On Christian Humility

Bible on stand opened to the book of Philippians

Humility is a true indicator of a Christian. It is a true indicator of a repentant heart.

The following text is an excerpt from the sermon “Joy in Humility”, which covered Philippians 2:1-11.

Humility is so valued by God that Jesus teaches that those who are humble are the ones who will ultimately be exalted.  They are the people who will be most rewarded in the kingdom of God.

In the Sermon on the Mount, there is a section we refer to the beatitudes, which are blessings clearly defined by Jesus.  This is one of the most well known parts of the Bible, and for good reason.  And of these blessings, the two of the first three are directly related to humility.  From Matthew 5, verses 3 and 5 (ESV):

³Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

⁵Blessed are the meek,  for they will inherit the earth.

Those who think less of themselves – those who exalt themselves the least – are those who Jesus says will be most exalted by God.

This is explained clearly by the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector as told by Jesus in Luke 18:9-14 –

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (ESV)

Humility is essential to the Christian life.

Humility is a true indicator of a Christian.  It is a true indicator of a repentant heart.

And it is through repentance and confession and acknowledgment of our sin that we attain humility.  It is when we realize that we do not deserve to be served that we become true servants.

Look at who this parable was addressed two.  John states that this parable of the Pharisee and Tax collector was addressed to “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt”.

And how did Jesus teach them?  By showing them that their righteous deeds that they would brag about – showing how they are obviously thinking of themselves more than others and more highly of themselves than they do about others – these righteous deeds are worthless.

In the eyes of God, the sinful tax collector is more exalted than they are.  The man who knows his sin, and knows that his good deeds can never earn him salvation, and cries to the Lord for mercy – the man who in the eyes of these judgmental men is just a worthless sinner – shows the true heart of one who is repentant.  He is thus the one who is justified by the Lord, and thus is the one exalted by the Lord.

We need to ask ourselves a number of questions as we search our hearts:

Do we talk more about ourselves than others?  When we have conversations with friends, family, and even new acquaintances, do we come away from the conversation having spoken more words about ourselves than having asked questions about them?

Do we seek to be served rather than to serve others?  Do we think more highly of ourselves than we do others, putting ourselves first?  After all, that’s what non-Christian society teaches us – you have to take care of yourself first, right?  Look out for number one.  That’s unbiblical.  That’s not Christ’s way.

Do we compare ourselves to other Christians, seeing how much more holy we are than others?  Do we look down on non-believers, who are not repentant and don’t have the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and say to God, “Well at least I’m not like them?”  Do we think of our good and righteous deeds as somehow saving us?

We have to realize that our salvation is through no work of our own.  Even our greatest deeds and our greatest earthly accomplishments are like dirty rags, according to Paul.  We have to realize that our hearts are sinful, and apart from Christ, we are capable of no good work.

And when we realize that Jesus – the one we are to imitate in our search for holiness, the one who is king of all the universe and yet humbled himself as a servant – when we realize that he set forth an example of putting others first, of serving rather than being served, of washing the feet of his own disciples – those who he is LORD over! – when we realize that and our hearts are turned in that direction, the fires of our pride are doused with the quenching waters of humility.  And when it happens, we will be humbled, and it will be the mark of a truly repentant child of God.

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