Biblical Counseling, Biblical Growth and Change, Topical Study, Uncategorized

Biblical Growth and Change, Part Five

Pride is a Barrier

It’s vital we understand that fighting against sin is actually the pursuit of joy. Looking at it from that vantage point helps to confess and repent. We want to rid ourselves of sinful habits because then we might have joy. George Mueller writes,

Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be.”

Sin will never truly make us happy. Therefore, it is important we have friends and community. We need people that we can trust with our sins who will give us wise counsel, but won’t beat us over the head. When we experience sin, suffering, and struggles, we should enlist others to help us fight our battle.

  • James 5:16
  • Philippians 2:3-4
  • Luke 6:39-42
  • Proverbs 11:2

Pride wreaks with individualism. Pride says we deserve to do our own thing and go our own way. In our most intimate relationships, pride creates a wedge between two people eroding trust and denying peace. In friendship, pride becomes the root of self-focus and keeps us from caring for others rightly. And, when we overvalue ourselves, we refuse to ask others for help. We see it as a weakness. Pride is a barrier to developing mature relationships and acknowledging the importance of the local church (those who are in union with Christ). Moving from pride to humility requires we put on/put off from heart to behavior. J.I. Packer writes in his book Rediscovering Holiness:

“Pride blows us up like balloons, but grace punctures our conceit and lets the hot, proud air out of our system. The result (a very salutary result) is that we shrink, and end up seeing ourselves as less – less nice, less able, less wise, less good, less good, less strong, less steady, less committed…- than we thought we were. We stop kidding ourselves that we are persons of great importance to the world and to God. We settle for being insignificant and dispensable. Off-loading our fantasies of omnicompetence, we start off trying to be trustful, obedient, dependent, patient, and willing in our relationship with God…We bow to events that rub our noses in the reality of our own weaknesses, and we look to God for strength quietly to cope.”

  • Romans 8:28-32
  • Ephesians 1-4
  • Colossians 3
  • Titus 2:11-14
  • 2 Peter 1:3
  • Proverbs 16:5, 18-19; 26:12

In his essay on undetected pride, Jonathan Edwards notes sneaky symptoms of pride: fault finding, a harsh spirit, superficiality, defensiveness, presumption before God, desperation for attention, and neglecting others. With these in mind, pride might become easier to spot but pride has many manifestations. Though not always overt, pride subtly slips in and manifests as self-pity, struggling to empathize with the pain of others, and constantly being concerned with the opinions of others. Pride can be defined as self-worship. Puritan preacher, Thomas Watson penned “Pride seeks to ungod God.” Pride says sacrifice is below us and submission is unnecessary. Simply put, pride in the life of a Christian seeks to hijack God’s own glory. It is impossible to have a view of God that is too great. He alone is worthy of worship.

  • Isaiah 42:8
  • Galatians 1:10
  • Ephesians 2:1-3
  • John 3:30

Humility can be defined as God-worship, recognizing and trusting in God’s character (Psalm 119:66). Humility has an accurate view of one’s gifts and abilities (Romans 12:3) with a thankful and grateful attitude towards others (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Humility sees repenting of sin as a way of life and minimizes the sins of others in comparison to her own. The more humble you are, the more powerful you become (2 Corinthians 12).

  • 1 Timothy 4:7-9
  • Matthew 7:3-4

Stuart Scott’s definition of humility reads, “The mindset of Christ (a servant’s mindset): a focus on God and others, a pursuit of the recognition and the exaltation of God, and a desire to glorify and please God in all things and by all things He has given.” Humility is rare because it is unnatural to man, but God has given us a model to follow in order to live humbly. Jesus Christ’s most remarkable attribute is humility. Pride is a form of self-worship most often manifested in the most subtle ways. Paul Tripp wrote,

Human beings by their very nature are worshipers. Worship is not something we do; it defines who we are. You cannot divide human beings into those who worship and those who don’t Everybody worships; it’s a matter of what, or whom, we serve.”

If you can remind yourself just how much your Lord humbled himself, you can be encouraged to pursue it for yourself. We are dependent on the Holy Spirit if we are going to live in humility. This grace must come from him (Luke 11:13).

  • Matthew 25:41-46
  • Mark 10:43-45
  • John 13:3-17
  • Philippians 2:6-8

False humility is when you convey a life of humility while having a pride issue internally. It is a disparity between external appearances and internal sin. Indicators of false humility might include self-praise by incessantly announcing achievements, unwillingness to consider constructive criticism, inserting dominance by correcting the mistakes of others, comparison to others, and most destructive is recognizing sin with an unwillingness to turn from it.

