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DIFFERENT HUMILITY

Would you like to be known as a humble person? There are few qualities that are admired nearly as much as humility. A humble person is considered a virtuous (good) person. We love world-class athletes and sporting heroes who are great at what they do, yet humble. We acclaim a true champion with the accolade, “They’re so humble!” Humility is prized today as one of the greatest virtues a person can attain. However, there was a time when humility was seen as weakness and something to be ashamed of — resembling its linguistic cousin — humiliation — and non-one ever wants to be humiliated! But then something dramatically changed the way the world regarded humility. Jesus the Christ entered the world. He exhibited a humility which involved the selfless care of others. This is what people saw (and experienced) when they encountered Jesus. Thus, no one challenged His claim of being humble when He declared-

Take My yoke on you and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:29 NET

Jesus gave the world a different perspective on humility. Those early followers of Christ became renowned for their embracing of humility. They set the example for future generations of Christ-followers to live humbly in service of others. Many of these godly Christ-followers were ordinary people who didn’t seek wealth or fame or even public attention. Their pursuit of humility was genuine and often resulted in costly selfless serving of others. Their lives became admirable and inspired millions of others to seek a relationship with the Christ and to follow His life of humility and service to others. There are many things that can be taught in this life, but there are some things that can only be caught by seeing it for yourself in someone else whom you come to admire.  

With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love
Ephesians 4:2

IS TRUE HUMILITY TRULY ATTAINABLE?

Would the New Testament command followers of the Christ to do something that was impossible to do? Hardly! Would the New Testament command people to strive to attain an attitude, a virtue, that was unachievable? If you can demonstrate that you have become a considerate and gentle person, can you claim to be one without sounding arrogant (the opposite of humility)? Can someone take seriously the command to be humble and truly claim that they are without negating their claim in the process? Is it more humble to claim that you are not humble even if you are (and then, can a truly humble be truly humble if they lie about not being humble)? Perhaps the answer to these questions lies in what humility truly means. Consider these biblical commands to be humble: 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3

¶ Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience
Colossians 3:12

Considering these New Testament commands, we soon realise that the commands to be humble are couched within lists of other reasonably attainable commands: treat others kindly, be considerate of others, have compassion for people, be patient with others. Since these things can be done (and claimed to have been done), this supports the idea that humility can also be achieved. Perhaps then, the one who has demonstrated their obedience to the New Testament to be humble may not necessarily be proud or arrogant if they declare that they claim to be humble. 

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 14:11

TRUE HUMILITY

Humility is a hallmark of a true follower of Christ, because it was so integral to the character that Christ displayed. It is one of the goals of the Christian life. The two other most important Christian virtues, holiness and love, are the means by which a son or daughter of God becomes humble. In fact, this triumvirate of the Christian virtues lies at the core of what it means to live Christianly. Each of these virtues speaks to how we treat, think of, and relate to others.

  • To live a holy life is to treat others respectfully in the light of our respect for God (Rom. 12:1). Thus, sexuality is expressed within the respect that we have God for decreed its exclusive boundaries within the covenant of marriage (1Thes. 4:3; Heb. 13:4).

  • To live a life of love is to treat others in a way that seeks their highest good and is considerate of their welfare (1Cor. 13).

  • To live a humble life is embody both of the virtues of holiness and love and in the process not seek to promote yourself but to help others who may not have anyone promoting them and their welfare. It demands that we not assume judgmental opinions about others, but seek to learn their stories and use our power for their benefit.

 

HUMILITY AND POWER

Can you be a powerful person (with position, privilege, influence) and also be a humble person? The answer from Christ seems to be, “Yes.” But it is a yes that comes with warnings. Power tends to corrupt people. Humility makes a person virtuous. Humility embraced by a powerful person makes them an admirable person. In John Dickson’s book, Humilitas, he defines humility as using one’s power for the good of others. He gives many examples of how this has been the case in the lives of those universally acknowledged as humble. His story of the three white Detroit teenage boys who got on a bus in the 1930s and thought it might be fun to taunt the solitary black man who was sitting quietly at the back of the bus is brilliant example of humility. The boys jibed the black man attempting to pick a fight with him. They called him all kinds of names and threw various insults at him. The black man just sat there unfazed and silent. When the bus came to the stop where the black man stood to his feet to get off, the three boys noticed for the first time that this black man was bigger than they had realised. Much bigger. As he stood us they noticed that he wasn’t quite the scrawny man they had assumed. As he walked past the now silent boys he took something from his pocket and gave it to one of the boys. After he go off the bus, the boy looked at what this black man had handed him. It was a card. It read – JOE LOUIS, Boxer

