Seeking Humility in a world of Pride

Humility is the Golden Virtue and without humility all other virtues are rendered meaningless even Hypocritical.

The Golden Virtue of humility, is by its very nature,  something that is more often known by experiential reality being clearly seen in others who are living by the Spirit of the words in the Golden Rule, “ Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

But this all important way of “being” seen in the Golden Rule is the shallow end of the pool of humility. It is the flow and not the fountainhead.

For example:

If I as a child love my brother and sister and give them of my own things,  doing for them things I would have them do for me  it is good, however those gestures would mean  little if I also decided to Kill our parents .

What I can provide of my own resources is empty and shallow if I have cut off the fountainhead from which the greatest blessings come, it is even treacherous.  It then becomes PRIDE and not Humility.

Pride is not a virtue of course, rather it is the death of all virtues and it mocks all virtues.

There is only one test for humility ……and it is a most humbling one.

God is the fountainhead and if I kill Him in my head, if I kill Him in my heart,  if I eclipse His Glory from my neighbor by hardening my own heart against Him as my all sufficient creator and sustainer and if I deny His existence, I cut supply off from the very source, the fountainhead of all Goodness.

Every “lesser Good”, imprinted on the conscience of man, even if we abide by it is impotent and rogue without being connected to the fountainhead.

Apart from understanding and accepting my place in the created order of things as a child made in the image of God, humility will be a concept in a vacuum; an empty and dried up stream without a source.

If we are not willing to be connected to God we fail the test of humility because we refuse to be Humble in the first order of things.

Yet

“God sends rain on the just and the unjust”

In other words God the fountainhead gives to all liberally but there is a distinction made between the “Just” and the “unjust”.  The  “Just” know the fountainhead, Love the fountainhead and accept and give thanks in Truth to the Lord for His blessings.  The just accept their humble state and are the humble. Their Identity is in God.

The “unjust”, also receive from the fountainhead to a degree but give no thanks, accept no authority over their lives and are the, “Prideful”.

The greatest blessing, the singular blessing that opens up the total fountainhead to us is found in the Gift of God’s Son Jesus Christ. Humility acknowledges need and accepts what is required to meet that need.

The despots of this world always demand we bow the knee to them but with God the knee is bowed in the beautifully freeing reality that God is God and that in Christ we have received mercy upon mercy. We make no demands of God we see that our identity is not based in how we feel but in God and in Christ.

Jesus’ Life, Death and Resurrection become ours through the agency of the gift of faith through the Holy Spirit.

So I pray,

“Lord, grant me humility lest PRIDE keep me locked into some lesser fleeting identity attached to money, sex, position or feelings. At death none of these will do. Grant me only eternal life through Jesus Christ. (“May thy will be done on earth as in heaven.” )And help me to be some vessel to point the way out of this Pride obsessed world parading around in its various forms in the name of the self.”

We all have received many wounds while PRIDE rode over our heads and held us fast through our passions and our fears.  Ought we not to be humble towards those who now receive the wounds while we have been set free?

Let’s get serious about “Humility” by looking away from ourselves and to the fountainhead remembering that the distinction lies in God since we all have lived in the narrow confines of pride in some way and only in Christ did we ever see the darkness of it.

Stand aside, let God shine.

God employs strange means to reveal His glory and righteousness among mankind.

Certainly the strangest, is that God’s perfect righteousness is reflected through the testimony of unrighteous sinners.

In this world when you want want to espouse the Glory of something,  you use the best models don’t you?       I’ve never seen a toothpaste commercial  declare their Glory by using people with rotten teeth.

Yet In God’s wisdom, He does just the opposite of the toothpaste commercials.  He reveals His Glory through the Gospel and saves sinners who have not just rotten teeth but rotten hearts and He undertakes to make them point to His perfect Glory and righteousness.

No true Christian could ever say  ,“ I am the poster boy or girl of righteousness” God accepts me because  “I am Good”.

in fact the Gospels very clearly illustrate that it is the broken hearted the “sinners” and the “Poor in spirit” who come into proper relationship to God through the redemption that is in Christ.

A Christian can and should say, “ I am a great sinner and God is a great savior”.

We should make it a practice to never stand in the way of God’s light by pretending to be better than we are.    Instead we should be intentionally Stepping aside from taking glory onto ourselves and point to God and behold God who is truly Glorious.

Beware of trying to make people “believe in you” it is a fools venture.

By saying this I mean that God will be seen in our life as we know and trust in Him and as we look to Him and are changing, admitting our weakness and need of Him. There will be fruit of growth toward Christ likeness but only as we trust in Him.

