Humility and How I Achieved It … ???

Many have pointed out that humility is the essential virtue that we cannot “work on.” Think about the fictitious book, Humility and How I Achieved It. It’s a joke, right? If you’re writing a book about how you achieved humility, how much humility do you really have? Humility by definition does not focus on its own presence or quality. This is what Paul had in mind as he wrote his Philippian friends about how to live together:

“… complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Because humility is a supremely Christlike virtue, we often find in the Christian community the oxymoronic attempt to act humble. The reason is clear; we wish to acquire the respect that comes with being perceived in the Christian community as a Christlike or humble person, while at the same time enjoying a very hefty prestige based on this “humility.” How odd. This is especially present among long-time, well-churched Christians. It is a spiritual malady of the “mature.”

How should we respond then? Since we can’t “cultivate” humility like we would certain other virtues, is there any hope for us to actually grow in it? Good News: There Is! Christlike humility is attempting to spring up within us all the time.  It is growing through the only means possible in a pride-saturated world—humiliation. Interestingly, our culture treats the idea of humility as a virtue and the concept of humiliation as a vice, even though they come from the same root. Nobody in western society, tutored as we are in the gospel of self-esteem, embraces humiliation in any form. We are nagged relentlessly to “stand up for ourselves,” “demand respect,” “fulfill our potential,” and “get our best lives now.”

Humiliation is the acquisition of genuine humility through the most honest means available. It need not be public humiliation, or even very severe for that matter, but it is the piercing, conscious awareness of specific failure coupled with a sense of needing and receiving grace from the Lord. It is one of the essential ingredients in what the Bible calls repentance, the first step into eternal life. But it’s not just the first step, is it? Do we not learn to walk in this humble repentance always? Is this not walking in the Spirit? (Gal.5:25-26).

Let me suggest that true humility is actually growing in us when the Lord arranges for us to be sinned against, slighted, ignored, embarrassed, or in some way hurt by others. At moments like these, when angry self-righteousness so naturally erupts, we might ask ourselves the same question God asked Jonah, “Do you have a right to be so angry?” What would our reaction be if we really didn’t care about our reputation or prestige and only cared about the truth, the needs of others, or the will of the Lord in the situation? In other words, what would it be like if we thought like Jesus on the subject at hand?

I have heard Christians seriously teach that, “It’s a sin to allow anybody to sin against you,” which would mean of course that our Lord is the worst sinner of all time (!). Do we have to let others sin against us in every case? Of course not. Justice is also a virtue. But as Christians we have the right and the power to let others hurt us unjustly without retaliating. And the exercise of doing just that is the one way we can cooperate with the growth of humility in our hearts. How else could our Lord teach and demonstrate his famous instruction to turn the other cheek (Take a moment to look up the following verses: Matt.5:38-42; Romans 12:14-21; 1 Peter 2:19-25). Jesus saved the world by doing precisely what he instructs us to do in strategic situations—let pain and humiliation happen to us. The result in us is a true selflessness, a relief from the burden of appearing perfect, of living up to the unbearable weight of our own reputation for maturity. Under the grace of the Lord, we will sense the love, joy and peace—the relief—that comes from simply loving and being loved by the Lord himself (See 1 Cor.13).

Just a Thought,

Pastor Rick

The message of the Bible: God’s Plan of Redemption

The Bible is the account of how humanity and the creation itself came into being, fell into destruction, were redeemed by God in a decisive event in history, and will be renovated by God spiritually, materially and eternally. It is God’s view of the human story from creation through eternity future. It ends well. A brief outline of the biblical message is as follows: Creation; Fall; Redemption; Renovation.

  1. Creation: God created a good world with good people in it, rightly related to and receiving life from Him. It was good because it was rightly related to God in a covenant of creation. Gen.1-2
  2. Fall: Man decided to trust himself instead of God, thereby rejecting God’s authority, love and relationship and separating himself from God’s eternal life. Death began because of rebellion against God, the author of goodness and life. Ultimate judgment (hell) is required by God’s justice and humanity seems to be bound to it. Genesis 3
  3. Redemption: God initiated a plan to rescue humanity and the material universe from the now inevitable divine judgment for evil. Genesis 3:15 through Revelation 20
  4. Renovation: God creates new heavens and new earth; both invisible and visible realms are completely re-created in perfect beauty and harmony. Revelation 21-22.

How the plan of redemption unfolds in the Bible.

