FATAL DISTRACTIONS – THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS
February 2, 1997
This Wednesday night I was driving home from church and happened to pass by DFW Airport. I watched all the planes take off, plane after plane after plane. Have you ever done that? I was in a very introspective mood. I was watching thousands and thousands of people take trips. Some, I knew, were taking business trips. Others were taking trips for pleasure.
In this first session of the Fatal Distractions series, I want to talk to you about a trip that everyone in this place is either on now or has been on. This trip is not a popular trip. It is a unique trip, it is commonly known as an ego trip.
This ego trip is fueled by this morning’s topic of conversation, pride. Pride is a fascinating word. You can’t say the word pride without saying “I.” Pride is the word “ride” with the letter P in front. Most of us ride pride and take an ego trip into a universe called Me. We are talking about pride.
Pride can be defined as an inordinate amount of self-esteem. Its synonyms and near synonyms aren’t that attractive: egotism, vanity, vainglory. Most of us when we think about pride picture a big-mouthed, ostentatious, outlandish type person, but that is not necessarily the case. Some of the prideful people who are in this Arts Center this morning are the most meek and mild and conservative folks that you will run across.
Angus Wilson says that pride is camel-nosed. I have ridden a camel before and I would agree. I think that a camel in the wild kingdom thinks that he is great looking. I think that he says to himself, “I’m big and I am bad and my nose is pretty.” But a camel’s nose, I hate to be graphic, has mucus dripping everywhere. He has bad breath and rotted out teeth. When I got on the camel, he tried to bite me. Pride. Camel-nosed.
Pride is something that comes early and stays late. It has a cup of coffee with you in the morning and it puts you to bed at night. Pride blinds itself to its own presence. Pride leaps up everywhere in our lives. Pride is the forerunner of all sins. It is the first of the seven deadly sins. Are you on a pride ride? If you are on a pride ride, know that it is a fatal, destructive flight. Pride helps us to put a different spin on the seven deadly sins. I say to myself, “I am not prideful, just confident. I am not angry, just emotional. I am not lustful, just a red-blooded American. I am not envious, I just want what is coming to me. I am not slothful, I am just laid back. I am not greedy, I just like nice things. I am not gluttonous, I just enjoy that good old southern cooking.” Pride does this. The ride of pride.
Now some of you are saying, “Now, Ed, time out. Wait a minute. Relax. I thought we were supposed to have a good self-esteem. I thought we were to have a good self-concept. I thought we were supposed to have pride in ourselves.” You are right. The Bible says we are to have proper self-esteem and we ought to take pride in ourselves if our reasons are from God’s word. If we see ourselves the way God sees us, we should obviously take pride in what we do and we should have a proper self-concept, because we see ourselves the way God see us. But the moment we get out of this mentality, that is when we are tempted to take that pride ride, that ego trip into a universe called Me.
A lot of concepts are being bounced around these days. People are saying that we need to feel good about ourselves and as long as we feel good about ourselves, that is enough. I would agree if we felt good about ourselves from a Biblical perspective. But just feeling good about yourself can cover a multitude of sin. We can feel good about ourselves in states of intoxication and self-indulgence and in rebellion. A lot of us use feeling good about ourselves to cover a multitude of sins and rebellion against God. The ride of pride.
To understand pride I think that we have to go, like ESPN sports commentator, Chris Berman, says, back, back, back, back, back before Adam and Eve to see a being named Lucifer. We know him today as Satan. Lucifer started the pride ride. He began this ego trip into a universe called Lucifer. Listen to his words in Isaiah 14:13—this is Lucifer talking—“I will ascend to heaven. I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will sit enthroned on the Mount of the Assembly on the uttermost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds. I will make myself like the most high.” I will, I will, I will, I will, I will. Five times. This meistic being Lucifer was trying to elevate himself above God. He was on a pride ride, an ego trip.
And God cast him from His presence. That was the fall of Satan. He took with him many of the rebellious beings that are known as demons today. Then our “parents,” Adam and Eve, took the pride ride and took some fruit. Once they began their ego trip, human beings have been struggling with this issue ever since.
Our text for this morning, our foundational scripture verse, is found in Psalms 138:6. Listen very carefully to these words. “Though the Lord is on high, He looks upon the lowly but the proud He knows from afar.” Did you pick that up? The proud He knows from afar. The ride of pride does a couple of things. First of all, the ride of pride distances us from God. As I said, pride is sneaky. How do we know if we are distancing ourselves from God? How do we know if we are on this ego trip, this pride ride? I will give you a couple of things to look out for. First, if you have a lack of interest in God worship, you are probably on a pride ride. You see prideful people have everything orbiting around themselves. My schedule, my time, my dating life, my vacation plan, my activities. We worship our selves. We don’t really worship God very much.