Others as a by-product will see that God is real and will see through us the Glory of God Himself, even though we may appear smaller to those same people because we have stepped out of Hypocrisy into reality.   And the reality is we are not righteous according to God’s standard.

Jesus accuses the Pharisees ( A very proud and good works oriented people) of keeping  people out of the Kingdom and of refusing to enter into the Kingdom themselves!!!”

The Pharisees did everything to be seen by others as being righteous. They actually did do many “good Deeds” but they blocked the way.  Indeed many looked at them and said,  “wow I could never be like those people they are very devout and I could never be accepted”

The Pharisee loved to see this kind of reaction because it made them feel artificially secure in their own Righteousness. The more “self- righteous” they became ,the further they went from God and God’s true Glory was darkened as they stood in the way.

Thus the Charge from Jesus in Matthew 23:13

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”

As soon as we recognize the true Holy Righteousness of God we will not even dare to think of a    “self –righteousness”.

Instead we  see what God has provided in Jesus Christ  for the forgiveness of sins and as we trust only in His righteousness that is given to us by God as a gift through Jesus Christ, God will rightly receive all the Glory due His name as the only righteous one and as a merciful Savior.

It is this relationship based on salvation ,that we both get out of the way and also point to the Way.

If fact we perfectly testify to  the truth that Jesus Christ  declared when He said.  “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but through me”

And none of us who come this way block the righteousness or glory of God from others sight when we confess that we are sinners saved by grace.

The first outward note of our faith is that we no longer wear a mask before God and it then follows (sometimes slowly) that we no longer wear a mask before men.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Glorious precisely because God Himself is Glorious.

*  “In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

Praise be to Jesus Christ the author and finisher of our faith.

(*In Christ alone- written by Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty)

Acknowledge sin, acknowledge Christ

Every gardener  knows that in order for something to grow upward it must first grow downward.  A healthy plant or tree must have a  deep  root system in order to be healthy enough to grow strong and produce fruit.

What is true of physical living things is  also true of spiritually living people. It is no accident that God created our environment to instruct us about how life works.

To plant properly you must dig deep, and  break up the ground so that the seed which is planted can grow deep roots. If you dig too shallow, the roots, when they grow will stop growing where they meet the hard layer and the root system will be hindered.

But the planting area must also be free of competing vegetation because competing vegetation or weeds will choke out the tender plant by sapping its nutrients and will also block its access to sunshine.

This applies to our Spiritual lives as well and we have a strong  directive from God in the O.T as to its spiritual application.

Jeremiah 4:3 NLT

“This is what the LORD says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns.

And from the New Testament we have a directive as well in the parable of the sower. In Matthew 13 Jesus begins by saying that some seed is stolen away and never germinates at all. (The Unbeliever) .

But even of the soil that received, Jesus  says to us  that the soil with no depth prevents the seedling from taking proper root and the plant dies. Thorns (uncleared ground) also choke out the seed.

So Spiritually speaking we are to be weed free and to go deep.

I think J.I Packer captures the essence of the situation in His statement,

“He that has learned to feel his sin, and to trust Christ as Savior, has learned the two hardest and greatest lessons in Christianity.”  J.I. Packer.

To  “feel our sin,”  is to throw the spade in the ground of our hearts “Hard Places”, and turn it over. It is a kind of violence really, just like breaking up tough ground, but oh so necessary.

This is the preparation for root growth. The spade must penetrate. As Dr. Packer says, its a “hard lesson”.

This activity of “feeling our sin”  is a means to an end… that we might grow upward and our upward growth happens when we see, that as bad as we are , Christ is a more than adequate Savior for us.

  But we must trust Him.

In trowing in the spade and  “feeling our sin” ,we will discover our inner motives that lead us into sin and be shocked, appalled, dismayed and depressed.  (I hope you read the puritans Like John Owen, Richard Baxter and John Bunyan)

But as we look to and trust in  our Savior, Jesus Christ, despite our knowledge of our own sinfulness, we find that in Him we are made alive, forgiven, loved and cleansed, we are given gifts and made to produce fruit.

Fresh righteousness  will appear on our branches and others will want to know our forgiving empowering Savior too!

Now let us keep growing and go and make disciples who will do the same.

 

Don’t be a Coward

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word  coward in its noun form as…

“A person who is contemptibly lacking in the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.”

