Dealing with Pride

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Various Scriptures

INTRODUCTION: Jesus came not only to die for your sins, but also to help you with your problems. God offers you new life in Christ, and with his power you can change. Our message series is called, “Lord, I Have a Problem,” and in this series we are looking at how God helps you with your problems. So today we are talking about pride. How does God help you with the problem of pride? We will look at a number of verses this morning, but let’s begin by reading Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Read and pray.)

Are you a proud person? Do you ever struggle with pride? It’s a trick question, so be careful how you answer. There’s an irony with pride where the proud person often thinks they’re humble, and the humble person often thinks they’re proud! As Jack Benny liked to say, “Modesty is one of my best qualities!” Did you know that according to a variety of surveys, most people consider themselves above average? Sometimes as high as 90% of the respondents considered themselves above average!

Today we are talking about the problem of pride, and it’s a big one for both Christians and non-Christians alike. John Stott writes, “At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.”

I. The problem of pride

   A. God hates pride (Proverbs 16:5; James 4:6)

So let’s talk about the problem of pride. The first and biggest problem with pride is that God hates it. Proverbs 16:5 says, “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5) There are few things the Bible talks about God hating, but God’s hate for pride is repeated several times in the Scriptures. God not only hates pride, but he actively opposes it. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

The reason God hates pride is because the proud person tries to displace God. As Wayne Mack writes: “Pride consists in attributing to ourselves the honor, privileges, prerogatives, rights and power that are due to God alone … Pride, at its core, is idolatry of self. A proud person has put himself or herself in God’s place.” Did you get that? Pride is when you try and take God’s place. And God will not share his glory with another. God hates pride.

   B. Pride hates God (Psalm 10:4)

Not only does God hate pride. Pride hates God. Psalm 10:4 says, “In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” (Psalm 10:4) Pride has no room for God, because pride does not want to submit to God. Pride hates God, because pride thinks it can take God’s place. Timothy Keller writes, “Spiritual pride is the illusion that we are competent to run our own lives.” Only God can run our lives, but pride seeks to displace God because we think we can handle it without looking to God. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” Those who are looking down all the time do not look up to find God. God hates pride, and pride hates God.

   C. Pride forfeits wisdom from God (Psalm 25:9; Proverbs 26:12 )

A third problem with pride is that pride forfeits wisdom from God. Psalm 25:9 says “God guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” (Psalm 25:9) Now couple that with Proverbs 26:12 which says, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 26:12) Only the humble know God’s wisdom, because only the humble will receive the wisdom that comes from God. A proud person doesn’t think they need help from God, and so they forfeit the wisdom that could be theirs.

   D. Pride always leads to a fall (Proverbs 16:18; Isaiah 2:12-17; 1 Corinthians 10:12)

And then finally, a big problem with pride is that pride always leads to a fall. Always! Every time! Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) Often that fall takes place in this life, but if not in this life, then certainly in the next. We read in Isaiah 2: “The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled) … The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.” (Isaiah 2:12-17)

Charles Spurgeon said, “Every person has a choice between being humble or being humbled.” You can humble yourself or let God do it for you, which is why Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12)

What’s the problem with pride? God hates pride. Pride hates God. Pride forfeits wisdom from God. Pride always leads to a fall.

II. Understanding pride

Before we talk about how to deal with pride, let’s take a few moments to try and understand pride better from a biblical perspective.

   A. Healthy pride:

One of the things we learn from God’s Word is that there is such a thing as healthy pride. There is a place for boasting, and there is a place for healthy pride in yourself.

      – boasting in the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24; 2 Corinthians 10:17)

First of all, the proper place for boasting is not in ourselves but in the Lord. We read in Jeremiah 9: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24) Or as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 10: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 10:17)

      – honest self-assessment (Romans 12:3; Galatians 6:3-4)

And then the Bible also talks about healthy pride in the sense of an honest self-assessment. This is why Paul can write in Romans 12:3: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.” (Romans 12:3) Or again in Galatians 6:3-4: “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else.” (Galatians 6:3-4) And so it is good and right when you have finished a project and done a good job on it to have a sense of satisfaction in your work. That is a healthy pride because it is based on honest self-assessment.

I like how C.J. Mahaney puts this. He writes, “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” True humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. Timothy Keller calls this the freedom of self-forgetfulness. We don’t glorify God by minimizing the good gifts he has given us. We need to think of ourselves honestly in light of God’s Word, and take a healthy pride in what God is doing in us and through our lives.

