THE PERSONIFICATION OF HUMILITY

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1 CHRISTIAN HUMILITY Over these past few weeks we have been developing along a particular line of thought that ought to be personal to every believer. Prayer, love for our fellow-believers, taking care not to quench the Holy Spirit, our relationship to the Lord and His people as illustrated by the parable of the Vine and the Branches. I suppose if we were to lump all these studies together we could give them the title, Christian Virtues. As believers, each of these aspects ought to be central to the personal and daily development of our faith. Another very fundamental consideration is humility. Now as soon as we mention humility we can automatically point out how someone else is in such great need of this virtue. I think one of the main reasons it causes such a reaction in us is that humility is a very difficult characteristic to measure and to control because once you claim to have it you are in danger of losing it! I trust, therefore, you appreciate how difficult it is to broach this subject in a Bible Study because we could come to all the right conclusions and yet miss the mark of humility true Christian behaviour expects. The best and only place to begin is THE PERSONIFICATION OF HUMILITY This of course is none other than the Lord Jesus, Phil. 2:7 He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself. He Who is God spoke with the woman at the well, who everyone else, - except her lovers, - would have avoided. He treated her with the same consideration, the same courtesy and the same compassion as he treated Nicodemus the elevated member of the Sanhedrin, the upright and polished citizen of Jerusalem. He took time, - as He headed towards Jerusalem and Golgotha, - with the ever-increasing crowd following behind Him He took time to speak with the blind Bartimaeus who everyone else avoided. He saw a little rascal peering out at Him from a sycamore tree, and He had compassion on him, and He called him to come down so that He would go to his home Zacchaeus was a tax collector, but such was the humility of Jesus his job was no obstacle to Christ loving him. A young man, - a credit to his parents, well-mannered, forwardlooking, polite, - was battling with the subject of eternal life, and he came running to the Lord to ask Him how he might find it.

2 2 Imagine Jesus questioned him, Mk. 10:18 Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. When Jesus questioned him further about his lifestyle, the young man, - it seemed, - had not put a foot wrong. Then Mark tells us, Mk. 10:21 Jesus beholding him loved him. This was a young man who had the potential to climb as high as he wanted and Jesus spoke to Him of humility. Mary Magdalene was demon-possessed. She looked a wreck. When she stared at you, you could see it in her eyes. You could see by her clothes, the dirt on her face and body, the way she stood, the way she would have grunted at you. Some people glibly would refer to her as a prostitute, - no, the Bible does not say specifically she was, and I don t think she was because who would have looked at her! Who would have gone with her! And yet Jesus loved her and saved her. He came into her life when her life was empty and beyond human repair and in Godly humility He had a place for her in His Kingdom. One day the Lord Jesus took the disciples on a boat across the Sea of Galilee (Mk. 5:1ff.). They would have left the western side and sailed to the countryside of the Gadarenes on the east. Now, the Gadarenes were Gentiles who looked after pigs, - that was what they were known for in the ancient world. However, pigs and Jews don t go well together! Nevertheless, Jesus went across to the countryside of the Gadarenes. When He arrived on the shore a man came running at Him. By his speech and his whole demure the personality of the man and his actions were violent. They were so violent the locals had tried to tie him up with chains among the tombstones but on every occasion the evil spirit inside him strengthened him to break free. There was not a thing anyone could do with him. He was a hopeless case in every sense of the term. He cried and wailed over nothing (it seemed), - he was obviously in agony of mind, - he kept cutting himself on the sharp stones and he had the most miserable existence imaginable there in the graveyard. And then He met Jesus. Jesus came all the way across from the other side of the Sea of Galilee to meet this one man, who no one else would bother with. Some people call it humility when they help out someone in a poorer condition to themselves, but they make sure everyone hears about it Surely true Christian humility is when you stoop down to help someone in need and only God is watching. No one else needs to hear about it.

3 3 It s when you give to the Lord, and you don t make it known in order to win the praise of others. The Lord Jesus Christ is the personification of humility and He shows us how it ought to be done. He is the example we learn from Mt. 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. When we consider Christian humility, there is nowhere else to begin other than with the personification of humility, - the Lord Jesus. THE SATISFACTION IN HUMILITY If you were to attend classes in personal development you would not be taught to highlight the aspect of humility. Humility is restrictive. Humility has no place if you want to get on in life. Dog-eat-dog is the maxim we hear. You can t afford to be sentimental. You get to the top regardless of who it hurts or how many you need to tramp over! Look again at Jesus, Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God (Phil. 2:6) thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour (Ps. 8:5). Look at Jesus Who was born to a young girl whose marriage initiation had not been completed in the proper form. Look at Jesus Who, - as a little baby, - needed to be taken out of the country so He would not be killed along with the other little boys two years and younger. Consider too what the psalmist David wrote, 26:1 Judge me, O LORD; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the LORD; therefore I shall not slide. 2 Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart. 3 For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth. 4 I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers 9 Gather not my soul with sinners, and yet Jesus He went to the homes of tax-collectors and sinners. The Pharisees could not believe it! Mt. 9:11 they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? However, these were the kind of people He came to save, - people who good folk and decent folk would not have anything to do with! Solomon wrote, Prov. 15:33 The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility. But the Pharisees had the subject of humility worked out the wrong way. At least twice a week, they would walk through the streets of Jerusalem on their way to the temple. They would make sure everyone saw them with their clothes covered in a certain way that would pretend humility to the onlooker.

