Zephaniah 3:11-12 On that day you will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from this city those who rejoice in their pride. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. But I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the name of the LORD.
Show of hands: who likes to sit and listen to an arrogant person? I would say you can put your hands down now, but I’m fairly certain that no hands went up. Listening to pride carry on is quite nauseating if you ask me. I want to listen to a humble person. Now let me be clear. I am not talking about the difference between confidence and insecurity – those are entirely different things. I’m talking about pride and humility.
Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. (I just love the way that is worded.) God promises in this passage to get rid of the arrogant ones. He vows to remove those who stand on the mountaintops and shout of their greatness. He doesn’t want to hang around people who are full of themselves. After all, if you are full of yourself, how could you possibly be full of Him? Let that sink in for a moment….
Someone who wants to be full of God would do well to first become empty. Let’s say you wanted to fill up a glass with water. But that glass has some milk in it. Wouldn’t you pour out the milk first and even rinse out the cup? What I’m saying here is that humble man is the empty one. He is the man who says, “God I am nothing without You.” He is the man who has been emptied, rinsed out, and is ready to be filled. Indeed, being full of the Lord starts with humility. No haughtiness on His hill!
*Do you have some emptying to do?
Obadiah 1:3 The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’
I remember being a kid and pretending to be a superhero. I would put on a cape and make bold claims about my power. I would revel in my awesomeness and leap over toy trucks with a single bound. Every once in while I would temporarily fly through the air from one couch to the other (until mom told me not to jump on the furniture). I was invincible… until I crashed into the wall or slipped and fell. Apparently physics didn’t agree that I was a superhero. Yes, gravity pulled me to the ground mid-flight. My knuckles turned red and walls didn’t budge when I attempted to break through them. And apparently my dog could also run faster than the speed of sound, because even with my supersonic speed, she was still faster.
The problem was reality. I thought I was much greater than I really was. I wasn’t a superhero; I was a kid with an active imagination. Such is the reality of puffed up pride. Pride makes a person feel more important than they really are. Pride causes arrogance and an attitude of superiority. Pride can even make you think like a kid superhero. You feel invincible, untouchable. Yet your fall is just around the corner. Reality will catch up with you sooner or later. Think of these athletes who are caught doing steroids. They are winning games, races, you name it. Collecting their trophies and prize money, they puff themselves up and brag about being the best. And then the fall hits hard.
Remember when Jesus said, “blessed are the poor in spirit?” Remember that? He was on to something there. He instructed us to keep an honest view of reality. That honest view says that without God in my life, I am nothing. Without his protection, provision, talents,and gifts, I’ve got nothing at all. He is my source; He is my life. I take pride in that alone. We’ve got to start looking at our lives through that lens, because the pride of your heart will deceive you. Don’t be a 3 year old superhero. Instead be honest about your limitations and your weakness and stand in His power and strength.
Luke 18:9-14 9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody 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 up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus told lots of parables, many of which were hard to understand. This one… not so much. In fact, this is probably one of Jesus’ more in your face stories. His audience is arrogant people and he pulls no punches. The story is about a self-righteous religious guy and a humble sinner. The religious guy liked to pray about himself: “Lord, I thank you that I am so awesome. You have given me so many gifts. I understand your Word and I have the gift of teaching. And thank you Lord for making me freakishly good-looking and talented beyond compare. Make me greater Lord… for Your glory of course. You are so good, God.” Uh, I think God just threw up a little.
Some people pray like that. They use the platform of prayer to flex their religious muscles. They use prayer to preach and to impress. They focus on themselves and escalate their spiritual importance. But Jesus said God wasn’t too fond of that. God was fond of those who are poor in spirit. He is fond of the type of prayer that comes out of a heart of humility. He is interested in those who will cry out to Him in their need. It is those prayers that He desires to answer.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Think about that statement today. What camp are you in? Do you lean toward humility or pride when it comes to prayer? Public prayer is not a showcase for your knowledge of Christian language. It is not an arena for you to talk about yourself. Here’s the thing: trees don’t have to talk about their fruit, they just produce it. People will take notice. Your gifts will be seen, your talents will be used. And if your heart is humble, God might even get the glory.
Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Push, shove, bite, kick, scratch. Whatever it takes, make your way to the top. If there is someone who tries to get in your way, take them out. You come first. You are the most important. Is someone else trying to get the same job you are? Attack their character; exploit their poor choices. Win at all costs. Because you must look out for number one. Don’t you want praise and accolades? Don’t you want people to look at you and envy you? Then you must be confident and exalt yourself above the rest. Sing it with me, “I exalt me, I exalt me…”
Okay, now that we’ve completely covered the world’s way, let’s get Jesus to weigh in on this. He said that everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted. He is clearly speaking of eternity. He is speaking of the day that we stand before the judgement seat of Christ. Yes, truly what we do in this life will have an impact on eternity. But did you know that eternity isn’t just something that happens after you die? Eternity starts now. Think of it less in terms of time going on forever and more in terms of the absence of time at all. So eternity is in the future and also in the present.
This principle that Jesus so pointedly articulates is not just an outcome that will happen someday. It is a principle that applies to our life now. You see, God will truly lift up the humble. He says that he opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5, Proverbs 3:34) Do you get that self promoters? God opposes you. He opposes the way you are going about things and there will certainly be no peace or blessing in it for you. But to the humble, he gives it all. He pours out blessing and favor and honor to you. Why does God do this? It’s the whole less of me and more of Him thing. He desires that we would give Him the glory in our lives. A humble person can do that. So pursue humility – not weakness, just confident humility. God will lift you up and you will be exalted in His ways and in His time.
Luke 10:17-20 17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
Perspective. That’s what Jesus gives the 72 when they return from their first mission trip. They came back pumped up about all that happened while they were out. Sick people were healed and even demons came out of people by the name of Jesus. They thought that was pretty cool. “No one can stop me now!” But Jesus gave them perspective. Of course the demons submitted to His name; Jesus was there when Satan was kicked out of heaven. This shouldn’t really surprise you, Jesus was telling them. And even though it’s true, don’t let it become what you get excited about. Get excited about the fact that you get to spend eternity in heaven.
It’s good perspective, really. I hear Christians talk about all the spiritual gifts they have. I hear them talk about how effective they are at praying for people. I hear them get all excited about casting out demons. Don’t get me wrong, that’s all exciting stuff. But what should be more exciting is our salvation and the salvation of others. We get so caught up on what we have to offer and forget to rejoice in the one who offered it. We think we are Mr. Big Stuff because of all our talents, but never mention who gave us those talents.
The focus should be on Him, not us. When we focus on what we have and not on who He is, people will start turning to us and not Him. Maybe that’s what you want, but it’s not what they need. You shouldn’t have to talk about all your gifts, you should just give them back to the Lord by serving Him in them. Talking about them usually comes from one of two places: insecurity and pride. Sometimes it’s both. It’s not about us, people! It’s not about the gift; it’s about the giver of the gift. So don’t rejoice in the fact that you’re all that, rejoice in the fact that your name is written in heaven.