Last week, we talked about how pride means to puff up or inflate. We looked at few examples to further clarify how pride manifests itself in our lives. The puffer fish expands many times its size to ward of predators. The Wizard of Oz, with his godlike complex, had to project a powerful persona to keep up appearances. We shared how God graciously bursts the bubble of our pride, so we can turn to Him. This week we look more deeply into the characteristics of pride by following the Biblical example of Moses. We also look at how the world puts their trust in their own power and wisdom instead of God and how that, too, is a form of pride.
Picture: (ancient Roman architecture) A once great world empire falls into ruins, while Jesus’ kingdom continues to grow and increase.
MOSES HAD EVERYTHING THE WORLD COULD OFFER
God is a perfect leader over our lives. He is fully capable of changing a human heart. He took one of the most powerful, influential men on Earth and transformed him into one of the most humble. If we, too, want to become more humble, it’s important to take a closer look at his life. God knows how to mold and shape any piece of clay as long as it yields to Him. In this blog post, we explore Moses’ need for change, due to his once proud self-reliance.
During his first forty years, Moses grew up in a system that encouraged him to become proud and arrogant. For a long time, the Egyptians cruelly oppressed God’s people as slaves. Moses was born into one of these slave families. The Pharaoh’s daughter later adopted Moses into the royal family of Egypt, the most powerful nation on Earth at that time. Given all the privileges of wealth, society and power, he had access to open doors of privilege and the best education available in the known world. (Read the account in Exodus 2)
Education can be a good thing, but it can also be a dangerous thing where pride is concerned. Last week, we talked about how the Greek word for “proud” or “arrogant” means to be inflated or puffed up. This same Greek word found in the love passage in 1 Corinthians 13:4 is found in only six other New Testament passages, which includes the verse below.
…knowledge puffs up while love builds up. –1 Corinthians 8:1
There’s a warning here: If we’re not careful, we can take pride in what we know, as well as what we have.
Putting our confidence in the flesh can be seen in two major categories in the Bible: POWER and WISDOM, though it may personally manifest in our lives in many forms.
JEWS DEMAND SIGNS AND GREEKS LOOK FOR WISDOM
The Apostle Paul distills the quest of mankind down to this verse:
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom… –1 Corinthians 1:22
We, as human beings, put our trust in power ( signs) and wisdom. We can wrongly believe that by seeing the miracles or understanding God with our minds, then we’ll believe and follow Him. Of course, this quest extends beyond religion, but Paul makes the point that trusting in these things kept people from turn to Jesus. The people couldn’t put their confidence in something that was weak and foolish.
That pattern still continues in the world and in the Church today. Take a few moments to think about how this is true. What would it look like for you to follow someone or something?
If Jesus were alive today, would we follow Him? The majority of people in our churches probably wouldn’t, unless they were truly born again and had revelation by the Spirit of God. Below is how Isaiah, without even realizing it, described Jesus.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. –Isaiah 53:2-3
How about leading with that verse on a social media campaign trying to get people to follow Jesus?
Somehow, I don’t think it’d go over well in today’s world.
Do you realize this world doesn’t see anything as “legitimate,” unless it has a great marketing campaign and a significant following? Why are we as Christians following the pattern of the world, instead of the example of Christ? Do we do the same things, so we can get the same results?
Is this just one example where the Church is listening to the wisdom of the world?
JESUS: THE ANTIDOTE TO PRIDE IN MAN
Long ago, God cut across all the deception, lies and pride inherent in mankind by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to live as a suffering servant and to finally die in weakness on a cross. The problem of having sinful pride in the things of the world had to have an effective cure.
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. –1 Corinthians 1:23-25
God knows that mankind has a built-in need to seek after and place their confidence in power and wisdom. God tells them you can seek out the world’s counterfeits OR you can find that which is real in the Person of Jesus Christ, Who is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
The Jews turned against Jesus, because he didn’t fit their image of a great military leader, who’d help them conquer the Roman empire. The Greeks were too busy discussing every new idea under the sun to pay too much attention to one Hebrew God in a pantheon of many gods to choose from. (Read Acts 17)
In another verse, God tells us that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)
We can look to and take pride in ourselves OR we can look to Christ for everything and boast in the Lord. Trusting in Jesus takes surrender and dying to ourselves.