4 4 It was their intention to show all the other ordinary folk how religious they were through their pretence. Here they were, - the cream of society, - humbling themselves for the look of it! When he was with Jesus, Peter often saw them, and you could imagine how the heckles on the back of this fisherman from Galilee would have been standing! He wrote in his epistle, I Pet. 5:5 be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Indeed, where would you and I be today if God had not saved us! How much can we boast in the change that has taken place in our lives? We can boast absolutely nothing, Eph. 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. The grace of God saves us and the grace of God keeps us and we would not be saved today except for the grace of God, - that which has been given to us and which we could never have earned. We could have been running around with our heads in the air and our own sense of self-righteousness and churchianity but it is only by the grace of God I am what I am, said Paul, and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me (I Cor. 15:10). Not even the best of us has anything to boast in and surely it is a hindrance in every church fellowship where there are those who think God s work cannot be completed without them! But just back off and realise God loves you and thinks more highly of you than you could ever imagine and there is no need to puff yourself up Consider, for example, Is. 57:15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit. 66:2 but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. What promises for the humble! You cannot be too insignificant for God to reach you. It is bad news for the proud Christian, but it is good news for the believer who is humbly trusting in Christ s righteousness alone. Of course, the spirit of today tells us, He who exalts himself will be exalted, and he who humbles himself will disappear. On the other hand, Jesus said, Mt. 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 23:12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

5 5 He is the personification of humility and the satisfaction of humility and then, as far as we are concerned, we need to know THE CULTIVATION OF HUMILITY Have you heard the song, it s hard to be humble when you re perfect in every way. I can t wait to look in the mirror cos I get better looking each day it s hard to be humble, but I m doing the best that I can. It is easier to speak about humility than it is to live it. We have all come across Christians who claim to be humble and yet they are so vain and proud. When they speak to you, they speak down to you. When they look at you, they look down at you. They are an annoying lot! and I m glad I m not like them (!) One of the serious problems the apostles had to contend with in the early church was the issue of pride, - believers thinking they were better than other believers and consequently their pride showed up at the Lord s Table, there was pride at who would get the best seats, and pride at who would get the best accolades. However, the plain truth of being a believer is that apart from what Christ has done for us, we have nothing to boast in. And even though God owes us nothing, yet He gives us everything. I m here today because of what Christ has done for me, and is continuing to do for me! The Bible speaks about the nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit, - Gal. 5:22 love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance. These are quiet attributes working away inside the believer to God s glory. Often we have got to confess, we mismanage them, and often we do not come anywhere near the standard God requires. The fruit of the Spirit is like salvation though, - it is all a work of God. It is wholly dependent on our reliance upon Him. We cannot live the Christian life to His satisfaction without Him. Yes, we know how we must be determined to follow Christ but the bare fact is you cannot be a Christian apart from Christ being on the throne of our hearts. It takes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and it takes the believer to allow Him to work. Therefore, being a Christian is not for hangers-on or pretenders for people who are not willing to give 100% commitment. Being a Christian is for people who owe what they are to God s saving grace.

6 6 It is not a perfect person we are describing here but one who acknowledges their finiteness and their error and is ready to be corrected when proved wrong. Humility makes us quick to realise our feebleness. And yes, we need to encourage this humility amongst ourselves in an encouraging fashion. Paul instructed Timothy, II Tim. 4:2 Preach the word; reprove, rebuke, exhort [i.e. encourage] with all longsuffering and doctrine. Encourage yes, but take the glory no! Since God has done all things for us, He must have all the glory. We would not be here today if it was not for Him, and therefore humility, - for the believer, - is serving Christ quietly and faithfully. I m not a Christian because of what I can get out of following Christ, but I m a Christian because of what He has worked in my heart through grace and I am not to the fore, - He is, and He always must be! When you and I start to think too highly of ourselves it s time to draw aside and give ourselves a good talking too for the alternative is that God could take us aside. Look what happened to Peter. Humility would not have been the word you would have used to describe Peter in the early days and the Lord had to teach him many hard lessons. This humility causes me to recognise that without the Lord I would be nowhere and nothing and the Lord must always come first. CONCLUSION Humility, - what a subject! Pride is the opposite of humility and was the first sin. It was the absence of humility that prompted the son of the morning (Is. 14:12) to hanker after God s position. How many times has our pride got in the way of our testimony? How many times has it undone what it has taken others a long time at doing? Look at Jesus, - the personification of humility, - He is the Example. And the satisfaction of humility is that the will of God for my life is to enjoy Him and enjoy being His, enjoy being a believer. And the cultivation of humility teaches it is God s will for me to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29) and it is the purpose of the Holy Spirit to achieve that. Surely, the writer to the Hebrews had this in mind when he lovingly concluded, 13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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