Being Like Jesus
Humility - The Foundation
Acts 20:19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations,
I Pet.5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
There it is, that pesky little word which has all but disappeared from western culture. Humility. In today’s climate of braggadocio it seems almost weak to exhibit any level of humility. Yes, the Muhammad Ali’s and other outspoken and self elevating sports stars may provide entertainment, but that kind of spirit should have no place in the kingdom of God. And the Scriptures do not suggest that we just avoid self righteousness, but they command us to be “clothed with humility”. Now there is a proposition indeed.
You may see humility exhibited by our Master throughout the Scriptures. Over and over he endures the castigation of sinners without retaliation. He ministers to children and suggests we all be like them. He is constantly hounded by the Pharisees and the Sadducees and suffers their criticism. But if you add up all the instances Christ exhibited humility, you have left out the deepest and most profound element of humility.
Jesus was God and came in the likeness of human flesh. That is the ultimate show of humility. He could have stayed in His throne room and left fallen mankind to fen for himself, but He humbled Himself and came as one of us. And even further He suffered all sorts of verbal slings and arrows as well as bodily punishment and torture. He did all that without raising a hand toward His tormenters. And finally, the Creator of the Universe laid down His life and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. You want a template for humility? Go ahead and meditate upon that breathtaking revelation of divine humility!
But the church has by and large abandoned all pursuit of humility. Television preachers strut themselves like ecclesiastical peacocks and allow stupid and deceived people to adore them. Believers appear on talk shows and are presented as experts on a variety of topics. Preachers go on book tours and sign the freshly purchased books. Many preachers have celebrity status rather than servant status. Even thye most "orthodox" among us have their "heroes". And the incredibly overblown genre of Christian singers has produced a level not unlike American Idol.
We have been reared in a culture of self elevation and self esteem. Our parents told us we were the best looking, the best athletes, the best children, the best singers, and generally the greatest kids. Recently a high school graduation speaker told the seniors that they were not special. Many parents were offended because they had spent a lifetime telling their children they were special. Such is the culture in which we live, and such is the culture the church has adopted.
I have met literally thousands of teachers and preachers who were well versed in doctrine and had original language credentials. Many if not most of them exhibited an air of superiority because of their doctrinal and exegetical prowess, and many if not most seemed to look down on others simply through their own elevated view of themselves. I cannot remember one of those believers exhibiting anything like humility. Preachers will gladly and often have lunch with a well to do member but rarely if ever share the same with a very poor and insignificant member.
Humility is an elusive virtue even when sincerely pursued. Search the church signs and watch for the sermon series on humility. Good luck. In fact, most local churches advertise themselves and their ministries with an open boast. “We have what you are looking for” is the general tone. In my neighborhood one of the Christian schools has a sign which says, “Still praying in the classroom!” Do I need to unpack all the ways that is just wrong? Using prayer as an instrument of pride? Wow, just wow.
But if we take an unvarnished look at Biblical humility that mirrors our Lord we are going to see just how far off course we all are. The culture has infiltrated the church and has deceived us in so many areas of Biblical behavior. This might be somewhat insignificant, but I believe placing the prefix “Dr.” in front of a preacher’s name is bending to the culture and counter to an exhibition of humility. Spurgeon once observed, “They called Him “that fellow” but must we call you “Reverend sir”? Instead of being honored for their humble servant hood, we have placed preachers upon a pedestal and the preachers love it. All men have feet of clay.
And the entire gospel music construct is contrary to humility. Dove Awards and Grammy Awards and the like are received with a tacit genuflect to God’s help. Hollywood does the very same thing. You see how far we have strayed? Millionaire preachers and millionaire singers and names hung on walls who have given certain amounts of money toward a project. Humility? The entire spectacle is an affront to all Jesus taught and lived and yet we continue to practice that which offends God. It is no wonder the world has long since stopped asking us about the hope that lies within us.
And toward the bottom of the barrel of disgusting and carnal practices within the church is nationalism and its cousin politics. Proudly preachers proclaim America as “The greatest nation on earth” and pew dwellers loudly applaud. Can there be anything less Christian than that? It’s like the preacher saying “Great is Diana of the Ephesians” and have God’s people cheer. Astounding! Jesus Himself warned us against assessing ourselves as the greatest of anything, and in fact those who are the least are the greatest. Do we even believe any of the Bible anymore?
