Pride of Virtue
Who gets to determine what is good? Are you "good?" Based on what?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church. Good to be back here this week.
I was able to get some nice time off, and spend sometime with my amazing wife and my 2-year old twins.
Speaking of family…kind of a fun announcement…Lindsey and I are happy to share with you that we are going to be having another baby (just 1 this time J) come early November J
We’re excited to grow to a family of 5!
It seems like just yesterday that I had started this church at 27 and no one believed me that I was a day over 22
We are finishing our Distorted Reality series this week, which has been a 3-week series on Pride.
Pride is simply to have a falsely inflated or overly high view of your self.
It’s to have a distorted sense of reality.
And we’ve broken this series down into the 3 most common forms of pride.
The pride of knowledge
The pride of power
And the pride of virtue, which we’ll cover this morning.
I chose the word “virtue” because that’s the typical word that’s used for the 3 most common forms of pride.
But it’s not a word we use all that often anymore.
Virtue is “moral excellence”
We said that if someone has “pride of knowledge,” they are prideful about what they know.
If someone has “pride of virtue,” it means that they are prideful about how “good of a person they are”
And not only in regards to how good they are, but often, how THEY made themselves good.
Thankfully, as usual, the Bible has just the passage for us this morning.
It’s a parable (which is a short story to prove a point) told by Jesus.
Just a quick explanation as you’re looking up this passage…Jesus is going to mention a Pharisee in his story.
The Pharisees were the religious folks around in Jesus’s day who tried to obey every rule they could and often thought quite highly of themselves.
They were by definition self-righteous…
In order words, they believed they made themselves right before God.
They are classic examples of “pride of virtue”
(Luke 18:9-14) – NIV
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
TO SOME WHO WERE CONFIDENT OF THEIR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS – DISTORTED REALITY
The passage starts off with a bang.
Luke, the author of this book of the Bible, says, “To some who were confident of their OWN righteousness”
In other words, to some who were “Prideful of their own virtue”
And this is so many of us!
Christians rarely like to think of themselves this way, but unfortunately we’ve spent much of the last 2,000 years regressing back to that Pharisaical way of life.
This topic, pride of virtue, may seem like some sort of small or niche topic to you, but I assure you it is not.
Thisis one of the largest and most expansive topics of the entire New Testament.
It was the main debate that Jesus had with the Pharisees
The Pharisees wanted to turn the Good News of God into a reward not a gift.
They wanted to say that you could get forgiven by God if you were good…like a reward.
Jesus said…it’s not a reward, it’s a gift.
This topic is one of Paul’s most common arguments with new Christians in his letters in the Bible.
See, even those amazing early Christians that we so much admire, were tempted to make salvation a reward not a gift.
A few years ago, we did 18 messages on the book of Galatians, called Gift Vs. Reward simply because this is such a common problem for Christians.
I mean goodness, think of the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500’s.
This is a simplification (we actually draw a really cool detailed tree of what really happened in 1 of our School of Theology classes), but what you need to know is up until the early 1500’s, Christianity was basically Catholicism
There was no Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, non-denominational.
But by the 1500’s, the Christian church had become so focused on their good works and earning their way to God, that it took a massive reformation to get back to what the Bible really taught
And the Protestant Church was born.
Our history proves that Christians, for 2,000 years have been in non-stop danger of the pride of virtue…
So if you think this message might not apply to you…turn to your neighbor right now and say, “I’m in trouble” J
Here’s what happens:
As Christians, we tend to rightly start our relationship with God by comparing ourselves with Him.
We say, “Oh my word, God I fall so far short of your glory, I need you and I need your forgiveness”
But as time goes on, we get lazy…we get forgetful…and we get prideful.
And we let that vertical comparison (us to God) we used to use fall down into a horizontal comparison
And instead of comparing our thoughts, actions, and lives to God, we start comparing ourselves to other people.
And we start to become prideful in who we are (and what we’ve done)…in comparison to those around us.
If you’re a Christian, this “comparison game” should be a major red flag to you that there is “pride of virtue” in your heart.