  • Galatians 6:3

Sin is not only behavioral, it is also relational. Oftentimes, it is more about who and what we value most more than what we do. Some of sin’s most profound destruction will occur in our relationships: marriages, families, friendships, churches, and workplaces. The longer we remain willfully blind to this damage, the longer and harder the restoring of trust will be. For this reason, attempts to reconcile and restore relationships should be made as soon as possible. John Piper writes: “Do not be content with whispering your sin to God. That is good. Very good. But he offers us something more: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). There is a release and healing that flows from confessing not only to God in the secret place of your heart, but also to a trusted friend, or to the person you have offended. The tender words, “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?” are one of the surest paths to joy.”

Maintaining the change process reflects the Gospel of Jesus Christ and involves the importance of the local church. Life change requires teaching. Optimal growth occurs when we sit under someone who knows something we don’t or has experience in an area we don’t and is willing to share this knowledge with us. The quality of being teachable is necessary for life change. And we engage in spiritual growth in relationship with other believers. 

The scent of superiority rather than humility is a stench to Jesus, since it is the opposite of his example.” – Jeremy Pierre

Are you neglecting the fellowship of the local church, prayer, and the reading of God’s Word? In Letters of John Newton, he writes, “In general, he guides and directs his people, affording them, in answer to prayer, the light of his Holy Spirit, which enables them to understand and to love the Scriptures. The word of God is not to be used as a lottery; nor is it designed to instruct us by shreds and scraps, which, detached from their proper places, have no determinate import; but it is to furnish us with just principles, right apprehensions to regulate our judgements and affections, and thereby to influence and direct our conduct.” Scripture contains all we need to know in order to live a useful, joyful, and fruitful life. All the essentials are there! If we neglect the reading and exposition of the Bible (both privately and corporately), we begin to suffer from little growth. In his Understanding Christian Theology, Charles Swindoll writes:

Spiritual growth is rooted in the individual’s relationship to God through Christ. The numerical and spiritual growth of the church depends directly on the addition of individual believers and the individual spiritual growth of its believers (Acts 9:31). Thus believers are first responsible to nurture their own personal growth. Others can teach us biblical truth, but we must personally receive, retain, and obey that truth to grow in Christ. Others can encourage us in biblical memorization and meditation and exemplify these practices to us, but only we can receive, chew, and digest our individual spiritual food. Surrogate spiritual development is not part of God’s plan.

In the context of relationships with other believers, we receive accountability, challenge, encouragement, and personal support. That is why small groups and Bible study classes are so critical to our spiritual growth and development. Change takes place through personal involvement in the local church, a gospel believing and practicing local church. Life change happens best in the context of relationships. In our fallen world, change is nearly impossible to maintain without faith family and fellowship. Paul Tripp writes, “If you followed the Lord for a thousand years, you would still need the ministry of the body of Christ as much as you did the day you first believed. This need will remain until our sanctification is complete in Glory.”

  • 1 Timothy 3:15
  • Psalm 119:25, 37, 40, 88, 149
  • Matthew 7:7
  • Romans 15:14
  • Galatians 6:1-2
  • Proverbs 12:15

The three reasons a Christian will not obey God are a lack of knowledge, a lack of skill, and wrongful will. Essentially, the Christian can fall in three categories: They could lack maturity in the Word and not know any better, they could not have been properly discipled and don’t know how to obey, or they could choose to live in sin, with a hardened heart and refusal to obey. Having knowledge and choosing to live in sin is a result of stubbornness and rebellion. Believers are called to yield to the will of God even when, and especially when, life becomes difficult. Ferguson writes, “The growing Christian therefore is not dominated by subjective impulses and needs. He or she views life through lenses crafted according to a biblical prescription. A hallmark therefore of growing in our ability to know and do the will of God is a healthy biblical objectivity.” Choosing to live God-centered lives requires we live by covenants and convictions: We live by God’s own agenda. Man-centered lives are based on feelings and man’s own agenda.

  • Galatians 5:16-25
  • Proverbs 5:22
  • Romans 6:22

Whoever controls your mind controls your decisions. When our thoughts are not in tune with the will of God, they are driven to self. Our choices are driven by our thoughts. When we are self-centered, our thoughts are dominated by lies. As a result of those lies and self-ambitions, our thoughts tend to be driven by and reduced to what we have been denied, what we believe we deserve, what we want, what we think we should have, or what we think we need. We become “friends” with the world and “unfriend” God.

  • Romans 8:5
  • James 3:13-18; 4:1-10

Ultimately, heart change is God’s work, yet we are responsible to pursue biblical means for success in his perfect timing. God-centered thinking is dominated by truth and wisdom. In obedience, we can focus on what God has done with a willingness to serve him rightly. We are driven by what God promises to do for us and when to expect it; we tend to focus not only on what God is doing, but also what we can be doing for others and how to do it accordingly.

