Une Ame Tranquille – A Peaceful Soul

Sophia and Elena Sleeping« Cantique des degrés. De David. Éternel! je n’ai ni un coeur qui s’enfle, ni des regards hautains; Je ne m’occupe pas de choses trop grandes et trop relevées pour moi. Loin de là, j’ai l’âme calme et tranquille, Comme un enfant sevré qui est auprès de sa mère; J’ai l’âme comme un enfant sevré. Israël, mets ton espoir en l’Éternel, Dès maintenant et à jamais! » – Psaume 131

Depuis plusieurs années, mon psaume préféré a été le Psaume 131. A l’âge de 10 ans, un accident de voiture abîma mon dos,  et depuis j’ai toujours eu des difficultés à dormir. Mes nuits sont courtes et souvent interrompues, et je ne puis ne reposer sans d’abord m’étirer patiemment le cou, le dos et les jambes. La tension dans mon corps est constante, et je suis toujours inconfortable. Physiquement parlant, je sais que je ne pourrais jamais expérimenter la paix et la quiétude que j’eu connu en tant qu’enfant.

Mais alors que le repos physique s’enfuit loin de moi, le Psaume 131 me rappelle que je peux avoir la paix spirituelle, qui est bien plus importante.

1) La Paix Commence Avec l’Humilité (v.1)

David, en tant que roi, avait de nombreuses raisons pour être orgueilleux. Beau gosse et leader sans pareil, son règne fut celui de constantes victoires constantes et de succès stratégiques. Il était entouré d’hommes vaillants lui faisant confiance, l’aimant et lui étant loyaux jusqu’à la mort. Et pourtant il savait que ses responsabilités et ses capacités avaient leurs limites. Il ne pouvait pas tout contrôler. De nombreuses choses étaient « trop grandes et merveilleuses » pour lui, des choses qu’il avait besoin de soumettre à Dieu dans l’humilité.

2) La Paix se Trouve en Dieu (v.2)

Psaume 131 :2 a été un des versets les plus encourageants dans ma vie. Par la grâce de Dieu je suis devenu un père pour la première fois il y a de cela deux semaines. Même si le Psaume 131 a été mon psaume préféré pendant longtemps, sa vérité me touche maintenant de manière plus profonde. Lorsque notre fille a faim, elle s’agite, pleure, grogne, et combat sans répit. Mais dès qu’elle est nourrie, elle ferme les yeux et s’endort.

Ce qui est intéressant dans l’analogie biblique est le fait qu’un bébé, bien qu’il/elle cherche la paix, ne peux la trouver indépendamment dans lui-même ou elle-même. Quand nous cherchons à trouver la paix par notre propre indépendance et par nous-mêmes, nos besoins restent insatisfaits, nous cherchons sans trouver, nous nous agitons et   nous nous énervons. Mais ceux qui placent leur confiance pleinement en Fieu découvrent qu’en Lui tout a déjà été accomplit. Comme le lait d’une mère, les bénédictions de Dieu sont prêtes et disponibles, et comblent ceux qui placent leur foi en Lui.

3) La Paix Donne Espoir (v.3)

Celui qui goûte  à la bonté de Dieu voit son espoir grandir exponentiellement. C’est une chose d’être satisfait occasionnellement, et c’en est une autre de demeurer près de la source d’où coulent toutes les bénédictions. De la même manière que le lait d’une mère est renouvelé chaque jour jusqu’à ce qu’il n’y est plus de besoin, il en est de même avec les bénédictions de Dieu.


« A Song of Ascents. Of David. O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. – Psalm 131 »

Psalm 131 has been my favorite Psalm for many years. When I was a kid I had a car accident that affected my back, and since the age of 10 I have had difficulties sleeping. My nights are short and often interrupted, and I simply don’t get any rest unless I patiently spend time stretching my neck, my back and my legs before going to bed. The tension in my body is constant, and I am always uncomfortable. Physically speaking, I know that I might never again experience the peace and quietness that I enjoyed as a baby.

But while physical rest runs away from me, I am reminded in Psalm 131 that I can have spiritual peace, which is far more important.

1) Peace Begins With Humility (v.1)

David, as the king, had many reasons to boast and be prideful. He was a good-looking, awe-inspiring leader whose reign was marked with constant victories and strategic successes.  He was surrounded with mighty men who trusted him, loved him, and were fully devoted to him. Yet he knew that his responsibilities and capacities had their limit. He could only control so much. There were many things “too great and too wonderful” for him, which he needed to submit to God in humility.

To find peace, David had to remember who was truly in charge. Not him, but God alone.

2) Peace is found in God (v.2)

Psalm 131:2 has been one of the most encouraging verses in my life. By God’s grace I just became a father for the first time 2 weeks ago. Although Psalm 131 has been my favorite Psalm for a long time, its truth now reaches to a different depth in my heart. When our daughter is hungry, she becomes agitated, she cries, she grunts, and she fights restlessly. But as soon as she is fed, her eyes close and she sleeps peacefully.

What is interesting in the biblical analogy, is the fact that a baby, though he or she might be seeking peace, will never find it within himself or herself. And this truth never changes. As long as we try to find peace within ourselves, we will be lacking, we will be searching, we will be agitated and restless. But he who sets his trust fully on God will find that all the work has already been accomplished. Just like the milk of a mother, God’s blessings are ready, available, and will satisfy he who sets his faith fully on Him.

