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I pray your Season of Grace has been eye-opening and challenging. If we spend a whole three months learning about God’s grace and praising Him for His grace, but we’re not being changed by that grace, we’re doing something desperately wrong.
And I think that happens more in our lives than we realize or like to admit. We love to talk about the awesomeness of God, but that same awesomeness isn’t affecting our daily lives. Our choices and opinions and maturity and feelings run counter to the truths we say we know about God, but that should never be.
When people truly see God for Who He is, they fall on their faces as they simultaneously see His glory and their shame. And that experience motivates them to pursue His glory.
Every time we open the Word of God, sit under Christ-honoring preaching, and have friends speak to us of the Lord, we should be in awe of His holiness, disgusted by our sinfulness, and motivated to embrace the Lord’s plan and power to be transformed into His image.
But more on that in a moment.
You may just be joining us, or you may have been following us since the beginning; either way I’m glad you’re here, and I pray this series is a massive blessing to you.
But as we approach the end of the year, it’s with a heavy heart that I tell you that unless something changes this year, The Year Long Celebration of God is going to have to shut its doors.
The Year Long Celebration of God and Truth.Love.Family. are both part of Evermind Ministries. And Evermind is a 501(c)(3) that was designed to create free discipleship resources as donors support the ministry.
The problem is that though we have a good-sized listenership, and though we have been growing in reach the past two years, we are not growing in donations.
Now, I know the economy is in a bad place right now, and I know that money is tight. But I didn’t believe I was being fair to you if I didn’t explain the situation.
In order to continue ministering as we have been (and, Lord willing, grow!) Truth.Love.Family. and The Year Long Celebration of God need increased giving.
If you are at all interested in learning more, please visit TruthLoveParent.com/donate. Every little bit helps, and consistent monthly giving is the best because it allows us to budget more accurately.
But regardless of what you can do and how often you can do it, we will be ever grateful, and we will invest it into developing more resources so that God’s people can be matured and then they can help mature the others in their lives.
My friends, will you please give? I pray you will.
Please visit TruthLoveParent.com/donate, and then head over to CelebrationOfGod.com to access the episode notes, transcripts, and grace resources for this new series.
And — with that — let’s get started.
We’ve been learning about our gracious God and about how we need to respond to the grace He shows us. And — on our last series — we established exactly what I said in today’s introduction — if we’re not becoming more gracious as a result of experiencing God’s grace, something is terribly wrong.
That’s why this series is all about how we need to mature in our relationship with God so as to be more gracious . . . to live a Gracious Life.
The plan is for this series to be seven episodes long, and each episode is going to look at one facet of what it takes to live a Gracious Life.
And today’s facet is the absolutely necessary starting place for all believers. Today we’re going to learn what it means to be humble.
But first . . .
1. Humility is Required to Live Graciously.
If you’re not humble, you’re not gracious. If you’re arrogant, prideful, self-consumed, myopic, selfish, greedy, envious, self-worshipping, discontent, untrusting, and/or unthankful, you are not a gracious person.
And before you scratch all those descriptors from your list, the reality is that you are frequently all of those things. And if what I just said offended you, you just proved my point.
All sin is rooted in pride. All sin is a result of self-worship, and we all sin many times every day without even knowing it. That means that at multiple times during the day — or most of the day for that matter — we are not living graciously.
In fact, it’s possible to act graciously, and still not be gracious because your behavior is completely self-serving.
So in order to be truly gracious, we must be humble.
So, that leads us to . . .
2. Humility is an Outward Orientation.
All those negative descriptors I listed before are self-focused — inwardly oriented. Some people refer to it as navel-gazing. Though I often say our eyes are rolled backward in our heads, I prefer to use less appropriate descriptors of the situation. The spiritual reality is that our heads are shoved so far up our backsides, it’s impossible to see anything but our own selfish pursuits. And — guess what — when you live that way, those pursuits are just as vile as the word picture.
This means that a humble person cannot be self-focused.
Now, most people believe that since pride is thinking too highly of oneself, then humility must require that we think poorly of ourselves. But that is not humility since the focus of our thoughts — high or low — are still on us.
In fact, most people who think lowly of themselves (the world may say they have inferiority complexes, low self-esteem, or simply be shy), those people are very prideful. All they do is think about themselves, how undeserving they are, how unliked they are, how uncool they are. They’re always thinking about how other people are thinking about them, and so on.
But pride and humility are better defined in this way. Pride is thinking about yourself, and humility is not thinking about yourself.
A prideful person’s gaze is filled with their desires, feelings, plans, and goals, but a humble person is taking his or her cues from something outside of themselves.
