The Big Idea: Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
The Bible says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” But what about feeling proud of our son’s grades or getting a promotion? Is that wrong? Actually, that’s a different kind of pride–let’s call it Pride Type I. Pride Type II, on the other hand, is looking down on others and thinking more highly of ourselves than we should. Join us to find out what that looks like in practice, why it’s a problem, and what you can do about it.
The Man in the Mirror
Solving the 24 Problems Men Face
Luke 18:9-14, Various Proverbs, James 4:6, Galatians 6:4, Romans 12:3, 1 Peter 5:5
Good morning men, and welcome to all of our guests today, a special welcome to you. We’re going to begin this morning by doing a couple of shout outs to groups. The first one will go to the Man in the Mirror of Arundel Christian Church in Glen Burnie, MD. 7 men who have been meeting at the leader’s home for 6 months on Thursdays at 7:00pm using the Video Bible Study. Led by Ron Barber and we are looking for an Area Director for this region in Maryland.
Second group, this shout out goes to FIST – (Friend In Spirit and Truth) of Four Oaks Community Church in Tallahassee, FL. 8 men who have been meeting for a year at the church on Wednesdays at 6:00am using the Video Bible Study. Led by Daniel Welsh and Mike Heller is the Area Director for the Tallahassee, FL region. Mike are you here this morning? Mike is right over there. We’re sending Mike your information, maybe you can just reach out and connect with you and just see if he can help in any way. Guys I wondered if you’d join me in giving these men a rousing and warm Man in the Mirror welcome this morning. One, two, three, hoorah! Welcome guys, we’re glad you’re here!
All right. The series that we’re in is called the Man in the Mirror. We’re looking at the 24 problems that men face based on the 25th anniversary revision of the book. This morning we’re going to be talking about pride as you saw in the video.
A Tale of Two Men
Let’s begin with a tale of two men. Here at the Bible study, Phil and Tom. Phil is the model Christian guy. He is moral in every way. He has high integrity. He tithes. He actually fasts on a regular basis. He has consistent quiet times, and he’s always in his Bible. He’s well respected in the community. His kids are model children. He’s a great churchman. He’s active in the business community, and well respected by everyone there and everyone here.
Phil walks into the Bible study, and he know what a righteous guy he is. He sees Steve over there, and he knows that Steve really can’t get control over the behavior of his children. He’s a very polished guy, so you would never know it, but Phil is thinking, “I’m really glad I’m not like Steve. I can’t believe that Steve can’t do a better job managing his own household.”
Then he sees Brian, and Brian is just one of these guys who is always struggling to put it together. It just seems like he can’t ever get his act really together so he’s constantly losing jobs, and having to find other work. His marriage seems to always be on the verge of collapse, and Phil doesn’t have these problems. He looks down on Brian. He always is nice to Brian. “Brian it’s really good to see you this morning. We’re so glad you’re at Bible study” and he thinks, “Because you really need to be here.”
Then there is Bill. Bill has a son who is gay, and when Phil talks to Bill, he looks at him with a certain disdain because he thinks there must be something wrong with the way that he has fathered his son. Phil goes around the room, and then finally comes to Tom and Tom, Tom is a shattered man. He comes into the Bible study. He’s completely broken because his marriage is just basically hanging on by a thread. When Phil sees Tom, he feels sorry for him. He feels sorry for him. “I feel so bad for Tom. I know that could never happen to me. That could never happen to me, and I just feel, because I’m such a good husband and I’ve done such a good job, and I’m such a godly man and I’m really walking with Christ. I feel so bad for Tom that he can’t be more like me.”
The Bible tells a story about two men like this, and if you would, look at Luke chapter 18, verse 9. We’ll look at this story together of these two men. Pharisee Phil and tax collector Tom. Chapter 18, verse 9. “Some who were confident of their own righteousness, and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable.” Jesus is actually telling this parable to anybody who walked in here this morning who were confident of their own righteousness, and looked down on everybody else. Basically Jesus is telling this parable to everybody in here! We all do this, don’t we? We don’t want to be this way, but it’s just part of what it means to be living in a broken, shattered world because of sin. We have to manage our lives against the fall. Jesus is giving some instruction there that will help.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray.” Not bad, they were going to a Bible study, okay. Two guys went to a Bible study. It’s like, two Irishmen walked out of a bar. No really, it happens. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one,” Pharisee Phil “and the other” tax collector Tom. “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you …'” Now he’s probably very refined in this, you know. You’ve got to remember, Pharisees were not the caricature that we often have of them, and they were the most righteous, spiritual, religious guys of their time. These were the guys who went to the Bible studies, okay? These are us. These Pharisees, these guys were us. “God I thank you that I’m not like all other men, robbers. I don’t understand why Brandon keeps coming to the Bible study. I know he’s cheating on his taxes. Why does he keep coming to the Bible study? Why does he keep coming here to pray? I’m glad I’m not like other men. Robbers, evildoers, adulterers like Brian. One of the reasons he’s always in trouble is he keeps playing around.
