Pastor David B. Curtis

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"Humbled" to be an American

1 Corinthians 4:7

Delivered 10/28/2001

I want to begin this morning by sharing with you something that I received via e-mail this week. When I finished reading it, I was standing on my desk shouting, "Amen!"

Channel 12 News in Long Island, New York, orders flags removed from the newsroom and red, white, and blue ribbons removed from the lapels of reporters. Why? Management did not want to appear biased and felt that our nations flag might give the appearance that "they lean one way or another".

Berkeley, California bans U.S. Flags from being displayed on city fire trucks, because they didn't want to offend anyone in the community.

In an "act of tolerance" the head of the public library at Florida Gulf Coast University ordered all "Proud to be an American" signs removed so as to not offend international students.

I, for one, am quite disturbed by these actions of so-called American citizens; and I am tired of this nation worrying about whether or not we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Americans. However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled in New York and Washington D.C. when the "politically correct" crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others. I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to America. In fact, our country's population is almost entirely comprised of descendants of immigrants; however, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some native Americans, need to understand.

First of all, it is not our responsibility to continually try not to offend you in any way. This idea of America being a multi-cultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Americans, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language, and our own lifestyle. This culture, called the "American Way" has been developed over centuries of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom. Our forefathers fought, bled, and died at places such as Bunker Hill, Antietam, San Juan, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Korea, Vietnam

We speak English, not Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society - learn our language! "In God We Trust" is our national motto. This is not some off-the-wall, Christian, Right Wing, political slogan - it is our national motto. It is engraved in stone in the House of Representatives in our Capitol, and it is printed on our currency. We adopted this motto because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation*; and this is clearly documented throughout our history. If it is appropriate for our motto to be inscribed in the halls of our highest level of Government, then it is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools.

*To demonstrate our Christian beginnings I want to read a proclamation by Abraham Lincoln, made when he was first elected President, in 1861. It reads:

Whereas a joint committee of both houses of Congress has waited on the President of the United States and requested him to recommend a day of public humiliation, prayer, and fasting, to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnities, and the offering of fervent supplications to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these states, His blessing on their arms, and a speedy restoration of peace. And whereas it is fit and becoming in all people at all times to acknowledge and revere the supreme government of God, to bow in humble submission to His chastisement, to confess and deplore their sins and transgression, in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and to pray with all fervency and contrition for the pardon of their offenses and for a blessing upon their present and prospective action.

God is in our pledge, our National Anthem, nearly every patriotic song, and in our founding documents. We honor His birth, death, and resurrection as holidays, and we turn to Him in prayer in times of crisis. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture and we are proud to have Him.

We are proud of our heritage and those who have so honorably defended our freedoms. We celebrate Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Flag Day. We have parades, picnics, and barbecues where we proudly wave our flag. As an American, I have the right to wave my flag, sing my national anthem, quote my national motto, and cite my pledge whenever and wherever I choose. If the Stars and Stripes offend you, or you don't like Uncle Sam, then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet.

The American culture is our way of life, our heritage, and we are proud of it. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. We are Americans, like it or not, this is our country, our land, and our lifestyle.

Our First Amendment gives every citizen the right to express his opinion about our government, culture, or society, and we will allow you every opportunity to do so. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our national motto, or our way of life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great American freedom, the right to leave.

Listen people, I am a patriot! Please keep that in mind as you listen to me this morning. The word "patriot," being defined means: "Someone who loves and defends his country." I love this country and I thoroughly agree with this e-mail, If you don't like this country, leave it!

Last week we talked about how America needs to bless God. I think that, as Christians instead of calling upon God to bless a sin filled America, we should be calling upon Americans to bless God. I said that the sign "God Bless America" is backwards - it should read "America Bless God." Well that's not the only sign that I have a problem with, another one that troubles me is the one that reads, "Proud to be an American". These signs have sprung up all over as the "God Bless America" signs have. One of the currently popular songs has a line in it that says, "I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free." I don't think that I'd get much argument if I said that Americans are truly a proud people. But I might get an argument when I say that pride is a sin.

Our society looks at pride as a virtue. Everything in our society is built to cater to man's pride, to build man up, to inflate his ego. But the Bible has nothing good to say about pride - nothing. The Old Testament Wisdom literature is quite helpful in exhibiting the true nature of pride, and also calling us to avoid it:

Proverbs 6:16-17 (NKJV) "These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood,"
Proverbs 8:13 (NKJV) "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate."
Proverbs 11:2 (NKJV) "When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom."
Proverbs 13:10 (NKJV) "By pride comes nothing but strife, But with the well-advised is wisdom."
Proverbs 16:5 (NKJV) "Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished."
Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV) "Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall."
Proverbs 29:23 (NKJV) "A man's pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor."

The scriptures have nothing good to say about pride, it is a very destructive, very damaging sin that is to be avoided.

What exactly is pride?

