Pride

Rob Green June 11, 2017 1 Corinthians 3:18-4:7
Outline

3 truths to overcome pride

I. Recognize that pride is exhausting to you and irritating to others

A. You are exhausted because your pride is never satisfied

1 Corinthians 4:6 - Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.

B. You are irritating to others and to their pride

II. Adopt the solution to pride: Christ’s view of you

1 Corinthians 4:3-4 - But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. 

A. I do not care what you think

B. I don’t care what I think about me

1 Corinthians 15:9 - For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Ephesians 3:8 - To me, the very least of all [a]saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,

1 Timothy 1:15 - It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.

C. I only care that Christ has already delivered the verdict

1 Corinthians 3:18-23 - Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.

1 Corinthians 4:7 - For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

III. Live joyfully as a steward of all that God has given you

1 Corinthians 4:1-2 - Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.

1 Corinthians 4:5 - Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

Our annual theme is In Christ Alone.

  • In order to draw attention to that theme we studied the book of Colossians – one of the NT books dedicated to emphasizing the priority of Jesus Christ.
  • We just finished looking at a few psalms that point in very direct ways to the person and work of Christ.

Today begins a new series. A series dedicated to applying the theme of In Christ Alone to common problems every Christian faces virtually all the time. So we have called this series Handling Problems in a Christ Centered Way.

C.S. Lewis described the problem we are thinking about today as, “There is one vice of which no man in the world is free’ which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 121).

It is not too difficult to recognize that he is talking about Pride …

  • The description is brilliant. We all have it, we hate it in other people, and cannot believe we are guilty of it.
  • That is a really bad combination
  • The church was divided. They were divided because some individuals in the church really liked one shepherd more than another. Some loved Paul. Others loved Peter. Still others gravitated to Apollos. Rather than biblical unity appreciating each person for their various gifts, skills, and abilities.
  • Not only was the church divided, they also bragged about their various allegiances, their gifts, their intelligence, and their ability all the while looking down on others (Regulations regarding the Lord’s Table).
  • It was not a very pleasant word or term. In a literal sense it meant to inflate (like a balloon or to be bloated). But figuratively, which is the use here, it meant to be exaggerated in your view of self.
    • It was to tell yourself you were awesome when you weren’t really that awesome.
    • It was to look down on others who were not as good as you so that you could feel good about yourself.
  • Your job. You could be fired today and someone could be hired in your position tomorrow. You are dispensible. In fact, there would be a long line of candidates better than yourself. 
    • Then you have prove your value to yourself all over again.
    • You judge you based on what you did today.
  • Your looks.
    • A few pounds here, a few greys there and all the sudden you are trying to figure out what new product will restore you to the you that makes you happy.
  • Your education. Education is competitive. I remember walking into my classes and looking around the room.
    • I was seeing if I knew the competition. Every semester is new semester to prove to yourself whether you are valued or not.
  • It will be exhausting satisfying other people.
  • It will be exhausting proving day in and day out that you are taking the proper place in your culture and in your group of friends.
  • Every time she achieved success (and she had a lot of it), she had to get to the next level. Maybe that is one reason she is still doing tours at 58.
  • In the church … let’s all pick our favorite preacher and ask Pastor Viars if that person can speak 90% of the time. Let’s all pick our favorite worship leader and do the same thing. Let’s pick our favorite ABF teacher or Faith group leader.
  • Now that would be an environment that would get things done for Christ right?
  • We could debate who is wisest … we could have ongoing immorality in the church and just say we accept everyone … we could have people suing each other … we could be totally confused about divorce and remarriage … we could all brag about our spiritual gifts.
  • Let’s try even in our humility to prove just how awesome we are that we LET YOU WIN.
  • Your view of self did not change regardless of what they did for you.
  • You became a person they had to carry over and over and over and over again. Not because you are injured, but because your pride could not be satisfied.
  • I hope that there is a bit of a bitter taste in your mouth about your pride. You get it. You understand your pride … your pursuit of self-achievement.
  • You see just how exhausting and irritating your pride has been to you and those closest to you.
  • However, there is something else in play. Sometimes my view of myself is wrapped up in what you think of me.
  • Actually what he says is that it is a small thing to be examined by you or any human court.
  • After all the courts are corrupt (as Paul will experience first hand).
  • While we have awful cases of favoritism, prejudice, and corruption in our court system it is not as bad as ancient Rome.
  • There are times when we can take what others say or think about us and then adopt that as our view of self. Paul simply has no time for that.
  • But the solution they give to use “your standards,” “decide what you want to be,” “you evaluate yourself.” That sounds great at first.   
  • The problem is that now I am back to my first point. It is going to be exhausting if I have to keep proving myself to myself.
  • He started off as the least of the apostles, then the least of the saints, and then the chief of sinners. Paul’s Christianity does not appear to be working so well for him.
  • When you buy that line you do remove yourself from the frying pan, but if you in term accept that condition that you determine your self esteem then you put yourself in the fryer.
  • Regardless of which one I adopt I get sucked into an exhausting cycle where I judge my value by either what others think of me or what I think of me.
  • If someone is pleased by what I do and I value their favor, then I do it again.
  • If I am pleased by what I do and I value my favor, then I do it again.
  • But this is enslaving.
  • Some struggle with their place in this world. Wondering how they ended up in this spot.
  • Some struggle processing death.
  • Others struggle with their future. But because Christ owns all of it and you are in Christ, then you have them already.
  • Your looks … God gave them to you.
  • Your intellect …. God gave it to you.
  • Your gifts and abilities … God gave them to you. Your future … in the hands of the Lord. Your present … in the hands of the Lord.
  • They are adopted
  • They are free
  • They are made alive
  • They have an inheritance
  • They are secure in Christ
  • That is the beauty of how the apostle Paul lived and how he is teaching us to live.
  • When I think about Christ I am reminded of what he has done and what he has provided.
  • I own it all already as a joint heir of Christ because Christ has given it to me.
  • Live in a state of thankfulness for all that they have been given. They do not attempt to exercise rights that they do not have.
  • Learn both from mistakes and from wisdom before the errors occur. They are not crippled by criticism, but see it as a new opportunity.
  • Encourage others. Like C.S. Lewis observed … humble people will just care about you because they are not thinking about themselves.   
  • He could have been intimidated by their criticism. But as soon as he would start to think about his self image, he would stop paying attention to the mission God gave him.
  • Since we are not even able to judge our own motives perfectly, why render a half baked judgement before the time?

