s what sin does. It causes us to either believe that God is enough or that this sin will bring us joy.

That’s why realizing that Jesus is better than anything else will help combat sin. When we truly know and believe that Jesus is better than jealousy, pride, arrogance, selfishness, or any other sin we struggle with, we stop following that sin’s lie and it loses power over us.

Do you have some sinful habit you just can’t seem to shake? What lie are you believing about that sin? Repent and realize that Jesus is greater and more desirable than whatever that sin falsely promises. Realize that your true joy and hope comes from God alone and that by trusting in any counterfeit joy you will only be let down in the end.

Second, it’s brings purpose and passion to your life. Ecclesiastes 12:13 says “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” You see, when you aren’t living with the right meaning and purpose in life it brings emptiness and despair.

But foolishly, we keep trying to find our purpose and joy in life in other things. Watch TV and every advertisement is an ode to how great you are or how great you could be by using that product. The world tells us to pursue what is focused on us but forgets to mention that that path leads straight to emptiness and eventually hell (Matthew 7:13).

This isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, people trying to find their purpose in anything but God has been happening since Creation! However, one of the best examples of this type of living can be found in the life of Solomon. You can read his story of his various pursuits in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Basically Solomon had or pursued anything and everything that our world falsely promises to provide joy. You want power? Solomon had more. You want wisdom? Solomon was the wisest in the world. You want women? Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines. You want money? Solomon had a massive palace with tons of gold. You want friends and approval? Solomon had massive parties with tons of people.

But after Solomon mentions each of these things he makes an interesting statement. He says that each is “vanity and a chasing after the wind.” These are the things you are wrongfully pursuing in hopes of finding joy. Solomon had them and saw that they don’t fulfill. That is why he made that statement in Ecclesiastes 12:13. Only Jesus gives your life true purpose, passion and joy.

Why do so many rich and powerful seem so sad? Because they have what you hope will bring joy but they still don’t have joy. You at least have hope because you don’t have it yet, but these people have it and still feel empty. We see the rich, the famous, the popular all commit suicide or talk about wanting more. Why? Because they have put their purpose in a lie.

Only putting your faith and hope in Jesus can give your life passion, purpose and joy. Everything else will promise much but deliver little. That is why my challenge for each of you is to remember than Jesus is better than (insert anything here). He is better than money. Better than power and fame. Better than friends and popularity. He’s better than life!

Again, in two weeks I will tell you why that is. But this week just stop and contemplate what it would mean for your life if you truly believed and lived as if Jesus was better than anything else. May we see that Jesus is better than anything and everything and may that set us free from sin and give our lives true passion, purpose and joy.

The Company You Keep

No one is completely uninfluenced by those around them. We may feel like we are the leader or influencer of our group of friends, but no matter how hard you try, those people you spend the most time with will start to rub off on you. If you take a second and think about it, you know how great of an influence those around us are.

So why do we spend so much time with people who negatively influence us? Why do we somehow believe that keeping bad company will help us and them in the long run? I want to look at three reasons we hang out with the wrong people and three corresponding solutions for how to change that attitude.

First, arrogance and pride. We are so prideful and arrogant because we think we won’t be affected by our friends bad behaviors. “Maybe they say bad words a lot but it doesn’t mean I will.” “Ya they are always lying to their family but I won’t do that.” “Man my friends always drink too much but I know when to stop.” These sentences are very common amongst people right before they fall headfirst into the same sins of their friends.

A great biblical example of this type of pride and arrogance can be seen in the life of King Solomon. He started out great by asking the Lord for wisdom to govern His people (1 Kings 3). This wisdom was a gift of God and should have been used for great things. But Solomon became arrogant. He knew the Lord’s commands but felt like he could somehow do what the Lord had told Israel not to do and be unaffected. That’s what happened in 1 Kings 11. Solomon knew that the Lord had commanded the Israelites not to take foreign wives because “for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” (1 Kings 1:2). But in his pride and arrogance, Solomon disobeyed God’s warning and sought after what he thought was best.