   B. Wrongful pride – the first sin (Isaiah 14:12-15)

However, that is not the problem we are talking about this morning. We are talking about a wrongful pride that cuts us off from God and others. This wrongful pride has rightly been called the first sin. Pride is the first sin because it was the very first sin committed, and it is the first sin because all other sins proceed from it.

Pride was the sin of the devil that caused him to rebel against God in the beginning. We read in Isaiah 14: “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! … You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God … I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Isaiah 14:12-15) Pride was the devil’s downfall.

Pride was not only the first sin committed. It is the source of all other sins, which makes it the worst sin of all. John Stott writes: “Pride is more than the first of the deadly sins; it is itself the essence of all sin.” Or as Jonathan Edwards wrote: “Pride is the worst part of the body of sin and death, the first sin that ever entered into the universe and the last that is rooted out. It is God’s most stubborn enemy!”

   C. Pride leads to:

Pride leads to all other sins, but it leads particularly to the following five:

      1) Disobedience instead of submission (1 Samuel 15:23)

First of all, pride leads to disobedience instead of submission. We read in 1 Samuel 15:
“For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15:23) This was Samuel’s rebuke of Saul when Saul’s pride led him to rebel against God’s clear instructions. We need to understand that pride is rebellion at heart.

      2) Hypocrisy instead of authentic living (Proverbs 12:9; Matthew 23:5)

Secondly, pride leads to hypocrisy instead of authentic living. Jesus said about the Pharisees, “Everything they do is done for men to see.” (Matthew 23:5) The Pharisees were not living authentically for God but putting on a show for men.

Pride makes us pretend. We don’t want people to think bad of us, so we pretend we are better than we are. Here’s the thing. Your pretending doesn’t make you any better. Proverbs 12:9 says, “Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food.” (Proverbs 12:9) Who cares if everyone thinks you’re rich when you open up the refrigerator and there’s nothing to eat? It’s like lying about your gas mileage. You might look good in front of others, but it doesn’t help you when you pay at the pump.

False humility falls under this category, too. You know what false humility is, right? It’s when you pay someone a genuine compliment, and they say, “It was nothing!” Well, it wasn’t nothing. It was something. That’s false humility. When someone pays you a compliment, the proper response is simply, “Thank you!” Henry Fairlie writes, “A false humility is no more to be praised than a false pride, depreciating oneself too much is as wrong as esteeming oneself too much.”

We need to let go of all pretence and just live genuine lives with each other. Did you mess up? Admit it! Are you bad at something? Don’t say you’re good at it! Are you good at something? Don’t say you’re bad at it! Relax, be genuine, be real. Learn to laugh at yourself – there is no lack of material. If you’re going to laugh about it some day anyway, why not start today? Don’t be a hypocrite. Pride leads to hypocrisy instead of authentic living.

      3) A judgmental spirit instead of love (1 Corinthians 8:1)

Thirdly, pride leads to a judgmental spirit instead of love. 1 Corinthians 8:1 says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) This is the problem of self-righteousness. As R.T. Kendall puts it, “Pride makes us feel worthy to judge another.” When you judge another you are playing God, and that is a matter of pride. The Bible says you shouldn’t even judge yourself! Let God judge you, and let everything else go.

You can’t love someone when you’re busy judging them, and you won’t judge them when you’re busy loving them. When someone is caught in a sin, you should take the attitude, “There but for the grace of God go I,” and then come alongside and help them in love.

      4) Boasting instead of meekness (Proverbs 27:2; 2 Corinthians 12:5-6)

Fourthly, pride leads to boasting instead of meekness. Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2) The apostle Paul wrote: “I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain.” (2 Corinthians 12:5-6)

That means even if it’s true you shouldn’t be boasting about it! It seems we all feel this need to prove ourselves. And yet boasting never makes you look good anyways. As Chuck Swindoll says: “The world’s smallest package is a man wrapped up in himself.”

      5) Isolation instead of community (Proverbs 13:10; Romans 12:16)

And then finally, pride leads to isolation instead of community. Proverbs 13:10 says, “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” (Proverbs 13:10) Romans 12:16 says, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:16)

Pride isolates us from other people. Henry Fairlie writes, “The proud man sets himself up and, in doing so, sets himself apart …To imagine that one does not need community with others is a terrible form of pride.”

Pride is the root and the essence of all sin. Pride leads to disobedience instead of submission, to hypocrisy instead of authentic living, to a judgmental spirit instead of love, to boasting instead of meekness, and to isolation instead of community.

