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Week 3: Killing Pride Print

Gods of Our Own Making

 
He sits tall in the saddle; his rugged face and lean body are intent on the task ahead. Before prodding his horse forward, he looks at the snowy mountains before him as he considers what needs to be done. Through the landscape he rides, sometimes stopping to watch for clues along the trail, sometimes encouraging his trusty steed to venture into the icy waters. As he nears the edge of the woods, he looks up, sees what he has been searching for... and smiles. When he whistles, a great herd of horses emerge from the woods and run past him, followed by other riders who appear to be just as tough and independent.
 
He knows he has done well, so he rewards himself the best way he knows how; by lighting a cigarette and taking a deep satisfying puff. In the background the music swells to the strains of “The Magnificent Seven” signifying the heroic nature of this enduring icon.

For those of us old enough to remember, this was a typical scene on our television sets until cigarette ads were formally banned by congress. Still, the image of the rugged cowboy is one that resonates with in the American soul. All of us guys are cowboys at heart. Bruce Willis in Die Hard, a kind of cowboy cop, says “Yippe ki yay” right before he does something daring and we know exactly what he means. Even George Lucas tells us that in the Star Wars movies he was really making a movie about a kind of space cowboy. A rugged individualist, who is willing to go his or her own way. We work hard, we live hard and we die hard. As Floyd McClung might put it, we are “gods of our own making.” The famous song by Frank Sinatra, “My Way”, exemplifies how Americans often think about our lives. The lyrics to the last verse go like this:

For what is a man, what has he got?

If not himself, then he has naught

To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels

The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!

One reason for the popularity of this song is that it conveys much of what our culture honors in our character. Our culture honors “self-made” men and women. We reward those that “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and all kinds of other self-powered descriptions. We value words like assertive, dynamic, forceful, popular and independent. These words are for most of us admirable and worthy of attainment. The whole idea of striving for success is as positive and American as you can get. We often seek the blessings of our culture with achievement, possessions and lifestyle. The words of Jesus, however speak to a different dynamic. He says thing like;

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God….

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Those sentiments don’t really jibe with the desire for popularity and success, American style.

Jesus also says:

 “And why do you worry about clothes?

See how the flowers of the field grow.

They do not labor or spin.”

Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”

It is often difficult for us to reconcile the words of Jesus with the attitudes of the culture that we live in.

Yes, this is very different kind of life our Heavenly Father calls us to. He wants to make us into gods of His making, with Jesus as our model. It is the character of Jesus that radiates into the world around us as we begin to live according to His precepts and attitudes. As we grow into His likeness, the lesser gods that call to us, the gods of material pursuit and social standing begin to be less compelling and to assume their rightful lowly place. Putting these idols aside is an act of will that emanates from our desire to make Him first and prominent in our lives. It stems from wisdom that begins to recognize true worth and value over temporary satisfaction.  This wisdom is not always easy to acquire as the culture around us bombards us with constant messages that pull us toward the things it values. The message that Jesus preached is not always a comfortable message. We do not always get to have what we think we want as well as what He desires for us, but His desires are always better and higher and eternal.

Following Jesus is really about obeying him first and foremost, following his commands and his desires for our lives while placing our desires lower down the scale.

We men love our wives dearly and we often do exactly what they want, not for the fear of losing them or some misplaced sense of duty, but as a reflection of the love we share and the honor and esteem we have for them. That is exactly the kind of relationship God is looking for from us. We seek to obey Him, to follow in His footsteps, simply because of our love for Him. We can set aside the guilt and condemnation of religion because our motivation is based on loving relationship, not a formal liturgy. And just as he did with Jesus, God can multiply our seemingly insignificant efforts to accomplish great things for His glory, with ramifications both in this life and the next.

While he has not said as much, there is one thing McClung is most certainly making clear. Following Jesus is not saying a prayer and then going on about our business as usual. It is a radical change in priorities as we abandon our own priorities and take on the priorities of our loving Heavenly Father. The choice is simple, though it is far from easy. The realities are sobering, but the rewards, as they say, are out of this world.


Discussion Questions

  1. On page 77 in “Follow”, Floyd says that the definition of pride is choosing our own way, not being proud of our accomplishments or our children or our spouses. It is telling God “don’t interfere in my life, when I need you, I’ll call. It is the desire to chart our own course independent of His plans and wishes. In what ways do we most commonly reveal this attitude?
  2. In Matthew, chapter 5 verse 3, the Message version says “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule.” Have there been times in your life that you relinquished pride because you had run out of options? What were the blessings you discovered when you had to rely solely on God instead of your own abilities and control? Please share this with the group if it is not too private.
  3. How does last week’s topic of Lordship relate to this week’s subject of pride? What are the parallels between surrendering control and self-reliance?
  4. Our world values attitudes like self-reliance, ambition, drive, and self-worth. It is through many of these attitudes that humans accomplish much of our progress as a nation and a culture. Are these things wrong? How do we balance these concepts with the humble character of Jesus and a reliance on God as the source of our strength?
  5. Floyd McClung says that one of the fruits of pride is self-centeredness. Describe how this fruit shows itself in our relationship in; marriage, the workplace, the church body and other relationships. What are some attitudes and actions we can take in each situation to be more in tune with Christ’s character?
  6. What does the statement mean that: “He will only challenge the boundaries you are willing to rethink”? Have you found this to be true in your own life? Are there boundaries that still need to be challenged in your life? What does McClung mean when he says, “Our passion for Jesus is the only passion that will not destroy us”?

Action Steps

  1. Grow a garden and give out extra produce to your neighbors.
  2. Host a sports game (Gator of course!) and invite your neighbors.
  3. Hold a dessert and coffee night and invite your neighbors.
  4. Start a walking / running group in your neighborhood.
  5. Take a group of neighborhood kids and their parents on a bike ride / adventure.
  6. Identify one area of your life that you have been self-centered and do something that places others ahead of your own needs in this area.
  7. Lose an argument. Concede a point or really listen to someone you disagree with.

 

 

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