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September 1, 2019 The Deadly Sin of Pride

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Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,

One Sunday, Lutheran pastor Rev. Behnken, preached a sermon about the 6th Commandment; and spoken candidly & strongly against ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’, and identified the various sins of immorality, such as: sex-outside-of-marriage, cohabitation, divorce & pornography. After church, one of his members came to pastor & said, “We wish you wouldn’t talk so plainly about sin. It will put things into the minds of our boys and girls. If our youth hear you talk about these kinds of sin, they’ll be that much more interested & attracted to those temptations.” Pastor led the man to the janitor’s closet, and -from the top shelf- took down a brown bottle labeled ‘danger, rat poison.’ And he said, “So what you want me to do is to remove this accurate & clear label, and replace it with a vague one that reads, ‘icky stuff’. If I do that, I make this poison more dangerous.”

The world, & the lying ‘ruler’ of this fallen world, continually re-labels deadly sins = some are icky, most are no-big-deal or your choice, & many sins are labeled fun or just an alternate lifestyle. To plainly identify wrong thoughts, words, or behaviors as ‘sin’ will get you accused of ‘hate speech’, of being judgmental & unloving. So sinners want to re-label sin. Even Christians would rather use nicer labels, such as: mistake, shortcoming, weakness, slipup, lapses in judgment. This hasn’t made sin less dangerous, but more dangerous to the soul.
If we minimize the deadly nature of sin & disobedience against God, this leads people to dabble thoughtlessly with some sin, until the sin end up taking control of their minds, hearts, & lives. That’s what the Spirit says thru James, chpt.1,vs.15 “Then desire -when it has conceived- gives birth to sin; and sin -when it is fully grown- brings forth death.” (James 1:15). No matter how the world renames the poison of sin, it disobeys God, is spiritually dangerous, & it brings forth death & hell.
About 500 years after Jesus, the NT Church was growing up & organizing. Gregory-the-Great was the church’s main leader, and began to establish the beginning of papal authority. That is, as the successors of the apostle Peter, they had the right & power to establish doctrines. One of the newer doctrines of the time was the teaching of ‘purgatory’ = that a soul has to be ‘purified of sins’ by going to a place of suffering after death and before entering heaven. So, Gregory devised a system in which all sins were organized under 7 classifications: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, & sloth. These were seen as the 7 main headings under which all sins could be grouped. Down thru the centuries they’ve been called the ‘seven deadly sins.’ While we reject the teaching of purgatory as unbiblical, we DO listen to the Holy Scriptures that condemn these 7 =and all sins= as deadly to the human soul; so deadly, that all sins -large or small- required a full & perfect blood payment on behalf of the sinner.

Whether we have the list of the 10 Commandments, or the lists of sins Paul identifies in his Epistles, we fully agree that all these sins & disobedience are spiritually dangerous, and when they are full-grown, they give birth to our eternal death.

All of us have sipped lightly =or drunk freely= of the rat poison of these sins. We need to recognize them for what they are, and humbly come before our God in confession.
God clearly identifies them so that we will stop doing those things that are spiritually killing us.

What a great blessing it is that God has designed His Church as the place of coming together, and encouraging each other in an open & honest confession of our sins. God is the One who will destroy the sinner in hell; but -before He does that- He calls us here to trust His word of mercy, and to come before Him & receive the one & only antidote for the deadly poison of sin. THIS is the chief reason we come here, into church, & guard & honor Sunday worship.
So, here we are, humbly turning away from our sins & disobedience, receiving His gracious forgiveness in Christ, and ready for another day, another week, to walk in obedience to God, according to His Bible’s holy ways. Here we’re reminded & prepared to face the temptations of our world, and especially of our own sinful nature & desires; so we come here to learn the truth of right & wrong, and to pray for & receive the strength of The Holy Spirit to beat down the dangerous influence of deadly sin in our Christian lives.

For the next few weeks, as we look closely at these 7 deadly sins, I pray that our faith will be strengthened in God’s life-giving grace & guidance for our souls.

The first deadly category is PRIDE. Today in Luke 14, Jesus touches on this area of sin. Proverbs says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (16:18).
We can put pride at the top as the original sin. Pride is the condition or attitude that is involved in all other sins. Sinful pride prompts us to honor & pay attention to ourselves above the strangers we meet; it leads us to listen to & respect ourselves also above our family members or fellow Christians; and it even leads us to love & obey ourselves above God Himself.

There was once an article written in U.S. News and World Report titled “Stock Up On Sin.” Trying to be humorous, the author suggested that you could prop-up your portfolio in ‘sin stocks’ = stocks in companies that provide products that support the 7 deadly sins. I suppose it’s a pretty good bet that humans are always going to do sinful things; so investing in those things will often turn a profit. What companies support human pride? Those that produce luxury cars, cosmetics, designer clothing, celebrity food fads, & other things that make one person feel better than another.

Now, God expects his creatures to respect & honor their own lives, to be healthy & productive, even to improve on the lives he has given to each of us. BUT we will be tempted to take it too far. The pride that God hates is not the healthy self-respect, or the sense of personal integrity & making good use of our blessings as children of God. Sinful pride is the overblown & undeserved self-esteem that we give ourselves, that is out of proportion to who and what we are. As one man said, “Pride leads people to swagger before other people and to strut before God.” The Lord says in Proverbs 8: “I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”

This undue self-importance may take different forms, such as spiritual pride, intellectual, material, or social pride; but all flow from our own sinful nature. In the end, the sinner cannot blame the devil or the world for going to hell; it’s the arrogant human heart that puts itself at the center of its universe & is to blame for deadly sin. Spiritual pride is the seedbed for all the others; it’s the first cause of all human sin.