3) Peace produces hope (v.3)

He who tastes of God’s goodness will have his hope grow ever-increasingly. It is one thing to be satisfied one day, it is another to be resting in the source of all blessings. And just as the milk of the mother is renewed every day until there is no more need, so it is with God’s blessings.

The Rich Young Ruler – Luke 18:18-23

In chapter 17, we saw Jesus traveling to Jerusalem for the last time, teaching His disciples through a living parable what it means to be a true Christian: someone who glorifies God someone whose thoughts and passions are directed towards God. But guess what? Do you think that one living story would be enough to the stubborn disciples? Probably not. And so as the journey goes on, Jesus also continues to teach His disciples about true salvation.

In chapter 18, verse 9-14, Jesus tells them a parable about a self-righteous Pharisee and a tax-collector. The Pharisee was the one who thought he had everything figured out. He thought, “I am so religious, I am so godly, I am such a good man! God, you are so lucky that I even know you!” And then on the other side there is the tax-collector beating his chest, crying out to God: “God! Be merciful to me, a sinner!”

One was proud, the other one was humble. One thought he was so good he didn’t really need a Savior. The other one was so broken, he knew that without being dependent upon a Savior his life would have no hope. One was an unbeliever. The other one was saved.

And then we get to verses 15-17, where little children come to Jesus.

15.Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

16. But Jesus called them to him, saying, « Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

17. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. »

Jesus here continues to teach about what it means to be a true Christian. He says that being a Christian is like being a child. Not because children are innocent, because they are not. How many of you have younger siblings? Would you say that they are perfect, always watching for others and never being selfish? No way! Here Jesus is teaching that the kingdom of God is for those that are like children because children, just like the tax-collector, need to be dependent. The tax collector was asking help from God. Children are the same, they are always asking for help. They can’t live on their own. They need to be protected, provided for, educated, sheltered.

And so Jesus is with a crowd, teaching all these things, and then a young man from the group comes to him to ask a question. This man is the rich young ruler. In this passage he is only called a ruler, but from the same story in the other gospels we know that he was also young and very rich.

Luk 18:18  And a ruler asked him, « Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? »

Luk 18:19  And Jesus said to him, « Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

Luk 18:20  You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.' »

Luk 18:21  And he said, « All these I have kept from my youth. »

Luk 18:22  When Jesus heard this, he said to him, « One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. »

Luk 18:23  But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

Now, if you had asked most Jews in Israel in the times of Jesus, they probably all thought that this man was on his way to heaven. First, he sought sound teaching. Not only he came to listen to Jesus, but he even asked questions. Secondly he was rich, which for a lot of people of the Old Testament it implied that he was blessed by God, and so in favor before God. God had promised to bless the faithful ones, so often they thought that those who had riches were the ones that were the closest to God. Thirdly, he knew the Old Testament and on an outward level he had even applied himself to obey some of the 10 commandments.

He was religious, he had been faithful to his convictions his whole life, he wasn’t openly rebelling against God or living a life of debauchery. He looked like a believer, talked like a believer, and hung out with believers. But guess what? He was not a true believer. He refused to follow Jesus. And he refused because ultimately his heart was self-centered, and not God-centered. And he is probably in hell right now.

Earlier today we talked about the story of the leper who showed to be a true Christian because of his focus on God and his worship of Him. Now we are going to look at 5 deadly manifestations of self-centeredness that depict an unbeliever. And as we consider those, let us look at our own lives to see how we can grow to be less centered on self and more centered on God.

I. SELF-SERVING

First, in this passage, we see that he is self-centered by being self-serving. He is using people to his own ends. He is a manipulator.

And this is how we see this: he comes to Jesus with flattery. He calls Him “good” even though he doesn’t really believe it. He calls him “good” because he is trying to deceive Jesus to fall into a system of external conventions so proper to the rulers and aristocratic of the day. He does not call Him good because He believes that Jesus’ teaching should be followed, we know that because he walks away from Jesus – he calls him good because he is trying to get Jesus to like him.

And why is he trying to get Jesus to like him? Because he wants to get in the kingdom because he is a nice guy, not because he is following the teachings of Jesus. See, Jesus had just taught to the crowds that the kingdom of God was for those who would be broken-hearted and dependent, like the tax-collector and the children. But this guy comes and thinks that he is too good to fit in those categories. “Well, that dependence stuff is good for them, but what about a cool guy like me?”

And so he comes to Jesus with flattery. We even see in the gospel of Mark, in the same story, that he comes and kneels down before Jesus. Jesus was teaching the crowds, and here he comes, in front of everybody, and kneels down. And he calls him “good teacher!”

Now, you need to remember something. We’re in the days of Jesus, not in modern times. Back then, they didn’t use paper like we do. A lot of transactions were done by speaking. And so words were very important. Very important. And people were so used to that that they were also a lot better at remembering what people said. So when this man praises Jesus like this in front of a crowd, they would remember for a long time how he “honored” Jesus with his lips. It meant a lot.

