Monday, February 01, 2010

Forgetting the Gospel

[This entry follows a sermon preached at Gray Road Baptist Church entitled, "The Lord of the Sabbath, Part II." Click on the title if you'd like to listen to that message from Mark 2:23-3:6.]

The Bible has a lot to say about pride...more than I could possibly cover in one blog entry. However, let me roll out a short list of texts that address this sin...this vice.

1. "It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than divide the spoil with the proud." (Prov. 16:19)
2. "Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin." (Prov. 21:4)
3. In the wake of King Uzziah's great success, we read these words, "But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction..." (2 Chronicles 26:16)
And the result of this pride...
4. "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5)

Pride is something that we, as Christians should most certainly avoid. As we read in Mark about the Pharisees...of their self-exalted place of authority in interpreting the Sabbath and their prideful desire to "catch" Jesus healing on the Sabbath...we are reminded just how ugly pride can be. Yet, as we reflect on the ugly pride of others, we must very quickly turn our gaze inward. In looking at the Pharisee, are we tempted to puff ourselves up...or to think, "I'm definitely better than the people who think they're better than other people."

When I first heard someone utter that phrase, I remember giggling...maybe you, too, can see the ironic humor in such a statement. However, honest reflection finds that this statement hits closer to home than we'd like to admit. We see those often labeled "legalistic," and we are tempted to exalt ourselves for not falling into such a trap. We wonder why they would possibly act like that...why can't they wake up and see things like we see them? Can't they see, as we do, the truth about playing cards or dancing or any other such activity?

Re-read that last paragraph. Have you ever had those kinds of thoughts? Have you ever felt yourself superior to others because of your knowledge or your choices in behavior? The statements of the last paragraph and affirmative answers to these last two questions point to pride in the heart. It is this that Paul urged the Roman believers NOT to do when he wrote, "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, but to think with sober judgment..." (Romans 12:3).

What lies beneath these kinds of thoughts? How does one get to a place where he feels himself spiritually superior to others...whether because of knowledge or behavior? What's underneath this kind of spiritual pride? ("Spiritual pride", that's an oxymoron!)

It seems that underneath spiritual pride is a memory loss. The only way that one can look at himself as spiritually superior to others seems to be by forgetting the very gospel which called him out of darkness and into light. We would have to forget the gospel which breathed new life into our dead bones. It seems that this one would have forgotten that it was "by grace you have been saved through faith. And this not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).

I know this is a familiar text to many of us, but imagine what happens when we forget it. We forget that God's sovereign grace reached out of eternity to make us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:4-5). We forget that even the faith to believe the gospel was a gracious gift of God. We forget that we contributed nothing to our salvation, and we can add nothing to our status before God. We forget that our righteousness is as filthy rags, and only the righteousness of Christ is acceptable to God. And...we have been counted righteous through the gift of faith by the sovereign grace of God.

These are the truths of the two-edged sword of God's Word. When we are tempted to stick out our chest in pride over our theological knowledge or our seemingly impeccable behavior, we must fight against it with this sword of the Spirit and "pop our big heads" with it. So, let us examine our minds, our hearts, our words, and our motivations. Let's humbly pray with David, "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" (Ps. 139:23-24)