As the calendar flips over to another year, remember this reality check:
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’
This wisdom warning follows an invitation to humility: “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble‘” (James 4:13-15,6). Consider the importance of humility and faith in the operation of God’s amazing grace.
Humility and Faith in Salvation
Before the riches of God’s grace are bestowed on us, we must confess our own spiritual bankruptcy. The remnant of Israel confessed,
“But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).
The unbeliever must come to recognize his need and then call upon the name of the LORD for salvation (Rom. 10:13). Douglas Copeland candidly revealed this spiritual emptiness.
“Now here is my secret: I tell it to you with an openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God–that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”
What honesty! What a humble admission of need! To all with such needs Christ promises “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37,38).
The lost person who admits his/her spiritual need is much closer to the kingdom of God than the self-righteous person who does not see their total need of God’s mercy and grace.
When a person reaches the end of his own resources he reach a crisis point–like someone at the edge of a cliff. Yet Christ is at the “cliff’s edge” as the bridge to life–abundant life! When someone sees their spiritual bankruptcy, but does not know God’s infinite grace in Christ, despair results. But in Christ, the darkness of that night is pierced by the light of the gospel. “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
V. Raymond Edman wrote of the riches of God’s grace provided in salvation:
“We had no way in which to escape the bondage of the devil or rise out of spiritual death into the life of God; But God could do that and has done it for every true believer in the Savior. It is of God’s mercy that we were not destroyed when we were in sin, or that we were not left to our own devises. In compassion, He sent His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, to give His life so that we might live in Him.”
Do you remember when you received Christ? When the riches of His grace became yours? If not, repent and believe the gospel today! As God promises, “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).
In Christ we go from spiritual rags to spiritual riches!
Humility and Faith in Discipleship
This same attitude of humility and faith should characterize the life of discipleship. As Colossians 2:6 says: “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” How did you receive Christ? You humbled yourself, confessed your inability to save yourself, and received in Him and everlasting life! How are you you live as a Christian? Likewise, by humbling yourself, confessing your inability to live the Christian life, and depending fully on Christ to give you abundant life!
Consider the first quality the Lord Jesus affirmed in the beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3). This trait is listed first because the other seven are produced in the believer’s life by grace through faith.
It seems that we all find ourselves eventually at “the end of the rope” when it comes to living successfully as a follower of Christ. Paul’s description of despair of the self-life becomes ours: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24). And the remedy is the same: “I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:25).
The life of Christ which brings salvation from sin’s penalty to the convert, brings abundant life and salvation from sin’s power to the humble, trusting disciple. Christ’s gracious invitation is extended to you today:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
In the preceding context of the Gospel of Matthew, we are reminded of the absolute necessity of humility in order to accept divine revelation. “At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight’ ” (Matt. 11:25,26).
If the branches of your life are to be fruitful, you won’t be standing tall in self-confidence; you will be humbly bowed low, laden with the fruit of the Spirit.
We thank you, Lord, for exchanging our worthless rags of self-righteousness for the riches of Your righteousness in Christ. We rejoice in the grace that You pour into our lives as we daily humble ourselves and depend on You. In Christ’s merit we pray, amen.
1. Life After God. Douglas Copeland, best-selling author of Generation X, was quoted in Servant Magazine (of Prairie Bible College).
2. See the parable in Luke 18:10-14.
3. V. Raymond Edman, But God, p.134.
Biblical quotations are from The New King James Version, copyright by Thomas Nelson. Italics added for emphasis. This article (2nd edition) is copyrighted by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for noncommercial use if credit is given to the author and GraceNotebook.com.