Imagine if you go to class, and before the class begins your teacher says to everyone: “Listen class! This guy or this girl is awesome!”

Now, if your teacher did that to you, would you like the teacher or not? If the teacher kept telling people in public how awesome you are, would you behave well in that class? Would you listen to the teacher?

But what if the teacher told everyone that you were awesome but didn’t even believe it. What if the teacher told everybody that you were awesome just so that he or she could get you to behave better in class? That would be called flattery.

The dictionary states that flattery is “Excessive and insincere praise, especially that given to further one’s own interests.”

And that’s what this young ruler was all about. He had his own interests in mind. He was self-serving, self-centered. He didn’t care about the teachings of Jesus, he cared about getting Jesus on his side so that Jesus would treat him well in return.

Pro 26:28  A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

Flattering is nothing else but lying. And it is practical hatred and brings about destruction. Flattery kills relationships. It makes them superficial and meaningless.

Now why do you think God created relationships? After God created Adam He created Eve so that she could be a helper to him. The first relationship that was created was made so that two people could help each other to do God’s will. That’s what relationships are all about. It’s to encourage one another to love God more, to love each other, to care for one another and to keep each other accountable that we all are bringing glory to His name.

Pro 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy

A true believer does not want to flatter people, but he wants to tell them the truth even when it is hard, even when it hurts people. Is it easy to confront someone on their sins? No, it’s really hard! They might hate you for it, they might think you are judging them, that you are not tolerant; they might even stop being your friends if they love their sins more than they love you. One time I told my younger brother that I didn’t think he was a believer because of how he lived his life, and he got so mad that he hit the wall and punched a hole into it. But by God’s grace he got saved a month later.

And that’s the first sign of an unbeliever: and unbeliever would rather have people like him than telling the truth to people. An unbeliever would rather have people believe lies rather than to tell them the truth.

Did the rich young ruler care about Jesus? Not a bit. He wanted to manipulate Him. But Jesus caught his intentions right away: He asks Him in verse 19:

Luk 18:19  And Jesus said to him, « Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

Jesus didn’t necessary rebuke him in front of everybody. He was very tactful. But he didn’t let him go away with his flattery. In fact, Jesus in this passage is extremely wise in how he tackles the problem of the young man. His problem is that he is self-centered: too self-centered to care about God or care about people. And so with this first comment, Jesus slowly leads the young ruler to see the state of his heart.

“Wait a minute! What is this about? I’m not playing by your rules. I don’t care about your flattery. In fact, let me show you how deceived you are with your own words. You call me good? God alone is good. So if you want to use a word that describes God’s character, let me point you back to Him. It’s not about you, it’s all about Him.”

II. SELF-ELEVATING

So first he showed how he was self-centered by self-serving, by being flattering. Secondly, he showed that he is self-centered by being self-elevating.

As we just mentioned, Jesus had been teaching to the crowd concerning salvation and the kingdom of God. First he taught about humility, right, in verse 14: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Then he taught on being like children: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

In these statements Jesus makes generalizations. He says first “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.” And then he says “truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Jesus is making generalizations. He is speaking truths that apply to everybody. “If you want to be part of the kingdom and have eternal life, be humble. If you want to go to heaven, be dependent like a child.”

But here comes the rich young ruler with his question: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Now you might be thinking, was he listening? Jesus just taught what the kingdom of God was all about!

He was listening, but only with one ear. With one ear he was hearing the words of Jesus, but with the other ear he was listening to his own voice speaking to himself: “You’re better than this. These truths don’t apply to you. You are superior to them. You are in a category just by yourself.”

Do you ever do this? You hear some challenges from Scriptures but think to yourself: “No, I’ve got that one figured out. That’s for someone else.” And you start reasoning in your mind why the truths that are being spoken about are not really for you.

That was what the rich young ruler was doing. He was elevating himself above others. He thought he was superior to others. He was prideful. He was completely self-centered. He thought it was all about him.

In 1 Peter 5:5 it is written that God opposes the proud, but that He gives grace to the humble. God hates pride. He abhors it. And when He sees pride, He opposes it. When Satan the angel of light became prideful and rebelled against God, God kicked him out of heaven. When Adam became prideful and disobeyed God and ate from the fruit of the tree, God chased him from the Garden of Eden, from His presence, and gave a limit to his life so that he would die. And when men continued to be prideful and to sin against God, He judged them all with a flood to destroy every man except 8 people. And when the men of Babel joined together in pride to build a tower to “make a name for themselves” so that they would be remembered, God judged their pride and confused them with different languages.

Whenever people raise their fists to God’s will and say to Him, “we’ve got something better for ourselves than what you want us to do!” God calls it pride, and He opposes it. And let me tell you, if you think that you can get away doing your own will rather than God’s will, He will stand up in your way. He will be in your face. He’s going to judge you. And it’s not going to be pretty. If you think that you can keep a hardened heart when certain truths of the Scriptures are taught and you distance yourself from them, watch out.

God hates pride with all of His heart. In heaven, there will be no pride. Heaven is for humble people, for people who want to serve and love others, for people who want to do the will of God, for people who have died to self, who like Paul have been crucified with Christ.

This rich young ruler was prideful, self-elevating, and self-centered. He thought he could look down on others. He thought he deserved more than they did. He thought he was important enough to get God’s favor and attention.

