Sunday, July 11, 2021

True Humility

One of my Facebook friends recently posted a meme with this prayer: “Lord, empty me of me so I can be filled of You.” Technically, this is impossible. We are all unique individuals with talents, hopes, and dreams. God didn’t create us to be robots. A Christian can pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit and then obey His promptings instead of fulfilling selfish desires. 

A personal example that comes to my mind happened over twenty years ago. While walking around my neighborhood, I saw five boys playing football in a church parking lot. A thought crossed my mind that when their football landed by me, that would be a sign to witness to them. Seconds later, the football bounced my way when one of the boys made a bad punt. However, I wanted to be by myself and went straight home. God kept telling me to go back. So I put my shoes on and hurried to the parking lot where the boys were still playing. After one of them scored a touchdown, I asked the boys to take a time-out. All five got born again.

I’ve heard worship songs with the line “more of You, less of me.” While these may be sincere attempts to be humble, I think they are a bit degrading. Psalm 139:14 says, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” God is not glorified when man criticizes himself. There’s a difference between humility and being humiliated, which the New Oxford American Dictionary defines as “make (someone) feel ashamed and foolish by injuring their dignity and self-respect, especially publicly.” 

John the Baptist did say in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The Jewish prophet was exalting Jesus’ ministry above his. I like The Message Bible’s rendering of this verse: “This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” Preachers need to be cautious not to exalt themselves and their ministries more than the God they serve.

One friend of mine used to pray for God to make him humble until I pointed out what James 4:10 says, Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Fasting is one way of doing that (Psalm 35:13), but that won’t do much good for one who isn’t submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. 

Colossians 2 warns of false humility. Verse 18 connects that with “…worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” Verse 23 goes on to say, “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”

Another way to humble yourself is by seeking to meet other people’s needs. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Jesus famously demonstrated this by washing His disciples’ feet.

The late Mac Davis sang, “Lord, it’s hard to be humble.” The truth is it’s not that hard. We simply need to exalt Jesus and others more than ourselves. C. S. Lewis wrote, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Another minister pointed out, “Humility is knowing who are you in Christ and who you are without Him.”

“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”  - 1 Peter 5:5

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