Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 11 August 21:
Luke 18:9-14 — I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
The two Christian character traits taught most frequently in the New Testament are love and humility. Love is the greatest commandment, but love is impossible without genuine humility. Pride is the opposite of humility and stands in the way of love. Pride is self-centered and values self over others. Love considers the other “more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) In our sinfulness we are prideful and self-righteous, and in our self-righteousness, we dishonor God and mistreat others. Today, Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is directed at those “who trust in themselves that they are righteous and treat others with contempt.” (Luke 18:9) Jesus warns that everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted. Said another way, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
Jesus began His teaching with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew. 5:3). The poor in spirit are those who understand their spiritual poverty and utter dependence upon the riches of God’s grace and righteousness credited to those who receive Christ. Even as believers, they see their continued sinfulness. The poor in spirit are like the tax collector who “would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” In contrast, the dutiful, prideful, self-righteous Pharisee prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men.” Humility and love begin with a deep sense of our own continued sinfulness. Notice that pride looks down upon the sins of others with an attitude of superiority.
In His teaching of the Beatitudes, Jesus continued, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew. 5:4). This second beatitude follows naturally the first. Those who see their continued sinfulness mourn over it – they repent of it. A humble heart is a repentant heart. Repentance is the beginning of saving faith and the habit of sanctifying faith – “Repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15) “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) Turning to God, by definition, involves a turning from sin, which begins in the heart. There is the initial repentance at the point of salvation, but there is also the continual repentance through sanctification, both enabled by the Holy Spirit, both requiring humility, a poorness in spirt, relying solely on the riches of Christ. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, not by our deeds, but saving faith includes a continual, increasing passion for God and hatred of sin; it also includes an increasing love for others as Christ loves. “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” (Acts 2:28) We have been granted faith through His promise, and we grow in faith through His promise – it is a path we walk through life, becoming increasingly glad in His presence, which is increasingly removed from sin, increasingly bright in His Light, farther removed from the darkness – “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (Proverbs 4:18)
In the Beatitudes, Jesus continues to identify the blessed as those who are the meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who are the merciful, who are pure in heart, who are the peacemakers, and who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. The truly humble Christian who recognizes their sinfulness and repents of it will naturally act differently, treat others differently, and suffer wrongs differently. They will love and will never stop growing in love.
An essential attribute of saving faith is a humble repentant spirit which only grows over time. For God’s people, God’s word is a two-edged sword which cuts to the heart, convicting us of our sin, but also which gives us unshaking confidence in the power of His grace and His promise, which is grounded in His unchanging character, love, and faithfulness, not ours. (Hebrews 4:12) Resting assured in the righteousness of Christ, we now, as children of God, must grow up in righteousness, one day at a time. Part of this growth process involves growing in our understanding of God’s word. Remain in God’s word; be convicted by God’s word, repent, draw nearer to Christ, and walk confidently in the assurance of His grace.
Humility is the path to spiritual growth, receptivity to the Holy Spirit, and spiritual fruitfulness – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23)
- Proverbs 11:2 — When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.
- James 4:10 — Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
- Philippians 2:3 — Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
- Psalm 25:9 — He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 11 August 21: Pray today that God will increase your humility, your receptiveness to the convicting of the Holy Spirit though His word, your holiness, your purity, your love for Him and others, and your confidence in His love and faithfulness as you grow in faith.