Obstacles to Worship | #12 – Our Most Unrecognized Sin
There is a sin in each of our lives that often goes unrecognized. Ironically, we will spot it in the lives of others quicker than in our own. This sin as at the root of all of our other sins—from the fall in the Garden, to David’s sin with Bathsheba, to Judas’ betrayal, to every time we have fallen when tempted. It lurks beneath all of our doubts, our difficulties with others, and very often our inability to draw near to the Lord in worship.
If you haven’t guessed it already, this sin is pride. At this point many will roll their eyes, say, “Yeah, yeah,” and tune out. This is because, as glaringly obvious as it is in others, pride is something we fail to see or take seriously in our own lives. “Jonathan Edwards called pride ‘the worst viper that is in the heart’ and ‘the greatest disturber of the soul’s peace and sweet communion with Christ’; he ranked pride as the most difficult sin to root out, and ‘the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all lusts’” (CJ Mahaney).
In fact, if we were to compare the writings of past generations of Christians, we would find much more of an emphasis on the seriousness of this sin, and efforts to purge oneself from it. Gary Thomas observed, “I rarely hear a sermon (in fact, I don’t remember hearing one) that talks about pride with the same seriousness that you read about it in the classics. Our evangelical culture seems preoccupied with sexual sin and greed, but the ancients usually talked about pride and the need to love others.” Those who have gone before us often spoke of pride as the root of all the other sins. Andrew Murray said, “The lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure.” John Climacus said, “A proud monk needs no demon. He has turned into one, an enemy to himself.”
Any time we sin we are deciding to go against God’s way and choosing to be sovereign in our own lives. We are saying we prefer our way to God’s way, to meet our needs through our own provision and not waiting upon Him, that we feel safer taking our lives into our own control than surrendering to His, that we know better than He does what is best for us. Even did this when she decided to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden. David did that when he decided to take what he wanted at any cost. Each time we step out from under the sovereign will of God we are pridefully putting ourselves on the throne, and, in essence, worshipping ourselves rather than God. He does not accept rivals to His rule, and does not permit us to serve/worship two masters.
Whenever we dwell in pride we are being as unlike Christ as we can be. Philippians 2 tells us that Christ humbled Himself, took on our flesh, and died for us, and it instructs us to have this same attitude—one of humility with God and man. If the goal of our sanctification is to be like Christ, to be made into His image, then we must actively search out and flee any area of pride we find. Otherwise we are following in Satan’s steps rather than Jesus’. Satan’s sin was in pridefully determining to become God and receive the worship due Him alone. Our own pride sets us on that same path.
Jesus said the truth of scripture could be boiled down to two things: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Pride keeps us from doing either of those things. CJ Mahaney has said, “Pride also undermines unity…Show me a church where there’s division, where there’s quarreling, and I’ll show you a church where there’s pride.” And Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth notes, “The sobering reality is that proud, unbroken Christians have done far more damage to the Church of Jesus Christ than any sinner outside the Church could inflict.” Scripture is clear that we cannot be right with God if we are not right with fellow believers, so pride keeps us back from Him on both fronts.
Scripture tells us that God is not only displeased with pride, it is the one sin He says He actively opposes or resists. James and Peter both say that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Psalm 138:6 tells us that He knows the haughty from afar. Psalm 119:21 says that God rebukes the arrogant. Solomon says that pride is among those things that God hates. The list and examples go on and on. The chief reason the religious leaders of Jesus’ time missed Him as their Messiah was their religious pride. Ken Gire said, “There is no pride God opposes as much as religious pride.” Nancy Wolgemuth wrote, “God’s word reveals that He is not as concerned about the depth or extent of the sin we commit as He is about our attitude and response when we are confronted with our sin…Could it be that God is more offended by those of us who appear to be respectable and spiritual, but who have proud, unteachable spirits, than He is by adulterers, fornicators, sodomites, etc. who make no pretense of being godly?”
Indeed, “The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is lack of humility. Every seeker after holiness must be on his guard, so that, unconsciously, what was begun in the Spirit is perfected in the flesh, and pride does not creep in where its presence is least expected” (Andrew Murray). It is something that we must be on guard against continually. It is something that we should become more sensitive to as we grow in our faith, not less. The nearer we draw to God in worship, the hotter the fire, the brighter the light that searches us for those vestiges of pride that would keep us back from Him. Francois Fenelon reassures us, “As the inner light increases, you will see the imperfections which you have heretofore as basically much greater and more harmful than you had seen them up to the present…But this experience, far from discouraging you, will help to uproot all your self-confidence, and to raze to the ground the whole edifice of pride. Nothing marks so much the solid advancement of a soul, as this view of his wretchedness without anxiety and without discouragement.” Thus, rather than turning away from a realization of our pride, the benefits of seeking such glimpses far outweigh the pain in the long run.
If we want to enhance our ability to draw near to the Lord, it is good to regularly check ourselves for evidences of pride. First we must ask the Lord to make it as glaring to us as it is to others (a request He seems all too willing to fulfill). Ask Him to make the scriptures about pride and humility stand out in neon to you. Next, we should find a tool to help with the process. Revive Our Hearts has a good one that can be accessed at here. We need to use this frequently, because pride is relentless in creeping back. Another good aid is to read some books that address Humility. Andrew Murray, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, CJ Mahaney, RT Kendall all have good books on the subject (if you know of other good resources, you can mention them in the comment section). While this exercise, done correctly, will bring pain, it will be a healing pain. It will make our worship sweeter than we’ve ever known because it will show us more of what God overcame to love us and give us the grace of His saving presence.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries