Blessed Humility Through the Gospel of Christ
Notes from “Humility True Greatness” by C.J. Mahaney:
James 4:6 states:
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
1 Peter 5:5 states:
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
A general definition of humility (pg. 22):
Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.
Humility isn’t always defined from a religious perspective and is often valued outside of the religious contexts. However the true source, scope and application of humility will be severely limited if we omit God and Christ in our consideration of this subject. As Mahaney mentions (pg. 21):
Our definition of humility must be biblical and not simply pragmatic, and in order to be biblical it must begin with God. As John Calvin wrote, “It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.”
How does God see us? The following scripture (2 Chronicles 16:9) provides knowledge on this matter:
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.
How can the knowledge that He’s watching us help us to be humble? How can we gain His favor, grace and support on our behalf? Mahaney mentions (pg. 20-21):
There’s something you can do to attract more of God’s gracious, undeserved, supernatural strength and assistance!
What a promise! Listen to this familiar passage again for the very first time: “God…gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Contrary to popular and false belief, it’s not those who help themselves” whom God helps; it’s those who humble themselves.
If our lives aren’t humbly and meekly built upon the foundation of Christ, then ultimately they are based upon vain and fleeting goals, upon treasures where moth and rust doth corrupt. Eternal treasures await those who help build the kingdom of God by serving their fellow men and establishing a family rooted in Christ. Mahaney reminds us of our need for God’s grace in all our ventures (pg. 24):
What are you building with your life? A marriage? A family? A business? A church? A career? In all your ventures, are you aware of your need for God’s grace to give your efforts lasting value? Do you long for God’s providential help and blessing? Then let’s allow the promise of humility to shape our life and choices, so our children and others will one day look back and say of us, They had that. They had humility. They had what mattered.
What is the opposite of humility, if not pride? What are the dangers of pride?
Pride makes us do stupid things. As Mahaney points out (pg. 29):
…pride seems to have a strange and sure way of ignoring logic altogether…
Mahaney also mentions on pg 30 that pride is at the core of all sin and quotes John Stott:
“Pride is more than the first of the seven deadly sins; it is itself the essence of all sin.”
Pride was the reason for Lucifer’s rebellion in heaven and his becoming the devil. This is mentioned in the bible in Isaiah 14:12-14:
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
Proverbs 16:5 warns us of the foolishness of those who are arrogant in heart:
Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.
I don’t quite agree with Mahaney with respect to his quote on pg. 31:
Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him.’
I don’t agree with his and others who take this view of assigning God the position of an untouchable and unfathomable divine spirit. Surely God is our superior and we depend upon him for our very breath. Surely we aren’t worthy of His many blessings. However, I sincerely believe that a Christian is denying himself and his children of the ultimate blessing of the Gospel when they forget that as God’s children we can ultimately become like Him. Surely not in this life alone, except we be perfect in Christ as those who lived in the city of Enoch attained to and were lifted up to heaven and the glory of God. Surely we have hope because they shared in the glory of God, and as heirs of Christ, they received of the Father’s glory. This may sound arrogant to want to attain unto God’s glory. However when tempered with humility, service and devotion unto our Heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ, it is true humility. It is seeing our true selves. It is seeing the spark of divinity that lies within us all and nurturing that spark with faith in God. It is knowing that unless we humbly submit ourselves to God’s will and strive to become as God, then an eternity of damnation from that eternal exaltation awaits us. Christ died on the cross and all but the most evil are ultimately saved from an eternity of bondage in the hell where the devil reigns. Yet how many Christians deny the virtual hell that awaits those who don’t attain unto eternal increase and perfection. For surely immortality will be unbearable in some way however small or great if we don’t become as God our Father, infinite and perfect beings with eternal increase. Damnation in this sense includes those chains and limitations we put upon ourselves that limit our eternal potential, and make us lesser heirs of Christ’s fullest blessings. When you read Christ’s great prayer in the Gospel according to John (John 17:9-21), the full impact of these principles can begin to set in one’s mind:
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.
