Strut Of The Flesh

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6b (NKJV)

When I was growing up in suburban Milwaukee, WI, there an empty lot next door. Eventually that lot was purchased by a family and a house was built on it. The family who lived there was not readily accepted by the other neighbors living on our street. “Mrs. R.” did not endear herself to our neighborhood because she was always bragging about how much bigger her house was, how successful her husband’s television repair shop was, how much money they had, and how brilliant her children were. This attitude spawned a saying of my father’s invention: “She struts when she sits.”

I have been very aware lately of how much pride is infused into everything we do–even as Christians. We are proud of our sports teams, proud of our schools and colleges, proud of our houses, our cars, our kids, our jobs, our education, our ethnic background, even our pastors, churches, and denominations. You name it, we’re proud of it. In fact, in many cases these have become “idols” in our lives. Whether we realize it or not, we actually “worship” these things as evidenced by the time and effort we put into them. Many take a more prominent place in our lives than the time we spend in the Word of God or in our time of fellowship with the Father.

It is no wonder our culture and our country are such a mess.  It is often difficult to tell the Christians from the non-Christians these days. There isn’t much that sets us apart as different. We listen to the same music, watch the same movies and television shows, read the same books, and go to the same events. We get so caught up in what we are doing that we don’t take the time to examine whether or not what we are doing is pleasing to the Lord or fitting behavior for those who are ambassadors of the King of Kings.

As we begin this new year, now is a good time to examine those things that consume our time and attention. We need to start looking at our lives and activities through God’s eyes. Would He be pleased with what we spend our time on? Would He be pleased with what we are so proud of?

I have a confession to make: I really hate any sort of competition.  So much of what we do in life is really a competition in disguise. When I was young I hated competition because it was the basis for all of the teams we were chosen for in gym class. I was always picked last because I was shy and not athletically inclined. The purpose of these teams was to “win.” If your team didn’t “win” you were looked at as second class citizens.

I haven’t changed my opinion any, as this also seems true for adults. We compete for everything in life–jobs, raises, social standing, even parking spots. We compete as a means of showing others that we are better than they are and to convince ourselves of the same. God forbid that anyone should get ahead of us in the “game of life.” Our lives become a never-ending “strut of the flesh.” Of course, we don’t call it that. We use words like “self-esteem” and “being proud of ourselves.” We determine that we “deserve” the good things that come our way because somehow we have worked harder and are more talented, smarter, or more “special” than others.

You see, I know from experience that I have a strong competitive streak. I am well aware when that spirit of competition starts to creep into my heart. I hate the way it makes me feel. A sense of “superiority” begins to nibble at the edges of my consciousness. I find myself wanting to annihilate my opponents. It is for this reason that I don’t play many board, card, or video games. (Sorry to be the bearer of “bad news” for all those who thought I didn’t play games because I just didn’t like them.)

It is no wonder God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. Pride is ugly–in all its various forms. Pride was the cause of Satan’s rebellion that resulted in his expulsion from heaven. Pride is the foundation of sin. Pride says: “My will is better than God’s will.” We know a pastor who is determined to strike the concept “proud of” from his vocabulary for this very reason. He is the one who coined the phrase “strut of the flesh” as an accurate descriptor for the place which pride holds in our lives. I think he’s right.

Let us take this opportunity to examine our hearts and our lives. It is time for a little “house cleaning.” We need to “take out the trash” and remove those things from our lives that occupy a place of prominence they shouldn’t have. We must repent and put God back on the throne of our life. We need to ask Him for help in removing those “idols” that have captured our hearts.

If we did this, our lives, our culture, and our country would never be the same again.

Time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work. By God’s grace and for His glory. . .

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” 1 Peter 5: 6 (NKJV)

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2012 by Susan E. Johnson
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