I can tell you that it would not have taken very long for Jesus to smell that pride. Oh no, God smells pride like nothing else. It’s the most distasteful, stinky and revolting odor in the world. He wasn’t going to get away with this. Jesus was not going to let him go off the hook with that one. He wanted him to see his pride.

And so he asks him that simple question. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

Here Jesus is simply and wisely redirecting both the self-serving flattery of the ruler and his pride to a focus on God. It wasn’t about him, it was about God.

III. SELF-SUFFICIENT

First we saw that he was self-serving, secondly we saw that he was self-elevating, then thirdly we see that he was self-sufficient.

Luk 18:20  You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.' »

Luk 18:21  And he said, « All these I have kept from my youth. »

The 10 commandments can be divided into two parts: one part relating to how one should behave in regard to his relationship with God, in worshipping Him alone, not using His name in vain, not making idols and keeping the Sabbath, and the other commandments concern one’s relationship with other people: not to murder them, to lie to them, to steal from them, but to be faithful and to honor them. In short, half of them deal with loving God, the other half deal with how we should love our neighbor.

Now, based on what we had already seen, do you think that the rich young ruler really loved his neighbor? We just saw from one sentence coming from his mouth that he is a manipulator and an arrogant man, looking down on people.

No, the rich young ruler did not love people. He loved himself.

And so when Jesus asks him about the commandments, he thought: “this is easy. This is basic stuff. I know all of that. I’ve been pretty good at those. I am a righteous man. I have done all of them.”

Now, let’s go back to verse 9, the first that introduces the story of the proud Pharisee and the humble tax-collector:

Luk 18:9  He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

The Pharisees were like the young man, they looked down on people. And they did that because they thought they were righteous. They thought that they had God’s law figured out. They thought that they had obeyed the law enough to be found guiltless. And you know why? It is because they thought they could pick their own standards of justice.

Imagine that you are in a country where the only law concerning speed limit is this one: “don’t go too fast.” Now that is a very broad statement. How would you apply this on the freeway? Well, this is how the Pharisees would apply this. They would get together, find out a speed limit that they would know is very hard to go over, like 150 miles/hour, and then make an agreement. Too fast is 150 miles/hour. Then they would all feel good about themselves.

Now they did the same thing with the 10 commandments. God had told them not to commit adultery, which means to not have intimate relationships with someone who is not your spouse. But many of them, when they wanted to sleep with another woman, they would divorce their wives so that they could get married again. But because they were still “married” they thought they were all good.

This is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:20:

Mat 5:20  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus’ standards were different.

Mat 5:21  « You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’

Mat 5:22  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Mat 5:27  « You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

Mat 5:28  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

For Jesus the 10 commandments were a lot more than a list of things to do and not to do. They were the principles that one who loved God and loved others would want to follow.

Now, do you think that this young ruler practiced those things? No, he didn’t. We just saw that he talked to Jesus with flattery, which is a form of deception and of lying. He said he honored his parents from his youth. Do you think that it is even possible?

Now, do you know why God gave the 10 commandments?

Rom 3:20  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The reason why the Law and the 10 commandments  were given was to show people that they could never obey perfectly, and that they needed a Savior. That was the whole point. It was to show that their hearts were wicked and that they needed God to heal their hearts.

But the rich young ruler did not think that he needed a Savior. He thought he had everything under control. When Jesus told him about the commandments, he was asking him one basic question: do you think that you really love your neighbor? And the rich young ruler to answer: “I have done everything I could to do so.”

IV. SELF-INTERESTED

He was blinded. He was blinded because he could see nothing else but himself. He was self-serving, self-elevating, self-sufficient, and here, fourthly, we see that he was self-interested.

What he really cares about are his own interests.

After hearing the very prideful words from the ruler, Jesus now is about to test him: “You say you did everything you could to love people? Let’s see.”

Luk 18:22  When Jesus heard this, he said to him, « One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. »

Luk 18:23  But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

Here Jesus continues to play the game of the ruler. He progressively set him up, and now he is able to give him a final challenge that will truly reveal what was in the heart of that rich young ruler.

“You’ve done everything? Wow, that’s great. But let’s see if there is something else lacking. Something small. I mean, you have already done everything you could, would there really be anything difficult to ask you? It’s probably not going to be hard for you. Go home, sell your stuff, and follow me.”

From the beginning until now, it is as if Jesus and the rich young ruler were part of two different conversations. The rich young ruler keeps talking about himself, and Jesus keeps trying to point to God and others. And here, finally, the two conversations merge. Finally the rich young ruler gets pushed to the corner and to the point where he has to listen to Jesus. But because he hadn’t been listening until now, what Jesus tells him falls on him like a bomb.

At last, the sinfulness and the selfishness of his heart are exposed. But instead of asking the Savior to help him, he walks away.

The problem was that he was self-interested. He cared about himself, not about others, and certainly not about the poor. For him to give all of his stuff to the poor made no sense. The poor? Are you kidding me? Those lowly, unworthy, dirty people? All my money to those undeserving people? What a waste! I would never do that! Just the thought made him sad. In fact the word uses here means “extremely sorrowful.”

