Grace and Humility
A text transcript of the message preached at Elijah Ministries on 26th January 2008
Good morning brothers and sisters… greetings in Jesus name.
Shall we pray…
Father, as we come before you this morning, we humble ourselves in your presence Lord. We submit ourselves entirely to you and give you Praise and glory as our Lord and Saviour. We thank you for the privilege of gathering together as a body to worship you and to study your Word. And as we study, I pray that you would teach us your ways Father, speak to our hearts so that we can learn to serve you acceptably.
I pray that you would be with me now and let the saints hear only what you would have them hear. Less of me and much more of you. In Jesus name. Amen.
The past 2 Sundays, we were blessed by 2 amazing sermons from PJ dealing with Grace. What struck me so much about his message, was the reminder that Grace is the very essence of Christianity. And that being the case…. how could I take it for granted so easily? I was convicted of the fact that we can so easily fall from Grace, when we become too wrapped up in ourselves and our own self-importance, in our own achievements and works… We always try make things happen… in our own strength, our own so-called power…
We sometimes lose sight of the fact that doing things in our own strength is vanity, meaningless. I’ve certainly been guilty of that… and I had to do some serious soul searching to try find out the reason why this happens… and what I came to realize was… that it all depends on … a particular attitude of the heart.
As soon as you think that you deserve something, you’ve lost the plot, you’re becoming proud. If you think you have achieved something on your own, anything, even in a spiritual sense, you’re beginning to fall from grace.
In our search for deliverance, for rest and for peace, we try make things happen, we become impatient, we want to take control and do it ourselves. But through our own works, our own efforts, our own plans…. we can never have true peace outside of Christ. Ecclesiastes says that life on earth is irrelevant… just like PJ said, it’s a big circle of pointlessness, like a dog chasing it’s tail… it’s a waste of time to try do anything on your own, anything…. without Christ.
And sometimes we do this without even realizing it… that’s plain human nature. It’s not a conscious decision that you make, to do things in your own strength, but it happens… it’s an insidious thing called pride.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are we saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast.
God hates pride and He hates boasters…
If you think, like I did, that you can do it yourself, you’re wrong, and it will lead to falling outside of God’s grace – and that brother’s and sisters, is not a place you want to be… outside of God’s grace.
Because going hand in hand with Grace, is …mercy. Outside of God’s grace, puts you outside of His mercy… Can you imagine anything worse in this world… being outside of His mercy, without the mercy of God? In this evil world? I couldn’t think of anything worse. God knows I need His mercy more and more…
But even before we get to this Mercy, we need His Grace, and before we get to His grace, we need a particular fundamental Christian virtue. Before we even get to the benefits of God’s grace and mercy, we need to be…. humble, we need ….humility.
It’s a critically important subject… a fundamental Christian concept that is very much neglected, and it’s one that’s been put on my heart to examine a little further today…the subject of humility. Now it’s rather difficult to put a sermon together on such a vast topic – because the bible is literally full of wisdom on humility… but the Lord willing, we will attempt to do so.
Humility is a very elusive quality, because just when you think you have it, you’ve actually just lost it….
As soon as you think you’re humble, you’re not, in fact you just became proud.
Without humility, there is no grace, and without grace, there is no mercy. And without mercy, well there’s just no point, is there? Turn with me to James 4…
James 4:6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." (7) Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (8) Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (9) Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. (10) Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble…
Well what exactly does it mean to be humble? What is humility? Lets try define it…. And a good place to start would be with it’s opposite…
The opposite of humility is pride or arrogance…
And to be arrogant is to have… an exaggerated opinion of your own importance or ability…. An exaggerated opinion of your own importance…
Humility therefore can be defined as – the personal quality of being free from arrogance and pride. In other words, to have… an accurate estimate of what you are worth. An accurate estimate of what you’re worth. And we’re not talking about Bank balances here… We’re talking about… worthiness…
Do you have an accurate estimate of your worth? And just how worthy are you…? Take a moment to assess your worth…
· How much good have you done in your life? Have you done lots of good deeds? Have you been generous in all your ways…?