Even like this tax collector over here, Tom. “I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get, but the tax collector” Tom, “he stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Jesus went on to say, “I tell that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.” Justified means declared righteous by God. “For everyone who exalts himself, will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself, will be exalted.” God favors the humble.
We see this many places. This exact sentence is several places in the Gospel that, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Lord have mercy on me a sinner, that’s the way out of this dilemma. When Martin Luther was … The church, and I’m using the church … This was the Jewish faith, so our faith, prior to Christ. The church is always, and we’re the church, we’re the body of Christ right here. We’re the body of Christ right here. We’ve always, we’ve always struggled with pride. It works its way into the demands that we make on each other and other people. Martin Luther, the church in his era, had some issues, and so he tacked these 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church. The first one, the very most important thing that he wanted to say, the first thesis that he brought to the attention of the other Christian guys in the room, the other guys that went up to the temple to pray. The other guys that came to the Bible study. The first thing that he said is that when our Lord and Savior Jesus said, “Repent” he meant that the entire life of believers should be one of repentance. The entire life of a believer should be one of repentance.
The big idea today, let’s just keep it simple brother, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” Lord have mercy on me, a sinner. To let this be part of my DNA. Martin Luther also said, and I mentioned it here, I think maybe even the last time in the series is that Martin Luther said, “If you see yourself as a little sinner, then you only need a little savior, but if you will see yourself as a big sinner, then you will realize that you need a big savior.”
Pride is the mother of all sins. The first of the cardinal sins. It’s by pride that the devil fell. All sin flows out of pride. Most religious writers, thinkers, scholars will be in agreement that all sin flows out of pride, pride of life. Pride of life comes mostly in-, well first of all there’s the pride of life when you don’t have Jesus, but when you do have Jesus, there’s the pride of life that comes as you become increasingly more like Jesus. The more you become like Jesus, the more you realize you’re not like them anymore. Praise God!
There’s a tendency to see ourselves as not as big of a sinner as we used to be. No men! Spiritual maturity should lead us to the point where we see, every day we see, or every week or month or whatever, we constantly are seeing new levels of depravity. I love it when … who’s the-, Larry Crabb, the author Larry Crabb. He said that one day he was down on the beach, down on the beach, and God spoke to him and revealed an area of his life where he had some sin that he wasn’t aware of. He began to bawl, and he fell down to his knees in the sand and he repented to God. He said, “Right in the middle of my repentance, I had the thought, ‘ Boy this is really good. This will make a great illustration.'” No men, the further you go, the more you realize that you’re not becoming a smaller sinner, you’re realizing how big of a sinner you were all along. The lifestyle should be one of repentance. Lord … I don’t care how you say it, but you should have, as an attitude, not just something you do once a day, but we should all have as an attitude of our heart, “Lord have mercy on me, I’m a sinner.” Who among us, at the end of any day wants what we really deserve? None of us. We want mercy. That’s the big idea.
What is pride?
Then, let’s talk about what pride is. In the book… By the way, I’m trying to give you guys when I do these, messages on the book. I’m trying to give you a blend of what’s in the book, but then some stuff that’s not in the book too. This is in the book. This is the pride, humility balance beam. The idea is there are two kinds of pride, two kinds of humility. Pride type 1 is the kind of pride that was mentioned in the video. Be proud of your son’s accomplishments. Pat Leupold, the area director here for east Orlando, hosted a breakfast this week and his son Caleb, whose 26 years old, cooked the breakfast. As the proud father was introducing his son, he announced that Caleb had just been made the sous chef at the Marriott hotel up in Lake Mary, making him the youngest, as far as anybody knows, the youngest sous chef in the entire city of Orlando. You could see Pat beaming with pride. That’s pride type 1. That’s a great kind of pride.
