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Archive for the ‘humility’ Category

its-all-about-me

Are you a boaster?

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Bet I’m a bigger one…

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See?

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I’ve been thinking about the early chapters of 1 Corinthians recently.

Here’s some of the things they boasted in.

Chapter 1:31 alludes to Jeremiah 9:23.  There the spotlight is on wisdom, strength and riches.

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.  (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Wisdom, strength, riches – do they tell you who you are?  Is that where you turn for an ego boost?  Well really- Forget that stuff.  That’s small-time boasting.  That’s like being proud of your long bushy nasal hair.  “Hey guys, check out my new perm!”  You’re being ridiculous. Stop it.

But it’s not just our own wisdom and strength we  boast in.  The Corinthians demonstrated the perennial temptation to boast in our connection to the world’s wisdom and strength.  They got a big ego trip from keeping up with the intellectual elites, the opinion formers, the celebrity power players.  It’s not even that they were these big players, but they got a kick out of knowing their celebrity gossip, following their diets, repeating the arguments of the columnists at dinner parties, adopting the attitudes and management techniques of the movers and shakers.  Yeah, they were in with the people that really matter in the world.  Paul says, that’s puny, God’s made that look pathetic at the cross (1 Cor 1:18-20).   It’s like pointing to smoking rubble and saying ‘Lookey!’

Then there’s the most subtle yet most rampant kind of boasting in Christian circles – to boast in Christian labels and leaders (1 Cor 1:12).  I know where I stand because I’m emergent or neo-reformed or whatever.  I’m ok because I line up with Stott or Carson or Driscoll or Piper or whoever.   And Paul says – forget those guys, they’re just slaves (1 Cor 3:5).   Slaves might boast about knowing their famous masters, but who ever boasted about knowing a slave?  They’re farmers. (1 Cor 3:8).  Whoever heard about celebrity farmers.  They’re builders (1 Cor 3:10-15) – and you’re not the ones to do the survey of their building.  God is.

Do not boast in Christian cliques, and parties, theologies and  leaders.  Was Calvin crucified for you?  Were you baptised  into Barth? (1 Cor 1:13).

And anyway, it’s all yours!  (1 Cor 3:21-23)  You don’t belong to Christian leaders, they belong to you – all of them belong to all of you.  Anything Christ-exalting said by the Arminian, the Pentecostal, the Catholic, the Emergent, the Orthodox, even the Anglican – it’s yours.  Cheer up, you’re inheriting the whole universe and Paul, Apollos, Cephas, Martin, Thomas, and Karl are thrown in.

Stop all this boasting in you, in your worldly connections, in your Christian connections – stop that.

But…

Don’t stop boasting.  No, no, no.  By all means keep on boasting.  Paul commands it:

“Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:31)

Boasters of the world take heed.  Do not put a lid on your boasting.  Boast with gusto, with verve, with unstoppable audacity.  Boast big-mouthed and full-throated.  Boast until you’re blue in the face.

Just don’t boast in you.  Boast in Jesus.

Notice how the very next thing Paul does is describe his evangelistic ministry.

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.  (1 Cor 2:1-5)

Here is what it looks like to switch your boasting from self to Christ.  It looks like a trembling, humble evangelist, no techniques, but bold as brass for Jesus and dead certain of His foolish message.  In other words it makes for missionaries unsure of themselves but certain of Christ.  And that’s what the world needs.

So, boasters of the world, for goodness sakes let’s stop boasting in ourselves.  But don’t stop boasting.  Let’s use the decades of practice we’ve accrued and turn it to good.

We used to rabbit on about our own achievements, now let’s rabbit on about Christ’s.  We used to name drop Christian leaders, now let’s name drop Christ.   We used to slip impressive facts about ourselves into conversation, now let’s slip in impressive facts about Jesus.  We used to think of ourselves in relation to worldly power and wisdom, now let’s regard ourselves according to the cross.  We used to gain identity from theological labels, now let’s claim the LORD as our banner.

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Want fresh joy?

The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD

Isaiah 29:19

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The One Who humbles Himself

Matthew 23:12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Luke 18:14 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Is it significant that those exalting themselves are many but the one humbling himself is singular?

Gotta be hasn’t it?

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First posted two years ago.

How to attain humility?  Determine to think low thoughts of yourself?  You’d be defeated before you began.  Self-deprecation is still self-deprecation.  No, to be humble we need to be humbled.

Daniel 4 gives us a great picture of this.  Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man in the world, is humbled by the triune God who is ‘able to humble’ ‘those who walk in pride.’  (Dan 4:37).

As an Australian male who’s paid to shoot his mouth off I know a little something about walking in pride.  What can I learn from Daniel 4 about humility?

First, the hero of the piece, Daniel, accomplishes his work only in the power of the Holy Spirit.

“I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you.” Dan 4:9 (LXX has ‘Holy Spirit of God’ – translating the plural ‘gods’ as elsewhere in Scripture)

“None of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.” Dan 4:18.  See also 5:11,14 (LXX translates them all as Holy Spirit of God)

Without the Spirit, Daniel has nothing to offer.  With the Spirit, Daniel is wiser than the wisest men on earth.