And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s “Pride and Humility” sermon of August 17,1856 in Southwark England is mentioned briefly by Mahaney. The full sermon is available at:
Here are some excerpts of this sermon that I enjoyed:
Now, I have to speak of the seat of pride—the heart. The true throne of pride everywhere, is the heart of man. If, my dear friends, we desire, by God’s grace, to put down pride, the only way is to begin with the heart. Now let me tell you a parable, in the form of an eastern story, which will set this truth in its proper light. A wise man in the east, called a dervish, in his wanderings, came suddenly upon a mountain, and he saw beneath his feet a smiling valley, in the midst of which there flowed a river. The sun was shining on the stream, and the water as it reflected the sunlight, looked pure and beautiful. When he descended, he found it was muddy, and the water utterly unfit for drinking. Hard by he saw a young man, in the dress of a shepherd, who was with much diligence filtering the water for his flocks. At one moment he placed some water into a pitcher, and then allowing it to stand, after it had settled, he poured the clean fluid into a cistern. Then, in another place, he would be seen turning aside the current for a little, and letting it ripple over the sand and stones, that it might be filtered, and the impurities removed. The dervish watched the young man endeavouring to fill a large cistern with clear water; and he said to him, “My son, why all this toil?—what purpose dost thou answer by it?” The young man replied, “Father, I am a shepherd; this water is so filthy that my flock will not drink of it, and, therefore, I am obliged to purify it little by little, so I collect enough in this way that they may drink, but it is hard work.” So saying, he wiped the sweat from his brow, for he was exhausted with his toil. “Right well hast thou laboured,” said the wise man, “but dost thou know thy toil is not well applied? With half the labour thou mightest attain a better end. I should conceive that the source of this stream must be impure and polluted; let us take a pilgrimage together and see.” They then walked some miles, climbing their way over many a rock, until they came to a spot where the stream took its rise. When they came near to it, they saw flocks of wild fowls flying away, and wild beasts of the earth rushing into the forest; these had come to drink, and had soiled the water with their feet. They found an open well, which kept continually flowing, but by reason of these creatures, which perpetually disturbed it, the stream was always turbid and muddy. “My son,” said the wise man, “set to work now to protect the fountain and guard the well, which is the source of this stream; and when thou hast done that, if thou canst keep these wild beasts and fowls away, the stream will flow of itself, all pure and clear, and thou wilt have no longer need for thy toil.” The young man did it, and as he labored, the wise man said to him, “My son, hear the word of wisdom; if thou art wrong, seek not to correct thine outward life, but seek first to get thy heart correct, for out of it are the issues of life, and thy life shall be pure when once thy heart is so.” So if we would get rid of pride, we should not proceed to arrange our dress by adopting some special costume, or to qualify our language, by using an outlandish tongue, but let us seek of God that he would purify our hearts from pride, and then assuredly if pride is purged from the heart, our life also shall be humble. Make the tree good, and then the fruit shall be good; make the fountain pure, and the stream shall be sweet. Oh! that God might grant us all, by his grace, that our hearts may be kept with diligence, so that pride may never enter there lest we be haughty in our hearts, and find that afterwards cometh wrath.
…Now, let us consider briefly the last part of the text, “BEFORE HONOR IS HUMILITY.” So then, you see our heavenly Father does not say that we are not to have honor. He has not forbidden it; he has only forbidden us to be proud of it. A good man may have honor in this life. Daniel had honor before the people; Joseph rode in the second chariot, and the people bowed the knee before him. God often clothes his children with honor in the face of their adversaries, and makes the wicked confess that the Lord is with them in deed and in truth. But God forbids our making that honor a cloak for pride, and bids us seek humility which always accompanies as well as precedes true honor.
