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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Madness of Pride


Mark 1:14-15
14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”  And I'm so grateful Jesus gave his life to win our pardon and break the power of sin in our lives.

Introduction
From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus spent his time reaching out to sinners.  He preached to them, taught them, ate with them, forgave them, and healed them.  Most importantly, he urged them to repent of their sins.  Sin is madness.  It is a form of insanity.  It destroys our lives, hurts people we love, and a damages the world around us.  Worst of all, sin separates us from God—the source and purpose of our life.  Despite all this, we continue to struggle with sin.  It’s madness!  I’m so glad Jesus came preached, “Repent of your sins and believe the Good News.

Most people realize we are sinners and we don’t have a problem asking God to forgive our sin.  However, we might use the word sin in a general way without thinking about the specific ways we sin.  Unfortunately, you can’t address a problem unless you know what it is. So let’s consider some of the basic ways people sin so we can repent and ask God’s forgiveness.  Last week we considered gluttony—over-indulgence and over-consumption.  Today, we will study pride.

In the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, the character Violet Beauregarde represents the sin of pride.  Violet is vain, self-centered, snobby, and disrespectful.  Violet chews gum obsessively and boasts that she has been chewing the same piece "for three months solid", a world record which Violet proudly proclaims was previously held by her best friend. Violet is aggressively competitive and proud of her gum chewing trophies.  Unfortunately, Violet’s pride gets her is BIG trouble.  She steals some of Willy Wonka's defective gum and turns into a blueberry. She has to be squeezed to get rid of all her juice before she explodes. 

The Madness of Pride
Pride is a terrible sin.  All sins are bad, but people tend to think of some sins as worse than others.  Who would disagree that murder is a heinous crime?  Treason against one’s country?  Deplorable.  How about a sexual sin like rape or molestation?  But pride?  Is pride really that bad?

Consider this: the Bible teaches that Satan was once an angel in Heaven.  However, he grew proud (Isaiah 14:13, Ezekiel 28:16) and thought he could take God’s place.  Therefore, God cast Satan from heaven and he will ultimately be destroyed in hell.  Pride caused Satan to fall.

The Bible firmly condemns pride.  Examples:
·       Proverbs 8:13 – I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech
·       Proverbs 16:18 - Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.
·       Isaiah 13:11 - I will crush the arrogance of the proud and humble the pride of the mighty.
·       1 Peter 5:5 - “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
·       Philippians 2:3 - Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

It can be somewhat confusing because we also often use pride in a positive way.  When I was little and I played peewee football, the coach often told us he was proud of us when we did our best.  He also told us to “Have some pride in our team—whether we win or lose.”  And of course, come July 4th, we may proudly salute the American flag and sing “And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free!”  Our hearts sometimes swell with pride in a healthy way.

There’s nothing wrong with having confidence, dignity, and self-respect.  Furthermore, it’s OK to be proud of your kids, which is just a feeling of deep pleasure and admiration you have from being associated with their accomplishments.  And when it comes to our country, we can be proud of our shared identity as a nation who has been truly blessed by God—though I would very strongly caution that we must never be so arrogant as to think our blessings were won by our own efforts.  That is the very sin the Bible condemns nations like Israel for in the Old Testament. 
(Amos 6:8 - …the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, says: “I despise the arrogance of Israel, and I hate their fortresses. I will give this city and everything in it to their enemies.”)  Sinful pride leads us to believe we don't need God. We trust instead in our own power and might and means.

The Pride the Bible condemns is arrogance, vanity, and conceit.  It is thinking more of yourself than you should.  And it leads you to think you are better than others.  And as with Satan, it can make you forget your place and act as though you are higher than God.  Pride will puff you up as big as Violet Beauregarde when she turned into a blueberry.  And the only cure will be for God to squeeze you until there’s no more prideful juice left in your body.  But you don’t have to go through that; not if you just humble yourself and stay away from pride.

It’s Hard to be Humble
“Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when your perfect in every way.  I can’t wait to look in the mirror, ‘cause I get better looking each day…”

We need to let go of pride and be humble.  To be humble is to understand who you really are according to God.  Humility is knowing the world doesn’t revolve around me; it is having my place in the universe in proper perspective.  God made humanity from dirt of the ground, but we were made by the very hands of God in His image.  We are the only creatures authorized to represent God.  So humility also recognizes of how unique and special we are without leaving us with a big head to think we don’t need God.

Christians are called to be humble.  But how do we become humble?  Is there anything we can do to become more humble?  Yes there is!  We can pray and cooperate with the Hands of God that want to sculpt humility into our soul.

Here are some exercises that can help God establish more humility in you.

The Little Way
The first exercise is called “The Little Way”.  To follow the little way means that throughout your day you actively seek out the most menial jobs, welcome unjust criticisms, befriend people who annoy you, and help those who are ungrateful.
Example…
Following the little way can help develop more humility within you.

Solitude
Another practice that can help develop humility is solitude.  Solitude means to take some time to be alone.  It is a great practice to get away from people for a little while so you stop worrying so much about what people think and remember to care more about what God thinks.

