Harbor Lights Sermon  June, 2011

Humility

What is the most essential of all virtues. The most foundational of all other godly character qualities; the prerequisite to all other virtues? What is it? Some might say that love is the most essential of all virtues. But love is not the foundation of all virtues. Rather it is the pinnacle, the highest of all virtues. Love is what all other virtues lead up to. It is the roof and not the foundation. Rather the foundation of all other virtues, and the most essential, a prerequisite to salvation itself (anyone know what it is? ) It is the virtue of humility.

This is what the Lord says in Isaiah 66:2, "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word." Humble, Contrite and Trembles at the Word of God. These go together. For a person who is humble is also broken and contrite in spirit. King David writes, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Ps 51:17 In Luke 18 Jesus contrasts a proud religious person with a contrite sinner.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:  Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men— robbers, evildoers, adulterers— or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Jesus said, "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Lk 18:9-14

Pride is the kind of thing that sneeks up on you and you may not even be aware of it. In fact people who are proud are generally unaware of their pride. Do you find yourself thanking God for making you such a good person, better than average? That's what the Pharisee prayed. But God was rather impressed with the tax collector who prayed "God, have mercy on me, a sinner". That man went home justified. Doesn't it take humility to admit to yourself that your are a sinner and not a good person?

The gospel of Christ is not for good people. Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Luke 5:32 To be justified through faith in Christ, one must approach God not boasting of one's goodness. If God were to ask a person, why should I let you into heaven? And you were to respond, because I've been a good person, you're just like that Pharisee who boasted of his goodness, but was not justified by faith. But if you responded to God in humility saying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’, that's the kind of person that the gospel of Christ was intended for.

In fact the gospel of Christ is so construed in the Bible, so orchestrated by God as to bar the proud from receiving it. Who was that had Christ murdered? It was the good religiously proud people of the day. They were elders, chief priests, Pharisees, the religious elite of the day. Why? Because when Jesus talked with the proud he humiliated them. Furthermore the proud were prejudice against his humble background, being born in poverty, growing up in Galilee, kind of equivalent to a lower class neighborhood to them. God so orchestrated the circumstances and Jesus spoke in such a way as to offend the religiously proud. The apostle Paul quotes a prophecy about Christ saying, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." Rom 9:33 The gospel is offensive to the proud. But the Bible says, "He crowns the humble with salvation." Ps 149:4

A Canaanite woman came to Jesus, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs." Mt 15:22-26

How would you have reacted to that? Calling her a dog Jesus was using the racist rhetoric which Jews at the time often used in referring to non-Jews. A proud person would have turned hostile and given up the request. But not this woman. For she said, "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table." Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour. The humble are not put off by humiliation. And Jesus probably spoke to her in the manner in which he did in order to teach his disciples that fact.

Going back to Isaiah 66:2 "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word." The proud don't take the Word of God seriously. They have little interest studying it. They don't take it to heart. They discard its implications. Yet it is through listening to the Word of God that a person is saved. It says in Romans 10:17 "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ."

Now if humility is so essential, in that it helps us to view God as He is, Lord, Creator, holy and righteous, the judge of all, and as humility helps us to view ourselves as we are, namely sinners in need of salvation from God's wrath, how can one obtain humility. One thing that helps is by appreciating the value of being subjected to humiliating circumstances, and by intentionally not thinking too highly of ourselves, our own personal opinions and feelings. But putting the Lord's ideas in place of our own and putting the needs of others ahead of our own. And God often helps us by subjecting us to humiliating circumstances for our good. Of Israel for example it says, "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." De 8:3 God guides the humble. "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way." Ps 25:9 Jesus said, "Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me." John 6:45 But a person has to be humble in that process. But there may be many things which the Bible says which may be difficult for some to accept. For example some people may be proud of their religious upbringing, much like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, and may not be willing give up their preconceived notions as to what constitutes Biblical Christianity. For some it takes humilty to recognize that the Jesus of the Bible is incompatible with their preconceived notions of Jesus. People speak of being proud of their race or nationality. One might say they are proud to be an American. Even more foolish are those who are proud of their immorality as in gay pride who even parade around their pride so everyone may know how proud they are of their sexually immoral behavior. But to be a Christian a person has to be humble.

God encourages the humble saying in Isaiah 57:15-21 "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite." God enjoys being around people who feel unworthy of being around Him.

Even after a person is saved, humility is essential to the Christian life. Jesus is the model.  Paul writes, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" Php 2:3-8 So with humility come compliance and obedience. "He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2Cor 5:15 Christians are called not to live for themselves, but to be servants of the Lord, doing his will, his bidding, sacrificing one's own personal ambitions for the Lord's.

Now even when we're doing well as Christians, God may subject us to humiliation for our good to help us maintain a proper level of humility. Certainly the Apostle Paul, who wrote almost all the New Testament letters, being the most influential Christian in history, being acknowledged by the other apostles as God's apostle to the Gentiles, he was doing well in his Christian life. But Paul writes of his own experience in this regards in 2Cor 12:7 "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." Thus for those who have been born of God, the sufferings of this world, the humiliating circumstances we may face in this life, can only benefit us even if they come from the devil. For Paul also writes, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Rom 8:28 And he says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Rom 8:18

There's a wisdom in humility, just as there is also humility in wisdom. This being the character quality most essential in our relationship with God, what are some measures of humility, some applications? Paul writes, "Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else" Gal 6:4 

Some things to consider: How do you react to humilating circumstances? How do you react to instruction, correction, criticism? Do you interpret life in light of what the Bible says, or do you interpret the Bible in light of what you wish was true? Paul tells us, "If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind" 1Tim 6:3-5a  Are you afraid of what others think of you? Do you boast of your achievements, your title, your awards?  Are others more important to you than your own personal welfare? Paul writes in Romans 12:16 "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited."


Hymns:

Just a Closer Walk With Thee
I Need Thee Every Hour
Amazing Grace



Jul 29,2015