What Really Is Humility?
He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.
This is the starting point. If we fail here, there is no point in getting on our knees and praying for revival. No strategy will bail us out if we have a lack of humility before God. God cannot and does not fill a proud person with His Spirit. As such, there can be no spiritual power present or moving without us first being broken before God. We bring nothing to the table. We have no bargaining power and no spiritual account to draw from apart from Christ. We come empty-handed as beggars. It is only the infusion and bestowing of the grace of God that allows one beggar to serve another beggar. It is Gods grace that makes revival possible. But He must first change us by His grace before others are changed.
2 Chronicles 7:13 presents a predicament for the people of God. God has poured out His wrath and punishment upon His people for their disobedient and hardened hearts. They had stiffened their neck under the discipline of God, rather than becoming broken and repentant. Yet God calls out to them in verse 14, reminding them that a full turn around can take place if only they would humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways. God was ready and willing to pour out His grace, but He was waiting for His vessels to become useable.
This is always Gods design. We must humble ourselves before God so that He can lift us up in due time. Humility precedes exaltation. It was true for Christ, and it is true for us.
Humility, Contrition, and Trembling
Isaiah 66:2 says, But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. The promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 is available only to those who are humble, broken of spirit, and who bow their spirits before the authority of the Word of God. To wonder why revival escapes us, we need go no further. There is a pride problem in the American church. Churches in China bow their knees and pour out their hearts to God in prayer for revival, casting themselves completely upon His grace for change in their land. In America we come up with the latest and greatest strategies which are human-crafted and human-based. We hate the naturalistic philosophy, but we have adopted a naturalistic approach to the Christian life. We have eliminated the supernatural because we think we can generate conversions and growth by human means. We may not realize we have done this because Satans deceptions are subtle. As we proceed through this book, this theme will continue to emerge. Gods ways are simple and supernatural. His burden is light. It is time to fall on our faces and cry out that He is worthy and that we are not, that He is capable and that we are not, and that He is strong and we are weak. Revival is a work of the Spirit where we surrender to the authority and grace of God to move and operate in our lives. There can only be one captain of our hearts, and it must be King Jesus.
Contrition and trembling before the Word of God are akin to humility. Isaiah 66:2 really is not a list of three distinct spiritual realities; rather it is three different angles of observing the same truth. In other words, humility involves, by its very definition, both contrition and trembling at the Word of God. The Hebrew word for humility in 2 Chronicles 7:14, is kana, meaning to bend the knee. This means to humiliate, vanquish, bring down low, bring into subjection, put under, or to subdue. Contrition, which means to repent or become ashamed of the current state of ones heart, is the immediate result of the heart which has been humbled. The humbling process will have begun with a cutting to the heart from Gods Word, and it will end in a reverence and fear for the authority and supreme value of Gods Word. Contrition, humility, and trembling before Gods Word are the beginning point for revival. All three simultaneously exist in the humble heart.
Nehemiah 1 presents a great picture of this brokenness before God. Nehemiah is brought news of the disastrous state of affairs of his Jewish brothers back in Jerusalem. Ezra and Zerubbabel had taken some of the exiles back to Jerusalem decades before. But they are unprotected physically, spiritually lacking, and economically hurting. Upon hearing that Gods people, who are called by His name are in this horrendous state of affairs, Nehemiahs heart is broken to the point where he weeps and mourns. He prays and fasts for days. He acknowledges that the Jews deserve this punishment for their sin. He intercedes on their behalf for forgiveness from that sin, and he offers himself as a willing vessel to be used by God to help fix the situation. He was one to which God could look because of his broken heart. He knew despite his gifting and high position in government through which he had the kings ear that he alone couldnt fix the situation. He needed God, and that is where he started. Thus, he poured his heart out in prayer before God as a desperate man. He never stopped praying or seeking the will of God. Nehemiah didnt generate revival; rather, he was merely a vessel used of God to do Gods purposes within Gods story. What made him a chosen vessel of God was his tender heart. Nehemiah understood the limits of his power, influence, and ability. He understood that God alone could affect change.
For genuine revival to occur, we must become a people of tender hearts. We ought to weep over the state of affairs around us. We cannot pretend that God can send His Spirit to move if we gloss over sin issues. Sin must be identified. It must be pursued, captured, and crushed. Sin stymies the Spirit. God requires broken vessels. Some sin is obvious while some is not. Sin relies on self, lifts up self, and operates without God and against Gods ways and will. Before we can be shown such errors of spirit, we must humble ourselves to ask God to show us where we might be off course. Humility is the posture of growth because it is where God infuses His grace into a teachable spirit. Humility also has a posture of power because a bowed knee and heart which calls out to God is honored and heard by God. Humility is our starting point.
Humility bows the knee to listen to the Spirit of God. Contrition breaks the heart and will to repent and change. Gods Word is the catalyst for both. We cannot read Gods Word as a self-help manual or as a guidebook for how to selfishly get more out of this life. It also is not a narrative explaining merely in part about how God has worked throughout history. Rather, it is the authoritative revelation of God that is not up for interpretation. No one is allowed to change one letter or punctuation point. It is firm, it endures, it convicts, it is the power of God to salvation, and it is inspired of God for our growth as believers. It cuts to the heart and convicts of sin. Gods Word must be given a high place in our churches and in our hearts. Its reading and proclamation ought to be unapologetically the centerpiece of a Christian gathering. Without it, we are doomed to go astray. We must tremble before the Word. It is unlike other words on paper bound in a book. It is God-breathed, and it is living and active, even today. We must read it as such, preach it as such, and study it as such. It is not merely a collection of information, it is not merely a set of principles for wise living, and it is not merely some really neat stories. It is equated with Christ Himself. John 1:1 says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (emphasis added). Jesus Christ is the embodiment of truth. The only two things called truth are Jesus and the Word of God. We tremble before Jesus, and we must also tremble before His Word. God gave it to mankind, so we need to consider it more than important. We dont worship the Word because only God is to be worshipped, but it does tell us how we worship and who we worship. And when it tells us to tremble, we ought to tremble. Do we tremble when we hear the Word of God read? Does it cut us to the heart? Do we believe that all of it is true? Do we believe that God can do the impossible and we cannot? God has vested His power in His Word. No amount of charisma, anecdotes, or stories can take the place of the exposition of the Word of God. The Word of God unleashed by a humble and contrite preacher trembling before it will undoubtedly lead to a reviving work of God and probably some persecution.
