Hey, 7:15 service! How are you doing? Good! Hey, my name is Adam Griffin. I’m one of your pastors here at this campus. Man, I love being one of your pastors here at this campus. It’s a delight. Hey, just to get things out of the way, I’ve been doing public speaking for a long time, maybe a little bit more than a decade, and I don’t normally get nervous, but today I have been a little bit nervous.
I’m not nervous anymore. It’s the 7:15 service. I mean, what matters anymore, right? I’m going to just do whatever I want. It’s the end of the day. I’ve done this like 17 times today. Let’s just crank it out. But man, I was nervous before today. I’ll tell you I think a lot of people assume I was nervous because the guy who normally preaches is okay. He’s all right. You know, when you fill in for a guy like Matt Chandler who you know is taller, better looking, funnier, more spiritual, really knows his Bible, and all of those things, it’s a little intimidating.
It’s fine. I know as soon as I get up front, there’s a group in the crowd that’s like, “Oh. Who’s this chubby bald guy who thinks he has wisdom for us? I’m used to the best.” I know that happens, but that’s not why I’m nervous. That’s not why I’m nervous. I think maybe you assume I’m nervous, if you know what I know, that there’s a guy who records everything I say all day today up there in the booth, and he is just waiting for me to make a mistake so he has it recorded so he can play it back for me for the rest of my life. That might make a person nervous, but no, that’s not why I’m nervous.
Honestly, the reason that I got nervous about preparing for today is… Remember, we’re starting this series where we’re walking through the Proverbs, and I chose to talk about humility. I chose to talk about pride, so as I began to study and get ready for today and get ready for preaching today, I listened to some other people’s stuff. Tim Keller once gave a sermon called “Blessed Self-Forgetfulness,” and I listened to that sermon. A friend sent it to me, and I was literally blown away.
It was fantastic, and as I was listening to it, I was like, “Man, people don’t need to hear me. They need to hear this Tim Keller podcast. Man, I’ll just sit down. We’ll just play it. We’ll just listen to that, and that’s profound. That would be awesome. In that podcast he refers to C.S. Lewis’s chapter in Mere Christianity about pride, about the greatest sin, so I went and read that whole chapter, and I was like, “Man!” If I had any hair, it would have blown back. It was just awesome. It was fantastic.
I thought, “Man, this is what people need. They don’t need me to try to expound on this. They need me to do a public reading of C.S. Lewis’s chapter and just sit on that.” Then in that, I started thinking, “Man, what am I even thinking? This is the Word of God. I’m going to stand up in front of people and try to tell them what the Word of God says? Who am I to say this? I mean, who am I to say, ‘Hey, you’re used to hearing Matt Chandler, who’s incredibly gifted’?”
I thought, “Who am I to say, ‘Hey, there are guys like Tim Keller who have already preached on this, who will do it much better than I could,’ or, ‘C.S. Lewis, who is a much better author than I’ll ever be, has already written a chapter on this,’ or, ‘You already have the Bible. You don’t need me to get up here’?”
I started to just build up this anxiousness inside of myself, like, “Who am I? Who am I to do this?” In that, God revealed to me something I want to share with you. As I was preparing to teach on pride, I was walking in this anxious insecurity where I was thinking, “What are they going to think about me? What are these people going to hear? Are they going to think I’m going to do a good job? Are they going to think I’m funny, or are they just going to…? Man, are they going to turn off when I say something? Am I going to bore them?”
I started to think so much about what you guys would think, and I realized all of those thoughts I was having were rooted in pride. Listen to me. It was a revelation for me, and I hope it’s good for you. Let me say it like this. Pride is easy to see when someone is arrogant and they’re a bully and you just see pride on them. You’re like, “Man, that guy is prideful. That woman is prideful. They are just full of themselves. They love themselves, and man, they won’t listen to anybody else.”
But sometimes pride manifests itself in this: “I love myself so much that I worry about what other people might think about me. I love myself so much that I get insecure about who I am, what I look like, what I say, what I do, and how well I do at something.” That pride wells up in me that wants to protect me, wants to preserve me, wants to promote me, wants to make much of me.
I realized as I was preparing to preach on pride how much my struggle, even though it wasn’t as obvious as you normally think of pride being, was there, and it was real, and it was deep. It took me a while to get past it and realize, “Man, my anxiousness, my comparison to a great teacher, might seem like humility, but it is pride going, ‘I want to be made much of. I want to be well thought of.'”
In listening to Tim Keller’s sermon… He breezed through 1 Corinthians, chapter 4, and there was some great stuff in there. He kind of breezed by this couple of verses of which I thought, “Man, that’s so good.” Even though we’re going through a series on Proverbs and I want to get to Proverbs a lot tonight, I want to start with those two verses, and I really want to go back and forth between Proverbs and that.
If you have your Bible with you, and if you could open to 1 Corinthians, chapter 4, that would be fantastic. If you don’t have a Bible with you, there’s one underneath the seat in front of you or near you or around you. Man, feel free to bring it up on your phone. Do whatever you’d like, but let’s go to 1 Corinthians 4:3 together. We’re just going to read two verses, and that’s where we’ll camp.