“He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.” (1 Kings 11:3). Out of arrogance, Solomon kept bad company and they turned away his heart. So what about you? Are you dating someone who you shouldn’t be? Are your closest friends trying to “turn away” your heart? Are you as arrogant as Solomon and think that keeping non-Christians as your closest influence won’t affect you?

If that is you, you need to repent and humble yourself before God. Admit that you aren’t as great or strong as you think you are. Ask God for help in seeking Him and His approval over the love and approval of those negatively influencing you. Find new friends who will point you to God rather than draw you away. Surround yourself with people that want to know and serve Jesus first.

Second, pity. We feel like these non-Christian people need a light in their midst. So while we recognize the negative influence they are having on us, we don’t want to cut off our relationship with them because we are hopeful that we can show them Christ and save them.

It is good to have compassion and pity on those who know not what they are doing. Christ had compassion on them and viewed them “like a sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:6). But having compassion and joining in with their sinful behavior are two very different things. We are told that Jesus spent a lot of time with sinners (Mark 2:15-16) but are also told that he never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is because Jesus was able to go into their lives and offer real change without being affected by sin.

We, however, don’t have such power. While we can often go into our friends sinful situations we rarely leave them untouched by sin. So how can we have compassion on our lost friends but still keep away from sin? Here are a few things that have helped me:

1. Do more one-on-one time rather than group time with people who tend to negatively influence you. Often when you are one-on-one you can more easily counteract their influence. But if you are in a group and five people are negatively influencing you then you will find it harder to resist and be a positive influence in their lives.

2. Pull them into your groups rather than being pulled into theirs. This can be difficult but why not invite this close non-Christian friend to play basketball with your Christian friends? Why not ask them to go shopping with your Christians friends rather than you go with all the non-Christian friends? It never hurts to ask and if the person is truly your friend they will want to spend time with you even if it is with other Christians.

3. Avoid troubled times. I once had a group of friends I referred to as my “daytime friends.” This was because I knew when it became night they would be difficult to hang out with because their focus changed. If your friends start to turn more negative at night, then make them “daytime friends.”

The final problem is selfishness. Maybe you have been friends with that person for a long time. You can’t imagine breaking off your relationship with them. This is pure selfishness. Why worry so much about a temporal relationship when your eternal soul is in danger? Makes little sense.

2 Chronicles 17-20 shows a great example of a bad friendship built upon selfishness. Jehoshaphat was a good king. But, in order to feel more secure, he made an alliance with two bad kings, (Ahab- Ch. 18 and Ahaziah- Ch. 20). The result was trouble and problems for Jehoshaphat. Rather than trusting in God and seeking good relationships, Jehoshaphat was selfish and ended up having the wrong friends around.

And that’s the final challenge I want to leave you with today. Are there some close friendships you just need to cut off? Are there some people that continue to negatively influence you but because you have been friends for a long time you keep them around? If yes, then take that step and stop hanging around those bad influences! Find some brothers and sisters to grow closer with so that you can mutually influence each other for the glory of God. May we stop being arrogant, foolish and selfish with our friends. May we be willing to cut off old friendships that are only dragging us down and find new ones that will help us and those around us know Jesus more. Take action now and make sure that those influencing you are the right people.

You are Forgiven

I think it is vital that we understand that as a Christian we are forgiven. So many of us get caught up in moralism and trying to be a good person. This is not the Gospel message. Becoming more Christlike through lifelong sanctification is, but moralism and the pursuit of moral perfection is the lie of every other world religion.

As Christians, we do want to become more Christlike in our daily walk, but we also recognize that we fall short time and time again. I am not perfect and often find myself feeling guilt or shame that I am not as good as I think I should be. But the Apostle John’s words in 1 John 1:8-10 shine light into the darkness we often put ourselves in.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10).

So today I want to look how these 3 verses can dramatically shape the life of a Christian and can hopefully bring the non-Christian to a place of repentance and forgiveness.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” ( 1 John 1:8). The first step towards forgiveness is admitting fault. You must realize that you have sin and then admit and confess it to God. Now God already knows what you have done, said or thought, so why the need to confess?