The Bible knows the answer and Isaiah 64:6 says that ALL your works are like… filthy rags. All your best deeds are like filth. And the Hebrew word for filthy rags actually refers to the menstruation cloths that were used in Old Testament times. ALL your works are like filthy rags before a Holy and Almighty God.
· And then… lets assess our hearts. How good is your heart, is it good and kind? Are you a good person? Are you a loving person?….
Again, the Bible knows the answer and Jeremiah 17 describes our hearts perfectly, and it says that your heart is deceitful, and so desperately wicked that you cannot even understand it!
So desperately wicked that you cannot even understand it!
· Then lets assess how deserving we are… How deserving are you? Are you worthy? Do you deserve to go to heaven?….
Well the answer to that is in Romans 3. Turn to Romans 3...
Romans 3:10- as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; (11) THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; (12) ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE."
So exactly ….just how worthy are you?
You see the problem is that humans compare themselves with others. We compare our goodness, and our works and what we deserve, with what other humans have done… In determining what we deserve, we often even compare ourselves with the world, even with unbelievers… but this is something we should never do… because it leads to arrogance and pride.
Rather, our yardstick should be… Jesus. Jesus Christ is our example.
And when you compare yourself with Jesus, then you will very quickly understand just how worthless you really are, how absolutely lost you really are and how little there is that you can do to save yourself.
When you come to an understanding of what Jesus has done for you, you will begin to understand what humility really is, and you will understand how undeserving you really are. Filthy rags and desperately wicked hearts – all of us – before a Holy God, who can understand it…
We really deserve nothing… no grace and no mercy… what we really deserve is judgement and the wrath of God in hell!
But, thank God… realizing your unworthiness, realizing how undeserving you are,
· is the first step on the way to avoiding God’s wrath.
· It’s the first step to understanding humility.
· It’s the first step to salvation and preparing yourself for the undeserved Grace and mercy that Jesus provides as a free gift to all those who respond.
Humility therefore is not really an attitude towards yourself, but rather an attitude towards God and others.
We are commanded to love the Lord with all our hearts, souls and minds and our neighbours as we love ourselves… and this perfect love is born out of humility.
In fact, there can be no genuine love without humility.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not boast and is not arrogant,
If love is not arrogant, then love must be humble! No humility means no love.
Because we are so undeserving… because Jesus has done so much for us… because He first loved us, and humbled us, we will want to respond to that love. Christian love, Christian grace and mercy, all begins with humility.
And it needs to be the continuing attitude of a child of God. A humble person recognizes reality, namely that all we are and all we have is from God.
The Apostle Paul said , "by the grace of God I am what I am."
A genuine spirit of humility is essential to a proper evaluation of yourself, your gifts and your calling. True humility is not to think too highly of yourself, but rather to think fairly and truthfully concerning oneself.
Turn to Romans 12….
Romans 12:3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgement, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
So instead of humility being a negative thing, which is how the world sees it. It isn’t. Biblical humility is very much a positive thing. It’s sound judgement.
· The world and psychology teaches self-esteem, self-love, self-acceptance and self worth. You’ve got to love yourself before you can love others.
The Bible says every human being loves themselves regardless, otherwise they wouldn’t even feed themselves. The Bible says there is no human who ever yet hated himself.
· Psychology teaches that if you search your inner self, and work through and resolve your guilt in the face of mankind, you’ll find the answers to all your problems. It teaches that your problems all stem from a dysfunctional childhood, it’s all your parents fault. It teaches that dysfunctional behaviour stems from a low self-esteem.
The Bible says the exact opposite. It says that instead of all your problems being your parents’ fault, or from low self-esteem, all your problems are actually a result of…. sin.
Rather than resolving your guilt in the face of mankind and raising your self-esteem, the answer to ALL your problems is ….faith in Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of your sins.
The Bible teaches the exact opposite of Psychology.
· The Bible says you don’t have to try love yourself –
o you already love yourself too much;
o you don’t need self-esteem, you’ve already got enough pride.
· Instead of loving yourself more, the Bible says die to self.