In just the beginning of that verse, it says this. This is Paul speaking. “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court.” He says to the people of Corinth, “It is a very small thing to me that I should be judged by you or by any human court.” In other words, “It’s no big deal to me what you think about me. You are not the judge of me.”
What’s interesting about this is this is one of the most quoted concepts in our culture. Our culture that doesn’t really know the Bible still loves this concept. “You are not the judge of me.” Our culture loves to quote Matthew 7, which says, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Why? Because so much of our culture sees what we believe as judgmental because we have a very clear message of, “This is right, and this is wrong.” Our culture loves to quote these verses back to us.
“Hey, it’s a small thing that I should be judged by you or judged by anyone.” What’s ironic, what’s interesting, is that when our culture says things like, “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t care what people think about me,” what they actually reveal is a very real pride, pride that sometimes manifests in this.
“I don’t care what people think about me because I am so confident in who I am. I am so assured of myself that nothing you could say could affect me. I am so in love with who I am that it doesn’t matter what you think. I devalue you to the point where you can’t affect me. That’s what I mean when I say it doesn’t matter when people think about me.”
Or they might mean (this is crazy ironic, and try to follow me here)… Sometimes people say, “I don’t care what people think about me,” because they’re trying to create this perception of themselves. They’re trying to control what you think about them, and they want to be perceived as a person who doesn’t care what you think about them, because that seems like a confident person.
In reality, what they’re trying to do is get you to think about them in a certain way by saying they don’t care what you think about that. They get so caught up… We do this too. I get so caught up in who I am and what I want you to think about me that I’ll say things about myself that aren’t necessarily true, but I want them to be. “Hey, I don’t even care what people think about me.”
What I’m really saying is, “I hope you think I’m that kind of confident person,” and in that, I’m saying, “I care a lot about what you think about me.” Our culture loves to say things like, “Hey, you cannot judge me.” It’s so popular to say things like that. “Hey, church, you can’t judge me. Who are you to judge? ‘Judge not, lest we be judged.’ We’re all sinners. What kind of sinner can speak into my life?”
What’s crazy is our culture, our generation, loves to say, “Hey, I’m affirming and I’m accepting of all beliefs. They always lead to God. There’s no absolute truth.” Our generation loves to say things like, “I’m just accepting. I am affirming,” but if you look deep into our culture (really not even that deep), what you can see is our generation actually has a very stringent moral code. If you step outside what our generation has affirmed or accepted, they will actually judge you.
What I’m talking about here is this. Like if I were to say to our culture, “Hey, the way you abuse alcohol, even though it’s legal, is not okay,” they would instantly kind of put me outside that “I’m accepting and affirming of everyone’s beliefs” and go, “That’s except for you who say the way I abuse alcohol is not okay. You are now out. I’m accepting and I’m affirming unless you tell me I can’t drink the way I want to drink, and then I want you out.”
Or if I said, “Hey, sexual immorality and sexual promiscuity are not okay,” they would say, “Well, I affirm everyone’s belief except for yours. You can’t tell me I can’t do this. You are now out.” We have this culture that loves to say on one hand, “I’m accepting and affirming of all belief systems,” and say on the other hand, “That’s except for Christianity because it is judgmental.”
In that, what they demonstrate is their ability to judge. “I accept everyone except those whom I judge because they’re judgmental, and in that, I become judgmental.” There’s a weird hypocrisy there. Do you see it? You know what hypocrisy is? It’s like that moment when you realize… Let me say it like this. It’s like when you’re driving down the highway and you’re obeying the law.
You are going the speed limit. Everybody is having a great time, and then some moron comes flying by you on a motorcycle or in a sports car, and he almost kills somebody because he’s flying between the lanes. You just get infuriated, like, “Who does this guy think he is? He’s so full of himself. He’s risking everyone’s lives. What an idiot!”
Then the next week you’re driving down the road and you’re in a hurry, you have to get somewhere, and everybody is obeying the speed limit, and you’re like, “Who’s this moron in the left lane who’s driving the speed limit? Move over! Get out of the way!” It’s like one time the idiot is the guy going quickly. The other time it’s the idiot going slowly. Then you put those things together, and you go, “Wait a second. We’re all idiots. I’ve just created a situation where depending on what I think at the moment, I get to judge who’s a moron and who’s not.”
At the end, I just realize, “What I am is a hypocrite. I’m just picking things based on where I am right then.” It sounds really good to say, “I’m accepting and affirming of all things,” but what I really mean is, “I’m accepting and affirming of people who believe what I believe and I actually will judge people who believe differently. In that moment, I’ll say, ‘How dare you judge people?’ I will actually be judging them.”
There’s this weird hypocrisy our generation gets caught in that I don’t even think they’re aware of, and it’s clear, and it’s there all the time, but no matter how illogically our culture uses that… Basically, they say, “Hey, I can’t stand people who can’t stand people.” That doesn’t make sense. That’s a logical fallacy. It’s like building a monument to tolerance and then saying, “But there’s no smoking at the monument of tolerance. We will not have you dirty smokers anywhere near our monument of tolerance.”