Then, pride type 2 though, it’s the kind of pride where you get puffed up. How is it that we get puffed up? We get puffed up by almost anything. How about knowledge? First Corinthians 8:1. Knowledge what? Puffs up. Love builds up, but knowledge puffs up. The more you know about God, the more you know about your profession, the more you know about how to have a good marriage, the temptation is to let that puff us up. How about money and possessions? I can remember the first luxury car I had. I remember pulling up to a stoplight and looking over at somebody that didn’t have a car as nice as me and thinking, “Man I’m really cool.” I was cool anyway, but I’m really cool and I can’t believe I’m so much better at what I do than what he is at what he does. Of course I have no idea about that, but I’m making that presupposition, or drawing that conclusion, and get puffed up.
Maybe you live in a really nice house, and maybe across the street is a guy who lives in a house that’s not quite as nice as yours. You end up thinking, “Wow, I’m glad I’m not like him.” You get puffed up. It could be your position. You get a promotion. It could be your family. You could have a really, really good family, and you can get puffed up about that and think somehow, instead of receiving it as a gift by grace from a loving Father, thinking it’s something that you did, or even worse, something you deserve.
Maybe you’re Phil. Maybe you really are a righteous guy. Maybe you’re a leader in your church. Maybe you lead your own Bible study. Lots of guys in here lead their own Bible studies. All of these things have the potential for us to be puffed up, and think that we’re somebody because of it. I had this exact problem. Every day I have this problem, but I’m going to tell you about one of them. I built an office building in the suburbs here in town, still possibly the nicest suburban office building in town. It was the first suburban office building in this city with an attached parking garage. We decided that we would have reserved and unreserved parking places in the parking garage. We would have some reserve spaces we could use as inducements to get tenants to sign leases, give them 1 or 2 reserved spaces for the executives. The rest were unreserved, first come, first served parking places. People would drive into the garage and scramble for the space. Get there early if you want a good one.
I didn’t ask for it, because I’m so humble, I didn’t ask for it but I was given a reserve parking place by our team. I was happy that I didn’t have to work it to try to get it. Anyway, I had this reserve parking place, and I noticed after a few days, that I was feeling like I was better than they people who didn’t have reserved places who, by the way, had to walk past me in order to get into the building. There was this smug-ness that I was starting to feel. I prayed about it. I said, “Lord this is not who I want to be.” He gave me this idea that I should give up this reserved parking place, not necessarily forever, but give up this reserve parking place and go park where the proletariat were parking out there and so I did that.
I thought it would last a couple of weeks, I’d get this all sorted out, and then I would go back to my reserve parking place. Now I had another problem because now when I was out with all the peons, and I was walking past the executive parking place, I saw them getting out of their car. Maybe in my imagination, but it just seemed to me like they thought they were better than me because they had those spaces. They were a little bit snobby about it even. I found myself starting to look down on them because they were looking down on me. That’s how insidious pride is. I was looking down on them because they were, or at least I thought they were, looking down on me. That’s how pride works. Now I really have a problem. It doesn’t make any difference where I park, I’m going to have pride! It took me 9 months of constantly thinking and praying about, and turning my heart over to Christ. I could never do this on my-, you can never do this on your own. Is there anything in your personal history that gives you even the remotest hint that you can conquer pride through your own effort? It’s not going to happen.
I just kept asking God, the Holy Spirit, to release me to freedom. It took 9 months, 9 month. Every day, walking by those snobs. I don’t even know if they were feeling that way. This is an aside, you know we also have a tendency to just project onto other people our own faults. They may not even have the faults, I may have just seen them as thoughts because I knew that’s what I was there. After 9 months, I was loving them, in spite of their snobbery, and I was released for that. That’s how this works.
Diogenes once was dressed in filth and walked into the home of Plato, and walked across his elegant carpets and he said, “Plato, thus do I trample on your pride.” Plato said, “Yes, Diogenes, but only with another form of pride.” You just see how deep it is ingrained into us. When the Bible talks about looking down on other people. Those can be people who may not have the same station, it can just as easily be somebody who has a higher station in life. You look down on them because they don’t deserve it, right? You deserve it, right? C.S. Lewis writes quite extensively about this. I’m not going to read all of it, but he said, “There is one vice of which no man in the world is free, which everyone 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. I’ve heard people admit that they are bad tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about women or drink, or even that they are cowards. I do not think I have heard anyone, who is not a Christian, accuse himself of this vice, and at the same time I have very seldom met anyone, who is not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy to it in others. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. The vice I am talking of is pride or self-conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called humility. Now we have come to the center. According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is pride” and so forth and so on.
