Posts Tagged ‘arrogance’

If you have ever read 1 and 2 Corinthians, especially straight through, you know that Paul and the Corinthians had a stormy relationship. In fact this accounts, in large part, for why Paul wrote so much to them. There is a correlation between the amount of trouble and the amount of writing Paul had to do.

He had founded the church, but then left for other parts to preach the gospel. And in his absence the Corinthians started to think they were pretty smart. And also other Christian workers came to them and the Corinthians began comparing them against Paul, and seemed to like these others more than they liked Paul. And so some began to question him and pick him apart and there were various disagreements between them.

For instance:

  • There was a misunderstanding about his travel plans that upset them. Some were asking, “Why didn’t he visit us like he said he would?” (2 Corinthians 1:15-23)
  • Some thought they knew more than him about several topics of the Christian faith even though he was an apostle of Christ. (idol food, sexual immorality and the resurrection)
  • Some thought he boasted too much. (2 Corinthians 3:1; 10:8)
  • There were issues of trust regarding the offering being taken for the Jerusalem church. Can he be trusted to deliver this money? (2 Corinthians 8:20-21; 9:-21; 1 Corinthians 16:3-4)
  • Some thought that he was a poor speaker. This is interesting because we would never think this, but they were judging him by Greek standards of rhetoric and speech. In 2 Corinthians 10:10 Paul quotes some of them as saying “his speech is of no account.” (1 Corinthians 1:7; 2:1; 2 Corinthians 11:6)
  • Some thought he was weak; that he didn’t make a good impression. Again in 2 Corinthians 10:10 he quotes some of them as saying, “his bodily presence is weak.” (2 Corinthians 10:1)

All of this conflict is why Paul speaks of making painful visits  with them (2 Corinthians 2:1) and writing painful letters to them (2 Corinthians 2:4).

The core issue in all of this is the Corinthian’s pride and arrogance – in themselves and in their ideas about how he should be a minister.This shows up in 1 Corinthians 4:8, where he says sarcastically, “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!” They had a very high view of themselves.

Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 4:18-20. “Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”

With this background in place let’s look at our passage and its warning in v. 12. I will break it down into four parts:

1. The Israelites “had it all” too

vs. 1-4 – “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”

  • The Israelites shared in a baptism. They passed through the red sea, just as the Corinthians were baptized.
  • The Israelites shared in the Lord’s food and drink. They ate manna and drank water from the rock, just as the Corinthians partook of the Lord’s supper.

They too enjoyed the privileges and blessings of the Lord, like the Corinthians.

2. Yet they failed and were judged

v. 5 – “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.” They did not enter the promised land.

Paul then gives four examples of how they displeased God:

  • v. 7 – Idolatry. “Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.’” This refers back to the golden calf incident in Exodus 32. (v. 6 is quoted)
  • v. 8 – Sexual immorality. “We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.” This refers to Numbers 25 when the Israelites engaged in sexual immorality with the Moabites.
  • v. 9 – Testing God. “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents.” This goes back to Numbers 21, where they complained against God and Moses about his provision of manna. They wanted God to prove himself by giving them more and better food.
  • v. 10 – Complaining. We must not “grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” This refers to Numbers 14 and possibly also Numbers 16-17. In each of these cases the Israelites grumbled against God and Moses and were judged.

What is Paul’s message? The Israelites had it all, the blessings and privileges of God. But they were not careful and gave in to evil desire. Only two of them – Joshua and Caleb made it into the promised land. The rest were judged.

3. These stories are examples for Christians

And he emphasises this in two places in this passage. v. 6 – “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” And then also v. 11 – “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” Paul is saying, what happened to them can happen to you – Corinthians.

And this point is made all the more secure in that the Corinthians were struggling with the same things that the Israelites in the wilderness struggled with. And that, even as they thought so highly of themselves.

– some were involved in idolatry, as he will warn them later in our passage, when they eat idol food in a temple they are actually connecting themselves to the demons behind idol worship. (1 Corinthians 10:14-22)

some were involved in sexual immorality – indeed they were even OK with a couple involved in incest being a part of their congregation (1 Corinthians 5; 2 Corinthians 12:21)

some were testing God – this might refer to how they were partaking of the Lord’s supper wrongly, bringing judgment on themselves (1 Corinthians 11:17-34)

some were grumbling against Paul as a leader, not receiving his counsel, thinking they knew more than him, and picking him apart.