The “pride of life” wants us to value what the world holds in high esteem and to puff up with pride whenever we acquire it for ourselves.
VANITY WITH A SIDE OF PRIDE
If you believe in your own power and wisdom, it’s human nature to have an inflated or puffed up view of yourself. Many of the greatest minds in the world could not find God in their earthly existence. They died not only in their pride, but also in their sins, apart from salvation in Jesus Christ. For all their knowledge, they couldn’t find the One Truth (Person) most worth knowing!
God confirms this reality through the Apostle Paul.
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. –1 Corinthians 1:21
A person can spend his or her whole life climbing “the ladder of success,” only to find out in the end that it was leaning against the wrong building. What happens when you miss the main point of life? Disillusionment? Vanity? Pain and sorrow? Endless regret? All of the above?
Moses rejected the riches of the world to embrace the destiny of the people of God. Captivated by God’s vision and narrative, he decided to follow a higher purpose that would have eternal ramifications.
He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. –Hebrews 11:26-27
(We will explore the implications of these verses more deeply next week. I put them here, though, to show how Moses didn’t want “his ladder” leaning against the wrong building.)
We, in the Church, on the missions field or in Christian ministry, also have a choice. We can choose to trust God or rely upon our own power and wisdom to do our God-given assignments. When we rely upon ourselves, we’ll get only what we can accomplish, with a potential increase of pride and arrogance.
I speak this message to myself as much as to others. It doesn’t matter how much we know, how well we do something, and/or how much experience we have, if we rely upon ourselves rather than on God, then we forfeit the much greater thing that God could’ve done through us had we truly depended on Him.
Now, going back to Moses…
MOSES HAD POWER, POSITION AND KNOWLEDGE IN THE WORLD
Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. –Acts 7:22
That word “powerful” in the Greek is G1415, dynatos, which can also be translated “a man of power.”
Some of the ways the Bible uses this word:
- able, powerful, mighty, strong
- mighty in wealth and influence
- strong in soul
- to be able (to do something)
It comes from the root word G1410, dynamai, which more clearly describes this power and its source.
WE CAN OPERATE IN OUR OWN POWER…
The primary Biblical usage shows how this power comes from self and/or from earthly sources.
- To be able, have power whether by virtue of one’s own ability and resources, or of a state of mind, or through favourable circumstances, or by permission of law or custom.
Moses was a mighty man, but it was in his own strength, backed by his position, connections, abilities, education and resources.
The Apostle Paul also had multiple reasons to put his confidence in the flesh rather than in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put 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; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. —Philippians 3:3-7
… OR OPERATE IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
God doesn’t want us to put our confidence in our flesh and all that it encompasses. God revealed this truth to him, so much so he rejected all of his past pedigree, learning and training.
Instead, God pours out upon us the miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit. As God works through you, He wants to make it evident to the world that this power could only come from God.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. –Acts 1:8
SELF-RELIANCE LEADS TO FORCING OUR WAY
Do you realize that both Moses and Paul were guilty of murder? When they relied upon themselves, they tried to use FORCE to accomplish their missions.
Moses felt led to deliver his people, the Israelites. So, when he saw an Egyptian taskmaster beating an Israelite man, he killed the Egyptian. Before being tested and sanctified by God, Moses acted out of his own impulse, power and strength to do what would later be revealed as God’s will.
Saul, before becoming Paul, literally hunted down Christians to imprison them, because he was so committed to keeping his Jewish religion pure from Christian influences. He consented to the death of Stephen at the end of Acts 7.
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. –Acts 9:1
See what I mean. Saul hated Christians and wanted to erase this new religion from the face of the Earth. That is, until God got a hold of him! When Paul finally surrendered his life to God, he learned how to trust in God rather than force his way.
WILL WE PAY ALLEGIANCE TO JESUS OR CAESAR?
Taking pride in our own power can manifest itself in witchcraft and brute force.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry… –1 Samuel 15:23
Aside from the obvious manifestations of witchcraft, here it can refer to forcing one’s agenda and influence over a person or situation by the use of power.
It’s motto is “Do what you will is the whole of the law.” In other words, I don’t want God’s will to be done; I want MY will to be done.
Using “force” can come in a variety of ways, ranging from violent to subtle manipulation.