Rom.12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Do these things even begin to reveal to you the extent to which the western church has built its own fleshly system and called it the “church”? And any scent of humility has long since dissipated. And where humility is absent so is God’s presence. To the degree we elevate ourselves is to the degree we devalue Him. God will not share His glory with another, including His culture captured children as they lift up themselves and their ecclesiastical schemes. Go to any conference and the speakers are treated as doctrinal and spiritual gods. People by the millions buy their books and Cds and still the church drifts aimlessly, only exerting energy to raise money, complete earthly projects, and vent their political and patriotic lusts. When was the last time a church borrowed millions of dollars in order to send out more missionaries? No, buildings are far above missionaries.
The church needs correction, but how often do we see the “watchmen” ministries or the “discernment” camps correct themselves? Why can they follow and scrutinize almost every word from the usual heretics, but they never seem to hear the Spirit reveal their own need of spiritual inventory? Why are there no posts about us? I mean, we who see the falsehoods of Bell and Osteen and Warren, are we exempt from open correction? Where is the humble vulnerability that allows the searchlight of His Spirit to burn our own chaff and hold us over the uncomfortable flame of the Refiner’s fire? A mirror that can only see out is not a mirror at all, but it is a religious tool employed in self serving doctrinal espionage. And that will always lead to self righteousness regardless of hollow words to the contrary and clever ways to deflect attention from our own spiritual shortcomings simply through the volume of the material posted about others.
But still we are called to a life of humility. Clothed with humility to be more accurate. And what does that mean in the practical sense? In other words how should that be exhibited in our observable lives? Well our hearts and minds must be changed first. We must cast down these evil imaginations and bring all our thoughts and desires into the captivity of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is quite a challenge when our minds and hearts have deep entrenchments and strongholds that are completely against the will of the Spirit and the person of Christ. You see, we must repent even of things which will be revealed to us later. We must enter into an attitude of repentance with the knowledge that there is much we do not know which displeases our Heavenly Father. Basically, to fully understand humility we must glean a more powerful and stunning revelation of the Risen Christ!
But take heart, when a doctor prescribes certain pills to cure an illness he does not say you should take the entire bottle immediately. And to the praise of His glory, our Father is longsuffering, especially to any one of His children who comes with a broken and contrite heart. Even to a prodigal who squandered much of his inheritance in careless living, still our Father will begin the process of repentance with a fatted calf. Oh how wonderful is our Heavenly Father, and how glorious is His love for His own!
God does not require perfection, but without humility you can be assured that your spiritual life will not only stagnate, but it will rot.
We must assess everything with an uncommon measure of humility. We must consider the welfare of others above our own. Just that aspect of humility is a high mountain to climb. And when and if we place ourselves under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit in order to be humbled, we will find just how offensive the verbiage and attitudes of the world are to the Spirit. You will see much more clearly how spiritually incongruent much of what the church does, to say nothing of the carnal wranglings of the world.
Pry yourself away from all this technology and all these distracting modern accoutrements, and journey often to the place of the skull, Golgotha. Simply but profoundly, lay your entire being upon the altar of His will. Look at His cross and pick up and carry your own as well. See the glorious paradox: You are a child of God created in the likeness of Christ Jesus, but you are also an undeserving sinner who lives only by His amazing grace. You are both a saint and a sinner; a wonder and a worm; and if by chance you are called to be an apostle or a prophet, please add this vivid description from Paul’s own lips:
I Cor.4:12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
Before you place “Dr.” before your name, make sure the phrase “offscouring of all things” has a prominent place as well. And if the apostle was the “filth of the world”, what words describe the pastor? Do you see how unbalanced we have become? Surely a faithful pastor is to be honored, but at the same time the pastor himself must remain a humble servant that sincerely deflects all praise given to him and directs it to the Chief Shepherd.
It is time for all believers to be stripped of the garments of self praise and self esteem and proceed with sack cloth and ashes into a sacred chamber which will break them and mold them once again into a more accurate reflection of their Creator and Redeemer. Humility. Of course no awards can or should be given for such a virtue. The only reward we should seek is His honor, His glory, His praise, and that in all things HE might have the preeminence.
"But by the grace of God I am what I am." (Written by the offscouring of all things. Repeat as needed.)