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.

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.

Mind Your Mind

I wanted to share some quick thoughts about an area of our lives we disregard quite foolishly most of the time: our minds. I say that we disregard our mind because we do very little in our daily lives to guard it from the attacks of Satan.

It is like we are at war. Our mind in the headquarters where all the important directives are sent out from. If the enemy knows the location of our stronghold he will stop at nothing to destroy it. So in war, the headquarters is well guarded and protected from the enemy. Satan is our enemy and he knows the location of our headquarters. He knows our weak spots and how to attack and how to exploit them.

So if the enemy knows where to attack, shouldn’t we be prepared and have extra defense at that location? Here is our problem and this is why I say we disregard our minds. We basically allow Satan a free pass to tempt us. Sometimes, we even bring the temptation upon ourselves.

I want to suggest two fairly easy and practical ways in which you can guard your mind. If you are struggling with any particular sin, (and we all are), I believe this is often where that temptation first takes root. So hopefully these suggestions will help, with the guidance and grace of the Holy Spirit, combat sin struggles in your life.

The first is guard what comes into your mind. The White House does not just allow anyone to walk in and talk with the President. They tightly guard and control who enters so that the President remains safe. We can do the exact same thing with our minds. Psalm 101:3 says “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.”

I had a basketball coach in college who always told us to guard our “eargates and eyegates.” I always thought it was a strange thing to say, but as I have grown and matured I now see the incredible advise in these words. What we allow into our eyes and ears directly affects our mind. So if I am listening to music that degrades women and watching movies that show improper relationships then my mind will start to fall for the temptation and sin of lust. If I listen to people always being rude and watch TV shows where rudeness is celebrated then I will most likely treat others poorly.

We are foolish to think that what we watch and listen to on a daily basis does not directly affect our sin struggles. It is most likely that whatever sin you are struggling with can be traced back to what you are allowing into your “eargates and eyegates.”

So my first suggestion is to guard these valuable gates to your mind. Don’t watch movies that put bad thoughts in your head. Don’t listen to music with constant negative overtones. Don’t always hang around people who are rude, condescending or mean. Don’t watch shows which portray selfishness as freedom, (which is pretty much everything shown on American television these days). Figure out what sin you struggle with, (that shouldn’t be too hard, you probably already know what sin you struggle with but if not ask a close friend), and try to figure out what things cause that sin to be more difficult to fight. My guess is it will relate to what you are letting in your ears or eyes. So guard your gates!

Second, allow the right things in. While the White House doesn’t allow everyone in, they do allow the right people in. We cannot just try to block out everything, but rather allow the right things into our minds. Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Instead of filling your mind with garbage, (TV, movies, negative people and music), why not fill your mind with what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable and excellent? If we put garbage in, garbage will come out. If we put excellent in then excellent will come out. Fill your mind with good things.

What are these good things? Read your Bible. Memorize verses. Listen to Christian music. Hang around uplifting and encouraging people. I can tell the difference in my attitude when I have been listening to secular music and when I have been listening to Christian music. Secular music focuses on self, Christian music focuses on God. So when I only listen to secular music I tend to focus more on myself, (selfishness), but when I listen to Christian music I tend to focus more on God. Psalm 119:9 teaches us “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word.”

You can never put too much Bible or God in your brain. He is inexhaustible. The more you learn and grow the more you want. And as we fill our brains with the things of God our lives are transformed. Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” As we dwell on the things of God, our mind is transformed and we are actually able to discern God’s will. That is amazing!

I hope these two quick, practical steps will help you as you learn to guard a valuable place at the front of our spiritual warfare. May we not be so foolish as to think we need not protect our headquarters. Instead, may we build in practices of keeping the temptations out and allowing the heavenly in. May we stop feeling helpless in our fight against sin, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, fight the battle of our minds so that what we take in and what comes out may glorify our Father who is in Heaven.

The Gift or the Giver

I know they say it is better to give then to receive, but sometimes I find that hard to believe. I mean I do really like giving gifts, (ask my wife who got some flowers today), but I really, really like getting gifts. I still love it when I get any kind of gift, even a free toy in my cereal. Christmas and birthday’s are always some of my favorite times of the year because I know gifts will be coming my way.

