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Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness

February 2, 2015

Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

I John 3:2-3 “Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him: for we shall see him as he is.
3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

Found within the wording of I John 3:3 is a most important truth; one which discerns whether or not a person is truly born of the Spirit. After we believe on Jesus in true repentance and intentional turning from what we had always been, our sins are washed away by his blood and we become a new creature in Christ. Because of this new nature, we begin to desire to be holy and to separate from sin. We begin to purify ourselves; letting go of things which are contrary to the nature of God and seeking after those things which have eternal significance. The old nature is ever present in our members, however, because we have a new heart, we will both desire, and strive, to keep the ever-present reminder of the former things under subjection.  As we continuously grow toward the fullness of Christ, the eternal will gain clarity while the issues and interests which lose all relevance the second that ones final breath is exhausted will lose their appeal. As the apostle John rightly observed, “and his commandments are not grievous.” (I John 5:3…..notice how it compliments I John 3:3)

Most of the works of the flesh are easily recognizable to one who is walking in the Spirit, while the more subtile ones will be made known to us as we strive to become more like Jesus and less like us. There is, however, one particular condition which, not only has the ability to slip past the most sensitive spiritual radar, it can shipwreck the most discerning among us. It can drag us to a point of spiritual death; even while we believe ourselves to be walking close to the Lord. It enters in quietly, lures our attention away from Jesus, and refocuses that attention on self. It’s called spiritual pride, and it can grow undetected for years – even decades. Pride is an enemy that none of us can defeat in our own strength or wisdom. It takes a continual humbling ourselves before the Lord Jesus; allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal any area where it is beginning to grow, and quickly repenting of any strongholds that have taken root.

The perplexing thing about pride is that, while the Holy Spirit will convict us of its presence, we can unwittingly become so…….amazed……..(for lack of a more accurate description) at our perceived spiritual standing that we don’t hear it.  Spiritual pride is “the worshipping of ones own perceived spirituality.” The old nature craves status and respect of those in the ambiance and will seek to utilize any talent, gifting, knowledge base, or accomplishment to secure admiration by others. Even a continual display of humility can be a source of pride as one who appears to have this quality will be held up as “one who walks close to the Lord. True humility is an absolute necessity for a close walk with Jesus, however, there is an ever present danger of allowing it to become a conduit for seeking admiration.  It’s such a twisted thing – of all the works of the flesh, spiritual pride is the real shapeshifter of the group. We can never let our guard down.

3 John 9 “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.” (This is what spiritual pride will lead to – decisions will be made with the intent of maintaining ones perceived status, even if those decisions are contrary to the spiritual well-being of the other saints in ones vicinity)

Spiritual pride can take on many forms, but three camps are easy to define. Some folks “love the limelight.” Their words and actions make this obvious as they don’t even try to hide it….because they do not recognize it as a problem. This is the impression that most of the televangelists and big-name preachers leave with many, however, they are not the only ones. In the January 4 teaching, Scott Johnson  (www.contendingfortruth.com) was discussing how many street preachers (not all, but many) are filled with pride; even to the point that one cannot have a conversation with them. They almost instantaneously look down upon any person who is not “doing exactly as they are doing.” I’ve been there. The saints from my church in Virginia engaged in open air (street) preaching every weekend. While I cannot speak for the others, I know that for me it was a source of spiritual pride. This pride was not only self-destructive, it worked to drive people away from considering the words of life. 

Others may speak and behave in a manner that is recognized by others as being prideful, however, they view themselves as merely “being about the Fathers business. Such a one may make continual references to their accomplishments; always giving God the glory for these accomplishments, but secretly enjoying that they are in such a position of such perceived spiritual maturity and understanding. When I was on facebook the first time, I would sometimes link to this blog when a particular topic was in play. I tried to reason that I was doing it to offer my thoughts into the discussion, however, each time it felt “REALLY WEIRD” linking to something written at my hand. After a few awkward instances of “linking to self,” I simply stopped…..because it felt like self-promotion. A lot of people make known their books and writings out of a sincere desire to share knowledge with others, while some seem to enjoy the attention.  

