Christ Exposes Prideful Spiritual Leaders (Matthew Sermon 116 of 151)
March 07, 2010 | Andrew Davis
Works of the Flesh, Humility
We turn to a new chapter, in our study of Matthew today, Matthew chapter 23. And as we do so, we come to a potentially very disturbing chapter, a very unusual chapter in Matthew's gospel, and in the gospels in general. We see Jesus just letting loose on his enemies, in just a stream of criticism, of conviction, a prophetic denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees. It's very powerful. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites,” he says again and again. We’re not gonna get to that section of Matthew 23 today, but this is what's in front of us, as Jesus just lets loose on his enemies, and speaks the truth to them.
Often, I think, just in my own personal life, as I think about being a spiritual leader, I think about my role as a pastor, and just as a man, I think of that vision of Christ that the Apostle John had and recorded in Revelation chapter 1. The resurrected, the glorified Christ, who the Apostle John, in his exile in Patmos, saw, and a vision of Christ that is just stunning and overwhelming. And something captures me. It speaks there, in that picture of the resurrected Christ that he has on the island of Patmos, that his eyes are like blazing fire. And later, in his letter to the churches, his letters to the churches, Jesus, speaking about each of the seven churches that he seeks to address, he says this, “I am he who searches hearts and minds.” And I just put those two together, Jesus, the resurrected Christ, the glorious, the holy one, the one with the eyes of blazing fire, he searches our hearts and our minds. He knows us. As the psalmist said, “Search me, O God, and know me, and try me and see if there's anything unworthy in me.”
So I think about that as I come to Matthew 23, as he just turns those eyes of blazing fire on the scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites who are spiritual leaders in Israel. And there are just a number of dangers as we come to this chapter, and there's just dangers that are uncovered in the chapter for us. And just the dangers of the chapter itself.
And the danger is when, if you come to a passage like this, say, “I'm so glad I'm not like them.” Aren't you just so glad that we're not like the scribes and Pharisees? Danger, dear friends, danger. You should never do that. “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” We've got to come to the scribes and Pharisees and say, “Oh God, show me how I am like them, and teach me to not be that way. I don't wanna be like that.”
And as pastors, as elders, spiritual leaders, we can come and say, “I'm just so glad that I'm not a leader like the scribes and Pharisees.” Woe to us then, if that's how we come to it, we need to humble ourselves before this text and say, “God, make me not like this. I don't wanna be a spiritual leader who is a hypocrite, I don't wanna be a white-washed tomb.”
Church people who are not spiritual leaders can say, “I'm glad I'm not in that position of leadership, and I can just assess those who are, and I can just look at the scribes and Pharisees, and if need be, our own pastors or elders, and say, ‘There it is.’” Woe to you if you do that.
We need to all be under this chapter, don't we? We need to let it search us, because, frankly, we all struggle with the sins that are exposed here. Hypocrisy, pride, worldliness, these are the sins that Jesus is dealing with. And can we really say, “Thank God I'm free from all of those”? “Thank God I don't need to worry about hypocrisy. I am exactly what I appear to be. Thank God that I don't need to worry about pride, I'm the most humble person I know. Thank God the world holds no attraction for me. I'm free from any concern for worldly praise or worldly positions or worldly possessions and pleasures. I'm free from all that.” Oh, you know yourself, don't you? Say instead, “God bring it to me. Bring me Matthew 23. Search me, Lord Jesus, with those blazing eyes. Teach me who I really am.”
Now I come to another danger, and that's just the danger in ministry for me, as a pastor, anybody in spiritual leadership, and it's just something that's standing there all the time. And the danger is this, is that, at some point, we will turn away from a central desire to please God and turn to earthly things instead, that we will seek, through ministry, to please ourselves in some way, in some worldly way. That's a great danger, and it stands over me, over all the elders, the pastors of every church, that at some point, you're gonna turn away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ and seek to get something earthly out of your service to God.
Tragic History of Arrogant, Selfish Spiritual Leaders
In the Bible
It's a great danger. It's been around a long time, and it's exposed here in this text, we'll see it, in these 12 verses we're gonna look at. It went back in the Old Testament. Ezekiel 34 talks about these shepherds. “Woe to you, Shepherds of Israel, you shear the flock and you eat the meat and you tear them apart, but you don't tend the poor and the needy. You don't go after the strays.” It's been that way a long long time. Those who, like Paul says, we never put on a mask to cover up greed, God is our witness. Greedy people are idolaters, Paul tells us, and so people in spiritual leadership can become idolaters. They can look for something earthly out of their service to the church, been going around a long time.