Now some of you may think I am just ridiculously selfish, (which I am, as we all truly are) while others may completely identify with my statements. Regardless, I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t like a gift. Yes maybe they like a word of encouragement or some quality time together more, but I believe most if not all people still like it when they get a really good gift.

The hope is that the gift is more of a symbol that represents the relationship between me and the giver. Thus, my gratitude, focus and love should go to the giver of my great gift. However, oftentimes I am so enamored with the gift I neglect the giver. I get so caught up in what a great gift it is I forget the whole purpose of the gift in the first place: for the giver to show love and appreciation to me.

And sadly, many of us do this with our Greatest Gift Giver, Jesus Christ. Jesus has given us the greatest gifts ever imagined. Creation, salvation, eternal life and every other good thing that exists are all amazing gifts from God. And while these gifts are truly amazing and great, they are still gifts. They should not be an end of our love and appreciation but rather a means to greater love and appreciation for God.

So today I want to discuss two ways we can shift our love, appreciation and focus from the great gifts Jesus gives to the Great Gift Giver Himself.

The first thing that has helped me is to better understand the gift and it’s purpose. Why does God save? Why does God create and give us such amazing things? At many places throughout the Bible, (Isaiah 48:9 and Ezekiel 20:9 to name a couple), God acts or chooses not to act “for His Name’s sake.” Psalm 106:8 says “Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.” The verse is in reference to not destroying, but rather saving the Jews after they were rebellious.

Just like He has forgiven us when we were rebellious. God didn’t save us because He really thought we were cool or He needed us on His team or because we deserved to be saved. He saved us for His name’s sake. He gave us the amazing gift of salvation, (and all other gifts He has given), to bring glory, honor and praise to His name. Now I know some of you think this is selfish and if I did it it would be. But for God to do things ultimately for God’s name isn’t selfish, it’s Godly. Because if God gave us gifts for any other purpose than the glory of His name then that thing would be God. If God gave gifts because He had to love, then love would be God. If God did it because it was his duty to save, then duty would be God.

So as you marvel at the amazing gifts of God’s creation, salvation and eternal life, (because these gifts should be marveled at: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8), remember that the purpose of these gifts is His name because He who gives the gifts is much greater than the gifts themselves.

Secondly, I must learn to choose and desire the giver over the gift. For example, would you still want your husband or wife if they never gave you a gift? Would you still want your parents if they showed you deep love yet never gave you a gift? Praise God they do give gifts and praise God that He does as well.

But I always like to ask this question: Would you still love, follow and serve God even if it didn’t mean eternal life? Would you love and follow God just because He is God? Because He is so lovely and perfect that loving Him is a natural result? That can be a tough question to answer and praise God that He does give good gifts that reflect His perfect personality.

The point I wish to make though is what do you really love, God or His Gifts? This is why we study our Bible and pray frequently. These things teach us and help us understand the Great Gift Giver so that we love and desire Him more. This way, the gifts become a means to greater love and joy in Him rather than an end to our love in themselves.

So for example, I continue to learn to grow and appreciate my wife more. As I do so, and she blesses me with any kind of gift, the gift in turn causes me to desire, love and appreciate her more. This is where the prosperity Gospel got off track. They believe that loving God is a greater means to the end of greater gifts rather than the gifts being a greater means to the end of loving God more.

This is an important distinction because any good gift can become an idol. God has given us the amazing gifts of comfort, convenience and pleasure. However, when we start to see the gifts as an end in themselves rather than a means to praise, honor and glorify God, then we have broken Exodus 20:3-5 where we are told to “have no God’s before God.” How sad when we focus so much on the gifts of God we neglect the Giver!

So my hope, prayer and challenge this week to us all is to look at each and every amazing gift God has given you, (you can even Count Your Blessings and name them one-be-one if you want), and understand why God has given them to you. Look at each deeply and understand He provided you with these things for His Name. Also, may we all learn to use God’s gifts as a means to better worship, glorify and praise Him rather than using the gifts as an end in themselves. May we love our Great Gift Giver not just the gifts He has given. May His gifts bring us to love and worship Him more.

