5 Symptoms Of A Proud Heart

  • You get defensive at the first sign of criticism or correction. Proverbs 13:1 says, “A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” A humble man eagerly receives rebuke, correction, and criticism. I on the other hand, am quick to be defensive. What about you? When you receive correction from others at work, or at church, or in the family, how do you respond?
  • You are quick to speak and slow to listen. Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” I’m often not interested in others or what others have to say, but only in voicing my own opinion. The humble person on the other hand, is slow to speak and eager to hear the input and wisdom of others. When you’re with other people, are you quick to voice your own opinion, or are you eager to hear the opinions of others?
  • You’re convinced that you’re always right. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” I’m very proud, which in turn causes me to be certain that I’m right in all situations, at all times. The humble person is keenly aware of their blind spots, and aware that they could be wrong. When a debate arises, are you convinced that your way is the right way?
  • You’re quick to criticize and slow to encourage. I’m aware of people’s deficiencies and unaware of God’s grace at work in people’s lives. The result? Much criticism and little encouragement. The humble person however can identify with Paul when he said, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Tim 1:15) Are you more aware of people’s faults or the grace of God at work in their life?
  • You become overwhelmed when life gets chaotic. When life gets chaotic and I’m loaded down with responsibilities, I can be easily overwhelmed. Why? Because I’m self-sufficient. In my pride, I rely on my own strength to carry out my plans. However, when things get chaotic, I get anxious. The humble person depends on God to carry out and execute plans, and thus experiences God’s peace.

I’m a proud man in desperate need of a Savior. How grateful I am that Christ died for my wicked arrogance.

God Humiliated Me By Choosing Me

My watch is precious to me. Okay, that sounded a bit too much like Gollum from “The Lord of the Rings”. But it’s true, I really do need my watch. I like to know the precise hour and minute so that I can be on time for meetings. I like to know what day of the month it is, and I like to use the timer function for taking power naps. Without my watch I feel somewhat lost, which is why I went into semi-panic when I recently lost my watch. For several days I racked my brains, trying to figure out where my precious timepiece had disappeared to. Finally, when I was about to abandon all hope of ever finding my watch again, I found it, and order was restored to my life.

The finding of my watch reminded me of a deep, profound, and humiliating truth: I never would have found God. Hear the words of Jesus from Luke 10:22:

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.

Before Christ came looking for me, I was spiritually dead, and blind to the things of God. I wasn’t looking for God, wasn’t seeking Him out, wasn’t trying to understand Him or His ways. I hated God and wanted nothing to do with Him. I was blind to the beauty of Christ, enslaved by the power of sin, and had no desire for the Savior. I was miserable, but didn’t know it.

But oh how sweet the day when Christ came looking for me. He came to me while I was lying in the filth of my sin, washed me in His precious blood, and opened my eyes to the glory of God. He chose to reveal Himself to me. He chose to come looking for me. I didn’t choose God and never would have. If it were up to me, I would have passionately pursued sin until the day I died. But in His kindness, Christ chose to reveal the Father to me.

How humiliating to be chosen by God. The fact that Christ chose me should crush any pride dwelling within me. Any spiritual success I have is the result of Christ’s prior work within me. Any spiritual gifts I have are mine because Christ chose me. Any true joy I experience is because Jesus came looking for me. Any grace I experience is a free, undeserved gift. I have no room to boast, no room to brag. I’m humiliated, and it’s a wonderful thing.

How To Catch God’s Eye

Certain things catch my eye. The word “free” always catches my eye. Advertisements for Apple’s iPhone catch my eye. Headlines containing the words “Pittsburgh Steelers” cause me to look twice. A person cruising by on a bright and shiny scooter is sure to get a second look. My wife always catches my eye.

There are certain things that catch God’s eye as well. Hear these words from Isaiah 66:1-2

Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

What is it that catches God’s eye? What is He drawn to and attracted by? It’s not the most talented person, or the person with the highest GPA, or the most gifted worship leader, or the most talented athlete. God is drawn to the person who is humble, contrite, and trembles at His word. Do you see the significance of this passage? If we want to experience the grace of God we must passionately pursue a humble and contrite spirit.

What does this look like practically? How do we obtain a humble and contrite spirit? By trembling at God’s word. The humble man knows that every time he reads his Bible, he is reading the sacred word of the living God. The humble man trembles at God’s word by reading it regularly and acknowledging his desperate need for it. The humble man trembles at God’s word by paying close attention to it and seeking to apply it to every area of his life. The humble man trembles at God’s word by seeking to obey it rather than argue with it. The humble man trembles at God’s word by loving God’s word.

Do you tremble at God’s word? Do you read it regularly, acknowledge your desperate need for it, and seek to obey it at all costs? Let us resolve today that we will seek to tremble at God’s word. In doing so we will catch God’s eye.