He didn’t get sad because Jesus told him that he could not enter the kingdom of heaven: that was still possible for him. He was sad because he loved his money much more than he loved people.

He didn’t care about people. He cared about himself. He was self-interested. He wanted the comfort of this world with the approval of people, the fame and the name, the honor and the power.

Jesus was offering him a kingdom of self-denial, of sacrifice, of love for other people, of service, of seeking God rather than self-esteem. But he didn’t want that kind of kingdom. He liked money. He liked possessions. He liked things that helped him look better than other people. Without money, he would be just like everybody else. He wouldn’t have power, prestige, authority. But he liked those things more than he liked people, more than he liked Jesus, and more than he liked God the Father.

Now, when Jesus asked him to follow him, he didn’t say “no.” He walked away. He tried not to think about it. He tried to shuffle all these convicting truths in the back of his mind so that he could go on with his business without letting his conscience take over.

V. SELF-BELIEVING

This rich young ruler was self-serving, self-elevating, self-sufficient, self-interested, and finally we see that he was self-believing.

He believed in himself. Jesus wanted to test him to see if he could have faith. “Go, sell all of your stuff, and follow me, and see if God is really good.”

But that man did not believe that God was good enough to make it worth it. He thought that God would only be worth it if he still had his own comfort and stuff and selfish pleasures on the side. “Yeah, I want eternal life, but what I really want first is to be happy in my own way.”

Jesus’ test was that he would take the challenge to live by faith, to trust in God and not in the things of the world.

Jesus wanted him to understand what true salvation implied: when you enter the kingdom of God, you become a servant of the King. You can’t enter someone’s kingdom and do whatever you please. No, if you come under the King as your authority, then you have to submit, you have to obey, you have to give up whatever does not please that King to remind safe in his kingdom, lest he kills you.

Entering the kingdom of God comes with a cost. It comes with the cost of self-denial, of sacrifice, leaving behind things that don’t please God, sin, and a heart that is self-centered like that of the rich young ruler.

Is this possible without God? No it’s not.

Look at how the story continues:

Luk 18:24  Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, « How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!

Luk 18:25  For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. »

Luk 18:26  Those who heard it said, « Then who can be saved? »

Luk 18:27  But he said, « What is impossible with men is possible with God. »

Listen. Jeremiah the prophet wrote that the hearts of men are deceitful above all things. Without Christ and what He accomplished on the cross, it is impossible for people to get saved. We are so selfish, so self-centered, we are so prone to seek our own pleasures rather than the will of God.

Now I want you to be honest with yourselves. We looked today at the lives of two people: one who was saved, the leper, and one who was not, the rich young ruler. Which one would you think corresponds the most with your life?

We live in a generation that calls themselves Christians, but some people even here will probably go home tonight and not have even one single thought about God. We come to school, do our work, then go home and we think that the time belongs to us. And we do everything we want. We spend our time playing video games and doing stuff on the computer, and our days go by, one after the other, and we don’t do anything for others. It’s all about us, it’s all what pleases us and what makes us happy.

And when our parents ask us to help, we hate it. We complain, we give them a hard time, and we try to get away by doing as little as possible.

Is it easy to live a life to love God and to love others? No it is not. It is sacrificial, it is costly. But does God give us all the help we need? Yes He does. He always does.

But let’s be honest now. We looked at the lives of two men today, the leper and the young ruler. The leper was saved, and the young ruler was not. How could you tell the difference? One was singing praises to God and wanted to turn His focus on Him and worship Him. The other one was self-centered, selfish, prideful and only thinking about himself.

Which one do you think you are? Be honest. Do you love others? Would you be willing to give your stuff away to help people in need? Would giving away your stuff make you joyful, or would it make you sad?

Would you be willing to give your time away to serve at church, to help your parents, to encourage people, or do you hold on to your time as yours, as something that people can’t take away from you?

Now, you can be a believer and still struggle with these things. But let me tell you. You got to be honest with yourself. If you don’t have desires to love people and to live sacrificially, then maybe you should consider that maybe you are not a true believer.

But let’s turn to Mark 10:19-21

Let me ask you a last question. Do you think that God loved him because he was such a cool guy? Because he was better than other people? Because he was doing good things?

No. He loved him because God loves sinners. And that is who we are. We are sinners. And Jesus loved sinners so much that He showed us the greatest example of sacrificial love in laying down his life so that we could have eternal life.

Listen to me. We’re all sinners. And all of you are much more selfish than you think. All of you have much higher opinions of yourselves than you should. You are all way more prideful than you think.

But listen. Jesus loves you too. He loves you so much. His arms are open to welcome all sinners that repent. His arms are welcome for the sinners beating their chests in brokenness. His arms are welcome to people who come like children, wanting help, wanting a Savior.

But if you think you are ok, God will destroy your soul in an eternal fire of judgment.

The Settling of the Proud – Genesis 11:1-9


Introduction

I will never forget the first sight of what was going to become our new church, when at 10 years old my parents decided to leave Quebec, Canada, where they were serving as missionaries, to come back to France. I still remember vividly that building standing in downtown Toulouse, in the midst of a Muslim neighborhood. It was surrounded by used dippers and trash.

