TEACH ME HUMILITY, JESUS
I seem to have forgotten it once again
Phil.2: 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Peter exhorts us to be “clothed with humility”. That phrase alone if taken in depth should cause us to see how much territory we have yet to cover personally. But Paul in his letter to the Philippian church outlines a descent, or better yet ascent, into spiritual humility that is astounding and a great mystery. I have often and chronically stepped measurably outside the guidelines as offered by Paul. And Paul’s teaching centers around the most profound act of humility ever possible, the Incarnation and subsequent death of the Creator God in the likeness of sinful flesh. I am quite inadequate to fully unpack that eternal truth and then juxtapose upon the life of us who follow Christ.
But let us look at what is being presented, not for our amusement or even our doctrinal library, but for our example. Again, as in most of my teachings I recuse myself as anyone’s judge or even as an example. I openly admit to being much more a teacher and much less an example in this area, and to be honest, I have a long way to go just to understand the magnitude and power inherent in the humility of Christ. It is a majestic mystery which to this day remains a topic not widely pursued.
Everything about our culture stands against humility. Sports, politics, business, and just the normal course of western living bolsters a life where humility is considered a weakness. And subliminally and with open knowledge we buy into that attitude and we walk in the power of ourselves and not in His all powerful humility. In fact, the church has lost the desire for humility and has even lost the Scriptural essence of what humility means and looks like in a culture of self promotion and fleshly manipulation. Louder is better; clever argument wins; communicative acumen is influence; and the sheer power of personality has become truth. And to my shame I openly admit to sometimes enjoying the fruit of all of those categories.
I thoroughly believe that a large part of our lack of humility can be traced to our prayer lives. When we step away fresh from a personal encounter with Christ we are humbled and have been whittled into a more distinct resemblance of our Master. But given enough time, and given the right circumstances, we can quickly resume our former selves. And we have become so adept at this Christian experience that we can act completely out of the nature and character of Christ, devoid of personal humility, and still suggest we are championing His cause. That, my friends, is some fleshly acrobatics. I have often, and even recently, received a perfect “10” from the divine judge in that area.
Does your mouth ever run way ahead of your mind to say nothing of the Spirit? My mouth is a sprinter and often God’s Spirit is left at the starting blocks. And afterward I am ashamed and cut to the quick. Humility, the humility outlined in the second chapter of Philippians, is a profound pursuit that is impossible to master when it is not even a pursuit. How can we emulate and demonstrate the humility that Jesus embodied upon the cross? I mean let us be real. And yet that is what we are called to. So why is it not a mainstay of the church and of us His followers? It is because it is not pleasant to the flesh. It does not minister to our fallen nature. It has no earthly reward. And given the immense proportions contained in His crucifixion, it bears the excruciating pain that comes with the fellowship of His sufferings. I have often strived to avoid that kind of pain, to my shame.
So if we are to be honest, painfully honest, humility has a symbiotic relationship with love. I cannot fully understand it, but I know it. To reject humility is to love yourself, and to love yourself is to diminish the love of God. I am not speaking of repeating words like “worm” and “wretch” and publicly applying them to yourself with a clandestine attempt to prove your doctrinal orthodoxy. I have done that as well. But when we love God supremely, we cannot be anything but humble. And our mouths become fountains of grace and love and not spiritual hubris. This is quite a violent battlefield.
But true humility glorifies Christ. Acting and speaking in ways that are seasoned with grace lifts up Jesus. And regardless of which doctrines you are defending and which heretic your are correcting, without an uncomfortable and observable humility you are in effect defending yourself. How many times have I done that? It makes a grown Grandpa like me weep. I have so often attempted to defend Christ and His Word with words and attitudes that openly go against His teachings. Can you imagine such a thing? Yes, I think you can.
And today I have spoken what I believe on a plate of self righteousness. I hurt someone I do not know that well, but most of all I have grieved the Spirit. I do not ever speak that which I do not believe, however I sometimes wrap what I believe with ribbons and bows of my own self serving words and attitudes. I repent once again. I am sorry for the one I have hurt. I praise a Savior and Lord who continues to strive with me and forgives me. And although I continue to provide ample evidence that I have a long, long way to go, I cannot help but worship the Lord who picks me up, dusts me off, and sets my feet once again upon the Rock that is higher than I.
Teach me humility, Jesus, I seem to have forgotten it once again.