In Church History
It was going on in the Middle Ages with the Roman Catholic Church, and then on into the time of the Reformation. Right before the Reformation, there was a pope, Pope Julius II, a fascinating individual. He was a warrior Pope. I mean, not spiritual warfare. I'm talking, he got on a horse with a sword and with armor and went out and led a Catholic army out onto the field to battle his enemies, and fought them, and he wanted to be seen as a warrior.
As a matter of fact, he commissioned Michelangelo to do a number of works of art there in Rome, and Michelangelo, one of the works was of himself. Julius paid for money to have a sculpture of himself. And so, Michelangelo made him holding a Bible. He said, “What's that under my arm?” “It's a Bible, your Holiness.” “A Bible.” “What do I know of Bibles? Put a sword in my hand.”
Erasmus wrote, after Julius died, wrote a very humorous piece called “Pope Julius Excluded from Heaven.” It's actually very funny to read, as the Pope is there knocking on the gates, and they won't let him in. But very, very incisive to how this man had traded, if he ever had it, I don't think he ever had any piety, but traded it for earthly things.
In Our Present Day
And it's been going around a long time, it's going on in our day, in the 21st century. In 2008, World Magazine did an exposé on six televangelists and their private jets. I don't know if you read it. The name of the article I thought was clever: “What Would Jesus Fly?” What would he fly? What corporate jet would he fly? What private jet? Of all the various options, which one would he choose? And so, it named the names: Fred Price, Creflo Dollar, Jesse Duplantis, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, these men who have private jets.
Jesse Duplantis, in particular, had a support letter that he sent out, in which he was talking about the Falcon 50 jet that he was going to purchase. It's a super-medium or long-range plane, able to go 3,000 miles between refueling, can fly from coast-to-coast. This is a private jet, it's pictured on the cover of your bulletin. You are wondering what in the world does that have to do with the sermon? But there it is. There's the Falcon 50. And he called it “a great tool for world evangelization.” It can sell for up to $50 million.
I was thinking, as I was reading this article, about Jesus' original instructions to his twelve apostles, when he sent them out two by two, you remember in Matthew chapter 10, he said, “Do not take along any gold or silver in your belts, take no bag for the journey or extra tunic or sandals or a staff even,” but get on your Falcon 50 and fly wherever the Lord leads you to go, and they'll supply you with everything you might need there. Alright.
But again, danger, danger for me, danger for me to judge these men for what they're doing and not say that there's something here in Matthew 23 that exposes me, as a pastor. Can I really say that there are no earthly motives in my service to First Baptist Church? That there's nothing earthly in my heart as I seek to get up to preach or as I minister here? Can I really say that? Can pastors really say they're free from being addicted to pastoral perks, like the pastor's parking spot? I do have a parking spot here, and if you park in it, it's gonna be a problem for me. But we haven't chosen to put a little plaque on it yet so, because nobody seems to want it, but at any rate, there it is, pastoral perks.
And I tell you this, there's not a pastor that doesn't have danger in this area, can get addicted to earthly benefits that come from serving Christ. One simple one is just the praise and encouragement that you get. If you're in a loving congregation, you're gonna get encouragement. Now, don't overhear what I'm about to say, don't go too far the other direction. It is a good thing to encourage faithful servants of any type in a church. I don't just single out elders or pastors but anybody who is doing something for the Lord, there should be some stream of encouragement going toward that individual, should be.
Okay, but it can easily become addictive for a pastor, can easily become addictive. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, spoke more generally about what it means to store up treasure on Earth. He said, “Our Lord's injunction means to avoid anything that centers on this world only. It applies to people who, though they may not be interested in wealth or money at all, are yet interested in other things which are entirely worldly in the last analysis. They cannot be tempted maybe by money, but they can be tempted by status or position, promotion into positions of power has done endless harm in the Church of God to men who have been quite honest and sincere but who have not been on guard against this danger. They have been laying up treasures on earth without knowing it, their interest has suddenly been moved from that one center of pleasing God and working for his honor and his glory and it's turned, almost without their knowing it, to themselves and their own engagement in his work. In such ways,” says Lloyd-Jones, “a man can be laying up treasures on earth and it is so subtle that even good people can be a man's greatest enemy. Many a preacher has been ruined by his congregation, their praise, their encouragement of him as a man, has almost ruined him as a messenger of God, and he has become guilty of laying up treasures on earth. He tends, almost unconsciously, to be controlled by the desire to have his people's good opinion and praise, and the moment that happens, that man is laying up treasures on earth.” End quote.