I will never forget my first best friend in 5th grade, after a conversation, giving the middle finger to God and cursing loudly in the school courtyard so that everybody could hear.

I will never forget the stench of my Sunday school class, in a room that had a metallic side door that had been forced just enough so that the young men of the neighborhood could pee in our church.

I will never forget that unanswered prayer for the 8 years I lived there: “Father, please give me one Christian friend”

I will never forget the tears on my mother’s face, pleading, “I wish we had one more man in our church who knew the Bible”

I’ll never forget these things. They have marked me and sealed my heart with a burden for France. But as I prepare for ministry, there is one more thing that still haunts my mind.

It is the pride of those two men, leaders our church, who placed their own interests above the church, and in their stubbornness became an obstacle to God’s work, until our church split and our attendance to drop from 120 people to 17 people meeting in a hotel room.

Those men were those who had asked my parents to come from Canada to France to help the church. They had helped us move in, they had invited us to their homes again and again. In our first years in France their families had become our best friends. But eventually their personal agendas and ulterior motives came out and it destroyed our church and ripped our hearts apart.

Pride, when it blossoms, is an ugly flower. God hates it. It is sneaky, destructive, and the worse of all sins. There will be no prideful person in heaven. When Satan and his angels became conceited, God kicked them out. There are many things that God despises, but few that God opposes with as much energy as He does with pride.

To be honest, this sobers me. At times, it scares me. Because there is no other sin that I see as often as pride in my own life, and with such depth. The roots of pride are not the kinds that wonder at the surface. They dig deep into the core of our beings.

The Bible has its ways to remind us of our pride. I just think of verses like Philippians 2:3, “in humility count others as more significant than yourselves.” Could I honestly say that I count others as more significant than myself? I don’t think so. Could I look at any of you in the eyes and say: “I count you as more significant than myself? I certainly prayed more for my sermon than I did for yours.

I love the quote my Andrew Murray: “The humble person is not one who thinks meanly of himself, he simply does not think of himself at all”

The road to humility is long, and it is saturated with the deadly snares of pride.

So here is my question for us: What are we doing to keep our hearts from being prideful today?

I invite you to turn in your Bibles in the book of Genesis, in chapter 11, to the story of the tower Babel, where we will find insight for each one of us to answer this question. And here is the one thing that I desire for us to remember today, and it is very simple:  a prideful will lead you away from God’s will; a humble heart will lead you at the center of it.

Now I invite you to turn in our Bibles in Geneses 11:1-9, and let us look at three devastating manifestations of pride, which should motivate us to follow God’s will and not our own.

Read Passage

I. SINFUL DISOBEDIENCE

And this is how it first fleshes out: with a sinful disobedience to God. The first manifestation of their pride is seen in their sinful disobedience. We read in verses 1-2:

“Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.”

In Gen 9:1. after the flood, God had told Noah and his family, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” (Gen 9:1).

God had said something, but the earth thought different. After migrating for a while they “settle down,” a word here that implies permanent residency. They set their gear down, pitched their tents, raise their fists to God and say: enough. We’re done with that migration stuff. We’re not moving no more. We have found the plains of Shinear, we are here to say.

Now, for you students of the Word, you know that the Bible does not have much good to say about Shinear, and especially Babel, also known as Babylon. From the destruction and captivity of Judah to the end times, Babylon is known as a place of evil, rebellion against God and pride. Her fate, according to Isaiah (13:19), will be compared to that of Sodom and Gomorrah, as the saints will be called to rejoice at her destruction according to Revelation (18:20).

And so here we are at the beginning of the history of Babylon, first known as Babel, which by the way means “the gate of the gods.” And who is the founder of the city? A descendant of Ham, the cursed son of Noah, whose name is Nimrod, meaning “let us rebel.” We see this in the previous chapter from verses 6-10.

So here we are, with Nimrod the mighty man, a great human leader, moving forward with all the peoples of the earth following him. And he comes to the land of Shinar and decides to settle down and build a city that would bear the name of Babel, a name meaning “the gate of the gods.”

Now what would you think if pastor “let us rebel” opened a church called “the gate of the gods”? But what would you think if the whole world went to that church?! It would be like the whole world converted to the Roman Catholic Church or to Islam.

I don’t think there ever was such an open and massive rebellion against God’s revealed will in History, nor will there ever be another one like this one. The people of Babel were prideful. They knew the will of God but willfully rejected it. And so they settled in their pride.

Now is it wrong to settle down? It depends, doesn’t it? What if all the believers in the world lived in California and never traveled outside of the state to share their faith? Would that be in obedience to the great commission? And this is exactly what we see here. Everybody is settling down, and nobody is speaking up. They are settling down and they are all doing it. They are not getting ready to send out groups of peoples, all they want to do is use all the labor force they can have to build a city and a tower for the sake of their own names. Their motives are purely selfish and in complete opposition to God’s revealed will.

There are living as practical atheists, as if the God of the universe was neither watching nor caring. The Bible has a very precise technical term for these kinds of people. It calls them fools. And this is what we see next.

II. SENSELESS FOLLY

The second devastating manifestation of pride that we see in this passage is their senseless folly. Their senseless folly. And we see this in verses 3-4.

Gen 11:3  And they said to one another, « Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly. » And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.

