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.
Take Matthew chapter 18, for instance. Even though no chapter in Scripture was written as a unit, the 35 verses of Matthew 18 will function as one for our purposes here. They seem to fill the bill very nicely.
Now, thinking of a chapter of the Bible like an orange, we begin by looking for the natural creases, the place where different sections separate from the other. We can take a knife and slice an orange any way we please, and you can impose your own plans on the Word. But, staying with our little metaphor, let’s always look for the natural divisions.
Here are the five sections of this chapter–
18:1-6 The Lord’s teaching on humility
Humility is not an option. Humility is a requirement before entering the kingdom and a sure sign that one has come to know Christ. After all, as a new disciple of Jesus Christ, the Lord is going to ask us to serve, to learn and grow, to give and forgive, and do a thousand things. If we retain a proud spirit, we will insist on doing things our way, demand that we get something out of it for ourselves, and tell the Lord where we will serve and when we plan to stop.
A proud disciple is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron.
This is why we pastors do not hesitate to ask people to make public commitments to Jesus in an invitation time, to call them forth to be baptized publicly, and to unite with a church that may have more problems than any organization in town. It will require a great deal of humility from the very first. But this is His way.
18:7-11 The Lord warns against causing others to stumble
Only the truly humble will be able to receive this word on our responsibility to the little ones, and the need to get rid of anything causing us or others to stumble.
18:12-14 The shepherd leaves the 99 and goes in search of the one
Only the truly humble will put this much value on a single soul and risk everything to reach others, even to the point of leaving the larger group.
18:15-20 Discipline and prayer
Only the truly humble will be willing to confront someone who has offended him according to the steps the Lord gave and do it with the right spirit. Only the truly humble qualify as confronters, binders, loosers, and pray-ers.
18:21-35 Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness
Only the truly humble can forgive. Everyone else delights in holding grudges and keeping offenders in their debt. The proud will forgive only if the offender meets his conditions, shows he deserves it, and is perfect thereafter. The humble person knows he too is an offender of the first order and that without the grace and mercy of the Lord, would be in big trouble.
The truly humble is glad to let go of grievances in order to keep a brother or sister.
And now a word on where we can find this humility…
“Humble yourself.” (I Peter 5:6) See also Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11 and 18:14; and James 4:10.
Every time I hear someone pray, “Lord, humble me,” I want to interrupt and say, “No! Never ask God to humble you! He humbles people with a mighty hand and you may not survive the experience.” When God humbled Nebuchadnezzar, that proud king ended up grazing in the pasture with the cattle. (Daniel chapter 4). When He humbled prideful King Herod Agrippa, the man died on the spot (Acts 12).
How would one go about humbling himself? By taking a good look at the mess he has made of his life. By thinking of his own accountability to the Lord God. By considering the greatness of Almighty God and his own puniness in comparison (see Psalm 8).
Think of the goodness of God to you.
Think of the greatness of the Lord Jesus.
Think of all you owe Him.
Consider that God has not dealt with you according to your sin nor given you what you deserve. That’s Psalm 103:10.
Quick question: What are signs that you have truly humbled yourself?
–You are teachable and leadable.
–The changes in you are visible to others.
–You are eager to help others. Twice in Mark 10, the Lord Jesus asks, “What can I do for you?” A sure sign of humility.
–Your constant prayer is “Thy will be done.”
–You do not focus on yourself, your wants, your desires, or insist on getting your way.
–You are filled with gratitude to the Lord.