You can’t have both. “We accept all except you.” You can’t have a party that everyone is invited to, and, “You can’t come.” No. There’s nothing like that, but our culture loves that. They love to say, “You cannot judge me,” and judge you in that. That’s our generation. We love that. But as illogically as we use that, at the end of the day we have to come back and go, “Hey, the Scripture does say, ‘I consider it a small thing that anybody would judge me. I don’t care what people think about me.'”
Well, no, what’s different here is what Paul is saying is, “What God thinks of me is insurmountably more important to me than what any person can think of me.” Our culture would go, “No, it’s about being made much of. It’s about my pride.” Paul would say, “No, no, no. It’s about the reality that God knows me and people don’t. God knows me and people don’t.”
In that, our sweet kind of Sunday school answer would say, “God loves me. God knows me,” and you would think it’s because I’m better than people would think I am, but the reality is Scripture says the reason I don’t judge people is that I would be a terrible judge. Why? Because there’s no way I could possibly understand the depths of your depravity.
I’m a bad judge for you because I can’t completely see what’s wrong with you. Are you with me? Follow me here. There can be things I do that look kind and charitable. I can try my hardest to be a great dad and a great husband, which are admirable things, but if you don’t know my heart, you might not know sometimes I try to be a great dad so I can impress my wife, so I can tell people I’m a good dad, and so my kids will love me, and not because it’s selfless but because I want to be made much of.
Sometimes I want to be a great husband to my wife not because I’m selfless or because I’m just trying to love her well but because I want her to not have anything to hold against me, because I want her to build me up. I want to be encouraged. There’s such a love of myself that it looks like righteousness on the outside, and on the inside it’s selfishness. God knows my heart. God knows the difference between those things, and none of you would. You would just see my outward actions.
Paul says this. “You would be terrible judges because you couldn’t possibly know the depths of human depravity.” I might look at the world and go, “It’s broken,” and I would convict the world of misdemeanors when they’re guilty of felonies. Do you know what I’m saying? I’d look at the world and go, “It’s broken,” and God would go, “You don’t even know the half of it. It is incredibly broken. It is incredibly depraved.”
I might confess to you, “Hey, I’m a sinner. I’ve done this and this and this,” and God would stand next to me and go, “You have no idea the depths of Adam’s depravity. He doesn’t even know himself how deep his sin goes and how deeply it’s rooted in how he behaves and how he thinks.” That’s why God is a judge and I am not. I don’t have all of the evidence presented before me. I don’t know the depths of your heart, and God does.
On top of that, as I look around the room, I don’t know which of us are in Christ. I know all of us are depraved beyond what I could understand, all of us are broken, all of us are flawed, and at the same time I know because of Scripture that some of us are in Christ, which means Christ’s death has paid the penalty for our sins and we are forgiven and we are seen as righteous through him.
But I cannot look around the room and tell you, “It’s her. It’s him. It’s her. It’s him. He’s in Christ; she is not. She’s in Christ; he is not.” I can’t do that. All I can say is I know we’re all guilty. I just don’t know the depths of it. I know Christ’s death on the cross produces this forgiveness of sin for those who are in Christ, and I can’t tell you who’s in Christ. What a terrible judge of the world I would be.
When God asks me not to judge the world, when he says, “People can’t judge you,” what he’s not saying is, “Hey, don’t call out sin in each other’s lives.” Absolutely not. “Hey, don’t point out what the Scripture says is wrong.” No. Absolutely not. How unloving would it be if we looked at the world we knew was going terribly wrong and said nothing?
That’s not loving. Loving is saying, “Hey, the Bible has clearly said this is something wrong. This is something that has gone wrong in you, in our culture.” We should speak up. Listen to me. If you get one thing from me tonight, listen to me. I feel like our culture has told us that because you’re a Christian and Christianity is judgmental, you had better not bring your information about what is right and what is wrong in here.
Listen to me. Where the Scripture is not silent, we should not be silent. Where Scripture speaks to something, we should speak to something in private life and in public life. It’s clear, so we speak it. Now are we judgmental? No, because…listen to me…the Scripture also says, “Yes, the world is broken beyond what you could know, but there is a hope in that, a hope in the grace that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Scripture is not silent on that, so I will not be silent on that. I will not claim there is no hope. I will not claim there are many hopes. I will claim that there is one hope and that hope is in Jesus Christ. I will claim that the depths of my sin go beyond what I could possibly understand. The brokenness of the world is bigger than I could possibly understand, and there’s only one thing that can overcome it, and that is Jesus Christ.
Am I allowed to speak that in our culture? Absolutely. Absolutely. Is there judging that can go on? Is there a way we can speak to each other, call each other out on sin? I want to point out a really great verse about a chapter later. You don’t need to turn there, but 1 Corinthians 5:12 says this. “For what have I to do with judging outsiders?” In other words, those outside the church. “Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”
So do we judge? Absolutely. Who? We as the church look into each other’s lives and say, “This is what Scripture has called you to. Where have you fallen short?” We look into our society, our private and our public lives, and we say, “Hey, this is what the Scripture says is true. I’m not the condemner. I’m not the one who can send you anywhere, heaven or hell, but I can tell you that where the Scripture says something, I can say something. Where the Scripture has been clear, I can be clear. Where Scripture is not silent, I will not be silent.”
