September 1, 2013

Humility - Sep 1, 2013

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Modern culture tells us that it is healthy for person to be proud of who they are. For the past few decades we’ve been told, over and over, that we all aught to think highly of who we are and what we’re capable of. We have been coached to develop a strong sense of self-esteem.

Through our Bible readings today, God will lead us to seek a different character trait. A trait that God says is precious when found in the human heart—humility. (1 Peter 3:4)

Old Testament............................................... Proverbs 25:6-7 (NIV)

Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence,
and do not claim a place among his great men;
it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,”
than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.
The book of Proverbs was mostly written by King Solomon. When he was a young king, the Lord came to Solomon and basically said, “Ask for whatever you want, and I’ll grant it”. Solomon didn’t ask for riches, or honor, or power, or even long life. Solomon asked for wisdom, so that he might rule God’s people justly. Part of the wisdom that Solomon received has been preserved, for us to absorb, in the book of Proverbs.

In the verses we just read, Solomon’s wisdom tells us NOT to brag ourselves up. That’s certainly different than what our modern culture teaches. Today, every football player has an end-zone dance, and celebrities constantly manufacture publicity for their own self promotion.

But Solomon warns us, if you talk yourself up, those with real authority may come and put you back in your place, and in a most embarrassing way. A much safer approach is to be humble concerning yourself. Then if there is any change in position, that change will bring you honor instead of disgrace.
As God’s people we don’t need to push ourselves forward. We don’t need to seek fame and recognition from others, we have the love of our Creator.

One of my favorite Christian authors confessed on his blog that while he was jogging one day, he asked God to make him famous. In a split second he felt like God answered him with a laugh, saying:

“Ha! You want fame? The creator of the universe knows your name. The Alpha and Omega knows who you are and what you care about. That’s as famous as you’re ever going to be. Whose acknowledgement of you is going to stand up next to mine?” (Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff)

Humility can grow from a lot of different soils. But for us, it starts at the cross of Christ. There God’s Son took our sin. There God’s Son suffered our hell. There Gods Son died our death. There we became free.

Yesterday, God’s own Son willingly suffered so that we could be free. Maybe today, we can reflect our Savior’s humility, as we interact with people.
Psalm of the Day............................................................ 119:1-16 (ESV)

      P:      Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
      C:      who walk in the law of the Lord!
      P:      Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
      C:      who seek him with their whole heart,
                              who also do no wrong,
               but walk in his ways!
      P:      You have commanded your precepts
               to be kept diligently.
      C:      Oh that my ways may be steadfast
               in keeping your statutes!
      P:      Then I shall not be put to shame,
               having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
      C:      I will praise you with an upright heart,
               when I learn your righteous rules.
      P:      I will keep your statutes;
               do not utterly forsake me!
      C:      How can a young man keep his way pure?
               By guarding it according to your word.
      P:      With my whole heart I seek you;
               let me not wander from your commandments!
      C:      I have stored up your word in my heart,
               that I might not sin against you.
      P:      Blessed are you, O Lord;
               teach me your statutes!
      C:      With my lips I declare
               all the rules of your mouth.
      P:      In the way of your testimonies I delight
               as much as in all riches.
      C:      I will meditate on your precepts
               and fix my eyes on your ways.
      P:      I will delight in your statutes;
      C:      I will not forget your word.
In this Psalm the Psalm writer expresses a deep humility. But not just humility in a general sense. The Psalm writer expresses humility toward God.

Look again at the first few verses here. The Psalm writer is praising other people. He’s totally impressed by these people because they know God’s Word, love it, and honor God by using his commands as the playbook of their lives.

Then we get to a transition in verse 5. The Psalm writer says,

“Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!” (Psalm 119:5 ESV).

Basically, the Psalm writer sees people living by God’s Word and he says, “I want to be like them! They’re the blessed ones! I don’t have that now, but that’s what I want to be like.”
When the Magi brought their gifts to the young Jesus, they bowed down before him in reverent worship. They gave his parents expensive gifts expressing their respect and awe. This Child was the promised Savior. Throughout Jesus’ ministry many other people had the opportunity to bow down before him in physical worship.

We don’t have a visible Jesus to bow down before. But even so, every time we hold the Bible to be more trustworthy than our own personal thoughts, we are expressing the same attitude that those people had toward God’s Son.  

True humility toward God must include respect for what he says in the Bible.   