I encourage you often to write out your prayers. I keep a prayer journal. About a month ago I was looking through one of my journals to see if I could spot some trends and I noticed that my prayers in December resembled a shopping list: “Give me this. Give me that. Help me, God. Guide me, God. Empower me, God. Me, me, me.” They were becoming so meistic that I was beginning to slip into that pride vessel and take that ego trip when I was praying. I am going to tell you something. When I prepared for this message this week, I was amazed to see all the pride issues that I deal with in my life. I would think that you might be the same way. I challenge you to worship God. I challenge you to spend at least a third of your prayer time in adoration and love, to worship the Almighty because of His wisdom, His omniscience, His presence, and His love. I could go on and on. Is everything centered around you or are you worshipping God? Is it self-worship or God worship?
Another thing to watch out for regarding distancing yourself from God is a lack of involvement in God’s ministry here in the local church. Do you find that? You see, people who are humble are involved. They are engaged and immersed in the ministry. Those who are prideful say that they are above that, that they are on another level. We are kind of like the disciples. Remember the disciples? They were walking along the street one day arguing about which one would be the greatest. Jesus overheard the conversation and called them to Him. He said, “If you want to become great, become a servant.” That is what Jesus told them. You would think that the disciples, of all people, would get it, but they didn’t get it.
A week later, seven days after that mini-sermon from Christ, the disciples were at dinner. Ironically, there was no servant present to wash their feet. At that time it was important to have one’s feet washed because sandals would allow dirt and grime to get all over them and since dining was done in a reclining position, one person’s dirty feet could be in another person’s face. None of the disciples took the initiative to wash their own or anyone else’s feet. Do you know what Jesus did? Jesus got up and set aside His garment and put on the garment of a servant and washed the disciple’s feet, one by one. How many times in my own life have I been so prideful, just like the disciples? Reclined, kicked back, and too prideful to serve Lisa, too prideful to help LeeBeth with her homework. And I miss opportunities to serve. I miss opportunities for humility and to show the authentic message of Jesus Christ to those I love the most.
One day we will stand before a Holy God and God will ask how we were involved in His ministry, how were we engaged in His church. Many of us will have to hang our heads in shame because we were just kicked back with dirty feet stuffing our faces with food.
Another sign regarding distancing oneself from God is found in Deuteronomy, Chapter 8. That is when we can have a lack of appreciation for God’s workmanship. Before I read Deuteronomy 8, let me kind of tell you where I am going. Often in our lives, we will do something—get a promotion, get a creative idea, give a good talk—and we think that we have done it. We say, “I did it. I am so tenacious. I am so disciplined. I am such a leader. I have such a winsome personality. Whoa, I am something else.” Who is getting the credit? How does it make God feel? God is the one who gave you the ability and the drive to do what you are doing. He is the one who has blessed you. It is because of His grace that you are who you are and where you are and what you are. The Israelites dealt with this.
Let me set the stage for Deuteronomy 8. Moses was the leader. Moses called all the Israelites together for this pre-game pep talk since they were preparing to enter The Promised Lane, the land of milk and honey. And here is what God said through Moses’ voice box. He said, “Men, women, boys and girls, you are going to be blessed in The Promised Land. You will live in bigger houses. Your herds will increase. Your gold and silver will multiply. It will be phenomenal.” Now listen to Moses’ exact words here from Deuteronomy 8:17-19, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth… If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship them…you will surely be destroyed.” That is pretty radical. As I said the ride of pride is a fatal and destructive flight for far too many.
Who gets the credit? Who gets the credit in your life? It is not who you say gets the credit. It is how you live your life. So the ride of pride distances us from God.
Secondly, the ride of pride distances us from others. Now how do we know if we are distancing ourselves from others. Here are some things to keep a lookout for. If you are not really being open and honest with others, you are distancing yourself from them. Pride will hinder you and hinder me from being openhearted. Someone has hurt you. This person has really stabbed you in the back. You will kind of put some distance between yourself and that person and determine that that person will need to begin the reconciliation process. We make the basis of reconciliation that person’s move toward reconciliation. The Bible says, though, that the moment we receive Christ we are given the ministry of reconciliation. What did Jesus do? The Bible says that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus didn’t wait. He didn’t say, “Well, I will wait for humanity to make the first move to Me, then I will talk about reconciliation.” No. Jesus took the initiative, Jesus did the work to bridge the gap.
Marriages are being destroyed, relationships fragmented, businesses all messed up because of pride. Pride just dominates men and women and they white-knuckle the throttle on their ego trip and refuse to make the first move to reconciliation. It will keep you from being open-hearted.
Another way to know if you are distancing yourself from others is if you use pride to manipulate people in your life. For example, some parents want to really elevate themselves. They are prideful people. They will use their children to elevate themselves. They will get so hard, so mean, so strict on their children to make them produce athletically, academically. Parents do this often subconsciously.
Other times when we are prideful we can just distance people by our conversation. There is a guy who I went on a trip with about a year ago. He is a very talented man, brilliant. He had so much potential. I was with the guy for three hours and I have never in my life heard anyone talk about themselves as much as this guy. He was unbelievable. He took it to another level. I could bring up any topic to the guy, like aluminum siding and he would say he knew the guy who invented it. The sad thing is, he has so much to offer, yet people run from him. They distance themselves from him because of his pride. The guy doesn’t even know that he is doing it. I almost wanted to say, “Shut up for a minute.” But he was a lot bigger than I was. I didn’t do that. I am not telling you to do that either.
