Posts Tagged humility
NOTE: MPOW stands for Ministry Passage of the Week, and contains a verse that comes from Bible Boot Camp, an intensive leadership development course that I am teaching this fall to about 20 growing leaders. Click here for other MPOWs.
Hosea 13:6 — Complacency With Abundance
 But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior.  It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought;  but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me.
Hosea 13 is a passage that most followers of Christ have lived and experienced, much to our regret. When things are comfortable and easy, we get proud and walk away from God.
Though we are quick to criticize the Israelites of the Old Testament for their faithlessness, we are prone to the same cycle.
Here’s how it went in the book of Judges, and it’s the same challenge we face today:
- Sin — the people sin against God.
- Servitude — they experience the enslavement and pain of their sin.
- Supplication — they cry out to God for help and deliverance.
- Salvation — God rescues them.
- Silence — they get complacent and stop trusting God. The leads back to #1.
This is why our current cultural climate can be so spiritually refreshing. Many of our comforts and things we place our security in have been and are being stripped away. It makes many people ripe for the gospel. And it makes us see our need for God.
But how will we keep our relationship with God passionate even when we’re experiencing blessing and seasons of comfort?
First, I’ve found it helpful to, as much as possible, never let yourself get to a place where everything is easy for you. Keep putting yourself in environments of risk–places where you’ll have to depend on God’s grace for what you need. It’s this process of stretching ourselves that is what makes us grow. Put yourself in a new place of service. Invest yourself in a set of relationships that will stretch you. Try something that is impossible without God’s help.
Also, do constant battle with your pride. Have a godly friend or two who will call you on your sin and point out when you’re getting a little too comfortable with yourself.
Question: What have you done to overcome this tendency towards complacency during times of blessing?
Another good quote from A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (by Paul Miller):
We don’t need self-discipline to pray continuously; we just need to be poor in spirit. Poverty of spirit makes room for his Spirit. It creates a God-shaped hole in our hearts and offers us a new way to relate to others.
This Sunday we’ll be exploring one of the most forceful passages of Scripture that describe our new identities as servants. What I’ve realized through studying and preparing is that it’s important that we see servanthood as an identity more than as an action. In other words, we don’t just serve — we are servants.
Consider the following teaching taken from our Membership Packet on servanthood:
1. The essence of being a follower of Jesus is to become more and more like him.
This is the goal of sanctification, which Wayne Grudem defines as, “A progressive work of both God and man that makes Christians more and more free from sin and more and more like Christ in their actual lives.”
Romans 8:28-29 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Luke 6:40 – A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
2. One could make a strong biblical case that the essence of Christlikeness is being a servant.
Mark 10:45 – For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ran-som for many.”
John 13:12-17 – When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
3. Not only did Jesus serve, but he had the heart of a servant. He thought like a servant.
4. Servants think more about others than themselves.
This is true humility: not thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less. They are self-forgetful. When we stop focusing on our own needs, we become aware of the needs around us…We can measure our servant’s heart by how we respond when others treat us like servants. How do you react when you’re taken for granted, bossed around, or treated as inferior?
5. Servants base their identity in Christ.
Because they remember they are loved and accepted by grace, servants don’t have to prove their worth. They willingly accept jobs that insecure people would consider “beneath” them. The more insecure you are, the more you will want people to serve you, and the more you will need their approval. When you base your worth and identity on your relationship to Christ, you are freed from the expectations of others, and that allows you to really serve them best.
6. Servants think of ministry as an opportunity, not an obligation.
Yesterday at Second Mile we talked about that “true living comes through constant dying.” Here’s the extended quote that we finished with:
When you are forgotten, neglected, or purposely ignored and you don’t sting and hurt with the insult of the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
When your good is evil spoken of, your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinion ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder and irregularity, or any annoyance; when you stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus endured, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
When you are content with any food, any offering, any climate, any society, any clothing, and any interruption by the will of God, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works or itch after praise; when you can truly love to be unknown, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances. THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.
ARE YOU DEAD YET?
In preparing for this Saturday’s seminar on how to read and understand the Bible, I was reminded of this tremendous quote by J.I. Packer from his classic book, Knowing God.
For the fact that we have to face is this: If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate and dismiss them as very poor specimens. For, as Paul told the conceited Corinthians, ‘Knowledge puffs up…. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know’ (1 Cor 8:1-2).
To be preoccupied with getting theological knowledge as an end in itself, to approach Bible study with no higher a motive than a desire to know all the answers, is the direct route to a state of self-satisfied self-deception. We need to guard our hearts against such an attitude, and pray to be kept from it… there can be no spiritual health without doctrinal knowledge; but it is equally true that there can be no spiritual health with it, if it is sought for the wrong purpose and valued by the wrong standard.
Well, the challenge has come to an end. I hope it was as refreshing for your heart as it was for mine. And, if you made it all the way through, congratulations! Be sure to leave your comments on what you learned today (Luke 22-24), as well as from this whole experience.
- Jesus does not see any conflict between the absolute sovereignty of God that determines things to take place and the human responsibility of people to do what is right (22:22).
- At the very end of his ministry, Jesus is still teaching his disciples that greatness in his kingdom is defined differently than the world. They, like us, seem to be slow learners (22:26). [This is also an encouragement in ministry that you need to say the same things over and over and it will take many people a long time to get it]
- Jesus has obvious love for his disciples (22:28-30, 32).
- Jesus’ death is a fulfillment of Scripture and prophecy (22:37).
- Jesus surrenders to his Father’s will (22:42).
- Even those who are strongest and closest to Jesus will still have times of profound failure (22:60-62).
