Dec 16, 2019
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
As I read the scriptures associated with the lectionary readings for this third week of Advent, three words stuck in my mind for some reason - arrogance, humility, and patience. Why those three words struck such a chord for me that I can't get away from them, why is beyond me, but since they keep popping into my head, I might as well explore them with you in light of the events of today and Jesus' coming.
It's not hard to think about how they fit together, but let's talk about arrogance first. Just pick up a smartphone and tap into any social media and find the anti-social comments in the first two scrolls of the screen. We talk about or behave with a high degree of arrogance in our day.
In our nation, everyone takes one side or the other over the articles of impeachment leveled against an arrogant leader. He flaunts his power, the news says. He abuses his privileges, the reports say. Others say he acts like every other president doing what he said he would do. Others say he's just doing his job and the other party is just mad because they didn't win the seat.
With some assurance, I can tell you the truth is somewhere in between those extremes. We manage to view most events through a jaundiced lens and see things the way we want to see them despite the reality of the situation. Most of the time, our opinions are just that - opinions.
Arrogance is defined as having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities. Our opinions sometimes fit into that inflated sense of importance, our ability to think we know something a lot deeper or clearer than we do.
We can become arrogant in our thinking, our approach to others, our position in life, our jobs, in all kinds of ways. We can even become arrogant in our goodness. Jesus pointed out the Pharisee and the sinner praying in the temple and the arrogance of the Pharisee's "righteousness." God didn't see him as righteous at all because of his pride and arrogance. He prayed to himself, not to God, as Jesus pointed out.
It's a state of mind that creeps up and engulfs us so quickly. We can be proud of our humility if we're not careful. Arrogance is one of those slippery characteristics that Satan wedges into our lives in the most benign ways that make us feel like we are anything but arrogant, yet those on the outside see it glaring its ugly head through us.
I'm reminded of that display of arrogance as Herod made his rash oath to his daughter at a feast. "I'll give you anything you ask, up to half my kingdom." What an arrogant boast in front of his royal, drunken friends. His wife set the trap, and his daughter asked for John's head on a platter.
Arrogance cost Herod to act foolishly and then act even more foolishly by having that execution carried out. John had done nothing but spoken the truth to Herod and his ill-gotten wife, Herodias. His acts later cost him his life. He died of worms at the hand of an angel.
Then there is the subject of his execution, John the Baptist. Jesus describes him a little differently. John was in prison for his condemnation of Herod's marriage. He had baptized his cousin, Jesus, but didn't understand the delay in his redeeming Israel as he sat in prison. Here is the story from Matthew.
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?"
Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces.
What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:2-11 NIV)
It sounds like the description of a pretty humble guy. What does it mean to possess the character of humility? Well, it's the opposite of arrogance. It's having a modest or low estimate of one's own importance. John knew he heralded the coming of the Messiah. He knew that was an important task. But John didn't think himself a critical cog in the mechanism. He just did what he was supposed to do. God called John to preach repentance to those who would listen and to announce the coming of the Messiah. That's what he did.
The people announced John's greatness as a prophet. Those who flocked to him for repentance and baptism proclaimed his authority from God. The multitudes that came out of Jerusalem into the wilderness to meet him and listen to his preaching decided he had something important to say. John never put up billboards or handed out flyers or blasted the population with twitter feeds. He just humbly proclaimed the way of the Lord.
John's message got him in trouble more than once. The Pharisees didn't like him. They didn't like the way he pointed his finger at them and accused them of hypocrisy. Herod didn't want to hear John pointing out he and his wife's adulterous marriage. Those that didn't want to change their ways and turn to God didn't enjoy John's messages of repentance so much. But John stayed faithful to his mission, and humbly did what God asked him to do regardless of the price.
We've discussed arrogance, and its opposite humility, but why the word patience? Why would that word stick in my head this week? Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. I need that in San Antonio rush hour traffic. We all need that in our current political disaster. But why did the word stick with me concerning Advent?
I think the answer lies in the meaning of Advent. We wait for the Redeemer to return. All around us, we find arrogant men and women. We can sometimes find ourselves slipping into that mode if we are not careful. Jesus calls us to live a humble but courageous life among all these arrogant people. And like many in John's day, we ask, "How long must we wait for your coming?"
He answers, "Be patient. Be ready, but be patient."
You see, I think God wants us to work to share the good news diligently to as many as we can before he comes. He desires that all would be saved. Some will decide not to follow him, but all should have the opportunity to choose, and we are his ambassadors to share the message. So he says, "Be patient, be ready, and work until I come again. It won't be long. It's another day closer. Be patient."
Enjoy this third week of Advent looking for his return.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Scriptures marked NIV are taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (NIV): Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™. Used by permission of Zondervan