Diminishing God

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“Wherefore, as I live, says the Lord God; surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable things, and with all your abominations, therefore will I also diminish you; neither shall My eye spare, neither will I have any pity.” Ezekiel 5:11

 

How often do we think of desolation of the Temple as coming from within? This is so easy to miss. When thinking about the destruction of the Holy Temple we think about Rome coming in and forcing a pig to be offered to desecrate the Temple. Or maybe we think of the final desecration of the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem before the last days, and an anti-Christ who does the same. But God is telling us in Ezekiel that desecration is closer than we think, that God’s own people desecrate the temple.

Isn’t that a terrible thought? The Jews themselves were guilty of defiling the sanctuary and bringing detestable things within its walls. The Jews themselves, yes, the people of God, were bringing abominations in. Really? Were they bringing pigs and things like that in? No. But they were busy bringing diminished ideas of God inside His own temple.

 

That word for diminished is gara in Hebrew. It means “to clip, diminish, restrain, keep back, withdraw.” Now listen to what Eliphaz said to Job, “Do you hear the secret counsel of God, and limit wisdom to yourself? (Job 15:8) That’s a good question. Do I hear God’s word and then think I can interpret it how I want? Do I really understand everything as I ought? Can I really know it on my own or do I need the Holy Spirit, the forefathers and other believers who have really dug in? Is this a process of becoming or do I know all right now? Can I decide for myself or is this something I live out in the community of believers? Would I really think so highly of myself as to “limit God’s wisdom to my understanding?”

Do I forget that though God comes to us individually and leaves the 99 for the 1 that is lost, the goal is to bring the 100 into the fold? Do I forget that the power of God exists in community, in unity with God and with other believers? Do I forget that I need accountability? Do I forget that I need others to help me see in myself what I’m blind to? Do I forget that the Holy Spirit will never teach me or lead me in a way that is against God’s words?

But that’s what happens when I diminish God and His word. Yes, God comes to people personally, but not for us to be our own people. He comes to us personally so that we can choose to become His people, grafted in as one, grafted in not only with each other, but grafted in with Him. Therefore, we live like Him and love like Him and respond like Him and make much of Him because He becomes our everything and all those who are held so dear to Him become dear to us.

When I think I am the gift of God, I make living about me, not about God and not about His people. I make my goals and my desires more important. I diminish God and make myself a type of god. I think I have the right to point out specks in other people’s eyes and not see the log in my own. (Luke 6:41) I bear fruit of my own liking and not of God, bad fruit instead of good, bad fruit that I somehow convince myself tastes and looks good. (Luke 6:43) I call God, “Lord,” but I don’t treat You as Lord because really I’m my own lord. (Luke 6:46) I hear what You say but I don’t do it because I’ve diminished Your agenda and glorified my own.

When I take care of number 1, you know, me, I desecrate Your Holy Temple because that’s not what You desire. Your command is to love God and to love others. Acts 4:32 expressed true “temple” worship, “and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” And that’s the truth that doesn’t defile. Everything I have or am is because God has given it to me or in me. The Temple belongs to God. The instruments are His, the design is His, how it works is His idea. My purpose is to fulfill His idea, not mine. My purpose in life is to be fit in like His divine puzzle piece. I don’t even have the ability to fit myself. To think I do is the greatest farce. This is God’s playwright, He wrote it, it’s His, and we’re His players, and that’s the best place to be, looking to Him as Director so we get it right.