Humility of Mind
Philippians 2:3-4 says, Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. This passage tells us one of the major evidences of a humble heart. If we have the humility of mind characterized by surrender, contrition, and trembling before God, then we will necessarily think of others as more important than ourselves. It doesnt say that they are more valuable than we are, for God values us all equally as His children. He is not partial. It says that we are cognizant of the needs and welfare of others more than we are consumed with ourselves. Humility is not a neglect of self where we act as doormats for others; rather, it is a demeanor and mindset that is far more concerned about how others are than how we ourselves are. Humility is the opposite of self-centeredness because it is driven by service for God and others.
If we find that our hearts are not broken by the eternal destiny of the lost around us or if we are not moved to pray for Christians and missionaries around the world, we are lacking in humility. True humility thinks of them as more important than we ourselves. Such a humble mindset will lead to prayer, seeking Gods face, and a consistency in repenting over sin. This is why it all starts here with humility.
Lose Our Lives
We truly humble ourselves when we do what Christ said in Mark 8:35. After He tells His disciples to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Him, He says, For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospels will save it. He is obviously not talking about bodily harm or physical death, though those things may happen as a Christian surrenders himself to the Lordship of Christ. He is referring to those who try to get all they can out of this life by seeking their own advantage at the expense of serving others. The way of the cross is to pour out our lives into the wells of others. It is to get rid of the self-focus and self-effort that characterizes all other means and systems of worship besides true Christianity. It is saying, I cant, but He can. It is to do all things for the sake of the gospel. True humility is to lose our lives in exchange for receiving Christs life. Paul says in Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Like Paul, we must cease to exist in our own controlling mechanisms, our own agendas, our own goals, our own desires, and our own selfish choices. We surrender them, crucify them, and by faith walk according to Christs plans, desires, goals, and agendas for our lives. We bow our knee to Christ, subject ourselves to His bidding, and vanquish the flesh with all of its passions and desires. (These themes will be expanded throughout the book, especially in the next two chapters.)
Give Up Our Rights
In America we think we have a right to the American dreamhowever we decide we want to define it. The right to decide our future and do what we want is core to who we are, even if it hurts somebody else. We have our rights, or so we say. We must consider Christs example of humility in Philippians 2:5-10:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Christ had everything perfect in heaven. He had God the Fathers very presence and complete approval. But He disregarded His privileges in heaven and took on the form of a man with all of the inherent pains, ugliness, and difficulties. He was so humble that He gave up His life for us on the cross, dying at our hands. He rose from the dead, completing His victory over sin. Now God has exalted Him above all other names because of His ultimate humility in laying His life down willingly for others. Christ knew what it meant to lose His life to God and for others so that He might save it. His rights in heaven were not firmly grasped. He willingly gave them up because of what the Father wanted. We think we have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. God says true freedom lies in giving up our rights, in surrendering to His authority, and in aligning ourselves to the truth. Jesus says that we will be happy if we are poor in spirit, mourning, persecuted, and other things that we would consider to have just the opposite effect. The kingdom is backwards. Our rights are to lose our lives, become slaves of righteousness, and pursue holiness. All other rights are wrongs.
Not Our Will But His
The Father was Christs Master and the One who ordered His will. In Luke 22:42, Jesus prayed under extreme stress and tribulation, Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done. He submitted even then and bowed the knee to His Father. One day every knee will bow to the Son. A life lived for our will and not the will of our Fathers will be destroyed and nothing will remain. We will present the Lord of the Universe nothing on the day of our evaluation at His judgment seat. Like the parent, He will still love us completely and perfectly. Yet we will have missed out on the blessing of bringing our Abba Father joy by doing His will His way. Too many Christians are building on the sand of dead works rather than upon the rock of obedience to the revealed will of God. May God cripple our will so that it is surrendered to His will before it is too late.
We try to exalt ourselves by our skills, intellect, and education, among other things. Our Lord says in 1 Peter 5:6, Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time. True exaltation can only be given by Christ Himself, and it will be given to those who vanquish their own selfish agendas and desires and place themselves in submission to their Master and their Lord, Jesus Christ. Like John the Baptist says in John 3:30, He must increase, but I must decrease. We decrease not by self-abasement or self-insult but by dying to self and immersing ourselves in Christs life, purpose, love, and power. Life is not about discovering our purpose but surrendering to the purposes of God. We follow His example to disregard our rights to what we want in favor of what God wants. We consider others are more important than ourselves. We are willing to humble ourselves by becoming obedient to the point of death. We crucify our fleshly desires so that we can live for Christ, and we also submit ourselves to Gods plan and desires, even if it means our own death for the sake of the gospel. True humility bows the knee to the true Lord of the universe and says, Lord, not my will but Yours be done.
Yet Satan makes it so that we can delude ourselves into thinking that we are humble when we are not. We must dig deeper.
Want to dig deeper? Read Catch Fire: A Call to Spiritual Awakening. Please visit
[url=http://www.relevantbibleteaching.com]Relevant Bible Teaching[/url] for more information. Brent can be contacted at [email protected]