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10. HUMILITY: What Does It Mean to be a Mature Christian Disciple? - Philippians 2:1-13

What Does It Mean to be a Mature Christian Disciple? 10. HUMILITY Philippians 2:1-13

By Ted Schroder,
September 10, 2017

"All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Humble yourselves, therefore under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time" (1 Peter 5:5-6).

The enemy of humility is selfish pride. "Ignorance -- nothing but sheer ignorance -- ignorance of self, of God, and of Christ, is the real secret of pride." (J.C. Ryle)

Maturity brings humility. The older and wiser you get the more you realize how little you know and how far short of God's purpose you fall. Youth is full of hubris -- insolent pride. The mature Christian disciple can accept criticism because he acknowledges that he is a sinner in need of salvation. Atheism is ignorance of the gift of life and salvation. God "gives all people life and breath and everything else... For in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:24,28). "For from him and through him and to him are all things" (Rom 11:36). Recognition of being created and in the need of salvation, of being contingent on God's grace and dependent on his mercy and power results in humility and thanksgiving. Failure to acknowledge this leads to self-deception and ingratitude.

"Cosmic ingratitude is living under the illusion that you are spiritually self-sufficient. It is taking credit for something that was a gift. It is the belief that you know how best to live, that you have the power and ability to keep your life on the right path, and protect yourself from danger. That is a delusion, and a dangerous one. We did not create ourselves, and we can't keep our lives going one second with his upholding power. Yet we hate that knowledge, Paul says (Rom 1:18-21), and we repress it. We hate the idea that we are utterly and completely dependent on God, because then we would be obligated to him and would not be able to live as we wish. We would have to defer to the one who gives us everything....When good things come to us, we do everything possible to tell ourselves we accomplished that or at least deserve it. We take the credit." (Tim Keller, Prayer, p.196)

An awareness of our blessings from God leads to humility. Knowing that God gives us life: that every breath we breathe is a gift, and that we could not exist from moment to moment except by the power of Christ who sustains all things by his powerful word (Heb. 1:3). Knowing that we can live and move and have our being on this planet Earth through God's provision of gravity, without which we could not operate. Knowing that light and warmth, the passing of the seasons, our senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell are gifts from God's hand. Acknowledging the gifts of family and friends, the ability to personally relate to others, for love and companionship, the comforts of home and the ability to sustain ourselves through work. Being grateful for the wisdom of God's revealed Word in the Scriptures, for the gift of forgiveness through the costly death of Jesus on the cross, the plan of salvation, the illumination and empowering of the Spirit, the fellowship of the church, for the promise of resurrection to eternal life, for the hope of the Gospel. All this is from God and not from ourselves. We are the recipients of his grace. We are humbled by the extravagance of his blessings.

If we are humbled by our knowledge of God and his blessings, we act out our awareness in our relationships with others. Pride is thinking that you are better than others. Humility considers others are better than you and that you owe everything to God. Jesus said, "Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart" (Matt 11:29).

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! (Phil 2:3-8).

Jesus said, "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11).

Humility is doing for others. The danger of a consumer society is that we think that we are entitled to be served and that we are not humble enough to be willing to do what it takes, to do the jobs that are needed in order to be productive, to take care of ourselves and our families. Many think that they are too proud to do menial labor, or to work hard, or to suffer in order to be exalted later in life. There is little humility in our celebrity-driven popular culture and educational system. The ability to confess your sins and to ask for forgiveness is rare. Time spent in front of screens or playing video games leads to selfish pride and idleness. Too many feel that they are entitled to an easy life that caters to their own needs rather than the needs of others. The apostolic rule is, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat" (2 Thess 3:10). Teddy Roosevelt said, "Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty."

Ben Sasse writes,

So much of modern American life seems to be about finding more efficient ways of shirking responsibilities.... We think it's important for our kids to learn how to suffer...Neither our children nor your children will grow up to be free, independent, self-respecting adults if we hand them everything without the expectation of something in return. It isn't the way the world works, and it's irresponsibly unkind. (The Vanishing American Adult, p.139f.)

Jesus gave up his entitlements and came down from heaven to us. He suffered and died for us. That is the definition of humility in the Gospel. It is giving up something that we think we deserve in order to look out for the interests of others. Marriage and family is based on this sort of humility -- the willingness to sacrifice for the sake of our children. Parents give up their entitlement to a happy and comfortable life in order to look out for the needs of their children. If they are not willing to do that they shouldn't have children. The parents who are willing to humble themselves for their children find that later on they are exalted as they reap the fruit of their labors.

How can we retain our humility? (1) We can retain it by realizing the facts. How ever much we know, we know very little compared with the sum total of knowledge. How ever much we have achieved we have achieved very little in the end. However important we may believe ourselves to be, when death removes us, or when we retire from our position, life and work will go on just the same. (2) We can retain it by comparison with the perfect. It is when we go and see or hear the expert that we realize how poor our own performance is, e.g. tennis, golf, music, preaching. And if we set our lives beside the life of the Lord of all good life, if we see our unworthiness in comparison with the radiance of his stainless purity, then pride will die and self-satisfaction will be shriveled up.

O God, our Father, give us the humility which realizes its ignorance; admits its mistakes; recognizes its need; welcomes advice; accepts rebuke. Save us from pride in our knowledge, and make us think of the great ocean of truth all undiscovered before us. Save us from pride in our achievement, and make us to remember all that we still have to do. Save us from pride in our performance and make us to remember how far short of perfection our best must still fall. (William Barclay)

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