It is SO sneaky…but itt’ll grab your life by the horns
And before you know it, you are talking all the time about how “so and so” isn’t coming to house groups anymore, and you heard “bob & ethel” are having troubles with their supposedly “Christian marriage,” and you saw on facebook that Jimmy…….
And it starts to sound a little bit like, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…,” which is exactly what the Pharisee said.
But see, what’s happened is, your cunning pride has convinced you to distort your plane of reality to a sideways vision of human comparison.
Because your pride knows that if you do this…you won’t have to look hard very hard at your own sin.
HAVE MERCY ON ME, SINNER – REALITY
But that’s not what the tax collector does when he comes to the temple to pray
Let me say a bit about the tax collector, because I think Americans are more like him than we think,
We tend to just write of tax collectors in the Bible like they were some low-life scums of the earth.
But they’re not exactly low-lifers begging for food.
The closest parallel is maybe our caricature of the modern-day lawyer
A lot of people sneer at them, but lawyers are not down and outers.
Some of them are quite wealthy.
Same with the tax collector.
But this tax collector in Jesus’ story, was for whatever reason, able to snap out of distorted reality, and see reality for what it really is.
Unlike the Pharisee, he doesn’t even attempt to list his good deeds off to God because He knows they’re never going to stack high enough.
And he doesn’t try and compare himself to the people worse than him.
That’s distorted reality.
That’s tipping the plane from a vertical reality to the horizontal plane of distorted reality.
And we LOVE To do this.
No matter how many mistakes you’ve made, you can always think of someone who’s made more.
So you gossip, but at least you’re not like “so & so” 3 seats down from you…they can’t keep their mouth shut!
So you’ve been divorced…but not twice like your neighbor!
So you’re Osama Bin Laden, but you’re not Hitler!
So you’re Hitler, but you’re not Satan!
That’s what’s so silly about this thing of horizontal comparison.
We get to set our own standards.
And that hurts us in SO many ways.
Here’s one of them:
Jesus emphasizes so often in the Gospels that you aren’t really going to understand his deep love for you until you can set aside your pride first.
Until you can, look at him honestly (and vertically) like the Tax Collector, and say, “Have mercy on me, a sinner!”
When was the last time you just got on your knees because you were so aware of what an incredible sinner you are?
See, the problem is, some of us don’t even think it’s actually that big of a deal for Jesus to love us…even to die for us!
Why? Why would we think that?
Well, pride of virtue!
“We’re, honestly, pretty good people.
“It shouldn’t be all that surprising that He loves us”
But that distorted reality…where you set your own sideways standards…is never going to help you grow spiritually
Personally, it doesn’t work for me.
And I get stuck in it…a lot.
But I find that when I do the HARD thing…and I look up…into reality…instead of sideways…that’s when I grow.
That’s when I see how far short I still am.
That’s when I see how much work that still needs to be done in my life anyway
That’s when I’m blown away that He still loves me despite all of this
THAT’S when I grow!
Pride stunts your spiritual growth
Humility accelerates your spiritual growth
BEING EXALTED IN THE END – THE GOSPEL
This is a text that should serve as serious reminder to the follower of Jesus.
But it’s also a passage in the Bible that should hopefully shed some light on what reality actually is to those of you who are seeking God…trying to get to know Him for the first time.
Look at the last verse of our passage again:
(Luke 18:14) - NIV
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
What Jesus is talking about here…when he says this man (the tax collector) will be JUSTIFIED…that he will be exalted…
Is He is talking about being justified in the eyes of God.
Because the Bible says that it is impossible for us to build a tower of good deeds to God.
It’ll never happen. We’ll never measure up.
I saw a number of people post links to Facebook a few months ago in regards to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
He’s now in his early 70’s, and in an interview, he was reflecting on death and eternal judgment, and he started recalling some of his great works like improvements on gun safety, fighting obesity, and smoking.
And then he said, “'I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I'm not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It's not even close.'"
