The seriousness of sin
It is the tradition at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for anyone who speaks to begin by saying, “I am name and I am an alcoholic.” Maybe we in the Christian community should begin in a similar way: “Hi. I’m Joleen and I’m a sinner.” (from “Rebuilding Your Broken World” by Gordon MacDonald.)
Sin is real. Each of us is engaged with an ongoing battle with sin and none of us is exempt from it. We can ignore it and pretend it isn’t there. But the truth remains: sin is real. The good news is that sin is a summons to life; a call to new life. And if we deny sin, we miss the opportunity to embrace this new and better life, the life God intended for us.
We are looking at more than a “moral” issue. More than something that can be fixed by education or behavior modification. We are looking at sin, the root cause of moral decay. By our nature, we are sinners. We are born sinners. And sin requires God’s intervention. God is the only cure. Sin requires the miraculous act of Jesus Christ, taking our sins upon him, carrying them to the cross, bringing salvation to us, and transforming us by his grace.
Prayer of self-examination and confession
This series will focus on a type of prayer we don’t often emphasize. At Lent, we say we enter a season of self-examination – a time of looking at our lives and asking God to reveal those things in our life that are not pleasing to him. Self-examination is not just for Lent. William Law in “A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life” lays out a day of prayer that concludes each evening with self-examination and confession.
Psalm 139.23-24 (David’s prayer)
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Since our tendency is to deny sin, the first step is recognition of our sin—facing up to the way sin is expressed in our lives. Then, confessing and repenting of those sins, receiving power for overcoming, and finding resources to engage the ongoing battle which, to some degree, we will always be engaged.
The 7 Deadly Sins
Our self-examination will involve looking at the 7 Deadly Sins. In the 4th Century, the desert fathers (Monastics) in Egypt compiled a list of 8 sins which over time has become a list of 7. These sins were identified as the major sins because they so greatly endangered the spiritual life. These sins were recognized as being deeply rooted in our nature. And they are: pride, envy, anger, sloth (laziness), avarice (greed), lust, and gluttony. These 7 actually will overlap and interweave. They affect us individually and they affect us as a faith community and they affect our culture. Most of this series will based on the book, “The Workbook on the 7 Deadly Sins”, by Maxie Dunnam & Kimberly Dunnam Reisman. This book was a requirement for my January class and it was a life transforming experience, and my hope is that this series will be that for you and for our church.
The first sin we will look at today is pride … and pride is always the first listed; it is the root of all other sins. And it is the first sin recorded in the Bible.
The fall of Adam and Eve
The statement of pride in this account, the thing that tempted Adam and Eve … it wasn’t the fruit, it was “you will be like God.”
The fall of Satan compared
Interesting enough there is a parallel in the fall of humankind and the fall of Satan.
Satan wanted to make himself “like the Most High” and now he tempts all humankind with the same temptation, “you will be like God.” Now most of us would not say those words, yet Satan, deceitful as he his, will disguise this temptation. Let’s look at how the sin of pride may be manifested in our own lives.
Pride is a preoccupation with self, the inordinate (beyond normal limits) assertion of self.
In the biblical accounts it is self-worship. Taking the worship that is due God for one’s self. Taking the credit for what God does in our lives.
Webster: an inordinate self-esteem
Oxford English: an unreasonable conceit of superiority … an overweening opinion of one’s own qualities
Synonyms: vanity, conceit, arrogance, egotism, self-glorification, boastfulness.
Slang: bighead, cockiness, stuck-up, snobbishness, self-centered, full of yourself, know-it-all, puffed up.
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Vince Lombardi was a famous coach for the Green Bay Packers and he had a monstrous ego and a pride that was not always healthy. There are many stories that exist about him. One such story tells of an occasion when he was in a championship game. He wife couldn’t go, which disappointed Vince. And the Packers were not expected to win the game, but against all odds they won. So the story goes …
When Vince Lombardi came home his wife was already asleep. He tried to slip into bed without awakening her. But when his cold feet touched her legs, she said “God, your feet are cold.” Quick as a flash, the coach replied, “When we are in bed, just call me Vince.”
Pride is not: aiming to do well; healthy sense of self worth or self-respect.
Pride is not: false humility: diminishing one’s self worth, depreciating one’s self
Pride is lifting oneself up too much. It is always having to be at the center, having to be recognized, having attention, having everything center on self.
And one of the negative results of self-centeredness is that it makes us insensitive to the needs of others. When we are centered on our own needs, we can’t see the needs of others.
Katerina’s nightly prayer: "Help Hunter get over the chicken pox so he can bring me my Valentine gift."
Was she as concerned with Hunter’s illness as she was getting her gift?
And yet how many times do we go to God and pray that kind of prayer – a prayer that’s only concerned with what I want, what I need; that never asks for what God wants.
Do we at times view the church as a place to fulfill my needs, rather than reaching out to the needs in our community?
Is a good sermon, one that makes me feel good, or is it one that makes me squirm a little, one that challenges me to grow?
Pride is defeated in our yieldedness to Christ
I often talk of the paradoxes, seeming contradictions, of scripture.
We cannot free ourselves from self-centeredness. The more we look in on ourselves, the more self-centered we become. Christ alone can deliver us from self-centeredness: worship of Christ, recognizing his presence in our lives, his gifts in our lives, his provision in our lives.
And recognizing our need for his salvation in our lives. Lastly, pride can be a barrier of salvation. Pride says I can do it on my own. But the only way that we can find salvation is by relying on God’s grace, by submitting our whole selves to Christ Jesus.
Justification and Sanctification
“Salvation is both a done deal and a daily development.” –Max Lucado
Dunnam and Dunnam Reisman explain justification and sanctification in way I’ve never heard it and in a way that truly brings clarity.
Justification is what God does for us;
Sanctification is what God does in us.
As pardon (justification) grace forgives our sins;
As power (sanctification) grace delivers us from our slavery to sin the grip of sin on our lives, and fills us with the power of new life—a life in which Christ indwells us and we live through him.
We can’t give our sins to Jesus (if we cold do that we would all be sin-free saints)—we give ourselves to Jesus and he takes our sins from us and gives us the power to overcome sin’s grip.
Dunnam and Dunnam Reisman (D&DR) offer these steps in prayer and I encourage us to use them today and throughout this series of self-examination and even make them a part of our regular prayer life.
- Examine for sin (today, specifically the sin of pride).
- Claim our justification, the gracious forgiveness and pardon of God.
- Yield our lives to Christ, with special attention to the area of our lives where sin is expressing itself.
- Invite Christ to take that sin from us.
- Claim the power of the Holy Spirit to give us the desire and the strength of will to overcome sin’s grip.
- Practice the disciplines that free us and even protect us from willful sin.
~In the past two months, name three occasions, situations, and/or relationships in which you expressed healthy pride. (D&DR)
~ In the past two months, name three occasions, situations, and/or relationships in which “I” was at the center, when the itch for recognition prevailed over the concern for others, when self-centeredness brought brokenness and pain. (D&DR)