Here’s another thanksgiving message I wrote. Hope you enjoy it.
Title: Pilgrim’s Pride – by Jeremiah Embs
Text: Luke 18:9-14 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.
Introduction: During the time of thanksgiving we thank our God for all the blessings that he has bestowed upon us. And we remember that safety from persecution was finally found by the pilgrim forefathers in this land. Jews too had days of thanksgiving. Entire families would travel over land and sea to just to take part in those events and to visit the temple in Jerusalem. Trumpets would play and there would be dancing and songs.
There would be shouting and singing and there would be prayer. Some would be silent and some audible. The requests would have been varied and made in different tones. A patriot’s prayer might be loud, staunch and sure, while a handmaiden might ask quietly for some milk for her children. But in all that noise God heard two men praying’ listening to what they were saying just so that Christ could later warn us about a pilgrim’s pride who offered the proudest prayer a man can pray: a prayer of thanksgiving.
Transitional Sentence: Tonight I see three things that should be warning signs of pride.
I: Our pilgrim prayed with himself instead of praying with his neighbour:
Over consumption is the sin most often committed during thanksgiving. And in times of disease or perceived disease the government tells us to self isolate, to limit travel, to stop gathering together with family and friends, to simply consume food in isolation and not fellowship sharing what we have with one another. Many are lonely during the holidays. Self isolation when others are in need is an act of pride. Thinking your life is worth more than theirs is not charitable. That sort of act is not an expression of thankfulness nor of faith: It is an expression of pride and fear.
A selfish prayer will not be answered. It will bounce off the temple walls like a rubber ball smacking you in the face. It has no power to penetrate the stone. It will not get through to God. James wrote that if you ask for something from God you will not receive anything if you ask amiss and he said this miss occurs when you ask for something just to consume it yourself.
James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
This pilgrim in his pride didn’t want to be near the unwashed masses so he prayed alone. If he was too close he might soil his clothes after all. And he sure wasn’t going to pray for those filthy sinners either. He wasn’t like them at all.
TS: And so the next thing I see about the pilgrim’s pride is that he thought he was…
II: Better than other men:
You are not better than other men. You may be as unique as a snowflake, and so it’s true on some level that you are a very special creation of God, but you are not especially special. You are a sinner just the same. And in the end all magical snowflakes turn back into water. Your body, being dust and water is no different than your neighbor’s. Sooner or later it all falls to the earth and returns to the ground.
All people have all the same faults. But you will notice that those faults come in different proportions and measures. Just because the sins you commit openly are not precisely the same ones that you see and dislike in others does not mean you do not sin. And just because yours aren’t visible doesn’t mean you will escape judgment for them. God sees them all.
First Timothy 5:24 Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.
TS: But our proud pilgrim who prayed oh so well still had a final act of arrogance left in him.
III: He thought to buy God’s good grace:
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
You see some men are materialists. The only important things to them are those things that can be seen. So they buy indulgences. They try to exchange their visible wealth to gain a pardon for their invisible sins. They really think they are gaining something in the trade and that God is too. But God is not satisfied with those trinkets and shiny things. He is not the god of gold and mammon. When something is offered to him it must be with a thankful heart and not like some debt to be paid or he won’t accept it.
Our little pilgrim thought to buy favour from the God of the universe. That offer was so soundly rejected by God that the example made its way into the Bible forever as an act of pride.
We’ve had that example for two-thousand years and still for two-thousand years one man after another has tried to bargain with God making the same offer again and again.
And so again for two-thousand years one by one the rich fall into hell like pennies into a bucket. They do it loudly around the holidays with the bells of the salvation army ringing as they do it. But every donation is just another ticket to hell. Hemingway citing Donne [pronounced Dun] said that those funerary bells toll for them and for thee.
As times get harder the bills turn to coins and we hear them dropping louder than ever before. A nuisance just like that stupid pilgrim who couldn’t shut up, who couldn’t shut up about all the wonderful things he had done for God out of the goodness of his heart. God wasn’t fooled at all by his braying. In his heart the ass was really cursing his neighbour; calling him a smelly sinner who hadn’t achieved the righteousness that he had.
Boastful, proud, arrogant, lofty words from such a little man who tried to strike a deal with God. How hot the flames of pride must be as they are burning him now. They are still stinging him and his prayers have turned to screaming like the hell’s bells of Poe’s poem screeching through eternity.
Now if that is you (whether saved or not), if that’s you, a person who thinks he is one of those special incarnate gods on earth who can trade gold for goodness in heaven I warn you that you can not. The street price of righteousness there is far above your pay grade and the ladder you’d have to climb to heaven is worth more than all the silver threads veined throughout the earth.
For what can not be seen can not be bought. And not everyone has a price and I thank God for that! He doesn’t sell out so cheaply. He is incorruptible.
In contrast we reflect upon the real pilgrims. The righteous ones who came here with almost nothing. Year after year they laboured. They suffered through the blistering summers and the winter blizzards.
They lost loved ones even when first crossing the sea.
They paid a dear price in lives and sweat and blood to give us what we have; because they knew God’s favour could not be bought by the wealth hidden in those hills.
And so looking through time to now they knew that we’d be poor without their great gifts. They laid a spiritual foundation for everything that was to come, and they did it for you and for me.
They knew that we’d be weak men with low ambitions, spiritually destitute and naked. They knew we would lack their will, their character, and their fortitude.
And they knew above all else that God’s favour is a gift. And so they like Christ sacrificed, sacrificed for our freedom, sacrificed for others. And they thanked God, because they were so grateful, so very grateful, that he had finally provided a home for them where they could worship him without fear.
So there is a reason we call them our forefathers; a reason our heritage is traced to them. Because unlike that disgusting unthankful pilgrim who only praised God with his lips, their hearts were clean in his sight. They were close to their neighbours and they were near to Christ.
And we are thankful, so thankful for them because without them we would have nothing, I say nothing!
And how dare our media, schools, and government bring shame upon their name; falsely accusing them of atrocities when they the most humble and peaceful pilgrims only brought peace and prosperity to this land and to its peoples; they sharing their meals with the American Indians.
The lies disgust me and they should disgust you too and if they don’t I say take a look at history. Read a book. And then fall to your knees and repent because we’re back-slidden and in terrible shape.
Oh how ashamed of us they must be. How disappointed!
Forgive us God! We’ve squandered the pilgrim’s gifts.
Our pride got the best of us and we are ruined and undone.
Can we lay again the foundations that they laid and return again to the old paths that they trod? I’m not share that we can. But we have to try with all of our might because if not us then who?
For only we know. Only we remember. That history was given to us, the modern day pilgrims, who have no earthly home and no nation to call our own as a sacred trust. We are persecuted, we are homeless, we are strangers in this strange land encompassed with people that are hostile to us with a government that is hostile to us, our God, and our religion. And so we need God more than ever before.
So instead of mere thankfulness this year I suggest repentance.
And instead of finding faults in others I suggest something we do something else. We ought to clothe ourselves in sackcloth and ashes. If you can cry then cry tears of bitterness for what we have lost, for what we thought to trade; gold for righteousness? It wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t a fair exchange. Gold fever took hold and now we are deathly ill. We must repent. We must pray. And when you pray always stay humble and pray for one another instead of for yourselves; for it is written in James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.