Again, I'm not saying that you should never encourage me or other brothers or sisters in Christ. I'm not saying that. I'm talking about what's going on in my heart while it's happening, what's going on in our hearts as we receive that praise and that encouragement. You can start living for those material benefits to ministry, and there are deeper issues of pride, control, demanding more and more control in the church, more and more influence.
And so, for all of these reasons, the great dangers here the Lord Jesus spends his final public sermon in Matthew's gospel, not on a salvation theme directly, but on a sober warning against false spiritual leaders whose arrogance severely damages the people of God, the scribes and Pharisees.
Context: Christ and His Enemies
And so we've seen Christ dealing with his enemies here. They have been coming at him. They have been seeking to trap him, they're trying to get him in trouble, they wanna kill him, they hate him.
Jesus ends Matthew 22 with a question, which we covered last week, about whose son is the Christ. And they couldn't answer a word in reply, but that didn't mean Jesus was done with them. Now here, in Matthew 23, he turns his guns on them, so to speak, prophetically, and he exposes them, these scribes and Pharisees. Who were they?
Well, the Pharisees were one of the major religious sects of the time. They were extremely conscientious, and they felt that their good standing with God was in relation to their obedience to God's commands, even down to the minutiae of the Mosaic Law. They were the Pharisees. We've seen them again and again.
And the scribes, the NIV, has “teachers of the law,” they were copyists, and they would stand at desks and they would copy the scriptures and make them available to people. And so they were the ones that counted the letters, they were the ones that knew how many letters there were. They were also well-trained then in the scriptural things, and found themselves to be teachers of Israel.
And in a good way, that is a tremendous blessing, you'll get Ezra, and Ezra was a scribe, that's what he was. And he was a godly scribe. It says in Ezra 7:10, “Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the law of the Lord into teaching its decrees and laws in Israel,” that's good. And in Nehemiah 8, Ezra faithfully instructed the Jews, just a great chapter of expositional teaching of the law, and just how faithfully he unfolded the Word of God. That's Ezra.
But in Jesus' day, the scribes, the teachers of the law were some of his bitterest enemies. They became arrogant and selfish. As we're gonna see in this chapter, they thought that they were righteous because they knew more of the Bible than anyone else. And the worst part of all was that they had missed the whole point of scripture.
The whole point of scripture is Jesus Christ. The whole point of scripture is to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. And these are the ones about whom it’s said in John chapter 5, “You diligently study the Scriptures,” Jesus said, “Because you think that by them you possess eternal life?” Just 'cause you have a Bible? “These are the scriptures that testify about me,” said Jesus, “and you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” These are the scribes.
Christ Exposes False Spiritual Leaders
False Spiritual Leaders Lack Genuine Authority
So Jesus exposes them, and he begins by saying, in verse 2 and 3, “The teachers of the law, the scribes, and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you.” Now, this is really quite fascinating. It causes commentators some difficulty. They're really bad people, as we're gonna see in this whole chapter, but Jesus is telling us to kind of obey them and do everything they tell us.
It's problematic because, in another place, in Matthew 15, he says, “These teachers of the law and these Pharisees were hypocrites, whose teachings were just rules taught by men.” In Matthew 16, he warned his own disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” and came to understand that meant their doctrines. Be careful of what they teach. And yet, here he's saying the teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat, so you must obey them and do everything they tell you.
Well, there are two different ways that commentators go on this. One is that Jesus is actually being somewhat sarcastic, because the Greek actually implies they have taken it upon themselves to sit in Moses' seat. They have taken a place that really wasn't given to them, but I actually don't go that direction. I'm gonna go a different direction.
I'm gonna say it this way, I don't really care who tells you the truth from the Word of God, you need to obey it. I don't care if a donkey opens up its mouth and brays that you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit adultery. Doesn't really make a difference who the messenger is as long as they're speaking the truth, according to the Word of God. When they teach according to the Mosaic Law, then you must obey them and do everything they tell you.
