Tuesday, April 19, 2016

THE GREATEST THREAT TO THE CHURCH





Pride has an insatiable appetite. It is never satisfied. There is never enough money, power, popularity, or recognition that will cure us of pride. It is the opposite of humility. Pride always seeks to build self-esteem; humility is satisfied with the esteem that comes from God alone. Pride delights in a grandiose image of self; humility exults in lowly transparency. Pride compares itself favorably to others; humility humbles itself before the perfection of the Savior. Pride trusts in self; humility knows self too well and therefore trusts in God. Pride destroys true friendship and fellowship through self-glorification, like a mouth that consumes all of the food on the table; humility attracts others, allowing them to put aside their defenses.

Spiritual pride is even more lethal. It disguises itself in clothes of virtue, but it makes everyone into an object to be used for its own fulfillment. It takes while it hides behind a fa├žade of giving. While it boasts of being the caretaker of truth, it is the servant of darkness.

Painful lessons are necessary to expose and purge us of this all-consuming lust. Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ brother and sister, needed to have their spiritual pride exposed. Otherwise, it would have destroyed Israel. They had become jealous of their brother Moses and spoke against him:

·       Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the [dark-skinned] Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. (Numbers 12:1-2; ESV)

Evidently, they believed that Moses’ Cushite wife was beneath them – a sure sign of pride. Even worse, they had convinced themselves that God had equally revealed Himself to them. Although it is doubtless that He had revealed Himself to them, it was pride that had prevented them from seeing that God’s revelation to Moses was far more extensive, direct, and intimate:

·       And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:6-8)

It was Moses who had spent 40 days and nights with the Lord on two occasions. It was to Moses that He had given His Words and His Ten Commandments. It was Moses who had been transformed by hearing the Words of God so that his face shined. In contrast, it was Aaron (and probably also Miriam) who had allowed Israel to rebel by creating the calf of god and cavorting before it.

From where then did they get the hubris to think themselves equal in role to Moses? From the blindness of pride! Meanwhile, Moses was humble and self-effacing:

·       Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)

Only a man taught the painful lessons of humility could be able to lead God’s people. Moses had been proud. He had thought that, by the strength of his character and status, he would be able to lead the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt. However, his God showed him that he didn’t have what it took. When God approached him 40 years later in the burning bush, Moses had been so humbled that he knew that he wasn’t up to the task of leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. He therefore demurred:

·       But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

In contrast to 40 years earlier, Moses lacked self-confidence. He now needed to clothe himself in God-confidence. Aaron and Miriam also had to learn God-confidence. This would require that they be stripped of their self-confidence and pride. So God struck down Miriam with leprosy. However, Aaron (perhaps Miriam had been the ringleader) was quick to confess their sin and humbled himself:

·       And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” (Numbers 12:11-12)

The Moses could have thought, “She deserved what she got, and so I won’t pray for her.” However, humility instructs us that, apart from the grace of God, we would do even worse. Therefore, in the face of repentance, humility cannot hold grudges:

·       And Moses cried to the LORD, “O God, please heal her—please.” (Numbers 12:13)

What a leader! Miriam and Aaron could have led a movement that would have divided Israel. However, as far as we know, they had learned their lesson and never again rebelled against God in their pride.

MY PRAYER: Lord, humble us, if need be, that we might be vigilant against the sin within. Show us what we are and the extent of the grace that we have received from you that we might never allow the ugliness of pride take control.



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