1. Give God the credit.
Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26–31)
My point in this is humility agrees and is glad that God gets all the credit for choosing us and calling us to himself. Humility loves to say, “God chose me; I didn’t choose him. God called me to himself. God wakened me from the dead. God saved me.” Humility loves to talk about the grace of God.
And so 1 Corinthians 1:29 says that the upshot of that divine initiative is “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” God is saving us in a way to knock all the props out from under boasting in man. Then positively in verse 31: “[But rather] let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” So the whole history of redemption is being carried out in such a way as to sever the root of all boasting in man and to build a tree of all boasting in God.
2. Recognize God’s gifts.
I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:6–7)
So the second observation is humility agrees and is glad that everything we have is a gift from God. This severs the root of boasting according to 1 Corinthians 4:7. It severs the root of boasting in our distinctives. Whatever talents you have, whatever intelligence you have, whatever skills, whatever gifts, whatever looks, whatever pedigree, whatever possessions, whatever wit, whatever influence you have — put away all pride because it’s a free gift. And put away all despair because it’s a gift of God. If you think your talents, gifts, intelligence, wit, possessions are large, put away pride. If you think they’re small, put away despair because they are gifts of God.
3. Depend on God’s providence.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:13–17)
Humility agrees and is glad that every beat of my heart is a gift of God, governed by God, and will only keep beating as long as God chooses it. Instead, you ought to say,
- “If the Lord wills, we will live the rest of this service or not.”
- “If the Lord wills, we will go to Chicago this week or not.”
- “If the Lord wills, we’ll get in our car and head home, and get there or not — and he will decide.”
Humility loves to say that. Humility does not want to be in charge. Humility says, “God reigns over my heartbeat, my brain waves, my car and that car — all are under his sovereign control. I would not have it otherwise. I’m not God.” That’s the way humility talks. But we say in our arrogance, “I am going to such and such a town to do business and get gain.” No, we don’t want to talk like that.
4. Cherish the gospel.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12–13)
Now, the implication of those verses is the humble willingness to forgive an offense is rooted in being forgiven by Jesus. I’m only talking in this message about gospel humility. I’m not talking about any other kind. I don’t care about any other kind of humility. The only kind of humility I’m talking about is gospel-rooted humility, cross-rooted humility, Christ-exalting humility.
This is humility that pleases God, honors Christ, and carries the day. It’s rooted in being forgiven, knowing yourself a sinner in need of a Savior, knowing yourself utterly dependent on Christ for all acceptance with God, thus being broken by the cross, healed by the cross, and able to pour yourself out for others in a new way — namely as a humble person.
5. Serve others.
Do nothing from selfish ambition [rivalry] or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3–8)
So the point here is humility serves. If you ask, What does it look like horizontally? I can’t see your heart. I don’t know what your heart is. What does it look like? It looks like getting down low and lifting others up — getting under and lifting up. It does not look like: I’ve got an office. I’m the pastor. I’m the husband. I’m the boss. I’m always lording it. That’s not what it looks like. Leaders get down under and put their shoulder to the task that they’ve given to others.
Do you know what made Jesus so mad? He said, “You load men with burdens that are hard to bear, and you don’t lift one finger.” That’s what he said to the lawyers (see Matthew 23:4). That’s not servanthood.
“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Beware of serving Jesus. He didn’t come to be served. He came to serve us. We need a servant who dies for us, who sustains us. God serves you every day of your life with heartbeats, and breath, and food, and rising sun, and rain, and the Holy Spirit to enable you to do what you need to do, and lavish forgiveness. You are being served all day long, every day, by one from whom you deserve nothing. How this should affect us to be servants!
Humility measures everything, not by how it will stroke my ego or enhance my reputation, but how it will serve the good of others. “Do nothing from selfish ambition [rivalry] or conceit” (Philippians 2:3). Conceit means: I’m choosing everything I do to promote me — to get me in the best light. And the Bible says: Don’t do that. Count others better — meaning, serve them.
6. Know true greatness.
Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:42–44)
Humility loves to think in terms of what true greatness is, namely humility and servanthood. We live in an upside-down kingdom. “Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” Slave was as low as it gets.
Six Ways to Go Low
Humility is glad that God gets the credit for choosing us so that we boast only in him and not in ourselves.
Humility happily admits that everything we have is a free gift from God, so we can’t boast in it, no matter how distinctive it is.
Humility is glad to affirm that God sovereignly governs the heartbeats of our life and all of our safe arrivals or non-arrivals.
The root of Christian humility is the gospel that Christ died for our sins. That’s how sinful we are, and that’s how dependent we are on grace.
Humility gives itself away in serving everyone rather than seeking to be served.
Humility is glad to affirm that this service is true greatness.
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