Humility: The Beauty of Holiness # 5
Humility In The Disciples of Jesus
"He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is prince, as he that doth serve" (Luke 22:26)
We have studied humility in the person and teaching of Jesus. Let us now look for humility in the circle of His chosen companions: the twelve apostles. If we find a lack of it in them, the contrast between Christ and men will be seen more clearly. It will help us appreciate the mighty change which Pentecost brought about in them, and prove how real our participation can be in the perfect triumph of Christ's humility over the pride satan has breathed into man.
In the texts quoted from the teaching of Jesus, we have already seen the instances where the disciples proved how totally lacking they were in the attribute of humility. Once, as they were walking, they disputed over which of them should be the greatest. Another time, the sons of Zebedde, with their mother, asked for the seat on the right hand and the left hand of Jesus in His kingdom. Later, at the Holy Supper table on the last night, there was again a dispute over which of them should be considered greatest. Not that there weren't moments when they humbled themselves before their Lord. So it was with Peter when he cried our, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man" (Luke 5:8). Similarly, the disciples fell down and worshiped Him after He stilled the storm. However, such occasional expressions of humility only bring into stronger contrast the habitual tone of their mind and the position and power of "self". The study of the meaning of all this will teach us some very important lessons.
First, there may be significant heartfelt active religion while humility is still sadly lacking. We see this characteristic in the disciples. They had an intense attachment to Jesus. They had forsaken all for Him. The Father had revealed to them that Jesus was the Christ of God. They believed in Him, loved Him, and obeyed His commandments. They had forsaken all to follow Him. When others went back, they stood with Him. They were ready to die with Him. But deeper down than all of this there was a dark power, a lack of clarity. They were not aware of the existence of the hideousness that had to be slain and cast our before they could be the witnesses of the power of Jesus to save. This is still the case. We may find professors and ministers, evangelists and workers, missionaries and teachers, in whom the gifts of the Spirit are many and manifest. These are the channels of blessing to multitudes, but when the time of testing comes, or more accurate teaching gives fuller knowledge, it is only too painfully manifest that the attribute of humility is seldom seen. All of this confirms the lesson that humility is one of the most critical attributes, one of the most difficult to attain. Humility should be the primary focus of our efforts. However, it must be fully understood that humility only comes in power when the fullness of the Spirit makes us partakers of the indwelling Christ.
Second, all external teaching and personal effort is ineffective to conquer pride or produce the meek and lowly heart. For three years, the disciples were in the training school of Jesus. He told them the chief lesson He desired to teach them was to "learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart" (Matthew 11:29). Time after time, He spoke to them, the Pharisees, and the multitude, of humility as the only path to the glory of God. He not only lived before them as the Lamb of God in His divine humility, He also more than once revealed to them the inmost secret of His life that "I am among you as he that serves" (Luke 22:27). He washed their feet, and told them they were to follow His example. Yet this was all of little use. At the Holy Supper, there was still the conflict as to who should be greatest. Clearly, they had often tried to learn His lessons,and firmly resolved not to grieve Him, but all in vain. No outward instruction, not even of Christ Himself; no argument, however convincing; no sense of the beauty of humility, however deep; no personal resolve or effort, however sincere and earnest, can cast out the devil of pride. When satan casts out satan, it is only to enter again, stronger yet more deeply hidden. None of these external efforts produces humility. It is only produced when the new nature in its divine humility takes the place of the old, to become our very nature.
Third, it is only by the indwelling of Christ in His divine humility that we become truly humble. We received our pride from Adam. We must receive our humility from another also. Pride is ours, and rules in us with terrible power, because it is our self, our very nature. Humility must be ours in the same way. It must be our very nature. As natural and easy as it has been to be proud, it must be the same - it will be - to be humble. The promise is: "But where [even in the heart] sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Romans 5:20). All of Christ's teaching of His disciples, and all their futile efforts, were the necessary preparation for His entering into them in divine power, to give and be in them what He taught them to desire. In His death, He destroyed the power of the devil, He put away sin, and He effected an everlasting redemption. In His resurrection, He received from the Father an entirely new life, the life of man in the power of God. This new life was communicated to men, allowing them to receive it and be renewed by filling their lives with His divine power. In His ascension, He received the Spirit of the Father. Through the Spirit He was able to do what He could not do while He was in bodily form: make Himself one with those He loved, actually live their life for them, so that they could live before the Father in a humility like His. It was He who lived and breathed in them, and on Pentecost He came and took possession. The work of preparation and conviction, the awakening of desire and hope, which His teaching had effected, was perfected by the mighty change that Pentecost brought about. The lives and letters of James, Peter, and John bear witness that everything was changed, and that the spirit of the meek-and-suffering Jesus had possession of them.
How should we respond to these things? Among my readers, I am sure there is more than one level of spiritual maturity. There may be some who have never thought specifically of the matter, and cannot quickly realize its immense importance as a life question for the church and its every member. There are others who have felt conviction for their shortcomings and put forth very diligent efforts, only to fail and be discouraged. Others may be able to give joyful testimony of spiritual blessing and power, and yet there has never been the needed conviction of what those around them still see as lacking. Still others may be able to witness that the Lord has given them deliverance and victory when it comes to humility, yet He taught them how much they still need and may expect out of the fullness of Jesus. To whichever group we belong, I urge the recognition of the pressing need there is to seek an even deeper conviction of the unique place that humility holds in the religion of Christ, and the utter impossibility of the church or the believer being what Christ would have them be, as long as His humility is not recognized as His chief importance, His first command, and our richest blessing. Let us consider how great an advantage the disciples had while this grace was still so terribly lacking in their lives, and let us pray to God that other gifts may not satisfy us to the point that we never grasp the fact that the absence of humility is the secret cause of why the power of God cannot do its mighty work. It is only when we, like the Son, truly know and show that we can do nothing of ourselves, that God will do all.
It is when the truth of an indwelling Christ takes the place it claims through the changed lives of believers, that the church will put on her beautiful garments, and humility will be seen in her teachers and members as the beauty of holiness.
(continued with # 6 - Humility In Daily Life