Gen 11:4  Then they said, « Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth. »

In fact, when you look at this passage in Hebrew, it is truly humorous. Verse 3 basically says, “Come on! Let us brick bricks and bake backing!” It’s like they are a bunch of cave-men that go to a football game. “Come on! Let’s do it!” Their motivation force is nothing better than brainless cheerleading.

But there is even more to it. Do you remember who wrote the book of Genesis? Moses. Do you remember his audience? The exodus generation. We read in Exodus 1:14 that the Egyptians

made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.” Moses’ audience, the people of Israel, had just gotten out of Egypt were they had been making bricks as slaves under the burning sun. Now, the region of Babel is pretty hot too. So let’s pretend you are an Israelite and you hear someone say, “Come on! Let us make bricks under the burning son! Actually, let’s spend our entire lives making bricks, so that we can have a useless tower that will touch the sky! Come on!”

How many Pharaohs do you think took their vacation making bricks with Israel? The reason why the Egyptians had their slaves do that job was because they didn’t want to do it themselves. It was hard work! It was difficult labor, exhausting, creating back pains, tiredness, and guess what, it wasn’t glorious at all!

But even more foolish was their desire to make a tower out of bricks. Seriously: when you turn through your background books on archaeology, do you see many pictures of brick ruins? No, you don’t, and it is because bricks don’t last. The erosion of rain and sand make them crumble. Buildings made of bricks in ancient Mesopotamia had to be periodically destroyed, leveled, and rebuilt. The only ancient bricks I saw in Israel during my 4-month stay there were there because they had been found underground and had been protected.

Secondly using bricks makes no sense because they are trying to build a tower. Have you ever seen a skyscraper made of bricks? Now, maybe some architects might use some for the façade, to make it look nice, but you would never use bricks for the structure! It simply is not resistant enough. The only way to make a building grow taller with bricks would be to make a stepping structure, like a pyramid, where in order to go high you need a huge base, a ton of bricks, and a lot of labor. Some structures like this have been found and are known as Ziggurats, some which required several generations to be completed.

The three little pigs might have been wise to make a brick-house, but the people of Babel, well, they were fools.

Even Moses when he wrote the story was making fun of the foolishness of the people of Babel. Remember Nabal, the fool? His name is all over the place. “NILBANA LEBENIM” let us brick bricks! “Balal!” Let us confuse! Babel, the foolish city. So the Hebrew reader would read the story and it would sound like this. “This is the stupid story of the stupid tower of stupid Babel.”

But they were conceited. They were prideful. They were absorbed in themselves and thought they deserved to be remembered. But why do you want to be remembered for in the first place? It’s completely prideful and selfish! The only reason that someone would want to be remembered would be if that person thought he was important enough to be remembered. The only reason why you would want to be remembered would be if you thought that you were better than others. Why would people remember you if you were not better than others? And this is how these people looked at themselves. “Hey world! Look at us! We’re the real deal! There is never going to be ever anyone as cool, smart, ingenious strong like us!”

They wanted to make a tower so high that it would reach the heavens. They thought they could do even better than God. “God made the sky? Well, let’s make something that is even higher than that!”

They wanted the fame that goes when you have a name. They were prideful people. And because of their pride they stopped moving forward to do God’s work. And they settled down. And they cut the cord that connected them to the blessings of God. Like sheep they went astray and they locked themselves in pastures that would be consumed and left empty with no chance for grass to ever grow again. They stopped following the shepherd; they stopped doing His will and set themselves up to starve to death.

Archaeologists found a text in a pyramid addressing a Pharaoh and saying, your name will live on among people even as your name comes to be with the gods.” Egyptians had tried too to make their names great. And guess what! God ridiculed them! For the past 3500 years Egypt has been remembered for being put to shame by the God of Israel. You want a name, here it goes! You foolish Egyptians, you tried to compete against God, you lost!

Men, for us also the danger is great. Maybe you might not struggle today with the desire to build a statue in your effigy. But let us watch out for the love of reputation! It can even start with good motives. There is no doubt all of you here have proven yourselves to have a certain heart for the Lord and a certain giftedness. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. And the more we learn, the more we will want to do something about it. But often greater opportunities don’t come without trust. I’m sure we’ve all tasted some degree of church politics. And it would be very easy for us to make the seeking of approval and end it itself. It can be very subtle. And all the sudden we can be left with a baby monster always hungry and never satisfied. And so we start building a tower, seeking to look good in front of others, doing works to be noticed, and counting in our treasure chest the compliments of praise we have received. And as we build that reputation, we start believing that we are actually worth much more than what we truly are.

Does God need us? No. But He revealed His will so that we could be used by Him. Christ is the only reputation we need. Let our names be forgotten and His name remembered! Compared to Him, we are nothing. It would be foolish to think otherwise. Men, one day we will be in heaven and guess what? We’ll all get a new name. Making our name great is just a foolish waste of time.

Let us take heed to the warning of Scripture. Do you remember how many of the good kings of Judah finished well? None. All of them, reformers and mighty warriors, after doing well, fell because of pride. These were some of the most powerful religious leaders of history. Let us take heed.