It says Live your life, not for yourself, but for others, serving others.
– instead of self-esteem, the Bible says you need ….humility.
So Humility is not a synonym for
· low self esteem, or for
· self-hatred, or a divinely sanctioned inferiority complex. No, not at all…
But being humble also doesn’t mean that you have to be a doormat for everyone else to walk over.
Rather, humility can lead us in the path of righteousness… it can lead us to have true Christian love for God and for others… Turn to John 15…
As John 15:12 says "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. (13) "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
You see, Humility is an essential characteristic of a godly individual. It involves recognizing our total inability to accomplish anything outside of God’s grace, and it recognises the absolute Sovereignty of God.
Does anything happen in this world without the permission of God? No.
Verse 5, John 15:5 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for without Me you can do…. nothing.
Without Jesus Christ, you can do nothing.
Oh, …. Make no mistake, He does allow the wicked in the world to exist without Him, but they don’t bear fruit. Until they repent, their existence is meaningless. Without Him, this earth is the closest they will ever come to heaven… and that’s a great tragedy… all a result of pride.
Humility knows when it confronts an Almighty God.
It doesn’t say – look how good I am; Lord you owe me; I’ve positively confessed, now you owe me Lord. No.
Humility falls face forward on the floor and weeps - Woe is me, I am undone! Just like Isaiah did.
And God demands humility. While God humbles men to bring them to Himself (Dt. 8:2, 3), it’s only when men respond, and humble themselves, that they are accepted.
2 Chron. 7:14 if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land.
If you humble yourself, then I will forgive.
What’s very important to understand here is that people cannot be manipulated, intimidated, or forced by fear or by reward into certain patterns of behavior. You can’t force someone to become humble, just as you can’t force someone to become saved. It’s a choice that person has to make themselves.
A permanent and lasting change of behaviour is as a direct result of transformation from the inside. It’s a change of heart... a change of attitude… and how does this change come about? …. As we read previously in James 4, it’s by submission to the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.
If you're going to have heart surgery you need a competent surgeon with an efficient cutting instrument.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The Word of God is sharp enough to divide between soul and spirit… that’s pretty sharp!
So instead of beating people into submission or forcing them into change through punishment, if you're going to help cut out the disease and do the necessary spiritual surgery, the best way to do it is with the Word...to teach people to do the will of God… from the heart.
Now apart from faith and obedience as a general category, there is probably no more important spiritual virtue than humility, both in the individual believer and in the church, the body of Christ. At the very centre, at the very heart of life in the church comes humility.
Turn to Matthew chapter 5...
If there was anything true about the Judaism of Jesus' time, it was that it bred spiritual pride. Men paraded their religion in front of the crowds. You might remember in Matthew 23 how the leaders of Israel always looked for the chief seats and the high places, where they could be seen. When they did their tithes they blew a trumpet or when they did their fasting they went into public and threw ashes on their heads, so that everyone might see how devout they really were.
This is the sickening sin of spiritual pride.
In Matthew 5 in the sermon on the mount, Jesus began to teach them…
Matthew 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied."
The promises that come at the end of each of those verses have to do with salvation – These people are in the Kingdom, they're being comforted, they're inheriting the earth and they're being soul satisfied. Those are all features of salvation and describe what it means to belong to Christ, to belong to God, to know that you're in the Kingdom.
And the saved are described in these ways...they are poor in spirit, they mourn, they are meek, and they hunger and thirst. All of those describe various facets of humility.
First of all, the phrase "blessed are the poor in spirit" captures a Greek word ptokos, which means to be so poor that you have to beg, to be destitute, a pauper. Bankrupt with no means of support. They have nothing and they have no means of getting anything. It's a term used for beggars who were disabled so that they could not function, they could not work. They are the utterly destitute.
The Kingdom belongs to the destitute, Jesus is saying. The Kingdom belongs to people who know they have nothing, who have come to the realization that they are utterly bankrupt…….
And, of course, He's not talking about material things here, but spiritual ones. Spiritually bankrupt.
