February 28, 2010

Pride is Poison - Feb 28, 2010

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“Two roosters who lived on the same farm constantly quarreled over who was the lord of the yard. Finally, they agreed to settle the matter by combat. Bright feathers flew and dust swirled in clouds. At last one of the roosters begged for his life to be spared.

The victor flew to the top of the henhouse and let out a loud triumphant crow. “I am the king!” he proclaimed. But an eagle who was soaring overhead heard him. With a sudden swoop the eagle dived down, snatched the rooster in his claws, and carried him away.

Pride goes before a fall” (Aesop’s Fables, retold by Jerry Pinkney).

Human pride and sin go hand in hand. In a sense every sin is an example of pride. For at the heart what is sin other than placing what we want above what God wants? That’s pride.

Aesop tells us that pride precedes a fall. Today’s sermon reading shows us that pride is like poison to the human soul.

Luke 22:54-62 (NIV)

54Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”
57But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.
58A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”
“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.
59About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”
60Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Pride is found in each one of us. And pride is poison to the Christian soul. Pride does not kill instantly. It’s like one of those poisons which must build up before it becomes deadly.

But pride has side-effects. One of the first side is stunted growth.

Jesus had tried to strengthen and prepare the disciples for His arrest and crucifixion. He had told them numerous times that He would soon die.

On this very night Jesus had told them that He would be betrayed by one of their own. They would all desert Him. Peter would disown Him three times before the rooster crowed.

But pride prevented the disciples from taking Jesus’ warning to heart. Jesus’ warning should have driven Peter to pray and prepare for the temptation that was coming. But Peter thought that he knew better. And when the storm descended on Peter there in the courtyard of the High Priest, Peter was totally unprepared to face it.

Jesus had told Peter what to expect in Luke 22, verse 31.

“31“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers”” (Luke 22:31-32 NIV).

And we have received much the same warning. From 1 Peter 5, verse 8.

“8Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV).

The Devil does not parade around in a red spandex suit with a pitch-fork and a handlebar mustache. He is real, not a caricature. If we don’t take this warning seriously and arm ourselves with the Word of God, we will not be ready when he comes to shake our faith.

Put on the armor of God’s Word daily. Come to His house. Follow the example your fellow Christians who you look up to. Heed God’s warning and be ready for Satan’s attack. Be ready with a practical understanding of God’s Word. With a good habit of continuous prayer. With a network of Christian friends that can support you when Satan attacks. Be ready by standing at the side of Christ in faith.

In Philippians 2, verse 3 Christians are told…

“3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NIV).

In Ephesians 5, verse 21 we are told…

“21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21 NIV).

Another side-effect of pride is harshly judging others while making exceptions for ourselves.

Peter did this right in the face of Jesus. When Jesus warned the disciples that they would abandon Him, Peter said, No way Lord, maybe these guys, but not me. Pride leads us to an “I’m the exception” attitude.

There’s been some controversy lately about cities using cameras to issue traffic tickets. You’ve seen these cameras flash at intersections. Apparently these cameras are very effective and can bring in substantial revenue for a city. Some people have complained that this isn’t right to make money by busting people for traffic violations.

When I first heard people grumbling I thought, “You got a ticket didn’t you? Serves you right. If you ran the red light, you deserve it. It doesn’t matter whether it was a cop in a patrol car or a cop behind a desk – you deserved it.”

Then I got a $120 ticket in the mail. My first response was, “No way. I’m sure I must have stopped. I don’t make a habit of running red lights. There’s gotta be some mistake.”

The letter I received in the mail directed me to a website where I could go to view the pictures which supposedly proved my traffic violation. So, I went to the site thinking I’d be able to prove my innocent.

It wasn’t just photos, it was video. There was the family station wagon coming to the corner. But it wasn’t slowly down much. There it was turning right at the red light with barely a tap on the brakes. GUILTY.

How many other times have I been guilty of judging others but excusing myself – for the same sin? And how many times does my blinding pride hurt the people around me? I’m reminded of Psalm 130.

“If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3 NIV).

Thank God I’ve got a Savior who died to take away all my sins, including the ones I don’t even realize I do.