Antiques

This summer my beautiful wife and I walked around an antique store. The store was massive with hundreds or maybe even thousands of items from decades long ago. And what struck me as I was looking at all these amazing relics of the past was that at some point in time, someone had worked very hard to make enough money to buy these beautiful objects. Maybe they had worked overtime just to make enough money for their family to enjoy such an object. And years later here it was, in an antique store.

So my question for each of us today is: what are you working for? It’s a question deeper than just the love of money but rather what is the reason you work and earn a salary? Why do you have a job and for what purpose do you work hard? Today I’d like to discuss two wrong motivations and two right motivations for our hard work.

The first wrong motivation is to put all your hard work and dedication into something that is temporal. When I say temporal I mean something that will not last or will fade with time. Solomon has the same thing to say in Ecclesiastes 2:18-26. Here he basically realizes that for him to work hard to earn nice things and money only to have those nice things and money go to a “fool” when he dies is a waste. Why should he, or we for that matter, work our whole lives only to earn some stuff that will end up in an antique store one day?

This usually plays out in one of two ways. For men, this will be electronics, tools, cars, or something else that he is interested in. While owning stuff isn’t a sin it can become one when we make that thing our pursuit and it becomes an idol and we end up working our lives to gain future garage sale items. For women, this usually plays out in purchasing things for your appearance. Clothes, shoes, purses all end up at Goodwill eventually.

And this even translates into how much emphasis you put into your physical beauty. While I do appreciate that my wife does wear makeup and does look nice for me I never want her to invest all her time, money and energy into trying to stay young a beautiful because that would be focusing on a temporal thing. I once had a student tell me her biggest goal in life was to always look young and beautiful. I told her a story I once heard of a wise man who picked up a pile of dirt and said, “this was once the most beautiful woman in the world.” This student had the wrong motivation.

Now before any of you accuse me of being irresponsible with my savings let me make a note. I do believe that each of us should have a job and earn money based on the gifts God has given us, (Paul is a great example of this in Acts 18:3). We also are to save accordingly for the future and to provide necessary, (key word here is NECESSARY), things for our family, (1 Timothy 5:8). But we cannot use these things, (being responsible with my money, saving, etc…), as a crutch or an excuse to use our money primarily for temporal things.

The opposite of working for the temporal is the good motivation for our hard work and dedication. This is working for the everlasting. Notice that no product or vacation is everlasting, (and memories don’t count cause they die when you do). That means for us, our ultimate goal is not something but rather some purpose. Jesus says it clearly in Matthew 6:19-20. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Making your life about stuff only adds worry. You are worried your stuff, (your car, house or the stuff in it), might break, get stolen or get lost. And if your purpose is tied to your possessions you only end up brokenhearted when they inevitably fade. But Jesus offers us the chance to spend our time, money and energy on something greater. These “heavenly treasures” he speaks of are our chance to use our resources to reach out to those around us with the Gospel of Jesus. Use your house as a place to invite people to study God’s Word. Use your car to drive people to Church. Use your money to fly overseas and hand out Bibles and clean water to those who have neither.

When we choose to invest in the eternal rather than the temporal we find joy not in our possessions but rather in how they can be used to bring glory to God. This leads to the second wrong motivation for why we work, and that is to purchase unnecessary wants that end with us. What I mean is when we spend our resources just trying to gain other resources to make our lives greater or more comfortable we have missed the mark.

Rather, a healthy motivation is to use our hard work and resources to gain other resources that can spread to others. It is basically multiplication versus addition. And if you are older than 3, you know that multiplication will always yield the greater result. When we work hard just to gain stuff to add to our collection we only do addition. But when we work hard to use our resources on others we see multiplication. This is because we cannot serve two masters as Jesus says in Matthew 6:24. We either will serve Jesus and thus use our resources to multiple His glory or we will serve Mammon, (or money, possessions, etc…), to attempt to add to our stockpile of goods.