Coward in it’s adjectival form is defined as someone being …

“Excessively afraid of danger or pain”

Cowardice is not approved of by God.  In fact it’s downright dangerous, much more dangerous than the momentary loss, danger or pain that a coward chooses to avoid.

Revelation 21:8 speaking of final judgment is very strong in its description of the kinds of thing that we must repent of in this life through Christ and it starts with calling out the Cowards.

Revelation 21:8 is strong stuff.

Revelation 21:8

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

 

So with those strong words in mind, where cowardice appears as the first indictment against the damned  it is good to examine cowardice.

what does it  looks like when it shows up in our world and how can we  ourselves avoid being cowards?

To clarify, cowardice is not just fear  Cowardice is much more than fear, it is excessive fear.  Every one deals with fear and  it can show up in any heart yet that does not mean we are a coward.   Cowardice  is excessive  fear leading one to act, or fail to act,  solely based on one’s own  self-interest.

At the heart of cowardice is the primary motivation of self-preservation and a complete concern for one’s own well-being and comfort in the face of a situation that requires self sacrifice or would cause, personal loss or pain. The coward calculates everything through a grid that centers on the self and selfish desires.

But what does cowardice look like?

Here is a short-list of examples of the “Common Coward”.

Cowards can look like the person who takes another persons life in order to gain worldly possessions, position or seeks to destroy another  persons life in retaliation for injured pride.  Some even do under a religious guise.           A  “Murderer”  is a Coward.

Cowards can look like the guy that fathers a child and refuses to take his responsibility to raise that child.  He gives no concern for the well being of the child or the mother.    Mothers are certainly capable of this too.       An  “Irresponsible” person is a Coward.

Cowards can look like the person who  focuses on career and builds a comfortable nest egg and never gives to the causes of others around them who may be in desperate need. (remember the rich man and Lazarus). Some may give but mainly for being recognized by others.            A “Greedy” person is a Coward.

Cowards can look like the person who refuses to work (though they have able bodies and minds along with opportunities to do so) because they can lean on others to keep them comfortable.    A “Slothful” person is a Coward.

Cowards can look like the person who insulates themselves against unpleasant thoughts concerning their own mortality, Gods existence, and whether there exists an ultimate purpose for their life.  They are their own God and make an Idol out of themselves.          An “Idolator” is a Coward.

This is by no means a complete list but I think the point has been made.

God requires of us to trust and obey even if it will cause discomfort, loss, pain and rejection.

In the process you will enjoy the fruit of the Holy Spirit and partake of the divine nature. No one partaking of the divine nature can be a Coward.

The opposite of cowardice is not Heroism but it is Faith in God, (which may certainly lead to actions of heroic proportion).

I say to myself ….and to all.

Don’t be a coward.

Follow Christ wherever he may lead.

God is able to make us stand in Christ in any and every situation.

Unleavened bread, a picture of authenticity.

When we think of a relationship with God we intuitively know that we must always be real with him.

After all, God knows the heart. ‘Nothing is hidden from His sight”.  A person in true prayer before God comes quickly to recognize that there is no choice but to  be open and sincere, to be “unleavened”

We also have a wonderful promise of assurance that as we do come to Him, even to confess our many faults,—as David well knew ,— God will not reject us.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;   A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17

This of course is a principle of an Eternal Kingdom, where God ,…

“…who was and is and is to come”,      reigns now both in heaven and the hearts of His own children.

Yet, how difficult it is to be real in “This present  earthly world or kingdom”!!!

It is not a part of the value system of this” present earthly  kingdom” where God is ignored, denied, and where men  hide from, and even  hate God.

As a principle, “authenticity” may be given lip service and may even be applauded to a certain degree in this world. ( Of course all within respectable bounds). Never to acknowledge ones full spiritual poverty.  “Lets Just all agree that were OK and just need to “self improve”.

Personal reputation or the keeping up of false appearances will be the undoing of us if we try to hold on to it.  Holding on to this just shows that the “fear of man” (what people think of us) is more important than “The fear of God”.

Being completely unleavened is a work that only the Holy Spirit can perform in the heart.

As John the Baptist stood crying out on the shores of the Jordan, “Repent and be baptized” , it was those who knew themselves to be “Poor in spirit” and who desired above all else to be right with God who were drawn toward God ,  it was those ones who could  …step out from the crowd …and  identify themselves before their peers as needing God more than a reputation before man.  There stepping out  was not out of an abundance of personal virtue but out of a lack of it.   They chose to identify with God even though they would forever be self identified sinners in need of rescue.

