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Pride to Humility

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 6/16/2019

This morning we’re starting a new series called, “I’m Not Okay.” A young man said to me yesterday, “who’s going to attend a church that has a sign hanging up outside that says, ‘We’re not okay.’” That’s the point! In Luke 18:10-13 Jesus tells a story that vividly captures how most people experience church today. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee was standing and praying… ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ His attitude isn’t just, “I’m okay,” It’s, “I’m a really good person, I’m really great, look at my life!”

In the Church we get pretty excited when Pharisees come along. We’re like: “Oh wow! You’re a churchgoer! Check. You pray! Check. You’ve got your spiritual act together! Check. You’re a good person! You fast! You tithe the true, full 10%, on your gross, not just net income! Check. Check. Check. Give us a check. Welcome to Lakeside friend!”

But Jesus says there were two men that day. The other man, “The tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’ Notice where he was standing—he was “standing far off.” People would much rather keep their distance than associate with a Church full of people who are full of themselves! One man didn’t have humility to say, “I’m not Okay.” It was beneath him. He was full of pride. The other didn’t have the nerve to show his face. He was afraid he wouldn’t fit in, that he wouldn’t be welcomed, that if he showed even the slightest hint of vulnerability, the sharks would start circling!

Of the two men, Jesus tells us that is was the first man, not the second man, who was self-deluded. In Luke 18:14 Jesus says, “I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

You can summarize the whole teaching ministry of Jesus in two phrases. You can summarize God’s entire plan for humankind in two phrases. In James 4:6 the bible says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” This is the entire salvation-history of God condensed into a single Tweet!

The greatest sermon Jesus ever preached. Matthew 5-6-7. Do you remember how it begins? In Matthew 5:3 Jesus says, “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit.” Not blessed are the “proud in spirit”; but blessed are the “poor in spirit.” Some people think “emptiness” is the curse. No, the curse is being so full of yourself you no longer need to be filled by God! God doesn’t bless the proud, the self-sufficient, the self-justified. He blesses the humble. Eugene Petersen translates Matthew 5:3: “You are blessed when you are at the end of your rope!” Dallas Willard says, “Blessed are the spiritual zeros—the spiritually bankrupt, the deprived, the deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of religion.”

From a theological point of view, pride isn’t just “any” human problem; It is “the” human problem. [Symbol] Pride is the glass chalice into which all the other sins are poured. The glass glitters and jingles and lures your gaze while seducing your lips to imbibe.

Pride is like the root of the tree. Pride is the source from which every other sin grows. Pride always lurks beneath the surface. You can cut a tree down, but if you don’t deal with the root, it will keep growing and bearing fruit. We can chop away at all the sin in our life (greed, envy, vengeance, gluttony, sloth, lust, deceit, fear) … but if we don’t sever the root, we’ll keep bearing evil fruit.

C.S. Lewis said pride is a lot like having bad breath. If you have pride, you’re the last person to notice is you. But everyone else is like, “Would you like a mint? Would you take a glass of water? Could we please step outside for some air? Wow where has the time gone, I bet you have a lot to do, there’s the door.”

How can you know if you have bad breath? They say if you lick the back of your hand, and smell it, you can tell. If you have dogs, they’ll tell you. They’ll come up and sniff your mouth and give you that look before slinking away! If you try to kiss the love of your life you can tell. If you’re not married, they might suffer through it. But if you’ve been married long, they’ll turn the other way! The most effective method is the lobby test. After service strike up a conversation. If the person stands face-face you’re good. If at a 45-degree angle, you might need a mint. If 90 degrees, that mint might not be enough. If they turn around 180 degrees, the dentist might not be! Here’s the point. God turns from the proud but gives grace to the humble! In Isaiah 66:2 God says, “All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be. . . But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”

When you think of a Christian what image most comes to mind? Someone who is humble and broken or someone proud? Someone contrite, repentant, sorrowful, poor in spirit or someone who is full of themselves? Someone who trembles before God, or someone who thumbs their nose at God? And how do those standing at a distance perceive you? Do they see a Pharisee or a Tax Collector?

