Monday, May 19, 2008

Humility, Legalism, and Self-Abasement (Notes)

Humility Is (DUH) Good

Humility is one of the finest characteristics that a Christian can have.

I know you don’t need to be convinced about that, but pride is such a common thing that the world, the flesh and the devil pushes on us, it’s worth taking a quick look at a few verses from Scripture on humility:

Matthew 18:4 "Therefore whoever HUMBLES himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 23:11,12 "But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be HUMBLED, and he who HUMBLES himself will be exalted.

Luke 18:14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be HUMBLED, and he who HUMBLES himself will be exalted."

Romans 12:16 Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the HUMBLE. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Philipp 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man, He HUMBLED Himself and became obedient to [the point of] death, even the death of the cross.

James 4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the HUMBLE."

James 4:10 HUMBLE yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

1 Peter 5:5 Yes, all of [you] be submissive to one another, and be clothed with HUMILITY, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the HUMBLE."

1 Peter 5:6 Therefore HUMBLE yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,

2 Timothy 2:25 in HUMILITY correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,

Titus 3:2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all HUMILITY to all men.

OK, are you convinced that humility is a virtue? Are you convinced that God wants us to be humble?

I just want you to know that I know that humility is a wonderful thing. Because I want you to switch gears right now in a radical way and to see what humility really is and what it isn’t.

The Dark Side

I want you to open a curtain and to peer into the dark side. Not to go there. Not even to spend much time there, but to see the evil of something that LOOKS like humility, but leads only to legalism, pride, and self-righteousness.

Let’s start by taking a look at a passage of Scripture in Colossians chapter 2, beginning with verse 11. We’ll just go verse by verse and make a few observations.

[read Col. 2:11-23, commenting]

Comparing Humility & Self-Abasement

So let’s clarify what true humility is, and then make a few comparisons between true humility and self-abasement, or false humility.

Listen to 1 Cor. 4:7-- For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

[1 Cor 4:7 on why humility is not “I’m nothing, I’m nothing”]

So true humility is understanding and walking in the truth that every single thing good about you, or every single thing you have, is a gift from God, through Jesus Christ.

Let’s close by noting some direct comparisons between true humility and self-abasement.

True Humility glorifies God for what He has done in us through the New Covenant.

Self-Abasement denies God’s work in us, and insults Him.

True Humility understands that God is at work in us both to will and to do His good pleasure.

Self-Abasement makes us the beginning and the end of our salvation, by making works and rituals the ground of God’s love and acceptance of us. That’s legalism.

True Humility can’t co-exist with pride, it pushes pride out.

Self-abasement encourages pride. It even makes apparent humility a cause for pride. Ever see anyone proud of their humility? That’s self-abasement.

Finally, True Humility is true wisdom and revelation. It’s an expression of truth revealed. The truth of what we were before Christ, and what we are now as New Creations. The truth of what God did for us and in us in Christ, and is now doing through us by His Spirit and His Word. The truth that it is ultimately all of grace, all of God, all of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we see that truth, we can’t help but be humble.

Self-abasement is on the other hand, the product of lies. Lies that when Jesus said “It is finished” on the cross, that it really wasn’t finished. Lies that God loves and favors us by how we perform. Lies that the Christian life is all about regulations and rules, instead of a warm relationship to our Lord and Savior, whom we love and want to follow in our heart of hearts. Self-abasement glorifies man and insults Christ, because self-abasement is lie-based, and Jesus Christ is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.

Let’s glorify the Lord by recognizing that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, especially as New Creations in Christ, and thanking Him, because He did it all, and worshiping Him in humbleness of heart.

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