The Wonder of the Church: Part 3 – Making of Believers
17. The Yeast of Humility
Lk 18:9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable
Lk 18:17 anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it
Lk 18:24 “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!
Lk 18:34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.
Lk 18:40,41 Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied.
Refocus: We are, you may remember, focusing on things that happen to the believer when they come to Christ and become a Christian, a member of the church. You may be wondering about the title of this series, ‘The Wonder of the Church’ but the point we are making again and again is that those who form the church are radically different from anyone else. Now when a believer becomes a believer, something takes place in them which, I think, is rarely observed and yet which is something vital and so often missing in the ongoing life of believers. It is the presence of humility and so we need to see what it is, why it is present, and how it is so easy to lose it.
Humility: Perhaps the significance of humility is seen in the apostle Peter’s words, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble,” (1 Pet 5:5) i.e. it is clearly something God wants in us (and we’ll see why soon), while the apostle James declared, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom,” (Jas 3:13) while the apostle Paul taught, “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,” (Phil 2:3) and “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Col 3:12)
What is it? Well a dictionary defines it as, “the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance,” but I think in a spiritual context it might be better defined as, “the quality of having a right assessment of yourself, to know your failings and your weaknesses in yourself, but also to recognize your greatness in Christ,” so that, yes, it does have a ‘modest or low view of one’s importance’ but it also should mean that we face the true wonder of what we are, a “new creation” who, as we saw two studies back have been ‘born of God’ and are being remade by God. “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor 5:17).
Why is it so important? I suggest four reasons: first because it mirrors what we felt when we first turned to God, second it is the characteristic of Christ who indwells us, third, it is a prerequisite to be able to receive his leading and guiding and, fourth, it is a requirement to be able to be Christ to other people. So let’s look at each of those and use Luke 18 as a guide to do this.
When we turned to God: Luke 18 is a useful chapter in that it says so many things pertinent to this subject. First we see Jesus challenging those “who were confident in their own righteousness.” (v.9). Now we have seen that vital steps for someone to become a believer who goes on to become a person of faith, a Christian, are conviction and repentance. Until we have seen ourselves as we truly are without Christ – helpless and hopeless (helpless without the power to change ourselves, hopeless because we’ve come to see that nothing we can do on our own stops us being self-centred and godless) – we will never come to repentance, and that work of conviction is a work of the Holy Spirit enabling us to face that truth, which comes as a point or time of crisis for our self-belief. In what followed Jesus also taught that, “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it,” (Jn 18:17) In other words it is necessary to stop being ‘all grown up’ and self-satisfied and become simple in outlook as far as God is concerned, i.e. humble!
The character of Christ: Jesus taught, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt 11:28-30) Again and again the New Testament reveals a picture of Father and Son whereby the Son is submissive to the Father. For example, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.” (Jn 5:19) Jesus portrayed a life reliant upon the Father, and it is the life He calls us to. Why? Because God knows best! It is as simple as that. But reliance upon God does not always come easily. In fact Jesus taught, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (v.24) Why? Because the rich person relies upon their wealth and it is very difficult to let go that reliance, especially if you had a hand in creating it! Pride and self-ability says, “I got rich on my own, why should I pray; humility recognizes affluence is a gift and wisdom is needed to live with it.
Accepting God’s Leading: it is fairly obvious that when we came to Christ it was in a way of submission so that we accepted that we had messed up in life and needed forgiveness, cleansing and redirecting, but unless we take that attitude on in life we will do what so many do, and that is relax into a self-centred and godless way of living. Simple tests of whether we do that are to ask some basic questions: when I start a new day do I start planning and working out how I will cope or do I commit the day to the Lord and ask for His wisdom and His grace to manage it? When illness strikes is my first response to ring for the doctor or pray and seek God’s hand on us? When problems arise, do we fret and fume and struggle with how to overcome to do we seek Him for His wisdom? In each of those three cases if I opt for the first response that can only be described as self-centred and godless. If, when I surrendered to Him and was born again, I gave Him control of my life, may have I taken it back again? Pride says, “I can do this,” while humility says, “Lord, with your help alone I will be able to handle this.
Being Christ to others: My problem is that other people are frequently less than a blessing and so they deserve criticism – but then that’s me as well! If I am to be Jesus to other people it means I will love them and accept them as they are and when I realize I am what I am only by the grace of God, I will never look down on them but will look to see how I can bless them.
Crisis and Ongoing: We said that to come to Christ there had to be a humility that sees me as I am – without Him, helpless and hopeless – and recognizes that I need His help. As life carries on, nothing has changed, except that He may have blessed and used me, and then the big temptation is to believe that I have so changed that I can manage it on my own. Deception! But this is a challenge that goes on and on throughout my life and will continue until I die. Humility was what brought me to my knees to be born again, and humility is what will maintain a channel of blessing from God to me.
And Luke’s teaching in chapter 18? Well again and again I will hear things from Him, or see things happening around me, that will leave me nonplussed. Life is often complex and so like the disciples (18:34) I will not understand what is happening or even what God is saying in it. Thus, like the blind man at the end of the chapter, I need to be ultra-simple and ask and say, “Lord, I want to see.” (18:41) Humility is acknowledging my need and recognizing that He alone has the answer. How long does it take to learn this, or how many times will it keep happening before we do learn it? Maturity is about learning it quickly. Oh, why did I entitle this ‘The Yeast of Humility’? Because where there is true in-depth humility from the start, it will spread (like yeast through the dough) right the way through every aspect of our lives. Don’t kid yourself that because have a good education or good training, you can ‘handle’ certain areas of our lives. If you don’t believe me, just ask Him to send you a crisis in life and see how you get on – but there are easier ways!!!