· The Kingdom doesn't belong to people who think they are spiritual, or who think they have achieved anything.
· It doesn’t belong to people who call themselves prophets or healers.
· It doesn't belong to people who think that God owes them something.
· It doesn't belong to people who are counting on the fact that they are Jews.
· It doesn't belong to those people who go to church every Sunday and maintain the traditions of the church.
The Kingdom does belong to people who beat their chests saying, "God, be merciful to me a sinner."
Keep your place in Matthew 5 and turn with me to Luke 18
Luke 18:9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: (10) "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. (11) "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. (12) 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' (13) "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his chest, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' And here’s the crux, Jesus says - (14) "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
If you humble yourself, you will be exalted. But if you don’t, God will humble you anyway – so make it easy on yourself… humble yourself, otherwise God will do it for you… and when He does it, it’s not a pleasant experience. Some people that the Lord calls are incredibly stubborn and proud, and when you are as stubborn and as proud as I was, you can be sure that the Lord will do whatever is necessary to bring you to your knees… to humble you. And that process can be utterly devastating and extremely painful… It leads to a brokenness that the Lord desires… a state of existence where you have nothing, no strength, no resources and no willpower to carry on. You’re ready to give up in more ways than one. Absolutely nothing left except to turn to the Lord. And that’s when the Lord can use you. And this was a point that PJ discussed in detail last week.
2 Cor 12:9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in your weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
In your weakened state, humbled, God can use you most effectively.
But I’ll say it again, that if you are called by God, don’t resist, it’s much easier to humble yourself, than let the Lord do it for you, because He will bring you to your knees…whether you like it or not… it’s just a matter of time... Because one day soon, every knee will bow before Jesus Christ the King, whether you like it or not.
And here in Luke 18, we see a great example of humility, with the tax collector pounding on his chest, he can't even look up towards heaven because he's so embarrassed and mortified by his sin. He is humbled in the presence of God and he cries out for God’s mercy. And at that point God steps in and demonstrates His unending love and mercy for mankind. In the words of Jesus, that man went home justified. The righteousness of Christ was imputed to him, just as it is imputed to us. Brokenness, humility is the issue.
Go back to Matthew 5 –
Just like the tax collector, notice that the one who understands his spiritual bankruptcy has an attitude of mourning…
v4. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
When he really sees himself, there's an attitude of desperation, there's a depth of sorrow and agony over his condition.
I want to ask you today… have you ever felt this way about your sin? About yourself? Have you ever really seen yourself… and been mortified by your condition? If you haven’t, then perhaps you need to become poorer in spirit.
Verse 5 "Blessed are the gentle or the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Meekness, almost a timidity, a fear to even approach the throne of God because of one's utter unworthiness. And that is reflected in the tax collector in Luke 18 not even being able to lift his eyes up toward heaven.
And then finally, verse 6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Those who hunger and thirst for true righteousness, because they know they do not have any of their own.
Turn to Matthew chapter 18.
Just so we understand how it all starts, in Matthew chapter 18 Jesus speaks about how one enters the Kingdom…
Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (2) And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, (3) and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (4) "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Amazingly, the disciples were having an argument at this point about who was going to be greatest in the Kingdom. Jesus said The Kingdom belongs to the humble. You can only come in as humble as a child.
You see, a child is absolutely dependent on others for it’s survival, but more importantly,
· it has has achieved nothing.
· It has nothing to boast about.
· Nothing to be proud of.
· A child has accomplished nothing. … it owns nothing…
And that’s how God wants us to come into the Kingdom – spiritually bankrupt and with nothing left.
There’s a hymn that says it well, "Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling." That's how a child comes...no achievements and nothing to be proud of… and that's how the Lord wants you to come. You come into His Kingdom as a little child.
James 4, discusses the qualities of humility… turn to James 4...
James 4:4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
That's what John said in 1 John, "If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him.
You may think you're the friend of God, but if you're double minded and attached to the world, you're not. You're like that soil in Matthew 13 where the weeds, the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches chokes out the truth.
Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? (6) But He gives a greater grace.
Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.
