"The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
As I get older, I have to be more concerned with heart disease and proper care of my heart. What I am becomming more and more aware of is that spiritually I have a congenital heart disease that presents a great danger to my spiritual life. I'm guessing you do to. Like the plaque that can block my physical vessels, this disease is sometimes very hard to detect until it builds up and then it may be too late. I am speaking of course about Pride.
Pride is an interesting thing. For many Christians, it is a fairly safe thing to talk about because we identify pride as the stuck-on-themselves, boastful, arrogant bores that think they're better than the rest of us. We aren't like that. We are very aware that we're not perfect, we seek to be modest and a bit humble. We know to avoid going on Kayne West and proclaiming ourselves the best and brightest. You just don't do that. See, no heart disease here, I feel fine! But wait, there it is. A simple word, but one that can be an important early indicator of heart issue. "I". Pride builds up in subtle and almost invisible ways. Being a very nice person can really hide an "I Heart". An "I heart" is your factory default setting. To see if that is still there, look to what your reaction is when you are worried, scared, threatened, or hurt. Concern for others get's pushed back a little and you defend yourself. You are worried about YOU. This doesn't look like pride, because no boasting is involved, but suddenly it is very hard to see past you. "I" is in the center. Insult the church down the block and I may be pleasantly apologetic. Insult the church I pastor and suddenly I'm making excuses and explanations and defense. Yup, "I".
When we move beyond that, there is another way pride sneaks past us and begins to build up. This one can be even more hard to notice. I call it "Others Heart". This one can't be pride can it? After all, aren't we supposed to put others before ourselves? Yes, Biblically (but saying that leaves out a point. More in a minute). The problem is which "Others" we choose. This is where my wife, my kids, my friends come in. Much like my example about churches, let's talk about kids. If you want to point out the problems with a child, I'm ready to listen and to talk about (lovingly of course) where that parent went wrong. What that parent ought to do. Now point out the problem with my kids. I will not deny the problem, but let me explain... Oh, there it is. It is pride. Why am I gentler with my own, well because they are MY kids. The difference is in "I". The problem is that although I am giving myself to others, I am now invested in others and therefore have pride at stake in the others. My heart looks less selfish, but this is still ultimately about me. I will tell you right now that this is a major struggle for me because I love my kids and I am hugely loyal to my friends.
God is trying to break my sick heart. He's probably after yours too. First step to to break a heart open, to tear out the "I" and "Others" that are naturally in there. Jesus called this dying to self. To lose one's life. To love Him more than Father or Mother. This is really hard. It is often only through tough times and conflict that He can even get me to see the "I's" and "Others" that have taken the seat of my heart.
So what are we to do. It is too simple to simply say that we need to let Christ rule in our hearts. It is the answer, but it is too easy to simply say it and move on. What does it mean to allow Christ to rule in your heart? I am still learning so I cannot claim to have this down or to be an expert, but here is what I have observed so far. It means constantly, daily, being aware of just how much a sinner I am. I am not talking about how much I sin any given day. Measuring the amount of sinful actions is a great way to get pride. Realizing that even if you didn't have any big sinful actions today and are still the worst kind of sinner is a much better start.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. (Romans 7:18)
Paul the apostle makes it clear. There's nothing good in there. So when you see someone bad off in sin and you see them as worse than you, it means you quietly see yourself as better off, in other words, you've got some good. No you don't! David, after being made to see his sin with Bathsheba, didn't focus on what sins he had committed but instead stated, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. " (Psalms 51:5). His point is that he has been a sinner since the womb. He was born that way, and so was I. So were you.
When I stay in that truth and realize that only Christ's daily grace, His Holy Spirit, His mercy produces anything in me, I start being able to leave behind the subtleties of pride. When I see someone deep in sin and realize that they are just like me, that the only thing that separates me from the worst sinner is God's forgiveness, God's righteousness, and God's mercy.
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. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Now I go a step further to make sure that I am keeping Christ in the center of my heart. Christ is strong when I am weak, so when I look at myself, whether aloud or in my own eyes, I need to focus on, and dwell in my weakness.
And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Now perhaps I am moving toward having Christ dwell in my heart. I am focused on what He has done, not what I have done with Him, for Him, because of Him, or in His service. I am nothing. Without Him I can do NOTHING. So really, I am nothing, I am an adopted kid with inherited righteousness and the glory for that goes to God. There is no one on this planet worse than me and no one that I can look down on. When I find myself doing that, or acting out of my own person, I must realize that the ever present pride has again begun to clog up my heart. This is a big battle and one that I personally am not winning yet. Oh may I continue to recognize my own weakness and let the love of Christ live in me richly!
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