Lord, I don’t want to diminish You by having an attitude that I have it all under control or even know what I’m doing. I want to live under Your direction and I want to be sensitive to the direction of those who have heeded before me and along with me. I want to remember that I’m not a lone player and that I don’t get to write the script, or my script, or any one else’s script, but that You are the Script Writer. I don’t want to look clean on the outside and be a nasty cup on the inside because I’m in control. I want You to be in control, because who in the world am I to even think otherwise? I concede. After all, the temple was just a model of something greater. And Jesus, You told us, “something greater than the temple is here.” And I’m more than willing, I’m desperately in need of surrendering to You because the one who created the temple is greater than the temple. I want You to be God. Don’t let me diminish You in my life or in anyone else’s life. Let me let You be God in my life and all those around me. You know, You’re gonna be God because it’s who You are and I or anyone else can’t stop it. But I can keep myself and others from seeing it. Lord, don’t let that happen. I want to see You as You are. And I want to be an instrument that allows others to see You in Your fullness also.

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An Uncommon Vessel

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“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life–is not from the Father but is from the world.”  1 John 2:15,16

Some masks totally hide the identity of who is behind them.  Batman’s whole face is covered and his voice is different from his “nonhero” character.  Spiderman’s face is totally hidden.  But then there are characters like Zorro who only where’s a mask that covers his eyes.  And of course, he is so brave and his “alterego” is such a pacifist.  But I still think it’s funny noone can recognize him.  I mean, you can even see the color of his eyes.  It’ s like what the Green Lantern’s girlfriend says, “Do you think I wouldn’t recognize you just because I couldn’t see your cheekbones?”  Funny what deception makes us think people see or don’t see.  Funny what deception can do in our lives.

Pride is a great deceiver.  It’s one of those masks over the eyes.  And people who really know us, well, they know the truth.  But we can fool others.  And we can so easily fool ourselves into believing whatever we want to about ourselves.  And we can not even realize that we’re even wearing that silly mask of pride.  Oh, wait a minute.  Did I say silly?  How wrong of me.  I should have said evil.  Oh, wait, was that too strong?  Well, let’s look into pride in God’s Word, because I want to understand pride as He sees it.  I want to know the danger of pride.  I want to know where pride leads.  And I want to know how to be free of pride.

So let’s go to Psalm 10:4.  The Psalmist, who was inspired by You, Lord, says, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not see after God:  God is not in all his thoughts.”  Hmmm.  Seems as though being wicked and pride go hand in hand.  Oh, well maybe that just means someone who did a bad thing.  Maybe that doesn’t mean evil; maybe it doesn’t really mean wicked.  Well, Strong’s concordance says it means “morally wrong; concretely an (actively) bad person: condemned, guilty, ungodly…”  I think that’s pretty strong.  Still not sure?  Well, here’s what Skip Moen, a Messianic believer who understands Hebrew from a Jewish perspective shares about this word “rasha” from another verse that David speaks in Scripture, “The word means those who are guilty because of their actions or because they have been condemned.  They act in ways that are contrary to God’s character, hostile to the community and intent on producing chaos.  God opposes such people.  These people live a life style that is incommensurable with God’s revealed nature.  But they are not eternally lost.  They can repent.  They can be restored.  They can change direction—if they confess and return to the ways of the Lord.”  So here is where pride has us starting; that’s the condition of our heart and life when we baby pride.

But what is pride?  The Hebrew word for pride is “gobahh.”   The concordance tells us it means “elation, grandeur, arrogance.”  But realize it’s not just arrogance over others.  It’s arrogance over God.  The wickedness is in that pride leads a person to live in some particular way that is not lining up with Your revealed nature, God.  In other words, pride says, “I know better, God.  I can do that my own way.”  Paul uses another tense of these words elsewhere in Scripture, “hyperephanoi.”  The “hyper” part means “above,”  “beyond,” or “over.”  In this case it would imply “what appears or shines.”  And instead of shining about the reality of God’s character it’s shining about “the reconstruction of God’s world in order to shine light on ourselves.”  Guess who the limelight is on?  It’s not on You, Lord.  So it’s all about a life that revolves around the wrong source.  Instead of my life and actions revolving around the Source of Life, it revolves around me.  And I’ve given me this capital m without even realizing it.  And I don’t even realize I’m addicted to my own glory.