In Isaiah 66 God speaks, saying…

…’Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me?
Where will my resting place be?
Has not my hand made all these things,
and so they came into being?’
declares the Lord.
‘These are the ones I look on with favor:
those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
and who tremble at my word’” (Isaiah 66:1-2 NIV).

Prayer: Lord, give us the wisdom and faith to always put your Word above our own thoughts and above the ideas of mere humans. Make us humble in heart and mind, humble toward your greatness and toward all you reveal to us in your Holy Word. Amen.

NT Letter.............................................. Hebrews 13:1-8 (ESV)

Where the writer of Psalm 119 SPOKE about keeping God’s commands, Hebrews 13 describes how to do what God says in specific, practical ways.

13 Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,
       “The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
       what can man do to me?”
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
It’s easy enough to express humility with words. But, to live out humility in our lives is something different. It’s easy enough to want to live “the Christian life”, but how do we define “the Christian life?” Too often we take the world’s definition of “the Christian life” and leave God’s definition untouched in the pages of Scripture.

Here the writer of Hebrews gives us a description of things that we should be doing.

We should seek to be loving our fellow Christians with a brotherly love. A family love which forgives and forgets.

We should seek to show hospitality to strangers in need, not just showing care and politeness toward people we’re acquainted with.

We should be visiting people that we know who are in prison, or people who are mistreated, instead of forgetting about them or thinking, “Oh, what can I do?” We can BE there, that’s what we can do! Sometimes being there is more than enough.

We should be honoring marriage by what we say and do. We shouldn’t join the world to denigrate marriage, or treat it like it’s not important, or encourage un-Christian behavior by one spouse toward another.

We should be shunning all sources of lust, and the temptation to break our marriage vows. We should be putting our spouses first.

We should cultivate an attitude of contentment in our homes, instead of an attitude of always clawing after what’s new.

We should be boasting in the Lord, and not worrying about the future since we have God’s promise that he won’t abandon us.

We should look to those people who have been good spiritual examples to us. Solid Christian men and women, and we should seek to model our lives after theirs.

These aren’t things that the proud and self-righteous do. These things take a humble attitude to accomplish. An attitude that doesn’t push self to the front. An attitude like our Savior’s.

Interesting that this text from Hebrews brings us back around to Jesus. It says,

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 ESV).

God’s Son is just as serious today about our following his example as he was yesterday. And Jesus is just as compassionate toward us today, as he was when he took those nails for us. He is unchanging, as is the forgiveness that he has won for us. May that unchanging forgiveness bet your focus as you seek change according to the Holy Spirit’s Biblical directing.

Sermon Reading............................................. Luke 14:1, 7-14 (ESV)

14 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully.
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
That first part sounded pretty familiar didn’t it? Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted? The whole story mirrors our Old Testament reading from Proverbs. Don’t seat yourself high, or you might be lowered. Take the lowest spot instead, that you might be lifted up.

After his little Old Testament lesson, Jesus turned to the host of the party and said something even more remarkable. He told him that he aught to invite people who haven’t earned his attention, and cannot repay him. Invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. And why? Because the payoff is better, for God will make sure the generous are paid back in the end.

This is the type of attitude a Christian is to cultivate. An attitude that trusts that God will take care of everything in the end. If you know that God will punish the wicked in the end, why would you need to take revenge? If you know that God will repay you in the end, why would you worry about spending resources on people who can’t repay you.

This type of attitude is only possible through faith in Christ Jesus. This would be foolish if there were no afterlife, and no guarantee of heaven. But those who long for that great Heavenly City can approach this earthly life very differently. With our future secure because of Jesus, we can learn to joyfully use the resources we are blessed with in this life, to God’s glory.

This is humility taken to a whole new place isn’t it? It’s one thing to say, “Lord I’m going to play this game according the rules. If you want to give me a win, that’s cool”. It’s a larger step of faith that says, “Lord I’m going to live MY LIFE your way. If you want to give me success in this life, cool. But if not in this life, I’ll see you in heaven”. 
May the Lord grant that in our dealings with others we are humble, putting them first. May the Holy Spirit move us to always bow to his Holy Word, instead of to our own thoughts and ideas. God grant that we have the strength of faith to live according to what God’s Word actually says. The Lord grant that we place our hope in his promises, and travel through this life learning patience and humility—always keeping our hope centered on Jesus, who was humbled for us, and who has lifted us up in the hands of eternal forgiveness.


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