What is the Pride of Life?

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
–1 John 2:16

We are born dying. When babies are hungry they scream their heads off because they are afraid of dying. Someone needs to give them food, they can’t get it themselves, and they will annoy you until they get their food.

This same fear of death drives our lives. Most of our ambition and motivation in life is centered in fearing death.

Now, you probably don’t actually think, “I’m going to buy me some more ice cream cuz I’m afraid to die.” Motives are rarely that obvious.

But you are wired from birth to fight for your life. To view your life as the most important life out there. You are, in your own mind, the center of the universe.

Part of the job of a parent is to teach their kid that she isn’t the only person in the universe. (I believe this is the downfall of the self-esteem movement, which actually teaches kids to view themselves even more so as the center of the universe. This will continue to have disastrous effects.)

We go through life thinking about ourselves and doing whatever we have to do to get ahead, and if that means stepping on others; so be it.

We then go about demonstrating our awesomeness with showy displays. Sometimes it’s as simple as lying about and exaggerating the stories of our life. Sometimes it’s shown with possessions and a demonstration of our wealth we attained with our skillz.

This display of our awesome we selfishly gained, is the pride of life.

Satan was a beautiful angel. He was proud of himself and determined to get his own power. This led to his downfall. Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Satan thinks what he did was pretty cool. He thinks you should follow him. Satan even tempted Christ to go his way.

Jesus Christ showed He was no normal human because He rejected Satan’s temptations. Jesus Christ was immune to the pride of life.

When Jesus Christ was ministering on this earth, He did not bother with educational degrees, letters of recommendation, signs of wealth or status, and in fact, He had no place to lay His head.

One of the signs of the Messiah is that He talked to poor people (Matthew 11:5)! Rich, famous, highly esteemed people have no time for poor people. Jesus did.

Jesus Christ lived a life completely devoid of the pride of life. It was free of living for human approval or applause. Jesus Christ did not come to keep people happy and impress them; Jesus Christ came to do the will of His Father.

As followers of Christ, the same temptation is laid out for us. Will we live for this world or for the world to come? Will we live for human approval or for God’s approval? Will we hoard the things of this world or lay up treasure in heaven? Will we follow our will or the will of our Lord and Creator? Will we live for what man esteems or for what God esteems? Will we serve ourselves or by love serve others?

The pride of life will keep you from eternal life. It, in fact, fights against everything eternal life stands for.

Set your affections on things above, not on things of this earth. The things of this earth are temporal, the things that are not seen are eternal.

Choose you this day which life is most important to you: this temporal one or the eternal one to come. All decisions are based on that simple choice.

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Two Sides of Death

Satan is a murderer from the beginning. He deceived Adam and Eve into doing what would kill them. Satan wants you dead.

You are born into this world which is under Satan’s power as he is the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air. Death reins in his domain.

You are born fearing death. Fear of death makes you selfish. You will trample on anyone in order to get your way and preserve your life. Note the anger in little babies when they are hungry!

Death, and the fear of it, are Satan’s largest weapons he uses against you. This is what the “pride of life” is all about.

Here’s where the genius of God enters the picture!

Satan’s biggest weapon is death. God takes death and turns it into the biggest weapon of righteousness!

God sent His Son, made of a woman, a human-flesh person in order to die. But after Christ died, He was raised again. He conquered death.

O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
–1 Corinthians 15:55

Death is Satan’s tool to defeat us; death is God’s tool to bring us victory.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just about some nice guy who lived 2,000 years ago who died on a cross. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about identifying yourself with the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is explained in detail in Romans 6 and briefly in Galatians 2:20,

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Our old man has been crucified with its affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24).

Satan wants to defeat you with death, even before you’re dead, he wants to terrify you about death and make you selfish, life-hoarding narcissists.

Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ you are all ready dead! You no longer fear death because you’re all ready dead!

This is a vital aspect of what the Gospel is all about and yet rarely explained.

Present your bodies a living sacrifice. We are the living dead.

This all sounds great! Freedom from fear. Victory over death. The ability to resist the devil. What’s the down side?

Did you read the words above? YOU ARE ALL READY DEAD.

Since you’re already dead, you don’t live for your selfish needs anymore. You sacrifice your body for the good of others, to show the love of Christ. Just as Christ gave up His will and died for us; His followers give up their will and die for others.

We die daily. We are counted as sheep for the slaughter. Mortify your members that are upon the earth. You are not your own.

People don’t like that part of the message. Yeah, we like the death is swallowed up in victory bit, but not how that actually gets realized.

Unless, of course, you are born again. Then this is the greatest news ever. There is nothing finer than letting go of the old life and seeing all things as new. Not living for temporal comforts, but by love serving others.

It’s a massive relief. An unburdening of the soul. A true freedom and liberty.

It’s a letting go of all earthly things to lay hold on eternal life. No fear, except fear of God. No lust, except coveting earnestly the best spiritual gifts. No worry, except a concern for doing as much good as we can for others.