These boys had just encountered the future undefeated heavyweight boxing champion of the world. In fact, not just any heavyweight boxing champion, but the longest undefeated reign of any heavyweight champion in the history of boxing —  who is widely acclaimed as the greatest boxer of all time. These boys had nearly picked a fight with a man who would knock-out cold 52 of some of the toughest men on the planet. Yet, Joe Louis Barrow, ‘the Brown Bomber’, had used his power for their good!

But Joe Louis is not the greatest example of holding your power in restraint for the good of others, as an aspect of humility. Jesus is. Christ was not bragging when He said, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53). Christ is therefore the greatest example of withholding your power for the good of others. But we should not be confused into thinking that humility is weakness. Having the power to hurt someone but choosing to restrain this power for their good is an act of humility. (There are times of course when evil must be restrained for the good of others which requires resistance and sometimes force which does not negate humility.) Most of us will be repeatedly tempted to use our power to hurt others who hurt us. When we yield to these temptations it undermines our pursuit of humility. Let us consider how we might pursue humility when we are tempted to get defensive and snap back at someone, or when we might use sarcasm or gossip to demean someone, or when we might present ourselves as being better than we actually are.

 

INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLES OF HUMILITY

Having said that Joe Louis was a great example of humility, and that Jesus Christ was the greatest example of humility, I want to close my exhortation to regard humility as attainable by the example of a Polish priest by the name of Jerzy Popieluszko. Jerzy faced great oppression from the Polish Communist government in the early 1980s. Communists at this time treated Polish Christians with blatant brutality. But Father Popieluszko taught his congregation to love their persecuting enemies and not hurt them back. So powerful and popular were his sermons that they were shared widely around Poland on cassette tapes (ask your grandfather what these were). Then one day, the Communist Secret Police could take it no more and they kidnapped Jerzy and brutally murdered him and threw his battered body into a reservoir. The Sunday after his death, thousands gathered to hear Father Jerzy by a cassette tape of his last sermon, broadcast on loud-speakers by his church, in which he appealed to his flock to obey Christ and “do good to those who persecute you” and not to do harm  (Luke 6:27-29). The Police braced themselves for the anticipated riots to follow. But none came. The people had heeded their pastor’s words to obey Christ and the result was that, within six years, communism collapsed in Poland.

Thousands of Polish people gathered to pay tribute to the late Jerzy Popieluskzo

Thousands of Polish people gathered to pay tribute to the late Jerzy Popieluszko

Humility is lowering yourself rather than belittling yourself.

Humility is being honest without exaggerating.

Humility is listening and talking.

Humility is more asking and less telling.

Humility is helping more and still being prepared to be helped.

Humility associates with the unlikely not just because it blesses them, but because there is also a blessing in doing it.

Humility is prepared to join with others and blend into the crowd even when the spotlight is on someone else.

Humility admits dependency upon others—especially God and His mercy and grace.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
First Peter 5:5

Humility must be attainable because we are commanded to exhibit it. “Humble yourself” the apostle Peter told his audience (1Pet. 5:6). The apostle Paul told the Corinthians that this was indeed what he had done when he came to them (2Cor. 11:7). He then proceeded to remind the Corinthians of his ministry among them in a fair and honest assessment of it. We shouldn’t confuse sharing such an honest assessment of ourselves as bragging. But neither should we think that we need to do it to anyone who would listen. In this instance, Paul was responding to opponents who were undermining the gospel and the faith of the Corinthians in it. May God help us each to be humble and all that that entails. And may we, by His grace, attain to this kind of humility and thereby reflect Christ more accurately to an increasingly confused, conflicted, broken world. And one final thing, just be careful who you pick a fight with on your next bus trip – or better still, make it a habit to not pick on anybody (especially heavyweight champions of the world!).  

Your Pastor,

Andrew

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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.