This past week I started reading an older book called “Steering Through Chaos,” by Os Guinness. He talks about how our view of evil has changed, not just in the United States, but definitely in the United States. (1) It used to be that we defined evil theologically as sin. ‘i.e. Evil is rebelling against God, breaking his commandments, disobeying His will.’ (2) But then we began to define evil legalistically, ‘i.e. evil is breaking the law of men.’ (3) Then along came modern psychology, and we began defining evil therapeutically. ‘i.e. you’re not evil, you have a condition, a sickness, you’re not to blame, someone or something else is to blame.’ (4) Now we define evil sentimentally. “i.e. Forget God. Forget Law. Forget the experts. This is how I feel. This is what I want. This is what makes me happy. This is my truth. Don’t tread on me. Don’t trigger me. Don’t judge me. You’re forbidden to forbid.’

God turns away from the proud. God resists the proud. God opposes the proud. God’s favor is upon the humble and contrite, upon those who tremble at His word! Pride decimates us on so many levels:

#1) Pride decimates our relationship with God.

G.K. Chesterton points out that “all evil begins with some attempt at superiority.” For example, Isaiah 14:12-15 describes how the Devil fell from heaven. “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.”

Romans 1:19-23 describes humankinds fall from grace. What can be known about God is evident, because God has shown it to us. His invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood from what has been made. As a result, we are without excuse. But though we knew God, we neither glorified Him as God, nor gave thanks, instead our thinking became nonsense, our senseless minds darkened, claiming to be wise, we became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling man/early things.

C.S. Lewis says, “As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on a thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”

Pride looks like unbelief—I stop believing the obvious. Psalm 10:3-4 says, “For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” Pride looks like disordered worship—I no longer seek God’s glory, I attempt to establish my own. Pride looks like foolishness—Proverbs 12:16 says, “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Pride looks like idolatry. The proud are always seeking some God substitute. In Revelation 3:17 God rebukes the Laodiceans, “For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,’ not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Pride looks like ingratitude. There is no one higher to thank, no one higher to praise, no one greater to worship and magnify.

In Acts 28:26-27 Paul eloquently describes our pride problem. “You will listen and listen, yet never understand; you will look and look, yet never perceive. For the hearts of these people have grown callous, their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, understand with their heart, and be converted, and I would heal them!” Those closest to God can be more resistant!

#2) Pride decimates our Relationships with People.

There are two faces of pride. There is the face that says, “I don’t need you” and a face that says, “You don’t me.” Both attitudes are prevalent in the church today. “I don’t need those people! And those people don’t people sure in the heck don’t need me!”

There is a story of a Rabbi who was given a vision of the afterlife. He recounts: “I first went to see Hell and the sight was horrifying. Row after row of tables were laden with platters of sumptuous food, yet the people seated around the tables were pale and emaciated, moaning in hunger. As I came closer, I understood their predicament. Every person held a full spoon, but both arms were splinted with wooden slats so he could not bend either elbow to bring the food to his mouth. It broke my heart to hear the tortured groans of these poor people as they held their food so near but could not consume it.”

“Next I went to visit Heaven. I was surprised to see the same setting I had witnessed in Hell – row after row of long tables laden with food. But in contrast to Hell, the people here in Heaven were sitting contentedly talking with each other, obviously sated from their sumptuous meal. As I came closer, I was amazed to discover that here, too, each person had his arms splinted on wooden slats that prevented him from bending his elbows. How, then, did they manage to eat? As I watched, a man picked up his spoon and dug it into the dish before him. Then he stretched across the table and fed the person across from him! The recipient of this kindness thanked him and returned the favor by leaning across the table to feed his benefactor. I suddenly understood. Heaven and Hell offer the same circumstances and conditions. The critical difference is in the way the people treat each other.”

