Beware the “Me” Monster

This morning we are continuing our study in the book of Philippians. Philippians is actually a two thousand year old letter written by one of the most important leaders of the very first church – a man name Paul- also known as the Apostle Paul.

Paul actually started this church in the city of Philippi. Being located in present day Turkey, it was the very first church in Europe. And they are a young healthy church that is growing and doing well.

Paul is writing this letter from prison. He is sitting in a Roman prison on totally fabricated charges – but to Paul it’s a blessing. He gets a chance to write to his churches letters to help address issues or to instruct them or to encourage them, or as is the case in the section we are reading today – to warn them to be on guard against potential issues that could hinder or harm their church.

And so we are in Philippians, chapter 2. Last week we talked about how we can avoid becoming a Church Horror story, that often occurs in churches that lose their focus and end up fighting over unimportant issues and becoming divided, and split. And we read that Paul encouraged unity in the church by encouraging the church to work together to accomplish the one purpose of a church, which is to help people become apprentices of Jesus.

Now Paul is going to address individual attitudes that will either hurt or help a church. He is going to speak about pride and humility. And I’ll start by telling you a quick story.

My family and I moved to Omaha in 1998 to become the middle school pastor at Christ Community Church. I enjoyed the job very much. And one aspect of the job was contacting – trying to meet students on their turf.

And so I called up the middle schools to see if they would let me in to visit some students at lunch time. The schools said, well, we don’t normally do that kind of thing, but it you are willing, we will let you come and volunteer as a table cleaner.

And so basically I walked around and wiped off tables and tried to catch up with as many of our students as possible. And I often met the friends of students that came to youth group. So I contacted a bunch of kids and helped out the school at the same time.

Well one day at youth group – I was pleasantly surprised to see that my work was paying off – there in front of me was one of the students I had gotten to know at the middle school – she had come with a friend to visit our youth group and I was feeling pretty good to see her there. I was wondering how she felt about the night and so toward the end of the night I asked her, well Susan, what did you think of the night? Did you enjoy yourself?

And she said, Oh yes, I had a great time. And then she said something that just made me feel great. I had given the talk that night, and she told me – by the way – you did a good job on your talk tonight.

Isn’t that sweet, that she would say that? What kind of student would recognize the truth that I did a good job on my talk. I was actually rather proud of my talk that night, as I recall. Then she said, “You did pretty good- for a janitor.” That was special. Really has a humbling effect on a guy.

The big idea comes to us from Philippians 2- Don’t be selfish, but in humility value others above yourself.

He writes: 3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

So what stands out to you about this verse? What do you notice?

It seems to me that we can break this section into two parts. The first part is a warning. Verse 3 is a warning about pride. Don’t become prideful. Don’t be selfish. Don’t get wrapped up in comparing yourself to others.

Beware the Me Monster. That monster that lies within me, that is looking for a chance to show the world just how awesome I really am! you- ME. You – Me! See the difference!

Nobody likes a prideful me monster. No one ever came back from a date and said, You know what I liked best about him? He never stopped talking about himself. I just found his conceitedness, irresistible. Cute as a button!

Nobody likes a prideful person. Not even God. God has a particular dislike for pride. And that is not exactly a secret. I mean, you can read Isaiah 13:11 “I will crush the arrogance of the proud and humble the pride of the mighty.”
or James 4:6 “God opposes the proud, but favors the humble.”
or any of these proverbs
Proverbs 11:2 – Pride leads to disgrace,
Proverbs 13:10 Pride leads to conflict;
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction…
Proverbs 29:23 Pride ends in humiliation

Or you can read about King Nebachadnezzar, who built a gold statue of himself and required his subjects to bow down to it – and walked on the roof of his palace and said, Dan2:30 ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’

Now check out this next verse – you’ll get a decent idea of how God feels about pride… 31 “While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. 32 You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow… until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’

Why does God have such disdain for pride? I think we discover why when we realize that Satan became the devil because of his pride. Satan was created a powerful and beautiful angel.

But Ezekiel 28:1, which appears to be talking about Lucifer, tells us that Your heart was filled with pride because of all your beauty. Your wisdom was corrupted by your love of splendor.

And then Isaiah 14:13 For you said to yourself,
    ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars.
I will preside on the mountain of the gods.
14 I will climb to the highest heavens
    and be like the Most High.’

I will make myself like the Most High. Let me ask you, of all the hundreds of names of God – why did Satan choose The Most High? Why not – The creator, or the Way, or the Light, or the Truth? It reveals the heart issue within Satan – he wanted to ascend – be the top dog – he wanted to be above everyone else, including God. He wanted to be able to say to God himself – you – ME! See the difference?!

