Archives For humility

Manifestations of Humility

Greg Strand – October 2, 2013 Leave a comment

In yesterday’s post we looked at the sin (vice) of pride. Today we focus on the virtue (grace) of humility. This list also comes from Stuart Scott, From Pride to Humility: A Biblical Perspective (Focus Publishing, 2002; an excerpt from The Exemplary Husband: A Biblical Perspective [2000]), as he completes the picture of the sins of pride to avoid and the graces of humility to cultivate, all by God’s grace flowing from the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.

As we ponder this today, it is important to remember that we are often much quicker to see the sin of pride and the absence of humility in the lives of others than we are in our own lives. That is a clear sign of pride!

As you humbly read and pray through this list, ask yourself these two questions: First, what of these manifestations are absent in your life? Second, what practical evidences of humility need to be cultivated in your life?

Manifestations of Humility (pp.18-21)

  1. Recognizing and trusting God’s character.
  2. Seeing yourself as having no right to question or judge an Almighty and Perfect God.
  3. Focusing on Christ.
  4. Biblical praying and a great deal of it.
  5. Being overwhelmed with God’s undeserved grace and goodness.
  6. Being thankful and grateful in general toward others.
  7. Being gentle and patient.
  8. Seeing yourself as no better than others.
  9. Having an accurate view of your gifts and abilities.
  10. Being a good listener.
  11. Talking about others only if it is good or for their good.
  12. Being gladly submissive and obedient to those in authority.
  13. Preferring others over yourself.
  14. Being thankful for criticism or reproof.
  15. Having a teachable spirit.
  16. Seeking always to build up others.
  17. Serving.
  18. A quickness in admitting when you are wrong.
  19. A quickness in granting and asking for forgiveness.
  20. Repenting of sin as a way of life.
  21. Minimizing others’ sins or shortcomings in comparison to your own.
  22. Being genuinely glad for others.
  23. Being honest and open about who they are and the areas in which they need growth.
  24. Possessing close relationships.

The key biblical truth: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 18:14b).

The key biblical response: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Pet. 5:6; cf. Jms. 4:10).

 

 

 

Manifestations of Pride

Greg Strand – October 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Stuart Scott, From Pride to Humility: A Biblical Perspective (Focus Publishing, 2002; an excerpt from The Exemplary Husband: A Biblical Perspective [2000]), notes some very insightful and penetrating traits of pride. I generally read, ponder and pray through this on a monthly basis.

Undergirding my prayer is the reminder of God’s response to pride and the proud: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jms. 4:6; cf. Prov. 3:34; 1 Pet. 5:5). This is important to grasp. If one is proud, God actively opposes that person. Making this personal, if I am proud, God actively opposes me.

As you read and pray through this list, ask yourself these two questions: First, what of these manifestations are in your life? Second, what pride in your life needs to be confessed?

Manifestations of Pride (pp. 6-10)

  1. Complaining against or passing judgment on God.
  2. A lack of gratitude in general.
  3. Anger.
  4. Seeing yourself as better than others.
  5. Having an inflated view of your importance, gifts and abilities.
  6. Being focused on the lack of your gifts and abilities.
  7. Perfectionism.
  8. Talking too much.
  9. Talking too much about yourself.
  10. Seeking independence or control.
  11. Being consumed with what others think.
  12. Being devastated or angered by criticism.
  13. Being unteachable.
  14. Being sarcastic, hurtful, or degrading.
  15. A lack of service.
  16. A lack of compassion.
  17. Being defensive or blame-shifting.
  18. A lack of admitting when you are wrong.
  19. A lack of asking forgiveness.
  20. A lack of biblical prayer.
  21. Resisting authority or being disrespectful.
  22. Voicing preferences or opinions when not asked.
  23. Minimizing your own sin and shortcomings.
  24. Maximizing other’s sin and shortcomings.
  25. Being impatient or irritable with others.
  26. Being jealous or envious.
  27. Using others.
  28. Being deceitful by covering up sins, faults, and mistakes.
  29. Using attention-getting tactics.
  30. Not having close relationships.

Thankfully forgiveness, healing and wholeness do not come in denial of these sins, but rather in confession of them. The confession “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” is followed by “this man went down to his house justified” (Lk. 18:13); “If we confess our sins,” is followed by “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).

The key biblical truth: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 18:14b).

The key biblical response: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Pet. 5:6; cf. Jms. 4:10).

