Drowning in Pride
"Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them." -Jonah 2:8
Read 1 Peter 1:3-5
I couldn’t believe it. There I was, the youth pastor on one of my first trips to the beach with high school group since taking the job in San Diego… and I was drowning.
This was impossible. I knew how to swim. Growing up near the California coast, I’d been in the ocean more times than I could count. Yet I could no longer stay afloat.
I’d gone out on my own a half-hour before. Beautiful day. Just wanted to take a little dip. Then the rip current got me. Warning signs were posted on the beach, but I’d been out in conditions like that before and nothing had ever gone wrong. Well, it was going wrong now. I tried what I’d always been told: Swim parallel to the coastline; don’t overdo it. Nothing worked: I was being swept further and further to sea, and I could feel my strength giving out.
Suddenly I saw my savior. He appeared right next to me — I didn’t even hear him coming. He’d been keeping his eye on me, I guess, and saw that I’d been having trouble. The lifeguard put a flotation device around me and began swimming, first out of the rip current, and then straight to shore. And the only thing going through my mind? “I hope no one in my youth group sees me!” I was so embarrassed that I asked the lifeguard if he’d stop towing me in about 20 yards from the beach so I could swim the rest of the way myself, but he said no. I guess in a lifeguard’s mind you’re not saved until you’re safe. Makes sense.
Once we got to dry land, I muttered “thanks,” tried to stand up on weak legs, and just toppled over. Then I saw some kids from my group running toward me. And I turned away from my rescuer. I was too embarrassed to admit anything had been wrong or even to say thanks. Never went back to find him either.
I really don’t like to tell that story because it reveals so much of my pride. I neglected to thank the lifeguard because of my pride. I almost short-circuited the rescue because of it. I ignored an important lesson I could have taught the kids because of it. That’s a lot of pride. Reminds me of today’s verse, written by a guy who knew something about rescue at sea.
Why would someone “forfeit the grace that could be theirs”? What would keep someone from receiving a free offer of rescue? It happens when you’re too proud to take the help.
“What will my friends think?” has gone through many minds when considering Christ the Rescuer’s offer.
Or maybe they still think, “I can make it on my own,” like a toddler who insists, “I do it myself!” or a teen whose favorite phrase is “I know!”
The problem is, this kind of thinking is drilled into us. In Healing Grace, David Seamands lists several barriers to grace related to pride:
1. Cultural barriers
Self-reliance may be the most dominant cultural value in modern society, expressed in clichés like: “I did it my way.” “To thine own self be true.” “Do your own thing.” Just today at the checkout stand I saw these headlines on the cover of the (appropriately named) Self magazine: “Live the Life YOU Want to Live!” “Feel More in Control of EVERYTHING!”
2. Theological barriers
Many Christian churches believe in the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, yet in the sermons and very atmosphere of the church there’s not always a consistent message of grace. Instead, church attenders perceive an emphasis that goes something like, “Rise above; try harder; be better; improve!”
3. Family barriers
Your concept of God is largely formed by your relationship with your parents. You may feel your parents over-emphasized performance, forcing you to earn their affirmation, or on the other hand were so lax they seemed unloving.
The good news is that many of the Bible’s authors had the exact same barriers! But God’s grace still changed them as they stopped clinging to their pride.
Oh, and I learned something else the day I almost drowned: In a Savior’s mind, you’re not saved until you’re safe.
When Jesus saves, He doesn’t just save you part way. That’s not salvation. He saves you all the way to shore — all the way to heaven. Like Peter says in the reading today, our salvation has both begun — and is yet to come. Once he’s begun, your Savior won’t stop until you’re all the way home.
Have you ever refused help because of pride? What happened?
Were you once too proud to receive the grace of God? How did things change?
Ask God to show you where you are proudly clinging to idols — of pleasure, of security, of any kind — and refusing His grace.