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TEXT: Proverbs 6:16-17a
SUBJECT: Follow the Lamb #9: Put Away Pride
Tonight, with the Lord's blessing, we'll move on in our study of Follow the Lamb by Horatius Bonar. The little book was published, about 1840, to help new believers grow in grace. It was written for them, but it's good for older Christians as well. If you had to summarize God's will for your life in one single verse, I'm not sure you could do better than II Peter 3:18,
But grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This is what the Lord wants for His people-for all of His people! He wants us to mature in our faith and service. He doesn't want us to be perfect, He wants us to be better! There is such a thing as a growth spurt. You often see it in boys: In April, they're little boys, but by September, they're young men. They grow six or eight inches in a few months, put on weight and muscle; their voices drop, and so on. This can happen spiritually-and often does.
But most growth in grace is slower and less obvious. There is no great leap forward, but a million baby steps. Just as babies need help walking, so we need help in our walk of faith.
Few books are better suited to help us than the one we're now studying. How do you mature in Christ? How do you become a better disciple? Well, one thing you do is,
Put away boastfulness and love of praise.
This is the title of Chapter 9, and the subject of tonight's sermon.
The chapter begins, not by defining pride, but by telling us how wicked it is. We all know that some sins are worse than others, but where does pride belong on the list? Some people leave it off the list; others put it somewhere near the bottom, or in the middle, maybe, but Bonar puts it right at the top.
This agrees with the teaching of the Bible and the traditions of the Church.
When Solomon named the seven things God hates the most, number one on the list is.a proud look. Elsewhere in the Old Testament, the most notorious sinners are all proud men. Think of Pharaoh sneering, Who is the Lord that I should obey Him? Or Haman, seeking to annihilate the Jews because one of them didn't show him the proper respect. And what was the sin of King Saul but pride? When he was little in [his] own eyes, the Lord made him king, but when he became self-important, he lost his kingdom, his heir, and his life.
The New Testament teaches the same thing. What sin does the Lord single out for special rebuke? It isn't theft or fornication, or even devil possession, it is pride! He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others.
When the Medieval Church drew up its list of seven deadly sins, the first one they named was pride. They put it ahead of immorality and anger and more notorious sins.
When a church condemns drinking and smoking and dancing and movies and so on, while saying nothing about pride, you can be sure it's lukewarm-at best! And maybe a lot worse than that.
Horatius Bonar is right. No sin is more hateful to God than pride. But what makes it so bad? What makes the Pharisee worse than the publican? Bonar knows:
God's aim in all His doings of grace is to hide pride from man, to hinder boasting, to keep the sinner humble, to rule out every other confidence or boast, to annihilate all trust in self and self-reliance.
Pride despises the grace of God. Salvation is by grace alone because it cannot be any other way. Because we have no goodness and no power to save ourselves. We couldn't if we wanted to-and we don't want to!
Grace is the hand that feeds us, and pride bites the hand! The Gospel does not mean to humiliate us, but to humble us-to put us in our place-the place we belong, at the foot of the cross.
If you want to grow in grace, you've got to put away pride because grace and pride cancel out each other. You can have one or the other, but not both.
God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
If you committed a very grave sin, you'd be horrified. How could you do such a thing? How could betray your wife or deny the Lord or sell your country or abuse your children? These are very grave sins, with terrible consequences. But pride is even worse. If we really believed this, we'd all be horrified, but not just that. We'd also flee to Christ and be purified. And then fit for the Lord's service.
The Bible teaches that young people are especially subject to pride. They haven't failed enough to humble them. But it is not limited to the young. Solomon was no boy when he fell into pride and threw away the Kingdom. Boastfulness and the love of praise are temptations we'll never outgrow, and so we've got to watch against them every day until we die and go to heaven.
If pride is a wicked, it is also unreasonable; it's stupid to be proud and you know it is!
The sinner's first act of believing is his consenting to be treated as a sinner, and nothing but a sinner, indebted wholly to God and His free love in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let's face it: not all doctrines are equally clear. Some of them take years of study. Think of the Trinity, for example, or how the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man go together. These are things you don't know the day you're saved.
But the day you're saved you do know this: God is God and you're not God. You know that He saved you and you didn't save yourself. You know the blood of Christ washed you clean and your prayer and tears and words and promises didn't.
