Paul Madson


Month: August 2010

(Part 3) Humility: That Elusive, All-Important, Hard-to-Define Character Trait

This week, I wanted to add seven more characteristics of “Proud People” vs. “Humble People” to the list I shared with you last week. This list has come primarily from Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ excellent book entitled, Brokenness: The Heart God Revives.

Before you read this, could I ask you to do one thing? Promise that you will not think about anyone else except your own heart.

Here they are:

Have you noticed that people typically do not like “proud, arrogant people?” Nor do they like to be around people like that. And yet, even though we know this, we find ourselves (at times) somewhere on the left side of the above list. This is part of maturity and growing in Christ. None of us have “arrived” in our sanctification process (nor will we this side of heaven).

There is probably no greater propensity as humans than that of moving towards self-deception. We look at the “Proud” side of the list and say, “Oh, that is definitely not me!” And yet other people look at us and say, “Oh yes, that is definitely you!” Why does this happen so frequently?

This is where it is so important that we learn to approach God on a daily basis with a humble, broken heart and say, like David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)

One of the men who deeply influenced me (through his speaking and writing) in my early walk with Christ was Dr. Joseph C. Aldrich, former president of Multnomah School of the Bible. Joe used to say,

“Maturity is always a return to the reality about yourself.”

We will never mature fully until we are willing to face up to areas in our lives where we have a propensity toward self-deception. God’s Spirit needs to be invited on a daily basis to do surgery in our hearts and to show us areas where we need to grow.

Jesus said in Luke 14:11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:5, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble

My prayer is… “O Lord, I need your grace today! You promise grace to the humble. May I not look at everyone else’s life to see who is proud and who is humble. May I always and only look at my own heart and choose humility each and every day!”

(Part 2) Humility: That Elusive, All-Important, Hard-to-Define Character Trait

One of the most helpful tools that I have ever come across that helps to clearly distinguish between Proud, Unbroken People and Humble, Broken People is a list that Nancy Leigh DeMoss put together from her study of Scripture and her experience in both life and ministry.

There are dozens of items on both the “Proud” side and the “Humble” side. Today I want to share with you just six of them. Here they are:

Have you ever noticed the link between “wisdom” and “humility?” In James 3:13 it says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

Did you ever notice how Jesus described himself in Matthew 11:28-30? It’s the famous passage we love to quote, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden…”, but did you notice in the next verse, Jesus says “…for I am gentle and humble in heart.” The very Son of God who flung the stars into space (Colossians 1) and created everything there is, modeled for us what “humble in heart” looks like.

Max Anders in his book The Good Life, clarifies some common misconceptions about humility:

“Humility does not mean you must see yourself as a pitiful excuse, a lowlife, a piece of refuse at the bottom of the human pile.

Rather, it means you see yourself as God sees you: you have infinite and inherent value, but no more value than anyone else. It means being willing to accept God as the authority over your life, rather than insisting on being your own supreme authority. And since you accept God as the supreme authority over your life, and because you are of equal value but no greater value than everyone else, you are willing to order your life in such a way as to be a servant to others.

When Christians do this, we meet each other’s needs in a context of harmony and love. When we fail to subordinate ourselves to others and are concerned only with meeting our own needs, we live a life of individualism and isolation — a state in which the Christian cannot be satisfied. We are not created to be loners. We are part of a family!”

I came across a humorous cartoon awhile back that pictured a man bowing on his knees praying in a church building. And he was praying this:

Dear Lord, let me be the big cheese in the number-one job of the top outfit in the country, and let me come up with the right answers at the right times in the right places, but with it all, Lord, let me remain soft-spoken, country-shy, plain old Jeff Crotts from Spickard, Missouri.”

The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:1-2, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility…”

Back in the Greek culture during biblical times, humility was looked upon as a vice, not a virtue. So when Paul writes this to the Ephesian believers, it is in direct contrast to the secular culture of the day. Is it really any different than today in 2010?

Humility is one of the those strange characteristics, that when you know you have it — you’ve lost it! It’s one of those virtue’s to be highly sought after but never claimed — because once you’ve claimed it — it’s forfeited!

(Part 1) Humility: That Elusive, All-Important, Hard-to-Define Character Trait

If someone were to ask me, “Paul, what do you consider to be, one of the most (if not the most) important character traits in being used by God, in having a happy, healthy marriage and in having long-term successful relationships with friends and family?”

My answer: Humility.

