Spiritual Pride in the Church

Bryan Chapell in Holiness by Grace:

Spiritual pride dies when we realize that all of our comparisons with others based on relative levels of apparent goodness count for nothing in terms of gaining us standing with God. What we may want God to account to our credit has no currency with him, b/c the economy of good works is dead. Being better than the next guy, being a more astute observer of his sin, or being more insightful about scriptural truth does nothing to earn me status with God.

Party spirit, gossip, spiritual stratification, and social cliques die in the church when spiritual pride dies. It dies as a natural consequence among us who are crucified with Christ when we realize that our works in themselves count no more toward gaining us spiritual status than do the deeds of the dead. Of course, if no one’s performance gains him upper-class identity, then no one is second class in God’s family. When we treasure our mutual value, the tensions drain from among us because we no longer need to highlight the failings of others to prove our own worth to God.

David Could Not Bring the Ark, so the Ark Came to Us

It seemed like a great idea at the time. An idea that honored the Lord. An idea that pleased God’s people. An idea that would likely secure the people’s respect for forever.

The ark of God, once in the possession of the Philistines, was now on its way back to Jerusalem. The ark, which symbolized both the presence and power of God, would soon be back among God’s chosen people.

But two things happened along the way that brought the process to a screeching halt.

First, though God clearly instructed the Jews to only carry the ark, they placed it on an oxcart for transport back to Jerusalem. Second, when the ark started to wobble and a man named Uzzah reached out and touched it to steady it, he was instantly killed.

It was a tragedy for God’s people, and certainly a setback for King David. He longed for God’s presence to be back in Jerusalem. In fear of the Lord, David prayed, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:9) It was a question that would form into a prayer, now recorded as Psalm 101 (see below).

What’s fascinating about this prayer is how resolute David is for he and his people to be holy in the wake of their sin. The sum of the prayer is this: “I’m going to be holy. I”m not going to have anything to do with people who aren’t holy. I’m giving myself to eradicating sin in my kingdom. Then the ark of God will be among us.” Verse 1 sums it up well: “(My life) will sing of love and justice.”

It’s a bold prayer, one that we’ve all prayed a thousand times in the wake of our sin. “God, I’m not going to do it anymore, and then you and I can be in fellowship together.” And just like David, we’ve failed to live up to our end of the bargain. We’ve been prideful, lazy, adulterous and selfish, just to name a few.

So what are we to do? How can we fellowship with God if our best efforts fall short? Who can pray this prayer and actually live it out?

I think you know the answer.

David couldn’t bring the ark, but the ark came to us.

Yet, because Jesus was the essence of love and justice, I think His prayer would be a little different.

David said, “I will pay attention to the way of integrity. When will You come to me? (v.2).”
Jesus would say, “I am integrity, and I am coming to you.”

David said, “I hate sin and will not be involved with it” (vv. 3-4).
Jesus would say, “I hate sin and will the pay the price for it.”

David said, “The one who follows the way of integrity may serve me” (v. 6).
Jesus would say, “I will serve those who have no integrity.”

And so it goes.

And for those who have given their lives to Jesus and have the Holy Spirit living inside of them, they now have the power to pray the prayer David prayed and live as Jesus lived.

Never perfectly. Never pridefully. Always in gratitude.

For were it not for the One who lived perfectly on their behalf and took the punishment they deserved (love and justice), they could never be with God.

I will sing of faithful love and justice; I will sing praise to You, Lord2 I will pay attention to the way of integrity.

When will You come to me?

I will live with a heart of integrity in my house. I will not set anything worthless before my eyes. I hate the practice of transgression; it will not cling to me. 4 A devious heart will be far from me; I will not be involved with evil.

5 I will destroy anyone who secretly slanders his neighbor; I cannot tolerate anyone with haughty eyes or an arrogant heart. 6 My eyes favor the faithful of the land so that they may sit down with me. The one who follows the way of integrity may serve me. 7 No one who acts deceitfully will live in my palace; no one who tells lies will remain in my presence. Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land, eliminating all evildoers from the Lord’s city.

This is the Only Reason Why We Have Any Hope In this World

I hope many things for my three children.

Some of those hopes are quite mundane. I hope they brush their teeth. I hope their underwear is clean. I hope they learn to love green vegetables.

Others hopes are more grand. I hope they become Christians. I hope they are successful in life. I hope they have children of their own.

And if I’m hoping these things in full knowledge of the countless years of hostility on the earth, and in plain view of continued hostility, I can only imagine how great was the hope of Adam and Eve when their sons Cain and then Abel were born, for they knew only one (albeit very significant) act of hostility: their own in the Garden.

Though the consequences of their sin were many, God was gracious in many ways, and in Genesis 4 He moved to give Eve sons. Though Adam and Eve knew they would one day die, they had sons. Their family line would continue. And who knows? Maybe one of them would be the “deliverer” God spoke of in Genesis 3:15.

There was hope.

I imagine it’s the same kind of hope you might feel when you hold a newborn child, place your nose on their head, and take a deep breath: a futile attempt “suck in” the youthfulness of life. It gives you hope that things are better … or at least will be better … long after you’re gone.