Confession is a humbling act and makes us realize our fragile nature. When we confess that we have done something wrong, (sinned), we are laying down our pride and asking for God’s help. God’s forgiveness can wipe clean any and all evil we have committed. God can forgive our daily moral failures, (the things we shouldn’t do but did and the things we should do but didn’t do).

The problem is most of us “deceive ourselves.” We feel no need to confess wrongdoing to God. We feel that each person is free to make their own moral decisions and that truth is a subjective thing. This attitude only shows that “the truth is not in us.” If you feel you have nothing you need to confess and be forgiven of by God then you sadly do not know the truth. If you are unsure of what you need forgiveness for than pray and ask God that He would show you your sins against Him.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). Second, we see here that when we do confess our sins that God is faithful to forgive. Notice there is no description of the degree of sin. That’s because in God’s eyes all sin is equally evil. God does not say He will forgive a lie but not murder. He doesn’t say He will forgive arrogance but not selfishness. You see that every sin, whether it is something you did, said or thought, will be forgiven.

This massive truth is important to grasp. When I look back at my past I see so much selfishness, arrogance, worldliness and many other sins. I see things I did, said and thought that are wrong and sinful. I see things I didn’t do, say or think that I should have. I see moral mistake after moral mistake. And then this causes guilt and shame because I realize I am not as good as I think I should be.

But, that is what makes the Gospel and this verse in particular so amazing. God has forgiven each of those sins I have committed. I have no need to feel any guilt or shame for my mistakes and moral failings. Now I don’t want this to take away from the seriousness of our sin. The amazing truth is that I am forgiven and cleansed from such a great evil.

“If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10). But again many of us will look back on our lives and not see sin. I often hear people say they don’t regret anything in their past, that each thing that occurred was a new experience and helped their overall growth as a person. What a lie from the devil! I don’t regret hard times or when trial came my way because it did help me grow, but I do regret each and every foolish word or deed I did that dishonored God. How arrogant we must be to try and condone our sin or use it as some platform for moral improvement!

Rather, I hope we can all look back and find things in our lives that we do truly regret. That we know we shouldn’t have done, said or thought. And may we see those things as sin and confess them to God for we know that He will truly forgive us and we can be set free from any guilt or shame we may have.

So Christians, stop acting like you have no sin. Confess your sins to God. And not just the obvious ones. Confess your wrong motives, your selfish ambitions and bad thoughts as well as the more blatant sins you commit. If you don’t know which of the harder to see sins, (jealousy, idolatry, selfishness, pride, doubt, fear), you are struggling with, then ask God to reveal them to you so that you can confess them and be forgiven and cleansed. Daily confess your sins to God and be set free.

Non-Christians, you need to realize that your life is sinful. You are not as good as you pretend to be. Moral truth is not subjective. You have made mistakes and need to be forgiven. Confess your sins to God. Turn to Him who alone can cleanse you and set you free from your sins. Your good deeds will never outweigh your bad. You can never make up for your past wrongs. Rather, you must be forgiven of them and that comes only through the precious blood of Christ. Turn to God, confess and He is faithful to forgive.

May we all realize our need to be forgiven and then go to Jesus, the only place where true forgiveness can be offered. May we stop living with guilt or shame because of our past deeds or because we aren’t as good as we think we should be. May we stop lying to ourselves that we don’t have sin or moral failings. May we stop believing the lie of moral subjectivity and instead believe the truth of Jesus. My hope and prayer is that we would all turn to Jesus and be forgiven.

Bless the Lord

This week has been a bit busy so I haven’t really had time to do much work on a blog post. But I did want to share something I learned this week that I thought may be helpful.

I was doing my devotion this week and came upon Psalm 103:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;[a]
he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Last week I talked about David and his heart for God. After reading this Psalm you can see just how David’s heart was geared to serve, love and honor God. This Psalm has stuck with me this week and has been a challenge and encouragement. I hope that it will also challenge and encourage all of you amidst the crazy busyness of this season. That we would “remember the reason for the season”, (I know it’s cliche but still very true), and really focus on blessing the Lord with all our heart. May we all take Psalm 103 to heart and Bless our Glorious Creator!

A Man After God’s Own Heart?