As I began thinking about this message I realize that I could go to probably 50 different passages all of them with profit. But I have chosen just one. With that in mind please turn to 1 Corinthians 3:18-4:7. The text is on page ____ of the back section of the Bible in the chair in front of you.

As you are turning there, let me make a couple observations about 1 Corinthians that makes this the perfect place to go to talk about pride.

Paul provides a solution to the problem of pride if people have ears to hear and eyes to see. Let’s listen carefully to the Word of the Lord. [Read the text]

I would like us to consider 4 truths to overcome pride.

I.  Recognize that Pride is exhausting to you and irritating to others

Pride is the mindset of self. It is the pursuit of self-achievement. This can be a bit tricky because in the history of the world the problem with self has had two basic solutions.

  1. One solution has been to think less of yourself.
    1. That sounds like humility, but the problem is that you take pride in putting yourself in the proper position.
    2. You seek to elevate others and by doing so prove that you are occupying the appropriate place in society.
    3. This kind of thinking is common today, especially in oriental cultures.
  2. The other solution is think more highly of yourself
    1. Americans, for the last 80 years or so, have tried a different solution. We call it self-esteem.
    2. We argue that the way to think properly of yourself is to appreciate all the good things about you.

But I want to suggest that both solutions are exhausting to you and to others. Let’s first think about …

  1. You are exhausted because your pride is never satisfied

C.S. Lewis is insightful here as well. He writes, “Now what you want to get clear is the Pride is essentially competitive-is competitive by its very nature…. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. If I am a proud man, then, as long as there is one man in the whole world more powerful, or richer, or cleverer than I, he is my rival. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 122-23).

This accurately reflects what we read in verse 6.

1 Corinthians 4:6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.

Do you notice the phrase “arrogant in behalf of one against the other”? To be arrogant is to be puffed up.