And so he warns them in relation to all of these things –

4. Take care lest you too fall!

v. 12 – “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” You who think you have it all together, who think that you are standing firm, learn from this that you too can fall. You may now experience the blessings of God. But you risk being excluded from the promises of God – just as most of the Israelites did not enter the promised land.

And the issue is their pride and arrogance:

Their pride blocks them from being able to see their own problems, struggles and failures. Right? Pride makes us really good at finding other peoples’ problems, but really bad at seeing our own. And this was true in how the Corinthians treated Paul.

And their pride keeps them from receiving input and correction from Paul, so that they can change.

The lesson for us

Beware overconfidence! We all need faith and confidence in our relationship with God, but watch out for overconfidence. Beware pride! Beware arrogance!

All of us have weaknesses and we stumble in many ways. But when we are arrogant it blinds us to our problems and it keeps us from receiving input and correction from others. It is just as Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

So then, let us learn humility. Let us confess our struggles. And let us receive from one another correction and help – so that we can all receive the promises that God has for us.

William Higgins

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Occasional Series: Christians and Politics

Well, it’s that time again! A presidential election is upon us. And that can only mean one thing – it’s time for the next installment of our once in every four years, series on Christians and politics. I’m sure you all remember everything I said from the first installment (: But for those who weren’t here, I have some fliers in the back.

This time we look at the perils of partisan politics. This is an important topic since: 1) We don’t all share the same political views. And so partisanship can quickly become a divisive and destructive force among us; we whose real allegiance is to our Lord Jesus, who is our unity. 2) The frenzy of partisanship can lead us to act in ways that are not consistent with our Christian values and commitments.

Let’s begin with a bit more on the question of –

What is partisan politics?

A partisan is a firm adherent to a party or cause, in this case a political one. But I mean more than this. I’m talking about someone who has:

  • an overwhelming certainty about their views which leads them to assume that something is wrong, intellectually or morally with anyone who disagrees.
  • a zealous intensity about their views so that the feel that it is absolutely crucial that their views gain political power.

Such partisanship is fed by 24 hour media outlets who are themselves fully partisan and who make their living on keeping things stirred up.

Well, this certainty and intensity often pushes a ‘win at all costs’ mentality, where you will say or do what you need to, to make sure your cause wins. The end justifies the means.

Partisanship often leads to a ‘politics of destruction’ so that the other candidate cannot be acknowledged as a decent person who has done decent things. They must be torn down and destroyed. And partisanship often leads to a ‘politics of fear.’ You know, if the other candidate is elected it forebodes the end of the world as we know it.

Now there are many who decry the problems of partisanship, for instance the loss of civil discourse and the lack of a focus on the common good. But our interest is Christian. And so I have identified three perils of partisan politics for Christians – things that we all need to beware of in this election season and beyond.

Peril #1. Slander

By slander I mean spreading half-truths, distortions or deceptions regarding a person’s character, record or statements. I’m thinking here of what you say in conversation with others, in emails – your own or those you pass along, in internet posts, texts, you name it.

Slander in politics is so common today that it has to be really outrageous for us to even notice it. And it has been with us for many years. Here’s an example from the presidential election of 1800 between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

  • Jefferson’s camp called Adams neither a man nor a woman in character, having “neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” He was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal and a tyrant.
  • Adam’s camp called Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow” and a half-breed (I’m cleaning things up a bit). He was also called a weakling, an atheist and a coward. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201112/political-slander-is-nothing-new Perhaps we are a bit more refined today? Maybe?

Now, I’m not saying you can’t strongly disagree with a politician, just that the same rules apply with regard to slander for a candidate as for any other person – your  neighbor, co-worker, whoever. So –

  • Don’t accept negative information if you’re not sure it is true. There’s so much slander flying around from both sides. Become friends with a good fact-checking site or two.
  • Don’t be involved in character assaults.
  • Even if the information is true, don’t say anything that is simply meant to tear someone down. Yes, we can speak the truth, but we must do it in love (Ephesians 4:15), not in hatred for the other person, or simply to further our political ends, or to delight in their downfall.

This is serious stuff. Regarding slander the ninth commandment says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” – Exodus 20:16. Jesus tells us that slander morally “defiles” us – Matthew 15:19-20. Paul says, “Let all . . . slander be put away from you, along with all malice” – Ephesians 4:31.

