(Originally posted on 7/15/2012)
Peace, blessing & abundant grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord & Savior. Welcome back, brothers & sisters! We are blessed beyond measure to have you with us once again.
Beloved, there are times in life where I believe we are all taken back a bit by the sheer vanity of humanity, even when that vanity is present in our own selves. The word “vanity” has its roots in the Latin word “vanitas“, which has several definitions. Please consider the following 3 definitions:
- “Excessive pride in oneself or one’s appearance; character or quality of being vain.” – (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary)
- “That which is vain; anything empty, visionary, unreal, or unsubstantial; fruitless desire or effort; trifling labor productive of no good; empty pleasure; vain pursuit; idle show; unsubstantial enjoyment.” – (Webster Dictionary)
- “The quality of being valueless or futile.” – (Princeton’s WordNet)
Beloved, do any of these definitions sound appealing? No, of course they don’t! Why not? Well, because when you really see vanity for what it is you realize that it is completely and utterly futile. Vanity propels us on a never-ending chase to achieve that which is superficial and/or illusory in nature. So why do we do it? Well, beloved, the truth is we do it, because we are vain and prideful. I’m sorry, but that is the Truth. We don’t readily acknowledge it is being vain and prideful, because those are not qualities that are generally well received. Instead, we attempt to disguise our vanity and pride by using words/phrases like the following:
- Having a strong sense of self-worth
- Being confident
- Being conscious of our appearance
- Appearing professional
- Appearances matter
- Making a good impression
- Being well-maintained
- Staying current
- Changing with the times
- Making yourself presentable
Precious one, the list goes on and on. Just looking at the list provided here, we can see that depending on which descriptor(s) we use we attempt to justify our vanity and pride by making it sound practical, logical, honorable, and in some cases, even therapeutic. Yes, we are capable of being very creative in trying to deceive ourselves into masking our vanity and pride as something more than what it is. Beloved, this does not change the bottom line: it is all nothing more than utter futility. Don’t think so? Let’s discuss a few examples, shall we?
Brothers & sister, how many times in life do we see woman who seemingly never stop applying makeup. Have you ever walked by someone multiple times, and each time they had a little hand held mirror out and were examining their appearance. You walk by and see one time, and then you walk by an hour later, and you see the same thing. When you see the person 30 minutes later they are looking at themselves in that mirror, and it just seems to continue on and on. As the person looks at himself or herself in the mirror more and more, he or she reaches for a brush or some other item and they attempt to fix the “blemishes” they are finding. On and on this goes as the person is never satisfied that they have perfected their appearance.
So then when the person is off work, they go shopping. The person decides that he or she needs a new pair of shoes, but they don’t just need any old pair of shoes. No, not at all. Instead of buying a pair of shoes that will simply meet his or her needs and present an appropriate appearance, he or she is more concerned with buying a pair of shoes that is nearly half a month’s rent check (only being a little facetious). It doesn’t even matter whether the shoes wear well on the person, or are expected to last a long time. What matters is that these are the “in” shoes to have if he or she wants to be considered to be “in fashion”. Maybe the shoes aren’t extremely comfortable, and maybe they don’t really fit quite right: it doesn’t matter to that person, because he or she has now achieved “the look”. The only problem is that 3 days later there is a new shoe that is all the rage, and that expensive pair of uncomfortable shoes he or she bought is already “outdated”. Now the scrimping and scraping of every last dollar starts again in earnest so that he or she can get the new trendy shoes and once again be “in fashion”. Finally, he or she is able to buy those shoes. What happens next? The following week a new fashion trend begins and he or she is once again “outdated”. Wash, rinse, & repeat. So the cycle continues.
