July ’99 theme: Humility
I recently received an e-mail from missionary evangelist Sammy Tippit. He wrote to his mailing list: “After the meeting in Rio de Janeiro, my wife, Tex, and I returned to the States and took some time for rest and renewal. We then began to seek the Lord about our future. God has opened so many doors and has worked in our ministry in a wonderful way during the first half of this year. We have seen over 40,000 people make commitments to Christ. We believe that He is going to do even greater things next year. . . I’ve learned one thing over the last several years – without God’s presence and power, I can do nothing. So, I ask you to please be praying for us . . .” I find in Sammy’s letter both a positive testimony and humble dependence. In the context of his letters, Sammy credits the Brazilian churches for their coordinated, prayerful work in the harvest, which he helps to reap.
The apostle Paul showed this balance in his report to the believers in Rome: “Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God. For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient–in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” (Rom 15:17-19).
It sometimes is difficult to know, when speaking of oneself, a positive testimony is proud or, on the other hand, a negative comment (“I can’t do anything right. . .”) is too “humble”. Where do we turn for the correct standard? How about that classic work, Humility and How I Obtained it by M.Y. Self (MYS Publishing)? I think not! 🙂
A more reliable standard is the Scripture. As we have noted in previous weeks, Christ is the supreme demonstration of humility (servanthood) and its reward (exaltation) c.f. Phil 2:5-11. So we should learn from His example (1 John 2:6).
First note that sometimes Christ did give a positive testimony about Himself; this was not a proud thing to do. Notice how Christ rebuked the religious leaders for neglecting His claims: “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah [Jesus Himself] is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.” (Matt 12:41,42).
So when is a positive self-statement fleshly? A positive self statement reflects pride
1) when it is false or exaggerated,
2) when it does not give proper recognition to others who participated in equipping or accomplishing the ministry,
3) when the motive is not loving –i.e. for the benefit of others.
The Holy Spirit is our source of humility and is grieved by selfish pride (Eph 4:30). Let’s examine Christ’s claims in Matt 12:41,42 in this light. We discover that
1) the statements about Christ are absolutely true,
2) Christ credited the Holy Spirit who empowered Him and the Father who sent Him. (Matt 12:28; John 6:32,33), and
3) His motive was loving–to warn His listeners.
Christ’s humility was conveyed through His servanthood. Remember how he corrected the disciples? “. . . he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” (Luke 22:26,27; c.f. John 13:1-17).
Our Lord also showed humility by totally relying on the Holy Spirit’s power and yielding joyfully to the Father’s plan. Jesus did not need the ego-boost of human acclaim. He testified “And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.”(John 8:50).
Christ’ works, will, and teaching were wrought in the Father. Notice this repeated emphasis:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19).
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38). “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. (John 7:16).
“Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.” (John 8:28).
How are we to reflect this Christ-like humility? Andrew Murray counsels, “This is the true self-denial to which our Lord calls us, the acknowledgment that self [the fleshly disposition of fallen humanity] has nothing good in it, except as an empty vessel which God must fill, and that its claim to be or do anything may not for a moment be allowed. It is in this, above and before everything, which the conformity to Jesus consists, the being and doing nothing of ourselves, that God may be all.” (Humility, p.27)
Let’s keep our focus on Christ, who is our life. Attaining humility will continue to be an illusive goal, but that’s OK; like all other virtues it is a byproduct of “looking unto Jesus”.
Our Father, we depend upon Your Spirit for wisdom. Guide us to avoid the false humility of self-rejection and ingratitude. We follow Christ who is our standard and source of humility and servanthood. We looking forward to Your future rewards for humble ministry on earth. In Christ’s exalted name, amen.
July 26, ’99 vol 2 # 30
Sammy Tippit’s web site- http://www.glia.org