Humility

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5 ESV). In 1908, the British writer G. K. Chesterton described the our immature culture as postmodernism. One mark of its “vulgar relativism” (as Michael Novak calls it) is the hijacking of the word “arrogance” to refer to conviction and “humility” to refer to doubt. Chesterton saw it coming. He wrote: What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert — himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt — the Divine Reason. The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. There is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it’s practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether. We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. The essential nature of genuine humility is at the root of our reception of the grace to continue our journey in life. Think of how often humility would make every wrong easier to forgive and overcome. Think of how humility would make our interaction with all people so much easier. So, let me suggest five truths about humility. Humility begins with a sense of subordination to God in Christ. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6). Humility does not feel a right to better treatment than Jesus got. Therefore humility does not return evil for evil. It is not life based on its perceived rights. Humility asserts truth not to bolster ego with control or with triumphs in debate, but as service to Christ and love to the adversary. “Love rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). Humility knows it is dependent on grace for all knowing and believing. “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Humility knows it is fallible, and so considers criticism and learns from it. Make these your goals and all the rest will become much...

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The Boasting of the World (Part 2)

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:21-25 ESV). It is an absolute truth that boasting is the outward form of the inner condition of pride. The truth that pride suppresses most is that God is greater than we are and should be glorified as the greatest reality in the universe, and that God is the Giver of all things and should be continually thanked. A Godward spirit of worship and gratitude is missing from most hearts because of pride. We want admiration for ourselves, not for God, and we don’t want to be dependent like helpless children on God’s mercy. Our reading today declares that when we think we are wise we are actually acting foolishly. Pride prefers not to have God in its knowledge. Pride does not like to submit to authority or depend on mercy. Therefore it is always rejecting or redefining the true God. Later in the Roman letter Paul shows the form this pride takes in the morally vigilant: “Do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 3:23). There is such a thing as the pride of the lecherous and there is also the pride of the legally careful, moral person. There is even the pride of the religious person who uses his knowledge of God to exalt himself (cf. Romans 2:17). The same could be true of any religious group. We are all tempted to make God himself a means of our own self-exaltation. So boasting matters to Paul because boasting is the outward form of the deep, root-problem of the human race, pride. This moral corruption lies behind all the evils and miseries of the world. And, worst of all, this pride has put us at odds with God, so that, “Every mouth is stopped and all the world has become accountable to God” (Romans 3:19b). We are under his judgment because of our pride and all the sin that flows from it. My sincere hope is that we will become people who stop arguing about who is right in the realization that only God is right. The rest of us can only be right when we unite in His perfect...

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The Boasting of the World (Part 1)

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. (Romans 3:27-30 ESV). Well, today I have decided to go in a slightly different direction with the Morning Devotionals. It is prompted both by the current events of our culture as well as an incredibly important part of Biblical theology. I found a meme that was interesting. The simple statement is “When you’re busy bragging on Facebook, remember there are people who know you in real life.” Social media has given everyone with access to the internet the ability to “boast.” In our reading today the Apostle Paul makes a reference to our natural inclination to brag. His simple declaration is that we have no right to do such. His application is to the gracious act of our redemption, which is all rooted and completed in God. About that we cannot waiver. God begins and ends our redemption. We have nothing to do to receive this incredible gift of God. However, there is also an application to the broader patterns of our life. We all fail at some point in this common sin. Our fallen nature is to consistently elevate ourselves, typically by making others look worse than we are. We saw this played out in the original sin. As God questions Adam concerning his embarrassment at his nakedness, he does not admit his sin; he blames his failure on God (cf. Genesis 3:12). It is an amazing turn of events. Adam has gone from the amazing belief that Eve is “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (cf. Genesis 2:23) to the accusation of “it was that woman you gave me” who made me sin. That is nothing more than pride! Today we find it at nearly every level of our relationships. We see it in our families, our friendships, our business partnerships, and in general to every group that is somehow “different” than we present ourselves. Pride has been the root cause of all the evils and miseries of the world. Paul says earlier in this letter, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18 ESV). The truth is available to all people in one way or the other, and instead of humbling ourselves under it, we stand over it and push it down. This is pride. It may take hundreds of different forms, from the most petite and delicate to the most powerful and crude, but the reality is the same: we will stand over the truth and accept what we like and suppress what we don’t. We are all sinners. No one is exempt from that failure. Starting there begins the journey toward humility and...