If you have studied the Bible and have ventured into the Old Testament you may have heard about a guy named David. He is responsible for writing a bunch of the Psalms and is honored as one of the greatest Kings Israel ever had. He is also the only person referred to in Scripture as a “Man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22 and 1 Samuel 13:14). Think of all of the great people spoken of in the Bible, and only David has ever earned this honored title.

Yet, sometimes it is hard to understand what makes David a man after God’s own heart. Reading through the story of David you start out loving the guy. He seems to do everything right. But after he becomes King he stumbles. Maybe stumbles doesn’t do his sin justice. He falls hard. He makes some of the biggest, most selfish sin mistakes humanly possible.

First, he is checking out some guys wife while she takes a bath, (coveting your neighbor’s wife is a no-no according to the ten commandments (Exodus 20:17)), and then decides to sleep with her, (that breaks his second big commandment in Exodus 20:14). Then she becomes pregnant but her husband is off at war. So David knows he’s in trouble. Instead of fessing up to the already huge mistakes he has made, he decides to have the guy killed to try and cover it up, (and murder makes three of the ten broken in Exodus 20:13). You can read the entire story in 2 Samuel 11.

David broke three of the ten biggest commandments from God in one semester. Yet, God still considered David a “Man after my own heart.” How can this be? How can a man who covets, cheats and murders be a man after God’s own heart? That is what I want to discuss today. I want to look at three reasons why David is a “Man after God’s own heart” and hopefully it will help us as we pursue that same title for our own lives.

First, David is a man after God’s own heart because God choose him. God’s choosing makes us what we are. Romans 9:15-16 says “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” This is the ultimate reason why David was a “Man after God’s own heart.” Because God chose Him to be, just like He chooses you and I to be called His “sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18). This is the first and most important thing to remember.

But why is David called a “Man after God’s own heart” while others are not? Yes God chose Him as He chooses us, but there is also something about David that sets him apart. Was it David’s acts? He doesn’t like that great of a guy right?

So secondly, we need to remember that our actions are no better than David’s. It is easy for us to look at this three heinous acts of David, (and they are heinous, evil and sinful), and shake our finger at him in shame. Yet, we neglect that we too have committed those same acts. James 2:10-11 says “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder you have become a transgressor of the law.”

We seem to put extra emphasis on certain sins while we tend to water down others. It is usually the sins we struggle with that we water down while the sins we don’t seem to struggle with tend to be the ones we think are most important to keep. So if I struggle with jealousy I rationalize it as a second tier sin. But because I don’t struggle with drunkenness then that must be first tier and extra serious. God however doesn’t see sin that way. He sees all the sin we have committed in the same light. So while you maybe haven’t killed anyone or committed adultery, your actions are no better than David’s. So if we are just as bad off as David on the outside, what makes the difference between us and David?

That leads to the third, and most important difference between us and David: the heart. David’s faith and trust in God and his heart’s desire to be with God are amazing examples to us. In Psalm 19:7-10 David describes God’s law as “sweeter than honey” and “more to be desired are they than gold.” Now I don’t know about you, but I have read God’s law and don’t often feel quite the same way. Or Psalm 63:1 where David says “my soul thirsts for you” and “my flesh faints for you.”

Or, one of my favorites, when David is returning from retrieving the ark of the covenant and dancing like a madman to praise God, (remember David was supposed to be a highly respected King at this time), his wife chastises him for acting foolish and not “kingly.” This is what David says, “I will make myself even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Samuel 6:22). David didn’t care what his wife or anyone else thought about him. He cared what God thought and sought to honor, praise and glorify Him.

And this is why David is a “Man after God’s own heart.” David’s works are as evil as ours. David did not earn God’s favor by doing something, but rather God freely gave it to him as He freely gives us grace and forgiveness today. But David responded to God’s grace with a heart full of gratitude, praise and love for His Mighty Lord.

So what about you? Where is your heart at? Are you more worried about what others may think of you or about praising your Great God? Does your heart thirst for God more than gold? Do you desire Him and His Word more than water in a dry place? My hope and prayer for us all is that we can become more like David. That we can desire God so strongly that every part of our life is affected by His immense greatness. That we are so deeply in love and passionate about God that we will do anything to bring Him glory. May we all be men and women after God’s own heart.