And this is why pride is so disdained by God. Pride is the original sin. It is the sin from which a thousand other sins grow. Pride is a staple sin – it’s a basic ingredient to so many other sins. Pride is to sin what Flour is to a baker. It’s just in everything.

We don’t just lie. We lie in order to protect our image. We don’t just covet – we covet something because we think we deserve it. I don’t just gossip – I gossip to knock others down so I appear elevated.

Pride inflates me – so that I stand above you. Or, Pride deflates you, so that I stand above you. Pride is the elevation of oneself – the exaltation of oneself. And I’ll get there – whether I need to impress you to make myself look better, or I need to tear you down. Either way -you ME!

This attitude flies directly against the life of Jesus. And the life that Jesus came to bring us. Life lived within the Kingdom of God does not need to succumb to image management.

You know what image management is right? You tell a story – “Oh that reminds me I was in the McDonalds drive thru the other day – not that I go to McDonalds very often…

Selfishness serves no good function in the Kingdom of heaven.
This is the essence of the first temptation. Prideful Satan plants a thought into the minds of Adam and Eve. “Can you really trust God to take care of you?” Maybe you should be your own boss. You know best what you need. You know what you deserve. You know you are better than them. Do what you think is best for you. You be in charge. You know best.

The desire to rule one’s own world is the default disposition of every soul born in this world. It is not too much to say that self-will is the primary source of brokenness in this life. It is that voice inside of us that says, “I must have my way, no matter what.”

Paul writes this church he loves to remind them, no – you don’t have to have your way. Your hair will not fall out if you don’t get your way. “Don’t be selfish.” Don’t be self-centered.

Since pride and self centerdness is so sneaky – let me give you a pop quiz. Five questions quiz to see if maybe you don’t realize it’s presence.

1. Do you struggle with a critical spirit?
Pride breeds a critical spirit. A spirit that judges everything going on around them in a very negative light. Everyone around this work place is stupid. (And what’s left unsaid, but is certainly implied, is “compared to me.”) No one knows what they are doing around here. So and so isn’t worth the money they are paying them, unlike me.

Pride makes us critical.

2. Do you find yourself coveting or jealous? Again – jealousy is rooted in the idea that I deserve what that person has. An offshoot of this is a person who deals with lust in their heart. I deserve to have exactly what I want to have – and so I will take it – if only in my mind – and no one can stop me. Pride.

3. Do you have a hard time acknowledging you were wrong? Proud people – their lips have a hard time forming the words I’m sorry. I was wrong. What they are good at instead is saying things like, “I’m sorry if you took it me the wrong way.” As if to say, “I’m sorry you lack the intelectual firepower to know – I was only joking.”
“Sorry you cannot understand basic communication.”

4. Do you have many conflicts with people? Humble people rarely fight with humble people. But the proud versus the proud? Now that’s a fight.

5. Are you a thankful person? Proud people often feel entitled – and so are rarely truly thankful.

Now thankfully, we do not have to be at the mercy of our pride our entire lives. Once we come to that point where we place our faith in Jesus, there begins on the inside of us a transformation of our character, and one of the first things that needs to happen is a swapping out of our pride, with a healthy dose of humility.

And so the second half of our verses today read Be Humble – thinking of others as better than yourself.

The question then becomes, how do I become more humble? And it’s a fair question.

I think it’s a good idea though to look at humility as a direction, rather than a destination. Becoming humble isn’t like washing your car. You don’t just wake up one day and say, “Today I’m going to become humble”

Instead – humility is a fruit that grows in the life of a person that is being transformed from the inside out. It grows in the life of a person who understands that – since the Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. I don’t need to push my way to the top. I don’t need to concern myself with being better than anyone else.

Though we have to be careful not to turn it into a regulation. I gotta be humble. As soon as we start turning these things into commands then we end up further into legalism – legalism being “things I gotta do to get God to like me.”
And then – instead of being humble, we just act humble. And there’s a world of difference between those two things.

Instead, I think the question we want to ask is, how can I become the kind of person who naturally and easily is humble rather than prideful? We are humble without thinking about it?

And I think that there are two things that we CAN decide to do that will help us begin to prepare the ground of our heart so that humility begins to grow.

The New International Version translates Philippians 2:3,4 (originally written in Greek) like this… “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

If humility is a direction, rather than a destination, then I propose is that there are two actions we can take from these verses that will help point our souls in the direction of humility.

