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A few days ago I began to consider where true humility is to be found. In so doing I assert that it is only in Jesus Christ that one can come to a true understanding of what humility is, particularly that it involves dying to self and living for God and for others. However, as I have continued to reflect on this issue, I realized that all I have so far done is shown in what way Christ was an example of humility. Therefore, I would like to show here that Christ not only establish an example of humility in his incarnation, his obedience, his sufferings, and his death, but that he also procured the believers humility as well. To say this another way, that the believer being humble and walking in away of humility before God and others was ultimately accomplished by Jesus Christ.

“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” (2 Cor. 5:14-15)

First, notice that these verses indicate that “that one died for all, therefore all died”. Those “who live”, those who are no longer “dead in their trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) have died with Christ. When Christ died, they died also. As Paul says in another place, “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (Rom. 6:6) or “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). Now recall that the essence of sin in to be a “lover of self ….lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2Tim. 3:2-4). At the heart of sin is to seek our interests before the interests of God and the interests of others. Therefore, when it says that “our old self was crucified with Him…so that we would no longer be slaves to sin”, it is the same as saying that “He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves”. Both of these passages declare to us that we are loosed from the bondage to sin, from the pursuit of self-love, from pride, by being crucified with Christ. No man may ever put to death his own pride, He is too proud to do so. No man can every set aside his love for himself, for he loves himself too much to do so. It is for that reason that Christ intervened to put to death the old man, the proud man, so that those who are in Christ might “no longer live for themselves”.

I hope the reader will heed these words, no man pursues interest other than his own, except for those who are. All men apart from Christ seek their own pleasure and their own desires. They live for themselves. Objection. Some may object at this point and say, “But I know atheists and members of other religions that do good to others. They give to the poor and help their neighbors. How can you say they only live for themselves?” Answer. Those who be not in Christ will meet the needs of others only as far as they see in them their own greater interests. How many do good to others in way of religion as a means of securing salvation for themselves? They do not do good to others out of love for them, but out of love for self. Their life is driven by a desire to secure their own eternal interest (i.e. their salvation) and they use others as a way of doing so. Yet Scripture tells us that those “but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.” (Rom. 2:8). For those who profess to be atheists and deny their maker, they also live in a way as only to themselves. They may seek the good of others and the good of society as a whole, but it will always be driven by a desire to maximize their own interests. For some this will be a desire to secure their own safety and protect from the evils of men. For others it will be a desire to have others think more highly of them, to maximize their glory in the eyes of men.
Why then is it that only Christians can be rightly said to “no longer live for themselves”? Why is it that the good that they do unto others cannot be rightly attributed as a “living for themselves”? The nature of man made religion is to think that man can do something in order to secure their salvation. The result is that men pursue interests of religion out of their own desire to better themselves, to improve their own lot before God. True Christians on the other hand under declares that man can do nothing to secure their lot before God, rather that God and God alone is able to save. They understand that all their righteous deeds are filthy rags before a holy God and that they stand unable to save themselves. Thus the cast themselves on the mercies of God, who sent for His Son to save them. They look to Christ who alone can save to the uttermost. They see that they do not need anything to secure their greatest good, as Christ has already done it on their behalf. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God,”(1Pe. 3:18). Therefore, all that they do in Christ is not done for their own good, but ultimately as 2 Cor. 5:15 says “for Him”. They actions and deeds are not done in a way of promoting themselves or their own interests or their own glory, but rather what they do is to be done in a way of promoting Jesus Christ and pursuing His interests and exulting His glory.
May those of us who have died with Him no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who loved us and gave Himself up for us.

I must confess that I have a propensity toward being a very proud person, which is not a good thing when it comes to standing before God. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jam. 4:6, 1Pe. 5:5) Even more, God testifies that “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished” (Pro. 16:5). Therefore, we are told that “pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Pro. 16:18). If pride is such a damnable thing, how is a man who by nature proud ever to be humbled? How is that someone who is proud can ever receive grace, if God only gives grace to the humble”

Some men have been humbled by providence, that is, God has arranged the events in their life in such a way that they cannot help but acknowledge that they do not have control over it. They understand that life is beyond their control and this produces a sense of humility regarding their circumstances. The question that this raises in my mind however is does such humility reflect a person who has received grace, or is this humility merely a facade or a pretense of what is genuinely called humility?

I am inclined to thing that such a sense of humility is inadequate for several reasons. First, a person who is humbled by the knowledge that life is outside of their control does not necessarily acknowledge that it is in God’s. Rather, they may ascribe the events of their life merely to ‘Chance’, to ‘Luck’, to ‘Fate’ or even to ‘Providence’. None of these however is the true God who has revealed Himself in the Scripture, but rather a god which has been made in their own minds. Second, this sense of humility does not have to recognize the true condition of man. A man may resolve that life is beyond his control and not argue against it, but all the while think that he deserves better. Therefore, even here they continue to place the blame for what happens in their life on God. Their misfortunes are never the result of their sin, but rather the result of bad luck or fate. It is under such persuasions that I fear many people continue to live in state of delusion. Having humbled themselves before a god who is production of their own imaginations and the speculations of their darkened minds, rather than before the true and living God.