In the age of social media, we are constantly sharing with others what we are doing, where we are, what we’re eating, etc.  Through Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, we are in constant contact with our “friends” and the whole world has a chance to give us feedback of what they think.  Think how much more spiritually grounded we would be if we were as constantly connected with God and seeking His approval as we are with our social media networks.

Through solitude, we step away from the world—both our face-to-face interactions with people and our virtual interactions through social media—to focus on interacting only with the God who forms us.  Jesus, the Son of God, knew the great benefit of going away to be by himself.  At the onset of his ministry, he spent 40 days alone in the wilderness fasting and communing with God.  It prepared him for his three years of public ministry, culminating in his death and resurrection to save the world from sin.  And throughout his ministry, we read that Jesus rose early in the morning and went away to a lonely place to be by himself and pray.

If a man as busy as Jesus—with twelve disciples to teach and lead and crowds of people constantly following him around begging for food and teaching and healing—could find time to be alone with God, surely we can find more time to be alone with God.  Maybe, it could help us break free from the madness of sinful pride.

Conclusion
The solution to pride is not to run around belittling yourself all the time.  That's just low self esteem or false-humility.  The solution is to glorify God and give Him the credit.  It’s not so much that we are so low; it’s just that God is so high.  Rather than focusing on yourself, keep your eyes lifted up to God.  When we focus our sights on our Heavenly Father, all the rest of life seems to fall in place.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Madness of Gluttony


Luke 5:29-31
29 Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. 30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”
31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.

Introduction
The Pharisees scoffed at Jesus because he ate with sinners collectors.  I guess they didn’t realize they were sinners themselves.  I’m glad Jesus ate with sinners, because it means he will eat with me.  We are all sinners.  Sin is madness.  It is a form of insanity.  It destroys our lives, hurts people we love, a damages the world around us and yet we continue to do it because we are all a little insane.  

My wife and I watch a documentary recently about a serial killer.  Everyone (including us) said, “That person is pure evil!”  Perhaps it is because the madness in a killer is so obviously unnatural. we have no trouble calling them monsters or evil or insane.  Meanwhile, the same madness resides in all of us in a thousand smaller ways that are less obvious.  We are all consumed with the madness of sin.

And you know, most people know they are sinners.  Not many claim to be perfect.  And we don’t have a problem saying we need to be forgiven our ‘sins’.  But often, we use the word sin in a generic, blanket form without much real consideration of what specific sins we struggle with.  The trouble is you can’t address a problem unless you really know what the problem is.

So, in this series of blogs, I want to look at some of the basic sins that plague people.  My hope is we will recognize some of the specific ways we struggle with sin, so that we can repent and ask Jesus to forgive us and begin to heal us.

In the movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, several kids take a tour of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.  Each child's character flaws are revealed.  These character flaws  serve as a jumping off point for us as we consider the fundamental sins all people struggle with.

The Madness of Gluttony
Augustus Gloop wasn’t a bad kid; he was just enslaved by his appetite.  Augustus was a glutton.   Gluttony literally means to "to gulp down or swallow.”  (Just like the sound the word makes…)  Gluttony is over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink.  It can also apply to other common forms of over-indulgence too—binge watching netflix, buying too much clothes, or hoarding.

Now, food is not bad.  Jesus ate with sinners.  Many places in the Bible command us to feast.  And eternal life is often described as a great feast.  So the problem is not food or eating or even feasting.  Gluttony is a spiritual problem where we try to substitute food for God.

4 Basic Forms of Gluttony
There are four basic kinds of gluttony. The one we may be most familiar with is the gluttony of quantity. This is where eat too much. Have you ever had a craving for something salty? I have. And I went to look in the pantry to see if there was something there to satisfy it. Victory! There was a bag of Doritos! It was exactly what I was craving. And the first three or four or five doritos were the most heavenly treat. But I didn't stop at five. I kept going even after my craving was fulfilled. Even after my body started to say, "Ok. You really don't need any more." I kept chasing the pleasure the first few Doritos gave me even after they stopped giving pleasure. That is the gluttony of quantity and it is an epidemic in America.

Another form of gluttony is less recognizable. It is the gluttony of quality. It is demanding delicacies instead of being satisfied with what you have. This is like the Israelites when they wandered in the wilderness in the book of Exodus. God delivered them from slavery from Egypt and, even though they had no food of their own as they wandered, God provided manna from heaven so they would have something to eat. But instead of being thankful, the Israelites complained, saying,"We are so tired of eating this manna. We always had plenty to eat, back when were slaves in Egypt..." That's insane!  But people still do this today.  Have you ever known someone who just can't be happy with the food they are served?  They always complain: "This food has too much pepper or not enough pepper... or it's too spicy or it has too many onions or not enough onions." Whatever it is, they act like the food just isn't good enough for them.  They don't realize they are a kind of glutton because they think, “I’m not asking for too much.  All I want is a meal that is properly prepared, properly spiced, properly cooked, and properly presented.”  Then when all care has been made to serve the perfect plate, the quality glutton exclaims in exasperation, “Oh my!  That is far too much food!  I could never eat all that!”  The results are this kind of glutton is a nightmare to hosts and waiters, and furthermore they never really satisfied themselves.  How sad.

