Humility: The Beauty of Holiness # 1
There are three great motives that urge us to humility. Humility becomes me as a creature, as a sinner, and as a saint. The creature we can see in the heavenly hosts, in unfallen man, and in Jesus, the Son of Man. The sinner appeals to us in our fallen state, and points out the only way through which we can return to our right position as creatures. As saints, we have the mystery of grace, which teaches us that, as we lose ourselves in the overwhelming greatness of redeeming love, humility becomes to us the fulfillment of everlasting blessedness and adoration.
In our ordinary religious teaching, the aspect of the sinner has been emphasized too strongly, to the point that some have even gone to the extreme of thinking that we must keep sinning if we are to stay humble. Others seem to think that the strength of self-condemnation is the secret of humility. Because of this, the Christian life has suffered loss, where believers have not been distinctly guided to see that even in our relationship as creatures, nothing is more natural and beautiful and blessed than to be nothing, that God may be all. It is necessary to understand that it is not sin that humbles most, but grace. It is the soul, led through its sinfulness to be occupied with God in His wonderful glory as God, as Creator and Redeemer, that will truly take a position of submission before Him.
In these meditations I have, for more than one reason, almost exclusively directed attention to the humility that enhances us as creatures. It is not only that the connection between humility and sin is so prominent in all our religious teaching, but also because I believe that for the fullness of the Christian life, it is indispensable that emphasis be given to humility as it relates to us as creatures. If Jesus is indeed to be our example in His lowliness, we need to understand the principles in which humility was rooted. We must find the common ground on which we stand with Him, and in which our likeness to Him is attained. If we are indeed to be humble, not only before God but also towards men, if humility is to be our joy, we must see that it is not only the mark of shame because of sin, but it is also apart from all sin in being clothed with the very beauty and blessedness of heaven and of Jesus. We will see that Jesus found His glory in taking the form of a servant. So when He said to us, and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your slave (Matt. 20:27), He simply taught us the blessed truth that there is nothing so heavenly as being the servant and helper of all. The faithful servant, who recognizes his position, finds a real pleasure in supplying the wants of the master or his guests. When we see that humility is something infinitely deeper than regret, and accepts it as our participation in the life of Jesus, we will begin to learn that it is our true goodness. We will understand that to prove it by being servants of all is the highest fulfillment of our destiny as men created in the image of God.
When I look back on my own religious experience, or on the church of Christ in the world, I stand amazed at how little humility is desired as the distinguishing feature of the discipleship of Jesus. In preaching and living, in the daily communication of the home and social life, in the special fellowship with Christians, in the direction and performance if work for Christ, there is an overwhelming proof that humility is not considered the overriding virtue, the only root from which the graces can grow, the one indispensable condition of true fellowship with Jesus. It should be impossible for men to say they seek higher holiness unless their claim is accompanied by increasing humility. This is a loud call to all committed Christians to prove that meekness and lowliness of heart are the evidence by which they who follow the meek and lowly Lamb of God are to be known.
Humility: The Glory of the Creature
"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and virtue; for thou hast created all things, and by thy will they have their being and were created" (Revelation 4:11).
When God created the universe, it was for the single purpose of making the creature a partaker of His perfection and blessedness, and through that, showing the glory of His love, wisdom, and power. God wished to reveal Himself in and through created beings by communicating to them as much of His own goodness and glory as they were capable of receiving. But this communication didn't give the creature something which it could possess in itself - a certain life or goodness,which it had under its own control. By no means. However, as God is the ever-living, ever-present, ever-acting One who upholds all things by the word of His power, and in whom all things exist, the relationship of the creature to God could only be one of unceasing, absolute, and universal dependence. As God by His power once created, so by that same power God maintains every moment. The creature looks back to the origin and first beginning of existence, and acknowledges that it owes everything to God. In addition to this, the creature must accept that its main concern, its best asset, its only happiness, now and through all eternity, is to present itself an empty vessel in which God can dwell and demonstrate His power and goodness.
