Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller


Pride

Matthew 18:1-14

What is our greatest enemy? You might say it is Lucifer, and certainly he is an enemy-in fact the word Satan means \"adversary.\" But Satan is really a catalyst, not a cause. You might say then that sin is our greatest enemy. It is true that sin is anything that is not like God, and that the Scriptures tell us that \"all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God\" (Romans 3:23). Sin keeps us from a relationship with God-it separates us (Isaiah 59:3). But sin is a result, not a cause.

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What is our greatest enemy, then? I would submit to you that our greatest enemy is pride. Pride says I am self sufficient and need no one. Pride says I have done nothing wrong. Pride says \"it\'s all about me\" and anything I can do to further my own goals is more important than anything or anyone else. Pride wants more - more money more power more physical beauty or prowess, more position and accolades. Pride puts others in their place which is below us. Pride reacts to any attack with an overwhelming counter-attack that leaves no doubt who is boss.

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Pride is really the beginning of sin. And the beginning of pride began with Lucifer:

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Ezek 28:17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.

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Lucifer\'s pride led him to desire, which led him to temptation, which led him to sin:

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Isaiah 14:13-14 You said in your heart, \'I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God

I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.\'

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Lucifer, God\'s worship leader, decided he was better than God, that he deserved more than God, and that it was all about him. That was the beginning of sin, and that pride/sin infected us in the Garden of Eden, when Eve and Adam were convinced that their way (the way of the serpent) was better than God\'s way. The spirit of self-ascendency has plagued us ever since.

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Now why bring this up when it comes to Matthew 18? This chapter is really about dealing a death blow to pride. Chapters 16 and 17 were pretty heady for the disciples, and certainly Peter. First he acknowledged for the first time that Jesus was really the Messiah. Jesus then suggested Peter\'s central role in the creation of the church and God\'s kingdom. Then in chapter 17 he with James and John actually saw the Lord in His glory-now the stakes for being central in God\'s kingdom were so much greater because God\'s glory is so much better than they could have imagined.

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They came back down the mountain and saw the reality of the struggle to free people from the bondage to sin and the devil, but it\'s possible that the experiences they had had were now feeding that pride that is in all of us-that feeling of self importance and self justification.

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So Chapter 18, in one way, is the antidote to pride as we understand 1) our place in God\'s kingdom and 2) our place in the body of Christ. It\'s all about the heart attitude towards God, how we come to Him, allowing Him access to our lives, and how that change in character changes the way we treat others. Let\'s talk about that first concept in verses 1 - 14 and then conclude next time in the balance of the chapter.

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1 - 4

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Luke 9, Mark 9, Mark 10

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We naturally want to know our rank. Are we better than the person next to us? Animals naturally create an order in their pack or pride-you have the alphas and the betas. We are much like that ourselves. Perhaps the other disciples were wondering if Peter, James, and John were somehow better because they got to go up on the Mount of Transfiguration. Maybe they wanted to know God\'s scoring method so they could compete for the best spot.

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But as with most things, Jesus turns our expectations of reality on their head. He puts a little child in front of them. Children in that society were like property and had no rights at all until they were adults. Children were not to be seen or heard! But Jesus puts a child there and says \"unless you turn and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of God.\"

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First, he tells them that they are going the wrong direction. The word \"turn\" means \"to turn oneself.\" The King James renders it \"repent\" but it\'s not the same Greek word that Peter uses in Acts 2:38 when he says \"repent and be baptized.\" That word means \"to think differently afterwards.\"

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Here he wants them to have a different mindset - a different attitude about greatness. How does a child humble him or herself? I think three things are in view here: openness, trust and dependence. Children are very open to what adults tell them-and in a moment Jesus will talk about that quality and how it can be abused. Pride enters in as adults. We think \"I am self-sufficient and self-important and know everything I need to know.\" We get so jaded and hardened that are not open to new ideas-like the gospel. But kids have this wide-eyed wonder at everything new around them. Secondly they are quite dependent on their parents or guardians and trust that they will always have their good in mind.

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So too, we ought to approach Jesus not from a self-sufficient standpoint but fully and openly trust and depend on Him.

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It is those that know they don\'t belong there, are glad to be a part of God\'s kingdom and openly and firmly trust in their Savior are truly \"great\" in God\'s economy.

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5 - 6

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Jesus equated welcoming children with the way we are welcomed into the kingdom of God. God is so far superior to us that there is simply no comparison. Yet He welcomes us with open arms. In God\'s kingdom, the great are known for acceptance and dependence. This is the same attitude we should show to each other-and woe to the person who uses that position of trust to draw a young believer astray. Much of the rest of the New Testament is spent combating this kind of behavior.

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A large millstone would mean certain death (they weigh from 2-3,000 pounds)-but even that would not be comparable to the fate awaiting someone who would do this.

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7 - 9

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There are two things operating here - verse 6 says \"whoever causes one of these little ones to sin\" and then verse 7 \"woe to the one by whom the temptation comes.\" \"To cause to sin\" is the Greek word skandalizo and \"temptation\" or \"stumbling block\" is skandalon. Temptations are a reality in this fallen world, whether they come from the culture, the devil, or those around us we trust. It\'s one thing to give into temptation, but Jesus places a great deal of personal accountability to those people and institutions that are the source of that temptation.

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Verses 8 and 9 don\'t tell us to perform physical self-amputation but point out two things: 1) if it were possible to avoid hell by doing that, it would be worth it and 2) we should \"cut off\" those things in our lives that cause us to do things that are not in God\'s character. Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:22 \"Flee youthful lusts.\" Earlier he said in Romans 13:14 \"Put on the Lord Jesus and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.\" The feet and hands represent what you do, the eye, what you expose yourself to.

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If there is a person, a hobby, a habit, a place, or an association that puts you in a place to be tempted or to fall then get away from it as fast and far as possible. Jesus is not saying that as a believer if you sin you will be sent to hell. That\'s another subject-as a believer our sins are washed and we will experience God\'s discipline and the consequences of our actions-but not God\'s wrath. But pride makes us think we are not vulnerable to temptation. Pride is like an anesthetic to our conscience.

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10 - 14

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Pride leads us to think highly of ourselves or at least more highly of ourselves than others. We automatically have a pecking order. This can cause us to look down on those who have not come as far as we have. It has led churches to wall themselves off from the world. We don\'t let the world\'s values to infiltrate the church but our mission is to go out in the world and reach out to the lost like someone reached out to us.

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God\'s angels are \"ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation\" (Hebrews 1:14). Each person has a special place in God\'s eye and deserves our very best.

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I love verse 14. This is the heart of the Father. It is echoed here: (2 Peter 3:9-10)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

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Conclusions

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If God, who is so much holier than us, can have a heart of compassion, actually going out and seeking those who are destitute and poor in spirit-to offer them salvation free of cost and bring them away from unrighteousness, should we not be the same?

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What does pride lead us to be and do?

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Want to be better than others

Think we are deserving where others aren\'t

Not worry about sin and temptation as much as we should

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What does humility lead us to be and do?

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Openness, Trust, & Dependence

Heart of compassion towards those that are lost and in need

Heart of fear towards anything not like God (like a hot stove or Anna\'s pen)

  • Avoid those who pull you away from righteousness (Joseph\'s temptation vs David\'s)
  • (next time) Avoid people who are irreconcilable.

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How do we protect ourselves?

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Keep away from where you shouldn\'t be (temptations, focusing on comparing yourselves to others) and keep at what you are supposed to be doing (going after the lost), keeping yourself occupied with that.

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Finally, do you have the continued attitude of a child when it comes to God? Are you open to Him, vulnerable to Him, and trusting of Him?