Another example of the futility of vanity & pride has to do with the cell phone industry. How many of us have had more than 1-2 cell phones in the last 5 years? Why? Did our cell phones stop working? Usually, not. Usually, we just want to have the “latest technology” in order to “stay current”. This makes sense, right? Well, in most cases it really doesn’t. Beloved, whether you call me from the latest Iphone, Android, or from an old rotary dial phone, we are still going to get the chance to talk. Now someone might say, “Well, but with the newest phone I can stream more video and get better resolution on my pictures.” Really, precious one? Let’s be honest in asking ourselves how much value that really adds. How much video do you really want to watch on a screen the size of the palm of your hand, rather than watching on a normal size television screen or computer monitor? As far as picture resolution improving by some slightly perceptible amount, is that really going to enhance the memory of the experience being captured in the picture at all? No, it’s not. Frankly, most people switch out their cell phones yearly for no better reason than to be seen with the latest and greatest toy.
One more example is the person that buys a really expensive automobile that they can barely afford. When you ask why they bought such a pricey ride, they respond that they want to travel “in style”. The only problem is that once they make the monthly loan payment each month, after paying all of their other living expenses, they don’t have enough money left to buy enough gas to do more than travel back and forth to work. Subsequently, they sit in their driveway endlessly washing and cleaning their trophy car that they can’t afford to take anywhere to do any of the basic things that they can no longer afford to do. They look very impressive standing proudly next to their shiny and expensive car, taking pictures to post online and send to people in order to give the impression that they have “arrived”. Every month they scrape every last penny together to make the payment, and substitute getting out and around with “staying in” because they can’t afford to go anywhere. All the while, they cast superior glances at their next door neighbor who drives a 20 year old car full of dents and rust because of the “clunker” that their neighbor has to drive. What they miss is that their neighbor can still afford to visit family and friends in their “clunker”, because they are not living beyond their means and are not saddled with a financially oppressive car payment that leaves them too strapped to actually utilize their car regularly for transportation.
The bottom line, beloved, is that in order to rid our own selves of the vanity of humanity we need to embrace intellectual and spiritual sanity. Vanity & pride are nothing more than futility. We must replace this futility with a healthy dose of humility. We must see ourselves as we truly are rather than only focusing on whom we wish we could be. The word “humility” derives from the Latin word “humilitis”, which means “to be humble”. Taking it a step further, the word “humilitis” is derived from the root word “humilit”, which means “low”. Think about that for a moment, beloved. Consider the following definitions for the word “humble” offered by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
- “not proud or haughty: not arrogant or assertive”
- “reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission”
- “a. a ranking low in a hierarchy or scale: insignificant, unpretentious b. not costly or luxurious”
We can see that the difference between being humble versus being vain & proud is like night and day, right? Notice that there is nothing in these definitions of being humble that alludes to self-confidence, self-respect, self-esteem, nor self-assuredness. Do you notice a real key here? There is nothing about being humble that really has much to do with “self” anything at all. Where vanity and pride are focused entirely on packing, presenting, and elevating oneself, humility involves giving deference to others instead without trying to project either superiority or even equanimity.
The Truth is, beloved, that we can never attain the superficial and illusory promises/visions that vanity and pride compel us to pursue. That is exactly what makes vanity and pride so completely futile. On the other hand, humility doesn’t compel us to achieve a certain status, appearance, or level in life. Humility compels us to know the Truth and to see ourselves for our shortcomings and our flaws. Yes, we see the positives, too, but we are very mindful of the blemishes. This keeps us “grounded” and sends ego looking for a home elsewhere.
Why is it so vitally important for us to see ourselves as we are? Well, precious one, only by seeing ourselves as we truly are will we ever realize just how much we need the Lord in order to become the people that He created us to be. The world has gotten very creative in its deceptions by pushing a common lie that we have all heard, and oftentimes repeated ourselves, many times throughout our lives. You know what that lie is? Here it is, beloved: We were created in God’s image. Now admit it, some of you are a little shocked by my claim that this is a lie, aren’t you? We have not only heard many times throughout our lifetimes that we are created in God’s image, but we have also heard many times while in church, right? Yes, we have. That is only evidence of the effectiveness of this particular deception. Brothers & sisters, read the Scriptures for yourselves rather than relying on someone else to spoon-feed it to you! The Scriptures do talk about being made in God’s image, but you know what? It was Adam that was made in God’s image. The serpent deceived Adam & Eve, however, into believing that they could become equal with God by eating the fruit from the forbidden tree. Disobedience was not their first sin. Their first sin was swelling up with vanity and pride at the prospect of being equal to God based on the illusory promise that the serpent made. This first sin of vanity and pride then compelled them to be disobedient (the second sin) and eat the forbidden fruit. At that point, beloved, everything changed.
