The Pride of Life is Not of the Father (1 John 2:16)
What gets people into trouble in terms of pride is that they want more than Jesus. Human nature wants Jesus plus worldly recognition and acceptance. We want Jesus plus the moniker of outwardly visible success.
The problem with a genuine biblical walk of faith with God is that there isn’t anything honorable, pure, holy, or commendable beyond Jesus. Wanting more leads to the dispute of the apostles as they journeyed toward Jerusalem as to who should be the greatest.
At that precise moment in time, the apostles possessed Jesus in the form of an intimate, accessible, physical person more than anyone has enjoyed in history. Yet they wanted more according to their fallen human natures. This character flaw had to be corrected if the new Christian church was to survive, flourish, and grow.
Paul honestly admitted that there was a part of him that “would desire to glory” (2 Cor. 12:6). In Romans 7:15-25, Paul talks about the conflict of his two natures, the one that delights in the law of God after the inward man, and the other that attempts to bring him into captivity to the law of sin in his members.
Also in Romans 12:3, Paul warns “every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”
John 7:17-18 reads “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory; but he that seeketh His glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.”
For every Christian who is serving God in some capacity, there is a daily decision or bent of the heart to seek His glory and/or our own glory. The Holy Spirit reveals to us the spiritual pride that would tempt us to take what God has provided to us in terms of wisdom and light to use for our own glory.
How do we rid ourselves of this tendency to seek recognition, attention, and acclaim for ourselves? The answer is to constantly remind ourselves to ask God to give us the strength and wisdom to “seek His glory that sent us”…to stay within the parameters of our mission as agents of the King…to stay within our calling as servant-leaders.
The context within which we live and work has a lot to do with how well we can resist the urge to dispute along the road who should be the greatest, and conversely how well we can focus instead upon being a “servant to all.” Being caught up within the center of God’s life-script mission for us provides the protective context that wards off destructive spiritual pride.
Being focused and dependent upon God’s leading…takes our eyes off ourselves.
Every person has to examine his/her own motives. When the Holy Spirit puts a person forward as a preacher, evangelist, prophet, scholar, teacher, Christian movie-maker, or writer, then God is present to provide the measure of humility that is needed. This is what He did for the apostles after they disputed who would be the greatest. The last thing that God wants is for a Christian to reach the level of being able to serve and then fall to the temptation of spiritual pride that brought down Lucifer.
Entering in at the narrow gate (Mt. 7:13-14) does not allow for Jesus plus worldly validation, acceptance, or acclaim. Our mission is to allow Jesus to glorify Himself in and through us in whatever we do. The correct spiritual equation of a walk of faith…is Jesus minus the need or desire for worldly recognition, validation, or acclaim. Unappreciated, unnoticed, thankless, humble, under-the-radar-screen service to God, when possible, is the safest spiritual place to be in Christian ministry.
Did Peter or Paul have to deal with the “advanced billing” of an exalted reputation that preceded them when they traveled to a new city to teach and preach? Of course they did. That is the reality of human nature. The secular city at large may not have heard of Peter or Paul, but the local Christian church looked forward with anticipation and “pride” that a great apostle (someone who had personally seen and heard Jesus Christ) was coming to speak to them.
Paul tells us how he stayed focused with the correct attitude. He told the Corinthians: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
Paul told the Galatians: “But God forbid that I should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).
Paul actually says in 1 Corinthians 4:9 that God “hath set forth us, the apostles, last”…in order to establish and maintain a humble context for evangelical outreach…starting with the apostles at the bottom floor of the social scale…allowing for the broadest possible sweep of lost sinners into the kingdom of God.
Nearly every Christian at some time or another has heard the phrase or the concept “empty vessel for God’s use,” meaning that a person has been prepared by God for some type of ministry or service.
But the question can be asked, empty of what? The answer is empty of all of the things that prevent a person from being able to be used effectively by God…such as pride, self-will, arrogance, haughtiness, fear, self-centeredness, impatience, being judgmental, racial prejudice, social prejudice, personal ambition, and many similar things.
All of these attitudes in some measure or another hold back people from being filled with the Holy Spirit power and anointing to minister the gospel to other people.
The Christian disciple who is empty of self and open to service, has stepped off of the throne of their heart and allowed Jesus Christ to take His rightful place there as God.
Like a small child (Mt. 18:2), the Christian who is walking in faith and loving service to others is oblivious to the concepts of self-glorification and personal ambition. For the Christian disciple who has an empty vessel open to God for service, the Holy Spirit can prepare ahead of time people in need of ministry and bring them across our path for salvation, healing, deliverance, or encouragement. This is the formula that produces eternally beneficial results.
God knows our spiritual capacity. God knows the needs of people in our immediate, physical vicinity. The Holy Spirit can bring the two together.
Our part is to be “prayed up,” live the quality of life that can produce the words of Life when called upon, to be willing and open to be used by God, and to give God the credit and the glory when we see positive results. This approach works for the most average of Christian disciples and for the greatest apostles like Philip, John, Paul, and Peter.
The way to greater power and anointing under the Holy Spirit, like that displayed in the lives of the first century apostles and disciples, is through the humility illustrated by Jesus when he placed the child in the midst of the apostles. The way to real spiritual power is not through succumbing to the temptation to become “somebody” in the Christian world, thereby mimicking what occurs in the conventional outside world.
The spirit and attitude of the Christian is supposed to be the opposite of the spirit of this world. The most prepared person for God’s use is not “full” of themselves, but “empty” of themselves. The greatest among us are supposed to be the least in terms of haughtiness and worldly pride. The chiefest is supposed to be servant of all. The person who is truly walking in the Spirit is devoid of self-awareness and self-recognition.
Even experienced, mature, and savvy Christians walk a fine line in this area. As God transforms us into sons and daughters of light, we always have to recognize our need for God. The proud and arrogant cannot do this.
That is why the process of salvation begins with humility and repentance, and continues that way as long as we draw breath on this earth.