Does the Bible have any wisdom for us when it comes to caring about what other people think about us? If you’ve been around church for a while, you may have heard us throw around this phrase fear of man. What Paul is saying at the beginning of this verse is he does not hold it to any avail that people think something of him. He considers it a small thing that he’d be judged by anybody or any human court.
In other words, it’s not that important what other people think about him. What we call that is fear of man. In other words, it’s concern for what people think about me. The Bible talks about fear of man several times. I want to show you one verse, Proverbs 29:25. Proverbs 29:25 says this. “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”
It says that to be concerned about what other people think about you is a trap. It’s a snare. It’s a trick. Why? Because it looks good. It looks enticing, and then when you step into it, it captures you. It kills you. In other words, fear of man, wondering what people think about you and trying to control what people are thinking about you and pursuing a certain perception of yourself can seem good. It can seem good and right to be well liked at work, so you keep your faith to yourself.
It can seem good and right to be in a relationship with somebody where you don’t tell them your deepest, darkest secrets. You don’t tell them things that might negatively affect the way they think about you. It seems right because then we’re both happier. There’s less conflict, and that seems right. Man, it seems right to not have conflict, but in the end that is a snare. It is a trap.
What the Scripture has called us to is to speak into a world, and it says, “In the world, Christ will sometimes smell like death to them, and sometimes he smells like life,” and what it doesn’t say is, “Don’t share Christ with those who think he smells like death.” It says things like, “Hey, deny me before men and I will deny you before my Father in heaven.”
It says, “Be not ashamed of the gospel.” These are things the Scripture says. It says the fear of man is a snare. It seems good because it seems like keeping everybody getting along and keeping friendships are good things, and they really are good things, but if my concern is more for keeping friends in this life than losing them in the next, I have a problem.
If I spend my days going, “How do I maintain these relationships? How do I maintain this image of myself?” and in the process I sacrifice the truth that saves, that Jesus Christ has paid the price for sin, is that loving? No. That’s loving myself; that’s not loving them. It’s wanting what makes me comfortable. It’s wanting what makes much of me. It certainly isn’t wanting glory for Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 4, if we keep reading that chapter… It said at the beginning of verse 3, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.” “I don’t even judge myself.” Listen to this, verse 4. “For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted.”
Now there is probably nothing I could say today that would be more countercultural than this fact. Paul says, “I don’t even judge myself,” because while our generation loves to say things like, “I don’t care what you think about me,” the next line is, “All that matters is what I think of myself.” We live in a generation that has built up self-esteem, the pursuit of individual happiness, and the pursuit of individual freedom as the epitome of human existence when the Bible says, “Hey, I don’t judge myself. Why don’t I judge myself?”
Paul just said it. “Because if I look at myself, I will find myself innocent even though I am not innocent. Why? Because I know all of my excuses. I know all of the whys for the actions I do, for my behavior. I know why I do them. I justify them. I will be more lenient on myself. Why? Because I love myself.” Listen to me. You do not have an accurate appraisal of yourself. None of us do. We are all blinded by pride, blinded by a love of ourselves.
Have you ever listened to a recording of your voice and been creeped out? Yes? You’ve heard yourself recorded and gone, “That’s me? Oh my goodness”? I know what I sound like in here, but when I hear what you guys hear… Ugh. I don’t think I’d talk to me. Or maybe you’ve seen yourself in a picture, and you’ve seen your profile where you’re used to seeing yourself face on.
You’re like, “Oh my… Is my head that long?” Maybe this hasn’t happened to you, but it has happened to me. I’m like, “Man, I have a football head? I thought I had a nice round head.” No. I have a football head. I feel like I owe everyone an apology, like, “I’m sorry if you’ve ever had to look at this,” you know? Or have you ever seen a video of yourself dancing? Yeah.
You’ve seen a video of yourself dancing. You’re biting your lip. You really thought you had it going. Then you see the video, and you’re like, “Oh my goodness,” and you feel like you owe your entire group of family and friends an apology. “I’d like to publically apologize for every time I’ve danced in front of you,” because you realize what is happening in your head and what you think you look like is not the reality other people are seeing.
If that’s true about me physically, how much more is it true about my soul, my spirit, and my motivations? I think I get myself pretty well, when in fact… Listen to me. Scripture knows more about you than you know about you. The Bible can tell you things about yourself that you don’t know about yourself. That’s why when I read a verse like, “The fear of man is a snare,” I go, “That’s what I’ve been in! That’s what I’m trapped by. That’s me. I didn’t realize that, but the Bible knows that about me. It’s a trick I’ve been stuck in.”
