Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
March 1st, 2023
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” James 4:6
I may have referenced this illustration in a previous mid-week update, but it has stuck with me, and I keep chewing on it: I was in a strip-mall Mexican food place some months back, and saw a man wearing a black t-shirt that said, in gray letters: “The Lord is not my shepherd, I am not a sheep”, and of course my brain flashed to “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” Psalm 23:1, and “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep, and am known by my own” John 10:14, and the kids’ song I enjoy leading: “I just wanna be a sheep, baa, baa, baa, baa”.
And I was reminded, of course, that in the secular world, the connotation of people as “sheep”, while not broadly or frequently used, is a negative one. For example, aggressive bloggers or commentators will often exclaim “Wake up, sheeple!”
And I was just thinking about the mindframe behind whoever manufactured and sold such a shirt, and then the thought process for this man who purchased, kept, and intentionally wore this shirt in public: “I don’t follow anyone, I make my own decisions! Others who obey (either religiously or just societally) are insufferable saps! I’ll show them my superiority by proclaiming this message, displaying it on myself!”
And then I can’t help but think of Satan’s insinuations in the conversation with Eve in the garden of Eden in Genesis 3: “God doesn’t want you rising as high as he is. Don’t submit to him, be your own leader! Chart your own path!” but of course, oh how terrible and full of suffering earth’s history has been since then.
I’ve heard it said that the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan plays out not only on a grand, universal scale, but within each human heart. I’ve also heard the metaphor said: “Each human heart has two things in it: a throne and a cross. And each person decides whether we sit on the throne and put Jesus on the cross, or give Jesus our heart-throne and ourselves get on the cross.”*
I know that, to the secular world’s estimation, to be humble, meek and submissive is not commendable at all: it is a repugnant prospect! But I just find continual delight in bowing myself to the one who is “gentle and lowly in heart”, whose “yoke is easy”, whose “burden is light” and who promises to give us rest for our souls (Matthew 11:29).
To be humble and teachable before God is a beautiful place to be! He who “gave his life for the church” and who “gives his life for his sheep” (Ephesians 5:25, John 10:11). And truly, God gives us a relatively simple task, with incredible rewards promised, when he instructs us to simply “Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8.
So I just, I don’t know, I see no glory, no benefit in being puffed-up, self-centered, saying “I make my own way in life!” Do such people not realize that (even excluding religion and what’s prophesied to happen to the wicked) death is going to have the final say? That all ambition and wealth- and power-gathering is ultimately futile? (see Ecclesiastes 1-2).
Clearly, the Bible instructs us in many places to be humble, here are just a few examples: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” Matthew 5:5. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but be willing to associate with people of low position” Romans 12:16, and “have the mind of Christ Jesus… who made himself nothing, being found in the form of a servant.” Philippians 2:5,7
And of course, the promises to the humble are many and grand! “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” Matthew 5:5 “Well done, my good and faithful servant, you have been faithful with little, I will put you in charge of much.” Matthew 25:21, 23, and “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” 1 Peter 5:6
But to the proud, this is what scripture says: “…The pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1st John 2:16 Haughty eyes and a proud heart…produce sin.” Proverbs 21:4, and “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 16:5.
I think it’s so foolish to be prideful as well! Think about it: we come into the world naked, weak, vulnerable, and crying. Everything we ever had for years as we grew and developed is only because others gave it to us (not to mention our marvelously engineered bodies, which come from God). We are so small and fragile, a rogue comet or sunburst could end us and all our empires in a moment. (Apart from God), we are nothing but ants on a speck of brightness in the dark universe. All our imaginings of power, security, etc. are but illusions able to be kept in place because of the stability of the universe God created.
I think part of why I’m reflecting on this recently is, as I shared in my sermon at Anaheim a couple of Sabbaths ago, I’ve been listening to a podcast about a megachurch network that self-destructed and imploded about a decade ago, in large part because the very talented pastor got full of himself, and progressively justified treating people horribly for the goal of continued growth and public image. It just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, and I feel great sorrow for how even churches can turn toxic if pride is allowed to seep in. I felt I kind of needed to “cleanse my pallet” by focusing on these verses that emphasize humility, helpfulness, and joyful cooperation in Christian community.
I guess a takeaway principle that I want to conclude with is this: we need to either learn to be humble, or be prepared to be humbled. As Luke 14:11 says “All those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted”
From those two options above, which destiny do you want? I think the choice is obvious. Let’s be God’s loving sheep. Yes, though they’re described as dumb, flighty, stubborn, etc., I admit I have all those traits. To be led by green pastures, still waters, and even through the shadow of death will be a delight and far-preferred, as long as our Good Shepherd is by our side, comforting us and guiding us along the way (see Psalm 23).
May God bless you and your families the rest of this week.
Pr. Mark Tatum
*If this illustration seems too harsh, keep in mind Matthew 16:24-25 “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”