What is the root cause of pride? We are living in an atmosphere where everyone is convinced that they know everything. Pride has taken root in American culture like no other time in history. With so many controversial issues, we would think people might listen more to the other side. The opposite is happening. A quick glance on social media reveals the pride of humanity. People are not only convinced they are right, but they also have no shame in declaring their rightness and condemning all who disagree as ignorant, stupid, hateful, racist, uncaring.
The Bible teaches that pride comes before a fall. We can literally be certain that when pride prevails, disaster is just around the corner. But even with this understanding, pride is embedded so deeply in the human spirit, we can’t get rid of it.
HOW TO GET RID OF PRIDE?
To root out pride, we need to understand the root causes of pride. Sure, we can say that pride is connected to the sinful nature, but that doesn’t help us practically. The Bible tells us to humble ourselves before the Lord. God would not command it if it weren’t possible, but how? How do we get rid of pride? How do we humble ourselves before the Lord? Today, let’s look deep into the soil of our soul to find the root cause of pride and yank it out.
One of the most audacious examples of pride in the New Testament occurs when Peter rebukes Jesus. Can you imagine rebuking the Messiah? Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? Of course, every time we take a course of action that goes against God, we are in a sense telling Him He knows nothing. We are not quite in His face rebuking Him, but we are being passive-aggressive toward Him. It’s pride, hubris, arrogance. And it ruins everything. As we identify the root cause of pride and how to get rid of it, let’s learn from Peter’s mistake.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (NIV)
The primary reason Christ has come to Earth as a man is to be the propitiatory sacrifice needed to open a way for sinful man to be restored in relationship with God. Without this sacrifice, man would not be able to enjoy the love and goodness of God. Without Christ on the cross, humanity would be forever lost chained to the floor of the devil’s dungeon. He knew this would be difficult for his disciples to hear so He has slowly been preparing them for this moment. He lays it out a plan before them that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer. The key word here is ‘must.’ This is part of the plan, God’s plan. This is what is necessary and right and good. And Peter says, “You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about Jesus!”
THIS IS WHY GOD WANTS US TO BE HUMBLE
Pride enables us to think that we know what is right or what is best. Pride conveniently helps us forget that we don’t know everything. Pride prompts us to correct everyone else because, in our mind at least, we couldn’t be wrong. The fact is that Peter did not want this to happen.
Anytime there is something that we don’t want, words we don’t want to hear or experience we don’t want to live through, changes we don’t like, we will resist. We resist because human nature does not enjoy suffering. Human nature wants to feel good and be at peace in all circumstances. Of course, life does not allow this. But our natural response to not getting what we want is resistance. Then we have to justify that resistance. Notice how Peter changes the vernacular from ‘must’ to ‘happen.’ Jesus says this ‘must’ happen meaning this is why I have come, and I don’t want you to worry when it happens. Peter changes the dynamic as if it is something that could happen to Jesus outside of God’s plan. He completely missed the point. Pride gives us this unusual ability to morph what has been said or done into something else to justify why we should not have to endure unpleasantness.
This justification sets us up in opposition to God any time what He knows to be good and right might cause some temporary suffering. Look at the morality of churches today. So many have morphed Scripture into something that it is not to justify a position that avoids uncomfortable or contentious interactions with others. Churches have decided that Biblical principles about marriage and sexuality were cultural only applicable during Biblical times. To hold to the standard would mean being demonized as a homophobic, religious zealot. Pride gives us the ability to justify the skew we place on Scripture. Any false teaching that makes following Christ easier and more pleasant is very appealing to us in our pride. Pride carries us to the other side of the battlefield, and we set ourselves up as God’s opponent with these small adjustments to His word to accommodate our need for congenialness.
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.” (NIV)
WHAT IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF PRIDE?
Jesus says to Peter:
“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (NIV)
Peter fell to pride because of what concerned him. In other words, the thoughts that occupied his mind trapped him in his own pride. He was thinking about human concerns, not Godly concerns. But what is the difference?
Christ is concerned about what needs to be done to provide a way for sinful man to be reconciled to a holy God. Peter is concerned about Jesus raising up an army to overthrow the Roman empire and the Jewish religious elite. Peter’s concerns have to do with his suffering. He wants to avoid suffering. Think about when you worry. Do we not worry most about those things that are messy, difficult, painful? We hate to suffer. Pride is in us because of the sinful nature. We can’t do anything about the sinful nature. However, by the blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit abiding in us, we have the power to resist sin. Though pride is innate, we don’t have to succumb, but rooting out pride involves our thoughts. It is not simply our thoughts, but our priorities.
GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN
The Lord is equating human concerns with Satanic thoughts. Satan could care less about anything so long as we don’t find salvation in the Lord. He is working continually to keep us from knowing Christ. For those who know Christ as their Lord, He is working to discourage us from any kind of growth because our growth means help for others in finding Christ. One of his main ways to do this is through fear produced by the prospect of suffering. To root out pride, we must transfix our priorities to God’s priorities. The cross is the focal point of God’s priorities.
Jesus said following Him means taking up our cross and denying ourselves. To follow Christ is to suffer. We suffer in that we don’t get what we want. We suffer in ridicule of those who don’t love the truth of God. We suffer in sacrifice living to help others come to Christ. If we are going to set our concerns on the things of God, we must embrace suffering, not despise it.
I don’t mean that we punish ourselves as some kind of sign of repentance. I mean that we embrace the suffering that comes with not living life for the earthly things we desire, but for the Heavenly things God desires. Getting a promotion is not our priority when we go to work. Our priority is to handle ourselves at work in a way that reveals the goodness of God. Please don’t go to work tomorrow and stand up on your chair above all the cubicles and start preaching. This is not what I mean. I mean go to work and be helpful to others not selfish. Be a team player, not a solo artist. When everything hits the fan, let the people be more important to you than the issue. Don’t allow yourself to have a bad attitude because you are more ‘concerned’ about losing a client than you are showing the love of Christ to your co-workers.