This truth then needs to have us consider where do humble people focus?
3. True Humility is a Godward Orientation.
Matthew 26:39 and John 5:30, 6:38, 8:28, 12:49, and 14:10 all reveal Jesus’ purpose on this earth. He was not here to accomplish His own will; He came to do the will of His Father.
John 5:30 sums it up well, “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
Jesus Christ was humble not because He thought little of Himself. That could not have been further from the truth. Jesus knew He was the way, the truth, and the life. He knew He was the Good Shepherd, but He also knew He was the spotless Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He was the Son of God, He was the Savior, He was God, and He was the great I Am. And He still is and forever will be.
But despite those realities, Jesus the Christ submitted Himself to the will of God the Father to such a degree that He not only said He wasn’t here to do His own will, but He exemplified that reality all of the time.
From His many sacrificial miracles, to His sleepless nights, to His being betrayed, hated, and murdered by His own creation, Jesus’ heartbeat was, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
He always obeyed the Father, and He always perfectly loved the people in His life. How could He say He loved the Father if He didn’t love His neighbor as Himself. This is why He served and sacrificed and submitted to the people in His life.
Yes, a person may be humble in a fleshly way when they decide to live an others-centered life, but that decision was still motivated by their own beliefs and desires. Only when a person submits to the command of the Creator of the universe by His power and for His glory can they achieve genuine humility.
And — as I mentioned a moment ago with Jesus — it’s that humility that puts God and others into their rightful places. It’s that humility that motivates the love and service and sacrifice.
So let’s take the remainder of our time today to comb the Scriptures so as to better understand God’s expectations for our humility.
4. True Humility is Defined by God.
There is one main Greek word used in various forms throughout the New Testament that I want to consider today.
We don’t have the time to dive too deeply into the Greek language, but I want to investigate these passages of Scripture according to the specific word they use.
The first word I want to consider is used only once in the Scriptures. It appears in I Peter 3:8, and it’s a mix of a couple different Greek words. Peter uses this word when he says, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.”
To sum it up. Be humble. It’s not a personality trait or otherwise involuntary experience. Humility is a choice. Stop making your own desires and devices the center of your thinking and speaking and doing and feeling.
There’s another conjugation of this word that shows up more often in the Bible.
We encounter it for the first time in Acts 20:18-19, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews.”
Ephesians 4:1-3, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Humility is gentle, patient, tolerant, and diligent to pursue peace.
Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”
Humility isn’t selfish or conceited; it prefers others above itself.
Colossians 2:18-19 is interesting because it reveals how self-inspired, superficial “humility” acts. Paul writes, “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.”
Though this person appears to abase herself, she’s actually inflated in her own desires and goals. And her goals are not the things of God. They result in harming herself and others.
Paul continues this theme is Colossians 2:23, “These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”
False humility has no value.
However, in Colossians 3:10-13 Paul uses the same word he just used two other times in this letter, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
He used the same word three times in one letter. Twice that word described a false humility that pursues one’s own desires and doesn’t result in righteousness, and the third time he uses the word to command us in the name of God to be humble. And that true humility is holy, beloved, compassionate, kind, gentle, patient, long-suffering, and forgiving. It has eternal value.
If you aren’t those things, you’re not humble. If you’re not humble, you’re not being gracious.
And I Peter 5:5 reads, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
God gives grace to the humble so that they too may be gracious. And that humble grace subjects itself to its authorities.
Humility is a choice. People who choose to be humble serve. They are gentle, patient, tolerant, and diligent to pursue peace. They prefer others above themselves. They’re holy, beloved, compassionate, kind, long-suffering, and forgiving. And they submit to their authorities.
I hope you — like I — aren’t patting ourselves on the back at this moment. I hope you’re convicted because you realize how often you’re not those things — you realize just how often you’re prideful, and therefore not a gracious person.
Now, the final three words we’re going to consider today are the unmixed Greek word for humility that is conjugated in three different ways.
We encounter the first in Matthew 11:29 when Jesus says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Humility is Christlike.
Luke 1:52, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble.”
Humility is satisfied in God.
Romans 12:16, “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.”
Humility doesn’t think highly of itself.
II Corinthians 10:1, “Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent!”
For clarification, Paul isn’t making an excuse for Himself. The reality is that as Paul grew in his humility, he recognized that sometimes matters were best handled in softness, and sometimes they required boldness.
Jesus was the same. Jesus was meek, but that doesn’t mean He didn’t say exactly what had to be said when confronted by evil or do what had to be done when confronted by blasphemy.
Humility is discerning.
Moving on, in James 1:9 we find an interesting word-play, “But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away.”
