It’s Monday morning and you walk out the door at 6:30am to head across town for an important meeting you have at 7:00am. All is going as expected until you turn the corner to see you left the headlights on all night. Your fears are confirmed as you turn the key in the ignition to no avail.
Two choices emerge in your mind. There is a city bus stop 1/2 mile from your apartment that can get you there. You’d probably be late, but it’s definitely a possibility. Then there is your friend who lives about 5 minutes away but is known for her ability to turn every 5 minute task into half an hour. You call in the favor and she says she just needs to get dressed and will be there shortly.
By now it’s 6:40am. Do you begin the half mile treck to the bus stop or wait for your friend who continues to claim that she will be there soon? Whether on your driveway or at the bus stop, your choice will reveal what you deem as most reliable to fulfill your need of getting to your meeting. We wait on what we believe to be reliable.
There’s a reason no one is standing in line at an empty register at Walmart, hoping for a cashier to magically appear. There’s a reason no one is sitting at a Chick-fil-a drive thru on Sunday afternoon waiting to place their order. No one is coming. Waiting is pointless. We only wait on what we believe to be reliable.
I was just looking for a recipe. That’s all. A small request to ask of Pinterest, really. But a simple quest for a good enchilada recipe evolved into researching how to be better at life. Two hours and much discouragement later, I’m wondering what happened.
If you’ve been on Pinterest lately, you may know what I’m talking about. The abundance of articles out there on self-improvement is growing rapidly.
“10 Ways to Have a Christ-Centered Marriage”
“5 Things You Should Never Tell Your Child”
“15 Ways to a More Peaceful Home”
“30 Questions to Ask Before You Date Him”
“25 Ways to Declutter Your Life”
“12 Filthiest Places You Should be Cleaning”
I can’t help but be drawn in like a moth to the flame by claims such as these. I am bent toward self-reliance. Nothing is more attractive to me than feeling like I have the power to change my life and the promise of 7 easy steps entices me to click through and keep reading . I like feeling in control, like I have the power to change myself. Simultaneously, the thought of not reading makes me wonder, “How will I know if I’ve said any of the 5 things I should never tell my kids?” Self-sufficiency and fear dually coerce me to trust in myself and strive for a better marriage, kids, house, and life.
Every one of us is susceptible to falling into pride. But it is the Pharisee’s religious pride that is the most dangerous because it doesn’t appear prideful on the outside, instead it has the external appearance of holiness. As Andrew Murray said: “There is no pride so dangerous, because none so subtle and insidious, as the pride of holiness. [There can grow], all unconsciously, a hidden habit of soul, which feels complacency its attainments, and cannot help seeing how far it is in advance of others.”
As I wrote in my last post, Four Marks of a Pharisee, I believe the first and most important response we can have when fighting this type of pride (or any sin) is one of brokenness and repentance. It is a lowly and contrite spirit that God loves and we need Him walking along side us to see any victory in this area.
With that in mind, I want to share four practical ways I regularly choose to fight this religious pride in my own heart.
The chief priests and the elders came to Jesus. … And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.” Matthew 21:23-32
Last week I shared about my personal realization that I was a Closet Pharisee. Though I had a true love for Jesus, my pursuit of holiness took a slight wrong turn and a hidden and insidious pride began to grow in my heart. If you grew up in church like me, you must be careful to discern your heart in this matter. You may know certain truths in your head that your heart does not yet believe. I knew that “all had sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I knew that “the wages of sin is death.” I could tell you that I deserved hell for my sins and that I was saved “by grace alone through faith and that not of myself or works so that no one may boast.” Yet, in my heart and my actions, I believed I was good enough on my own apart from Jesus. As you read this, I invite you to check your heart and motives. Just because you have a genuine love for God and aren’t aware of any sin in your heart, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
The Danger of Self-righteousness
The Pharisees were the religious leaders in Jesus’s day. They were very moral and religious people who were often in the temple, studying the Law and making sacrifices. And ironically, they receive the harshest words of judgment from Jesus during his time on earth. Why is this? Because they looked to their own good works and good deeds to save them. Therefore, they didn’t have the ability to relate to Jesus as a savior, because they were looking to themselves for that. They were self-righteous, looking for righteousness within themselves. Comparatively, this is why the prostitutes and tax collectors, who knew they had no righteousness and no hope of salvation in themselves, were able to receive Jesus as savior. As our pastor said earlier this month, “The Pharisees good behavior is more dangerous and more damning than the sin of tax collectors and prostitutes.”
“Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” ~Jesus, Matthew 23: 32-33
You’d think these words were said to a murderer, or a sexually perverted or promiscuous person, or a thief. But no, Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders of the day.
Wait, did you catch that… Jesus’s harshest words of judgment are to the religious leaders of the day. This should cause the ears of this religious church girl to perk up and listen. Why such harsh words? And what did these religious people do to merit such severe judgment? And how do I make sure I am truly following Jesus and not the path of these anti-Jesus religious people? These are questions I should have asked in my early years of following Jesus.
Even though I fell in love with Jesus early in my life, there grew an inward bent of my soul, slowly and stealthily, that was hardly noticeable. I’m not sure exactly how it started. Maybe it was the subconscious joy I found in the acclaim of people in being such a “good Christian.” Maybe I couldn’t help but notice how much “better” I was than my peers. Somewhere along the way, I began to delight in my good works more than the work of Jesus. My heart started to reflect that of a Pharisee more than Jesus.
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)
No matter how it started, a root of pride began to grow in my heart and for years it was watered with the praise of others and my own comparison to my peers. I became really good at “being a Christian.” In the morning, I trusted my ability to have a good quiet time and memorize scripture. In the evening, I found peace in my “maturity” to worship with hands raised. I no longer needed Jesus as my savior. My good deeds had become my functional savior. I knew the right words to say, the right things to do to look like the best Jesus-follower out there.
Almost 7 months ago, we welcomed our 2nd daughter, Sophia, into the world! And with the joy of her arrival, God ushered in a new season of my life: one of servanthood.
I cannot tell you the joy and the honor it is for me to spend my day taking care of children. (Those of you who know my story can understand the depth of appreciation I have for the gift of motherhood.) But the arrival of a second baby resulted in a loss of my free time, my rest, and my energy. Amidst the joy of finally holding this sweet new baby I was often frustrated that I was not able to do the things I wanted to do.
At the time, I had been reading through Matthew and a couple of passages caught my attention:
“But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled ; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12
“Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28
What a backwards thing to say! The first shall be your slave, the greatest shall be your servant. This goes against the grain of every natural inclination in me. It is my default to see how I can climb the ladder of greatness, whether in the realm of motherhood, the world of blogging, or within my own circles of friends. I often find myself trying to become “greater” without even realizing it. It is just the subtle current of my sin-inflicted heart to drift toward self-exaltation and self-promotion.
“I think he might be the one!”
Aren’t we all waiting to get to that moment in a relationship? There is this concept that has been propagated through an abundance of romantic comedies as well as our American Christian culture that we all have one perfect soul mate out there somewhere. But I want to propose that this idea of “the one” is a myth and is an idea that is actually bringing more harm than good to those who embrace it.
First, let’s talk about what I mean when I say “The One.” There is a right way and a wrong way to view this. As Christians, we know that Psalm 139 says “all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” Because God is aware of what will happen throughout the course of our life, he obviously knows who we will marry if we get married. This is 100% Biblical and a correct way to think. If this is how you see “the one,” then this article is not for you. But there is another, more common way that “the one” is viewed that is not Biblical. It defines the one as the singular other human on the planet who can complete you, satisfy all your longings, and the only one with whom you can have a successful marriage. We see this concept in movies like Jerry Maguire (the famous “You complete me” line), and Twilight (“You’re my only reason to stay alive.”). This concept of “the one” is what I am dealing with in this article. The idea of hoping in one person to complete and satisfy you might not seem that bad on the surface, but underneath it results in numerous problems in marriage and singleness.