I Got Into A Fight

I’m not much of a fighter. Yes, I have a punching bag in my basement, and yes I sing the “Rocky” theme song when I punch it, but in general I’m not a fighter. In high school, I never got into fights. Of course that was because I was home schooled, but if I had been in public school I don’t think I would have gotten into fights. I like movies that have long, extended, manly fight scenes, such as “The Bourne Supremacy”, but I could never do anything like that. But recently I did get into a fight, a fight with God as a matter of fact. I took on God as my opponent.

Several days ago I was in a meeting with my dad and the other pastor on staff at our church. During the meeting, the three of us were discussing the best way to approach a certain situation. My dad wanted to do it one way and I wanted to do it another way. My dad, who is significantly wiser than I am, had the better way. But in my pride, I was totally convinced that my way was the right way, and that he was being a fool for not seeing it my way. In reality, I was the fool. But God was kind enough to convict me of my sin and lead me to repentance, and now I see that my dad’s way was indeed the better way.

James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” To say that I was proud during the pastoral meeting is a colossal understatement. I was massively arrogant. James tells me that God won’t tolerate my pride. In fact, when I’m proud I am taking on God as my opponent. When I am proud I am engaging in a head to head battle with God Himself, for God opposes the proud. And I don’t want God as my opponent.

The opposite of pride is humility, and it is to the humble that God gives grace. If I want to experience the grace of God I must be humble. Oh how I want to experience the grace of God! Do you want to experience the grace of God? Do want your daily experience to be one of experiencing God’s grace? Then pursue humility. Pursue it daily, regularly, consistently. Meditate on this verse from James. Read C.J. Mahaney’s book “Humility”. Confess areas of pride to your spouse, friends, and pastors. If you do, you will experience the grace of God. Otherwise, you will have God as your opponent.

How I Went Blind

I recently made a startling discovery: I’m blind. Oh I can still see things. I can see my scooter sitting in the church parking lot, the very essence of glory. I can see the haze in the air that causes me to burst into a sweaty mess the moment I step out of my air conditioned office. I can see that my little finger is bent kind of funny because I dislocated it playing softball last year. But the truth is, I’m blind.

Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” This proverb describes a person that is blinded by their pride, blinded to the point of being convinced that they’re always right. This proverb perfectly describes me. Does it describe you?

Let me give you an example from my life. I recently had the privilege of preaching at my church. After my sermon, I asked my friend and fellow pastor, Joe, to give me input and suggestions for my message. In a kind and gentle way, Joe gave me several excellent suggestions as to how I might preach God’s word more effectively. No big deal, right? Wrong. The moment Joe began speaking, my heart began to rage within me. I was convinced that I didn’t need to hear what he was saying, didn’t need his advice, didn’t need any helpful suggestions. I can count the number of times I’ve preached on two hands, and Joe has preached many more times than I have. Yet I was thoroughly convinced that I had preached an outstanding message that had absolutely no room for improvement. I was blinded by my pride, and I was a fool.

Can you relate to me? Are you being a fool in any ways? How about at home? When your spouse or children or parents correct you, how do you respond? When they give you a suggestion, what is your initial reaction? Are you eager to listen, or quick to defend yourself? Do you invite correction, or raise barriers? How about at work? When a coworker suggests how you might improve a project, what goes on in your heart? Only a fool believes that he or she is always right. Don’t be a fool like me.

More Than I Ask Or Think

The Lord’s Day

O Lord My Lord,
This is thy day,
the heavenly ordinance of rest,
the open door of worship,
the record of Jesus’ resurrection
the seal of the sabbath to come,
the when saints militant and triumphant
unite in endless song.

I bless thee for the throne of grace,
that here free favour reigns;
that open access to it is through the blood of Jesus;
that the veil is torn aside and I can enter the holiest
and find thee ready to hear,
waiting to be gracious,
inviting me to pour out my needs,
encouraging my desires,
promising to give more than I ask or think.

Taken from The Valley of Vision

The Art of Spiritual Living

Let these words of D. Martyn Lloyd Jones affect you today when you are tempted to feel despondent or discouraged.

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’ – what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’ – instead of muttering in this depressed unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.

5 Tips For Better Blog Reading

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, here are a few practical tips for better blog reading.

Clean Out Your Reader
If you’re like me, you blog reader can become obscenely cluttered. I see a blog that looks mildly interesting, click on the ‘subscribe’ button, and “bang” (it really makes that noise) it shows up in my feed reader. The result? I end up with information overload. I’m forced to skim lots of blogs without really getting anything out of any of them. If this describes you, do a purge on your blog reader so that you’re only focusing on blogs that are important to you. Currently my blog reader contains ten feeds, which is very manageable for me.

Do Some Real Reading
The tendency with blog reading is to skim, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, if blog reading is to have any real value in our life, we need to do some real reading. Find one or two well written, God-centered, Christ-exalting blogs and read them faithfully every day. For me this looks like reading Al Mohler’s blog every day. Other possibilities: Challies, Between Two Worlds, Desiring God, Josh Harris.