No one has helped me more in understanding what a “prideful, arrogant” life looks like as opposed to a “humble, broken” life than Nancy Leigh DeMoss, in her superb book, Brokenness: The Heart God Revives. This book would certainly be one of the best, most personally impacting books that I have ever read.

The Apostle Peter, probably known as the most naturally arrogant of the disciples in his early years of ministry with Jesus, writes in his later years (after learning many lessons the hard way), the following:

“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).

And then he goes on to say: “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”

The force of the Greek text in v. 5 could accurately be translated as, “God stiff-arms the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

How would you like to be “stiff-armed” by God? Not me! I want and need all of the grace from God that I can get.

Notice also in v. 5 “who” is the One that does the “exalting.” God!

Matter of fact, Jesus said in Luke 14:11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Over the years in ministry, I’ve had dozens of men approach me about wanting to go into full-time ministry. Many times they have tried the “self-promotion” route and have come up empty. In many of these situations, no doors are opened for them and no one seems to be asking.

I always counsel them (only when asked for my opinion), Faithfully and humbly serve Christ where you are, with the opportunities in front of you and He promises to do the ‘exalting’ when and how He wants. He will open those doors if, when and how He desires. Trust His sovereign hand.”

I’ve learned over the years that there are two ways to end up humble: Either choose to humble yourself before God and others or let God do it for you! Trust me, I’ve been in the second category too many times to count (it’s painful).

Notice that Peter’s command in v. 6 is “humble yourself…” We’re commanded to choose humility each and every day, in all of our relationships and conversations. Humility in our relationships with others begins with humbling ourselves before God.

Augustine, one of the great leaders of the early church, once made this statement:

If you ask me what is the #1, #2, #3 most important quality of a Christian, I will answer by saying: Humility, Humility, Humility!”

(Part 4) The Cross-Centered Life: Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

“Perhaps the most difficult task for us to perform is to rely on God’s grace and God’s grace alone for our salvation. It is difficult for our pride to rest on grace. Grace is for other people – for beggars. We don’t want to live by a heavenly welfare system. We want to earn our own way and atone for our own sins. We like to think that we will go to heaven because we deserve to be there.” (R. C. Sproul)

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that there are three main tendencies that can draw our hearts away from “gospel-centered living.” They are…

  1. Legalism: Basing our relationship with God on our own performance.
  2. Condemnation: Being more focused on our sin than on God’s grace.
  3. Subjectivism: Basing our view of God on our changing feelings and emotions.

I want to focus our attention again this week on the first of these three tendencies: legalism.

Let me try and sum up in a single sentence the difference between living a “legalism-driven” life as opposed to a “gospel-driven” life.

Now that you and I are followers of Jesus Christ, we are to live our lives…

from acceptance rather than for acceptance!

Two different words can make all the difference in the world…“from” or “for.”

As I’ve said so many times before, God accepts us strictly by His grace through the merit of Jesus Christ alone. Some people immediately say, “Paul, such an unqualified statement about the love of God sounds exceedingly dangerous.” I mean, after all, doesn’t this leave me open to the charge of saying in effect that God doesn’t care whether you sin or not.

Before I answer that question, let me have you consider the alternative:

“God loves you if you are obedient and doesn’t love you if you are disobedient. Since God’s love is conditioned on obedience and you are never perfectly obedient, God never loves you perfectly or accepts you completely.”

Such a bold description of the all-too-common works/merit way of thinking about our relationship with God puts the issue into clear focus.

We are accepted by God, not only in salvation but also in our present relationship with Him, either on the merit of Jesus Christ or on the basis of our own performance.

So, are we to conclude, then, that since we are saved by grace and fully loved and accepted by God, that He doesn’t care whether we sin or not?

The answer to that is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 6 and verse 2, “By no means!” The exact question and answer that Paul gives is this:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!”

Or as one commentator said, “The force of the Greek text in verse 2 could be properly translated as “Hell no!”

A person who is genuinely saved will not want to abuse God’s grace and live a life of persistent sin (without strong conviction of the Holy Spirit)!

Anyone who thinks, “Since God’s love is not conditioned on my obedience, I am free to live as I please,” is not living by grace, nor does he understand grace. What he perceives as grace is really a caricature of grace.

Let me wrap up by simply saying this: Our love for God, expressed through obedience to Him, is to be a response to His love, not a means of trying to earn it.

Let me encourage you this week to live your life from acceptance rather than for acceptance!

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