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Multiplied Peace (Part 6)

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: may grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:1-2 ESV). There is never a time in the mountains in the eastern part of Yellowstone where there is not ice glaciers in the crevices. This is because these gorges are so deep and narrow that they are always in the shade. The ice simply doesn’t melt. We must capture a means of walking “in the shade.” That the next principle of multiplied grace and peace. The apostles tell us that prayer is the means of multiplied grace and peace. The unique thing about a spoken blessing is that it is bi-directional. It is addressed both to man and God. When we say, “The Lord bless you and keep you”, we are asking the Lord (vertically) to bless you (horizontally). So it is with Peter’s words, “May grace and peace be multiplied (by God) to you.” God is being addressed. And the church is being addressed. And these words are not spoken in vain. Peter speaks them because he believes they matter. They are a means of bringing about what they aim at. They aim at more grace and more peace. So Peter believes that asking God to do this work will in fact be an instrument in bringing it about. It does; God answers prayer. We should believe that. Another means of multiplied grace and peace is the epistle these words introduce. It is astonishing that Paul begins every letter with some form of “grace be to you,” and ends every letter with some form of “grace be with you.” This pattern is unvarying. At the beginning the letter is about to be read. And in being read, grace and peace will come to us. The letter itself is the word of God. It will be the means of multiplying grace and peace to us. Then, at the end of the letter, Paul sees us leaving our encounter with the word and going out into the world, and he prays that grace go with us. Peter confirms this understanding. In our reading, he says explicitly that grace and peace are going to come “in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ.” “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (v. 2). In other words, not only am I praying for grace and peace to increase, I am writing a letter to give knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ as kindling for the fire of this increase. So, we come to the understanding that prayer involves both speaking to God and hearing from God. Hearing can only come through the Scripture. Discipline yourself to intentionally reading the...

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Multiplied Peace (Part 5)

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5b ESV). The fourth principle the apostles share is that grace and peace are multiplied by God. Peter uses the passive voice, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” The implied actor is God. We are stewards of “God’s varied grace” (cf. 1 Peter 4:10). Grace does not just happen, it comes from God. Our reading today says, “God gives grace to the humble” (v. 5). Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22). Peter’s prayer is that God act. “May God multiply grace to you and peace!” Thunder once roared over the vast plains of North America. It came not from the sky but from the soil, as myriads of black cloven hooves pounded the ground. However, they were hunted to near extinction. In the 1800’s they went from 30-60 million to 325 animals. Fortunately leaders in our country recognized the peril of these wonderful animals and put into place measure insuring the rebuilding of their numbers. In Yellowstone today there are two distinct herds that number about 5,000. Seeing them roam wild in the Lamar Valley reminded me of what it might have looked like when there were millions across the western plains. None of this could have happened without the intervention of men. We also must remember that grace and peace are multiplied by God through human means. If God did this multiplication without respect to human means, Peter would not say these words. They would be pointless. He says them because he believes his words are God’s means of multiplying grace and peace. We need to see this truth because of how common it is today to think of grace only as unconditional. There is unconditional grace and there is conditional grace. Paul speaks of the “election of grace” (cf. Romans 11:5). That grace is unconditional. God’s election is not a response to conditions we can meet. But there is grace that is a response to conditions we meet. Peter says in our reading today, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (v. 5). God responds to humility with more grace. Humility is a condition of receiving this grace. Of course, humility itself is a fruit of the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:23). But the fact that “God is at work in you to do his good pleasure” does not lessen your responsibility to “work out your own salvation” (cf. Philippians 2:12-13). In other words, to say that receiving some grace has conditions does not mean we are left to fulfill the conditions by ourselves. But it is a serious mistake to bring in the doctrine of justification at this point in a way that says, “Christ fulfilled the conditions of God’s blessing, so we don’t have to.” Christ performed some conditions in our place; namely, the ones necessary for God to be 100% for us in spite of our sin. But when he died, he also obtained for us the gift of the Spirit by which we fulfill other conditions for “multiplied” grace and peace. That is what Peter and Paul are praying...

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