I can read things like, “I’m not the judge of myself because if I were, I would find myself innocent, and that does not mean I am.” The Bible knows that about me. I need to hear that because I don’t know myself as well as God knows me, which is why I’m not a good judge for myself. So does the Bible have any wisdom for us when it comes to how we should know ourselves and how we should think about ourselves? Proverbs 3:5 says this. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
In other words, when you’re looking at your life and going, “Why is it like this? Why am I like this? Why is this happening? Oh, I think it’s this. Oh, why am I…? I think it’s because I’m like this,” the Bible would say, “Hey, no, no no. Your trust is not in what other people think about you. They’re not the ones determining your life. It’s not even what you think. Listen, don’t lean on your own understanding. You see yourself through the lens of your own self-love. Trust…” What?
Both of the verses we read said, “Trust the Lord. Trust God. What does God think about you?” So don’t fear man. Don’t fear what people think about you. Trust what the Lord thinks about you. Don’t lean on your own understanding of yourself. Trust the Lord. What does the Lord say in his Scripture about me? That’s where I place my trust. What does the Lord think of me? That’s where I place my trust. I don’t put it in other people, and I certainly don’t put it in myself.
Again, I look at myself and I don’t see myself accurately. The Lord sees the reality of my soul, the depths of my depravity. I think I know myself, and I have no idea how deep the darkness in me goes. Have you ever had one of those thoughts that just shot into your head, and you were like, “Man, that was impossibly dark. Where did that even come from”? The Lord can tell you, “Man, that’s in you. That’s part of you.”
That’s part of my nature. I am broken. I am sinful. You see, what happens is we get blinded by our pride. Our pride makes it hard for us to see other people well, because we want to see what they think about us. Our pride makes it hard to see ourselves, because we want to have a really good impression of ourselves. We want to create a good perception of ourselves. I want to love myself well.
Honestly, there are great things in good relationships with other people. Don’t hear me say friendships are bad. There are great things about having a positive view of yourself because you are the workmanship of God. That’s awesome. But when your love of what other people think about you has become ultimate in a way that has made what God thinks about you secondary, you have a big problem, and that’s the way most of us operate day in and day out.
“What I think is most important. No one can tell me what to think about myself, and no one can tell me what they think about me that would affect what I think.” The reality of the Scripture says, “No, I am not my own judge. I would not be a fair judge for myself.” I’m blinded by my pride, and pride can manifest in a lot of different ways. Two big ones I want to mention to you that we all kind of struggle with and go back and forth between are what I call the campaigner and the complainer.
The campaigner is that version of us that wants to create a perception of ourselves. We want to campaign for ourselves, so we want to have the right answer to the question. We want to tell the funniest joke. We want people to think we dress well. We want to look good. Why? Because I’m campaigning for myself. I want people to be impressed by me, so my pride can manifest in this image of me that I’m trying to create for the world. It’s more important to me than anything that you would believe it.
Then there’s the complainer. The complainer is the person who more silently sits back and compares themselves to other people and points out to themselves why they are better than that person or why that person has an unfair advantage or says, “Why am I not more like that person? Why does that person have that and I don’t?”
My pride manifests in this self-love that sometimes equals self-loathing and sometimes manifests in just tearing other people down because in diminishing others, we exalt ourselves. Have you ever heard gossip or gotten caught up in gossip where you were just sitting around and talking about somebody else’s life and how terrible it is and found yourself just realizing, “I am tearing down someone else because it makes me feel good about myself. I know a piece of information other people don’t know. That builds me up”?
Have you ever heard someone gossip or retell a story where they retell part of their day and they sound like an angel, and the other person sounds like a monster? They go like, “So I said something perfectly reasonable, like, ‘I think we should do it like this,'” which is a voice you’ve never heard them use in their life, but you’re like, “Oh, I’m sure it went like that.”
“‘I think we should do it like this,’ and then he said, ‘No! I think that’s the stupidest idea ever!'” You’re like, “There’s no way that’s what…” but you’re listening to it, and you’re like, “Oh, yeah. Yeah. Oh, I bet it was terrible.” Just once, I would love to hear somebody tell the story the opposite way, like, “And then he said something perfectly reasonable, like, ‘Hey, maybe we should try it like this,’ and I was all like, ‘No! You’re an idiot! You’re a moron!'”
No one would ever tell a story that way. Why? Because we want to control what people think about us, and when we retell our lives, we want to create this image that we were the heroes, we were the ones who were right, we knew all along, and the other people were the morons. They were the idiots in the story. They were the villains. They were against me, but in the end I prevailed. I had it right, and if he only knew…
Those are the stories we love to tell. Why? Because we want to promote ourselves. We want to preserve ourselves. We want to build ourselves up, and that’s pride, and that is rooted in something that makes glory for ourselves and steals glory from God. My concern is not what people think about me. My concern is not even what I think about myself. My concern is to trust in the Lord.
I just trust in the Lord. He has not been silent when it comes to how he thinks about me, how he feels about me, and that’s where my identity is rooted. It’s not in what you think, and that’s not because I’m beyond you. No, no, no. It’s in what he thinks because you might have a skewed perception of me. Each one of us has a skewed perception of ourselves, so we have to trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding.