The first thing we can do is to value people above ourselves.

When I was a kid we would often go visit my grandma and my grandpa. Grandma’s house was probably lie many of your grandma’s house. It was quiet, with a lot of old stuff. My Grandma had in her apartment a china cabinet. It was very old looking, with ornate glass doors. Behind the doors, my grandma had a collection of small figurines.

For years growing up, I looked at all her figurines, they looked beautiful behind the glass doors. As children, the china cabinet was always barricaded behind a fortress of obstacles that were placed there purposely to keep us nosey and clumsy kids from getting to it.

I thought that those figurines must be priceless antiques. I imagined that her grandma probably passed them down to her, and that they were probably worth a small fortune.

It wasn’t until college that I had the nerve to ask Grandma if she would unlock the cabinet and let me check out some of those figurines. I was hoping the see perhaps a date stamped on the bottom, maybe a Hummel, or something incredible. Maybe grandma was a millionaire, and she didn’t know it.

Grandma came over and unlocked the cabinet, opened the doors and put one, a Mickey Mouse figurine, in my hands. As I held this figurine, I noticed two things immediately. First… it was plastic. Secondly, if I squeezed it, it would squeak.. And then it all made sense to me.

There was a price tag on it that said K Mart. And then I realized that my grandma was cra cra! She was putting plastic squeeze toys in the china cabinet – because she loved those things and decided to cherish them. She valued them. It wasn’t because they were particularly noteworthy – she simply made the decision to value them.

In a similar way – we turn our souls in the direction of humility when we make a decision to value someone – because they are human beings. Human beings created by God himself. With an eternal soul, and an eternal destiny. We value them because they are a human being and deserve to be valued without having to conform to my image of acceptability before they earn the right to be treated as a human being.

Most people operate under an idea that I will value people who deserve to be valued. We pick and choose who deserves to be valued.

A humble person is able to intentionally value another person for being a person.

This world we live in is not built to value other human beings. Meme’s – they do not bring the world together. You know what a meme is right? Rather they clump us up in wolf-packs, where it’s easier for us to attack and devour our weaker opponents.

Where it is easier to elevate our opinion by making fun of and belittling other people’s opinions – twitter, facebook, social media – not doing anything toward elevating our view of human beings.

Instead it’s – you – ME! See the difference? Doesn’t this picture of Charlie and the Chocolate factory and my witty comments surrounding it encapsulate all that is true and noble about my opinion and all that is dumb and stupid about yours?

In this kind of world, Christians who, in humility, we intentionally value people above ourselves – should be shining like stars in the universe. But if we are not careful – we might find ourselves – not imitating Jesus – but imitating the anger and contempt of the broken world – a world that routinely belittle. Devalues. And Derides.

Now let me take this conversation into a very recent topic – transgendered people. Does God value human beings who consider themselves transgendered? Yes. And so, in humility we value transgendered people as human beings.

Do transgendered people have to go to the bathroom? Yes. Now – before you think I am defending target – I am not. There is such thing as corporate arrogance – corporate pride.

The point I’m making is not who is right. My point is that transgendered people are human beings. And you know, Jesus had a habit of hanging out with the fringe people in his society.

And so we, who are followers of Jesus – we above all people on earth, should, like Jesus, display grace to people that the rest of society has little room to love. And so – however we address this issue – it must be with the understanding that we are talking about real human beings –

Now Humility, by the way, doesn’t mean we are pushovers – or that we don’t have convictions, or that we are afraid to voice our opinions. Humility actually is confidence that God is in control and therefore we can be confident enough to be humble in our attitudes and actions toward people – even – or especially – with people we disagree with.

The bottom line though is that God’s kind of love causes us to We value people – above ourselves.

There is a second action we can take to help point our soul in the direction of humility. It comes in verse 4, that says… “in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Serving others is an intentional act that moves our bodies in the direction of humility.

I heard someone once say that serving others is an antidote to pride. And if that’s the case, then doing so secretly would be doubly effective.

Secrecy frees us from the temptation to capture credit, and elevate ourselves in the eyes of others. Secrecy keeps us from managing my image through serving. It keeps us from serving to feed our pride.

Secrecy means we do good for goods sake. And we accept and even relish in the idea that the only person who knows about it is God.

Secrecy puts God in charge of the public relations firm within my soul. It’s our little secret. And it ends up instructing our soul to recognize that it need not elevate itself. It will be fine resting in God’s approval and love.

3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

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