“A People Restored”: Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream
I have a confession.
Every once in a while I will go online to try to determine the sales rankings of Gospel-Centered Kids Ministry, Cornerstones, and Cornerstones: Parent Guide. (Which, by the way, you can purchase here, here, and here.) I wrote those books to serve the church, and that is one way to see if they are being helpful. But my checking is not all that pure. There is a level of pride involved. When the sales rankings are strong, I can sit up a little straighter. When they lag, I can sag. Even the most noble attempts to serve God can be be compromised by the pride in us that crouches in our hearts waiting to pounce when afforded the opportunity.
There Is No Room for Pride in the Gospel
Pride is common to all of us, even if to different degrees. Augustine is attributed as saying that pride is the root of all sin, and that sounds about right to me. It was pride that whispered in Eve’s ear to eat the fruit to be like God. It was pride that provoked Cain to murder his brother and Lamech to boast in killing a man for wounding him. All throughout Scripture we see pride’s fingerprints on sin. And we see it in our own lives too.
If indeed pride is a primary motivator of sin, we have to see it for what it really is. It is not a normal part of us to be accepted as long as it is kept in check. It is a poison to our soul that must be purged by God’s power. Pride is anathema to the gospel. The two are incompatible. They are oil and water, unable to coexist.
Think about it. What prompted God’s plan of salvation? His love and mercy for His creatures. How did God enact His plan of salvation? By Jesus humbling Himself to become human and to suffer and die as a servant. How does a person come to experience God’s salvation? By humbly calling on Jesus for salvation and trusting in Him alone. Selflessness marks the gospel, and selflessness drives out selfishness. The two cannot coexist. You cannot selfishly, full of pride, call on Jesus for salvation. Rather, we are to be a people who pursue the better way: humility.
Jesus Is Our Example of True Humility
How do you define humility? Some would say that it is to think more highly of others than yourself. (The problem I have with that is that it still leaves room for pride.) Others would say that it is to think more lowly of ourself. (The problem I have with that is that it fails to account for your infinite worth in Christ.) Others still would say it is to think less (often) of yourself. Now this one starts to resonate with me. To me, humility is when we think properly of ourselves, others, and God and we prioritize each in the opposite order of how I just listed them.
Humility is to see God as far and above the greatest and to see all others as of equal value as image bearers of God. It is to care most about God’s glory, then the well-being of others (even at the sacrifice of ourselves), and then, and only then, to dwell on our needs.
Does that sound like anyone you know? That’s right, this describes Jesus perfectly, and to no wonder because He is, after all, the epitome of humility:
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. 7 Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, 8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross. 9 For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow — in heaven and on earth and under the earth — 11 and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:3-11 CSB)
If we want to stamp out pride and live with humility, we need to allow the gospel to continue to work in our minds, hearts, and hands as we become more like Christ.
God Will Go to Great Lengths to Humble Us
If you are like me, you fall short in this area at least at times. But here’s the good news: God will go to great lengths to humble us. This is what we see in the session this week with King Nebuchadnezzar. When he was puffed up with pride believing that he had built a grand kingdom around him, God drove him into the wilderness to live as an animal for a season to break his pride. May the Lord be as kind to us!
What if we were a people who prayed to this end? What if we prayed—earnestly prayed—that God would do anything possible to purge pride from our lives? What if we, day by day, examined our minds and hearts and asked the Spirit to search them for the pride that hides there and to remove them at all costs?
Might we be praying for hardship? Certainly. But wouldn’t that hardship be worth it if the poison of pride, that which fuels sin in our lives, were banished from us?
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. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” — C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperOne, 1980), 124.
Preschool Tip: Think of ways that pride—even if it is in its early stages—manifests itself in your preschoolers. It could be the refusal to share toys, or get the largest cup of goldfish at snack time. It could be interrupting others or the common demand of, “Look at me!” This week strive to help your preschoolers recognize that all of these fall under the category of pride and help them see the beauty of not giving into pride, but rather seeking to love and serve others more.
Kids Tip: Your kids will likely be able to identify pride in their lives. They will also probably understand that it is wrong. However, what they might not get yet is that humility does not require that they think of themselves as without value. So help them understand the balance needed here—they need to understand that they have immense worth as image bearers of God as they also understand how to focus on God’s glory and value all others as image bearers too.