A friend and I were talking Saturday night about our desire to die.
Before you start to think, “How disturbing! Perhaps you and your friend need some counseling!” Let me explain… We were talking about our desire to die to “self” every day. Pride is the root of every sin, and its death is necessary in order for us to live a life of humility like Jesus did.
It’s not coincidental, but providential, that I would be reading a gem of a little book by writer, revivalist, and Christian pastor, Andrew Murray (1828-1917), entitled “Humility, The Journey to Holiness”, which I highly recommend. I have been challenged and encouraged at the same time.
I will warn you, just as Pastor Aaron did on Sunday during the Habits of Happiness sermon, that the pathway to humility is radically counter-cultural! It’s the opposite of what many of us were taught since childhood. It may feel unnatural, because it’s a supernatural way of living. And be assured, seeker, that the Lord will offer many opportunities for you and me to exercise humility as we seek to follow the example of Jesus.
Last night as I was waiting for sleep to come, I was reflecting on my heart’s desire to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus and to be a conduit of His love to those He brings across my path, “But Lord,” I asked. “How do I die to myself?”
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The enemy of our souls would prefer that we let pride be our guide and think only of me, myself, and I. Pride is what caused Satan to be cast from Heaven. Pride is what caused Adam and Eve to be cast out of the Garden of Eden and their perfect fellowship with God, and pride is what casts me out of abiding communion with God, for He opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)
God would have you and me look to the example of Jesus Christ “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8) We are partakers of Christ… participants in the life of Jesus, and He is calling us to acknowledge that self has nothing good in it, except to be an empty vessel that He can fill. We must start by recognizing our spiritual poverty apart from salvation in Christ Jesus. He died to give us life eternal, but He doesn’t want us to wait until we get to Heaven to start living that life. He wants us to live lives NOW that reflect Him to a lost and broken world. We are to have the same attitude as Jesus. In order to possess that same attitude, we must learn the highest lesson a believer has to learn… that of humility… to be completely free of self and full of Christ.
Let’s look at the life of Jesus together, and see the example He set for us, the words He speaks to us, as His disciples. He is the perfect Teacher! Just as Jesus looked to the Father and only did what He saw the Father doing, we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as the role model for our lives and cling to Him in that abiding relationship. Reflect on His invitation available to all of us. Notice the chief lesson He wishes to teach us. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Oh Lord, we long to learn from You! Teach us to be gentle and humble in heart! Thank you that the grace to “Come” and the grace to “Abide” are from You alone!
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:3,5 (The Beatitudes)
Whoever is the least among you is the greatest. (Luke 9:48)
The greatest among you must be a servant. (Matthew 23:11)
For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11, Luke 18:14)
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:14-15)
But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. (Luke 22:26)
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45)
Brethren, here is the path to the higher life. Down, lower down! This is what Jesus said to the disciples who were thinking of being great in the kingdom, and of sitting on His right hand and left. Seek not; ask not for exaltation; that’s God’s work. Look to it that you abase and humble yourselves, and take no place before God or man but that of a servant; that is your work; let that be your purpose and prayer. God is faithful. Just as water ever seeks to fill the lowest place, so the moment God finds the creature abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless. He that humbleth himself – that must be our one care – shall be exalted; that is God’s care; by His mighty power and in His great love He will do it.”
~ Andrew Murray
Jesus’ teaching and the way He lived His life was truly counter-cultural, as seen by the verses above, and it’s true of Paul’s teaching, as well, but that didn’t stop Paul from instructing and demonstrating that humility before God counts as nothing if not proved in humility before others in our everyday lives.
To the Romans Paul wrote, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:10, 16)
To the Corinthians, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)
To the Galatians, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
To the Ephesians, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
To the Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:3-5)
To the Colossians, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:12-13)
Back to the question I was asking the Lord … “How do I do these things? How can I die to self?” And He so faithfully answered my question as I read today and realized my inability to do any of this on my own.
“The death to self is not your work, it is God’s work. In Christ you are dead to sin; the life there is in you has gone through the process of death and resurrection; you may be sure you are indeed dead to sin. But the full manifestation of the power of this death in your disposition and conduct depends on the measure in which the Holy Spirit imparts the power of the death of Christ. And here it is that the teaching is needed: if you would enter into full fellowship with Christ in His death, and know the full deliverance from self, humble yourself. This is your one duty. Place yourself before God in your utter helplessness, in the spirit of meek and patient and trustful surrender to God. Accept every humiliation, look upon every fellow-man who tries or vexes you, as a means of grace to humble you. Use every opportunity of humbling yourself before your fellow-men as a help to abide before God. God will accept such humbling of yourself as the proof that your whole heart desires it, as the very best prayer for it, as your preparation for His mighty work of grace, when, by the mighty strengthening of His Holy Spirit, He reveals Christ in you, so that He, in His form of a servant, is truly formed in you, and dwells in your heart. It is the path of humility which leads to perfect death, the full and perfect experience that we are dead in Christ. It is in death to self that humility is perfected.” ~ Andrew Murray
Did you catch that? Dying to self is God’s work. I am so thankful that I don’t have to do the work on my own! Praise the Lord! The work has already been done… it is finished! Just as I am assured of my salvation because I recognized how lost I was in my sin and self and my utter inability to do anything about it, and called out to Jesus to save me, I can be assured that He who began that good work in me, is faithful to complete what He started!
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Now, trust me, I know that self tries to rear its ugly head from time to time, and what should we do when that happens? What should we do when pride seeks to steal the glory that only belongs to God? I choose to be thankful that God is growing me and giving me awareness when this happens. In my weakness, He is strong! (2 Cor. 12:9-10) I can run back into His arms, confess it, repent of it, and proclaim the truth that I am dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Sin (pride) is no longer my master. (Romans 6)
I know I cannot live the Christian life in my own strength or effort, but I can walk each day in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within me! Let us be diligent to work out the practical implications of the work God has started… in us… in our relationships with others… in our obedience to Him!
Have a blessed week!
To hear the message from this Sunday, “The Humble Path To Happiness”, click this link to listen to our podcast: The Humble Path To Happiness