If you are battling for a sense of self esteem …  a higher view of yourself that you are not all that bad, then you will be in an infinite loop that you cannot get out of. The reason is that the world will prove to you again and again that you are as valuable as you want to believe.

If you come from a church where the proper view of yourself is to think less of yourself then you will struggle with the same concepts.

Tim Keller references an article about Madonna that was quite interesting. She was immensely popular in the 1980s. But in the interview she confessed the struggle that it was to be someone significant.

Our ambitions might not be the same as hers. But the ambitions are not nearly as important as our view of self. Proving to ourselves that we are valuable is something we have to do today, tomorrow … and the next day … and the next day.

Friends, there is no amount of sleep that will take away the exhaustion created by pride and its pursuits. Because this exhaustion is emotional in nature.

You cannot solve emotional exhaustion set in by pride by sleep or rest. It is not possible. If left unchecked, this cycle of fighting for a high or low view of yourself leads to really scary places like depression, panic, and in extreme cases suicide. But before we go too much further lets also consider

  1. You are irritating to others and to their pride

Pride is not only exhausting to you. It irritates and exhausts the people around you.

That is what has happened to the church. Paul isn’t even in Corinth when he writes this letter. What possible value could come from a person saying, “I liked it so much better when Paul was our pastor”? Or let’s send some cruel remarks to Paul like he does not speak as well as Apollos does.

I have an idea … let’s all develop pride about something and then let’s spend our time and energy debating, creating the next argument, and having another debate. Here is what will happen … none of us will be friends and we will be irritated with one another.

We could be just like Corinth ….

I have an even better idea … let’s do that in our home. Let’s create a culture of rivalry where we have the same number of me monsters as we have members of our family.

It reminds me of an old Garfield comic. Garfield says to Odie the dog. “Odie, I am tired of talking about me, you talk about me for a while.”

Let’s say that in God’s kindness you are married to a person who understands biblical humility and they serve you in your pride. They encourage you and help you and do what is necessary for you. What do you do? You treat them like trash because it is not good enough.

You were exhausted trying to satisfy your pride and so was everyone else around you.

Here are just a few pictures of this might look like in life.

  1. You are not teachable. Your view of self does not fit well with the criticism you are receiving and so you create an argument to prove their wrong. After 26 iterations they are tired of trying to convince you.
  2. You are defensive. Your view of self must defend itself. When something comes in that looks like it messes with your identity and your view of self then you create an argument for why that cannot possibly be right.
  3. You dominate conversations. You are the me monster you are Garfield. The conversation has to revolve around you. The people around you are quite frankly sick of talking about you.
  4. You will not submit. You have to have your own way otherwise your view of self crumbles. Each one of these elements is a form of pride.

Friends, pride is awful. What it does to us is awful and what it does to those around us is awful.

What you want is a solution. You do want a solution right? That brings us to the 2d truth ….

II. Adopt the solution to pride: Christ’s view of you

1 Corinthians 4:3-4 But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. 

We find an incredible solution to pride in this passage. It involves telling ourselves a few things.

  1. “I do not care what you think.”

In the first point I mentioned that pride which then leads to the activity of boasting is exhausting to you and others.

I convince myself that what you think of me impacts how I think of me. The church is boasting, they are offering various criticisms to the apostle Paul (in 2 Corinthians they become much more intense) and Paul simply responds, “I do not care what you think.”

I refuse to be controlled by you. I refuse even to be controlled by the courts.

Paul says I am going to be free from the view of self that you impose on me. He tells the church that if you don’t think I can preach … so what. I did not exactly ask you.

Now, here is where we need to think really carefully. Because our world sees the problem with this concept of self.

Did you notice what Paul said next?

  1. “I don’t care what I think about me”

Fascinating. Paul makes several statements about himself in the Bible.

1 Cor 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Ephesians 3:8 To me, the very least of all [a]saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,

1 Timothy 1:15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.

It would seem that Paul is going more and more into the trail of depression.

The solution has nothing to do with creating my own standards and being my own person. Now I am full of pride once more. What I do is that I recognize I cannot be controlled by you, but neither can I be controlled by me.