I saw a great example of this firsthand when I was in college. I went to a Christian conference with a group of men from my Church. I was the youngest guy there and as a college student, didn’t have a lot of extra income to spend. I had a job though and felt I was able to afford anything on the trip that was needed. The night before the conference we went out to dinner and a man from our Church named Dennis offered to pay for my meal. I told him I had a job and could afford it and that he didn’t need to do that. But he insisted and said, “When I was younger an older man at Church did this for me, so now I am doing it for you. And one day, you will do it for others.”

And since then I have had the chance to do the same thing for others. Dennis could have saved his money and bought something nice for his house with it. He could have just put the money in the bank or towards a nice vacation. But rather he decided to use his money that he had worked hard for to take care of someone and his influence was multiplied.

So my hope is that we don’t spend our short time on earth chasing after future antiques. And that we don’t spend our limited time just gaining things that only add up when we have the chance to use our resources to multiply God’s Kingdom. So may we rightly understand why we work and use our resources for the eternal. May we always seek to multiply our resources by using them on others rather than just adding to our stuff collection. And may we do it all for the glory, honor and praise of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Introduction to Moralistic Deism

Moralistic Deism: a term many of us have never heard before. I first heard this term listening to a sermon by Matt Chandler where he introduced it to explain how many professing Christians may actually not be Christians. He uses the term quite frequently and rightly so. And while many of us maybe haven’t seen this term before, it does accurately describe many of our belief system. While many of us claim to be Christian, we are merely Moralistic Deists. So today I thought I would introduce this term to those who have never seen it before.

So what exactly is Moralistic Deism? Well by taking it apart we see that it is focused on morality, (Moralistic), and also focused on the belief in a God, (Deism). So in it’s most base form, Moralistic Deism is a belief in God and the accompanying good words or good morality that follows such a belief. If you are good and you believe in God, this may be you. Sounds a lot like Christianity right?

And this is the extreme danger found in Moralistic Deism. It sounds so close to Christianity that many fall for the false promises it makes. I mean, when we hear about a cult or some other false belief we can easily brush it aside. But Moralistic Deism’s danger lies in its subtle differences. And that is what I want to warn us all about today. Just because you believe in Jesus and are a good person does not make you a Christian. It does make you a Moralistic Deist, but that is not Biblical nor able to save you from sin. There are three primary ways Christianity and Moralistic Deism differ.

But before we look at those, please don’t assume you are Christian and that this Moralistic Deism is talking about your friends or those other people. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Notice he doesn’t say test your neighbor or the other people at Church but rather “test yourselves.” So as we walk through these three differences, I encourage us all to test yourselves.

The first and primary difference between Christianity and Moralistic Deism is Jesus. Moralistic Deism loves Jesus and wants Him to forgive us, but doesn’t really rely or depend on Him for their lives. Being a Christian is not just about knowing facts. James tells us in James 2:19 “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe- and shudder!” Believing that Jesus actually died and rose again is only half the answer. The problem is that this knowledge is often where Moralistic Deists stop.

The second part of having a knowledge about who Jesus is is applying it to your life. The demons know Jesus is God, but do they want to serve, love, honor, glorify and praise Him? Do they call Him Lord? A number of verses, (Romans 10:9-10, 1 Corinthians 12:3, Philippians 2:11, etc..), emphasize confessing Jesus as “Lord.” I once heard a British Pastor talk about how Americans have really lost this idea of Lord because we don’t have anything like a Lord in our culture.

But basically Lord means ruler or king. So when we follow Jesus we not only know that He died and rose but we also confess that He is Lord of the universe and of our own personal lives. Moralistic Deists treat Jesus like a Genie rather than Lord of their lives. Is Jesus Lord of your life? Do you want Him to be in control and be the reason you live? Or do you just want Him to help you in those areas you can’t seem to help yourself?