And the really amazing thing is, that Jesus himself  at the very beginning of His ministry, stepped into the waters of the Jordan to be baptized by John!!

Why?!!!        I mean even John Knew that Jesus had no need to repent of sin. John almost refused to do it,  stating  to Jesus. “It is I who NEED be baptized by you and yet you come to me?”

Jesus stepped into those waters because He came to identify with “Sinners”.

Why?        Because Jesus would take upon Himself the very sins of those whom He came to save.

This is basic Christianity; Basic Gospel.  Lose this and there is no Gospel to tell.

Jesus is “The bread of Life”. The true and perfect unleavened —“bread of Life ,“who came down from heaven.

The way to God is through the “unleavened way”.  Coming as sinner to God through Christ, who identifies with sinners who are willing to let their knowledge of spiritual poverty drive them to Him.

The Law of God against sinners stands.  Yet as the Apostle Paul proclaims, “Christ is the end of the law for all who believe”, because Christ fulfills the law for us.

In the end, when this present  life is slipping away— and it will— our reputation before men will be a hollow comfort, even a torture to us, if we have not allowed the ultimate reality of the kingdom of God to supersede this temporary reality so that we act according to “Ultimate Reality” .

We see this if we follow the logic of Jesus, speaking of the “leavened” pharisees who stood upon their own righteousness and reputation before men, ” I tell you the truth they have already have their reward in full”.  Jesus said such are excluded from the Kingdom of God because they refuse to enter into it.

But to have God Himself, and the knowledge of His forgiveness and Love , because we have settled the issue through relationship to Christ while we could, will be more than a comfort at death.

It will be the entrance of eternal Joy, to a degree that as we slip away into Gods eternal presence, we will know the full, undiluted, unleavened joy of perfect fellowship through the eternal ages!!!   It is those who are”in Christ” that will enter.

That day will  most certainly come to all and the eternal realities will roll back every covering anyway so why not come and stand in the light of Christ as a trophy of God’s grace while we live?  Now is the time to be unleavened the cost will seem like nothing compared to what we gain in Christ!!

As John Newton , the author of Amazing Grace so famously said ,

“Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

Oh Lord, forgive, love, cleanse, guide and transform us as we look to you in unleavened honesty may we have no less than all you offer in Christ. Amen.

J.I Packer and his challenge to the church

  J.I Packer: A Christian worth listening to…

J.I packer, is a British-born Canadian Christian theologian in the  Low- Church- Anglican and Calvinist  traditions. He currently serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at  Regent College in Vancouver British Columbia. He is considered one of the most influential Evangelicals in North America.

He has been the theologian emeritus of the Anglican Church in North America since its inception in 2009.    (courtesy of Wiki)

J.I Packer has written many  good theological books and articles including one of his best know entitled , “Knowing God”.

Make him a part of your theological library, ( I can count 5 of His books on my shelf currently)

What a privileged we have to speak to one another– and to listen– across denominational lines concerning struggles and the realities of our faith. we may even issue challenges to one another in the spirit of love as J.I Packer does in this short video

J.I Packer is a very wise elder brother in Christ and my prayer is  “Lord gives us more men like this!!”

 

The Gospel believed and applied.

Dr Martin Lloyd Jones, is a master at exposing the very roots of spiritual depression, as we soon find out in Chapter IV of Spiritual Depression.

He is minister/physician who is straightforward in his approach to spiritual matters and like one who with great concern grabs his parishioner/patient  by the collar and speaks steadily and truthfully to him about the seriousness of his  spiritual condition and the application of  a sure remedy.

The Root of spiritual depression in the life of the believer, to summarize Lloyd-Jones,  is essentially a belief in some lie or deception of the enemy of our soul. Lloyd-Jones reminding believers that,

”  We are brought into this marvelous life, this spiritual condition by the grace of God . But we must never forget that over against us is  another power. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God,but the Bible tells us that we are opposed by another kingdom, which is also a spiritual kingdom, and that all along we are being attacked and besieged.”

He also picks up the theme of  the “Subtlety” of our adversary who seeks to destroy the work of God and especially the enjoyment of the knowledge of the goodness of God. Therefore we face opposition in the form of  manifold temptation and discouragement. It is to be somewhat expected and I so heartily agree.

Jones  in speaking of the Remedy  for spiritual depression asserts, that  the reality of  what God has done in Jesus Christ by providing forgiveness for sinners who will believe  in Him ( The Gospel), must be taken into all aspects of our human personality. That the glorious  message of the gospel must permeate —- Our Mind—-Our Heart—Our Will.