Notice that there is greater grace available, but please notice to whom it is given.
"God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the… humble."
That statement is recorded also in the Psalms, in Proverbs and in Peter. So it must be fairly important.
Saving grace is for:
· the humble,
· the poor in spirit,
· those who are spiritually bankrupt and know it,
· those who mourn over their sin,
· those who come to the Lord meekly, ashamed to come into His presence,
· but hungry enough to come, because they know that what they most need, they lack.
So how does one get this humility?
Verse 7 Submit therefore to God,
To attain humility, you need to submit yourself to God.
But there is a real danger here… the modern day church and the new age way of thinking has lulled many Christians into a false sense of submission. There is a Biblical way to submit to God. But there are many unbiblical ways too. The latest trend in the church says that all you need to do is have a sincere heart and to submit to God in the way that He has revealed Himself to you… that friendly all-loving cuddly God who you can be best mates with… I don’t need to worry about doctrine, after all, God knows my heart…
I’ve got news for people who believe this way… yes God does know your heart… and we’ve seen already what He says about it… that it is desperately wicked, beyond understanding!
You might think that your heart is sincere, yes, but it’s sincerely wicked! The “God knows my heart” doctrine is for flaky Christians, it’s unbiblical and it’s a cop out from true Christianity…
The only way to submit to God is in the way God reveals Himself to you… in… the… Word of God. And if that way contradicts Scripture, then you’re submitting to the wrong God. But we’re not going to go into detail here, there is a whole teaching on Biblical Submission.
Suffice to say that submission is the foundation of all other acts of true humility. Humility begins by giving God first place in all your thoughts and actions.
Once you have submitted, the humble man will truly repent of his sins. He will mourn and weep with regret and remorse over his disobedience.
Verse 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (9) Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. (10) Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
Another characteristic of the humble man is that he does not criticize his brother in Christ unnecessarily. He recognizes that there is only one who is righteous enough to declare judgment on others. He leaves that judgment to God. And this is an important concept in the church brothers and sisters, it’s the cause of much division and strife in the church itself.
Verse 11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?
Another quality of the humble man is that he doesn’t boast about anything. Because to boast is evil, and the humble man waits for the Lord to lift him up.
Verse 13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." (14) Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a …vapour that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (15) Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live …and also do this or that. 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.
By the grace of God, He lends us our next breath. By the grace of God, he allows us wicked humans to live. Without the grace of God, you can do nothing!
And time is short brothers and sisters…
Isaiah 55 says, "Seek the Lord while He still may be found, call upon Him while He is still near, let the wicked forsake his way and let the unrighteous man forsake his thoughts and let him return to the Lord and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."
You approach the Lord realizing your wickedness,
you come realizing your lack of righteousness,
you come broken, casting yourself on God's mercy. That's how you came into the Kingdom. You came in humble.
And those of you that have been saved through the humility of being bankrupt and broken will know, that through all of that... nothing changes... nothing changes, Lest you should boast…
You are no more worthy of salvation now, than when you first came before the throne of Grace, amen? You are no more worthy now of God's goodness in Christ Jesus than you were when you were first humbled. You're still a sinner and it is still God's grace that sustains you. There's no place for pride in your life ever. Whatever good, whatever noble, whatever godly features may exist in your life are the work of the Lord and the Lord Jesus alone.
That's why Peter in 1 Peter 5:5 says, "Clothe yourselves with humility," and he quotes those same Old Testament passages, "God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble." 6, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time."
The Lord will do whatever He needs to do to humble us. Turn to 2 Corinthians chapter 12.
2 Corinthians 12. In this chapter, the Apostle Paul is relaying an absolutely amazing experience that he had. He speaks about visions and revelations, supernatural things, where he was taken to the 3rd Heaven and then to Paradise, and he was shown some incredible revelations. Now Paul was the only one who had this experience, and yet he says,
verse :5 On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses.
There was surely a part of Paul that wanted to celebrate this incredible experience, to shout it from the rooftops. It was a wonderful thing and something marvellous to rejoice in, but when I look back at myself, he says, all I can see… all I can rejoice in, is ….my weakness… now that’s humility.