Don’t get in your car to go home and concern yourself with how much time you are spending in traffic. I know, that’s a tough one. Instead, handle yourself in traffic in a way that won’t make you look hypocritical when someone sees that Jesus fish on your bumper. Instead, concern yourself with the things of God. Let that time help you increase your patience. Take the extra time to call a friend going through a hard time. Wave to those sitting in line with you. And when you are seeing them foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog, pray for them. Is God more concerned about your level of patience or how long it takes you to get home?
A SERVANT MENTALITY
When soldiers go out to battle, they have orders. These orders relay the priorities of the commanders who have the most information. This information gives them the advantage of knowing how to fight the battle and win. God is our commander. Each day, to concern ourselves with His priorities, we need to get our marching orders. If we don’t spend time in prayer, reading the Bible, letting the Spirit remind us of God’s priorities, then we can’t expect our sinful brain to do it on its own. We need to hear from our commander. This is what our spiritual disciplines are all about.
We need to get our priorities from the Word of God, from prayer, from meditation, and from the church. Sometimes, in my pride, I have convinced myself so well that I am right that I can’t see it. That is when I need a brother or sister in Christ who will speak the truth in love to me and tell me that I am wrong and being prideful. When we are out of the church and never gather with Christians to concern ourselves with the things of God, the sinful nature will not be impeded, and our natural concerns will be of man. We will set ourselves against suffering. We will adapt our thinking according to what we want then let everyone else know how wrong they are.
Battles are not won on the battlefield. They are won in the strategy room. Our battle against our own sinful nature was won in the strategy room of Heaven. But we must go to the throne of grace to get our orders aligned with the strategy to kill this enemy of my soul. This will root out the spirit of pride from our hearts.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HUMBLE YOURSELF BEFORE THE LORD?
Humility like pride is a state of mind. Pride is our natural state. We don’t have to work at being prideful. When we look at something, we form an opinion that feels right which makes every other opinion feel wrong. We don’t have to decide to feel this way. It is natural. It is only with some spiritual growth are we able to leave open the possibility that we might not be correct. Then we can be humble before people and listen to their opinions. To help us develop humility, God calls for us to humble ourselves before Him:
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (NIV)
Humility is a mental exercise of reminding yourself in the presence of God that you are lower than He is. Humility roots out pride. As we move into a time of prayer and allow our focus to be upon the Lord as He sits on the throne, we imagine ourselves kneeling before the throne recognizing His eminence and our lowliness. We exalt His wisdom and remind ourselves that without Him, we have no wisdom. We exalt His holiness and remind ourselves that without Him, we have nothing good in us as the Apostle Paul said.
Humility is so anti-humanity that we can’t expect to have victory over pride easily. The key is to continually exercise the spiritual discipline of humbling ourselves before the Lord each day. If we do not do this each day, pride will come back with force.
Pride is part of the sinful nature and the sinful nature will be with us until we are glorified in Heaven. We cannot kill it forever. We can only kill it day by day. In fact, we have to kill it circumstance by circumstance. When a situation with potential suffering at any level presents itself, we need to make a conscious choice to say out loud, “Lord, I will gladly obey Your way in this moment.” When we make this confession of our desire and delight in His law, we give the Holy Spirit permission to rise up against our pride and defeat it in the moment. But it will return. Each day, be it morning, noon, or night, take time to humble yourself. Remind yourself of who God is then remind yourself who you are without God. Then take this mindset into the rest of your day or the next day drawing upon it when suffering seems to be imminent.
A NEW PARADIGM OF HUMILITY
To root out pride, we need to humble ourselves but adopt a new paradigm of how the world works. When we operate as servants concerned about the things of God, God gives us the desires of our hearts. We often wake up in the morning set to go after the earthly things that we desire. In fact, this is the American dream. Dream for what you want, then go and make it happen.
We cannot deny that self-determination can bring earthly success. But God’s paradigm brings success in one area while loss occurs in other areas. These past few weeks, we have seen the announced divorce of two of the most successful men in the world. Both Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates are getting a divorce. They have more money than anyone but God. They have been wildly successful from an earthly standpoint, but their marriages are dead. The new paradigm of serving the Lord moves Him to create success in all areas of your life. He gives you success with balance, peace, and a restful soul. God’s promise in James is that if we humble ourselves before Him, He will exalt us. Here is another Scripture reference:
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart (NIV)
Don’t get too excited thinking if you humble yourself, God is going to give you a new yacht. As we humble ourselves, the Spirit responds to our efforts to do this by purifying our hearts so that the desires of our hearts change. It doesn’t mean you will not get a new yacht, but all of your desires will be for those things that you will use to exalt the Lord and bless others. Your heart will no longer be so selfish. You will be transformed and moved into this new paradigm or humility allowing the Lord to exalt you according to your humility. Worldly success is wrapped in selfishness, not humility. Selfishness requires a great deal of effort to go after those things you desire. But when we seek the Lord and serving Him as our King first, then He goes and gets these things and brings them to us. We don’t have to become workaholics burning the candle at both ends. Instead, our life is blessed, and we live in a spiritual, mental, even physical rest.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NIV)
Humility seems backward in our American culture, but it is God’s way of blessing our life, giving us balanced success throughout everything in our life. Make up your mind today to humble yourself, exalt Him, and concern yourself with the things of God and see if God won’t exalt you.