Where Adam had been made in the image of God, once Adam & Eve sinned, the image changed. Why do I say that? Well, precious one, how couldn’t it change? Adam & Eve were stained by sin. God has never once sinned. Adam & Eve’s image became stained after their sin, and this was why they were ejected from the Garden of Eden. This is also when they both received an expiration date. In other words, when Adam was created, he was not created with death as part of the picture. He was created to live forever. However, once he sinned, then death became part of the equation. Why? Well as the apostle Paul wrote:
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 6:23 (KJV)
Throughout the Scriptures God repeatedly makes known to us that death is the only payment acceptable for sin. This is why Christ had to suffer death on the Cross; not for His own sins, because He had no sin. If we were to truly pay for our own sins, we would experience both physical and spiritual death that would condemn us to be lost for eternity. Why? Well, beloved, because the stain of our sins is a stain that does not come out with scrubbing. We simply do not have enough righteousness in ourselves to wash away the stain of sin at the point of death. In other words, our payment is insufficient, because where there is sin there is not holiness. In order to rise to eternal life to be with the Lord forever we must no longer be marked with the stain of sin. We don’t have the funds in our personal accounts to pay that cleaning bill. Consider the following passage from Scripture:
“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;” – 2 Corinthians 3:5 (KJV)
You see, beloved, true humility helps us to understand that we are not “good enough” on our own to enter into the presence of the Lord for all of eternity. No matter how many nice things we do for others, no matter how loudly and fervently we give praise to the Lord, and no matter how many other good deed we do the Truth is that none of it will ever be enough to wash us of the stains of the sins that we commit. The only One with the cleaning power to rid us of the stains of sin is none other than Jesus Christ alone. That’s it, beloved. While all roads are said to lead to Rome, there is only one Way to eternal salvation and that Way is Jesus Christ. So how can Christ dying on the Cross be sufficient to pay for all the sins of mankind? Precious one, the answer is both easy and complex depending on how well you understand the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).
We will explore the topic of the Holy Trinity in much deeper detail in a future message. In short, however, you must understand that during Jesus’ time on earth, He was fully man. He experienced all the things that other human beings experienced (i.e. pain, suffering, laughter, hunger, thirst, etc). Yet, while Jesus was always fully man, He also never stopped being fully God, either. Coffee creamer might be ½ and ½, but our Lord & Savior lived fully as both man and God during His time on this earth. Jesus may have been “born in a manger”, but that was only His physical birth into this world. Jesus came from eternity and from heaven in order to live among us here. Do remember one of the occasions where when Jesus identified Himself, the people wanted to stone Him? Let me refresh your memory, with the following passage from Scripture:
“’Art Thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? And the prophets are dead: whom makest Thou Thyself?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I honour Myself, My honour is nothing: it is My Father that honoureth Me; of whom ye say, that He is your God: Yet ye have not known Him; but I know Him: and if I should say, I know Him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know Him, and keep His saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad.’ Then said the Jews unto Him, ‘Thou are not yet fifty years old, and has Thou seen Abraham?’ Jesus said unto them, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.” – John 8:53-58 (KJV)
I pray that the Lord is opening your heart to understand the true significance of that passage of Scripture and the Truth of who Jesus really is. If so, then you understand that when Jesus suffered the cross to pay for our sins with His life, it was truly the Lord God Almighty that was offering up His life to save us! That, beloved, is how just one death has the power to cleanse all of us by paying all of our sin debts. Tide detergent will not remove the stain of our sins. Only the blood of the sinless Lamb of God can wash away the stain of our sins, and wash those stains away this blood will, but first we have to submit ourselves to the Cleaner of our souls so that we can be cleansed.