My Work or Jesus’?

This week I am going to deal with an idea that is mainly discussed in Christian circles. But next week I am going to start a series about some very basic, logic based proofs for Christianity. Hopefully both will be helpful no matter what situation you are in.

I remember my favorite verse in high school was James 1:12. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” The thing I loved most about the verse was the idea that I would need to overcome some difficulty in order to be rewarded.

This idea taps into my maleness or “hero complex” as some have called it. Most men love to be the hero so any chance they have to overcome some adversity in order to reach a final goal or prize is always loved. Look at movies men love: Rudy, Hoosiers, Batman, James Bond, Mission Impossible, Star Wars, etc… Each movie has a hero, (or team), that is faced with a very difficult situation and by overcoming that difficulty they receive a prize, (saving the universe, getting the girl, winning the championship).

We love when our work earns us a prize. But is the overcoming spoken of in James 1:12 really my work? How can I reconcile a verse like James 1:12 with Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” How can I stand the test and receive a prize if it is not based on my work? Am I the one earning or is it a gift of God? These are tough questions and many great scholars have argued over this for years. What I want to look at is how these verses can be viewed in accord with each other rather than at odds.

To do this, we first must recognize that these are not necessarily two completely opposite arguments. God’s work for us and our work in sanctification are not mutually exclusive events. They are two things that work together to help us produce fruit or to remain steadfast under trial.

We commonly make two errors. First, many of us put too much emphasis on our work and neglect God’s work in us. This leads to a devaluing of Christ’s sacrifice for us as well as a lack of proper respect of God’s sovereignty. Romans 5:8 says “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It is Christ’s work that set us free from our sin.

Second, many of us solely focus on Christ’s work and neglect our own part in our standing steadfastly. This often can lead to stagnation or complacency, (the idea that I don’t need to work at it cause God will change me when He wants), as well as a lack of disgust with sin and our responsibility of sin. James 2:26 says “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” There is a work that is done by us as well in response to faith.

Rather then leaning too far on either side, we must see how the two ideas work together in harmony. Now there is part of this that remains a mystery, (how the sovereignty of God and man’s free will work together completely will only be fully understood in eternity), but I believe a healthy view of the two will allow us to see sanctification in a new light.

First, we must recognize that the actual act of salvation is by grace alone. God saves us. We are completely unable to respond to God until He has opened out eyes to His amazing truth. Romans 8:30 starts like this: “And those whom He predestined he also called.” You see that God’s choosing us happens before His calling us. Thus, we cannot answer God’s call until He has chosen to call us. Then we can act in response.

Second, once we have been saved by grace alone through faith alone we are given The Helper. This again, is God’s work in us, but this allows our work to soon begin. The Holy Spirit is given to those whom God calls and teaches, grows and helps us know God more. Romans 8:26 says “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Paul uses an example from prayer to illustrate that we don’t work without God’s help.

Finally, our part comes in. Now that God has saved us through grace and has given His Spirit to help us grow, we are able to do, act and grow like never before. This is why you hear stories of people who tried to quit smoking but couldn’t until they met Christ. These are people who were alcoholics and couldn’t quit until they met Christ.

Once Christ comes and makes us new (John 3:3), our work begins and coincides with His. God is working in us through the Holy Spirit and now we are able to work alongside God in our sanctification. Now we are able to stand steadfast in the face of trial. Now we are able to have works that reflect our new life in Christ.

But remember that it is God who acts first. Christ sets you free. The Holy Spirit instructs, convicts and grows us, and then you respond in kind. This way, God gets the glory so that none of us may boast before God.

I hope this short treatise on a big idea can be helpful. I know there is much more that can be said about this topic but for today’s discussion I hope the above will suffice. I do feel it is vital we get the order right so that we may give glory to God for what He has done for and in us rather than boasting in ourselves. But I also help that we will realize that as the Holy Spirit convicts and instructs we must act and grow as well. May we understand that our God saves us and that He provides the help needed in order for us to do the work He has called us to do.

Identity Crisis

Who are you? I mean more than your name, really who are you? When someone asks this questions does it ever make you stop and really think about who you really are? Well that’s my goal here today. So take a minute and think about the question: who are you?