So then where should we learn humility? My answer is simply this: “In Christ”. For God has told us that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). There can be no true knowledge of what it means to be humble, except that which is learned in Christ. Now here then is humility,

“Having 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.” (Php. 2:5-8)

“In Christ Jesus” we see what humility truly is. I might lay it out under three heads for our consideration. First, true humility involves death, particularly death to self. So we see that Christ “emptied Himself”, that is, He denied His own rights and privileges as one who was “in the form of God” and who was “equal with God” and took to Himself also “the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men, being found in the appearance as a man”. Now this makes His humbling distinct from our own. For He who was like God became like man, and He who was equal with God also was made equal with men. But His death to self was not only figurative, but literal. For he was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Now this dying was not for his own sake for He was already like God and equal with God, he was always without sin and was under no penalty of death. Yet, in humility He laid down His life of his own desire and out of his own obedience to God.

This then is the second consideration concerning his humbling himself, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.” His humility was in a way of obedience to God the Father. His humility was further manifest in His willingness to do only the Fathers will and to speak only what the Father had given him to say. “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment i just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (Joh. 5:30). “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (Joh. 6:38). This obedience was total and complete as is clear from having strove with sin even to the point of shedding His blood. He would rather obey His Father and suffer the pains of death. Though He sought from His Father way by His obedience might be completed other than the drinking the cup of His wrath, He entrusted Himself to His Father’s care and obeyed until He could say, “It is finished.”

Finally, not only was his humility demonstrated in a way of dying to self and obedience to the Father, but it was done for the sake of others. As previously mentioned, Christ was already God and equal to the Father, yet He chose to empty Himself, to Humble Himself. This then was not for His own sake, but for the sake of His people. First, His obedience was not for Himself for He was already perfect and was in no way in need of righteousness for by His being like God and equal to God, He was in Himself already righteous. So we read, “even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). His obedience was not for Himself, but so that “the many will be made righteous”. His obedience then was for those who would believe in Him and entrust their lives to Him. Second, His death was not for Himself, “even death on a cross”. He did not endure the wrath of God, because He was guilty of any sin or deserving of such a punishment, but rather for us who had sinned against Him and were by nature children of wrath – “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins” (1Jn. 2:2). He was in no way satisfying the wrath of God for His sins for He had none which need to be satisfied for, but rather was making satisfaction for the sins of His people and other their behalf.

So we see that Christ’s humility consisted in His denying (dying) Himself, in His obeying His Father, and in His doing so for the good of others. Here then is true humility seen – hating self, loving God, and loving others.

For the last year or so I have been slowly working my way through the book of Romans. It has been at times one of the most humbling studies, while at others the most encouraging and up lifting. Let me share some of the hightlights of my last year of study.