Brothers & sisters, once Adam & Eve sinned all of us who were born afterwards were born into a sin nature as sons & daughters of Adam and Eve. We all live, or used to live, abiding by the flawed laws of human nature. Where Adam had been created in God’s image, we were born into the image of Adam. We go through our lives living as children of Adam unless there comes a time where we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord & Savior. Upon accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord & Savior, we are “born again” spiritually as children of God. We then forego further adherence to the laws of human nature as we begin to live consciously in God’s grace and mercy instead. At this point, the Lord starts “working” on remaking us into His image by gradually changing us as we continue to grow in the faith. It’s not a physical re-imaging; rather it is a spiritual one. He conducts this work in us throughout our lives, and we are finally “finished” being remade when we enter our glorified bodies and begin to spend eternity in His presence. Praise God!
Beloved, keep in mind that Jesus could have come off that Cross any time He chose. Frankly, He could have delivered Himself from going up on that Cross. He certainly had the power and the resources to defend Himself. As the Christ, He certainly had the authority to stop us in our tracks, but He didn’t. You and I both know what He did. He gave Himself in submission in order to save us. As the apostle Paul wrote:
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8 (KJV)
Brothers & sisters, the very One who made all of Creation had the ability to have forgone all of trials, torture, misery, and ultimately death, that He experienced for us, but He didn’t. As Paul notes, “He humbled Himself”. Think about how resistant we are to humble ourselves in different situations, whether they be in work or in our personal lives. We insist on asserting ourselves, showing we have spines, and maintaining our dignity. Our pride in the false and over-inflated image of who we are is more important to us than following Christ’s example of humility. Precious one, when someone has a history of bad choices, addictions, or some other repetitive pattern of self-destructive behavior, what is the first thing that needs to happen in order to see them get on the road to recovery? They need to admit they have a problem, right? And so it is with us, beloved. If we honestly hope to ever be the men and women that God made us to be, we must first acknowledge that we are not yet that person and that we have fallen far short of being that person. God is not fooled. Regardless of how we present ourselves, God sees us as we really are. Consider the following example that Jesus shared with us to illustrate how we are to humble ourselves before the Lord:
“And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.’” – Luke 18:9-14 (KJV)
If we refuse to acknowledge our sinful selves and our shortcomings then how can we expect God to work in us? God will not reward the delusional, but He most definitely will hear & respond to the truly repentant confessional. Consider the following passage from Scripture:
“But He giveth more grace. Wherefore He saith, ‘God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.’” – James 4:6 (KJV)
Beloved, it is a blessed revelation to see ourselves as we truly are. This compels call out to the Lord with a strong sense of humility. When God sees us on the ground you know what He does, don’t you? He spiritually lifts us up. He will teach us how to walk the path leading home, but we must be willing to follow His lead. By living in submission to the Lord and His perfect will, our decisions get much better as they are not clouded by the deceitful promises of vanity & pride. Instead we see clearly who and what we are and are not, but more importantly, we understand that the Lord is the All-sufficiency that more than compensates for our personal insufficiencies. This reduces the allure of vain promises, as we realize that in Christ we have all we could ever need and more than we could ever hope for. This helps our footing become surer as we continue our journey through life without allowing pride & vanity to lead us to do things we know to be wrong. Consider the following passage from Scripture:
“When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2 (KJV)
Beloved, let us commit ourselves to forego the unattainable, superficial, and illusory pursuits of pride & vanity. Once and for all, we need to make a steadfast commitment to replace that mindless futility with blessed humility. May the Lord bless us to see that the most impressive fashion is not embodied by the person wearing the latest designer clothing; rather it is the mother and father getting their clothing at a second hand store so that they can have money left over to better supply their children’s needs, while also helping others in need. May we be blessed to see the perfect picture of beauty does not involve mascara, makeup, lipstick, biceps, and expensive hairstyle, or any those type of things; rather the perfect picture of beauty & love is described by the prophet Isaiah in the following passage of Scripture:
“For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry gound: He hath no form nor comelineness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:2-5 (KJV)
Precious one, the Lord God Almighty allowed Himself to be beaten beyond physical recognition and to then be murdered on the Cross in order to save you and I from ourselves and from our sins. He has never needed us, but we can’t expect to enter eternal life without Him. He did what He did for us, because He loves us. That, beloved, is the perfection of beauty, and that is the greatest show of love you and I will ever experience.