The life God gives is not all at once, but moment by moment, through the unceasing operation of His mighty power. Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is the first duty of the creature, and the root of every good quality.
Likewise, pride or the loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil. It was when the serpent breathed the poison of his pride - the desire to be as God - into the hearts of Adam and Eve, that they fell from their high position into all the wretchedness in which mankind is now sunk. In heaven and earth, pride is the gate, the birth, and the curse of hell.
Therefore, it is reasonable to say that nothing can be our redemption except the restoration of the lost humility, the original and only true relationship of the creature to its God. So Jesus came to bring humility back to earth, to make us sharers in it, and by it, to save us. In heaven, He humbled Himself to become man. The humility we see in Him possessed Him in heaven; it brought Him, and He brought it, from there. Here on earth, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death (Philippians 2:8). His humility gave His death its value, and became our redemption. Now, the salvation He makes known is nothing less and nothing else than a communication of His own life and death, His own nature and attitude. His own humility, as the ground and root of His relationship to God and His redeeming work. Jesus Christ took the place and fulfilled the destiny of man, as a creature, by His life of perfect humility. His humility is our salvation. His salvation is our humility.
Because of this, the life of the saved ones, of the saints, must bear this stamp of deliverance from sin and full restoration to their original state. Their whole relationship to God and man is made visible by a penetrating humility. Without humility, there can be no true dwelling in God's presence or enjoying His favor and the power of His Spirit. Without humility, there is no faith, love, joy, or strength demonstrated in our lives. Humility is the only soil in which the graces take root; the lack of humility is the reasonable explanation for every defect and failure in the Christian life. Humility is not so much a blessing or attribute along with others; it is the root of all. It alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him to sanctify.
God has created us as reasonable beings, so that when we are convicted by the truth we will be ready to obey. The call to humility has been largely ignored in the church, because its true nature and importance has not been understood. It is not a thing which we bring to God, or He gives. Humility is simply the sense of entire nothingness, which comes when we see how truly God is all, and in which we make way for God to be all. When the creature realizes that this is true goodness,and consents to be the vessel in which the life and glory of God are to work and exhibit themselves, he sees that humility is simply acknowledging the truth of his position as the creature, and yielding to God His rightful place. [bringing us back to the original place of humans before Adam and Eve sinned.]
In the life of committed Christians, of those who pursue and profess holiness, humility ought to be the evidence of their righteousness. It is often said that this is not so. Couldn't one reason be that in the teaching and example of the church, it has never been placed in its position of supreme importance? This is due to the neglect of this truth, that as strong as sin is as a motive to humility, there is a motive of broader and mightier influence. That which makes the angels, Jesus, and the holiest of saints in heaven so humble, is the first and most important element of the relationship of the creature. It is the humility and nothingness which leaves God free to be all.
I am sure there are many Christians who will confess that their experience has been very much like my own in this, that we had long known the Lord, without realizing that meekness and lowliness of heart are supposed to be the distinguishing features of the disciple as they were of the Master. This humility is not a thing that will come of itself, but it must be made the object of special desire, prayer, faith, and practise. As we study the Word, we will see what very distinct and often repeated instructions Jesus gave His disciples on this point, and how slow they were in understanding Him. Let us, at the very beginning of our meditations, admit that there is nothing so natural to man, nothing so subtle and hidden from our sight, nothing so difficult and dangerous, as pride. Let us feel that nothing but a very determined and persevering waiting on God and Christ will discover how lacking we are in the grace of humility, and how inadequate we are to obtain what we seek. Let us study the character of Christ until our souls are filled with the love and admiration of His lowliness. And let us believe that, when we are broken down under a sense of our pride and our inability to cast it out, Jesus Christ Himself will come in to impart this grace too, as a part of His wondrous life within us.
(continued with # 2 - "Humility: The Secret of Redemption"