Sometimes pride manifests really clearly in stubbornness. I know most of you know this, but some of you need to hear this. It’s okay… It’s beyond that. It’s good to admit you need help. It’s good to admit you need someone else to speak into your life. It’s really good to explore the possibility that you might be wrong. You can have an argument and even discover you’re wrong and be so stubborn and prideful that you don’t want to admit it because of the perception of you that might be shifted.
You just want to be right so desperately. Some of us need to admit to each other, “Hey, I don’t know what I’m doing here,” or, “I would really just benefit from someone else speaking into my life. I need to admit that my pride blinds me to my own problems.” All of these things are manifestations of pride. They’re manifestations of self-love, and self-love can be really obvious where I’m conceited, where I’ve made much of myself.
Self-love, like I said, can manifest as insecurity where I’m easily wounded or I’m easily concerned by what other people might think about me. Why? Not because I’m down on myself, but I’m down on myself because I’m in love with myself. I’m so in love with myself that I’ve given you so much control over how I feel because I need you to love me the way I love myself.
The Bible says, “Hey, the fear of man, that kind of concern for what people think, is a trap. Trust in the Lord. Trust in what he thinks about you.” Pride can blind me to my own sin. Pride can blind me to what Christ thinks of me. Pride can blind me to what Christ has done for me. Pride can blind me to what Christ has called me to. Let me share with you a couple of verses.
In the New Testament, in the gospels, Christ several times shares with his disciples, “Hey, I am going to die,” and their reactions are priceless. Let me share a couple. One is from Luke 9:43. You don’t have to turn there. I’ll read it to you. It says, “And all were astonished at the majesty of God.” He was performing miracles.
“But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.’ But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.” So he says, “I’m going to be delivered.” They say, “I’m afraid to ask what that means.”
Verse 46, that next verse, says, “An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.” Christ says, “Hey, I’m going to be arrested.” They go, “I don’t really understand that. I’m kind of afraid to ask. You know what? Why don’t we just ask him, ‘Hey, which one of us is going to be the greatest'”?
Then you go to the third time. This is the third time he reveals what’s going to happen to him on Mount Calvary, and he’s clear as day about it. Listen to what happens. This is Mark 10, starting in verse 32. It says, “And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem…” This is on their way to Jerusalem at the beginning of the week, and at the end of the week, Jesus would die.
It says this. “…and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying…” Listen to how clear he is. He says, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man [that’s him] will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
What’s the next verse? James and John come to him and say, “Hey, when your kingdom comes, can I sit on your right and him on your left?” Jesus Christ says to them, “I am going to be arrested. I’m going to be flogged. I’m going to die. Three days later, I will rise again,” and their response is, “So in your kingdom, how great will I be? What position will I have? How will it compare to other people?”
I get that because so many times in here… I can come in here, I can hear the Word of God espoused, I can hear the gospel… “Hey, do you know you are depraved beyond what you could possibly understand? Do you know you’re a terrible judge for yourself because you will find yourself not too guilty but too innocent? You couldn’t possibly understand the depths of your depravity, but Jesus Christ has paid the price with his life.”
We would all go, “Yes! How awesome am I? How great am I?” Instead of giving glory to Jesus Christ whose death pays our penalty, we would beg for more glory for ourselves because how awesome are we that the Lord considered us worthy of his Son’s life? He said, “Well, no, no, no. Jesus Christ didn’t die for you because you were impressive. Jesus Christ doesn’t love you because there is something amazing about you. Jesus Christ loves you in spite of yourself.”
He said, “You are his workmanship, and there’s nothing you’ve achieved to make him love you. No. He loves you. He didn’t die for you because you impressed him, because you transformed yourself, because you changed your own heart. No, he loves you because he has adopted some of you as sons and daughters.” We’ve crossed over from being enemies of God to being sons and daughters.
Listen to this. A.B. Bruce wrote a book in the 1800s called The Training of the Twelve. It’s one of my favorite books of all time. He said something like this about the disciples hearing these things.
“They heard Jesus only when he spoke things agreeable. They listened with pleasure when he assured them that erelong, they should see his Son, the Son of Man, come in his kingdom. They were deaf to all he said concerning the suffering which must precede the glory. They forgot the cross after a momentary fit of sorrow when their Lord referred to it and betook themselves to dreaming of the crown as a child forgets the death of a parent and returns to its play. ‘How great,’ they thought, ‘shall we all be when the kingdom comes!’ Then, by an easy transition, they passed from idle dreams of the common glory to idle disputes as to who should have the largest share therein; for vanity and jealousy lie very near each other.”
He says this, and I get this. “When Christ says things that sound good, I hear them. I’m on it. When he says things that are tough, I forget them easily. I move on from them. Sometimes I pretend he didn’t say them.” When Christ says, “Hey, you will have eternity in glory with me. I’m coming back one day,” yes, I hold on to that.
