Humility. We know it in our language as a word of virtue, a “good” thing to strive for, and some sort of pious attitude. But what is it really? I mean, what is humility, to God? And what kind of humility do we need to believe the Gospel?
First, I’ve been having the passage from Philippians 2 come up lately, and in terms of relating to others, humility is an attitude of putting others first. It’s considering yourself less important, and your needs less important than others. Jesus perfectly lived out humility as an example to us, through an act that bought eternal life to all who will believe on Him. He left heaven when He could have stayed, laid down His God-ness when He could have stayed exalted, and He died when He could have lived. All because He considered our needs (for forgiveness) more important than what it would cost Him to grant it to us (His life). This is the kind of love and putting others first that God calls all of His people to. And it’s not without joy, because we know that just as Christ was raised from the dead and exalted, one day God will also give life to our mortal bodies. Not for being “good,” but for trusting in His Son. We’ll get to how that relates to humility later. If you are looking for God to help you be humble in your relationships with others, I would encourage you to click on that link above to Philippians 2 and get alone with the Lord, and spend time reading and praying over those 11 verses. They are some of the best the Bible has to offer, and I am sure that if you ask God to meet you there as you study them and meditate on them, He will.
Another verse that comes to mind as I think about how the Bible talks of humility is from Paul’s letter to the Roman church:
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…” Romans 12:3a
Now, in this passage, Paul is referring to how God uses some of His people for some tasks, and some for others, and that we should not compare ourselves to our brothers or sisters, but in humility, realize we are all equal and just given different grace from God for different things. In other words, don’t think of yourself as better than that other person because God is using you in a different way. So, this is another way the Bible speak of humility.
But what about the humility that we are to have between us and God? What if we were to apply this thought, “to think of yourself with sober judgment” to the way we see ourselves before God?
This is where Part 1 of the Gospel comes in, because no one believes on Christ without first being humble before Him. Let me explain. The person who thinks of themselves highly will not see their need for a Savior, because well, they are a pretty good person after all. It might look a little like this:
9 Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
In telling this parable, Jesus gives us a glimpse into the mind of God. Which of the two men’s attitudes was God pleased with? And which person was made right with Him? The proud one with the “I seem pretty good” mindset? Or the humble one with the “I know I’m a screw-up and need mercy” mindset? What does that say about how God sees all people? Take a moment to ponder that, if you like.
What I take away from it is that God sees us all as screw-ups. No better, no worse. As Romans 3:23 states, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But I’m better than that guy, right? Is that not the belief the Pharisee had that left him condemned and not right with God?
So, in the first part of this post, we learned that humility towards other people is thinking of yourself as less important than others (instead of more important). If you opened up the Philippians 2 link, which I would still encourage you to do if you haven’t, than part of what you read was, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Something that God is teaching me is that humility has to do with believing the truth about yourself and others. It’s not some pious assertion to muster up a holy attitude that just considers other people of equal or better value, it’s believing the truth that they are of equal value and should be treated as you would treat yourself. It’s the truth that everyone else’s needs and interests are just as important as yours, the command to live as such, and to in humility to put them first, based on that truth. What makes the humility of Christ truly astonishing is that He is better than us (Uh, He’s God!), and still treated us as He would treat Himself if He was in our hopeless situation. But not one of us can say that as humans, that we are better than someone else, because the truth is, we are all on a level playing field, and our command to be humble is one in accordance with the truth, for we truly are each of equal value and importance.
In the second part of this post, we’ve been learning about our humility towards God, and you know what, that has to do with truth, too! We really are sinners who have rebelled against a good, righteous, and worthy God. That isn’t just some mean thing that Christians tell each other and the world, it’s the truth! And so, we should have an attitude in accordance with that truth. The Apostle John says to not do so is the same as calling God a liar, for God has told us we are bad and have wronged Him.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:5-10
I don’t know about you, but at first glance the talk of light and darkness and stuff can be kind of confusing. So, let’s break down the whole passage in it’s context, together. Let’s find out what John is saying here.
First, we have the analogy of light and darkness. Then, we have the relation of darkness to not believing truth (see verse 6). Then, we have the explanation that not believing truth is believing we have no sin (see verse 8). So, from that, we can draw the conclusion that John is saying to walk in darkness is to walk in the belief that you have no sin. You’re a good person and therefore are right with God. Make sense? So that is the lie, the darkness.