But the problem with them, at this point, at least, in Matthew 23, wasn't their teachings, other places, yes, but not here. The problem was how they were living. You must not follow their example, Jesus said, “Don't do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” You've heard that before. It was Jesus that said it first. They don't practice what they preach.
And so they're exposed here not for false teaching, but for false living. Jesus is gonna call them hypocrites seven times. A hypocrite is an actor, a hypocrite is somebody who presents something that they're not. And so these scribes and Pharisees were presenting themselves to be something they weren't.
They did not practice what they preached, Paul uncovers this, not focused so much on the scribes and Pharisees, but just the Jews who had the law and didn't keep it. In Romans 2:23-23, it says, “You then, you who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?” Dealing with the same issue here.
Therefore, what I take out of this, my application for this, I need to practice what I preach, and that's shattering for me. I'm a verse-by-verse expositor. Dear friends, I see more in the text than I can preach well, and I can preach better than I can live. What do I do then? Do I give up my ministry? Do I go take my talent and hide it in the ground until Jesus returns? No, you can't do that, I’m stuck. In James, it says I'm gonna be judged more severely, but in Matthew, if I take the talent and hide it in the ground, I'm going to be judged very severely. And so, what can I do except seek to live up to what I teach? But you know something? You're really not much different. I don't know if you notice this, but most of the commandments and the requirements for spiritual leaders are not much different than the Christian life, generally. And none of us can afford to be hypocrites. None of us can afford to espouse the standard of Christianity and not live up to it.
And so Paul told young Timothy, the young pastor, “Watch your life and your doctrine closely.” Persevere in them, in both the life and the doctrine, because if you do, you'll save both yourself and your hearers. So we've got to put the two together.
False Spiritual Leaders Lack Compassion
Jesus also spoke of the scribes and Pharisees and said that they lacked compassion for sinners. Look at verse 4, “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they, themselves, are not willing to lift a finger to help them.” Scribes and Pharisees here are exposed as cold, unfeeling, uncaring people, spiritually. And this, I believe, is a direct connection with - comes as a direct connection from spiritual pride. They see themselves as spiritually superior to everyone else, they're just better than everyone else, and therefore they just have no sympathy for anybody under them.
They believe that they have achieved this high level by their own efforts, they're spiritual athletes. So you wanna be as good as me? Then work as hard as I did. They have no sympathy whatsoever. They just don't see themselves properly. That's the whole problem. Truly genuinely converted people know the source of their salvation, don't they? They know who they really are. They really are actually spiritual beggars, Matthew 5:3, who had nothing to offer to God except sin, who could expect nothing from the justice of God, apart from the promises of the gospel, nothing but wrath, and they come to God as beggars and say, “Be merciful to me, the sinner.” They won't even look up to heaven, but beat their breast and beg for forgiveness. And they haven't forgotten that. And so then, when they go find other spiritual beggars, they know exactly how they got saved. And there's a mercy that goes out to them, there's a brokenness that connects with them, a yearning that they would know forgiveness because they're just like them, just like them. There's no difference.
But these scribes and Pharisees, what do they do? “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders.” This is talking about legalism, it's talking about legalism, that the burden, the oppressive burdens, of the Pharisaic way of getting to heaven. They were just relentless. The religion they set up was a cold-hearted relentless machine that just destroyed everybody except hypocrites, who said, “I keep it. I've kept all the laws of God.” They were the ones that said, “I can do it.” And they're arrogant, and they fly above everybody else, like a tax collector or a prostitute or just an average sinner. They can't get anything from the scribes and Pharisees, they're hopeless. They tie up heavy loads and throw them on men's shoulders, but they won't do anything to help them.
A genuine pastor, a genuine elder, a genuine spiritual leader is gonna have a broken-hearted compassion for sinners, and want to see burdens lifted. How different is Jesus than this who said in Matthew 11, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus lifts burdens. He lifts the crushing burden of a guilty conscience.
Maybe you came in here that way today. Maybe you came in here crushed by your guilty conscience. You know you're a sinner. You know you have no hope before the judgment seat of God. You know that you're heading for hell, but you don't know what to do. Woe to me if I don't tell you how to get that burden lifted. Come to Jesus. Let Jesus lift that burden from you. He lifted it from me. He lifted it from me, and I'm free of my sins not because of my own righteousness, 'cause I worked harder than anybody else, but because Jesus was merciful to me and gracious to me. Oh, find mercy in Christ. Come to the cross, find it in Jesus, find it in his blood, so you understand that Jesus is the Son of God, and he shed his blood for you, to take your burden off of you.