This thinking is incredibly powerful.  It allows you and me to get out of a ruthless game that people play every day. Here is the game. I wake up in the morning …

When I do something good    è        Then I must be good

When I do something bad      è        Then I must be bad

I do it again the next day and the next day. I have to keep proving to myself that I am good and valuable.

Paul is able to separate the things that he does from his core understanding of self. His view of self does not come from another person (whether good or bad) nor does it come from himself (either good or bad).

The world says that you need more self esteem.

If you have followed my train of thought through this whole sermon, then you are thinking that this is one depressing sermon. We all struggle with pride … a pursuit of self interest. Pride can manifest itself in the self esteem movement or in the self abasement movement.

What is my alternative? That is the beauty of this text.

  1. I only care that Christ has already delivered the verdict

If you noticed, I have skipped a few verses in this section and it is time to begin to discuss a few of them.

1 Cor 3:18-23  Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”;20 and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” 21 So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.

1 Cor 4:7 For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

Judging from others and judging for yourself is rendering a verdict (wise, foolish) about something. We decide whether something is good or bad and then take the appropriate action based on our judgment.

What Paul argues here sets us free. He says that all things belong to you already. The list: the world, life, death, the present and future, includes all of the tyrannies of the human existence.

God’s argument in the text is that there is no need for pride because you have everything already. You don’t have to focus on your place in the world. You don’t have to focus on your future.

Just to ensure that we do not take this lofty position and start to think of ourselves … wow I guess I am pretty awesome … Paul writes that you have nothing that was not given to you.

 

There is no need for additional boasting because everything you have you received.

This is an alternative that we had not seen before and it is unique to biblical Christianity. I know I have pride, but my fight against pride cannot be thinking about myself. It must be in thinking about Christ.

Christ issued the verdict that sets you free from the bondage from others and from yourself.

For all those who know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and savior, they have a new way to think about themselves.

So the solution to pride is not thinking highly of myself or thinking less of myself as much as it is thinking of myself less. This may sound crazy. Maybe that is because you do not know Christ as your Lord and Savior.

[Give the gospel here]

If you are willing to repent and believe or if you already have then pride can be overcome.

Tim Keller calls this the blessing of self forgetfulness. The less that I think about myself and the more I think about Christ, the better and the more free I have become. I am no longer caught in the game of I do something good so I am good or I do something bad so I am bad.

He also used a mirror as an analogy. When you look in the mirror you should not really admire yourself. But neither should you cringe either.

I recognize that Christ rendered his verdict on my behalf.

The world tells me that performance leads to the verdict. When I perform well I get the thumbs up and when I perform poorly I get the thumbs down.

But Biblcial Christianity renders the verdict first and that leads to the performance.

When a person is truly humble you might not recognize him. C.S. Lewis is again quite thoughtful. He writes, “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call humble … he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that … he is a nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. (Mere Christianity, 128)

That is why humble people

That brings me the third point. We have already seen that pride is exhausting to you and the others around you. We now know that the solution is to help us say “I don’t care what you think,” “I don’t care what I think” and instead care deeply about the verdict Christ already gave. If we do that, then we can …

III. Live joyfully as a steward of all that God has given you

1 Corinthians 4:1-2 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.

Once I know that my view of self is properly established in my relationship with Jesus, then I am in the perfect position to be a steward of all that God has given.

For Paul, he was sent to the Gentiles. He was not in Corinth at the time of the letter.

Paul had a mission to accomplish and there was not a lot of time to focus on anything else. In fact, in the text he said in v. 5

1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

His point is that he knows that the Lord is going to judge all of our works at the right time. It is then that God will disclose not only the deeds that were done, but also the motive that was behind that deed.

Yes, Paul is very interested in being a steward of all that God has entrusted to him, but he is not even going to judge the full scale of his stewardship because he knows that the Lord will do it better anyway.

Friends, being a mission oriented person is not easy. There are many barriers. One of them is pride. In fact, you will probably see in this series that each one of these common problems in the Christian life … pride, anger, worry, bitterness, or despair have a consequence related to the mission.

I believe that God has a design for your life. He wants you to do and to accomplish certain things. That is true with the big picture view of your life. It is true over the next 10 years. It is true with this year. It is true with this summer. It is true this week.

You can be free from the exhausting that comes from a wrong view of self and free to living out the mission God has given you.

Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.