III. SOVEREIGN JUDGMENT

Pride leads to disobedience, to folly, and finally, it leads to the judgment of God. And this is what we see here: the Sovereign judgment of God. God’s will was that people would scatter on the earth. The people of Babel thought they had better plans for their lives than what God had. Well, God won that debate. God’s will was accomplished, and the purposes of the men of Babel were ruined.

Gen 11:5  And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.

Gen 11:6  And the LORD said, « Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

Gen 11:7  Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech. »

Gen 11:8  So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.

Gen 11:9  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

And so at this point God steps in. It was inevitable. The “children of man,” precisely “sons of Adam” are no more than “sons of Adamah,” children of the dust.  And what an irony that on their sides they were building a tower that was supposed to reach the heavens and that God actually had to come down from heaven to even see it.

But they were trying to take God’s place, acting on their own initiative rather than in submission to God. God had to stop them from “proposing” or “plotting” other things to do. The plotting is for Him. He was the one who came up with the idea of this world. He is the one plotting. This is not for man to do.

And so God comes down. The text uses anthropomorphic language. They did not understand the spiritual important of God, and so He decides to act in a way that they would see and understand. And so He comes and He sees what man is doing and He thinks, “Oh wow, look at all these smarties. I wonder what I can do to stop them.” And so He confuses their languages. And then les gens commencent à parler dans toutes sortes de langues et plus personne ne comprend. Et les gens essaient de communiquer mais il n’y a pas d’espoir, la barrière linguistique est instaurée.

And so people are so confused. The verb used here means “to mix,” and was used in ancient times for the mixing of ingredients for baking. And this is what God does with them. They are reduced to trying to find the egg in the cake. But it has been broken and mixed and scattered and is unrecognizable.

They can no longer communicate, and so they have to stop their work. And not only they have to stop their work but also they can’t live together anymore because they can’t understand each other. And so they disperse and fill the earth.

God had His plans in mind, and there was nothing that was going to stop Him. From the beginning God’s will was that there would be a holy and unique Bride prepared for His Son Jesus Christ made of tribes and nations and peoples from all over the earth. This earth created for Christ and through Christ, He was appointed heir of all things, and one day this world, refined and glorified, will be given to Him.

That’s the will of God, that’s His plan, and nothing is going stop Him. Especially not or ridiculous and foolish pride. No, God will oppose it.

God judged Adam because of his pride by limiting the extent of what Adam could do. He limited his life with death, to protect the earth from immortal sinners. And He did it in love: just imagine if a man like Hitler was to be immortal. When the human race continued in their pride and rebellion, he continued to limit them. First he wiped them all except 8 people, then he limited the impact they would have by shortening their days to 120 years. Again, here, out of love for this world, God judged the human race by multiplying the languages to limit the destruction that united sinful men could bring about together.

God has no trouble killing the pride, and in the same way, if pride creeps in our lives, God will have no trouble judging us and limiting our ministry.

I had a friend who was in ministry in France for 16 years. But he always wanted to do his own thing, never listening to the real needs of the moment. He joined our church for about 5 years. He never got too involved, always hoping to get his own church started someday in another part of town. He could have had an incredible impact in our church. He left after 16 years without a single convert behind. Sobering story.

The judgment of God on the proud should definitely make us take a look at our lives. Do we love the praise of men? Do we genuinely listen to people? Do we get offended when people rebuke us? Do we make the pursuit of our reputation an end it itself? When we hear the Word and get convicted, do we go to pray without ceasing, or do we try to cease without praying?

What about the will of God? Are we as passionate as He is to see the Bride of Christ be sanctified? Are we as burdened as He is to see the lost get saved and worship Him, or are we satisfied in only living out half of the Great Commission? Do we ever share God’s tears and beat our chests on behalf of those who are destined to hell?

May we die to ourselves so that Christ would live!

But the beautiful thing is that the story of Babel does not stop here. For the rest of the chapter, we see again the same pattern that we see from the beginning of the book of Genesis. People live, people die, and nothing good happens. Until we get to chapter 12 and the appearing of a man, from the same region as Babel, from Ur. No better than his fathers, he begins with a name reflecting the sinfulness of his nature: Abram, “exalted father.

But as God’s will is revealed to Him, he reacts differently than the people of Babel. Let us read Genesis 12:1-4.

“Now the LORD said to Abram, « Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. » So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”

“Abram went, as the Lord told him.” This phrase is probably of the most important one of the first 12 chapters of Scriptures. Abraham obeyed. He humbled himself, put aside his own will, his own projects, even his own country and his family. Abraham died to his name.

And then God changed that name. He changed his name from Abram, “exalted father” to Abraham, “father of a multitude.”

How much impact did Abraham’s obedient have? Well, I don’t know about you, but besides the reading and hearing of Scriptures, there is nothing more encouraging to me than to go outside at night and to look at the stars. Because the more I look, the more my eyes get used to the darkness, and the more they become too many to be counted. And I know that each one of those stars is a promise to Abraham that has been or that will be answered on day. And I think about the desperation of my country of France, and I find hope, because I know that God’s will is for many people to get saved, too many to be counted. And I know that God’s will is good. And it will be accomplished no matter what man does; the Bride will one day be ready and pure no matter how many pride people get in the way. But in the meantime, whatever part of the Bride I can embellish, let me have it.