But you see, these folks, they just put burdens on people, and made people feel guilty all the time. The Apostle Paul didn't do that. He said in 1 Thessalonians 2, “We were gentle among you like a mother caring for her little children. You know that we dealt with each one of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting you, urging you to live lives worthy of the Lord.” That's the ministry right there. It's not crushing burdens thrown on people and, “Good luck with that. Hope you can do well.” It's not that at all.
False Spiritual Leaders Lack Faith
We also see, and this is fundamental to the rest of the chapter, verse 5, “Everything they do is done for men to see,” do you see that? What's the problem with that? You know what it is? They've lost God focus, if they ever had it. They are not focused on God. They don't have faith, that's a whole thing.
True spiritual leadership has to do with faith. It has to do with seeing the invisible, seeing God and pleasing him and ministering invisible things for the benefit of people. You're in an invisible realm, you're ministering invisible things. It's a faith ministry here, but these folks, everything they do is done for men to see. They lack faith. They're not God-centered. They're self-centered and they’re world-centered, so they put their religiosity out as a badge for everyone to see. They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long. These phylacteries were just leather boxes that they put on their foreheads and on their arms, and they wrapped them up with leather straps, and they were literalistically obeying the command to tie them as symbols on your foreheads, and bind them on your hands, and put them on your doorposts, and all that.
So they literally did that. And I'm not necessarily against that, but I think, it's actually I have just a physical problem with it, because what they did was they wrote the scriptures that said tie them up, etc., they wrote those actual scriptures and put them in a box. I would think the Lord would rather have them open and read every day, read multiple times. It's the reading of it. So I think I'm actually against the literalistic obedience of this. I don't actually think Jesus had the box on his head. I think, instead, he sought to live it out by having it in his mind, saturating it in his mind.
And so everything they did was done for men to see, and so constantly, in Scripture, praise from men is pitted against praise from God, as if you cannot seek both, and you can't. You can't desire both. You may have both, but you can't seek both. Do you see the difference? I mean, I'm sure Paul received plenty of praise in his life. Jesus received praise in his life. There's nothing wrong with praising an individual.
The problem's reversed, what's going on in the heart of that individual? Do you seek it? And you cannot seek both praise from God and praise from men, you can't seek both. And so Jesus said, in John 5:44, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another and yet you make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” You can't go horizontal like that, just all I care about is what people think about me. You'll forget the vertical. You’ll forget God. Or in John 12: 42-43, “Many, even among the leaders, believed in him, because of the Pharisees, however, they would not confess their faith for fear that they would be put out of the synagogues, for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” John 12. Many other verses.
Paul rejected this, Galatians 1:10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Now, again, a pastor can go too far with that, just like the congregation can go too far, earlier in this message. “I don't care whether you're ever pleased with me or not.” That gets a little weird actually, tyrannical. I become a sociopath at that point. But the point is what am I seeking? I am seeking to please you by pleasing God. And I actually want the ministry to be pleasing to you, because it means your hearts are being moved, but that's not my goal, is that you be pleased with me. Do you see the difference? And Paul says I can't both seek praise from men and praise from Christ. Can't do it.
Instead, Christ commanded somewhat of a secret religion in some way, “Do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners, to be honoured by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full, but when you pray, go into your room and close the door and pray to your father, who's unseen, and your father who's unseen sees what is done in secret and he will reward you. That's the religion that pleases God.”
False Spiritual Leaders Lack Humility
Now, these false spiritual leaders also lacked humility. Look at verse 6 and 7, “They love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them, ‘Rabbi.’” Pride reeks from everything about them. Their one thought is themselves. They're the center of all their thoughts, and they want, one of the earthly perks here is, societal recognition, places of honor, titles of honor, positions of prestige. It's not just money. These things are very tempting. The head table at the banquet, front and center. “Oh, come right this way. Oh, come.” They pull out the chair for you, and you got the name right there in the front, and all of this honour coming on you, and it's just addictive and intoxicating. And if it becomes your goal in ministry, get out of the ministry. That's God's word to me.
Seats of honor. As in most churches today, synagogues had raised platforms, like I'm up on right now, and they would have seats, and you'd sit up there. And at the right time, you would come, as an honored visiting Rabbi, and you'd get to read some scripture, and all that kind of thing. I used to sit up here. There used to be chairs up here. I didn't move down out of any great humility. I just liked being with my family, and plus, I didn't like you all watching me while I was singing. So there was actually... Probably there was some pride in going down off the dais up here, or whatever. But they love to be elevated and to be seen and to be greeted and to have those honorific titles.
