Humility: The Beauty of Holiness # 12
Humility and Exaltation
"He that humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11)
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up" (James 4:10)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time (1 Peter 5:6). Just yesterday, I was asked the question, "How can I conquer this pride?" The answer was simple. Two things are needed: Do what God says your work is, and humble yourself. Trust Him to do what He says His work is, and He will exalt you.
The command is clear: Humble yourself. That does not mean it is your work to conquer and cast out the pride of your nature, and form within yourself the lowliness of the holy Jesus. No, this is God's work; He is the one that lifts you up into the real likeness of the beloved Son.
What the command does mean is that you take every opportunity to humble yourself before God and man. Humble yourself in the faith of the grace that is already working in you, and in the assurance of more grace that is coming. Humble yourself in the light that awareness flashes on the pride of the heart and its workings. Even though there may be much failure and falling, stand firm under the unchanging command: Humble yourself. Accept with gratitude everything that God allows from within or without, from friend or enemy, in nature or in grace, to remind you of your need of humbling, and to help you to it. Consider humility to be the mother-virtue, your very first duty before God, the one constant safeguard of the soul, and set your heart on it as the source of all blessing. The promise is divine and sure. He that humbles himself will be exalted. Be sure you do the one thing God asks, and humble yourself. God will be faithful to do the one thing He promised. He will give more grace, and He will exalt you in due time.
All God's dealings with man are characterized by two stages. There is the time of preparation, when command and promise, mingled with the experience of effort, weakness, failure,and partial success, produce the expectance of something better. These prod, train, and discipline men for a higher stage. Then comes the time of fulfillment, when faith inherits the promise, and enjoys what it so often struggled for in vain. These stages hold true in every part of the Christian life, and in the pursuit of every separate virtue. It is grounded in the very nature of things. In all that concerns our redemption, God must take the initiative. When that has been done, man's turn comes. In the effort to pursue obedience and fulfillment, he must learn to know his weakness, in self-despair to die to himself. In this way, he is equipped voluntarily and intelligently to receive from God the completion of that which he accepted in the beginning in ignorance. So God, before man correctly knew Him or fully understood what His purpose was, is longed for and welcomed as the All in All.
It is the same in the pursuit of humility. To every Christian the command comes from the throne of God Himself to humble yourself. The enthusiastic attempt to listen and obey will be rewarded with the painful discovery of two things. The one, being the depth of pride that is unwilling to count oneself and be counted as nothing, and to submit absolutely to God. The other, what absolute weakness thee is in all our efforts, and all our prayers for God's help to destroy the hideous monster. Blessed is the man who learns to put his hope in God, and persevere in spite of all the power of pride within him, with acts of humiliation before God and men. We know the law of human nature: acts produce habits, habits breed temperament, temperament forms the will, and the rightly formed will is character. It is no different in the work of grace. Acts repeated create habits and temperament, and these strengthen the will. He who works both to will and to do comes with His mighty power and Spirit. Ultimately, the humbling of the proud heart is rewarded with more grace, in which the Spirit of Jesus has conquered and brought the new nature to its maturity, where the meek and lowly One now dwells forever.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will exalt you. In what way does the exaltation exist? The highest glory of the creature is in being only a vessel, to receive and enjoy and show forth the glory of God. It can do this only as it is willing to be nothing in itself, that God may be all. Water always fills first the lowest places. The lower and the emptier a man lays himself before God, the speedier and the fuller will be the inflow of divine glory. The exaltation God promises is not - cannot be - any external thing apart from Himself. All that He has to give or can give is only more of Himself, to take more complete possession. The exaltation is not, like an earthly prize, something frivolous, in no connection with the conduct to be rewarded. No, but it is in its very nature the effect and result of the humbling of ourselves. It is nothing but the gift of such a divine indwelling humility,such a conformity to and possession of the humility of the Lamb of God, as allows us to receive fully the indwelling of God.
He that humbles himself will be exalted. Jesus Himself is the proof, verifying the truth of these words. The certainty of their fulfillment to us is made more sure in the fact that He is the pledge. Let us take His yoke upon us and learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart. If we are willing to stoop to Him, as He has stooped to us, He will stoop to each one of us again, and we will not be unequally yoked with Him. As we enter deeper into the fellowship of His humiliation, and either humble ourselves or endure the humbling of men, we can count on the fact that the Spirit of God and of glory will rest upon us. The presence and the power of the glorified Christ will come to them that are of a humble spirit. When God can again have His rightful place in us, He will lift us up. Make His glory your consideration in humbling yourself. He will make your glory His thoughtfulness in perfecting your humility, and breathing into you, as you indwelling life, the very Spirit of His Son. As the all-pervading life of God possesses you, there will be nothing so natural and sweet as to be nothing, without a thought or wish for self, because all is occupied with Him who supplies all. "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather glory in my weakness that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Friend, don't we have here the reason that our sanctification and our faith have produced so little in the pursuit of holiness? It was by self and its strength that the work was done under the name of faith. It was for self and its happiness that God was searched for. It was, unconsciously, but in self and its holiness that the soul rejoiced. We never knew that humility, penetrating and marking our whole life with God and man, was the most essential element of the life of the holiness we searched for.
It is only in the possession of God that I loose myself. As it is in the height, width, and glory of the sunshine that the speck of dust playing in its beams is seen. Even so, humility is taking our place in God's presence to be nothing but a bit of dust dwelling in the sunlight of His love.
How great is God! How small am I!
Lost, swallowed up in Love's immensity!
God only there, not I.
May God teach us to believe that to be humble, to be nothing in His presence, is the highest attainment, and the fullest blessing of the Christian life. "I dwell in the high place and in holiness and with Him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit" (Isaiah 57:15). Be this our portion!
Oh, to be emptier, lowlier,
Mean, unnoticed, and unknown,
And to God a vessel holier,
Filled with Christ, and Christ alone.
(continued with # 13 - "with notes")