I ran back to Hell to share this solution with the poor souls trapped there. I whispered in the ear of one starving man, ‘You do not have to go hungry. Use your spoon to feed your neighbor, and he will surely return the favor and feed you.’ … ‘You expect me to feed the detestable man sitting across the table?’ said the man angrily. ‘I would rather starve than give him the pleasure of eating!’ I then understood God’s wisdom in choosing who is worthy to go to Heaven and who deserves to go to Hell.”

Pride looks like unbelief, disordered worship, foolishness, idolatry, ingratitude. But it also looks like self-centeredness. In 1 Corinthians 11:21 Paul talks about the Body of Christ. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’” What would your body become if every part went rogue and didn’t serve the whole? A proud person says, “I don’t need to feed you… and you don’t need to feed me.” A proud person says, “I don’t need to serve you… and you don’t need to serve me.” A proud person says, “It’s enough that I showed up and sat in my seat today.” A proud person only attends a church where everyone seems “Happy, Healthy, and Okay” because they don’t want to be bothered with love, with service, with being needed. A proud person wants no part of Paul’s admonition that the body build itself up in love, with each part doing its work. A proud person believes they exist above and beyond NOT JUST GOD… but also his body the church! The proud believe they’re a special, exempt, category of super Christian. What a hellish attitude indeed!

#3) Last of all, Pride Decimates our Own Soul.

1 John 1:8 warns, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The absolute worst thing any of us could do is assume we somehow need mercy less than the next person. From God’s perspective, we should all beat our chests, crying out for mercy. And when a person cries out for mercy, we ought to be quick to forgive them, and restore them.

There is a verse in Hebrews 3:13 that says, “But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.” We all love encouragement—but the danger of encouragement is it can feed a person’s pride, or self-delusion. Sometimes it isn’t a pat on the back we need from each other, but instead a reality check! The New Living Translation doesn’t use the word encourage. It says, “Warn each other every day.” The English Standard version says, “Exhort each other every day.” Not once in a while—daily! Whether it’s a pat on the back, or a kick in the seat of the pants, we owe it to each to always walk in the truth. In 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul says, “Reprove, rebuke, and exhort one another with complete patience and teaching.”

Let me say clearly. If you’re “not okay”, you’re in good company. First of all, God is here. James 4:6 says, “God gives greater grace. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:8, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” If its grace you’ve come for, God’s got you. But second, if its encouragement/support you need, the church is here… were all here… for each other. James 5:19 says, “My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.”

Scripture Verses

Luke 18:10-14, Isaiah 14:12-13, Romans 1:19-23, Acts 28:26-27, James 4:6, 8, 5:19, Hebrews 3:13

Worship Playlist

  • From The Inside Out 
  • Have It All
  • O Come to the Altar 
  • Jesus Paid It All/Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Study Questions


"4Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.5 Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

6 Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!

8 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies." Ps. 25:4-10


"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom." Pr. 11:2

Apply It!


"Holy Spirit, help me to develop the fruit of humility. Grow me in grace and mature me in a deeper knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Help me not to do anything out of selfish ambition or foolish vanity, but rather develop in me the grace to regard the needs and desires of others as being more important than my own. Teach me, I pray, to live as Christ lived- in the power of the Spirit and to Your praise and glory. Amen"

"God humbly loves me- now I can love others like Him."


Examine your life for hidden areas of pride. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal prideful thoughts, words, and actions. Humility is a response taken when our eyes are on Jesus. This week make it a point to find hidden ways to practice humility toward people in your work, family, church, and among strangers. 


Pick up a "I'm Not Okay" Summer Prayer Booklet for adults and students. It includes a weekly Prayer, Psalm, Proverb, Practice and Breath Prayer to go along with every sermon.

Pick up an Emoji Prayer Guide for children. It includes a weekly Prayer, Scripture, Application and Connect to help parents discuss the week's theme with their children.

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