At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)
There is a reason the Lord makes humility step one to living for Him.
He is going to be asking a lot from you, more in fact that you will think you can humanly give. Unless you have humbled yourself before Him and received what He has for you, you will balk at the demands, insist on your own rights, and insert your own methodology. In so doing, you will mess it all up.
Be humble or go home.
Only the humble can pull this off.
“We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to Thee, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
The thought that flitted through my brain that night scares me to this day.
It had rained heavily the previous day, the kind of West Texas downpour they write books about. Next morning, very early–4 am or something–I was leaving the Alto Frio Baptist Campground for a very long drive home (to central Mississippi). Anyone familiar with that remote retreat facility knows that the main route calls for you to drive down a highway and then cross over to the primary highway. Oddly, that crossover is a humble, one-lane road of perhaps half a mile. The thing to bear in mind is that it crosses a small creek, and oddly, the bridge curves as it passes over the creek. I made this drive several times during my few days at the camp speaking to senior adults, mostly to drive into the town of Leakey, Texas.
So, now it is pitch black out there, and as I am about to turn off the first highway and drive the small trail over to the main highway, I notice the entire area is flooded. The whole area around the little road was completely submerged. Assuming the bridge was still there, it would be flooded also.
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32). And on the other hand, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).
Self-control is a mighty good thing to have. And as rare as Spanish doubloons in the Sunday offering.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). So, the much-desired quality of self-control is found among the nine traits making up the “fruit of the Spirit,” which is also a pretty solid description of Christlikeness.
The ability to master one’s own spirit is not as recognizable as its opposite, the failure or inability to control one’s inner self. That trait–a spirit out of control–is quickly on full display whenever its owner is offended, attacked, questioned, called to account for something he/she has done, or otherwise challenged. The uncontrolled spirit has no defenses against temptation, no muscles for hard tasks, and no patience with difficult people. “Love one’s enemies”? (Luke 6:27) The uncontrolled spirit has difficulty loving its own friends and thus nothing in reserve for its opponents.
“Joy is the business of Heaven.” –C. S. Lewis
What started me thinking of this was a line from James Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty.”
“Although I have had a different idea of ‘fun’ than most, there were some parts of the Justice Department that had become black holes, where joy went to die.”
James Comey explains further about his days at the Justice Department: “Places where morale had gotten so low and the battle scars from bureaucratic wrangling with other departments and the White House so deep, I worried that we were on the verge of losing some of our best, most capable lawyers.”
Sound familiar, pastor?
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance, and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
A smile is outward evidence that everything inside is in good shape. A smile is visible evidence of the joy of the Lord.
Anyone can smile. And everyone should. But those who put faith and trust in the Lord Jesus have more right to smile than anyone. They can number a hundred blessings in their lives as a result of the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ: They’ve been forgiven, cleansed by the blood, and born into the family of God. They are indwelt by the Spirit, overshadowed and undergirded by Him, and surrounded by like-minded disciples. They have the Word of God, the love of God, and the power of God. And so forth.
The unsmiling Christian is a contradiction.
Why aren’t you smiling?
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? The unsaved do that…. But love your enemies and do good and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great…. –Luke 6:32-35
I was a freshman in college, with everything that implies: I was green, scared, eager, excited, learning, stupid, silly, and a hundred other things.
Among the civilians working on our campus was Mrs. Grigsby. I can see her to this day: stern, tight-lipped, unfriendly, and unloving. We thought she looked more like a man than a woman. She was all business, never a ‘good morning,’ and generally unpleasant, we all thought.
Walking our dog this morning at dawn, the breeze was just right and the air so refreshing. I thought, “How could the feel of Heaven be any better than this?” So sweet, so satisfying.
In truth, I’ve not seen anything yet. Heaven’s blessings, of which we have just a foretaste here on Earth, are going to be indescribable.
His sweet peace is one of those foretastes.
Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you. Not as the world gives.” –John 14:27
“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit therefore to God” (James 4:6).
“Clothe yourself with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5). “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time….” (5:6).
A Facebook friend said, “I’m very proud of my humility.”
Humility is not a subject most of us would claim to know much about. In fact, we would shy away from anyone claiming to be humble. The very claim contradicts itself.
In fact, by the paradoxical nature of this trait, a truly humble person would be the last to know it. So, when told that “You are a genuinely humble person,” the appropriate response might be something like “Who, me? Thank you. I wish!”
“Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem saying, ‘Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?….And He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?'” (Matthew 15:1-3)
“The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Historians tell us the Pharisees started off well, as revivalists in a way, calling the nation back to faithfulness. Eventually, however, their insistence on righteousness settled down into a code of laws and rules. They went from being encouragers to harassers, from lovers of God to bullies and legalists.
The legalist is someone who says, “I know the Lord didn’t say this, but He would have if He’d thought of it!”
The legalist is smarter than God. He helps the Lord by completing His Word, by filling in the gaps where the Lord clearly forgot to say something, explain something, or require a thing.
“And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.'” Luke 19:41-42
You’ve seen the bumper stickers and billboards. “KNOW JESUS; KNOW PEACE,” followed by “No Jesus; No Peace.”
That’s almost right, but not completely.
We hear Christians say, “If the world just knew Jesus, we would have world peace.” It sounds right, but we might be missing something.
A lot of Christians do not have peace. They are constantly beset by worries and fears, angst and anxieties. Christians are taking the prescriptions along with everyone else to settle their nerves. Something is going on. What?
Many churches–made up of born-again, Bible-believing, Christians (a redundancy if ever there was one)–are constantly at war among themselves. They argue over doctrine, where to situate the organ, whether to even have an organ, whether the pastor should wear a suit and tie or jeans and sneakers, and how much to pay the preacher. They argue over who is to run the church and divide over how long the sermons should be. And they love the Lord.
Something is wrong.