Now that we know who we are in Christ and have our heads on straight, now we can begin to deal with laying down our sin. We’ll explore this more broadly tomorrow, but today let’s start with one sin in particular, and arguably the most basic: Pride.
Every act of pride is an act of rebellion. We’re not talking about taking pride in your work or being proud of your kids—we’re talking about the kind of pride that says, “This is mine and only mine. I am right. I, and I alone, deserve this.”
Or it might fly the other way: We might be so filled with self-hatred that we say to God, “You can’t help me. You can’t love me. No-one can. I am alone and I will stay that way. Because at least that’s mine.”
Now, most of us don’t actually talk this way—we don’t want to seem proud, after all—but think about your last angry or bitter reaction, whether anyone saw it or not. How does it stack up against our thoughts above? How did you say or think it?
For that matter, think about why we shy away from discussions on religion or politics—or, bully our way right through. Because our way, our beliefs, are threatened. God, however, is not threatened or intimidated. God can take care of himself—and us. But we must lay down our pride and let him.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like (James 1:22–24).
Yesterday, we looked at laying down our thought lives—how to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Probably all of us have experienced an a-ha moment, when God revealed something brand-new to us. Honestly, it’s a pretty… well, head-y feeling when the Spirit helps us see God’s will in a new way, whether it’s through the Word, circumstances, or when you’re just sitting there and this revelation just… hits you.
However, here’s what we often forget in that moment: Insight is just that. It’s insight. At the point we receive it, that’s all it is. It’s a good thing, but it’s a comparatively small thing unless we put it into action. We have an epiphany; we’re inspired by a book or someone’s personal story; we’re moved to tears by a thought—but that’s only a beginning. It’s a seed of something bigger, not the bigger thing itself. What we do with that seed is what matters.
If we do nothing, the moment passes. Nothing changes. That’s one possibility, and we do it often enough. It’s a shame, but it could be worse. For instance….
If we share about this incredible thing God’s shown us and then do nothing with it, we’re like our James 1 “man in the mirror.” We’re actually worse than when we started—because we’ve taken a gift from God and made it about us. We’ve probably primped in that mirror more than a few times; maybe we’ve even flexed our muscles to prove to ourselves what powerful spiritual warriors we are. We’re kidding no-one, especially God.
Yet, because God has allowed us this experience, we’ve allowed ourselves to feel superior about it. If we’re not brought to a place of humility and response, we actually allow something given to us by God to be used by the enemy instead. That thought should stop us in our tracks and ask forgiveness right now.
In fact, if that’s where you’re at, stop right now and deal with it. You can pick this back up in a few minutes; I’ll wait here. Getting right with God is more important….
Doing better? Good. So let’s revisit Romans 12:2. I have to confess, as a guy who readily enjoys being in his head, it’s a pretty easy verse to fall in love with. (That said, I dare suggest that extroverts are in their heads every bit as much as us introverts are—they just want the rest of us in there, too.) Here’s the problem—and the solution: I forget all too easily that Romans 12:2 is preceded by Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (emphasis mine).
We’ll explore the outward part of sacrifice more over the next couple days, but suffice to say: Nothing kills pride faster than having to sacrifice our outward selves. It’s probably very little coincidence that Romans 12:3 begins, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think….”
What does this sacrifice look like? Again, it starts on the inside. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17). Repentance is not just turning back. More importantly: It is starting over.
If change is only in our heads, it’s short-lived at best. However, when our hearts and spirits change, our bodies—and heads—follow. Our “sacrifice” becomes something we do joyfully instead of grudgingly. When we lay down our pride and become willing to change, our desire to put ourselves above others drops. Through humility, we put ourselves in the same boat as those we used to separate ourselves from—and therefore, we no longer desire to see that boat sink.
Lay It Down Today
Find a mirror, and take at least a couple minutes to look at it—or rather, at you. Don’t fix anything. Don’t primp. And don’t make faces. Just look. At you. Spend enough time looking that you’re no longer comfortable with what you see. Or go the other way: If you already hate looking at yourself, spend enough time that you’re able to see the person God created—the person behind what you see. Either way, take the time to see yourself differently—from God’s perspective.
Then, pray. Ask God to help you not to forget the person you are in his eyes. Ask him to give you the strength to lay down your pride and to live out the word he’s given you. Take some time tonight (or tomorrow night, if it’s already evening) to “reflect” on how God uses you in the next twenty-four hours. May God bless you as you live out his life today.