The third kind of gluttony is the of when to eat.  It is people who eat before the proper time.  Tehy eat because they may feel, “I can’t wait! I must eat it now!”  Do you remember Esau from the Old Testament.  He returned from a day hunting in the fields and he was very hungry.  He finds his brother cooking a pot of stew and Esau has to have food right away.  He can't wait another minute.  He is so hungry, he trades his inheritance for a bowl of stew!  Some people just can't say no to food.  It is their master and that is a kind of gluttony.

There is also the gluttony of why.  Have you ever found you don't even know why you are eating?  You are just mindlessly eating and you have no good reason.  You not eating because you are hungry and need energy.  You aren't sharing a meal with your friends or family.  It's not even a special occasion and you're celebrating.  You're not even eating to enjoy a good gift from God.  you're just mindlessly putting food into the emptiness of your soul.  This is the gluttony of why.

Gluttony is a terrible problem in America.  It leads to all kinds of health problems like obesity, cholesterol and high blood pressure.  These have become epidemics in our country.  But these are the symptoms.  The root problem is gluttony, which tries to fill a void it cannot fill.  It is a cliche to say, but it's true.  Everyone has a God shaped hole in our soul.  Only God can fill that void and make us whole.  But we try to fill that void with so many other things--including food.  And food brings a certain amount of pleasure, satisfaction, and filling.  However, it is never complete and so we just keep filingoursleves with more and more and find ourselves less and less satisfied with all kinds of terrible side effects.  n the end, food controls the glutton and makes him a slave.

The opposite of gluttony is not abstinence.  It is moderation.  Food is a good gift from God.  He wants us to enjoy it.  But God wants us to enjoy it in the right way.  The things we turn into sin don't usually start out bad.  They start with good wholesome things, but we twist them and misuse them in ways contrary to God's design.

The Solution to Gluttony
First of all repent and seek God’s forgiveness.  The very first step in solving any problem is recognize you have a problem.  We want to crinkle our noses at other forms of sin that society holds in contempt--murder, adultery, drug abuse, etc.  But gluttony is just as bad and can have just as many ill effects on society and individuals as any other sin.  And ultimately, gluttony seperates us from God as much as any other sin.  So we must recognize gluttony as the evil it is, repent, and turn to God for forgiveness and healing

Second, to break the power of gluttony, we have to find nourishment in something greater.  It's not enough to just buckling down and use our will power.  That may work for a time, but it doesn’t address the real problem and it will usually fail at some point.  The problem is, we are trying to fill a void in our life with food (or something else) that only Jesus can fill.  There is a real void there.  But food cannot satisfy it.  Understand this is a spiritual battle, not just a physical one.  This is not just about going on a diet or trying to reach a certain weight.  We have a real void in our life and we need Jesus to fill it.

Isaiah 55:1-2
 “Is anyone thirsty?    Come and drink—even if you have no money!
    Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
    Why pay for food that does you no good?  Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
    You will enjoy the finest food.

When your appetite makes you feel empty inside, seek to fill that emptiness with Jesus instead of food.  Maybe that sounds hokey, but I’m serious.  The truth is, you’re not going to die if you don’t eat right now.  So, let your hunger pains be a reminder to spend time with Jesus.  Go to him in prayer.  Say, “Lord, I feel empty inside.  I’m so hungry.  Fill me Lord.” Meditate on the goodness of God.  Imagine yourself sitting around the table with Jesus, being filled not only with food, but more importantly with His love and goodness. Drink it all in.  Be filled.  Be full.  And wait for the right time to eat and then eat only what is right to eat and with the right attitude.

Third, seek accountability.  We are not meant to fight our battles alone.  We need partners in this.  Having a good friend or a spiritual advisor can be very helpful.  In some cases, a Christian counselor is really what’s needed if gluttony has taken the form of a food addiction.  When we struggle with gluttony, we need someone to hold us accountable.

Fourth, live in God’s grace.  Even if you never overcome this habit, God still loves you.  Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  You don’t have to lose weight in order for God to love you.  You don’t have to do anything for God to love you.  He already does.  Always has.  Always will.  He only wants you to work on your gluttony for your own sake.  He want you to be healthy and happy and as fully alive as you can be.  He wants you to actually enjoy food instead of being a slave to it. So, don’t be so hard on yourself.  God isn’t.

Closing
I invite you to consider your own life.  Do you struggle with gluttony?  Ask the Lord to reveal the truth and turn to Him for forgiveness and help and healing.  Focus on some ways you could allow the Lord to fill the void inside that you've been trying to stuff with food or drink or something else.  How could prayer, study, meditation, or worship be used to help you experience the true presence of Christ that satisfies all our deepest longings?