It’s more than not nice.  It’s more than bad.  It’s an abomination to God.  Oh, that just means that You, God are displeased.  Really?  No, it means that You, God, hate it.  You detest it.  Those are really strong feelings against it.  Here’s the other related word used, “huperairomai,” which means “to lift above.”  Only this time in Scripture it’s in this present passive tense which implies that something, this arrogance, this pride “is done to me.”  I am it’s victim.  “Sin, residing in my natural self, takes hold of the opportunity to make an ego case out of my encounter with the living God and attempts to convert glory to God into glorification of self.”  (Skip Moen)  Job realized a crucial point we all need to realize, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”  (Job 1:21)  Do I know what that means, Lord?  I came into this world without a “hidden agenda.”  I have no strength.  I am at my best that way, the way the Lord created me to be, just like Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:25.  “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”  They were dependent upon You, Lord, in all Your glory and power and reality.  No pride.

So, here’s the basics of what the deformity of pride does in my life, if I allow it to victimize me.  I will not see after God.  You, Lord will not be in all my thoughts.  Why?  Because my delight won’t be in pleasing You and in Your ways but in pleasing me and my ways.  But let’s keep digging deeper.  If I don’t let pride victimize me, You will hide me in the secret of Your presence!  but if I let pride victimize me, I’ll be bound in the “strife of tongues.” (Psalm 31:20)  I wonder if that is bitter words and arguments.  Maybe that’s tied up with having to be right and having to be number one.

Psalm 36:11 tells me that I need Your protection from pride in my life just as much as I need Your protection from wicked people against me.  Psalm 59:12 tells me that pride will cause me to sin with my mouth and with the words on my lips.  Pride will cause me to curse and speak lies.

Now, I want to say something here, that I can be just as guilty of falling victim to pride and getting lost in it as anyone else.  And I want to state that this is not just a nonbeliever problem.  This is David and Job and Paul and me that needed God’s intervention.  Believers need to guard against pride continually.  And that’s the perspective that I’m looking through here.  Let me explain.

This may seem like a digression, but I pray it’s a Holy digression.  My dear friend, Jessica, once told me a story about when You, Lord, first called her into missions.  And she had been a dentist with her own practice, even two practices.  And one day someone came to her and wanted to give her a monetary gift but she answered, “No thank you, I don’t need that.”  But a friend who had been in missions longer came over to her and shared this, “Jessica, when someone offers you a gift, you need to accept it.  This is God’s way of giving them an opportunity to join with Him in blessing others.  When we refuse their blessing, their gift, we are refusing them the opportunity to obey God and blocking their blessing.”  Ever since that day, she has looked at it differently, and since she shared with me, so have I.

But I have a loved one who professes Christ in their life.  And that person will give to the needs of others.  And they are in need.  But this person gets angry every time it is suggested that they let the body of Christ serve them.  This person is angry when the body of Christ gave and returned it and said, “I don’t need that.”  This person will not let the body of Christ help.  Why?  Well the latest reason was stated like this.  “I don’t want a group of people here doing their own thing.  I want one person that I can tell how to do it my way.”  Pride is a lonely lifestyle.  My friend Jessica has friends all over the world.  She never tried to find them,  but God has provided them.  This other relative, lacks help, or has one person every now and than, because they’ve blocked off those that You, Lord would bring en masse.

Psalm 73:6 says, “Therefore pride compasses them about as a chain; violence covers them as a garment.”  Did you know that this person now gets angry and holds grudges?  They didn’t used to.  But now they do.  Do you know it’s effected a relationship, well, more than one?

Proverbs 8:13 tells me that if I fear You, Lord, then I will hate these things:  evil, pride, arrogancy, the evil way, and a froward mouth.  I need to feel about pride the way you do.  Did I notice that pride was right beside two of EVIL things?

What else does pride bring?  Proverbs 11:2 tells me that pride brings shame.  Isn’t that what happened to Adam and Eve when they took up their own agenda instead of Yours? But if I guard myself, and cry out to You to keep me humble, I can wisely discern when pride is trying to creep in.  I don’t have to be a victim.  I can be victorious.

