In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2: 6-11, NIV
My personal key ring is bulky and heavy. There are, of course, house keys, remote controls for two automobiles, and several small mementos. The real weight, however, is a three link stretch of silver chain. It was added eighteen years ago when I was serving as Director of Pastoral Ministries for the South Carolina Baptist Convention. At the conclusion of a pastor/deacon conference I spoke on the Apostle Paul's statement "...for you were bought at a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20, NIV) and the Greek word "doulos", usually translated "slave". The larger lesson was about humility and the call of every believer to the spiritual discipline of self-denial. That chain link has been a life line since then on those many occasions when I was getting a little too big for my britches.
Humility isn't a alien concept in the biblical depiction of genuine faith. When Jesus denounced the cities in which he performed miracles because they would not repent he told the multitudes, "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" (Matthew 11:29, NIV). The Apostle Paul's description of Jesus in the Philippians passage above clearly states that Jesus "morphed" himself downward to become a "doulos", a slave to finish God's assignment. With great emphasis Paul added that Jesus humbled himself even to the point of death. What is more, Jesus taught the necessity of self-denial and humility as the first step of following him---"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23, NIV). When his most intimate followers debated which of them would be greatest in the Kingdom Jesus scolded them with the truth that "...whoever takes a humble place---becoming like this child---is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:4, NIV).
This lowering of self, becoming humble, expressing the humility of Jesus, is a strong biblical character trait evident in the lives of the humans God used for his redemptive purposes in history. What's the deal with a humble heart? How does following the example of Christ's humility prepare us to be finishers in our many life pursuits? The lowering of self removes obstacles that tend to move us to the sidelines---
1. Humility gives us ears that hear and eyes that see.
Jesus said that religious legalism and self attainment gave the resistant Jewish people of his day calloused hearts. As a result they had ears that could not hear and eyes that could not see. This hardness was the result of their egotistical view of personal works. Inflated egos prevented them from correctly relating to the broad scope of life. They would not trust God. He said, "For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them" (Matthew 13: 15, NIV). Open hearts of humility are the "otherwise" of this great passage. When we humbly follow we can hear and see those matters of significance in our life passage.
2. Humility gives us a teachable spirit.
King David knew the failure and tragedy of a prideful heart. Several notable sins were the result of not listening to his counselors or God. He also learned the grace of humility in his personal life and his role as king of Israel. He wrote, "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way" (Psalm 25:9, NIV). Humility admits that we don't know everything and opens our heart to direction from above. Being a life long learner is a product of humility. Our hearts our opened to instruction and direction needed to navigate the complications that can detain and detour us.
3. Humility positions other people prominently in our life system.
Scripture insists that people of faith value others as greater than themselves. This truth became a consistent teaching point in the letters of the Apostle Paul. He wrote, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing one another in love: (Ephesians 4: 2, NIV). To the Philippians he added, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves" (Philippians 2:3, NIV). Our vain, prideful ways often destroy our most significant witness to the people around us. Humility removes self from the prominent place in our lives so we can grow, mature, and move forward with strong relational dynamics, witness, and service.
4. Humility changes the scorecard by which we measure and value life.
Motivated by self fulfillment can distort the joyful realities of our relationships, goals, objectives, and aspirations. Once again, a humble heart enables us to receive the bounty and blessings God promises to those who follow him. Solomon wrote, "Pride brings a person low, but the low in spirit gain honor" (Proverbs 29:23, NIV). What Simon Peter wrote many generations later has become somewhat of a life verse for me. It was given to me as Harriet and I grieved and struggled with the expected questions in the aftermath of our sons murder in 2011. He wrote, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time" (1 Peter 5:6, NIV). The promise of being lifted up in God's time have given us a new valuation system that relieved our bitterness and questioning after such a horrible and tragic event.
Jesus didn't need humility to finish God's redemptive work. He was God in the flesh and possessed the divine nature to enable him to finish what God had given him on earth. But, he did leave us vivid expressions of humility so that we could follow his example and finish those things God appointed us in this life.
Wednesday, Step 2: The Step Up, Leadership.
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