When he says, “Deny yourself. Pick up your cross and follow me. Pursuing me, following me, will lead to suffering. The world will hate you,” Those are things to which I go, “Yeah, that’s really possible, but let’s get back to how good God is, how God has rescued me, how God has transformed me, how God has changed me and what he has rescued me from!”
He goes, “Yes, and you’re still called to…” What? “Speak into a world truth that they will not like. You will lose some relationships because God is more important to you than people. It’s easy for me to hear things Jesus says that are appealing, and it’s hard for me to hear things he says that are tough. At the end of that section, A. B. Bruce says vanity and jealousy are very near each other.
What he means is this: my pursuit of myself and how that compares to other people are part and parcel. C. S. Lewis will say it like this. “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next person.” It’s not that I have; it’s that I have in comparison to somebody else. It’s this endless imaginary competition we all get caught up in, whether it’s what you look at in other people’s social media, whether it’s what you look at in the media, whether it’s what you look at from your friends or your family.
We get wrapped up in this competition of thinking who we should be, what position we should hold. Whether it’s at work or at home, I get caught up in controlling a perception of me that is attractive to others, and it leads to nothing but strife. There’s no win. Why? Because if I’m looking at myself accurately, my depravity is actually deeper than I could possibly understand.
If I were my own judge, that would be hopeless, but we are not without hope. If people can’t judge me and I can’t judge myself, is there anything we can do to help each other? Is there anything we can do to speak into each other’s lives? Proverbs 13:10 says this. “By insolence comes nothing but strife…” Insolence means arrogance. It means pride.
By my pride, by my arrogance, by my insolence, there is nothing but strife. It just keeps going. It’s just this ongoing process of, “I want to be more like this. I want people to think about me more like this. I love myself so much. I want myself to be more like this.” It leads to nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.
With those of us who would be willing to admit, “Hey, I want other people to speak into my life, to speak into my marriage, to speak into my work. I want advice from my elders, from my pastors, from my home group leader, and from my friends. I want advice,” that’s where there is wisdom. Why? Because it’s admitting, “I don’t know, and God does. God has given me godly men and women to speak into my life.”
The wise seek the advice of others and admit, “I don’t know.” Proverbs says the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God is admitting, “I’m human. I’m flawed. I don’t know all of the answers,” and at the same time, “God is perfect. God is righteous, and he does know them.” That’s the fear of God: us in our proper place. I’m here and he is there. I’m not glorified and he is glorified.
What am I calling us to do? I want us to look into our own lives of pride and be able to admit, “Hey, I am struggling with this.” Pride is one of the only sins that if you say, “I’m not struggling with it,” reveals that you are. If I say to you, “Yeah, I don’t really struggle with that,” what you should say is, “Bro, we need to deal with that. You do struggle with it.” Yeah, all of us have a problem with self-absorption, with getting over ourselves, and the Bible would say there are a couple of ways we battle that. First, I ask for advice. Second, I confess.
Now we need to create a place, we need to have a place, where we can feel free to confess, “Hey, I’m broken here. I’m messed up here. I need help here. I need to be able to admit to people that I do not have everything together the way I want to appear I do. I just don’t. I’m so concerned about what other people think about me that it absorbs my focus, that it absorbs my mind, and instead of being focused on God and what he has called me to, I’m absorbed with what people might think about me.”
I know (because Scripture tells me) that is a trap. It seems enticing, but it leads to death. Sometimes in asking for advice from our pastors, from our elders and our home group leaders and whoever is in authority over our lives, it can seem like they’re against us, because advice and wisdom and the Scripture sometimes ask us to do hard things.
We live in a generation that wants to find the easiest way to do things to get the maximum return. “What’s the least I have to do to get the maximum? If the least I have to do is say, ‘Jesus Christ is my savior,’ then I’ll do that, but don’t let it affect the rest of my life.” God says, “No, I want your whole life.” Sometimes the elders, the pastors, the ministers, the home group leaders, those in authority in your life, will say things to you from the Scripture that are hard to hear, and that does not make them less true.
Of following Jesus Christ, he doesn’t say, “Hey, here’s the easy road.” He says, “Here’s the narrow road. Few will find it.” He says his yoke is easy and his burden is light, but not because the work is light on you but because he takes it upon himself to save you. At the end of 1 Corinthians 4:4, it concludes like this. It says, “For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted.” In other words, I’m not innocent just because I’m not aware of my own sin.
Then it ends like this. “It is the Lord who judges me.” Another thing our culture, our generation, loves to say: “Only God can judge you.” Honestly, if you understood what that meant, that should terrify you. You don’t get to go, “Only God can judge me,” and use that to justify doing whatever you want. “Hey, I’m going to do whatever I want because only God can judge me.”
Who do you think has a higher standard for you, the God who demands perfection or me, who’s like, “I don’t know, I guess we’re all kind of broken people”? No. God does. “Only God can judge you” should shake you. It should keep you up at night. “What do you mean, only God can judge me? I can’t judge myself. People can’t judge me. Only God can judge me? This is terrifying.”
You read a verse like Matthew 10:28, and it says this. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Do I read a verse like that and go, “Only God can judge me”? No! That’s terrifying! I would never ask our culture to say that, but this is why it’s great: God is the only good judge.
