THE POWER OF HUMILITY
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.
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:
We live in a time of self esteem, competitiveness, self expression, and where everyone is encouraged to speak their minds. Sports figures boast of their prowess, rock stars strut to adoring fans, politicians present themselves as having all the answers, and on and on it goes. It is quite the spectacle. But in this whirling culture of self elevation and the increased value of individualism the virtue known as humility has all but died.
Let us unpack that word and what it means in light of Scripture. The world defines humility as blushing as you accept the award for best actor, or if you acknowledge the crowd’s applause by pointing toward the sky. But the world knows nothing of spiritual humility which is fashioned after the Lord Jesus. False humility is nothing more than self righteousness all dressed up as humility.
But there is an untapped power in spiritual humility. To deny oneself and even allow oneself to be defrauded, out shouted, and falsely accused can sometimes be the boldest of all statements. But everything, and I mean everything, that is flesh will war against such a humility. The flesh will suggest, “ After all we have our rights. I mean right is right. Are we just supposed to be a doormat for evildoers? All that it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” And all that seems reasonable if you are leaning on your own understanding.
Let us set the standard here and now. And if we set this standard then the journey of humility takes on an unreachable goal but necessitates that we seek to honor our King by pursuing His example. The standard, of course, is the cross. That is the absolute epitome of humility. This is a sacred cache that contains a mystery which insists that the first shall be last and to lose one’s life is to find it and the master shall be the servant. It goes against all human understanding and that is why it has been rejected altogether and in its place is fleshly boldness and fighting fire with fire as well as an array of carnal weapons. No one really desires the cross. It is painful; it brings shame; it looks like defeat; it is not honored among men; and it does not appeal to the intellect of man. Surely there are better schemes and strategies which can be employed in order to fight the kingdom of darkness.
In the natural that kind of selfless humility seems like a shirking of one’s moral and spiritual responsibilities. You see, everyone desires to be John the Baptist but no one seeks to be the crucified and suffering Savior. Everyone wants the speaking platform but no one wants the cross. Everyone wants to be heard in the public square but no one wants to just be heard in the prayer closet.
But there is an unsearchable spiritual power in a Christlike humility. The results may not be evident either quickly or even in this life altogether. And that is part of the sacrifice. We must be willing to leave the results completely in the hands of our Master. And like someone who wants to get into the game and lend his own ability and expertise, we so often cannot help but speak truth and reply in like kind and exert much energy in order to achieve what we “know” is God’s will. And in so doing we miss what is in reality God’s will for us while we are force feeding God’s will for others.
And without abject and uncomfortable humility we can never know Him and the fellowship of His sufferings as well as the power of His resurrection. Without humility we will remain confined within the sphere of our own devices and resources. And that can never be pleasing to God regardless of what earthly results we seem to achieve. Unless we are conformed to His death we only will receive the praise of men which is hollow and fleeting praise indeed.
Exhibiting pure and sincere humility that comes from a surrendered heart is not only an elusive virtue, but it is seldom sought. It does not engender applause nor does it elicit the spotlight. It cannot use the sensational or the melodramatic to manipulate its goals. It often times is a faceless and nameless endeavor which ignores many earthly opportunities into which others step gladly and with much fanfare. To die to oneself is not for those who dabble at spiritual things. The flesh, the devil, and the world will provide stiff opposition which can come in the form of persecution as well as prosperity.
And when we speak of a humility which is hewned from our Savior’s bloody example we must speak in hallowed terms for it is here where there can be no compromise and no partial compliance. half heartedness and "better than most is unacceptable and must never supply contenment. For that kind of humility which takes on the bloody form of Christ finds its end in the pursuit. It cannot be hit or miss. It is death to self. We must submit ourselves as a living sacrifice that dies daily and which walks in His resurrection.
The concept of denying self has been lost to the church for decades if not for centuries. It involves a great deal more than just being shy and speaking in hushed tones. In fact it must begin with a clear and robust vision of Christ in all His crucified glory. Before we can actually see ourselves in an accurate light we must allow the glory of His light to illuminate our beings and reveal by the Spirit’s power the stark contrast between what we think we are and what we actually are when compared to His surpassing and all encompassing majesty. Any attempt at humility without being overwhelmed by His Being would be in the flesh and just another attempt to draw attention to ourselves while at the same time convincing ourselves we were doing the exact opposite.
But when the Spirit cleanses your heart and when you submit to a state of brokenness and contrition, it is only then that you can genuinely humble yourself before His consuming presence. And make no mistake, the residual effects of such humility cannot help but be noticed by people even though they may misinterpret what they see and hear. And in this spiritual state our lips are forbidden to share anything but Him and nothing of ourselves. But there is such a wonder and a freedom in such humility. It disarms the temporal bullies and provides a conduit worthy of the Master’s use. The carnal pressure of performance vanishes and you are completely free of all expectations of the religious community.
God the Spirit is searching for earthen vessels that have no personal agendas and who are willing to completely surrender to His will and be consumed with Him at the total expense of even the slightest hint of personal gain, will, or recognition. That is a tall order for those who profess His name and yet live in a culture that is the antithesis of that in theory and practice. And since most of the visible church has adopted so much of the philosophy of the culture and trains its members to think and behave along those same lines then finding those who actually die to His Lordship is a great challenge. The material things of this world have muscle out spiritual affections; entertainment captures leisure time; success and money imprison our pursuits; and in effect our hearts and minds have been enlisted in the army of the culture both voluntarily and also with strong chains of worldly delusions.
And with this reality firmly in place and continuing to grow the glorious essence of spiritual humility goes unpracticed, unsought, and in reality unknown to the community of evangelical faith. Yes, American evangelicalism, regardless of its orthodox statements of faith and even its community of discerners, continues to operate almost exclusively in the flesh. Are there conferences which call people to come and humble themselves? Do churches hold all night prayer meetings designed to cultivate an atmosphere of brokenness and contrition? Catchy names, catchy slogans, modern looking buildings, created excitement, and great and swelling music programs are what attract people to the gatherings.
And the personality and oratorical prowess of the pastor is highlighted and most churches proudly place his name prominently on the outside sign and the literature of the church. But I ask you, who was the pastor at Corinth? At Ephesus? At Philippi? Why do we not know their names? And why do we not follow the New Testament template? It’s because we have embraced this culture of advertisement influence and marketing techniques. And after many decades of cultural conformity we now have an atmosphere which not only is not conducive for cultivating spiritual humility, but it openly rejects the very notion.
But if you are willing to let go of all of it; if you are willing to become as nothing save a following servant of Christ; if you are willing to find your self esteem completely in Him; and if you are willing to engage in a spiritual journey which is none of you and all of Him then you may find this thing we so effortlessly call humility. It is a great treasure of which few even seek much less find. But within that treasure there is great power which not only changes and transforms us, but also can be used by the Spirit to manifest the Person of Jesus and His eternal teachings. And let me repeat that sentence.
“But within that treasure there is great power which not only changes and transforms us but also can be used by the Spirit to manifest the Person of Jesus and His eternal teachings.”
Isn’t that what should be called “Christianity”?