Brothers and sisters what business do we have engaging in such practices? We are called to love others, not destroy their reputations. Do you think that because the person is a political leader that it’s OK? That they are not a real person? Do you think that God is not watching? Do you think that politics is an area of life where God’s righteousness doesn’t apply? Where you can be worldly? Where you can be un-Christ-like? Where you can walk in the flesh?

Peril #2. Dishonoring authorities

I remember when George W. Bush was president. And many Christians, progressive and anti-war Christians, treated him with disrespect. I certainly didn’t agree with everything he did. But that doesn’t justify what I often heard – slander, ridicule, insults and name calling.

Well, not to be outdone, since the election of Barak Obama many conservative Christians have responded in kind. I certainly don’t agree with everything that he has done. But my point is that this doesn’t justify what I often hear –  slander, ridicule, insults and name calling.

It’s one thing to disagree with someone based on the issues. It’s another to dishonor them. I am concerned that we are systematically training our children and young people to disrespect authorities, not just political ones, but in all areas of life. We don’t model for them disagreeing with respect.

Scripture has very strong teaching on submitting to and honoring authorities. Here is one example: 1 Peter 2:13-14 – “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” So we have submission here. But notice this also includes respect too. The text goes on in v. 17 to say, “Honor the emperor.”

Now our culture in general is not very good at honoring or submitting to authorities. We may well live in one of the most anti-authoritarian cultures ever. But as Christians, Scripture is our guide, not our culture. And we need to work on this.

But you say, “Pastor, you just don’t understand, this politician is really bad!” Well let’s think about this for a moment. When Peter wrote, the emperor was Nero. I can assure you that he had no Christian values. He was a worshipper of idols, one who had near absolute power, one who allowed himself to be viewed as a god. And then later in his career he persecuted Christians in the city of Rome mercilessly, most likely killing the apostle Paul and also Peter, who wrote this instruction to us. So, really, you think that your political enemy is bad? Really!?

The point is, whoever the leader is, we are called to show respect. Yes, you can oppose them or call out sin. But honor does not include slander, ridicule, insults and name calling.

Rather we are called to pray for authorities. Paul says, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions . . .” – 1 Timothy 2:1-2. Pray regularly for your political opponents (not for their downfall but for God to lead and help them) and see what this does to your heart and attitude.

Peril #3. Arrogance

When someone is certain that their views are right, it is very easy to become arrogant. I’m talking about political self-righteousness. I’m right and if you can just be quiet long enough to listen to me you will soon see that too. And if you can’t you must be stupid or depraved.

Peter says, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” – 1 Peter 5:5. Humility means confessing that we don’t know everything. And that it is at least possible that we are wrong. It means making space for others with different views on matters of worldly opinion.

Also, political arrogance causes division and hurt among us, all so that you can say what you feel you need to say about your political views. But God calls us to live in peace with one another and to respect one another.

In 1 Corinthians 8:1 Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up . . ..” That is, when you think you know everything it makes you arrogant and hurtful to others. He goes on to say, “but love builds up.” Love leads us to respect and serve others, even those who hold different opinions in the matters of this world.

A final thought –

Watch your words!

Politics has much to do with words, especially campaigning. And there is a ‘word theme’ in the message today – words of slander that tears down, words of disrespect, arrogant words that hurt and divide.

David may well have been talking about political opponents in his day when he talked about those “who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows” in Psalm 64:3. And when we are filled with passion for worldly politics we can easily go astray in our words so that they become like arrows and swords.

So let’s remember these Scriptures as we end. Jesus said, “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” – Matthew 12:36. If our careless words of slander, disrespect and arrogance are judged how much more our intentional words of slander, disrespect and arrogance?

Peter taught, “Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil” – I Peter 4:10. As James said, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” – James 1:26.

William Higgins

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John the Baptist is our Advent focus this year. John prepared the people for Jesus’ coming. And he can also prepare us as we get ready to celebrate the coming of Jesus at Christmas and also as we await the second coming of Jesus; his second advent, which could happen at any time.

Last week we saw how he prepares us through his message of repentance. We are to set aside our sin and our excuses for our sin, and commit to do God’s will in all of our lives. And then, just as the people did in John the Baptist’s day, we can come and confess our sins and find forgiveness.

Today we focus on how John’s example of humility prepares us. But first, a bit more on the person of John the Baptist. We looked at some things last week, but today we take note of –

John’s exalted status

John was chosen by God and given a special role in God’s scheme of things; God’s plan for this world. And not only this, he is spoken of very highly in Scripture.