  1. God promises from the beginning to someday crush evil and rescue humanity. Gen.3:15
  2. God initiates a redemptive covenant with Abraham based on Abraham’s simple trust in God and His promise (Genesis 15:6); through Abraham comes Israel; from Israel comes Christ (the Seed) and through Christ the entire human population will be offered entrance into God’s plan of redemption by shear grace. Genesis 12-15 and the rest of the Old Testament. John 1:1-18; Matt 28:18-20
  3. As Messiah (Christ), God in human form allows Himself to be killed under His own wrath, in humanity’s place, as a sacrifice for the sin that humanity has committed. This allows God to embrace any people who trust Him (like Abraham did), releasing them from the penalty and power of their sin, effectively grafting them into the Abrahamic Faith Covenant. John 3:16; Rom 3:21-30; Gal 3:29
  4. Christ is raised from the dead and demonstrates that death has been defeated by appearing to several hundred people over a period of about six weeks. Luke 24; Acts 1:1-11; 1 Cor.15:1-11.
  5. Christ explains that He is now the true King in God’s creation, bringing God’s kingdom into this dark and doomed age. Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-49; Colossians 1:13-14
  6. Christ pours out His own spirit on repentant believers, regenerating them, forgiving them and insuring their eternal life. Acts 2; Titus 3:5-8
  7. Christ returns to judge the world and condemn all evil and people who have refused to turn and trust Him. Hell was created for Satan, but many people will join him there. Matthew 25:41; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Revelation 19:1-20:15
  8. God in Christ recreates the entire universe in righteousness and goodness and dwells among his redeemed people forever. Revelation 21-22

Sobering facts about the human condition.

  1. We have sinned and done evil in more ways than we can possibly comprehend. Rom 3:23
    1. God will judge every thought, word and deed. Rom 2:16; Heb 4:12; Matt 12:36-37; Luke 12:1-3; John 5:25-29
  2. We cannot, in our own power, alter our emotional and spiritual slavery to the evil that we live in because we deeply love the darkness. John 3:19; Eph 2:1-3; Titus 3:3; Rom 6:16; 7:14-24; 8:3.
  3. God rightly responds to evil with wrath and a determination to destroy it all. Matt 10:28; Rom 1:18-32; 6:23; Rev 20:11-15.
  4. His wrath (Hell) is real and the greatest threat to the human soul. Matthew 10:28; 13:36-43; 25:41; Mark 9:42-48; 2 Thess 1:5-10; Rev 20:11-15.

The Gospel: Jesus Christ is the risen Lord of all creation—God in Christ offers free salvation to all people today by bringing them out of the kingdom of evil and into the kingdom of God. Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24: 46-47; John 20:30-31; Acts 17:30-31; 26:18 Rom 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-10; 8:1-2; Col 1:13-14.

  1. He calls us through the message of the gospel, the news of who Christ is and what God has done for us. Rom 1:16-17
  2. We exercise simple, repentant faith in Christ. Mark 1:14-15; Jn 3:16; Rom 6:23; Eph 2:8-10.
  3. He declares us righteous immediately and begins to renovate our souls, transforming our character and eventually our bodies to be like Christ. Rom 6:5-7; 8:1-2; Gal 4:14; Phil 3:20-21; Titus 3:3-7.
  4. He adopts us and makes us a family under His grace and in His name, thereby bringing us into His eternal kingdom, under His reign, right now. Rom 8:14-17; Gal 4:4-7; Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13-14.
  5. He uses us to bring many more from all over the world into His grace and kingdom. Matthew 28:18-20.

People respond to the message of God in one of three ways. Only the last one brings a person into God’s plan.

  1. Crass Idolatry: Outright rejection of God in favor of worshipping the Self or some created thing. Rom 1:18-32.
    1. Self-worship/creation-worship often presents as simple “neutrality” in people. It does not appear as blatantly idolatrous as it really is. If pressed though, this position is seen to be an unrepentant unbelief in the Creator Himself.
  2. Humanized Religion (refined idolatry): Human-centered attempts to earn God’s favor or appease and avoid His anger by a system of human works, religious or otherwise.
    1. This is sometimes done in the name of Christianity, but is not the actual message of Christ. Matt 5:20-48; Rom 2:1-3:20; Gal 1:6-10.
  3. Gospel Faith: Repentant personal faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, as the risen and reigning Lord of creation and the Savior of the fallen universe. Jn 3:16; Rom 3:23, 6:23, 10:9-10, 8:1-2; Heb 1:1-3; 11:1-6.
    1. This is a complete rejection of any and all human achievement with regard to becoming a part of God’s plan of redemption, His kingdom. It is throwing oneself utterly on the mercy of God in Christ. Eph 2:1-10
    2. It results in a transformed and transforming life of loyalty to the real King, the Lord Jesus Christ and his purposes. Matt 28:18-20; Eph. 2:10; Phil 2:12-13.

What is the Gospel?