I don’t have all of the evidence presented before me; he does. He knows exactly the depths of our depravity. He knows what we all have earned and deserved is death, but here’s what’s amazing about God as our Judge. He does not leave us there, but rather he entered in as Jesus Christ his Son, his only Son, who would die for us, so in that we go, “Man, if God is my Judge, there’s no hope,” but God himself has taken upon himself the punishment which we deserved.
He put it on his Son, Jesus Christ, who died the death I had earned. He knows the depths of my depravity, and his grace is even greater. I can’t understand how great my sin is, but likewise, I can’t understand how great his grace is because if I were your judge, there’s no way I would say, “Hey, what you get is what? What could I possibly give you?”
No. What he can give me is eternal life, and it’s granted to those who are sons and daughters. It says the wages or what you’ve earned, what you’ve deserved, is death, but the gift… It’s not what you’ve earned, not what you get because you’re impressive, but what you get because he loves you is eternal life in…what? Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through him.
That’s what you get because Jesus loves you. If you kept reading Matthew 28, it would say, “Yes, fear the One who destroys your soul and body in hell,” but it says, “Don’t fear, because the Lord is concerned about every sparrow, and you’re worth way more than a sparrow.” He says, “I know every hair on your head.” Man, that’s whatever for me.
He knows every hair on your head. In other words, he knows you inside and out. He knows you intimately, and he loves you. The love of God can overcome the depths of my depravity that I can’t even imagine. In that, I don’t (like the disciples did) listen to God say he sent his Son to die for me and in response go, “So how great will I be?”
No, no, no. The proper response is, “So how great is God? How amazing is he that he would love me like that, that he would give up so much, that he would go through pain like that, pain that I had earned for him, and in response he has asked for my entire life, and I am delighted to give it? In a second we’ll sing “Amazing Grace.”
We’ll sing, “Hey, I can’t go back,” we’ll sing, “My life has changed,” and we’ll sing, “Jesus is the center of it all.” All of those things are true, and they’re even more true when I understand just a little bit of how lost I am and how incredible it is that the Lord would pluck me out of that. For those of you in here who don’t know the Lord, who wouldn’t consider yourselves adopted sons and daughters of the King, let me ask you this, that you would understand…
Let met just say this. I am praying for you. I’m praying for you tonight. I’m praying for you, that the Lord would reveal himself to you, that he would spark faith in you. I know some of the stuff I’ve said tonight might rail against the way you understand. You might really feel like self-esteem and your being able to make your own decisions for yourself is the truth.
When the Scripture says, “No, I can’t do that, because all I do is see through the lens of myself. I need to trust in God and not lean on my own understanding,” that sounds like it removes from you the power that you desire to have over your own life. What I’m telling you is surrendering your power to the King who actually does know you, does know your life, and does know what’s good for you is freedom. It’s not slavery to someone. It’s freedom from you who are enslaved to yourself.
What is the hope? What do we do about this? I love Proverbs 20:9. It says this: “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin’?” What it’s intimating there is none of us can say, “I fixed this.” None of us can look into our own hearts or our own lives and say, “I pulled this together. I just made this happen.” None of us could do that. In other words, someone else has to do something if I’m going to be saved.
I’m so thankful for verses like Romans 5:8, which says this. “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners…” In other words, nothing has changed about my condition. I didn’t transform myself, change anything about myself. While I was still a sinner…what? “Christ died for me.” He demonstrates his love for us in this, that while we were still sinners… While I’m still broken, while I’m at my lowest, Christ died for me, and I don’t want to respond to that by going, “So I’m made much of?”
No, no, no. So his name is glorified. All glory to God, his amazing grace that while I was lost, he found me. I was blind. He made me see. Glory to God. In a second, we’ll take communion, and in communion we remember that broken body and that shed blood of Jesus Christ. It’s really easy for us to take communion and then go right back to thinking about ourselves and get consumed with what people think about us and what we think about ourselves and forget that what we’re celebrating in communion is that we’ve been set free from that.
God is my judge, and God can judge me guilty as all get-out. All of us are. Yet somehow I get to walk off scot-free, and I get eternal life. Why? Because the verdict that was mine, the punishment that was mine, was placed on someone else: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Let’s pray together, and then we’re going to do communion.
Heavenly Father, I pray that you would help us get over ourselves, that the way we have been absorbed with ourselves, the way we are obsessed with ourselves, the way we want to talk about ourselves all the time in order to create a perception of us and in order to control a perception of us… God, the way we complain about other people and compare ourselves to other people… God, set us free from those traps and help us trust in you.
God, call us to confession. Call us to repentance. God, I pray that we wouldn’t quickly walk out of this place and go right back to where our obsession is ourselves, but rather, God, that we would fixate on you, on your Son, Jesus Christ, and on your Holy Spirit. I pray that you would move in us, that you would change us, that you would transform us, not for our own sake, Lord, but for the sake of your kingdom. Build us up, Lord. We pray these things in Jesus Christ’s name and for his sake, amen.