Look at these various definitions of “force” in light of the concepts in our blog post:
- coercion or compulsion, especially with the use or threat of violence
- mental or moral strength or power
- a person or thing regarded as exerting power or influence
- make a way through or into by physical strength; break open by force
- achieve or bring about (something) by coercion or effort
- artificially hasten the development or maturity of (a plant)
- make (someone) do something against their will (bing. com)
When the Roman empire was at its zenith, it was known as a nation of ruthless military might. The Romans conquered people wherever they went. Daniel had a dream of the world empires throughout history, in which he describes the sheer destructive cruelty of the Roman empire.
After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast– terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. –Daniel 7:23
Believing in their own power, the Romans used force to accomplish their purposes and to set up their world kingdom. Jesus, on the hand, represented an altogether different kind of kingdom, based on love, humility and trust in His Father. He declared that His kingdom was not of this world. (John 18:36)
As Jesus was about to be crucified, Pilate urged the Jews to accept the release of Jesus. He didn’t find him to be guilty of anything. Pilate granted the Jews various chances to release Him, but mob rule prevailed. The Jews made a fateful statement on that day.
But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “WE HAVE NO KING BUT CAESAR,” the chief priests answered. –John 19:15 (Caps mine)
Back then, the people chose Caesar over Jesus. What will happen in the future when the ultimate worldly king takes the stage? We don’t realize how many future decisions will be motivated by the pride of man.
WE EACH HAVE A CHOICE TO MAKE
We each have a choice to make regarding our self-reliance and pride. We can die to ourselves in that area and be set free to partner mightily with God or we can continue to drift with the rest of humanity towards their final destination. No matter what we believe about ourselves, we may not truly be aware of what we’re putting our confidence in, whether God or the flesh. This “flesh” can be our own or somebody else’s. We can put our faith in something man has created, like our current fascination with technology.
As Christians, we may be most tempted to do God’s will by our own power and wisdom and call it “God’s work.”
The difference between putting our trust in the flesh and putting our trust in God can be so subtle. It may be difficult to distinguish. But, being able to tell that difference is so vitally necessary, having a huge effect on how we live and how we do relationships, both with God and others.
It can be the difference between giving birth to Isaac or producing an Ishmael. Most of us know how that story turned out, as we still reel from the ramifications of Abraham’s fleshly decision today.
We will continue this discussion next week in Love is not Proud, Part 3. (All Bible study information came from Blue Letter Bible App.)
REFLECTION AND APPLICATION QUESTIONS
- Like Moses, do we live in a world system that encourages us to be proud and arrogant? If so, in what ways?
- What are some different ways people put their trust in power and wisdom rather than putting their trust in God? Now that we have a deeper understanding of how it’s possible to place our trust in things other than God, how can we redirect our focus to more fully trust in God?
- Do a Bible study of 1 Corinthians 1. This passage is so vitally important to understand in today’s world! Look up key words, meditate on these verses, pray for revelation, journal what God speaks to you about this chapter, etc.
- Reflect on and describe how trusting in Jesus and the Bible come across as foolishness to our modern world. Rather than shy away from the trusting in and speaking forth of the Word of God, how can I move closer to it and be more committed to both Jesus and His truth?
- Do you remember a time where you depended on self rather than God? Did you try to force the situation somehow? If so, how? Was it strong and obvious or subtle and manipulative? Have you ever viewed self-reliance as a form of pride? Why or why not? In what ways can we depend on ourselves rather than God, even in our ministry and devotional times? What is my plan to depend less on myself and more on God in every area of my life?
- Do a study on the Holy Spirit? Find an online concordance and look at occurrences of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. What did it mean for the person in the passage to depend on the Holy Spirit, instead of themselves? How was the work supernatural, in that it couldn’t come from the resources of man, but had to come from God?
- We are more influenced by Greek and Roman culture, and their respective empires, than we realize. Do some research on any of the following: the Roman empire, the Greek empire, the Renaissance, the Roman emperors, Greek and Roman mythology, etc. Think about/ research how these ancient ideas have influenced vast categories, such as politics, art, literature, science, drama, etc.
- The Old Testament was written from a Hebrew mindset, whereas the New Testament was written in Greek. Moreover, western culture and civilization also has its roots in a Greek mindset. Do a study on the difference between a Hebrew mindset and a Greek mindset. Reflect on how having a Greek mindset has influenced you in ways God may not have originally intended. How can we move towards having more of a Hebrew mindset?