The gospel is a piece of astounding news of an event that God has brought about in time and space, and that has changed the destiny of the universe and every soul in it. The gospel is the announcement that Jesus Christ is the risen and gracious Lord, Master, King and Savior of both the material and spirit dimensions of the cosmos. It is the factual news that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, God in the flesh, who has died for our sins, been physically raised from the dead, and currently rules human history as a resurrected human King. God has done this to offer forgiveness and his own eternal quality of life to fallen, evil, and dying humanity by bringing his kingdom into this fallen material world (Mtt.6: 9-10; 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-47; Rom.10:9-10; 1 Cor.15:20-28). His kingdom is already here in an invisible form and will be brought into the visible material realm in the future when He judges the present order and brings about an entirely new creation, a new spirit/material universe (Mtt.19:28; 24:27-30; Acts1:11;17:30-31; 1 Cor.15:20-28; Rev.20-22).

Jesus Christ is the risen Lord. “Preaching the gospel” then, is essentially proclaiming Jesus Christ as the new, reigning and gracious Savior/King who died for our sins and was raised for our justification, and explaining and applying this reality (Mtt.28:18-10; Luke 24:44-48). Of course, implied in the proclamation is the command to respond in faith to the gospel by turning from evil to God, believing this news about God in Christ and to submitting to Jesus Christ as Savior, Master, and King in God’s kingdom (Mk 1:15). This is what it means to repent and be converted. (Mark 1:14-15; Acts 26:18; Col.1:13-14).

The gospel good news contains at least the following six elements:

  1. The incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.
    1. Jn. 1:1-18; Luke. 1:26-38; Col. 2:8-9
    2. This is the entry of God permanently into his created, material universe to redeem and renovate it.
  2. The perfect life of Jesus Christ under the God’s Law.
    1. Mtt 5:17; Gal 4:4-5; Heb. 4:15
    2. This is the life we should have lived and that he has lived on our behalf. 2 Cor.5:21
  3. The atoning death of Jesus Christ under the God’s Law.
    1. Rom 3:21-28; Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21
    2. This is the death we should have died and that he died on our behalf. Gal.3:13.
  4. The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion.
    1. Mtt. 28; Mk 16; Luke 24; Jn. 20; 1 Cor.15:1-9; Acts 17:31
    2. This is the beginning of the new reality, the new creation into which we enter when we come to Christ the King. 2 Cor. 5:17-21
  5. The risen lordship of Jesus Christ as the king in God’s kingdom. Mtt. 28:18-20
    1. The physical ascension of Jesus Christ to the right hand of the Father. Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Cor.15:25; Eph 1:20-21; Heb 1:3; 12:1-2; 1 Peter 3:22
    2. This means that Christ is the Commander in Chief of God’s army (Lord of Hosts), the king in God’s kingdom here and now and forever.
    3. When we come to the King, we become his apprentices in kingdom life. Mtt.11:28-30; 28:20.
  6. The physical return of Jesus Christ from the heavenly realm to renovate the material realm.
    1. This is for the purpose of judging and renovating the universe and establishing God’s eternal kingdom among humans on earth forever. Jn. 14:1-6; Mtt 24; Mk 13; Luke 21; Acts 1:11; 17:31; 1 Cor.15; 1 Thess.4:16-5:11; 2 Thess.2; 2 Peter 3:1-13; Rev 20-22.
    2. This tangible, material, future hope is the focal point for the Jesus-apprentice that gives perspective to the present suffering. John 14:1-6; 2 Cor.4:16-18; Rom.8:18-28.

We must understand that God saves us by his personal grace in Christ, supplied by Christ’s obedience and sacrifice at the cross, not on the basis of any religious or moral activities in which we may engage. This is not simply an abstract doctrine, but a dynamic personal relationship that involves covenant loyalty, love and God’s unmerited favor given to evil people who never could deserve it (Rom.5:8-10; 8:1-9). When people put simple, personal, repentant faith in Christ as the Saving Lord, God freely makes them members of his eternal kingdom here and now. He puts his own Spirit, his Mind and Life into them, birthing them from above so to speak (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:3-7; Eph 2:1-10; 1 Pet.1:3, 23). Christ’s morally pristine life and his atoning death are both permanently credited to the Christian’s personal identity, replacing the former identity of evil, rebellion and punishment (Eph 2:1-10; Gal 3:13; 2 Cor.5:21). In this way, the Lord eternally and legally forgives all their sins, making them his children forever. (Titus 3:3-7; Rom 8:1-38; Gal 4:4-7).

Almost all of the letters of the NT are expansions and applications of one of these central themes of the gospel, or the practical ramifications of them. It is important that we proclaim the whole gospel consistently and clearly because false spiritual messages and misstatements of the gospel proliferate in this age (Gal 1:6-10).