This leads to the second difference between Christianity and Moralistic Deism and it’s one that has been a struggle for Christians ever since Jesus left the earth. It is this idea of grace vs. works. Paul spends most of the New Testament preaching against works based salvation, yet we still want to save ourselves. I’ll pick one verse, (there are many), where Paul tries to show grace through faith is what it means to be a Christian, not works based salvation. Galatians 2:16 says, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

Christians and Moralistic Deists both strive to be good people. Christians are motivated by love and do good in reaction to the good already done them by Jesus. They do good works naturally out of the goodness of their transformed heart, (Luke 6:43-45), and when they make fleshly errors they run TO Jesus in confession and repentance. Moralistic Deists are motivated our of fear and do good to try and earn God’s favor. They claim to have been forgiven by Jesus but seem to neglect Him by trying to earn what HE has already done for them. When Moralistic Deists make fleshly sins they tend to run FROM or hide from Jesus. They feel ashamed and instead of going to Him who alone can forgive and heal they run and try to fix it or deal with the problem themselves.

Do you do good works because you know Jesus and want to bring glory to His name? Or do you want to earn some kind of cosmic reward? When you mess up do you fall on your knees before Jesus and ask Him to restore and heal you? Or do you stay away from Jesus until you can fix yourself and can come back to Him looking good?

The third difference is where we put our focus and hope. Christians are Christ focused while Moralistic Deists tend to be self-focused. Christians realize Jesus is Lord and that He alone can save us from ourselves. Moralistic Deists like Jesus and find Him useful, but ultimately depend on themselves to save.

An example of this is in prayer. A Christian prays “your kingdom come your will be done” and “not as I will but as You will.” (Matthew 6:10 and 26:39). The heart of a Christian’s prayer is centered on God and His glory. Yes we still ask for “our daily bread” and other needs, but our ultimate focus is on His will. A Moralistic Deist tends to pray only for needs that they can’t do themselves. Miracles, healings or anything else they can’t fix themselves. But if they know the answer or how to solve the problem they rarely go to God, (Numbers 14:39-45).

Do you pray and rely on Jesus to save and forgive? Or are you self-focused and pray only for that which you cannot do for yourself? Do you see your life as a means to bring glory and honor to God? Or do you see your life as a means to bring glory and honor to yourself?

I pray that each of us would examine ourselves this week. I pray we would ask these questions and seek to find whether or not we can truly call ourselves Christians. Many use the word but some use it wrongly. May we not be those who thought we were Christians yet our Lord says He never knew us, (Matthew 25: 31-46). May we not just be Moralistic Deists who do good and believe in Jesus but rather be Christians who do good because they know Jesus is the universe’s and their personal Lord and Savior. May Jesus be our all-in-all and the reason we breathe.

Everything to Everyone

I remember when I was growing up I used to listen to a song called “Everything to Everyone” by Everclear. It’s not a Christian song but it did make me think how we are so prone to do just what the song describes. In the song they use terms like “jump through the hoop” and “play all the right games.” Doesn’t that sound like us and our relationships? And so today I wanted to talk about the right way to be “Everything to Everyone”, (yes there is a right way!) and the wrong and sinful way.

We’ll start with the sinful way because I feel like this is where most of us are. Being “Everything to Everyone” can look different for each of us. Maybe you are a people pleaser. You will do whatever it takes to make those around you happy, even if it isn’t Gospel-centered. Or maybe you’re a yes man. Even if someone is wrong you’ll always say yes or agree to keep them happy.

And what about those chameleons? You are a completely different person depending on what group you are in. I find this one especially prevalent in youth groups and among Christian University students today. You put on your “Christian” colors when at youth group but then change out of those and put on your “jock” colors with the athletes or your “stylish” colors with the beautiful people. We change our appearances in order to please others and be accepted by them.

Even Peter struggled with this. “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14). For those that don’t know, Cephas is Peter in Aramaic.

We all struggle with people pleasing, being a yes man or acting like a chameleon sometimes. But those are only symptoms. The true sin inside of us is much deeper than just these symptoms. They allow us to see what sin we are struggling with but in order to overcome these sins we need to get at the root of them. You can’t just take the top off of a weed and hope it doesn’t come back. You have to dig the root out.

The root causes of trying to be “Everything to Everyone” are numerous. But I believe most, (if not all) boil down to two main roots: fear and vanity. Even these two are closely related and sometimes the line between them can be a bit blurry, but for the sake of our argument let’s say they are different.