Pride brings contention because then I am not one in mind with You.  If I am one in mind with my own mind, I’m alone.  I have to argue my point.  I have to be right.  Someone else is always wrong.  Peace is only present when I am right.  But with You advising, when I submit to the mind of Christ, I don’t have to be right, and I don’t have to convince, because that’s all in Your hands.  All I have to do is obey and love.  I can walk away and pray and keep loving someone who doesn’t agree.  But in pride, I can’t do that.  That’s what Proverbs 13:10 tells me.

Pride is foolishness.  It causes a professing Christian to say, “That preacher is whiny.”  “I don’t like the way that Christian artist sings.”  “Jesus isn’t King of the Gentiles.”  “They are such idiots for not seeing.”  “Internet is evil.”  “We can only serve alongside people who believe exactly what we believe.”  Check out Proverbs 14:3.

Pride leads to one place.  Destruction.  Your going to fall.  I’m going to fall.  Who ever becomes it’s victim, is going to fall.  It’s inevitable.  Unless you repent, unless I repent, unless I turn from my WICKED way and turn back to Your way which is letting You have Your way.  Not only that, but it effects my spirit.  (Proverbs 16:18)  It will bring one down or low, depress us.  It will make me sink, humiliate me, and debase me.  (Proverbs 29:23)

Don’t think that no one else notices.  Anyone who is close with us can see it.  But people will hear of it.  They’ll see.  Even if I don’t.  Arrogancy shows.  Pride shows.  Haughtiness isn’t easily hidden or covered up.  You don’t try.  By the time it gets like this, you’re proud of it.  It’s like a badge of honor.  Only, from the outside looking in, it doesn’t look or feel so honorable to others.  And it’s root is a heart issue.  (Jeremiah 48:29)

It’s a terrible heart issue.  Jeremiah refers to it as terribleness.  It’s when I don’t even realize I’m being terrible, I’m thinking terribly.  I’m the most deceived.  My terribleness in pride has deceived me.  I’m it’s victim and I don’t even know it.  And it started in my heart.  It started when I took back my heart and it became my own instead of Yours, Lord.  I decided to lift myself up instead of You and instead of others.  But it’s a dangerous place to be, on the top when You weren’t created to be there.  (Jeremiah 49:16)

Don’t think that pride isn’t the worst sin, because it’s right in the midst of the worst of the worst.  Think of the most sinful cities in the Bible.   How about Sodom?  What was her sin?  “…pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her…”  Notice what was listed first.  Pride.  I wonder if “fulness of bread” meant decent wealth and provision, and if abundance of idleness meant complacency?  I wonder if pride leads me to care for myself and to not share like You share, so I waste my  God-given resources on my own pleasures and complacent about the things where You are calling me to join in with You.  Instead of being abundantly generous and reaching out to those in need, I don’t even have any idea of all You are doing around me.  (Ezekiel 16:49)  “The poor and the needy, who cares?  Tell them get a job.”  Only, You care, Lord, and You call me to care and join in with You on doing something about it.

See, the silly thing is that pride makes me think I have power.  But You are the One that brings things to pass.  “How many people have you lead to the Lord?”  Really?  Isn’t that easy to get prideful over?  Who is really leading?  Aren’t You, Jesus, leading me as You lead those around me to You?  I’m so learning that every good God thing that happens in my life is so because of You and just because I surrender to You.  My closest friends aren’t because I’m such a good friend.  It’s because You are so good in me and for me and in them and for them.  My gifts being used to encourage others wouldn’t be gifts if You weren’t enabling them.  Any power I have is only because of Your power being exhibited in me.  Take that away and I’m just a puffed up empty power tower.  (Ezekiel 30:6)