It can also manifest itself as … We’ve looked at being puffed up, we’ve looked at having disdain for others. It can also be bristling. When you tell somebody something and they ask you a question for clarification, do you bristle at that? That’s another form of pride, it’s looking down on them because they’re so stupid that they can’t understand what you said, even though you may be the stupid one. When somebody questions your authority to tell them to do what they’re doing, like your wife for example in the home. If you are a bristly, prickly person, then this is an issue of pride. So many different ways that we can bristle, so many different ways. Now the problem with this … Gosh I can’t believe I’m almost out of time. I just don’t have enough time to do these messages. They should have made the Bible shorter, and then…
The consequences of this, just listen to some of these, don’t look them up, just listen. Terrible consequences to leading a life of pride. Proverbs 11, verse 2, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes honor.” Proverbs 16, verse 5, “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this, they will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 16, verse 18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 29:23, “A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.” James 4:6, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Terrible consequences though for this. The Big idea today, there is a way out. Jesus gives it to us. This is gateway to humility, or one of the gateways to humility. It’s repentance, that’s the starting point for humility. “Lord, have mercy on me, for I am a sinful man.”
How can we develop a spirit of humility?
Men, to wrap it up, how can we develop more of a spirit of humility, a spirit of humility? It’s interesting that in Jim Collins’ classic book, Good to Great, which is based on 15,000 hours of research. What they wanted to do is they wanted to find out what was it that made great companies different from companies that were average or good, but not great. What they did was they searched, they scoured through the Fortune 500, looking for companies that for 15 years had had average performance, then had had some transition event, that led to an additional 15 of years of sustained high performance that outperformed the financial markets by 300% or more. They only found 11 companies, out of the Fortune 500, that qualify. To put this in perspective, companies that didn’t make it, Coca-Cola, Intel, Wal-Mart, companies like that. They were good, but they weren’t the good to great companies. 11 companies made the cut.
Then they went into each industry group, and they found a good company that was not great for comparison purposes. They had 22 companies and then they evaluated them. At the very beginning Collins told his large research team, “Ignore leadership because here’s what I’ve discovered is that, as soon as researchers can’t figure out what’s really going on, they say well it’s a leadership problem,” that everything boils down to leadership. In fact, the researchers started to bring him information about leadership and he said, “No, no, I don’t want to hear it.” He said, “No, no.” They said, “There is something unusually similar about these 11 CEO’s.” He said, “Ignore the executives” and they kept pushing back. Finally, finally, he saw what the researchers saw because he said the data … Ultimately the facts are revealed by the data. What they found was that 100% of the good to great CEO’s had this in common. They each had a profound humility and modesty. A profound modesty and humility. When people would talk about them they would say things like they were quiet, they were self-effacing, and they were humble. They didn’t believe their press clippings. They were kind. They were interested in other people, and they very rarely even talk about themselves.
Collins then realized that it was a differentiated success factor. In the social science research, 100% correlation is almost unheard of! In fact when you get to 100% correlation, you have to start thinking causation. In fact, the Bible does make a causal link between humility and greatness. Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be the servant of all.” He said, as we’ve looked at this morning, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself, will be exalted.” There is, biblically, a causal link between humility and greatness. We want to look at just one more verse. That’s Romans chapter 12, verse 3, together, so if you’d turn there. Romans, chapter 12, verse 3. This is a key to having more of a spirit of humility. Romans 12:3 says this, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you,” and in the spirit of Paul I say this to you men this morning, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourselves with sober judgment in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Don’t think more highly of yourselves than you ought, but think of yourselves with sober judgment.
How can you do that? You can’t do that? As with any moral imperative, you can’t do this on your own, but Jesus, the most humble man who ever lived, by putting our faith in him, “in accordance with the measure of faith given us,” by putting our faith in him to live his life in and through us, then we can have a spirit of humility. The big idea, the way we get there is through a spirit of repentance. “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Let’s say that together. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Let’s pray.
Our dearest Father and Lord, we come to you humbly. We’re just so grateful that you’re not looking for perfect people. I guess if you were, you’d just be out of luck. Lord you are looking for men who want to have hearts that are poised toward you, and nothing turns us more toward you than having this spirit of humility. Nothing Lord brings this spirit of humility more than having this awareness, this spirit of repentance, this lifestyle of repentance. Father, however we would do it, Lord we’d pray that you would help each of us to have this attitude that when we become aware that we’re looking down on others with disdain or we’re puffing ourselves up, or we’re bristling at our wife. Lord, would you this week, would you Holy Spirit tickle our memory, each of us. When we’re getting ready to slam somebody or put our wives in their places for rankling us, would you just put in our spirit, the desire to say, “Lord, I can’t do this. You’re going to have to do this. Lord, would you have mercy on me, for I am a sinful man.” We make this prayer in your name Jesus, and we believe that you will answer it, by faith, amen.