The fear of death is what keeps people in bondage. You don’t have to wait until you’re dead to die! Through the Gospel you can die to this life right now, and be raised to newness of life.

It’s a beautiful thing and your flesh hates every bit of it. Walk in the Spirit and put off the stupid flesh!

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
–Hebrews 2:14-15

The Obvious Point of Following Christ Most Miss

As I’ve said many times before, Christianity is way too happy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being happy, but how you achieve happiness is vital.

Modern notions of Christian happiness (around since the Higher Life, Victorious Living notions of 19th Century Keswick Theology) say that happiness results from one happy experience to the next. We’re happy because we trip over one happy fortuitous deal after the next. Following Jesus keeps me from all trouble and brings me into success and thrills.

This is complete hooey and will destroy your soul. Eventually, you’ll forget about the following Christ part and will just start going after one thrilling experience to the next.

Life isn’t one happy thing to the next. It’s just not how it works. The New Testament certainly does not portray life this way. “In this life you will have tribulation” are exact words from Christ.

“All creation groans and travails in pain together” says Paul. Not only all creation, but “even we ourselves who have the firstfruits of he Spirit groan within ourselves” (Romans 8:22-23).

Paul’s point is that all lifeforms on earth suffer and there is no magic exception for those with the Spirit.

Instead, the authors of the New Testament tell us that followers of Christ will have another layer of suffering on top of normal creation suffering. It’s a suffering brought about by following Christ.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15–if there is no resurrection we are of all men most miserable. In other words, if there’s no life to come, Christian life is the most miserable life a person can live!

Christians are literally little Christ’s, that’s what many think the original Greek word means. We are followers of Christ.

Jesus Christ is described as a man of sorrows acquainted with grief who had no place to lay His head. He came unto His own and His own received Him not. He was a prophet who received no honor among His people.

Remember, this is the One we follow.

Jesus Christ came in the form of a servant and became obedient even unto death on the cross. He was despised and rejected. He was spit upon, whipped, and mocked. Then He was crucified.

We follow this Man.

Not sure how we can get “following Christ leads to health and wealth” out of that.

The Bible does use the word “happy.” Notice the context of everything the Bible says we are happy about though:

Blessed are the poor in spirit. The word “blessed” means happy, prosperous, and fortunate.

Happy are those who mourn.

Happy are the meek.

Happy are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Harpy are the merciful.

Happy are the pure in heart.

Happy are the peacemakers.

Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

Happy are you when all men revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you.

Notice anything about that list?

We think happiness comes from one thrilling, joyous activity after the next. But God knows better. God knows that one material success after another kills the soul. God knows that suffering is good for us. Suffering is what allows us to feel and have true joy!

Hope is a big word in Christianity. Hope is about the future. The life to come. Hope drives us on. It was for the joy set before Him that got Christ to endure the cross. Hope.

Hope means there’s a better time coming, which means the time right now aint that great. Life aint great, but this aint the only life!

Suffering here prepares us and increases our glory there. That is the basis of true joy even in suffering.

For God, true happiness, true prosperity lies in treasure in heaven that will last for eternity. Don’t sell your soul for temporal happy toys. Lay hold on eternal life and put your treasure in heaven. That will hurt here, but will feel awesome for eternity!

The Pitfall of Success

There’s a lot of talk about success. As my kids get older and leave the house for college, they are surrounded by success talk and how they need to take over the world and be the best.

I heard a good phrase the other day, went something like, “there should be less talk about success and more talk about excellence.”

I think that’s spot-on. Do a good job; don’t worry about definers of success.

For most, “success” means money, followers, recognition, and other physical measurements of accomplishment. None of which necessarily mean anything. One of the Kardashians has over 100 million Twitter followers.

To most, 100 million Twitter followers is success. I would not accuse any Kardashian of being successful! That’s not success in my book.

I don’t want my kids to succeed if succeed means selling your soul to get money, fame, and celebrity. That stuff ruins people.

One of the pitfalls, the inherent weaknesses, of the Old Covenant was that success would be the result of listening to God.

If Israel kept their law they would dwell in their land and defeat enemies and have material success. God knew from the outset this would be devastating to them.

For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant.
–Deuteronomy 31:20

Remember this is said before they even got in the Land! God knew what was going to happen. Sure enough Israel gets success under Solomon and he gets arrogant, disobeys God, and the nation is divided.

The New Covenant is altogether different. We’re told repeatedly in the New Testament that if we listen to God bad things will happen to us!

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
–2 Timothy 3:12

Following Christ results in Christlike results. Christ was crucified. That’s why following Christ is referred to as “taking up the cross.”

We are counted as sheep for the slaughter. We are killed all the day long. Mortify your members on the earth. Present your body a living sacrifice.

No one likes this message. The popular Christian message is “follow Christ and you’ll get health and wealth.” What’s the difference between that and the Old Covenant’s “follow the law and you’ll get health and wealth?”

