Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lent Special - Seven Deadly sins - No.2


He was the most beautiful of all angels. He was referred to as the Day Star, and the son of Dawn. His name itself spoke of his brightness—Lucifer, angel of light. He dreamt of ascending the heavens and raising his throne above that of God's. But he was sent crashing down to the dark recesses of the pit for committing the greatest sin of all: Pride.

That is what pride, described by theologians as the father of all sins, does to us. We end up going down even as we try to go up. It is also the most common of all sins, though strangely enough, most of us don't even realize that we are proud. So how do we recognize it in us? Honest answers to these questions may provide some clues.

Do you think you are smarter than others?

Some of us take a lot of pride in our own opinions, judgments and thoughts. I used to have a friend like that. He used to think he knew it all, and would expound his theories about every single topic under the sun. Most bemusing were his "expert" commentaries during cricket matches, especially given the fact that he had never held a cricket bat in his hand in his entire life! My friend was generally considered a harmless buffoon, but such pride can have serious—even tragic—consequences.

Dave McPherson tells the story of a U.S. Air Force transport plane flying over Alaska in the mid-50s with its captain and five crew members when they entered an unusually fierce snowstorm. The navigator contacted an air base only to be told that he had veered several hundred miles off course. Correct coordinates were given to the navigator, who continued to insist that his own calculations could not be that far off. Soon the plane ran low on fuel. The six men decided to abandon the plane and parachute to safety, but because of the sub zero temperature and winds that gusted to 50 mph, they were all frozen within minutes of hitting the ground. As a result of the navigator's pride, five other people went to their deaths.

Proverbs 12:15 tells us that "fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to advice." This advice is best taken when it comes from God, as Proverbs 3:5 says: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight."

The key word here is "heart". Faith is a gift of the heart and not of the mind. Many of us know a lot about God, but unless that knowledge—a mind thing—goes down to the heart, we will never really know God. We see this exemplified in the arrogance of Saul before he turned Paul. He was a brilliant man, very highly educated, who knew the Scriptures. And because he knew the Scriptures, he thought he knew God. Only when he was thrown off his high horse and met Jesus on the way to Damascus did he realize that he didn't really know anything.

Do you think you are superior to others?

This is a pride which basically makes us think we are better than everybody else, and is often expressed by bragging. One of the greatest braggarts of all times was the boxer Mohammed Ali who immortalized the phrase, "I am the greatest."

There's a story reported about a conversation that took place between a flight attendant and Mohammed Ali, then at the start of his career. Ali was on a plane and as he didn't have his seat belt fastened, the stewardess came up to him and asked him buckle up. "Superman don't need no seat belt," he told her. She gave him a withering look and said, "Superman don't need no plane."

We might laugh at that but many of us are guilty of this type of pride. Have you ever said—or felt like saying—these words to somebody: "Don't you know who I am?" Or how about this: "Who do you think you are telling me what to do?"

I remember a highly educated professional came to me one day for counsel. His marriage was on the rocks and he seemed to want to save it, but as he spoke I realized that he didn't want any suggestions on how he could repair it, but wanted me to affirm the things that he was doing, which mainly consisted of a list of conditions he had laid down for his wife, if she wanted to get back to him. I told him that if he wanted to reconcile with her he needed to forgive her for all the wounds that she had caused him—real or imagined—but even as I spoke to him, I knew it was useless. I could almost hear him thinking, "Who do you think you are, preacher man?" He felt superior to me; possibly superior to everybody.

This kind of pride can make us think we are superior to God too. We saw this happen with Satan. We also know it happened with Adam and Eve. Why did they eat of the fruit? Because they wanted to be like God.

Pride builds very slowly and often so subtly that we don't even realize that somewhere along the line we have become proud. I remember when I started Holy Spirit Interactive, people started referring to me as "Brother Aneel" and it irritated me because I thought it was pompous. As the weeks went by, however, I discovered I started liking the title and getting annoyed when people didn't call me "Brother". God, fortunately, doesn't let me get away with any such nonsense, and told me to level the playing field by calling everybody else brother (and sister) as well.

Do you have a spotty prayer life?

Not having a regular, disciplined prayer life usually suggests a high degree of pride because you believe that you can do things on your own steam. I saw this in my own life recently. For most of 2008 I shuttled across the world, traveling to ten countries across five continents and preaching to people by the thousands. Although I was encouraging them to build a good, solid relationship with God, my own relationship was at its worst ever since I got to know Him. I was spending more time talking about Him than with Him.

There were two direct consequences as a result of this negligence: One, I felt extremely tired most of the time, which was the result of working on my own steam rather than empowered by His Spirit. Two, I felt angry that God wasn't chipping in more in what was His work, which was the result of operating according to my own will rather than His. As I said earlier, God doesn't let me get away with any nonsense for too long, and He sat me down for a week in Omaha and showed me the error of my ways. I ceased all travel for three months after that, just restoring my relationship with Him again.

Maybe He is using my mistake to show you yours.

Are you vain?
Vanity is inflated pride in oneself or one's appearance. In his book A Love Worth Giving: Living in the Overflow of God's Love Max Lucado illustrates this aspect of pride with a delightful set of questions almost guaranteed to make us squirm. "Suppose you are in a group photo. The first time you see the picture where do you look? And if you look good, do you like the picture? If you are the ONLY one who looks good, do you still like the picture? If some are cross-eyed and others have spinach in their teeth-but you still look good-do you like the picture? If that's what makes you like it even more, you've got a bad case of pride."

Continued - http://www.holyspiritinteractive.net/columns/aneelaranha/sevendeadlysins/01.asp

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