Focus once more on James 3:17-18. Our thoughts are motivated by either the flesh or the Holy Spirit. When our thoughts are motivated by the sin in our hearts, we become preoccupied with issues such as whatever brings me pleasure apart from God, independence from authority (not having to answer to anyone), materialism, and entitlement. This thinking only leads to further disobedience to God.

There is nothing into which the heart of man so easily falls as pride, and yet there is no vice which is more frequently more emphatically, and more eloquently condemned in Scripture.” – Charles Spurgeon

Through the Person, power, and precepts of Jesus Christ, we can turn from a self-centered life to a God-centered life. To do so, we must identify the areas of our lives where we are dominated by lies and self-ambition. This process necessitates the specifics of where this is happening in our attitudes, intentions, desires, actions, relationship patterns, and service to God. Bringing healing and restoration requires we confess and repent of these things accordingly. We must consciously decide to make God a priority in all that we think, say, and do.

  • Romans 13:8-14
  • Proverbs 28:13-14
  • 1 Corinthians 10:31

When our thoughts are motivated by the Holy Spirit, we tend to be preoccupied with a desire to know Jesus Christ, to become like Christ, and to being useful to Christ. Our focus is on not only the blessings in this life but also the life to come. This thinking leads to further obedience to God, with a desire to draw ever nearer (Galatians 5:22-25). We must guard our hearts from self-centeredness by walking in genuine love for God and others in our attitudes, intentions, desires, words, actions, relationship patterns, and service.

  • Colossians 3
  • Luke 9:23-25
  • 1 John 1:9
  • Ephesians 4:17-32
  • Philippians 2:5-8

Consider what desires you have allowed to become a form of worship, further complicating life. You can honor God when you recognize, repent and replace, and walk in the Spirit. In Part Six, we will conclude our study of biblical growth and change by looking at when and whether change might take place.

Further Thought:

  • Pride creeps into daily life and manifests in ways routinely affecting ourselves and others. What areas of life might pride serve as a barrier? What will the penalty be for those whose selfishness and self-centeredness that has not rightly been confessed? We can take these to the Lord, spending time in prayer for forgiveness as we seek to live in humility through the Holy Spirit.
  • False humility is destructive. It allows you to live in pride without acknowledging that there is a problem. You’re living in sin without recognizing it. But, what is false humility?
  • Who are the people in your life that you can invite to hold you accountable?
  • Do you have a spiritual mentor or counselor?
  • Are you regularly sitting under the biblical teaching of a pastor/teacher?
  • What evidence in your life reveals a teachable spirit, a grateful spirit?
  • When reflecting on past choices you have made, were you self-centered or God-centered in your decision making?
  • Before any person can have the ability to overcome any sin, especially the sin of pride, certain things must first take place in his life. Read the passages below and make a list of those specific things.
    • Psalm 51:10
    • Isaiah 57:15
    • Ezekiel 36:27
    • John 3:3
    • 1 Corinthians 2:12
    • 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • Read the following verses and identify various ways pride is seen. Do you see ways your life manifests pride?
    • Genesis 11:4
    • Exodus 5:2
    • Judges 9:28-29
    • Psalm 10:4; 12:3-4; 73:3-9; 101:5; 131:1
    • Proverbs 13:10, 18; 25:4-6
    • Isaiah 3:16; 14:13-14
    • Jeremiah 45:5
    • Ezekiel 28:2-6
    • Daniel 5:20
    • Matthew 6:1-7
    • Mark 9:34
    • 1 Corinthians 4:7; 8:1-2
    • Jude 16
    • 3 John 9
  • Have you experienced consequences of pride? Has pride caused contention in your relationships with other people? Read Proverbs 18:12 and note what quality should replace pride in the life of a Christian.
  • Sometimes pride manifests in subtle ways such as prayerlessness and people-pleasing. Others more obvious might be entitlement, ingratitude, fear, and rebellion. List some personal insights and convictions.
  • Read John 15:5. In order to produce fruit, we have to follow Him in repentance. Have you repented of your sins, trusted in Christ as the only Savior from your sins, and continued to follow Him as Lord?
  • Pride stands in the way of biblical growth and change, soaking up our time and attention for selfish desire. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life?
  • With what God-honoring practice might you replace this time waster? (Ex. Good practices include the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and study, prayer, serving the church, as we put God and others before self.)
  • Read Revelation 5:9-12. What will be the final home and continual joy of those whom Christ himself will exalt?

Reflect on your attitudes and beliefs regarding pride in the life of a believer.

  • My goal in recognizing that pride is a barrier is…
  • As a result of what the Bible says about prideful attitudes and behavior, I hope to make adjustments in my life that would be…
  • My prayer concerning pride and humility is…

Sources for this series can be found here. https://debbieswindell.com/2020/07/22/upcoming-series-biblical-growth-and-change/