Fear tends to cause us to people please because we are terrified that we aren’t good enough to be accepted just as we are. So we act in a way we would never normally act in order to be approved. People who operate out of fear tend to follow the stronger personalities in the group and don’t really want to be alone. Rejection, loneliness and depression are other common symptoms that go along with fear.

The sin here is that you are putting your worth and value in others opinions of you rather than Christ’s. When we seek the approval of man we forget that the only approval that really matters is that of God in Jesus Christ. Paul tells us “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10).

Or some of us people please out of vanity. We already think we are amazing, (I know you’d never say it out loud), and want others to share in our praise of ourselves. We want to make everyone happy so they will in turn make us happy by telling or showing us how great we are. This attitude feeds our ego’s and thus we crave more praise. And while this can also be fear based I put it in it’s own category because I feel like there is a possibility that the motivation for this type of vanity is in vanity itself.

Our world has become consumed with self-love. Many people believe that you can’t truly love others until you love yourself. This idea has snowballed into billions of dollars spent on marketing the idea that we need to love ourselves first. People don’t buy BMW’s because they really love their neighbor. And so we people please and change our colors to feed into our ever increasing desire for self-love. The Bible, however, isn’t very interested in self-love. Read Matthew 22:34-40. Notice self love doesn’t even make the list. So basically in Jesus’ view our love should look like this: 1. God. 2. Every other person on the planet. 3. Last and in this case least, ourselves. Bet you won’t see that in any marketing campaign anytime soon.

So whether it is fear or vanity based, this “Everything to Everyone” approach is sinful and needs to stop. I know that is easier said than done, but I think the answer comes by looking at the Biblical way to be “Everything to Everyone.” In 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 Paul sums up why he tries to be “Everything to Everyone.” “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

And this is how we are set free from our sinful people pleasing. Rather than trying to be “Everything to Everyone” out of fear or self-love we try to be “Everything to Everyone” for “the sake of the Gospel.” This doesn’t mean Paul was a Christian with some people and cursed like a sailor with others. It means that no matter what group of people Paul was with he would treat them and act around them with the goal to “save some.”

Which is where I want to leave you all this week. Stop living in fear that others will reject you if they only knew the real you. Stop loving yourself as much as the world tells you you need to. Rather love God and love others. Be willing to adapt to those you’re around not like a chameleon but rather as a respectful and loving ambassador of Christ. And remember the motivation is always to see God glorified and to see more share in the blessings of the Gospel. May we all be set free to live in such a way this week.

Self-Reliance: One Reason you don’t Desire God

Being brought up in a culture like America teaches you many useful tools. One such tool Americans try to instil in their children is the idea of self-reliance. And at face value this seems like a virtuous quality to pass on because it teaches people to give back to others and society rather than take. However, at it’s core, self-reliance starts to erode our relationships and most importantly decreases our desire for God.

And so this week I wanted to unpack how exactly self-reliance tears us away from our souls true desire and leads us into a place where we feel like we don’t need God or where we feel like we are stuck in a pattern of sin. So I want to look at two ways self-reliance plays out in our lives and then discuss what we can do to deal with this epidemic.

First, self-reliance most clearly rears it’s ugly head in our self-righteousness. For the non-Christian this is the idea that because I am a “good” person I have no need for a Savior. Many non-Christians feel like they do not need Jesus to save them because they don’t need saving. Yes they aren’t perfect, but most try to make the good outweigh the bad and thus deem themselves “good” or at least not “evil.” (I like to use the term evil to describe all mankind, not just non-Christians. I feel as though most people would not consider themselves evil even though the Bible tells us otherwise, (Genesis 6:5)).

For the Christian, the self-righteousness disease is also fairly plain to see. While the non-Christian will outright deny their need for God, the Christian does so in a much more subtle manner. Again, the Christian depends on their good works to outweigh their sin but they do so seeking approval from God. So when a Christian has had a good day he feels good about his works and when he has sinned he feels shameful. However, often we feel these emotions not because we have honored or dishonored God, (which are good reasons to feel pride or shame in your accomplishments), but rather because we either earned or lost favor with God. This is exactly how the Pharisees viewed their works: as a means to earn something from God and thus be rewarded. (Matthew 23).