And this is why this is a particularly challenging passage for people who live in “Suburbia” like most of us
This is hard to hear, but open your mind to it:
Many of our nice, suburban, 3-car garage families are further away from the truth of reality and God than those on the street, or in a gang, on in prison.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus why he was hanging out with “losers” so often, he said:
(Luke 5:31-32) – NIV
31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
And it’s a bit of a jab at the Pharisees.
What he’s really saying is: “I can only help people who know that they’re sick. I can only help the people who don’t already think that they’re righteous on their own.
Do we even know that we need Him??
Sadly, in present day America, most people do not.
Pew Research came out with another massive study just two weeks ago about people leaving Christianity in America.
Particularly young people…Millennials.
Yet, the research keeps surprising everyone because Atheism is barely getting any gains.
So, people stopped going to church, but they didn’t stop believing that God exists.
They believe He exists…but they don’t really think they need him!
OK…but why don’t they need Him?!
Let me tell you what’s happening in postmodern America:
Since we each tend to fall into this trap of judging ourselves by our own standards (SO common in America), we, no surprise here, declare ourselves GOOD (kinda like the former Mayor of NYC).
But Americans rarely slow down enough to actually stop and think about the absurdity of such thinking.
Since when has anyone been able to declare themselves morally good based upon their own idea of what is morally good?
If you were here a number of weeks ago for our “Pride of knowledge” message, I mentioned Reinhold’s Neihbuhr’s assertion that “pride seeks to obscure our partiality”
Pride doesn’t want you to think about other angles.
The same thing is happening here with virtue.
Your pride does not want you to even think that are other standards besides your own…or more importantly…a higher standard.
But everyone has a different standard of what’s good.
The family down the street from you has completely different standards than you on what’s right in raising THEIR kids.
Travel around the world. Even around the country. People have completely different moral standards all over the place.
Read a history book. The moral standards of the Puritans of 1600’s look nothing like the standards of the Mayans of the 800’s.
So therefore, the question is: “When you die, and you meet God, and He’s going to render judgment about where you’re going to spend your eternal life, what should God judge you on?”
The fact that you were good? Good according to whom?
Americans in the 21st century?
This goes back to what I said earlier, if you get to determine your own standard for what moral goodness is, then Osama Bin Laden can just say, “See, I’m not Hitler”
The Bible says it this way:
(Proverbs 16:2) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.
So, we don’t get to decide what the standard is for good.
If we did, in our “pride of virtue,” we’d all commend ourselves and deem ourselves worthy of heaven!
But that’s not how it works.
Paul says it this way:
(2 Corinthians 10:8) – NIV
For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
But here’s what I think is interesting about a lot of us…as Americans.
We don’t want to hear what God thinks about our morality…about our lives.
Our pride of virtue gives its best effort to keeping most Americans out of the church, out of the Bible, and away from anything that would challenge our own ideas of us being “basically a good person”
We simply don’t want to hear anything to the contary
But don’t you want to know the truth?
If you car is an absolute lemon, and the mechanic comes out to give you the verdict, do you want him to tell you the truth or just say, “Looks like it’s in great shape! Clearly you are doing everything right when it comes to taking care of your car!”
What do you want??? Do you want the truth?!
If you go to the doctor because you’ve had this massive pain in your chest, do you want him to tell you the truth…that you’re going to die unless things change really fast…or do you want him to just say, “You’re a fine physical specimen! Perfect health!”
Do you want your doctor just to make horizontal comparisons?
“Well, you’re not basically dead in the next week like the last guy I saw…”
NO, you want to know the truth!
But when it comes to your eternal life…your life after this one…you know after this blink of a life is over…and eternity starts…
Do you want to know the truth…what God thinks?
I think a lot of people just don’t want to know.
But find out!
Because your own standards and opinions on what will purchase you life after death are worthless when you actually die.
Don’t stake your eternal life on the belief that your own view, just 1 out of billions, must surely align perfectly with God’s.
Be willing to take off the helmet of distorted reality.
Be willing to take off that “pride of virtue” and take that daring look upwards.
Be willing to compare yourself to God instead of some other convenient people of your choosing.
And when you humble yourself, and you look up at God, and his truth, it tells you this:
(Romans 3:23) – NIV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
None of us are good enough.