For this reason, I can only imagine the devastation Adam and Eve felt they learned they had given birth not to a deliverer, but a murderer. Cain, in a fit of envy and/or spite regarding their respective offerings to God, killed his brother and buried him, perhaps from the very field that produced the food Cain had offered to God in the first place.

And just as God had come looking for Adam and Eve in the Garden, He came “looking” for Abel. Of course, he would not be found.

GOD said, “What have you done! The voice of your brother’s blood is calling to me from the ground. From now on you’ll get nothing but curses from this ground; you’ll be driven from this ground that has opened its arms to receive the blood of your murdered brother. Genesis 4:10-11, The Message

Hope was seemingly dashed. A son is dead and gone, murdered at the hands of their only other son. Abel’s blood cried out for justice, and justice was swiftly given to the unrepentant sinner.

But was hope gone?

No.

Adam slept with his wife again. She had a son whom she named Seth. She said, “God has given me another child in place of Abel whom Cain killed.” And then Seth had a son whom he named Enosh. That’s when men and women began praying and worshiping in the name of God. Genesis 4:25-26, The Message.

God graciously continued the lineage of Adam and Eve, just as He promised, so that one day the Deliverer would come.

And He has come. His name is Jesus.

But he, too, was killed by the hands of his brothers.

He, too, spilled his blood into the ground.

But unlike Abel’s blood that cried out for justice, Jesus’ blood cried out for grace.

Whereas Abel’s blood demanded that wrong me made right, Jesus’ blood made wrong right.

Abel was not the deliverer. Jesus is the Deliverer.

Or as the author of Hebrews puts it, His sprinkled blood speaks a better word (Hebrews 10:24).

So is there hope?

Yes. And it is a certain hope that God has acted once and for all to deliver us from the curse.

Five Lesser Known Southern Expressions

You may have never heard or understood these five lesser known southern tendencies related to our (superior) command of the English language.

  1. In the South, you don’t just go to “THE grocery store,” but you go to “THE Bi-Lo” or “the THE Piggly Wiggly” or “THE Publix.”
  2. In the South, you presume the person you’re talking with has the astonishingly accurate ability to finish your thoughts for you. For example, “So after I dropped the kids off at school, I went to the Bi-Lo and bought fruit AND ALL.”
  3. In the South, instead of saying, “I was once able” you say “I used-ta-could.” For example, “After the accident, I can’t play tennis any more … but I used-ta-could.”
  4. In the South, you equate a time of material or circumstantial abundance with the height of cotton plants. For example, “Once Jimmy John closed that deal with the catfish farmer, we were in high cotton!”
  5. Finally, in the South, you occasionally interchange vowel sounds in two-word phrases for comedic effect. For example, instead of “It’s hotter than blue blazes in here,” you say, “It’s hotter than blay bluzes in here.”

What are some of your favorite things about language in the South?

A Peek Inside My 1 Year-Old Daughter’s Mind

At various times throughout the day, I’m quite certain my now 1 year-old little girl thinks any one or all of these things … because I, like so few men when it comes to women, can read her mind ;-)

  • No, parents: a cup of whole milk yogurt, an entire banana, and a pint of blueberries is NOT enough for breakfast!
  • I’ll be taking those glasses off of your face now, thank you.
  • That Jono … he’s crazy. I like him.
  • Open your mouth so I can rummage around in there.
  • I know my diapers can be be bad, but they are nothing compared to your sweaty head after you workout.
  • No matter what you want me to do, you KNOW it has to be my idea if I’m going to do it, so just chill out.
  • Meat, people. I want meat. I cut teeth for a reason, you know.
  • Where’s that other guy … you know, the sensitive, absent-minded one who loves to insure my happiness at all costs? TREY?!
  • Anything you can do I can do … eventually.
  • No one understands me better than the person I am able to convince to see my side of things.
  • So help me, if you put me in that car seat again, I will go ballistic on you.
  • Of course I want to take a bath! Where else can a girl relax and go poop?!
  • Do you honestly expect me to sleep without my green blanket? I didn’t think so.

Here and Back Again: Reflections on being a Foster Parent

Southern Fried Faith:

It was about this time 3 years ago that we said “Goodbye!” to Lulu and Jo-Jo in the parking of Target in Lexington, SC. We still proudly display our family portrait taken at Lake Murray Baptist Church with those incredible girls. We love them, miss them, and are reminded to pray for them and for foster kids everywhere.

Originally posted on Southern Fried Faith:

At noon on a Thursday in mid-May 2010, we received a phone call that our foster care license was active.  With significant limitations placed on the agency with regard to the kinds of kids we could take, I was extremely skeptical that we would ever receive a placement.

At 3:30 that same afternoon, we received another phone call asking us to pick up two African-American/Hispanic sisters, ages 2 and 3.

446 days later, we now know they will be returning home very shortly.

They are leaving as quickly as they came.  They were here, but now they are back again. It’s a new reality worthy of a few reflections.

First, blaming foster kids for how God is using them to refine you is a pretty horrible way to be a foster parent.  At the peak of my frustration as a foster parent, I was an angry, bitter, mean dad…

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