The natural results for the Christian and non-Christian practicing self-righteousness are the same. Acceptance of your own sin, (you start to excuse your own sin because you don’t want to be too hard on yourself if you are your own judge), judgment of others sins, (you become very impatient with others because they don’t match up with the standard of righteousness you have set), and ultimately a lack of desire for God, (if you are self-righteous you either don’t need God because you meet your own standard or despise God because you can’t earn his approval).

Secondly, self-reliance leads to less dependance on others which in turn erodes relationships. Don’t we love movies where the one guy is able to beat an entire group? Don’t we like the idea of a lone wolf who is able to conquer impossible odds? We even had a show called “Lone Ranger!” (I find it funny that even the Lone Ranger had a partner). Our culture, which preaches self-reliance so heavily, has in essence brain washed us into thinking we need to handle our own problems and overcome obstacles by ourselves. We have even started to view others as weak or needy if they ask for help.

This stands in stark contrast to what the Bible has to say. Genesis 2:18 says, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Ecclesiastes 4:8-12 basically laments for those who have no one to work with or help them. Acts 3:32-37 describes the early Church and the importance of them being together. And also Hebrews 10:25 teaches us “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Self-reliance, although useful in a small dose, has taken over the way we think. And now because of it we are left with shallow relationships, unable or unwilling to break our sinful habits and most depressing, lacking a need, desire and thirst for God. So what can we do?

Well first and foremost we need to repent. Frequently repent. So many of us deny having this problem yet wonder why our relationships, desire for God or sinful patterns remain unchanged. The first step in solving a problem is to admit you have one. I encourage us all to DAILY repent of this sin. Jesus was talking about the Pharisees but this same verse can also apply to us who feel no need to repent of our sin of self-reliance. “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:15).

Secondly we need to open up with others. We need to be willing to share our shortcoming with others so that we remain humble. When we only share the good with others we often start to believe only the good we hear. Also, we need to stop using a high standard for others and a low standard for ourselves. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:2 that “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” A good rule of thumb is to view others as Jesus views you, with grace. This helps to remind you that Jesus has been so graceful with you so you can be graceful with others. And rather than that low standard we use for ourselves, (often from comparing ourselves to people who sin more than we do), start comparing yourself with Jesus and you will see just how short you fall from the mark.

Finally, we need to meditate more on grace. I really feel like we don’t spend enough time dwelling on the grace of God. Self-righteousness and works based salvation makes sense to our sin-stained hearts. Grace is heavenly. Thus we have a hard time grasping it and soon fall back into self-reliance. Spend some time this week reading and meditating over God’s grace. Some good verses to check out are 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Ephesians 2:8-9. Take some time to study and pray over these verses so that you can better understand what grace really means.

So I hope we can all forsake self-reliance and self-righteousness in exchange for the amazing grace only offered through the blood of Christ. I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes, (which if you have been reading my blog for a while you probably remember it), from a man named Jim Elliot who lost his life trying to evangelize an unreached tribe in Ecuador. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Atheism: A Logical Means for Greater Self-Indulgence

I don’t really write about atheism, but as I was getting into bed last night I felt urged to say something. I had been looking on Facebook and had seen some people who just a few years before claimed to be Christian but were now quite outspoken on the opposite side. Somewhere, in the past 4 years, these people had decided that atheism, (the belief that there is no God), was right for them.

And as I crawled into bed I pondered why these people had gone the way they had gone. Why had they gone to atheism when Christianity was set right before them? I know that the road is narrow and thus hard to travel, (Matthew 7:13-14), yet it’s still sometimes hard to think why people would change like this.

And while many atheists try to argue for the scientific, (although I believe Christianity is the only belief, including atheism, that makes sense based on the most current scientific findings) or truth, (which I find odd that atheists try to claim there is no objective truth yet make statements that they claim are objectively true), aspect to their belief, I honestly believe there is much more going on philosophically than anything else. And that is what I want to discuss today and the implications for all of us.