So, what then is the light? Well first, it says God is the light and that there is no darkness in Him. If lies are the darkness, then to be light must mean to be truth. Indeed, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” in John 14:6. In God, therefore, is no falsehood. No lies. So then, it only makes sense that darkness is lies, and light is truth. But what truth is John telling us to believe? Verse 8-9 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Therefore, based on what we’ve learned from John so far, for me to walk in the light would be to walk in the truth that I am a sinner. For you to walk in the light is to walk in the truth that you are a sinner. We have sinned against God. We are not good. Jesus proved that by going to the cross and shedding His blood as payment for our sins. As the Apostle Paul said,
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:21
The whole reason Christ died was because we are sinners. That’s why verse 10 of our 1 John passage says, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
So then, what does John mean by confessing sin? Anywhere in the passage, does he say it means going to confess regularly to a priest? Does he ever hint towards some sort of religious ritual to make us clean from sin? Not at all! What does verse 7 say makes us clean from our sins? It says “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin”! Therefore, it makes sense to me from reading this passage in it’s context, that confession of sin is to admit to God that you are a sinner in need of Jesus, whereas walking in the darkness (not confessing sin) is believing the lie that you have no sin and therefore have no need of Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather believe a humbling truth that leads to me being freely given eternal life, than believe a pretty lie that brings eternal separation from God in hell. How about you?
It takes humility and sober thinking to believe God about that. But once you believe you’re a sinner, know that God has provided the solution. He became a man and died for all of your sins. There’s nothing left for you to do but return to Him and trust in what He did. He’s done all the work. You just have to admit it yourself, that you desperately need Jesus and what He did on the cross to count for you. Confess your need to God, and ask Jesus to let His death on the cross count as payment for all your sins, past, present and future. He will always say, “Yes,” for that is why He died.
The reason that Jesus had to die for our sins is because they had earned us punishment and wrath from God. Jesus took that punishment and wrath in our place. Our sins had earned us His rightful anger because sin is an act of rebellion against God and what He says, and He is completely worthy of our total obedience. So sin is really, really, bad. Believe that, too, and turn from those sins that He had to die to save you from, and embrace Him as the rightful Lord of your life. Repentance will always be a product of faith in Christ, because part of believing in Jesus is believing what He says and acting on it. Acts of repentance don’t earn your forgiveness, Jesus earned your forgiveness. But according to the Bible, a life of learning to turn from sin and actually desiring to obey God will always be joined with true faith in Christ, because the one who has been forgiven much will love much. In other words, live to love the One who loved you first. In humility, He counted your need for forgiveness to be more important than His own life. He loves you, so very, very much. And that’s not a cliche, because it was proved by His actions. You can trust Him who was pierced for you to rightfully govern your life, so there is no need to fear your surrender to Him. Think of it as a trust fall into the arms of the One who loves you most.
So, why is this post named “Humility and the Gospel”? (The term Gospel stands for the good news that Jesus died for sinners.) It’s because while we ought to be humble in love towards one another in general, our greatest need for humility is before Almighty God.
Pride, the opposite of humility, is always based on lies. They are lies that say you are better than someone else, lies that say you are more special than others, or lies that say you are good on your own in God’s sight or can somehow attain that status by your hard work. Theses lies separate us from each other and if you’re believing you’re good on your own or can attain that, they separate you from God. But I have hope that we won’t be those who walk in the darkness believing we are good, but are those who walk in the light, believing we are sinners and that the blood of Jesus fully cleanses us from all sin. Can you handle one more passage? Because we have to get to Part 2 of the Gospel – what Christ’s sacrifice has attained for you who believe.
The greatest gift and highest inspiration of worship to God is that He loves us, despite us. And not only that, but that He wants, really wants to be with us. He wants to be in close fellowship constantly, with you. Oh, would we believe that?! I hope we will, because it’s true! If you’re trusting in Christ today for your reconciliation to God, then what God has done by removing your sins is He has made you holy, blameless, and above reproach in His sight. Think about it. If every wrong is removed, what is left to make you unclean? Nothing! You are spotless and permanently made perfect to God through Christ! The Bible actually says He made you just as righteous as He is (see 2 Corinthians 5:21)! Now, that is a reason to dance and sing! He has adopted you into His family because He wants to be tight knit with you forever. He wanted to be more than just your God, He wanted to become your loving, heavenly Father. If he was willing to go through the cross for us when we were still His enemies, how much more as His forgiven children will He love us unconditionally and accept us! Yes, He wants you. And if you have trusted in Christ, then all this is yours (last passage, as promised):
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. 4 For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love 5 He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, 6 to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved (Jesus).
7 We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him 10 for the administration of the days of fulfillment—to bring everything together in the Messiah (Christ), both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.
11 We have also received an inheritance in Him, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, 12 so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah (Christ) might bring praise to His glory.
13 When you heard the message of truth, the gospel (good news) of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. 14 He is the down payment (guarantee) of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:2-14; ( ) added.
What a wonderful note to end on. Thank you, God, for your love and mercy on us. We confess we don’t deserve it. But help us to embrace it. For you went through far too much on our behalf for us to do anything but accept your perfect and remarkable love for us. May we believe it, oh, may we believe You when you say to us, “I love you.” Amen.