Two dangerous forms of spiritual pride have been addressed. There is one category, however, that is far more dangerous than these previous two. This is when pride enters a persons heart, but their demeanor keeps it well hidden from both their contemporaries and themselves. They may seem genuinely humble before the Lord. They will rarely, if ever, talk about their own accomplishments or strengths, and when someone else makes reference to such, they will quickly downplay it. But in their heart; oftentimes unknown to them (because they are unable to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit) there will be a barely recognizable mindset of boastfulness over the talent, strength, or the reputation that they have. Only continual fellowship with the Lord Jesus continual examining of self, and being always mindful of our fallen nature can shield us from allowing this form of pride to enter in. This passage came to mind as I was typing the last sentence:

Hebrews 3:12 “take heed, brethren,  lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.”

Pride is the nearly invisible shift from “look at what God has done” to “look at what I have done”……usually worded as “look at what God has done through me.” Whenever we inject “me” into the equation, trouble is brewing. Whether it’s in word, or merely a vague thought in the back of our mind, it is an indicator that a spiritual examination is in order. One thing has helped in recent years is this: if I had died in August of 1983 (the month before Jesus called me out of darkness) I would be in hell at this very moment. I would have now been in torment for 32 years, however, with means of measuring time, I would have no idea of how long I had been there. I would remember every time I had rejected the words of life while remembering all of my loved ones who were unsaved at that time……wondering how many were now in this place also…….continual despair…..no relief……no hope whatsoever of better days ahead. This is what I deserved. This is what we all deserve as, in our fallen state, we cannot stand before a holy God.

James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

I Peter 4:11 “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

Before concluding this post, it’s necessary to visit a situation that the apostle Paul had to contend with. From this situation, three things can be gleaned. First, there is the ease with which pride can enter into a heart. Second is how the Lord prevented the arising of such a situation in the life of Paul. (It may well be that many of our desires are not granted because they would result in spiritual pride. There are a number of prayer requests of mine that seem to go unanswered and I believe that the reason for this is that I would be unable to handle the fulfillment of those requests without becoming lifted up with pride.) And third, we learn from Paul’s situation, how we should respond to something that seems inconvenient, but is intended to keep us in check.

II Corinthians 12:7 “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”

The apostle Paul was given the commission to carry the gospel deep into the lands of the gentiles and was granted revelations far in excess of many of his contemporaries. While we do not know what the thorn in  the flesh was, we know that it was necessary to prevent the apostle from being lifted up more than. Knowledge and understanding will puff a person up. And even when a person is in a place spiritually where they can keep themselves in check, others may hold them in higher esteem than they should. We should always be on the alert when another saint seems to make continual references to a particular preacher of one who ministers. The apostle Paul, in order to prevent such a thing from developing, whether in his heart, or in the hearts of others, was subjected to the buffetings of a messenger from Satan. He sought the Lord three times, that this thing may depart. The way that Paul responded to this provides us an example of the kind of mindset that we should have. In all things we must look to Jesus. (Romans 8:28 comes to mind)

II Corinthians 12:8-10 “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

His affections were on things above; not things here. He sought to lift up Jesus; not self. For this reason, he was able to, not only accept what he had to endure, but glory in it; knowing that this enabled the power of God to be upon him. When we become full of ourselves, the power of God will not be on our lives and we’ll begin relying on our own abilities. Once we begin operating fluently in our own abilities, pride will enter in and we will begin to drift away from our first love. Pride “always” separates us from God. Paul understood this and rejoiced when the Lord provided a means of keeping him from being exalted above measure. This was good for Paul, and for us as the revelations given to Paul were essential for the equipping of the church.

I Peter 5:2-5 “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves to the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Blessings in Jesus name.

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