1. His birth was announced by an angel in the Temple – Luke 1:13. How many people can claim this?

2. He received the Spirit ‘in utero’ as it were. The angel said, “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” – Luke 1:15.

3. His birth was special. When people heard about the circumstances of his birth, about his mother being older and unable to have children and his father not being able to speak and then speaking to name him “John,” they said, “‘What then will this child be?’ For the hand of the Lord was with him.” – Luke 1:65-66.

4. It’s the testimony of Scripture that “He was a righteous and holy man” – Mark 6:20.

5. He baptized Jesus – Matthew 3:13-17. An amazing privilege.

6. He was the first to confess Jesus’ identity. He said, “I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” – John 1:34.

7. He was immensely popular. “And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” – Mark 1:5.

8. He was respected by the king. Herod arrested him, but nevertheless, “Herod feared John . . . and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly” – Mark 6:20

9. Jesus said about him, “He was a burning and shining lamp” – John 5:35.

10. Jesus said, “John came to you in the way of righteousness” – Matthew 21:32.

11. His father prophesied great things about him at his birth. “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins” – Luke 1:76-77.

12. He is the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1. Jesus said, “What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’” – Luke 7:26-27.

13. He is the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3. “For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'” – Matthew 3:3.

14. He is the fulfillment of Malachi 4:5-6. This speaks of Elijah coming before the day of the Lord. “And the disciples asked Jesus, ‘Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?’ He answered, ‘Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased’. . . Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.” – Matthew 17:10-13. (Also, Matthew 11:14; Luke 1:17)

15. John is the dividing line between the old and new covenants. Jesus said, “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached.” – Luke 16:16.

16. John was the greatest of the old covenant. Jesus said, “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John” – Luke 7:28. That is, those among the old covenant. Think about it. John is greater than Abraham, Moses, David and Elijah!

It’s difficult to find someone in Scripture spoken of more highly, and certainly none in terms of the words of Jesus. What an amazing person! And what an amazing ministry he had!

Now lets’ look at –

How John’s example prepares us for the coming of Jesus

And what I want to say here is that he presents an example to us of true humility. And given his exalted status and all the accolades, this really stands out.

He saw himself as unworthy in comparison to Jesus. He said, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.” – Matthew 3:11. He sees himself as not even worthy to do slave service for Jesus; carrying his sandals.

He claimed no titles. “He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’” – John 1:20-21. Now, Jesus called him the prophet and Elijah. But John was uncomfortable with these titles. He simply saw himself as the one who prepares the way.

He felt unworthy to baptize Jesus. Scripture tells us, “John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’” – Matthew 3:14.

He willingly let his disciples follow Jesus. “The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” – John 1:35-37.

John always deferred to Jesus. Someone said to John, “Rabbi, he . . . to whom you bore witness – look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” – John 3:26. Would he be envious? John answered them, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.” – John 3:29. He’s simply the friend of the bridegroom. The party’s for the groom, not the friend. And he’s happy for Jesus. Finally, and succinctly, John said this about Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30.

What an amazing portrait of humility! He was socially humble, claiming no status. He was economically humble, being poor. He was personally humble, as a virtue in his relations with others. And he was humble before God and submitted to him. “Whatever you want God, that’s what I want.”

And this stands out all the more in contrast to king Herod and the Pharisees and Sadducees, where we see pride, self-righteousness, and self-sufficiency.

But notice that John, in his humility, was blessed by Jesus when he came. But all these others, because of their pride, found themselves opposing Jesus and being opposed by Jesus. They lifted themselves up and so they were not ready for the coming of the Lord.

What about you? Where is there pride, self-righteousness or self-sufficiency in your life?

Do you strive to be recognized, as opposed to lifting Jesus up? Do you have areas of your life where you think you don’t need Jesus? Are there issues where you think you know more than Jesus, and so you don’t listen to him or obey him? When he challenges you, do you resist because you are too arrogant to listen or yield?

John teaches us that getting ready for Jesus’ advent means getting rid of our arrogance and learning true humility before God.

Jesus said in Luke 14:11 “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,” that is by God when he comes. But he also said in the same verse, “he who humbles himself will be exalted,” that is by God when he comes – just as John was exalted and blessed.

And if we follow John’s example, we too can be blessed, when we celebrate and worship our Lord this Christmas, and on that final day when he returns in great glory.

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