  1. Foolishness. For a long time I attributed the foolishness of sin to the harmful effects that it has, such as hurting ourselves or others, but ultimately offending God. After considering Romans 1:22-23, I would suggest that the foolishness of sin does not stem from the consequences of sin, but rather from the surpassing value that we forsake in the act of sinning. “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man …” Notice that folly is connected with the exchange of the glory of God for something else. A series contemplation of sin should lead us to realize the vanity, not to mention the offense, of it. We exchange the worship of insurpassible worth of God for the worship of worthless things – or rather things that must derive their worth from the God. We exchange the eternal enjoyment of God for the fleeting pleasure of sin. We exchange Him who is of infinitely good for the partaking of that which is infinitely destructive. No matter how you cut the cake we are fools for having abandonded the God who created us for the creation.
  2. Fear of God. While this shouldn’t have really seemed to be such a profound topic, I am some what slow to catch on sometimes. When on considers what the fundamental root of all sin is most people would say pride, the exultation of self, which seems like a fair assessment. But let me suggest we look at it from a different perspective – that the root of sin is ultimately the lack of fear (or reverence) for God. “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (3:18) Now if we see God rightly, I think it would total change our perspective on everything. If we saw how holy and righteous and just God is would we not come to hate our sinfulness and rebellion against Him. If we saw how patient and kind and tolerate and gracious and merciful He is toward us would it not lead us to repentance (2:4) and to strive more diligently after personal holiness and devotion to God. If we saw how powerful and wise and good He was would we question His providential workings in our lifes or would we praise Him even in the days of trials and suffering. The way then to deal with sin is to behold more clearly the character of God.
  3. Soveriegnty of God and Justice. By far one of the most humbling passages to study was Romans 9 as Paul lays out the sovereignty of God is salvation. “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (9:16) It is an extraordanary thing to consider that ones eternal destiny is not in ones own hands. Or rather that if left to my own will or running that results would be eternal condemnation and God would be right and just and fair in carrying out my sentence. But yet what great encouragement it is to think that my eternal well fair is the hands of an ever faithful and loving God.
  4. Great Mercy and Great Love. Let me end with this last consideration, over the last year as I have contemplated the love of God particularly in light of Romans 5:1-11 and 8:28-39, I have been utterly amazed that God’s would show such love and compassion, such mercy and grace, toward one such as I. As I have contemplated this amazing reality even today, I am yet aware that I have only begun to scratch the surface of the “depths of both the wisdom and the knowledge of God.” It is my hope and prayer even for the years ahead that I would be more amazed at who Jesus Christ IS that would cause Him to do what He DID, so I may tell others about this great God and Savior.
  5. Christ and the Cross. Ok, I lied, I am compeled to add one more. I have come to realize that the glory of God is not simply found in the Cross (i.e. what Jesus did), but also in the Character of the One who hung upon it (i.e who Jesus is). Without Christ, the God-Man, the Cross is simply and instrument of dead. For it was the very nature of the One who hung on Calvary that gave the cross its meaning. It is Christ who turns a simply blood stained piece of wood into a vibrant demonstration of the glory of God. And without the Cross, we would never have seen the vibrancy and beauty of the glorious God in the person of Christ. For it was by means of the Cross that Christ manifest the glory of the Father in such a way to us that we might come again to fear and adore the one who we had foolishly forsaken. So Christians let us seek to stir one another up not only to love and good deeds, but to the beholding of the glory of God in the Person of Christ and in the Cross of Christ.

When I was in college, I was often told that if the professor ever says something 3 times you know it has to be important. I don’t know why three was the magic number, but it is true when people want to make sure that we know certain thinks they are sure to repeat the information several of times to be sure that no one misses it. In both the apostles Peter and James are sure to remind their readers that “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jam. 4:6, 1 Pet. 5:5).

What I find more amazing is that both writers see humility as having a specific point of reference. Some people are humbled by being in the presence of some important individual. Others are humbled because of some circumstance in their lives, such as a natural disaster. Others are humbled by their own poor performance in various areas of their lives. But James and Peter both have a very different type of humility in mind – humility with respect to God.

James tells his readers “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord”, while Peter tells his, “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.” As I have pondered these verse the last week, especially James 4:6, I found myself thinking about the nature of the One in whose presence we to be humble, Jesus Christ.

  1. He upholds everything in the world (Heb. 1:2)
  2. He made all things (Heb. 1:2, Col. 1:16)
  3. He is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15)
  4. He had all authority on heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18)
  5. He is the lawgiver and judge (Jam. 4:12)
  6. He is the Lord of lords and King of kings (Rev. 19:17)
  7. He has the ability to save and destroy (Jam. 4:12)
  8. He can give life to the dead and call into being that which does not exist (Rom. 4:17)
  9. He is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29)
  10. He is compassionate and gracious (Ex. 34:6)
  11. He is gentle and humble in heart (Matt. 11:29)
  12. He is the lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:12) 
  13. He is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5)
  14. He is the just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Him (Rom. 3:26)
  15. He is Holy, Holy, Holy. (Isa. 6)
  16. He is perfect (Matt.
  17. He loves righteousness and hates wickedness (Ps. 45:7)
  18. He loves his enemies (Rom. 5:8)
  19. He shows kindness, tolerance, and patience to all men (Rom. 2:4)
  20. He desires men to repent and live (2 Pet. 3:9, Ezek. 33:11)
  21. He is the sovereign God.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the character of the one before whom we should be humbled. I have become more and more aware as I have studied God’s Word that in the end the only reason anyone will not be saved is because they refuse to humble themselves before the Lord Jesus Christ.

“As I live!” declares the Lord God, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back, from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?”

Would not Israel have been saved if they had turned back? Would God not have shown them compassion and grace if they had forsaken their wicked ways and returned to Him? But alas it seems most people are too interested in their wicked ways to humble themselves under the mighty hand of Him with whom they will have to do. We must all stop to ask ourselves, “Are the fleeting pleasures of sin really worth it?”, “Is a moments enjoyment worthy and eternity of suffering?”

“Turn back, turn back, from your wicked ways! Why will you die, O sinner?” – Come to Christ for He has satisfied the wrath of God that your wickedness rightly deserves. No matter how wicked a sinner you may be, He has grace enough for you. No matter how unrighteous you may be, Christ’s righteousness is enough. You have nothing to offer the King, worry not, there is no charge…it is free. “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost.” (Isa. 55:1)