“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” Colossians 3:12 (see also 1 Peter 3:8; 5:5).
Humility is one of the products of the Christian life (James 3:13). We are not just solitary Christians. God has placed us in the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12,27). For the Body of Christ to function as God intended, each member of the Body needs to express humility (1Cor.12:14-26; Rom.12:3-5).
The Humility of the Cross
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:8.
In the days of the early Church, to believe in the Cross meant embracing great humility (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-24). The Cross was a symbol of great shame (Galatians 3:13; 5:11; Hebrews 12:2). But God has chosen this horrible death as a means to deal with mankind’s greatest problem: self.
“For you know that…you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers” 1 Peter 1:18.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they chose the way of self (Genesis 3:5-6). Ever since, self has been the root of every sin. When Jesus died on the Cross, God dealt with two things:
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” 1 John 2:2 (see 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).
The Cross dealt with our sins so that we could receive the forgiveness of God (Col.2:13-14) and eternal life (1 John 5:11). But that was not the end of the work of the Cross. There was one more thing that had to be dealt with once and for all.
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him…” Rom.6:6.
Many Christians receive God’s forgiveness, but then bring an unresolved self over into the Christian life. This is what causes all the dissensions, competition and problems in the Church (1 Cor.3:1-3; James 3:14-16; 4:1-4). But once we realise that we have been crucified with Christ (Gal.2:20; 6:14) – that our self was dealt with once and for all on the Cross (Rom.6:10-11) – the grace of God is released in our lives to bring true humility.
“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” 2 Corinthians 5:15 (read also verses 14-17).
“Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar” Psalm 138:6 (see Isaiah 57:15; Proverbs 16:5).
The pride of self-effort and self-righteousness is fiercely opposed by God (Proverbs 8:13). In fact, pride is sin (Proverbs 21:4). We need to understand the nature of pride before we can understand the nature of humility (read 2 Timothy 3:1-5).
“Do not let anyone who delights in false humility…disqualify you for the prize…” Colossians 2:18 (see also verse 23).
False humility is an outward humility only (Matthew 6:16). This false humility is designed for other people to see. Its focus is self. It is just a subtle form of pride.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord…” James 4:10.
True humility is a recognition that I can’t do it by myself. I need the grace of God and I need other Christians. The focus of true humility is God, not self. True humility has no hint of self-effort, but admits a total dependence on God. It is the one condition that God requires for grace to continue in our lives.
“…God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” James 4:6 (read also Psalm 25:9).
Learning from Jesus
“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.
Jesus is the great example of humility. If we want to express the kind of humility that pleases God, we must learn from Jesus (Phil.2:5-8). Jesus showed that true humility is not just speaking humble words. It is acting in humility by serving others – taking up our cross on behalf of others (Luke 9:23; Eph.5:1-2). It is not speaking “humbly” about oneself, but it is esteeming others (Phil.2:3). It is not long prayers about our unworthiness. It is a continuing sense of awe at the goodness of God to us.
The Fear of God
“The Lord…will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure” Isaiah 33:5-6 (see Psalm 128:1; 147:10-11; Prov.22:4).
The fear of the Lord is called “the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). It is also the starting place for humility. This is not a fear that causes us to hide from God, but an awe of His power and holiness which causes us to see our lives in the right perspective (Hebrews 12:28-29). A fear of God produces a genuine humility that actually draws us closer to Him (James 4:6-8; 1 Peter 3:8; Colossians 3:10).
“Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” 1 Corinthians 7:1 (see also Acts 9:31).
The fear of the Lord is the key to walking in holiness. The fear of the Lord involves five important things:
- A knowledge of God (Proverbs 9:10; 1 Peter 1:15-17).
- A hatred of evil (Proverbs 8:13; 16:6).
- A desire not to grieve God (Ephesians 4:30).
- A gratitude for grace (Psalm 130:3-4; Philippians 2:12).
- A turning to God (Hosea 12:6; Psalm 25:12-14).
Jesus had a “Spirit …of the fear of the Lord” upon Him (Isaiah 11:2-5,9). Through the same Spirit, we walk in the same humility before the Lord.
“…This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word” Isaiah 66:2 (see also Jeremiah 5:22).