And then coming down to verse 7,
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself!
You see, that's the tendency amongst humans. To exalt self. Nobody had had these revelations, nobody. Nobody had been to heaven and back. This is an amazing thing that had happened to him. And this could so easily cause us to be exalted and puffed up. Imagine the dinner time conversation "Say, guys, when last did you visit heaven? Or… how many times has Jesus come back to have a private meeting with you?"
So, to keep him from exalting himself verse 7 says, "There was given him a thorn in the flesh." In verse 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. But the Lord said no. So the Lord allowed this affliction, this thorn in his side, because He refused to remove it. This thorn in his side was actually a messenger of Satan, sent to buffet and torment him. And just like in the story of Job, God will use demons if need be, to accomplish His purposes. And here, that purpose was to keep Paul humble, to stop him from becoming proud.
Much of 2 Corinthians is written to actually defend Paul’s authority as an apostle, because his character had been under attack in an attempt to divide the church. And this is an example that God will do whatever He needs to, to humble His own –
· even if it means sending a messenger from Satan to plague them,
· even if it means trouble and division in the church as there was in Corinth,
· even if it means an attack on his character - the character assassination that was going on in the Corinthian church was directed right at Paul. And you know what they said about him:
o he's in it for the money,
o he's looking for sexual favours from women,
o he is self-centered, a liar, a deceiver and on and on, unjustifiably slandering his character.
And God allowed all this to happen in order to keep Paul’s ego in check – to keep him humble. That's how important humility is.
But why is humility so important to the Lord?
Verse 9, And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in …. weakness. The Lord says, MY power is perfected in YOUR weakness.
And so God crushed Paul, because when he was at the end of himself and he had nothing, then God could use him. Paul learned that, and we as Christians will surely learn that too.
So most gladly, therefore, he says in verse 9, "Most gladly, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."
You see, the Power of Christ within the Christian is in direct relationship to humility, and brokenness. The more humble you are, the more perfect is Christ’s power. The less of you in your life, the more of Christ.
Verse 10 "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, difficulties for Christ's sake;
for when I am weak then I'm...strong."
When I am weak in myself, then I am strong in Christ.
If you're facing severe tests and trials, being falsely accused, being maligned, your character being torn to shreds, being misrepresented, persecuted…. I know it’s difficult, but search your heart, let the humbling work go on, be content, because it's in your weakness that His strength is perfected. He wants you humble and He wants you to grow and He will do whatever is necessary to accomplish his purposes.
I want to close our little discussion of humility by looking at Philippians chapter 2.
Turn to Philippians chapter 2…
and we'll start at verse 3.
"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than oneself."
You know, there's a great truth about a humble person and that is this, they see their own sin as worse than everybody else's.
· If you are more critical of other Christians than you are of yourself, you lack humility.
· If you continually pick on other brothers and sisters, and find fault in them, you lack humility.
I realized recently that it is only pride that allows me to crawl up out of my own hole and criticize others. Only pride.
And I'm not talking about doctrine, I'm not talking about being discerning, I'm talking about being preoccupied with criticizing others.
It’s very hard to criticize others when you're overwhelmed with your own sinfulness, with the filth of your own heart.
· When the sins that most offend you, are your sins,
· when the sins that most grieve you, are yours,
· when the sins that should really be prevented, are your sins
then you have a measure of humility and you're able to do what it says here... to regard others as better than you.
Philippians 2:4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
When you are more concerned for others, their successes, their blessings, their benefits, than you are for yourself, you have a measure of humility. When your personal interests are not what matters, when your own popularity and reputation become unimportant to you, you have a measure of humility.
Verse 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
This was the attitude of Christ. He was much more concerned about us than Himself.
He was perfectly willing to give up His privileges to bear our sins. He was willing to be separated from God and endure agony, which is inexplicable and incomprehensible to us in order that we, who are unworthy, might be saved. And it's this marvellous passage that points this out that, of course, He was the perfect example of humility.
(6) who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, (7) but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
(8) Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (9) For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, (10) so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.