- Jesus, the true King of Kings, is mocked as though he weren’t king at all. Ironic (23:11).
- Jesus was not guilty (23:22).
- Jesus is willing to forgive even those who are unjustly killing him (23:34).
- Grace is amazing, undeserved, and available to even the most surprising people (23:39-43).
- Jesus saw the whole of Scripture pointing to himself (24:27) [Wouldn’t you love to have a recording of that conversation?!?!]
- Jesus rose with a real, tangible, able-to-eat-fish, physical body (24:39-43).
- Jesus sends his people out with a message: “repentance and forgiveness of sins” (24:47).
How would I be different if this truth were explosively alive in my innermost being?
- I would be thankful, humble, and eager to follow the Savior into any path of suffering or difficulty for the sake of others. His grace is awesome, in every conceivable way. I would also be assured of our victory in Jesus and bold to live out of the strength and power he supplies.
It’s an exciting start to the “Set Your Mind on Christ” Challenge, where we’re exposing ourselves to who Jesus is and what he’s done (via the gospel of Luke) so that we can set our minds on him and be changed through the process. Below you’ll find some of my observations on Luke 1-3 and how God is working on me through this. We’d love to have some good interaction over this, so be sure to leave your comments and questions.
- Our understanding of who Jesus is comes from a detailed historical account, designed to help us know what we believe with certainty (1:1-4).
- God can do impossible things, like allow senior citizens and virgins to get pregnant (1:24-38).
- Jesus is a Savior (1:47, 2:11).
- Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and the Old Testament prophets (1:55, 69-75).
- Though he was disciplined by the Lord for his unbelief, Zechariah was filled with joy at the “tender mercy” of God (1:78).
- Jesus was born in poverty and humiliating circumstances. He was born in humility (2:7, 24).
- Jesus was first revealed to insignificant shepherds. There is hope for us ordinary people (2:8-20).
- Jesus would be a light for revelation to the Gentiles — he is a Savior for the whole world (2:32).
- Jesus, fully human, grew in strength and wisdom (2:40, 52).
- Jesus submissively obeyed his parents (2:51).
- True repentance bears fruit — it leads to real life change (3:8).
- One of the marks of repentance is how we deal with our money and possessions. Do we become generous or stingy? (3:10-14)
- The Trinity is present in affirming Jesus’ ministry (3:22).
- Jesus spent 30 years in relative obscurity before he began his ministry. Again, lots of humility (3:23).
- As a descendant of Adam, Jesus is the Savior for the whole world — anyone affected by Adam’s sin [which is everyone] (3:38).
How would I be different if this truth were explosively alive in my innermost being?
- There are a lot of possible things to focus on here. The thing that struck me the most was the humility surrounding all of these people and circumstances. If Jesus, who is fully deserving of all fame and honor and glory and power, was born and raised in obscurity and humility, then how much more appropriate would it be for me–a lowly sinner–to be humble? Life is about God, who does the impossible. It’s not about me. Even John, who Jesus calls the greatest man who ever lived (Luke 7:28), said that he wasn’t worthy to do something as low as untying Jesus’ sandals. How much more should I delight in humbly serving Jesus?
- If this truth were explosively alive in me, I would not care about people’s opinions of me. I would not care who gets credit for good things. I would willingly accept responsibility for my failures, sins and shortcomings. I would be increasingly dependent on Jesus, expressed through prayer. All of that would be very sweet.
It’s sort of silly to talk about things that God won’t forget — after all, he knows everythin (past, present and future) and always will. But Scripture does say that there’s something that should be an encouragement to those who are doing loving, heartfelt, behind-the-scenes ministry. I know at Second Mile, these are the people who really make a difference in a bunch of ways that aren’t always seen or known.
Here’s the promise:
For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. (Hebrews 6:10)
This is a great encouragement to do things today to please the Lord and serve people even if it doesn’t earn us immediate recognition or thanks. God won’t overlook it.
May the Lord bless you with the joy of doing unknown ministry that only he will notice. That will be a much better reward anyway.
The end of Acts 12 has a startling description of the death of Herod, who had been a chief persecutor of the early church:
On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. But the word of God increased and multiplied (Acts 12:21-24, emphasis mine).
The first-century Jewish historian, Josephus (not a Christian), confirms this hard to believe account, vividly describing how Herod suffered:
His entrails were also exulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay, farther, his privy member was putrified, and produced worms; and when he sat upright he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns; he had also convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased his strength to an insufferable degree. (The Works of Josephus: Ant 17.169).
Ouch. This is obviously a horrible way to die. The question that comes to my mind is, why would God strike Herod down in this particular way? There were many ways to strike Herod other than this. What might we learn from it?
I think the lesson from this is that giving way to pride and self-exaltation is like allowing your life to be eaten alive from the inside out. Pride is an inner disease that sometimes even hides itself in those who appear humble. It eats away at your heart and slowly decays your ability to love, worship, serve, and give.
Want to die on the inside? Then don’t give God the glory, honor, and credit he deserves. It might feel good now, but soon enough your life will be ruined from the inside out.
You may notice that the time of day for this post is way too early. No, it’s not because I’m such a devout person and wake up every day at 4am to pursue every spiritual discipline before the rest of the world is even awake. It’s actually because I had a crazy dream, woke up, and my mind started racing. I’m going to feel the pain around 3pm, as I’m a person who really needs a good chunk of sleep to keep going strong.
Have you ever wondered why God created us to sleep? He could have made us without this need. In John Piper’s short article, “A Brief Theology of Sleep,” he includes this as one of the reasons:
Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). But Israel will. For we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day. How humiliating to the self-made corporate executive that he has to give up all control and become as limp as a suckling infant every day.