Pride lifts up my heart for me instead of for You and for me instead of for others.  It puts everything in a wrong perspective.  Actually, remember, wrong is taking this too lightly.  It puts everything into an evil perspective.  It’s the same perspective that Satan had when his heart was lifted up and he wanted to be on the throne instead of You, Lord.  So His mind was hardened in pride.  And he wants to entrap our hearts and minds also.  I wonder if pride is one of the hardest sins to break free from because of that hardening of the mind?  Once I let pride take hold, it opens me up to partake in so many dark ways and think I’m right.  And this is the shame, because we were created to rule on this earth with You.  But when pride takes over, You have to depose us.  Because the throne was never ours.  Our glory is only in You and if You aren’t in me, well, I no longer have any glory.  (Daniel 5:20)

The hardening of pride in our hearts and minds is a dangerous thing.  Pride will keep me from turning.  I can stand their and look into Your face and still not see You for who You really are.  I can stand their and be confronted with my sin and I won’t see it for what it is.  And because of the pride, I won’t return to You, my God.  Why?  Because You have ceased to be recognized as God in my heart.  I’ve made a new image and, well, You just don’t fit that image any more.  I’ve stopped seeking You, because I found my own way.  Now how sad is that?  (Hosea 7:10)  How sad is it when the pride of my own heart deceives me?  (Obadiah 1:3)

Now, pride doesn’t just come out in puffing ourselves up against You, Lord.  That’s terrible enough in itself.  But when I let my pride control me then I start finding fault with Your people.  I will find myself starting to back away from true fellowship because everyone doesn’t agree with me.  I will start seeing that disagreement as a reproach on them.  Well, it’s not me that needs to change.  They are all wrong.  Pride is a lonely path.  (Zephaniah 2:10)

Pride is a lonely, evil path.  It’s listed right in the midst of sins like “thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye (greed), blasphemy, pride, foolishness…”  (Mark 7:22)  Jesus said that “all these evil things come from within and defile a man.”  “Defile” is from the word “koinoo”.  It’s telling us that God cleanses.  He makes something common into something uncommon, no, even better, He takes what is nothing and makes it Godly- pure, righteous, true, powerful, beautiful.  I have one thing, sin.  It’s all that is legally or rightfully mine.  Naturally, I’m everything in Mark’s list.  It’s all I have to offer.  Isn’t it absurd to take pride in that?  Because here is what You, Lord, let me do.  You let me offer all that pride and junk called sin to You.  You take my pride and junk and sin in the power of Jesus Christ, and instead You give me everything that is in You.  How fair is that?  Who else would do that for me.  I gave You wretchedness and You give me riches and glory.

Now here You have gone and made me something I never was.  You make me holy and shameless and guiltless and able to do righteousness and truth.  You give me Your power and You perform Your works in me.  You make me beautiful instead of evil.  I didn’t do any of it.  You did it all.  You have ever authority in my life.  None of it is of me.  It’s all of You.  What right do I have to take any of those areas back and taint them with what I no longer own any more?  What right do I have to make myself “common” again?  You have altered me.  Why would I let that old stuff creep back in?

Lord, I’ve seen what pride has done in someone else’s life near me.  I’ve seen and experienced what it does to relationship.  I’ve seen it drive people away, and cause great pain.  I’ve seen it cause discouragement and doubt.  I see it rear it’s face up against Your ways without even realizing it and while calling God’s way.  I’ve also been guilty of letting pride slip in and deceive my own heart and I know that none of us is immune to it’s dangers.  But I also thank You that You give us discernment to see into our own lives and I am so grateful to the brothers and sisters in You that You surround us with that have eyes to see the things that we don’t, and have Your heart to be honest with us even when it hurts.  I am a continual work in Your hands.  And I can be confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in me WILL continue it until the day I am with You and You have completed it in You!  Lord, search my heart continually, and open my eyes to see if there is any evil way in me, especially the evil way of pride, that I might cast it aside and turn back to You.  I am so glad that You alone have the power to make me an uncommon vessel for and in You!