To make this ride of pride really practical, I want you to think about the first class section on this flight, this ego trip. I want to give you a passenger list, some names of people that I can identify with in my pride ride and that might be helpful to you. The first person who is seated there in first class is someone named Velma Vanity. She is on the pride ride. She has a mirror always in front of her face. She is always thinking about her appearance. She is always looking down on others if they don’t have that same appearance, if everything is not A-okay in their lives. Do you know people like that? They are always worried about the look.
There is another person in first class. His name is Eddie Education. Do you know someone like him? He is always dropping degrees. “Yes, I graduated from an Ivy League School. I have my MBA, DivMin, PhD, A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Oh, you didn’t know that?”
Then there is Anna Accomplishment. Anna has awards and ribbons and trophies all over her. “Yes, I received this. Back in college, I won that.” Do we have any of those in the house?
Another one is kind of an interesting guy. He looks out of place in first class. His name is Ronny Reverse. Ronny is a reverse snob. Do you know any of those? You see, the Bible says that it is a sin to be prideful, but it is also a sin to demean and humiliate oneself. That is what Ronny does. Ronny is middle class and he dresses really badly because he is snobby toward the upper class.
Here is another one. This guy is named Ned Namedropper. Have you ever been with someone who just drops names of professional athletes, celebrities, power brokers. They even have pictures on their walls with loads of important people.
Finally, I will stop with Martha Materialism. Martha is the one who owns everything name brand. Did that come from Neimans? Is that Calvin Klein or Donna Karan? It is pride, pride fuels all of this. And it makes God sick.
What do we do about it because thus far it has been pretty bad. This message has been pretty negative and I am feeling convicted already. And this is the third time this weekend I have preached it. What do we do? I will tell you what we do. You see, the result of pride is always discontentment. Always. The most prideful people are people who are not really relaxed and at peace within themselves. So here is what we have to do on the pride ride. We have got to throttle back, we have got to put our seats and our tray tables in their upright and locked position. We need to land, taxi, and get off the plane. We have got to deboard.
Then, once we are walking through the airport, we have got to do something that is really radical. Stay with me. We need to strip. I mean take off all of this prideful stuff, set aside all of our garments, all of the passenger lists I have talked about. Then clothe ourselves in 1 Peter 5:5 wear. This is a true Biblical fashion statement. “Clothe yourselves in humility.”
I love what my man, Warren Weirsby, said about humility. He said that humility is not demeaning yourself. That is false humility. He said true humility is simply not thinking of yourself at all. You become so other-centered that you do not worry about yourself. “Clothe yourselves in humility toward one another because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
How do we clothe ourselves in humility? Let’s go back to what we first talked about. We need to spend time daily worshiping God. When we see ourselves before God, we become humble. We really do. You see, we can’t stand beside the cradle of Jesus and still be proud. We can’t stand beside the carpenter bench of Christ and still pump our chest out. We can’t stand beside the one who was a friend of prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners and still be stuck-up. We can’t stand beside the cross on Golgotha and still be proud. We can’t do it. Because the Bible says, Jesus was rich but He became poor for our sakes. He laid aside a lot of stuff to put on the garment of a servant. That is what we need to do as we worship and humble ourselves before God.
Secondly, we need to thank God and appreciate His workmanship. Yes, take a compliment and say, “Thank you very much,” but remember who gave it to you. Remember who blessed you. Remember who gave you the windfall or the ability or whatever—God. And then get engaged and immersed in the ministry of the local church. If it is here, if you are a part of this church, get involved. If it is somewhere else, get involved. That is how to clothe yourself in humility.
A sad thing, though, is that not only does the ride of pride distance us from God and others, it also can distance us from eternity with the Lord Himself. Pride is keeping scores and scores of people I run into from Christianity, from a personal relationship with the Lord. Pride tells autonomous men and women that if they live a better than average life on planet earth, God will give them heaven. It doesn’t work that way, though. Pride will tell you that if you are really strong in what you believe, if you are really sincere, then you will deserve heaven. That math doesn’t work. The Bible says that we are saved by grace, which is unmerited favor, through faith not by works so any of us could boast.
What kind of place would heaven be if we could get there by works? “Oh yes, I am in heaven because I preach four times every weekend. Top that!” Then someone else would say they do six services. What kind of place would heaven be if it were based on works? We are saved by grace through faith. There is nothing that I could do or say, none of my strengths matter concerning salvation. I just have to admit my pride, turn from it, and ask Jesus to come into my life. So don’t let pride keep you from eternity.
So how about it, as we talk about this first deadly sin? How about it? Isn’t it time that you land your vessel? Isn’t it about time that you really get dressed? Isn’t it about time that you clothed yourself in humility, because there is nothing like the garment that Jesus has tailor made for you and for me.