When we look up vertically and compare ourselves to a perfect God…we fall short of this perfect and Holy God…every time.
And thus, since we’re not good enough, what we deserve for our life is actually punishment…justice…not reward.
We didn’t do enough. We sinned. A lot.
(Romans 6:23) – NIV
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What we deserve for our lives, from a Holy and just God…the WAGES of our sin…is death.
It’s not heaven…it’s hell.
A just God does not leave sin unpunished.
But the Bible tells us over and over that this is a loving God.
Yes, He’s HUGE, He’s Almighty, He’s the one in control, but HE is Love.
Sometimes the Bible just says, “God IS Love”
That’s why the Bible’s most famous verse is:
(John 3:16) – NIV
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
See, Jesus came down to earth to die on a cross for you…to take your place…your punishment on the cross.
He stepped in front of the death penalty that we rightly deserved.
And the Bible says, “If you believe that Jesus died for you, that you actually won’t perish…you won’t go to hell…but to heaven with him Forever.”
See, the goal of life is NOT to prove that your good enough but to realize you’ll never be good enough…and that’s why we need Jesus!
This is why PRIDE is such a root sin.
It’s the main thing keeping people out of heaven.
They’re saying, “God I don’t need you. I’ve got this on my own”
But nothing could be further from REALITY.
The only way you can be forgiven and spend eternal life in heaven is to be like that Tax Collector who said…”God have mercy on me”
It’s to say, “I need your forgiveness. I believe that you sent Jesus for me because you love me, and I want to follow you”
That’s how we’re made right with God! That’s how we’re forgiven!
Those who HUMBLE themselves are the ones who are exalted and justified.
So the question is: What will you do with this information?
The way I see it you have two options:
1) You continue on…hoping that, like the Pharisee, your own personal definition of what is good (in comparison to others) is enough to gain you eternal life
2) You say…right here and now…that you’re not good enough…you never will be…and you turn your life over to Jesus.
You believe that He came and died for you…and you give your life over to this amazing God.
You surrender to HIS TRUTH…HIS WAYS…HIS LOVE
And I believe some of you need to make that decision today.
You have no idea when you’re life will end.
This is not a decision to delay.
Plus, it’s a decision that will radically change your life.
I know it did mine when I made this decision when I was 18.
When I realized that I actually wasn’t ever going to be good enough on my own.
And I want to tell you that there are SO many people in this room that have made a decision like this…at a service just like this (hundreds of people over the last few years), and now, it’s changed their lives too…for eternity…AND for RIGHT NOW!
Because God will come into your life and give you real purpose…real joy.
So I want to give you that opportunity to surrender to Jesus today.
Tell him that you need to believe that He died for you to forgive you…that you need Him to forgive you…and become His follower.
In fact, let’s just have everyone bow their heads and close their eyes as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.
If you want to do this …in just a moment, I’m actually going to ask you to respond by quietly standing up right where you are.
It’s a symbolic way to say to God, “I believe this now. I will follow”
NO ONE will be looking at you…no one (don’t even think about that!). This is about you and God.
This is just a way for you to symbolically say, “I believe. I’m putting my faith in Jesus. I can’t do this on my own. From this moment onward, to the best of my ability, I will be a follower of this amazing JESUS.
So wherever you are, all across this room right now.. If you’d like to become a follower of Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to stand up wherever you are.
If God is nudging your heart in this…that means He’s real. That means…it’s TIME. If you feel it in your pulse…in your heart…that’s God. Accept His forgiveness. Start a new life with Him. It’s amazing!
If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?
It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at… the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
Repeat after me
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
(you can keep your eyes closed)
If you are standing, I need you to do one more thing for me.
It will only take 2 minutes, but it’s 2 of the most important minutes of your life.
In just a second, I’m going to pray, and right as I begin praying, I need you quietly sneak out of your row, and go to the back of the room
Our follow-up team is back there by the blue rectangle to give you some extremely important resources to get started on the most important journey in your life.
So head back there…it’ll only take 2 minutes…and you’ll be able to sneak back to your seat .
Let me pray as we get back into worship and you can head back.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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