And so my bedtime musings led me to this conclusion: Atheism is the most logical means for the greatest amount of self-indulgence. Let me explain what I mean by this and give some implications about this statement.

First, I think it is obvious that people would choose atheism because it removes responsibility. Think about it. If there is no God, we have no one to answer to. If I have no one to answer to, I can do whatever I want! Now many atheists don’t do whatever they want because they wish to live within certain societal constructs and laws. But, it still makes themselves their highest moral standard to which they must live up to. They claim morality, like truth, is subjectively based on an individuals choice rather that some objective standard, (like the Bible for Christians).

The implications of this way of thinking are massive. I can do what I want as long as I stay within the law of the land. Yet, many see this as a means to create a new, better law of the land. These men have names like Hitler, Stalin and Jong-Il just to name a few. The greatest wars, atrocities and mass murders were committed by men who claimed there is no God, not by religious turmoil. When people have no higher power to answer to, they are free to do as they see right, even if that hurts, destroys or murders millions.

Or those who choose to stay within the law still find an outlet for their desire for sin. Extramarital affairs, abortion, drunkenness, lying and divorce are all legal and are now common things for everyday Americans. Sadly some of these have crept into the Church. I will talk about that later, but when you don’t believe in God you have no higher standard than yourself. If you are your own highest standard it’s leads to a devaluation of any sort of responsibility.

Second, atheism creates a “me” centered universe. While Christians see the universe centered around our Lord, atheists are forced to place their focus elsewhere. Some atheists place their universe onto a cause, (which is why there are so many politically outspoken atheists), while others to a vocation, (which is why many atheists fill high positions, because they devote their entire life to their work). Yet, I would argue that most atheists, (based on human nature), devote their lives to their own greatest gain, (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness anyone?). I haven’t heard of many atheists who have had 50-60 years of happy marriage, it’s just not something a “me” centered person would devote their life to.

The implications created by this are also far reaching. We start to devalue human life and treat others needs and wants under our own. Things like abortion, sex/slave trafficking, lying, cheating and anything else you please becomes a reality. And while many atheists have joined the fight for human rights, they do so because of their belief in equality but not in the actual value of life, (otherwise there would be more atheists against abortion). Human rights can’t exist without a God who makes those lives valuable. All of the above things were started by people who have no fear of God.

And so what does this mean for those of us who call Christ our Lord? Well my warning to you is to be cautious not to let cultural thinking transform you. Christians in America are so shaped by our politically correct system that we often let go of objective Bible truth for freedom of choice. And while freedom is an amazing thing (Galatians 5:1), out ultimate pursuit must be after God. We pursue human rights and equality for God’s glory, honor and praise. We pursue the stopping of murdering innocent lives through genocide and abortion for God’s glory, honor and praise. We stop those who traffic humans because of who God is.

Secondly, Christians I hope this will give you hope in engaging the atheists around you. I know sometimes I personally don’t even bother to try and share because I feel like they will only treat me poorly for my heartfelt attempt to share with them. Instead of trying to get in an argument and “win” them by shouting over them, why don’t we try and win them with love? “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21).

Finally, to my Christian brothers and sisters but also to those who call themselves atheist I say the same thing. You do the things mentioned above, (abortion, affairs, lying, cheating), because you are a slave to sin (Romans 6:16-17). Your nature is to sin (Romans 3:23). So even the good you try to do will be tainted with sin, (those who stand for a good cause who do so for their own glory or gain or for equality), because you are forgetting the true reason to do it. Rather, we must choose to be a slave to righteousness which only comes through the blood of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:18).

I want to end with 3 things. First, a quote by avowed atheist Sam Harris. While he is talking about Christians, his thoughts are mine about atheists. “Let me assure you that my intent is not to offend or merely be provocative. I’m simply worried.” Second, a link to a book attacking some of the modern atheist way of thinking. It’s a free download so check it out: http://photo.goodreads.com/documents/1241093826books/1142464.pdf. Third, a prayer. May we all, Christian and atheist alike, learn that there is a God and our ultimate purpose is to honor, serve and know Him. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.