home > Pastor’s Desk > 2022 > APRIL 15th > A DECREASING VISION

“For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 2017:125

There is one sin that is worse than all others. It is the worst because it is insidious and imperceptibly deceptive. It is always at the root of all other sins. It was the original sin. In C.S. Lewis’s classic book, Mere Christianity, it warranted an entire chapter (“The Great Sin”) and Lewis claims that it is the greatest threat to any person – including the Christian – and their standing before God. Thus, to be truly spiritual, Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered, and spiritual, demands that the man or woman of God be on guard against what Lewis called “spiritual cancer” — pride. To have any chance of guarding against the spread of this deadly spiritual and character blighting ‘cancer’ requires that we adopt a decreasing vision of ‘greatness’.

He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John the Baptist, John 3:30

 

THE PROBLEM WITH RECOGNISING PRIDE 

C.S. Lewis tells us what we all already know about spotting pride: we loathe it when we see it in someone else, but never (except for Christians) imagine that we are guilty of it ourselves (p. 121). In fact, Lewis continues, the problem is that the more easily we can recognise pride in someone else the more likely we are guilty of the same pride. We are all quick to justify or excuse ourselves of our own pride, and just as quick to condemn it in others as inexcusable.

The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil.
  Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate.
Proverbs 8:13

THE ESSENCE OF PRIDE IS COMPETITIVE

How we think about pride and humility is very often confused and unhelpful. In John DIckson’s book, Humilitas, he defines humility as withholding your power for the good of others. He gives the illustration of a black man in the 1930s sitting at the back of a bus in Detroit (USA) when a three teenage white boys got on the bus at the next stop. The young boys soon start to call the black man names and taunt him. This taunting intensified until the black man came to his stop and stood to leave the bus. The boys were surprised that he was much taller than they had realised. As he walked up to the boys he reached into his pocket and gave one of them a business card on his way past, and then got off the bus. After he left the boys looked at the business card which simply read: Joe Louis, Boxer. These three boys had just picked a fight with the undefeated world heavyweight boxing champion. Joe Louis, in the opinion of Dr. John Dickson, displayed great humility. Did Joe Louis know that he could dispatch these young men? Certainly. Was that confidence that he had in his ability a form of pride? Yes and no. C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity that there is a virtuous pride that comes from working hard and achieving a desired outcome. We expect this of tradesmen. We want them to take pride in the work. This kind of pride, Lewis argues, is for the good of others. The ‘others’ in this instance could be a student’s parents as he or she strives to do their schoolwork for the pride of their family name. A teacher may encourage this in her students when she tells them, “Take some pride in your work and rewrite this essay.

“We say in English that a man is ‘proud’ of his son, or his father, or his
school, or regiment, and it may be asked whether ‘pride’ in this sense is a sin.
I think it depends on what, exactly, we mean by ‘proud of’. Very often, in such
sentences, the phrase ‘is proud of means ‘has a warm-hearted admiration for’.
Such an admiration is, of course, very far from being a sin.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

But Lewis contrasts this desirable pride with the cancerous pride of competitiveness

“In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask
yourself, `How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take
any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me,. or show off ?’ The
point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride.”
C.S. Lewis

Lewis writes, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others.” Pride is therefore the attitude of considering ourselves to be better than another. Lewis is quick to point out that this does not mean thinking less of ourselves, but rather that we should each think less about ourselves! The ultimate pride is therefore atheism. The atheist’s pride reaches to the heavens and at its core wants to be better than the Supreme Being.

“In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably
superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that – and, therefore, know
yourself as nothing in comparison -you do not know God at all.” – C.S. Lewis

 

DECREASING INTO GREATNESS

Jesus described John the Baptist as the greatest man who has ever lived (Matt. 11:11). John had been drawing huge crowds to his baptisms (Matt. 3:5). When Jesus came on the scene, the crowds dissipated and went after Jesus (Matt. 4:25). John’s response is the inspiration for the title of this week’s Pastor’s Desk – He must increase and I must decrease. And I find in John’s words the essence to true humility and the antidote to cancerous pride. To be great – truly great – requires this kind of attitude. To be a great follower of Christ we must be others focused, thinking less about ourselves, prepared to serve without praise, forgive without apology, repent without pretense, and prepared to praise and thank others even if we are not. This is, I fear, what it means to decrease and allow Christ to increase in our lives.  

Your Pastor,

Andrew

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AMAZING ACCESS

Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.

WHY FINDING TRUTH MATTERS

How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT YEARS OF ANYONE’S LIFE

Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.

TIME- YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT – BUT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 

I AM WHO I AM BUT I AM NOT WHO I USED TO BE BUT I AM NOT YET WHO I WILL BE

One of the greatest lies that the would-be enemy of all our souls attempts to perpetuate is that we are what we are and we can never change. This lie is whispered into the ears of many people’s invisible ears so imperceptibly that they actually think it originated with them. “You were born this way – and you can never change”, “This is who you really are – and you can never change”, “There’s no hope of anything ever changing for better – so you might as well just kill yourself” and so on. But these sly alien voices inside the heads of the vulnerable are lies. People can change. People do change. Some circumstances were always going to be temporary and were always going to change. I know this is true because I am living proof. I am who I am but I am not who I used to be and I am not yet who I will be.

WHO DOES THIS EPHESIANS FELLA THINK HE IS?!

It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  

THE LORD IS MY ROCK

Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.

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5 INDISPENSABLE GUIDELINES FOR NEW PARENTS

This is not for everyone. If you are already a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my other more abstract Pastor’s Desk articles. If you are not a parent and have no intention of ever being a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my more weighty articles on FindingTruthMatters.org. If you are not yet a parent and one day hope to become a parent, this is for you. Find a quiet place, take the next six minutes thirteen seconds and use the reading of this article as an investment into your future parenting strategies. I did not invent these guidelines. Like many parents who have also discovered the value of these guidelines, once discovered, they seem obvious. These successful parents probably grew up with own parents who inculcated these guidelines almost intuitively. However, my suspicion is that this is becoming increasingly rarer. As with all true guidelines they are adaptable, flexible, and are not a guarantee of parental success — but if ignored they become the point in the mathematical problem solving where you can see you made an error in your working out. In other words, while these guidelines may not guarantee success, if ignored their neglect almost certainly leads to frustration and disappointment. Here are five indispensable guidelines for every prospective new parent.

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