Did anyone really stop and think for a minute? I am always curious whether people actually do that. Either way, your identity is important. Whether it is something you think about frequently or something you have never really considered, finding your identity is basically like discovering who you are and what you are here for. Those are two pretty big questions that make people lots of money who write about them. Seriously, go to a book store and look for books about discovering one’s purpose or identity and you will be amazed.

Today I wanted to talk about how we all have an identity crisis. We all, at some point, struggle with figuring out who we really are and what our purpose is. We can all sometimes seem to lose our true identity in the midst of lesser identities influencing us. So if that’s you and you are not exactly sure who you are and what you are here for then hopefully today should be helpful.

But before that we need to look at where people wrongly put their identity. The problem with discovering your true identity is that there are many counterfeits out there in the world today. And while these identities may seem legitimate they are not who you truly are.

First, your true identity is not in your race, nationality, gender or culture. Galatians 3:28 tells us “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I think many of us are proud of where we come from but this is not who we are. It is ok to be “Proud to be an American” as long as you don’t allow that to become your identity. Voting, paying taxes and cheering for America during the Olympics are all good things, but they don’t identify who you are or your ultimate purpose. They are not ultimate things.

We fail to grasp who we are when we reduce our identity down to the place we were born. This means that my brothers and sisters in Christ from another country are closer in relation to me than those who do not believe but were born in the same place. This means that while patriotism is a good thing it is not an ultimate thing. You are not ultimately American, Chinese, Japanese, etc.. You are a new creation in Christ.

Also notice that our identity is not even our gender either. Chauvinism and feminism cannot exist in the Church. We are no longer stereotypes of ourselves, (over-emotional women, hardhearted men), but are a new creation in Christ and thus must not allow our gender to ultimately define who we are.

Second, your true identity is not in your relationship to your family, friends, children or spouse. Jesus instructs us in Luke 14:26 that “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” This verse is often hard for non-believers to understand because it sounds so harsh, but when truly understood in the context of what Jesus says this becomes an important piece of teaching for us to find our ultimate identity.

Jesus is dealing with a case of mistaken identity and a common one at that. We often identify ourselves by the relationships we have. I am a son, a brother, a husband, a friend and one day a father. And each of these relationships are very important. 1 Timothy 5:8 says “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for the members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” So does this verse conflict with what Jesus said? Not at all. We are instructed to provide for our families and love is one of the things we must provide.

What Jesus is teaching us is that we cannot find our ultimate joy, purpose and identity in our families. While we need our families and need to love them, if we make them and our relationship to them our ultimate identity then we have again faltered. The problem with finding your identity in people is that people will never live up to your expectations.

So if I expect my child to be a genius and he turns our to be an idiot then I have lost my identity. How many marriages end in divorce because one spouse didn’t live up the expectations of the other spouse? Loving, nurturing and cherishing your family members are important and Biblical, but making them our ultimate purpose and identity is foolish and ultimately sinful.

Third, your true identity is not in your social status, job position, degree earned or achievements. Ephesians 2:9 says “Not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” While this verse is referring to how we obtain salvation it can also apply to this idea. We cannot boast in our own works, ability or accomplishments because they will all become rubbish on the final day.

Finding your identity in your accomplishments is a very dangerous thing because it will always lead you towards depression or arrogance. Depression because your job or degree or accomplishment isn’t as high as someone else with whom you compare yourself. Arrogance because your job, degree or accomplishment is higher than those you compare yourself with so you become proud and “puffed up”.

So where should we find our identity? In Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” (Ephesians 1:4-5).

Your true identity is only found in Him who created you. In Him who came to this earth to suffer and die for your sins. In Him who rose again and opened your eyes to His glory. When we understand our identity in light of Christ then we are able to understand who we are and our purpose here. Then we are able to live for our country, our family and our job in a way that is proper and not in conflict with our true purpose and identity.

So stop finding your identity in where you were born, who you are in relation to others or what position you have at your company. All of those things can change anytime and will never fulfill all our expectations. Rather, find your identity in Christ, the One who never changes and will always exceed every expectation we have for Him. When we find where our identity should truly be placed we can finally discover who we truly are. We are Christ’s and Christ is ours.