 

 

One of the EFCA distinctives is that we “embrace a humble orthodoxy in partnership with others of like faith.” This is explained further:

We believe in the spiritual unity of the Church though not necessarily in structural union. We join with other Christians and other denominations of like, precious faith in common goals and ministries to accomplish the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. But we believe that there is strength in diversity and that it is important to preserve our distinctives. We recognize that union in structure does not guarantee unity of spirit.  Our foremost concern is unity of spirit with our Lord, with each other and with other Christians.

The key expression is “humble orthodoxy.” In a sense, it is an improper adjective to use with orthodoxy, because orthodoxy is a body of doctrine, of truth, so it is inappropriate to refer to it as “humble.” But the expression was chosen intentionally to emphasis the manner in which orthodoxy is to be held. In fact, the degree to which we understand and live by orthodox truth is the degree to which we will be humble!

On the one hand, there is no place for arrogance among those who affirm orthodoxy/truth. So the expression “arrogant orthodoxy” would truly be an oxymoron as the two just do not go together. Sadly, they ought not go together, and in principle they do not, but they often do in practice. But, on the other hand, neither is there any place for “humble heterodoxy,” so that one accommodates any and every belief so that there is no solid doctrinal ground upon which to stand.

I greatly appreciate the words of Michael J. Kruger, “Christian Humility and the World’s Definition of Humility.”

Christians are humble because their understanding of truth is not based on their own intelligence, their own research, their own acumen. Rather, it is 100% dependent on the grace of God. Christian knowledge is a dependent knowledge. And that leads to humility (1 Cor. 1:31). This obviously doesn’t mean all Christians are personally humble. But, it does mean they should be, and have adequate grounds to be.

This is also reflected in Joshua Harris’ new book: Humble Orthodoxy: Holding the Truth High Without Putting People Down (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2013). It is an expansion of the final chapter in his book, Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe and Why It Matters (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2010). He notes, which is the title of the book, that we need to embrace a humble orthodoxy. Harris explains it in this way:

Christians need to have a strong commitment to sound doctrine. We need to be courageous in our stand for biblical truth. But we also need to be gracious in our words and interactions with other people. (3-4)

truth matters . . . but so does our attitude. This is what I mean by humble orthodoxy: we must care deeply about truth, and we must also defend and share this truth with compassion and humility. (5)

We need to care about orthodoxy and right thinking about who God is and how he saves through Jesus Christ. Orthodoxy matters. . . . genuine love and humility of heart before God and other people are essential. Humility matters. We don’t get to choose between humility and orthodoxy. We need both. (5-6)

Harris contrasts humble orthodoxy with two alternatives: arrogant orthodoxy and humble heterodoxy.

there’s arrogant orthodoxy. It’s possible to be right in our doctrine but be unkind and unloving, self-righteous and spiteful in our words and behavior. . . . we learn to rebuke like Jesus but not love like Jesus. (6-7)

Another popular opinion is humble heterodoxy. Heterodoxy is a departure from orthodoxy. So a person who is humbly heterodox abandons some of the historic Christian beliefs but is a really nice person who you’d enjoy having coffee with. (7)

Harris asks a couple of questions.

When I think about arrogant orthodoxy, I have to ask, does good doctrine necessarily lead to being argumentative and arrogant? And when I think about humble heterodoxy, my question is, do humility and kindness and engagement with our culture have to involve watering down our convictions? I think the answer to both questions is no. We can – and we need to – embrace a humble orthodoxy. (7-8)

As he often did, G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1908; repr., Garden City, NY: Image, 1959), 31), also speaks directly to this issue during his age, which sound very similar to our age:

What we suffer from to-day is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth.

Humble orthodoxy . . . Let’s doubt ourselves; let’s be undoubting of the truth!

There is a very good interview with Wess Stafford in Outcomes 37/1 (Spring 2013), 6-7, on “Finishing Well.”

Our desire as ministers of the gospel is to finish well (Matt. 25:21,23; 2 Tim. 4:7-8). Here are a number of things I most appreciated about what Wess stated. Though he has served with Compassion International for many years, many of those as President and CEO, many of the lessons he has learned are appropriate for those in other kinds of ministries as well, including pastoral ministry in the local church.

  • Humility and gratitude are his responses for what the Lord has allowed him to do.
  • He is committed to the success of his successor.
  • Succession poorly done derails organizations.
  • The commitment to the Christian faith, the gospel, must be shepherded.
    • This consists of both shepherding the culture and stewarding the commitment.
    • It must be centered on Christ and being a servant of his bride, the church.
    • One must not confuse their board of leaders with their major donor program.
    • In the executive leadership team, a pure heart and a humble walk with God with a passion for the Lord are absolutely critical and essential.
    • The way in which money is received can also compromise the centrality of the mission of the gospel.
    • Keep the gospel of Jesus Christ central!
  • Perfection is not required or expected of leaders, but authenticity is.
  • Regarding ministry leaders:
    • Your ministry role should move you deeply;
    • guard your heart;
    • fight for your family;
    • pour yourself into your calling.