Peter’s pride didn’t just hurt his friends. His pride hurt the Master.

Peter found himself in the courtyard of the High Priest. He had come in secret, following the detachment of Roman soldiers and temple guards that had arrested Jesus. He didn’t want to be found out. It was better to be anonymous among the servants gathering there in the courtyard.

But he couldn’t remain unnoticed for long. He had nearly killed someone when Jesus was arrested. He had swung his sword and cut off a man’s ear. And some of the people who had seen him do this were there in the courtyard. Even a relative of the man whose ear had been sliced off.

At first they weren’t quite sure that this was the same man. But their confidence grew. This man was not one of the servants. Not a regular visitor to the palace, and yet he was familiar. And the sound of his voice, that was definitely a Galilean accent. This HAD to be one of the followers of Jesus.

At first, Peter tried a casual lie. Nope, I don’t even know that guy. But as his accusers grew bolder, so did Peter’s lies. In the other Gospel accounts we’re told that he SWORE to them that he didn’t know Jesus, and that he even called down CURSES on himself in an attempt to bolster his lies.

When pride controls us, the only tools we have at hand are our instinctive, sinful reflexes.

Ever been around someone caught in a lie? If they’re caught sharply enough they’ll sometimes spurt out a bigger, more ridiculous lie. Maybe you’ve been that person. Or found yourself in a similar situation. Ever put your foot in your mouth real deep?

You know, said something unkind about someone you didn’t think was listening? But then you realized they were. And you panicked, “Oh, I didn’t mean that like it sounded” you say, but yeah, you did. They know it. You know it. And there it is out there for everyone to see. A hurtful word and an accompanying lie. Thanks pride, thanks.

That exactly the situation that Peter found himself in. There he was swearing up and down that he didn’t know who in the world this Jesus was, and then Jesus turned. Perhaps being taken from place to another. Perhaps standing on a balcony above. Jesus turned, and looked Peter right in the eye.

The piercing crow of the rooster was in the air. And Peter felt the talons of guilt sink into his soul. All his anger and frustration drained away, and deep regret flooded in to take their place.

Seeing the Master’s face was like seeing a mirror. Peter saw his own reflection in the Master’s eyes. And there Peter was, all spattered with ugly pride and foolish sin. And Peter was so sorry.

That’s where our text ends. But thankfully, that’s not where the story ends. Later, after the cross and after the resurrection, Jesus looked on Peter once again. But this time, Jesus’ look and His words were not to convict Peter of his sin, but to reassure Peter that his sin was forgiven. The Master’s terrible suffering and death had removed all of Peter’s sins, including those three fervent denials.

When we look to Jesus’ cross we should see these two things. First we should see what our sins have done. Our sins made this necessary. But by God’s grace we see more. When we look to Jesus’ cross we see what our Savior did so that our sins of pride stand forever forgiven.

When we are confronted by someone about a particular sin, we may feel judged by them. But don’t let your pride blind you. If you’re guilty of what they’re pointing at, perhaps it is the eye of Jesus that is looking at you, convicting you through His messenger. Convicting you in order to open your eyes to your sin. Convicting you in order to save you.

When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach He told them,

“16“He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me”” (Luke 10:16 NIV).

May we NEVER reject our Savior’s rebuke. No matter who it comes through. No matter how hard our prideful hearts try to excuse us. May the Holy Spirit shine Jesus’ light on us, the light which reveals sin and forgives it (Psalm 119:105).

Proverbs 3:11-12 says…

“11 My son, do not despise the LORD’S discipline
and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12 NIV).

Pride is poison to the Christian faith, because pride is confidence misplaced. Our hope is in Christ alone. Not in our own experience. Not in our own character. Not in our own strength, but in His strength and character alone.

He, the eternal Son of God, humbled Himself in order to take our sins away. Let us humble ourselves before Him in every way. Looking to Him alone for strength, guidance, wisdom and on-going forgiveness.

The Bible says...

“5Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”
6Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:5-7 NIV).

You know who wrote that? Peter. The same Savior that lifted him back up after his fall, has lifted us up also on the wings of forgiveness.


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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