In Need of Thanks

I guess it is only right to write a blog post about being thankful this week. Me and every other American writer will most likely say something about being thankful. So, because I wouldn’t want to disappoint, here is my take on thankfulness.

I find it interesting that we give one holiday a year to the idea of being thankful. We obviously know the importance of being thankful because it has it’s own holiday, but it almost seems like we give it this one week each year and then sort of forget about it the rest of the year. I mean do you ever tell people what you are thankful for outside of Thanksgiving day? I know some of us do but I’d dare say most of us don’t.

And I feel like that’s a problem. So today I wanted to discuss two problems with our idea of being thankful and what we can do to adjust them during this year so we can learn to be more thankful people in 2013.

The first issue I see is that people don’t seem to know what we should be thankful for. We seem to expect so much from others that we aren’t really thankful when we get what was expected. Are any of us truly grateful for the guy working at McDonald’s who hands us our food? Or for the cashier for giving us the correct change? We may say thanks but we don’t really feel thankful because these are things that we expect to be done right.

The Bible tells us “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24). Are you thankful just for the fact that today exists? Often we are not thankful for our good health until we get sick. We aren’t thankful to our loved ones until we lose them. We aren’t thankful for our job until we get laid off. There are so many things we need to be thankful for on a daily basis, yet we often overlook them because we for some reason we expect that past performance equates with future promise.

Even worse, we aren’t very thankful to God. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1). Do you thank God for His steadfast love? “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28). Are you thankful for be allowed to enter God’s Kingdom?

If you find yourself taking these things for granted then change is needed. If you take the little blessings of life for granted then start to reflect on how great a blessing it is to have someone give you correct change, for the ability and means to order fast food, for the health you have, the family you have and the job you have. Tell them. I often hear people say “My parents know I am grateful because I show them.” This is a lazy excuse. Yes continue to show them your thankfulness but something special happens when it is vocalized. Make this a normal part of your week.

But most importantly, thank God for who He is and what He has done for you. This should be a daily part of our prayer. Don’t take His many blessings for granted or even worse, act entitled like you deserve any blessing you have received. Remember that we all deserve death and damnation and every day God grants us life and the gift of life after death in Him are things that should be truly praised. Realize what you have to be thankful for and you will be a more thankful person.

Secondly, I am not sure what you want to call it, but lets say its a combination of laziness, busyness, lack of depth in relationships, trying to act tough or cool, too self-sufficient and complacency. This is quick thanks to someone with no heart behind it. Or the desire to show gratitude but not doing so because it feels awkward or difficult to show such open emotion. Or you honestly don’t even think to thank someone because you are so caught up in your own life or your own ability to do the same task better.

The core of this problem is me. I am my own worst enemy. Instead of being grateful for what someone has done for me I often start comparing if I could have done it better, critiquing so the person can help me better next time or constantly moving onto the next task without stopping to appreciate what has just been done for me. Psalm 50:23 says “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Our problem is that we have not ordered our lives rightly. We are so enamored with ourselves that we forget that God’s greatest commandment was to love God and then love others, (Matthew 22:37-40). We are at the bottom of the list as far as who God expects us to love. Our culture tells us we must love ourselves before we can love others. That we must care for ourselves first in order to care for others. That we must be thankful to ourselves before we can be thankful to others, (independence vs. healthy dependence on others).

The problem is that this attitude, while very cultural, is not very Biblical. Rather, get your priorities straight. Love God. Love others. And then love yourself. When you mess up the order you lose your thankfulness because you feel you don’t need to be thankful or quickly move to the next thing in your life.

So may we all be more thankful this Thanksgiving but may it not stop there. Lord, help us not to allow one holiday a year to the extent of our thankfulness to you and to those who help us everyday! May we realize just how many things we should be truly thankful for. May we verbalize our thankfulness to Jesus and to those around us. And may we stop being so in love with ourselves and be grateful for the love and help the Lord has provided and the love and help those around us have provided to us. May we be a people marked by our thankfulness in the midst of an ungrateful world.