Brothers & sisters, let me tell you right now that I am more flawed that most people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I am extremely uncomfortable receiving compliments, “thank you’s”, and the like. Precious one, I know who I am, and I know that I am certainly no one worth celebrating. I deserve no praise, and I deserve absolutely no honor. I have known success in life, but I have also known failure on more than one occasion. Having a self-image of perfection will never be a problem I have, because I understand just too clearly just how flawed I am. However, after humbly falling at the foot of the Cross and submitting myself to God’s will several years ago, the Lord helped me understand something else that I am: I am forgiven! So are you if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord & Savior! Praise God!
Beloved, I will be a work of progress until the day I go home to be with the Lord, just as you will. That being said, I am definitely a different man than I used to be, and that is a very good thing. By the grace of God one day I will eventually fully become the man that God always intended for me to be when He created me.
Precious one, if you ever begin to feel pride swell up within you, just think of Jesus on that Cross, and remember that it was our sins that put Him there. Realize that the only way we could be saved from eternal damnation was for God to literally offer His own life and to die for us. And then rejoice in knowing that just as Christ rose from the grave on the third day, we will also be blessed to live on after death as a result of Jesus sharing His victory with all who accept Him as Lord & Savior!
If you are ready to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, please join me in praying the following prayer:
“Lord God Almighty, I know that I am a sinner and that I am lost. I know that I need to be saved from sin, but I also know that I can’t save myself. Lord Jesus, I know that only You can save me. I know that You paid for my salvation with Your own life and blood on the cross. I know that when You rose from the grave on the third day, You conquered death and provided everlasting life to all who trust in You. I now lay down my life and let go of my pride, my vanity and every other sin that has kept me from You. From this moment on, Lord Jesus, I completely trust my life to You. I open my heart to You, Lord. Please come into my heart. Please forgive me of all of my sins, and please accept me as Your child. From this point on, I commit my life to You. Please guide me and provide me strength as I begin to live the rest of my life for You. In Your precious and matchless name I pray. Amen.”
Beloved, if you just prayed that prayer sincerely then you are now spiritually born anew in Christ Jesus. The stains of your past sins have been washed away. You may still have to face the consequences of some of your past mistakes, but the Lord will strengthen and sustain you to face and endure those consequences. Furthermore, though you will still face new trials and tribulation throughout the rest of your life, you will never again do so alone. The Lord is with you now, and through Him there is nothing too big for you to face and deal with. I want to encourage you to commit yourself to growing in your new relationship with the Lord by studying His Word every single day (Bible), communicating with Him frequently (prayer), while seeking out fellowship with your new brothers and sisters in Christ (Christians). Your relationship with Jesus is the most important relationship you will ever have, and I would encourage you to treat it that way. I want to welcome you to the eternal family of Jesus Christ! The angels in heaven are rejoicing at your decision to accept Jesus the Christ as your Lord and Savior.
I want to thank you for joining us for today’s message. I sincerely hope that you are able to join us. It is always a blessing to have you with us!
I want to thank everyone that prayed for me over the last week as I am recovering from some ailments. There is no better way we can ever support one another than through prayer.
Go and enjoy this blessed day that the Lord has made! Share the Lord and His bless Word just as freely as you have been blessed to receive.
If ever I can be of assistance to you, please don’t hesitate to contact me. It is always a blessing to support you in prayer and in any other way that I am able. You are precious in God’s eyes. He loves you, and so do I. You can reach me by phone @ 520-288-9261, by email @ email@example.com, or through the “Comments” section under this message.
May the Lord bless you, keep you, guide you, strengthen you, and make His face to shine upon you and your loved ones always. May you always embrace a spirit of humility and reject the deceitful temptations of vanity and pride.
Your brother in Christ,
Rev Jason Thurwanger