Friday, June 1, 2018

Stronghold Starter #2: Knowledge: I am Smartest/Most Spiritual Person in This Place

We are exploring how Satan starts to build a stronghold in our lives.  How do we open our hearts to such an incursion?  Pride is at the core of all Satan's forays into our lives.  Pride manifests itself in a lot of different ways; some of these ways are seemingly innocent or seem spiritual enough.  But at the core is the stench of pride.

Jesus used a lovely metaphor when describing this seemingly spiritual exterior:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matt. 23:27-28) 

Jesus is detailing a long list of violations of God's call to His servants; the Pharisees wanted all the accolades and respect they could secure by appearing to be spiritual, yet Jesus could see the emptiness inside and how it was filled with pride.  

Jesus uses another way to describe this condition:

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matt.12: 43-45)

Again, emptiness.  The person looks fine on the outside, but the heart is empty.  As in nature, the spiritual realm hates a vacuum.  To quote a Bob Dylan song, "You gotta serve somebody/It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord/But you're gonna have to serve somebody."   Interesting, one of the lines in the song includes, "You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride..."

A person may appear humble, but it is pride really drives this person.  

We talk about a someone who has to be the smartest person in a room; center of attention; life of the party.  Everyone knows who that person is--we can't help it, because that person is determined to take over the room.  We expect this of people who have not experienced the transformative touch of Jesus.  But when a Christian acts this way, it is injurious to the Body of Christ, for it makes Christ's Body mimic the world.  

Inside of serving from an overflowing cup, people serve from a deep insecurity that supports itself with "I have struggles, but I am not as bad as that person.  I am more spiritual than others at least."  People cling to the one thing that makes them distinctive--their supposed depth of knowledge and belief--and yet fail to see how that allows Satan to make his entrance into their lives.  

Satan then fans the flames of insecurity and also pride of spiritual superiority--a fire that sears all who come near this person.  

Paul called on his leaders in the early church to be teachable.  If I am teachable, I acknowledge several things about myself:

1.  I have not arrived spiritually; I will always have something to learn from Jesus and His Word and
from my brothers and sisters in Christ.  
2.  I may have misunderstood something and need to reexamine it by returning to the Word.
3.  This life in Christ is a process after I initially receive Him into my heart.  I am born again, but
I have to grow and develop in Him just as a baby grows and develops.
4.  I will have setbacks; either I feel sorry for myself or see them as opportunities for growth.

Finally, let's look at Paul.  If anyone could be the most spiritual/smartest guy in the room, it was him by far.  He was the architect of the early church under the work of the Holy Spirit.  

Notice something here with these verses.  Look at the dates when the letters were written, and how he chronologically sees himself:

"For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me." (1 Cor. 15:9-10; written in AD 53-57)

"Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ..."  (Eph. 3:8; written in AD 62)

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life."  (1 Tim. 1:15-16; written in either AD 64-65 or AD 58-59)

Do you see pride in any of these verses?  Do you see an insecurity that needs to be nursed by being the center of attention?  Do you Satan having moved into an empty heart?  

No.  Paul learned, as he walked in Christ, a fundamental truth:  He had nothing to bring to Jesus and everything to gain by being in Christ.  Any insecurity or shame he felt had come under the healing hand of Christ.  Any arrogance of his greatness had been burned away by Christ's loving and purifying fire.    

He served Christ in Christ and by Christ.  

When your city gates flies open because you feel insecure or arrogant, bring it to the Lord and slam the gate shut in His strength and power.  Stand in Him alone.  

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