Have you ever heard yourself think or say, “I deserve that”? I know I have. It’s during these times that we should stop and realize that we were born sinful creatures, separated from God by our sin. What do we deserve? An eternity of separation from the Lord. But God loves us all and gives everyone an opportunity to accept His gift of grace; not what we deserve, but what He wants to give us. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:4-8).
Pride makes us self-centered and leads us to conclude that we deserve all we see, touch, or imagine. It creates greedy appetites for far more than we need. We can be released from our self-centered desires by humbling ourselves before God, realizing that all we really need is His approval. When the Holy Spirit fills us, we see that this world’s seductive attractions are only cheap substitutes for what God has to offer. “But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’.” (James 4:6)
God gives us the opportunity to repent from pride. After His warning and the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the Lord gave him a year to repent (Dan. 4:29). Even with the warning he had received, he became more prideful instead of repentant (Dan. 4:30). Then the Lord brought to pass what He warned the king would happen (Dan. 4:31-33). The time allowed in the interim didn’t mean that God tolerated or accepted the sin, but that He was willing to give Nebuchadnezzar time to repent on his own. “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” (Luke 1:52)
We have the Holy Spirit who will point out our own sin so that we can repent. Repent means to turn away (from our sin) and turn to God. Very often in my life when I have been convicted of pride it has manifested itself in judgment to others. I focus on what someone else is doing that my offend me, and think myself better than them; maybe not better but less sinful. But my Bible tells me that’s not true: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
In fact, Scripture tells me I am not to judge another, because I, too, am sinful; and that when I judge others I am condemning myself. “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’” (Rom. 2:1-6)
Whenever we find ourselves feeling justifiably angry or hurt about someone else’s sin, we should be careful. We need to speak out against sin, but we must do so in a spirit of humility. Often the sins we notice most clearly in others are the ones that have taken root in us. If we look closely at ourselves, we may find that we are committing the same sins in more socially acceptable forms. But we are not to seek the approval of others, we are to seek God’s approval. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10)
In His kindness, God holds back His judgment, giving people time to repent. It’s easy to mistake God’s patience for approval of the wrong way of living. We shouldn’t make the same mistake that King Nebuchadnezzar did. As Christians, we must pray constantly that the Holy Spirit will point out our sins, so that we can repent and be healed from them. We may “get away with it” in this earthly life, but one day we will all stand before the throne of judgment and will be held accountable for our unrepentant sin. While our name is still in the Book of Life, we will have to answer our Creator for what we have done in this life.
But while we think we may be “getting away with something”, we must realize that if we don’t humble ourselves before the Lord that He may be unable to use us for His purpose and His glory for His kingdom. He has plans for us in His kingdom work here on earth, and we have the choice to follow the path He wants for us or go our own way. I’ve heard parents say to their children that they have the choice to go to bed with or without a spanking, but that they are going to go to bed. The Lord has the same response for us: we can either humble ourselves or He will do it for us. “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12)