Here James is contrasting those who humbly trust in God who seats us in high spiritual positions with those who rely on themselves to provide for themselves. The word we’re looking at right now is the word translated humble in the first half of the verse, but the word translated humiliation is another word we’re not going to look at today. But I will say it’s a form of the word we’re considering now, and — again — the word-play is important.
Those who are biblically, spiritually humble can rejoice in their spiritual riches, but the man who arrogantly puts his trust in riches should actually rejoice when he experiences humiliation. Why is that? Because that experience should teach him how wrong he was to put his faith in himself and his resources.
This point is made again in James 4:6 where he says simply, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” By the way, this truth is all throughout Scripture. Psalm 138:6, Proverbs 3:34; Matthew 23:12; and I Peter 5:5 all say nearly identical things.
So, in these passages we learn that humility is dependent on God.
The various uses of this word in the New Testament show us that humble people are Christlike, don’t think highly of themselves, are discerning, depend on God, and are rewarded by Him.
Now, we’re about to look at our last collection of passages, and I saved these for last because we’re going to see a change in the kind of word that’s being used grammatically. We’ve been looking at modifiers and nouns, but the English words we’re going to consider now are verbs. They’re actions. Let me show you what I mean.
In Matthew 18:4 Jesus says, “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
“Whoever humbles himself.” As was mentioned at the beginning of this point, humility is a choice.
Matthew 23:12, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
Luke 14:11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 18:14, “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The next passage may be difficult to understand if you don’t realize that Paul is using some divine sarcasm with the Corinthian church. In II Corinthians 11:7 he writes, “Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge?”
No, Paul wasn’t sinning by humbling himself, but the key we want to see is that Paul’s humility resulted in him preaching the Gospel without charge.
The takeaway for us is that humility seeks other’s best interest. The Corinthians needed the Gospel, and Paul believed it was best to give it to them freely.
There’s another use of this word in II Corinthians, but it’s an outlier in the way it’s used, so I’m going to jump ahead to Philippians 2:8, “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
One personal application for us is that humility is obedient regardless of the cost. Only a prideful person would refuse to obey God. Only an arrogant individual would say, “No, that’s going to cost me too much. I’m not going to do that.”
But Christ’s perfect humility said, “I will obey even though it cost me my life.”
Now, Philippians 4:11-12 is very important as it shows us another evidence of biblical humility.
In verse 12 Paul writes, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”
And what was Paul’s secret? He explained that in verse 11, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
When we humbly recognize that we are owed nothing and that God is in charge and that He will only give us what is best for us, we will be content.
Humility is content because it’s not focused on what I want or think I need. Instead, I trust God to do what is best and am overjoyed when He does.
And then we have our last two verses of the day . . . both very similar.
James 4:10 commands, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” And I Peter 5:6-7 gives us the same command, but also provides a method for growing in our humility. It reads, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
Humility is a command. There’s no denying it, and there’s no escaping it. Disciples of Christ must be humble and growing in their humility.
And how do we do that?
One great way is to recognize that our anxiety is the fruit of a lack of trust. Things look like the’re getting out of our control, and we’re not believing the truth we know about God, ourselves, and our situation. Because the reality is that nothing is ever under our control, and if it were, we’d mess it all up.
So, when anxiety warns us that we’re not responding correctly to the truth of our situation, we need to cast it on God where we should have been depending in the first place.
He cares for us. There is no reason to be afraid.
In conclusion, I want to review what we’ve learned about humility by considering that the three greatest lessons we all need to learn today are:
1. Humility is a choice.
2. Humility is a command.
And . . . 3. We aren’t as humble as we need to be — as evidenced by all the fruits of humility that either aren’t in our lives or aren’t flourishing as they should.
And what are those fruits? Humble people are gentle, patient, tolerant, and diligent to pursue peace. They prefer others above themselves. They’re holy, beloved, compassionate, kind, long-suffering, and forgiving. And they submit to their authorities. They’re also Christlike, don’t think highly of themselves, are discerning, depend on God, and are rewarded by Him. And finally, they do what’s in another’s best interest and obey regardless of the cost.
And that truth right there loops back around to the fact that humility is a choice to obey God’s command to be humble.
And a humble person is a gracious person. In fact, you can’t be gracious as God is gracious unless you are humble.
Please share this series on your favorite social media outlets, and join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing another requirement of a gracious life.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a discipleship experience designed to equip followers of Christ to better know, love, and worship Him as they help others in their lives do the same. We exalt God, teach His people how to practically worship Him every day of the year, and train them to disciple others.
Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
AMBrewster is the creator of The Year Long Celebration of God and host of its podcast.