The Old Covenant didn’t work. The New Covenant, which is better according to the Book of Hebrews, keeps us from the trap of material success.

The New Covenant begins with us humbly receiving the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then leads to humbly having the mind of Christ, who was a servant who laid down His life for others.

The New Covenant keeps us humble and keeps us from the trap of material success. We’re told that you can’t serve God and mammon–mammon represents material success.

Watch out for success and even for the lustful desire to accomplish material success. It destroys the soul.

Think Before Communicating

The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.
–Proverbs 15:28

What a great piece of wisdom!

The righteous “studieth” to answer. Studieth is from a Hebrew word most often translated as “meditate.”

A righteous person thinks before he speaks. He doesn’t fly off the handle and get sucked into quick back and forth where dumb things are said.

That, in fact, is what the wicked person does. He “pours out evil things.”

To “pour out” means to gush forth. When wicked people open their mouths, evil flows!

It seems that silence is a bad thing in our society. When someone pauses before they answer a question, we think they are hiding something, or stupid.

In reality, taking a little bit of time before writing that comment, or spouting your opinion, or giving your flippant answer will keep the world from a flood of stupid.

Think before you speak. Think before you write. Think before you even give off rude body language or sighing or rolling your eyes or any sort of communication.

Think before reacting. That’s what righteous people do and one more major reason why we need the constant ministry of the Holy Spirit!

Backfiring Prayers

I prayed something this morning that I rarely, if ever pray.

Recently I have heard about several people having accidents and health complications. Bad stuff. Hospital involving stuff. No fun. Gross. Yuck. Painful. I feel so bad for people who have to suffer in hospitals.

So, one of the things that made it into my morning prayer was praying for my physical health and that I wouldn’t get hurt today!

As soon as I prayed it my brain thought, “Uh-oh! You know what’s going to happen today don’t you?”

A little bit later I was out on a 4-mile run, something I do four or five times a week. Sure enough, at the mile and three-quarters mark, this unbelievable pain entered my lower back over my left hip.

It actually made me pull up and limp to a stop. It was excruciating pain! “I knew it,” my brain said. “That’s what you get for praying for physical health!”

I went off the side of the road and stretched and walked and slowly got back to a jog and then began running again. The pain mostly went away. Who knows if there will be lingering effects.

I’m sure I’m fine. It’s several hours later that I’m writing this and there’s no pain.

Well, maybe because I prayed that pain went away! Maybe that was my lesson: what would have happened if I hadn’t prayed that?! Or, maybe it was a lesson that when I pray for physical health God reminds me to pray about higher things by giving me physical pain on that very day.

Such things are open for interpretation. This is probably an area where praying Christians have more confusion than the non-praying person.

I believe that prayer changes things. I have no idea what things, nor what changes. But I know it does something.

I also think most of our prayers are on a surface level that becomes somewhat discouraging to God, or not, maybe “discouraging” isn’t the right word. He wants to hear from us; I just bet He wishes we’d ask for better things besides physical comforts.

Anyway, I have no point.

This is just one experience in one day of one believer. Thinking about prayer and life. Pray more. We should all pray more. Go pray. Just be careful what you pray for! Or not, I don’t know! Just pray!

Good Conformity and Bad Conformity

“Be not conformed to the world” is Paul’s command in Romans 12:2. Believers have no business acting like worldly people. Come out from among them and be separate.

This is done by presenting your bodies as a living sacrifice to carry out God’s will. This is all highly reasonable, according to Paul.

Conformity means “to fashion yourself to another’s pattern.” To change into the same thing with someone else.

The world has a specific way of acting, living, and thinking. Don’t act, live, or think like them!

Peter’s version of Romans 12:1-2 is in 1 Peter 1:14-15:

As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation

“Fashioning” is the same Greek word translated “conform” in Romans 12:2.

But Christianity is not just a list of things not to do; it’s also a new way of life. Since you are not spending all your resources on sin anymore, what should you be doing with those resources?

The answer is: live like Christ. Give yourself for the benefit of others. Instead of being conformed to the world (bad conformity), be conformed to the image of Christ, fashion yourself after His pattern (good conformity).

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son
–Romans 8:29a

Perhaps a more fascinating way of putting it, or more troubling, depending on how you look at it, is what Paul says in Philippians 3:10:

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death

Being conformed to Christ’s death is a devastating teaching to your selfish flesh that wants its way all the time.

This is what Christ talks about when He tells His followers to deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow Him. It’s what Paul means by being a living sacrifice.

Our old man is crucified with its affections and lusts. There is a real death to who we were before. Live like you’re dead. Live as though your life is not the main focus. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Conform yourself to His thinking and His death and His life.

There is much in here. A lifetime of discovery as you find out what areas of your flesh are still kicking, what deeds of the body need to be mortified, and how the new life in Christ needs to emerge.

This is all part of believing the Gospel and being set free from sin. It’s a beautiful thing. Don’t let your flesh convince you otherwise!