Pride vs. Grace

The Extravagance of Grace  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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Pride vs. Grace Once upon a time, there were two ducks and a frog who lived in a beautiful pond together and became the very best of friends. Life was good for them in that pond until they noticed one day that it had begun to dry up. The water level seemed to get lower and lower every day until one day the ducks realized they could no longer float in the few puddles that were left where the pond used to be. Now, the ducks talked together about what they could do, and they quickly recognized that it would be an easy matter for them to simply fly away and find themselves another pond. But what of their best friend, the frog? He could never hop the long distance they knew he would have to cover to find another body of water that was suitable. So they all thought about the problem and talked about it together and finally came up with a solution: The ducks would carry a small twig in their beaks as they flew away, and the frog would be able to join them by dangling from the twig as he held onto it with his mouth. As the three friends soared across the countryside, looking for a new pond, they happened to fly above a field where a farmer was working. Hearing the quacking of ducks overhead, the farmer looked up and saw the strangest sight he'd ever seen: Two ducks, flying side by side, holding a twig between them in their beaks, with a large frog holding onto the twig with his mouth. Marveling at the ingenuity of the three unlikely cohorts, he said, "What a clever idea! I wonder who thought of that?!" "I did," replied the frog. Pride. It's a terrible thing. From fourth-century Antioch, the early church Father, Chrysostum wrote this about pride: "Pride is the beginning of sin, the first impulse and movement toward evil. Perhaps indeed it is both the root and the foundation.... For every sin begins from it, and is maintained by it.... From pride springs contempt of the poor, desire of riches, the love of power, the longing for much glory.... There is therefore no evil like pride. It renders a man a demon, insolent, blasphemous, perjured, and makes him desirous of deaths and murders." [John Stott, The Preacher's Notebook: The Collected Quotes, Illustrations, and Prayers of John Stott, ed. Mark Meynell (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018).] Indeed, it was pride that birthed the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Turn with me to Genesis, chapter 3, and I want to explore this idea a little before we get back to our study on grace. Now, you will recall, of course, that God had created this Garden of goodness, this place where everything He had spoken into existence, He had called good. What does that tell us about God? Well, for starters, it tells us that He makes good things, and that's important for us as we look around this sin-broken world of ours. This is not the place that God made it to be. You are not the person God made you to be. Each one of us is stained by the sin that we will read about here in a moment, and, therefore, we are all damaged goods. But ours is a God who makes beauty from ashes. Ours is a God who makes broken things whole. Ours is the God who breathes life into the dead. Ours is the God who will, through His risen and ascended Son, Jesus Christ, one day make all things new, who will recreate this world into what He always intended for it to be. But there's a second thing we need to understand about God calling the things (and the people) He had made "good." You see, when Moses, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gave this account of God making something and calling it "good" and then making something else and calling it good and then making something else and calling it good, he was telling us that God is the one who determines what is good, and God is also the one who determines, the one who decides, what is not-good, what is evil. And so, let's take a look at this familiar account of Adam and Eve and the serpent, beginning in verse 1 of chapter 3. Genesis 3:1-6 NASB95 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.' " The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. OK, so I want to point out a couple of things from this passage. First, let's recall what God had said Adam and Eve would experience if they at the forbidden fruit. What did He tell them? That they would die. In fact, the way it's worded in the Hebrew is more along the lines of "dying, you shall die." But Satan said something else would happen. Look at verse 5. Their eyes would be opened and they would be like God, "knowing good and evil." So, I want you to think about this for a moment in light of what I said about God calling things good. In what sense does GOD know good or evil? God knows good and evil, because He determines or decides what's good and what's evil. He called things good, and he calls things evil. So for Adam and Eve to be "like God, knowing good and evil," what would they be doing? They would be deciding for themselves what was good and what was evil. So what emotion did Satan appeal to here? Pride. Declaring things to be good or evil was God's right, but Adam and Eve were not satisfied with leaving such matters up to Him. They believed they had just as much right to do this as God. And so, with her pride engaged, Eve took another look at the tree, and what did she see? Well, the very first thing she saw shows us that she has already gone off the rails. Had God said the tree was good for food? No! He had said, "Don't eat that fruit, because it will kill you." But she looked and saw something different. She saw that the tree was good for food. She was already rebelling against God. She was