I think about this often, with the whole Dr. Davis thing. Look, I've been Andy my whole life. I've been Dr. Davis for 11 years, okay? I understand the desire that people have to honor. Some of I've been working on for 11 years, and you're still calling me Dr. Davis, and that's fine, okay? And I think there's a place for it. There's a certain thing, just as long as I don't seek it and yearn for it. I understand that, 'cause I call other people Dr. So and So, and I do it with a clear conscience. But I'm Andy, I'm just a man, I'm just a sinner, saved by God's grace. You understand that? And so, therefore, I think there's an appropriate level. Children, I think, need to honor those older. I think there's a place of honor. I think that has to be taught, but there's a different theme here, and that is a yearning for these kinds of titles of honor.
Christ Commands Humility from His Leaders
Reject Prideful Titles
Instead, humble yourself and make yourself low. Christ then commands humility from his leaders. He's talking, at this point, to his disciples, and he says, “You are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one master, and you're all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father and he's in heaven, nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.”
Remember the Lessons on Greatness
This is just very, very humbling. The bottom line here is we have to learn these lessons of greatness. The greatest among you will be your servant. The one who goes lowly, the one who is mindful of the fact that there's an infinite gap between the most exalted human being, other than Jesus, I mean, most exalted, and God himself, there's just an infinite gap.
Fear the Humbling God Threatens
And if you need some humility, then just go stare into the face of God, and go to the cross and stare at the work of Christ on the cross, and get humbled that way, because it says in verse 12, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” We should fear the humbling of God, the inadvertent humbling, you know, the humbling that God does to arrogant, uppity people, we should fear that.
Look what happened to Nebuchadnezzar. You don't want that happening to you. Seven years as an animal, eating grass. God can do that. Those who walk in pride, he is able to humble, and everything in your life is fair game, material possessions, your health, everything. God can use anything to discipline you if you get prideful. We ought to fear the humbling of God. We ought to instead humble ourselves.
The Consistent Remedy for Pride: Godward Focus
CJ Mahaney’s Definition of Humility
- J. Mahaney, in the book we're studying in home fellowship on humility, “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God's holiness.” How about that? Go and see how great God is. Go and see the fact that God created heaven and earth with the word of his power, and sustains all things by his powerful Word. Go there and humble yourself. Go to the cross of Christ and see how Jesus' blood shed on the cross in three hours atones for the sins of all of God's people throughout all of time, every tribe, and language, and people, and nation. In one afternoon, he took care of that. That's humbling, isn't it? And that's a good thing. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
So how can we apply this to ourselves? Well, first of all, I think you just need to come, again and again, to the cross of Christ. I have already appealed to you, who are unbelievers here, to do so. We are all, to some degree, hypocrites. We don't present ourselves honestly. We need to instead come and be humbled.
And we ought to understand true spiritual leadership. True spiritual leaders are going to shun accolades, words of praise. They're going to do menial tasks of ministry. They're gonna preach and teach unpopular doctrines, but do so with humility and brokenness, not arrogance and triumphalism, as though they're proud of being able to preach on such a dangerous theme. They need to persevere in difficult ministries, despite apparent lack of worldly success. They need to speak in humble words and humble tones, praising others and making little of themselves. They need to be good listeners, and they need to be prayer warriors. Alright.
So, church, pray that for your elders. Pray it for me. Pray that that's the kind of man I would be, because I believe that you need godly spiritual leaders. You need good shepherds, under-shepherds under Christ, who will help you finish the race of salvation, and you need these kind of leaders, not the false kind. Pray that you'd have them. Pray for me that I would be this kind of man that the other elders would be these kinds of men. But while you're doing it, pray for yourself, because other than the specific roles of leadership and the teaching ministry, and all that, God's calling these same things from you as well. He wants you to be genuine in who you are, present yourself to be a sinner saved by grace. Be a broken-hearted spiritual beggar who understands that only by the grace of God are you saved.
And one final word, don't corrupt your elders by fawning, praise and flattery, but don't stop encouraging us either, okay? So continue to pray for us, encourage us, but pray that God would do that work of humbling in our hearts. Let's be the kind of church God wants us to be, okay?