That humankind ( Made in His image) has been designed in such a way that our personality, (intellect, emotions, desires) might be  captivated by him in the gospel message.  the message of the gospel must be first believed then applied.

Romans 6:17

” But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.”

From this short verse, Lloyd -Jones unpacks that  “…that form of doctrine…” referred to by Paul, is the very Gospel message  which delivers from the power of sin to condemn and to which we were all helpless to escape in our own efforts.

Lloyd-Jones goes on to say that this  Gospel reality ( the complete forgiveness of sins through the completed work of Jesus) must first be accepted and understood with the mind. It is a (doctrine of truth), then it must be applied to the heart (where so many of our troubles arise and the reality of emotional instability, fears and desires compete) finally we are to take the Gospel to our will so that from our heart where our affections are turned from self to the joy of Christ  we willingly obey .

Knowing with our mind the truth of the gospel, believing in our heart his love for us and  willingly choosing those things that glorify Christ and keep us from those thoughts and desires that  bring us down and make us unfruitful, conflicted and discouraged.

Chapter IV has been very good for the soul!!!

Spiritual Depression

I am endeavoring to read through Spiritual Depression by  D. Martin Lloyd Jones.

I plan on reading, learning and then commenting on it.  This is not a review or a critique but an exercise.

Here is a great link with some audio of Lloyd Jones preaching. (I am not selling the book and do not profit from the advertisement of it).

Enjoy-

Thinking Critically

Have you ever been in the middle of watching a news program, sitting in a classroom  or (been caught up in an infomercial) and suddenly thought ,” Wait a minute, what am I being fed here? I am not  just being informed but  subtly told how I should think, feel, and react to the information being presented”.

With the infomercial we catch on pretty quick ( but it’s so tempting to believe that we too could have those rock hard abs in just 4 weeks with only 30 seconds a day of the ” Ab-maestro”).  We want the abs, they want our money, usually in just 27 easy payments of  $14 (plus shipping and handling).

But who really goes for that stuff anyway?  Actually,enough people buy that stuff to allow the seller to pay for hour-long commercials.  Yeah.

We may have little respect for the authority of the infomercial but when we have a person in a trusted  position of authority on our television, such as a news anchor person, a  popular talk show host,  or a beloved teacher in a classroom, our tendency is to accept  what we are hearing somewhat uncritically. In  all of these situations we are lead in a particular direction or to come to a particular conclusion. That’s how we become informed positively (or misinformed).

Often we are told what to believe or what to accept. It is always subtle and we end up  buying not only into the news facts but the bias presentation of  the news story. The background banter between the anchor and co-anchor as they shake their head or nod to one another in approval to the stories developments or outcome.   We are expected to swallow more than  the facts we are expected to agree with the presentation itself , after all, the people presenting the bias are authority figures, they carry weight, they reflect the “proper opinion” don’t they?

Persuasion is a  good teaching tool but critical thinking looks past the apparatus to weigh the facts , sometimes to bring those facts in contact with other facts left out of the argument and to simmer those facts together to find critical truth.

Think about the most controversial subjects (Rights of the unborn vs pro-choice or, intelligent design verses evolutionary theory)  we are told what opinion is politically correct , all through  the presentation of facts, and  our little boat is pushed out onto the waters of society adrift along with others and floating on popular opinion. This creates societal peer pressure. In fact these are almost of no controversy anymore due to the continued political correct agenda of the presentation of news media.

Teachers will be marking your paper. Now there’s incentive to tell them what they want to hear. If it is a paper written on a controversial subject like rights of the unborn vs pro-choice . You can bet the pressure will to be to toe the line and weight the discussion to the popular opinion. ( Would an ethics class even consider this topic?) I wonder.

Or try postulating the concept of Intelligent design in a classroom exploring the theory of origins and evolutionary theory.

It is a theory isn’t it?  yet there is no other postulation to be brought to the table?  I mean stuff to make you think!!!

Think about the effect that political correctness has had on the exchange ideas in the public forum. In the space of  one single generation people  have made a 180 degree turn on some  the major issues of life and world-view.

We are not to be conspiracy theorists and we may have to be careful about what we say to whom ,or we will have no voice at all, but certainly we posses our own mind and with this amazing mind we have a tremendous capacity to think critically and to own what we believe and not just be drifting along with no purpose and no well thought out world view and conviction on important issues.

So watch the news, ( maybe turn off the infomercials and the talk-show host) and hear your teachers but own you mind and own your convictions don’t give them away to the world.