already putting some other desire ahead of her desire for a relationship with God, even before she took a bite from the fruit. Now the point I want you to get here is that the foundation for that sin was pride. There is a reason Scripture talks so much about pride - and never in a positive way. I could read you dozens of verses to prove the point, but you've all heard most of them already, and that's because pastors and theologians and Sunday school teachers - and Jesus Himself - knew that pride led to mankind's fall in the Garden of Eden, and it leads to the fall of many today. So why am I talking about pride in the midst of a series of sermons on grace? Simply because of this: Pride is the enemy of grace. Pride is the father of karma. Pride says, "I deserve better than this." Humility says, "By God's grace, I will never get what I really deserve, and anything good that comes my way is entirely by God's grace." Pride is the enemy of grace. So, if that's true, Christians should be the most humble people on the planet. We who have experienced God's saving grace by our God-given faith in Jesus Christ should recognize that every bit of eternal hope that we have is by His grace, and, therefore, we should be on our knees in humility before Him. I want to run through a few theological points with you for the rest of this message to show you how God's grace operates in your salvation. First, we have the gospel message itself. This is the message that this gracious and loving God - knowing we are all stained by original sin and knowing that there is no part of us that is not infected by it - determined from eternity past - before He even created the world - that He would provide a life-bringer for we who were dead in our transgressions. That life-bringer was Jesus Christ, the unique and eternal Son of God - the image of the invisible God. Jesus came to show us the character of God, and He came to bear our sins and their just punishment on a cross at Calvary. This was all by God's grace. By God's grace, Jesus was raised to life on the third day and then ascended to heaven, where He sits awaiting the day when God, by His grace, will send His Son back to take home with Him all those who have followed Him in faith. By God's grace, those who have followed Jesus in faith will have eternal life with Him and with the Father, not as servants, but as sons and daughters adopted by the grace of God into the family of God. But even that faith is the gracious gift of God to those whom He graciously chose for salvation before the foundation of the world. If you are a follower of Christ in faith, it is only because God in His grace chose to give you the faith to believe. Are you a proud Christian? Why? What do you have to be proud of? You were dead in your trespasses. What can dead things do? So how could you even have responded positively to the gospel message if it were not for God's grace? Now, Scripture reveals to us that there is actually a lot more going on at the point of salvation than simply receiving faith from God to believe that Jesus is who he said He is and that He will do what He said He will do. In fact, the Bible tells us that salvation is not a point-in-time event. Those of us who have followed Jesus Christ in faith were saved. We are being saved. And we WILL be saved completely in Heaven. So let's look for a moment at what happened when you were saved. There are some complicated theological concepts here, but don't get caught in the weeds. There will not be a test; I simply want you to come away with a greater understanding of what's involved. At the point of receiving God-given faith in Jesus, you were propitiated to God, your sins were forgiven, you were regenerated, you were justified before God, you were reconciled to God, you were united with Christ, and you were indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Now, that's a lot to chew, so let's take it one bite at a time. You were propitiated to God. The Apostle John wrote, "If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins." Propitiation signifies that God's just wrath over the sins of believers has been removed by the gracious sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. The writer of Hebrews uses this Greek word to describe the mercy seat on top of the ark of the covenant. This was the place where the blood of a lamb would be sprinkled on the Day of Atonement each year to cover the sins of the people of Israel. So, what we see here is that the blood of Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. It was His gracious sacrifice for we who were lost in our sins that allowed our sins to be covered and God's just wrath to be satisfied. But God doesn't just cover our sins. He forgives them. Luke records something Jesus said of His coming sacrifice. Luke 24:46-47 NASB95 and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. The death of God's own Son would bring forgiveness. That's grace at its most incredible. But we also see something about repentance being a part of this forgiveness. Indeed, repentance - changing your attitude about sin - is necessary to salvation. But even our repentance isn't our own doing. Paul wrote about this: Romans 2:4 NASB95 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? It is God's kindness, his mercy, his grace, that enables us to have our hearts changed regarding sin. So we see that God's election of sinners to be saved, His gift of faith to us, His propitiation, His forgiveness and our repentance are all things God does out of His grace. As Paul puts it: Where then is boasting? It is excluded. There is nothing we have added to the process, and so there is no room for pride. Then there's regeneration. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB95 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. When we place our God-given faith in Jesus Christ, we are made into new spiritual creatures, people who by God's grace have been made to be alive in Christ, rather than dead in their trespasses. We are also justified before God. That means that God, in His infinite grace, declares us righteous. Is anyone here righteous? We are all sinners, whether you are saved or not. But God in His grace calls things according to what He will make them. Even before Isaac, the son of God's promise, had been born to Abraham and Sarah, God was already calling Abraham the father of many nations. It was a done deal as far as God was concerned. And so, we who are sinners are declared righteous before God. Having been united with Christ - Paul calls it being "in Christ" - we carry the identifying marks of Jesus, and therefore we have His righteousness, not our own. We are justified solely by God's grace. And because we have the righteousness of Christ, we are reconciled to God. Reconciliation is exchanging a hostile relationship for a relationship as friends. Writing to the Corinthian church, Paul put it this way: 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NASB95 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Who did the reconciling? God did it. He changed US so that we could be called friends. And then, He gave us His Holy Spirit as a seal and a guarantee. As a seal, the Spirit marks us as people who belong to God in Christ Jesus. As a guarantee - the word can be translated as downpayment - the Spirit is God's promise that He will complete what He started, that He will keep His promise to give eternal life to those who have come to His Son in faith. What part of this had anything to do with us? Where is boasting? What place can pride have in any of this? So those are God's past actions in salvation. But there is a sense in which those of us who ARE saved are BEING saved. Paul wrote about this: Philippians 2:12-13 NASB95 So then, my beloved ... work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but it is God who is at work in us. Part of that work is keeping us from the power of sin, and part of it is our sanctification, making us more holy, more like Jesus. So at least that's something we can do for ourselves, right? NO! To the church in Ephesus, Paul wrote: Ephesians 2:8-10 NASB95 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. We were created as new creatures to do good works. But God even prepared the good works for us beforehand. So where is boasting? What place does pride have in the life of a Christian? One thing that should be clear by now is that your salvation did not and does not depend at all on anything you do or do not do. To be sure, we are called to do good works and to refrain from doing evil, but those things are the result of true faith and not something we can add to ensure our salvation. And even the ability to do good things comes from God. When you understand this, something wonderful happens: You can have blessed assurance that if you have followed the Good Shepherd in faith, then no one can snatch you out of His hand. Remember that God gave you His Holy Spirit as a downpayment toward the fulfillment of the salvation that He began in you when He gave you to His Son. He values His Spirit much too highly to lose that downpayment. And He values His Son much to highly to take away that which He has already given Him. By God's infinite, amazing grace, you cannot lose your salvation. And so, we have seen all the things that God did in the past to secure your salvation, and we have seen what He is doing in the present to save you. Let's look at the future for a moment. Believers will be resurrected to eternal life, they will be glorified, they will be saved from the wrath of God, and they will spend eternity worshiping the Father and the Son. Paul described the risen Jesus Christ as "the firstfruits of those who are asleep." His point was that just as Jesus was raised to life, so will be those who have put their faith in Him. In fact, all will be raised, those who have placed their faith in Jesus to eternal life, and those who have chosen to ignore or revile His offer of forgiveness to eternal condemnation in Hell. Some will face God's eternal wrath, but some, by His unfathomable grace, will be spared this justice. For those who have believed in Jesus, the promise is eternal life in glory. This means that we will have bodies no longer subject to sickness or death, and it means that our spirits will never again feel the tug of temptation. So what will we do there? Well, we will work. That old picture of sitting around on clouds for eternity is simply contrary to what God has revealed in Scripture. And we will grow to know and love the Father and the Son each day. And when 10,000 years have passed, we will not have scratched the surface of understanding His love and His grace. So, let me ask you: Where then is boasting? What place does pride have in the life of a believer? What part of your salvation depends upon you? We sing the song "Amazing Grace," and we talk about God's grace all the time, but I wonder if we really have an inkling of understanding about it. I think that if we did, we would never cease to praise Him. From beginning to end, salvation is the work of the Lord. From beginning to end, it is all the result of His great grace. From beginning to end, we deserve karma, and He gives grace. Don't let pride come between you and God's grace. Don't let pride destroy you the way it did to Adam and Eve, or the way it did to that frog. This week, take some time to be amazed AND humbled by God's infinite, amazing grace. Page . Exported from Logos Bible Software, 2:06 AM August 9, 2020.
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