Monday, July 21, 2014

I Thank Thee That I Am Not As Other Men Are

Life of Christ 113

Note: This is the fourth in an eight part mini-series on the errors of the Pharisees.

          The third error with which Christ reproached the Pharisees was pride. 'Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets' (Luke 11.43).
Chicago's Pride parade, 2013
          What an obvious sin pride is! It cavorts through the life of the openly wicked, overflowing out of them at every turn, on display in their schools, their offices, their factories, their ball fields, their parties, and their facebook pages. Solomon well said, 'Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness' (Proverbs 20.6), and one of the hallmarks of a wicked man is his willingness to do so at the drop of a hat, and to drop the hat. 'Look at me,' the wicked man thunders, 'notice me! See how amazing I am!' In its final stages it flowers openly as pride in and about rebellious sin. It is no accident that the homosexual movement has named its annual celebrations of debauchery pride parades.
           Pride, however, is more than obvious. It is often insidious. Its deceitful tendrils creep into the life of even God's people. They are not so far gone as to be proud of their sin, but the venom is just as deadly when the cause of the pride is spirituality as when it is wickedness. The Pharisees were not proud of wickedness, no sir, but they were proud of how good they were at being Pharisees, of how clean they were, of how observant they were, of how strict they were, and of how pure they were. Their pride wasn't found on display in the red light district of town but rather 'in the synagogues.'
          Pride, wherever it is found, is anathema to God for by it we exalt ourselves into His place, taking ownership of the glory that rightly belongs to Him. One could argue that pride was the very first sin, birthed in the heart of Lucifer eons before the Garden of Eden, when he looked at God and thought, 'I will be like the most High' (Isaiah 14.14). Another way of saying this is that God instinctively and immediately recoils from pride, and from the proud person, whomever he may be, whether in the sodomite marching haughtily down the big city street waving the rainbow flag or in the Baptist deacon sitting smugly in his favorite pew, proud of his position and reputation as a pillar of the church.
Pastor Jack Schaap, booking photo, 2012
         Perhaps worst of all, pride earns us the enmity of Almighty God. 'God resisteth the proud' (I Peter 5.5), the Apostle said, and that is true whether the proud man is an openly wicked one or a presumed godly one. Many a man of God, lifted up above the people as he preaches to them, find himself beginning to think that perhaps the great church he leads is actually the result of himself. This pride grows in his heart and life all the while he is actively ministering the Word of God to people around him. One of the saddest things about such a case is that God begins to fight against the very man who is doing His own work, and in such battles the man always loses, and devastatingly so.
          The Pharisees were highly esteemed by the common people of Israel. Steeped in the learning of the past, and married to the concept of a strict religious purity, they almost inevitably developed an egotistic self-satisfaction with their own spirituality. It revealed itself in them distinctly as they looked down on those around them who completely failed to measure up to the same strict standards they themselves did. 'The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess' (Luke 18.11).
          Beloved, we may rightly be glad that our theology is dissimilar from those Pharisees. After all, we have embraced the Jesus of Nazareth whom they so cruelly crucified. But we are not immune from those same temptations which befell them. Indeed, as independent, fundamental Baptists, given by definition to a pursuit of strict religious purity, we are actually highly susceptible to them. It is so easy for us to become proud of our stand, our position, our manner of life, and our firm adherence to the Word of God. In America, we live in a time of compromise and appeasement, one in which the majority of Christianity have laid aside the reproach of the cross and have embraced a pursuit of the world. But our King James Bible, and short haircut, and Saturday soul winning time are nothing to be proud about. Not now, and not ever.

          'He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, But to do justly, and to love mercy, And to walk humbly with thy God' (Micah 6.8).

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