Pride is an expanded view of self. It is an undue confidence in and attention to one's own skills, accomplishments, state, possessions, or position. Pride is the attitude that credits ourselves with our successes and blames others for our failures. Pride places self above God. We must all understand that pride is something that everyone must carefully guard against.

Pride starts when a person begins to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, he has an unrealistic view of himself. Paul warned the Romans of this attitude:

Romans 12:3 (NKJV) "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith."

This is where pride begins. And once a person has an unrealistic view of themselves, they think that they are better than they are. And it is a very short step for them to begin to think that they are superior to others. And when that takes place, they begin to think that they have rights to certain things to which they have no right whatsoever. That is the essence of pride.

America is a very prosperous nation and the Bible warns that prosperity can lead to pride. Moses spelled out to the children of Israel the danger inherent in abundant prosperity. Please listen carefully:

Deuteronomy 8:11-14 (NKJV) "Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, 12 "lest; when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 "and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 "when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;

Whereas in the wilderness they had to depend on God for the necessities of life, their newfound prosperity might conceal their need for the same dependence. If the children of Israel faced the danger of becoming independent of God because of the blessings of the promise land, how much more do we face this danger in twenty first century America?

Believer, please understand the great danger that pride creates. The scripture says that "God resists the proud":

1 Peter 5:5-6 (NKJV) Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,

It is the attitude of humility that brings God's grace. If we as Americans want God's grace, we had better not be proud, but we had better humble ourselves.

The Bible condemns pride but extols humility. Before Christ came into the world, the worst thing that could be said about a man was that he was humble. That was considered to be a quality of a slave, not a free man. Christ came teaching a new concept. The way up is down. To be exalted, men must humble themselves. He illustrated this principle throughout His life and ministry. One of the characteristics of this world today is selfishness and so few are truly humble. Today men can talk for hours about themselves and they are always the hero of their own stories. They never tell the tales about the times when they failed. A ball player talks about his home runs and tremendous catches that he made, but you don't hear about the strike-outs, errors, and fumbles. This attitude is also found within the local church and its members. Much is said about what people do for the Lord, but little is spoken of what God has done for them!

To deal with the pride of the Corinthians Christians, Paul asked them three questions. I think that if we ask ourselves these questions and answer them honestly they will help us develop an attitude of humility:

1 Corinthians 4:7 (NKJV) For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

This is a pride crushing verse! Let's ask ourselves these questions:

1. For who makes you differ from another?

The word "for," states the reason why the Corinthians were forbidden to be puffed up. We do differ from one another. Don't we? Sure we do! Some of us are smarter than others, some of us are better looking than others, some of us are more talented than others. Some of us are more gifted than others. We do differ, but who makes us to differ? The answer of course is God!

Exodus 4:11 (NKJV) "So the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?"

God is the sovereign Creator and sustainer of life. All we have has come from Him.

If we are going to have an attitude of humility toward God, it begins with a high view of God's person. As we see God in His majesty, awesomeness, and holiness, we are humbled before Him. On every occasion in the Scriptures in which man is privileged to view God in His glory, the result is humility.

Luke 5:4-8 (NKJV) When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." 5 But Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net." 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying,...

What was Peter's response to the glory of God? Did he say, "Wow! I'm one of the best fishermen in the world." Or, "Hey guys look at all the fish I caught. Would you guys like some tips on fishing." When Peter saw God in his glory, was his response proudful? Not hardly, He said, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" As we see God in His majesty, awesomeness, and holiness, we are humbled before Him.

We cannot begin to experience humility in any other relationship until we experience humility in our attitude toward God. So, if we as Americans are going to have a humble attitude, we must understand that America is a gift of God's grace and not a product of our labor or wisdom. The Bible teaches that God sovereignly set up and rules over nations and governments.

Genesis 9:6 (NKJV) "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.

Here, for the first time in the course of human events, God instituted government. Every nation that ever existed, existed as a result of God's will:

Daniel 2:21 (NKJV) And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.

In Daniel 2 God gives a vision to the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, which Daniel interprets as four great kingdoms:

Daniel 2:36-40 (NKJV) "This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. 37 "You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; 38 "and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all; you are this head of gold. 39 "But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 "And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.

This is a prophecy of the four great kingdoms of Babylon, Media Persia, Greece and Rome. This prophecy was written in the 6th century B.C.. God knew of these great kingdoms, because He was the one who brought them into existence and gave them power. God is simply revealing to Nebuchadnezzar what He was about to do. This is further clarified in:

Daniel 8:19-21 (NKJV) And he said, "Look, I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time the end shall be. 20 "The ram which you saw, having the two horns; they are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 "And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king.

Here God speaks of the kingdoms of Media Persia and Greece and says these kingdoms are "appointed". Believers, please understand God rules history. If a nation exists, it is because God brought it into existence. If a nation is wealthy and powerful, it is because God ordained that it be so. America is the great nation that it is because of God's grace. America has no reason to be proud.

