Lenten Devotional - Giving Up Pride

Nebuchadnezzar (1795) by William Blake (1757-1827)  God humbled the King of Babylon for his pride, making him like a beast of the field. When his chastisement was done, the King blessed the Lord, for “those who walk in pride He is able to humble.” (Daniel 4:4-37)

Nebuchadnezzar (1795) by William Blake (1757-1827)

God humbled the King of Babylon for his pride, making him like a beast of the field. When his chastisement was done, the King blessed the Lord, for “those who walk in pride He is able to humble.” (Daniel 4:4-37)

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  (1 Corinthians 1:6-8)

And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”  (Mark 9:35)

In the Bible, God uses leaven (or yeast) as both a negative and a positive image.  Negatively, leaven represents the pride which resides in a sinner’s heart.  Positively, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a tiny pinch of yeast that leavens an entire lump of dough.  The hope of the Gospel is that the leaven of pride, which has corrupted every human being and every corner of the world, can and will be displaced by the leaven of the Kingdom. 

In the Old Testament, God gave the Israelites an entire festival week during which they were to have no leaven in their homes.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread reminded the people of the Exodus, when God humbled the pride of the Egyptians.  It also called them to “walk humbly with their God” (Micah 6:8) – to avoid falling into the same trap as their former masters.  Clearly, God places a premium on guarding against pride and repenting of it whenever it wells up.

The New Testament contains similar warnings and exhortations about pride, but instead of being grounded in the Exodus they are grounded in Jesus.  Jesus’ life embodied humility and all of its glory.  He willingly shed his heavenly glory to become human, lived contentedly for years in obscurity, preached to crowds without longing for their approval, suffered the injustice of the cross without complaint or bitterness, and through all of this never ceased to love perfectly each person that he met.  No wonder that Paul tells us to “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5)!  

Paul tells us to imitate Jesus’ humility not only because it’s compelling, but also because it’s strong.  Compared to the humility of Jesus our pride is a weak and paltry thing.  Pride reduces us to self-absorbed people who rage or flee in the face of hardships.  Meanwhile, Jesus’ humility enabled him to endure bravely the worst that life has to offer.  Pride promises glory but sends us to the grave, reduced again to dust.  Meanwhile, it was because of Jesus’ humility that the Father raised him from the grave, exalted him, and gave him “the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

Lent presents us with a wonderful opportunity to renew our repentance from pride.  Begin by studying Jesus.  Do this unhurriedly and in a quiet place, but don’t obsess about how much time you spend. 

Simply read some stories about Jesus in the Gospels and meditate upon his words, actions, and character.  Imagine the scenes you read in your head.  Put yourself in the place of some of the characters – proud ones like the Pharisees (Luke 18:9-14) and the disciples (Mark 9:33-37), and humble ones like the people Jesus rescued from shame (Luke 7:37-38), blindness (Luke 18:43), and demons (Mark 5:18).  Ask yourself who seems more joyful, strong, and free.  Ask yourself who you would rather be.

But can simply studying and meditating on Jesus make us humble?  Yes! – because Jesus is not merely our example, he is our Savior and our life.  The Scriptures declare that we have both forgiveness and power because of Jesus’ humble obedience on the cross. Through the Son we who believe are forgiven by the Father and filled with the Holy Spirit.  Pride no longer defines us, because our life is now “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).  We can be confident that every desire we have to imitate Jesus’ humility comes from the prompting of the Spirit, and that every effort we take to follow those promptings will bear fruit in its season.  “The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8) – not just in the world to come, but also in the present.  

Confess and turn from your pride – the humble one who dwells within calls you and will enable you!

Sunday Preview for February 17, 2019

Calvin may be cute, but he’s wrong! You can’t obey the letter of the law if you don’t obey its spirit.

Calvin may be cute, but he’s wrong! You can’t obey the letter of the law if you don’t obey its spirit.

Humans have divided up into tribes ever since sin entered the world.  Unlike those in ancient times, modern “tribes” aren’t limited to blood relatives, nor do they exist to ensure survival; they are cliques centered on shared activities, interests, and ideas.

You probably belong to several tribes: fans of your favorite sports team or Netflix show, members of your gym, or followers of your political party. Some of these tribes are open while others are more restricted, but they all possess heroes, jargon, and rituals that define who’s “in” the tribe and who’s “out.”

As Christians, we are members of the most important tribe on earth –the Kingdom of God – and our tribe’s hero, King Jesus, sets the standard for determining who’s in the Kingdom and who’s out.  However, we frequently prioritize other tribes more than the Kingdom, and often create our own requirements for Kingdom membership.  What happens to us and to the Kingdom when we do this?

In our passage this Sunday, Mark 7:1-8, 20-23, Jesus points us to what truly matters in the in life and in his Kingdom – faith in him and devotion to his law – and warns us about creating tribal traditions that break both the letter and the spirit of his law.  Come and worship Jesus, and if you have the opportunity, follow his law by inviting someone “outside of the tribe” to join you

Sunday Preview for January 20, 2019

The Calling of St. Matthew (1502) by Vittore Carpaccio

The Calling of St. Matthew (1502) by Vittore Carpaccio

On June 16, 1953 over one million citizens rose up in protest against the Communist government of East Germany.  After the uprising had been brutally suppressed, the East German poet Berthold Brecht wrote a poem that sarcastically criticized the government:

After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. 
Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

No doubt many leaders have wished that they could replace their subjects, but there has only ever been one leader with the right to do so had he desired.  No kingdom made up of sinners is worthy of King Jesus.  So who does he make his subjects, and why does he tolerate them?

This week’s passage, Mark 2:13-17, tells how Jesus called Levi (Matthew), a tax collector unworthy of Jesus’ attention.  In his story we will see how our King reveals his glory by turning the worst people into his loyal subjects.  Come and worship with us at New Hope at 10 AM and hear of the power and love that Jesus has for you!