Do Some Skim Reading
Okay, I know this sounds like I’m contradicting myself, but there is a place for skim reading blogs. I can do a quick skim of the blogs that really matter to me to see if there is anything that I should stop and read. And of course some blogs lend themselves to this more than others. For example, I subscribe to a number of ‘productivity’ blogs. It’s easy to scan these for any useful information.

Subscribe To One Secular Blog
There are a number of blogs written by non-Christians that are a means of common grace to me. As I mentioned, I like reading blogs that focus on productivity. Most of these blogs aren’t written by Christians, and yet by reading them I’ve gained some great ideas on how I can be more effective in serving the Lord. Using discernment, find one secular blog that you think will motivate or inspire you. Examples: Lifehacker, Life Remix (Note: I don’t endorse all the content on these sites)

Take Everything With A Grain Of Salt
The blogosphere is full of opinions and ideas. Some are good, some are terrible, and some are heretical. Before you read a blog, read your Bible. By doing this you’ll gain discernment, which will help you navigate the murky waters of the blogosphere.

These are just my opinions on blog reading. I hope you find them helpful…

7 Tips For Better Book Reading

Bob Kauflin and Tim Challies recently wrote excellent posts on the place of reading in the life of a Christian and I would encourage you to read both posts. As a fellow lover of books, I thought I would add a couple of practical suggestions on what types of books to read. So here they are in no particular order.

Read Books By Dead People
We have a tendency to love what’s new and current. We like books that talk about new ideas, books by new authors, and books with new covers. We’re anxious to get the latest book by our favorite author. But in all our zeal for new books, we can miss out on the wisdom and insight of men and women that have been dead for hundreds of years. Hear the words of C.S. Lewis:

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.

We need to stand on the shoulders of men like Charles Spurgeon, John Owen, and C.S. Lewis. They knew God in a way that few people today do. So read books by dead guys.

Find A Dead Historical Hero
Don’t have a dead spiritual hero? Get one, and then read everything they wrote. Why should they be dead? Because, as John Piper says, that way they won’t disappoint you. My dead spiritual heroes are Charles Spurgeon and C.S. Lewis, and I’m slowly making my way through the vast number of books they’ve written. As I’ve read books by these men my soul has been fed and my love for God stirred.

Read Books Recommended By Godly Men
You can see C.J. Mahaney’s recommended reading list here. The Discerning Reader has a number of similar lists on their site as well. Read these books!

Read Books That Make You Laugh
Humor and laughter are a gift from God, to be enjoyed for His glory. For a good laugh I recommend “Letters From A Nut” by Ted L. Nancy.

Read Biographies of Godly Men and Women
Few things stir my soul with fresh passion for God like a biography of a godly man or woman. When I read about the life of Charles Spurgeon, my heart is moved to love Jesus like he did. When I read about George Whitfield, I long to proclaim the gospel as he did. Get a good biography and let your heart be stirred by the example of a godly man or woman.

Read One Good Book Over and Over
Charles Spurgeon read “The Pilgrim’s Progress” over 100 times during his life. Why? Because the truths found within the book gripped his soul. I want to emulate the example of Spurgeon. I want to find one book that sets my heart ablaze with love for God and then read it many times throughout my life. Consider doing the same.

Read “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Lord of the Rings”
Enough said.

Me Versus Paul – Cage Match

This is part three of “The Work of Christ” series.

The Apostle Paul would like to issue a challenge to anyone reading the book of Philippians. He would like to stack up his reasons for confidence in the flesh against your reasons for confidence in the flesh. Paul would like to engage with us in a battle royale, a cage match fight for the title of “Most Righteous According To The Law”. Listen to what he wrote to the Philippians:

“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:
circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”

Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees. He tried to obey God’s law with every fiber of His being. He killed people because he thought they were disrespecting and disobeying God’s law. Paul made other Pharisees look like they were just playing at religion. I can almost hear him talking to me. “Stephen, you think you’re impressive because you lead worship on a Sunday? You think God is impressed with you because you maintain a blog? You think you’re pretty good because you read the Bible? Stephen, you’ve got nothing on me.”

Then Paul says the most shocking words. He says, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Paul was willing to throw away all his works so that he might know Jesus Christ and be counted righteous in Him. Paul was willing to count all his hard work as garbage so that he might have the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Why? Because Paul knew that all of his good works were like putrid, stinking garbage compared to the glorious work of Jesus Christ. Paul knew that God was deeply pleased with obedience of Christ, not the obedience of Paul. And so Paul says, “I’ll throw away everything I’ve ever done if I can have the righteousness of Jesus.”

Friends, today let us join Paul. Let us throw aside any hope we have in ourselves, and cling to the righteous of Jesus Christ that was purchased for us on the cross. Paul knew that all his righteous deeds were filthy when laid side by side with perfect obedience of Christ. Do you feel the same way?