Conversion is a humbling experience. Some people cry and pull their hair out, while others are less emotional. But everyone is humbled when he is saved. The newest, most ignorant, and plain old stupid convert knows that salvation is by grace alone. Horatius Bonar wrote a hymn we sing sometimes. He wrote it as an older man, long in the ministry, but a new convert might have penned it,
Not what my hands have done
Can save my guilty soul;
Thy work, alone, O Christ
Can ease this weight of sin.
If you knew that the day you were saved, how come you don't know it now? But, of course you know it, you've only forgotten it. All Christians know we ought not to be proud because we've got nothing to be proud of. We know it, but we forget it.
This means we have to remind ourselves. Regularly. You can do it by quoting Bible verses. Or by mediating on the greatness of God's mercy. Or by reviewing your own life. I can strut and crow like a rooster.until I remember what evil I've done in the last hour (alone) and how much good I've left undone.
Put away boasting and the love of praise because they're unreasonable.
Some sins are visible. In a murder, for example, you see the dead body, the knife, and the bloody hand. But pride cannot be seen. It's a spiritual sin. A man with the pride of Napoleon can pose as the humblest of servants. But not for long. The invisible sin of pride has a way of becoming visible. Bonar gives five examples of pride; fruits, you might say, that grow on the tree of self love.
The first is envy,
Put away all envy and jealousy. Love to hear of a brother's prosperity. Don't grudge him a few words of honest praise, not try to turn the edge of it by an envious 'but' or a wise silence or a grave shake of the head, unless you have a very special reason for disallowing his praise.
Would you rather hear a good report or a bad one? Which one makes you sit up and take notice? Calvary Baptist Church is growing in love, unity, and service. 'That's nice'. Calvary Baptist Church is falling apart. `Oh, why? What's happening? Did they fire the pastor? Was it a split? How many left? How many stayed? What was the issue? What side are you on?'
If you're keen on bad news, but bored by good news, there's something wrong with you, either envy or malice or jealousy, all of which are the offspring of pride.
The second is gossip,
Have a care for backbiting. Speak of a person's faults only to himself and to God.
Why do we tear others down more often and with more pleasure (it seems) than we build them up? Because the lower they are the higher we are-that's what we think at least. But God and wise people know better.
The third is being judgmental,
Be not censorious or uncharitable, in thought or word. Inconsistent Christians are often more censorious than the world, for the need to defend themselves for their faults by detracting from others and by trying to believe that good men are no better than themselves.
"Censorious" is another word for judgmental. It's the attitude that is slow to overlook faults and quick to criticize them. It often exaggerates the sins of other people and finds secret and wicked motives for otherwise good deeds.
Passing a hasty and severe judgment on others is a glaring example of pride. Who am I to think ill of others and to lambaste them for their faults when I have as many myself-if not more? Yes, there's a place for correcting others, but not judgment belongs to Someone Else.
The fourth is one I have to beware of: too much talking!
Some love to speak and show their pride in this way, both in private and in public.
Why do I monopolize the conversation at the dinner table every night? It's because what I have to say is far more important than what my wife and sons might say-if they had the chance to say it. But thinking that what I say is more important than what anyone else has to say is another way of saying.pride.
The last example is the desire to be in charge,
Some love to rule and manage. They are not happy unless they are at the head of everything.
There is a gift for ruling others and organizing efforts. It should be used by those who have it, but nobody is called to rule everything all the time. Those who want to-and insist on it-are not conscientious, but proud.
How many of these things apply to you? Do you resent the happiness and the success of other people? Do you gossip? Are you judgmental? Do you dominate every conversation? Do you have to be in charge of everything?
Everyone has a reason for these things. But the reasons we give are excuses. Envy, gossip, censoriousness, excessive talking, and the lust to rule are all the fruits of pride. Your pride, my pride, the devil's pride!
These things are not pleasing to the Lord! They contradict His Gospel, they hurt His Church, and the ruin our witness to the world.
So, when will we fess up to them? And when will we turn from them and follow the Man who Made Himself of no reputation, took upon Him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross?
If you want to Follow the Lamb, Bonar says, Put away boastfulness and the love of praise.
God help you. And me too. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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