Spiritual pride was behind the fall of the devil at the beginning. A smug & vain angel, traditionally called Lucifer, was cast out of heaven for that sin; then he displayed it to the first 2 humans.

Adam & Eve listened & then did not reject the devil’s idea that God had lied to them & unfair in restricting them from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan said they wouldn’t die, as God had warned; instead, they would ‘become like God’, free to determine for themselves what would be right & what would be wrong in their own lives. (pride goeth before the fall) So, just because someone said so, the deadly tree God said to avoid became ‘a delight to the eyes…to be desired to make one wise.’ (Gen 3:5–6). When self-assertion was conceived in them, it gave birth to sin, and in pride they rejected God’s good will for them. They ate the forbidden fruit in willful sin, and that little arrogance became the sin that brought forth death, to themselves and for the whole world.

We hear in Romans 5: “Sin came into the world thru one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” As offspring of mankind’s sinful parents, we are part of a sinful humanity, predisposed to the proud desire to choose our own way instead of God’s way. We share in Adam & Eve’s experience of being separated from God, and split from one another, deep-down resenting the facts that we can’t have what we want & do what we want, and that one day we’ll die. Some refuse to face these facts; so this pervasive, deadly pride makes them shake their fist at the universe & declare that there’s no God; others assert that their ‘god’ does whatever they want; and others decide it doesn’t matter, they’ll just live their life and find out in the end.

Of course, God is not happy with any of those. He speaks & makes himself known to us.
He calls on us to face up to the truth of our natural conceit, pride & sinfulness. He has not lied to us, ‘the wages of sin is death.’ He has also not lied when he has spoken to us about his plan to rescue us from this sin & death. And he has given to us one name in all the universe to be our deliverer and Savior: “Thanks be to God thru Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7)

Jesus Christ made his appearance and carried out the work of salvation all the way to the cross so as to rescue you from deadly spiritual pride. Those who believe in God’s one & only Son and are baptized in His name will be saved from all the poison & death.

And even tho we still carry around our sinful nature, the very Spirit of Jesus has been given to us so that we will turn away from our prides, and keep returning to God’s grace & forgiveness, …. and walk each day in the holy teachings of our God. So, we read in Eph.4, now “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life, and is corrupt thru deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” And in Phil.2 we read, for “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Atho our pride separates us, here in God’s presence, by his Word, Sacraments, & Spirit, together we are brought back to God and renewed in humble & holy living, to praise of our Savior Jesus Christ.
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After this basis of spiritual pride, we can recognize the other areas we can be prideful and bring ruin and misery into our lives. The areas are intellectual pride, material & social pride. The intellectually proud forget that our mental capacities & ability to learn not only varies in everyone, but they are specific gifts from God to each of us. Medically smart is no better or worse than mechanically smart; and those good with math & science are no better or worse than those good with art or music. Our humble Christian faith makes us appreciate all our differences & gifts, as long as those differences are in conformity with God’s holy teachings for this life. There is no justification for one person intellectually looking down on another. Our IQ is not a factor in this: ‘by grace you are saved, thru faith; and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift; not by works, so that no one can boast.’ This faith looks around and gives thanks to God for all people, and gives respect to all capacities.
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Another offspring of spiritual pride is material pride. Our temptation is to look at the things we have worked for & accumulated and praise our own efforts & abilities; looking down on others because they’re not so accomplished. It may be true that some are ‘slothful’, but this is not to be a source of pride & arrogance for us. 1Cor.4 asks us: “What do you have that you did not receive?” The Holy Spirit challenges us in 1Tim.6, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be (prideful & condescending), nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” Instead, (paul says) ‘be rich in good works, and being generous and ready to share.’

The last offspring of spiritual pride is social pride. Here, the Bible shows us the Pharisees, who would say things like “God, I thank You that I am not like other men.”(Luke 18) The sins of pride and prejudice go together, so that we will criticize & condemn others not only for their actions but also for what we think are their thoughts & motives. We will see their little faults & ignore our huge ones. In Luke 14, Jesus says that this pride will make us imagine we always deserve the seat of honor at the banquet; there’s no one there more important than us.
In Acts 10, we’re reminded that ‘God Himself shows no partiality or favoritism, but accepts people from every nation who fear him and do what is right.’ This is our true social reality: here in the house of the Lord we all are condemned on the same basis: our sin, large or small. And here in God’s house we confess with & to one another that we do not deserve any good thing from God based on our own efforts. Here there is no one superior or inferior; there is only repentance, humility, grace & forgiveness for all because of the work of the Son of God; who made himself socially nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, and humbled himself to the point of death, the death of our deserved cross. So, here we learn to view ourselves & each other rightly, fairly, graciously, so that we will uphold & encourage each other when we are not here, but are out there in our homes & school & places of work & play.
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‘Pride goeth before the fall.’ Human pride is a poison which leads to deadly sins; & we will not re-label what God has labeled. How thankful we are that the only human who was perfect in his person & position was not proud; he did not look down his nose at us and dismiss us as useless & not worth saving from hell. Instead, he saves us now, so that we will live a humble and fruitful life as a testimony to him as the world’s only Savior, and the world’s only teacher of what is right, and how to live in every God-pleasing way. He’s the one who says to you, “take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart.” (Matt 11:29).

Walking with Him, we will find ‘rest for our souls’ and strength in our struggle with all seven of the deadly sins.
Amen