Second, the promised King of God’s Kingdom is described as the Lowliest of Men.

“the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes and sets over them the Lowliest of men.” (Dan 4:17)

In the great inversion of all our human expectations, God’s choice for King is not simply a lowly man, but the Lowliest of men.  The King of all kings is the One who says “I am gentle and humble in heart.” (Matt 11:29)  How can Nebuchadnezzar exalt himself when the Chosen One of the Most High is the Servant of all?

Third, Nebuchadnezzar learns humility when he worships the Most High God:

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes towards heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honoured and glorified Him Who lives for ever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No-one can hold back His hand or say to him: “What have you done?” 36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honour and splendour were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom.

With his eyes turned upwards, Nebuchadnezzar praises Him Who lives forever.  The sovereign glory of the Omnipotent Father draws out of him awed worship.  I’m told (and I can believe it) that the Grand Canyon will take your breath away – no-one stands on the rim with high thoughts of themselves.  And no-one can confess the majesty of our Father and not be correspondingly humbled in the process.

So how do I fight pride?  The doctrine of the trinity of course. I need to know that anything I have of worth in God’s service is a gift of the Spirit – “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor 4:7).

I need to know that the Lord of Glory is Himself the Lowliest of men.  His glory is His service.  So how can I exalt myself above Christ?

I need to know that the Most High Father is awe-inspiring in His heavenly power.  As I worship Him I find a grateful ‘nothingness’ by comparison which is, at that very moment, my restoration to honour.

To be enfolded in the life of these Three is to be well and truly humbled.

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Christian T shirts

Last Sunday I preached an all-age sermon on John the Baptist.  I made up some T-shirts to give away based on what John says in John 1 and John 3.

The contrast to popular T-shirts today was stark.

Here are T-shirts John the Baptist stylee:

For Christian T-shirts of a humourous kind, go here.

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For thawed-out Thursdays.  First posted in Jan 2008…

How should we attain humility?  Determine to think low thoughts of yourself?  You’d be defeated before you began.  Self-deprecation is still self-deprecation.  No, to be humble we need to be humbled

Daniel 4 gives us a great picture of this.  Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man in the world, is humbled by the triune God who is ‘able to humble’ ‘those who walk in pride.’  (Dan 4:37).

As a young(ish) Australian male I know a little something about walking in pride.  What can I learn from Daniel 4 about humility?

 First, the hero of the piece, Daniel, accomplishes his work only in the power of the Holy Spirit.

“I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you.” Dan 4:9 (LXX has ‘Holy Spirit of God’ – translating the plural ‘gods’ as elsewhere in Scripture)

“None of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.” Dan 4:18.  See also 5:11,14 (LXX translates them all as Holy Spirit of God)

Without the Spirit, Daniel has nothing to offer.  With the Spirit, Daniel is wiser than the wisest men on earth. 

Second, the promised King of God’s Kingdom is described as the Lowliest of Men.

“the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes and sets over them the Lowliest of men.” (Dan 4:17)

In the great inversion of all our human expectations, God’s choice for King is not simply a lowly man, but the Lowliest of men.  The King of all kings is the One who says “I am gentle and humble in heart.” (Matt 11:29)  How can Nebuchadnezzar exalt himself when the Chosen One of the Most High is the Servant of all? 

Third, Nebuchadnezzar learns humility when he worships the Most High God:

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes towards heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honoured and glorified Him Who lives for ever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No-one can hold back His hand or say to him: “What have you done?” 36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honour and splendour were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom.

With his eyes turned upwards, Nebuchadnezzar praises Him Who lives forever.  The sovereign glory of the Omnipotent Father draws out of him awed worship.  I’m told (and I can believe it) that the Grand Canyon will take your breath away – no-one stands on the rim with high thoughts of themselves.  And no-one can confess the majesty of our Father and not be correspondingly humbled in the process.

So how do I fight pride?  The doctrine of the trinity of course. I need to know that anything I have of worth in God’s service is a gift of the Spirit – “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor 4:7). 

I need to know that the Lord of Glory is Himself the Lowliest of men.  His glory is His service.  So how can I exalt myself above Christ?

I need to know that the Most High Father is awe-inspiring in His heavenly power.  As I worship Him I find a grateful ‘nothingness’ by comparison which is, at that very moment, my restoration to honour.

To be enfolded in the life of these Three is to be well and truly humbled. 

.

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From a Tim Keller sermon on ‘the first shall be last’:

There was once a young seminary graduate eager to preach his first sermon.  He ascended the pulpit steps, sure his great learning would amaze the simple lay folk.  Halfway through the sermon he realized he was making a hash of it.  First the congregation lost what he was saying, then he lost what he was saying.  At the end he climbed down from the pulpit crestfallen.  An old Christian woman met him at the end and said “If you’d have gone up the way you came down, you’d have come down the way you went up.”

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