III. Dealing with pride

So how do we deal with pride? Let me share with you eight things from God’s word that will help you deal with this problem of pride in your life.

   A. Confess your sin to God (Job 42:5-6; Isaiah 6:5)

Number one: confess your sin to God. If pride is independence and rebellion from God, then the first step back is confession. In Scripture anytime someone gets close to God, they immediately confess their sin. Job tells God: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6) When Isaiah saw God in a vision, he cried out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5)

Dr. William Plumer wrote: “No man ever thought himself a greater sinner before God than he really was.” And, “He who sees no sin in himself will feel no need of a Savior.” Andrew Murray wrote: “It is pride that made redemption needful; it is from our pride we need above everything else to be redeemed.”

   B. Consider the cross (Galatians 6:14)

Number two: consider the cross. The apostle Paul wrote: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 6:14)

There is no room for boasting at the cross. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote: “There is only one thing I know of that crushes me to the ground and humiliates me to the dust, and that is to look at the Son of God and especially contemplate the cross.” John Stott writes, “Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to be saying to us, ‘I am here because of you.’ … Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross.”

We often sing the hymn: “When I survey the wondrous cross / On which the Prince of glory died / My richest gain I count but loss / And pour contempt on all my pride.”

   C. Consider your salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Number three: consider your salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) You are saved not by anything you have done, but simply by God’s grace. God’s love for you is not based on your performance, but on his nature and Christ’s finished work on the cross. You did not choose God. He chose you. As Charles Spurgeon wrote:

“I believe in the doctrine of election because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love.”

Do want to be humbled? Consider your salvation.

   D. Give God the glory (Genesis 41:16; 2 Corinthians 3:5)

Number four: give God the glory. When Joseph came to Pharaoh to interpret his dream, he claimed no credit for himself. “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” (Genesis 41:16) Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” (2 Corinthians 3:5) Everything good you have in your life comes from God. Make sure you give God the glory.

   E. Submit to God’s Word (Isaiah 66:2; 1 Timothy 6:3-4)

Number five: submit to God’s Word. God says in Isaiah 66:2: “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2) 1 Timothy 6:3-4 says, “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing.” (1 Timothy 6:3-4)

Rejecting God’s Word, picking and choosing from God’s word, re-interpreting God’s word to fit the times – these are all evidence of sinful pride which elevates man’s authority over God’s. Submit to God’s word.

   F. Be thankful for God’s gifts (2 Samuel 7:18; 1 Corinthians 4:7)

Number six: be thankful for God’s gifts. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) King David was a good example of this kind of humility when he prayed, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18) Don’t claim anything for yourself, but receive all things with thanksgiving from God.

   G. Honor others before yourself (Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:3)

Number seven, honor others before yourself. Romans 12:10 says, “Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10), and Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

This is a tough one. This is where we find out if we are truly dealing with the pride in our lives. Andrew Murray writes, “It is easy to think we humble ourselves before God: humility towards men will be the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real … Humility before God is nothing if not proved in humility before men.” That’s why the Bible talks about honoring one another, being servants of one another, submitting yourselves to one another, considering others better than yourself.

President Harry Truman once said, “You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit.” As Christians we should rejoice when God exalts others. Dave Harvey writes, “One great measure of our humility is whether we can be ambitious for someone else’s agenda … Our willingness to make others a success is a great measure of the purity of our ambitions.” Timothy Keller says that humility is: “For it not to matter whether it was their success or your success. Not to care if they did it or you did it. You are as happy that they did it as if you had done it yourself.” Honor others before yourself.

   H. Grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
      – especially love (1 Corinthians 13:4)

And then finally grow in the fruit of the Spirit, especially the fruit of love. 1 Corinthians 13:4 reminds us: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)

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Some helpful resources for dealing with pride:

Descending Into Greatness, by Bill Hybels, Rob Wilkins

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness, by Timothy Keller

From Pride to Humility: A Biblical Perspective, by Stuart Scott

Gospel-Powered Humility, by William Farley

Humility, by Andrew Murray

Humility: The Forgotten Virtue, by Wayne A. Mack

Humility: True Greatness, by C.J. Mahaney

The Power of Humility, by R.T. Kendall

The prideful soul’s guide to humility, by Thomas Jones and Michael Fontenot

Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, by Jerry Bridges

The Seven Deadly Sins Today, by Henry Fairlie

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© Ray Fowler

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