Think about it – we are kind to the people who are kind to us. We boast in our strength and accomplishments. We envy those who have the strength and accomplishments we desire. We are rude to people who do not praise us. We insist on our own way. We are easily annoyed and resent those who don’t acknowledge our sovereignty. We are ecstatic when our rivals stumble. We put up with people as far as they benefit us. In our minds we are the only ones who are truly praiseworthy, and we’ll be damned if anyone should suggest otherwise. Ironically, we are duped into thinking that by these practices and heart postures we are liberated and independent, but really we are slaves.
The Pastor’s Wife,
Whereas we may not act on every attitude that is in our hearts, the very fact that we harbor such attitudes is evidence of depravity at the very core. I’ve certainly never killed anyone. But I have not loved as I ought to, hence committing the sin of murder, for John records in 1 John 3:15 that “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.“
In our pride and ego-centrism, we do not consider and imitate Christ as Paul instructs us in Philippians 2. (Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others) We have preferred to be served and not serve, to be the center of attention and to receive the glory. When this doesn’t happen, we have sunk low in self pity, hate and a kind of escapism that only prefers interacting with those who massage our egos and help us esteem ourselves better than others.
We allow envy to take over our hearts so easily. We are quick to walk in the way of King Saul in the face of David-like achievements. We talk about Cain and condemn him but still kill our brothers with our slander, coldness, gossip and malice, offended by only one reason – they seem to be doing better than we are. By doing these things we trample upon the blessings of God in our lives, preferring Him to bless us in the ways He has blessed other people, yet God, in His good will, apportions every blessing according to His infinite wisdom, for our good and for His glory.
All our sinful attitudes are an evidence of the idolatry that’s deeply rooted in our hearts. We worship, serve and love other gods in the place of the one true God. Our idolatry in most cases has taken the shape of self worship. Isn’t all our grumbling and pride informed by our desire to have ourselves at the center?
Often times our sin of idolatry has led us to seeking approval elsewhere, forgetting our place and identity as God’s elect. How foolish we are to forget that Christ has seen our filthy sin, yet loved us to the extent of dying to pardon us and reconcile us with God! The justification of Christ through faith in Him apart from any of our works has been jeopardized by our sin and has not achieved for us a peace with God like it was meant. (Romans 5:1)
When tackling a session on the Lordship of Christ in our lives during my time in a discipleship program I enrolled some years back, a question was asked, “Is Christ Lord over your attitudes and all their expressions?” Christ is undoubtedly Lord over everything. The heart of this question is the thought, ‘Does Christ govern all my attitudes and their manifestations?’
In your battle to mortify sin, have you labored to kill envy, pride, slander, malice and false humility? This is a call to labor in prayer asking for God’s help in fighting ungodly attitudes. It’s a call to saturate yourself with the Scriptures and let them inform all your thoughts and attitudes. It is a call to go forth and do good to others, especially those belonging to the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10) It is a plea to think about whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
Over time, and most recently through reading the book ‘ The Pastor’s Wife’, I am becoming increasingly aware of the fact that I sin mostly through my attitudes, especially where it concerns people. Ranging from self pity, humble dress and a begrudging spirit to pride, self confidence and narcissism, my attitudes take over and govern my actions leading to more sin. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24)
Reading from The Mortification of Sin by John Owen, sin is actively pursuing us. It never goes on a break and never rests until it possesses us. In the same way, we should always be killing sin, never ignoring its presence in our hearts. While we engage in this battle, we face the temptation of thinking that we can earn our own righteousness. The promise of receiving the Holy Spirit’s help in our fight should all the more humble us and remind us of our inability to gain victory over sin apart from His help. For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)