As you read and ponder this list, do so prayerfully. Here are a few questions as you do so:

  1. From what he shares, what is most pertinent for where you are in ministry at present?
  2. For those in ministry, what are important lessons you learned, or are learning, that you can share with others?
  3. How do you ensure the gospel remains central in your life and ministry, both in doctrine/proclamation and in functional centrality in the outworking of the gospel truth in ministry?

What Happened with Jesus’ Wife?

Greg Strand – December 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Peter Williams, Warden, Tyndale House, Cambridge, follows up the claim made in September that Jesus may have had a wife with a provocative title, “Jesus’s ‘wife’ found dead,” Evangelicals Now (November 2012).

The translation of this document was titled “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” and it created an incredible response in the media. Many focused on the title and made certain assumptions and claims, while others were much more cautious in their assessment of this document. As is often the case with these sorts of sensational stories, there was an immediate buzz, and then it faded into obscurity. It is helpful to take a look at something like this once the dust has settled a bit. That is what Williams does in this brief article.

Williams traces the response to this document and concludes that “after nearly a month of scrutiny by scholars on the blogosphere, it appears that the fragment is almost certainly a fake.” Rather than letting this go and losing the opportunity for learning lessons, Williams concludes by stating some things we (Evangelicals) learned:

First, we see a number of layers of spin in this tale. Dr. King’s original decision to call the media and to label the fragment a ‘Gospel’ just set the ball rolling. Soon media reports copied each other, and started to suggest that this was a discovery to revolutionise or challenge Christian teaching. By the time this arrived at popular perception, the transformation was complete: a piece of historical evidence suggested that Jesus actually had a wife. The majority impression given by the media was that this was an authentic piece, and the message that, even if genuine, the fragment was of little historical consequence was not heard. Public attitude will have been affected for the worse.

So we are reminded that the secular media appear incredibly powerful at getting false messages across which it is hard for us to redress.

Secondly, it could have been worse. To her credit, from the beginning Dr. King released high resolution photos and the technical information she had. This enabled quick scrutiny. Had the person responsible for the fake been better at his or her job the story could have had yet more negative impact. As it was, it’s noteworthy that British and British-educated scholars like Watson, Bernhard, and Goodacre mentioned above, along with evangelicals Simon Gathercole and Christian Askeland, played a significant role in exposing the problems with the manuscript and claims about it on blogs and in the media. Andrew Brown of The Guardian was commendably quick to notice and publish the doubts being raised.

It is worth reflecting on the progress here. Evangelicals now make up a significant proportion of those with the technical expertise to tackle a subject like this, and some of them had an intellectual firepower on the subject considerably exceeding that of the Harvard professor. I was contacted by Christians in touch with the media and was able to refer them to Simon Gathercole, a leading evangelical expert on apocryphal gospels. The rapid and informed response by Christians probably went a considerable way to deflating the story.

It is now well known by many who are not believers that there is a vigorous conspiracy-theory industry propagandising against the Christian faith. If Christians are seen as standing on history while others follow spin, even what seems like adverse publicity will ultimately end up glorifying God’s name.

What are we to make of these lessons learned? First, it is encouraging to know that Evangelicals, those who affirm the inerrancy, authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures, and who also affirm the historicity of the God-man, Jesus Christ, are on the front-lines of defending the faith once for all entrusted to the saints.

Second, that Evangelicals have the “technical expertise” and the “intellectual firepower” to engage in these subjects is what people like Carl Henry, Ken Kantzer and others, including our own Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, moved towards in the 1940s when they pursued a new direction, different from the anti-intellectualism of the fundamentalists. It was/is also at the heart of numerous Evangelical seminaries, including our own Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Third, even as these Evangelical scholars can engage in and provide leadership to these academic discussions, humility is absolutely essential. That attribute is a mark of both the Lord Jesus and those who truly understand, proclaim and defend the gospel. Apart from humility, one can win an argument, displease God (cf. Isa. 66:2) and undermine the gospel we proclaim.

Fourth, our ultimate aim as we defend the faith is that God would be glorified. Our goal is to make much of God, not of self. This can and ought to be done in all situations and circumstances, even like these in which a claim is made that Jesus had a wife.