John Newton, known for his familiar hymn "Amazing Grace" wrote: "The kings of the earth are continually disturbing the world with their schemes of ambition. They expect to carry every thing before them, and have seldom an higher end in view, than the gratification of their own passions. But in all they do they are but servants of this great King and Lord, and fulfill his purposes, as the instruments he employs to inflict prescribed punishment upon transgressors against him, or to open a way for the spread of his Gospel.... They had one thing in view, he had another."

We know that God rules over all authorities, because the Bible tells us he does. And thus, we should understand that America is what it is because of God.

God determines who governs and how long they govern, He also rules in the decisions that they make:

Proverbs 16:33 (NKJV) The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.

"Every decision is from the Lord" - The sovereign God controls the decisions of our authorities for His glory and our good. Even their bad and stupid decisions are under God's control. Absalom chose to follow Hushai's bad advice instead of Ahithophel's good advice. Why?

2 Samuel 17:14 (NKJV) So Absalom and all the men of Israel said, "The advice of Hushai the Archite is better than the advice of Ahithophel." For the LORD had purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring disaster on Absalom.

Absalom disregarded the good advice, because God caused him to do so. God works in the hearts and minds of rulers and authorities to accomplish His sovereign purpose. Scripture also teaches that God rules in the victories and defeats between nations on the battlefield:

Proverbs 21:31 (NKJV) The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But deliverance is of the LORD.
1 Kings 20:28-29 (NKJV) Then a man of God came and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, "Thus says the LORD: 'Because the Syrians have said, "The LORD is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys," therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.'" 29 And they encamped opposite each other for seven days. So it was that on the seventh day the battle was joined; and the children of Israel killed one hundred thousand foot soldiers of the Syrians in one day.

America is, without a doubt, the most powerful nation in the world today, but it is because of God's grace. America is great, because God made it great. To be an American is not a cause for pride but humility. I am humbled to be an American. Humbled that the Sovereign God of the universe chose to have me live in this great nation with so many freedoms and blessings.

So in answer to the first question, "Who makes you differ from another?" The answer is clearly; God. Who is it that makes America different than all the other nations of the world? God.

2. And what do you have that you did not receive?

What does America have that it has not received form the gracious loving hand of God? Wealth? Power? Health? Security? This is true even of those things which are acquired by great self-denial and exertion:

Deuteronomy 8:18 (KJV) "But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day."

We have absolutely no good thing that we did not receive:

1 Chronicles 29:11-16 (NKJV) "Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 13 "Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name. 14 But who am I, and who are my people, That we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, And of Your own we have given You. 15 For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, As were all our fathers; Our days on earth are as a shadow, And without hope. 16 "O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own."

What do we have that we have not received? In this single sentence Augustine saw the whole doctrine of grace. When we think of what we have done and think of what God has done for us, pride is ruled out and only humble gratitude remains. John the Baptizer put it this way in:

John 3:27 (NKJV) "John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven."

Hard work is an important part of being successful, yet ultimately it is God who controls our financial destiny. Job's life was a living illustration of this truth:

Job 34:19 (NKJV) Yet He is not partial to princes, Nor does He regard the rich more than the poor; For they are all the work of His hands.

Simple logic leads us to the conclusion that every good thing in life, beginning with the breath of life itself, is ultimately a gift from God. And yet pride blinds us to such an obvious truth.

So, it is God who makes us different than every other nation, and it is God who gives us all that we have. The last question is:

3. Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

Have you ever realized what a pointless thing pride really is? If nations possess only what God had given them, why do they boast as if they had created the things themselves or earned them? Everything we are and everything we have as a nation we owe to God. There is no room in our lives for pride. Our only attitude as Americans should be humble gratitude.

Three manifestations of Pride:

Ingratitude. Pride prevents us from crediting God with the good things in our lives. Instead, we reach the mistaken conclusion that whatever we value in this country is somehow the result of our effort. How about you? Are you a grateful person?

Independence. Independence is the belief that we are sufficient apart from God and is a deadly result of pride. When we delude ourselves into thinking that we are somehow responsible for the good things in our lives, we decide we really don't need God. This attitude is so evident in our country that it scares me.

Intolerance. As we examine the Gospels, we see that Jesus did not deal harshly with adulterers, thieves, or even murderers. Jesus' harshest words were reserved for the self-righteous Pharisees. Their self-righteousness led to a hatred for other people and the false assumption that they were the only ones going to heaven:

Matthew 23:13 (NKJV) "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

Such intolerance of others is a direct result of pride. An inflated view of ourselves leads to a disdain for others.

The manifestations of pride are: Ingratitude, independence and intolerance. If you see this in your life, please realize that you are proud and remember that God resists the proud. If we want God's grace in our lives or for our nation, we must humble ourselves.

Please understand that what I am saying is that our love for this nation should not cause pride but humility and gratitude. I am humbled to be an American. I thank God for the awesome privilege of living in this great nation.

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