Now let us briefly enquire, in the first place, what is humility? The best definition I have ever met with is, “to think rightly of ourselves.” Humility is to make a right estimate of one’s-self. It is no humility for a man to think less of himself than he ought, though it might rather puzzle him to do that. Some persons, when they know they can do a thing, tell you they cannot; but you do not call that humility? A man is asked to take part in some meeting. “No,” he says, “I have no ability;” yet, if you were to say so yourself, he would be offended at you. It is not humility for a man to stand up and depreciate himself and say he cannot do this, that, or the other, when he knows that he is lying. If God gives a man a talent, do you think the man does not know it? If a man has ten talents he has no right to be dishonest to his Maker, and to say, “Lord, thou hast only give me five.” It is not humility to underrate yourself, Humility is to think of yourself, if you can, as God thinks of you. It is to feel that if we have talents, God has given them to us, and let it be seen that, like freight in a vessel, they tend to sink us low. The more we have, the lower we ought to lie. Humility is not to say, “I have not this gift,” but it is to say, “I have the gift, and I must use it for my Master’s glory. I must never seek any honor for myself, for what have I that I have not received?”…
…True humility does not continually talk about “dust and ashes,” and prate about its infirmities, but it feels all that which others say, for it possesses an inwrought feeling of its own nothingness.
Very likely the most humble man in the world won’t bend to anybody. John Knox was a truly humble man, yet if you had seen him march before Queen Mary with the Bible in his hand, to reprove her, you would have rashly said, “What a proud man!”
Cringing men that bow before everybody, are truly proud men; but humble men are those who think themselves so little, they do not think it worth while to stoop to serve themselves. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were humble men, for they did not think their lives were worth enough to save them by a sin. Daniel was a humble man; he did not think his place, his station, his whole self, worth enough to save them by leaving off prayer. Humility is a thing which must be genuine; the imitation of it is the nearest thing in the world to pride. Seek of God, dear friends, the gift of true humility….
..Seek of him, if he does not show you the chambers of imagery within your own heart, that he may take you to Calvary, and that he may show you his brightness and his glory, that you may be humble before him. Never ask to be a mean, cringing, fawning thing: ask God to make you a man—those are scarce things now-a-days—a man who only fears God, who knows no fear of any other kind. Do not give yourselves up to any man’s power, or guidance, or rule, but ask of God that you may have that humility towards him, which gives you the noble bearing of a Christian before others…
…Hast thou been brought to say, “Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner?” Well, then, as true as the text is in the Bible, thou shalt have honor by-and-bye. “Such honor have all the saints.” Thou shalt have honor soon to be washed from all thy guilt; thou shalt have honor soon to be clothed in the robes of Jesus, in the royal garments of the King; thou shalt have honor soon to be adopted into his family, to be received amongst the blood-washed ones who have been justified by faith. Thou shalt have honor to be borne, as on eagles’ wings, to be carried across the river, and at last to sing his praise, who has been the “Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction.” Thou shalt have honor to wear the crown, and wave the palm one day, for thou hast now that humility which comes from God. You may fear that because you are now humbled by God, you must perish. I beseech you do not think so; as truly as ever the Lord has humbled you, he will exalt you. And the more you are brought low, the less hope you have of mercy; the more you are in the dust, so much the more reason you have to hope. So far from the bottom of the sea being a place over which we cannot be carried to heaven, it is one of the nearest places to heaven’s gate. And if thou art brought to the very lowest place to which even Jonah descended, thou art so much the nearer being accepted. The more thou knowest thy vileness; remember the blacker, the more filthy, the more unworthy thou art in thine own esteem, so much the more right hast thou to expect that thou wilt be saved. Verily, honor shall come after humility. Humble souls, rejoice; proud souls, go on in your proud ways, but know that they end in destruction. Climb up the ladder of your pride, you shall fall over on the other side and be dashed to pieces. Ascend the steep hill of your glory; the higher you climb the more terrible will be your fall. For know you this, that against none hath the Lord Almighty bent his bow more often, and against none has he shot his arrows more furiously than against the proud and mighty man that exalteth himself. Bow down, O man, bow down; “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”