I was deeply touched lately by the verse that says: “Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD…that man shall die…” (De.17:12). I told myself: “Then, in principle, man does not obey the High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ, because of pride!” I remembered the reason of the fall of Lucifer, the archangel who fell down to the ground from heaven and became Satan (Isa.14:12), the fall of Adam and Eve and the case of king Nebucadnetsar, who, because of his proud thoughts, became like a wild animal (Dan.4:33). In all these cases, the source of their sin was pride! Paul, writing to Timothy concerning God’s workers, tells him: “not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1Ti.3:6). Even Paul was not spared from that problem: “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.” (2Co.12:7). There is another very important verse in the book of Job 33:17 (RSV) that says, “that he may turn man aside from his deed, and cut off pride from man”. The message that this verse conveys – in its context – explains the reason why God disciplines man by testing! Yes, to prevent him from pride!!! From pride and arrogance that were and remain the source of all evil and man’s misery: From one side they hinder men from seeking God (Ps.10:4) and from the other side they destroy the relations among men, because “By pride comes nothing but strife…” (Pr.13:10). The message of all these verses can be summed up, in my opinion, in Michah 6:8 that says: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God”. The last part of this verse will be the subject of our study and which I repeat:
… AND THAT YOU WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD
Humility constitutes, inter alia, a presupposition of entering the kingdom of God
Walk humbly with God has to do with one of the most important, if not the most important, characteristic of the true Christian, but also the presupposition of his entrance into the kingdom of heaven: Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat.5:3). And, at another instance: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt.18:3). St. Augustine said: “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” And if man learns and applies humility he will be spared from humiliation… (Jas.4:6). Is it ever possible to have true holiness without humility? Absolutely not! So, humility is not an option, it is a commandment, an unavoidable necessity (1Pe.5:6). It is the only way to resemble Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God… made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Php.2:5-7). If man is dominated by pride, he will not only be disgraced but he will also be destroyed (Pr.29:23 and 16:18).
Humility is the product both of a deep knowledge of God’s holiness and of ourselves
The prophet Hosea says that what God requires is a profound knowledge of God more than holocausts: “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (6:6). The so-called “sacrifices” may give satisfaction and arrogant thoughts to the man who offers them but they do not satisfy God. On the contrary, the true knowledge of ourselves and of God, which leads us to humility and to salvation, satisfies God. Someone said, “They that know God will be humble; they that know themselves cannot be proud.” On the other hand, we should not forget what the Bible says concerning the human knowledge when it is not bound to humility: “…Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.” (1Co.8:1-3). Indeed! Knowledge makes man to puff up, to boast and to stop depending on God! It fills him with a presumptuous mind and with confidence in himself, which make him deviate from the good path. It renders him stubborn and inflexible because he considers himself too important! A great number of problems within the church and outside the church is created by people who believe that they know all things and that despise others overtly or secretly! “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Pr.26:12). And God’s Word goes farther: “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Ga.6:3). He deceives himself!!!
The key to true humility: the cross of Jesus showed which is my value
The cross of Christ has showed which are my value and my merits. I deserved a cross for I am an impious being as of my nature and because there is no good in me (Ro.7:18). I deserved a cross on account of my lusts, of my thoughts and my acts! You also, you deserved a cross! What is the difference between you and me? What counts is not what we think of ourselves but how God sees us. This is the key of true humility! A man who walks humbly with his God will find it impossible not to walk humbly also with his fellow men! The fact, however, that Christ died on the cross for man shows, at the same time, how precious man is in His eyes!
The features of a humble man
Let us refer briefly to certain other characteristics of the humble man:
- · He proclaims boldly, but in all humility, what God has done in his life for him, in him and through him. He proclaims and confirms in a spirit of honest recognition and humility that it is God who saved him, that it is God who has sanctified him and that it is God who has filled him with His Holy Spirit as well as with all his marvelous blessings. In this manner, he gives the glory to God.
- · He accepts reproofs from God and submits himself to them with gratitude. He also accepts reproofs from men as far as they are true and just! In case of contestation, he commits himself to the One who judges justly. If the discussion degenerates, he abstains from all counterattack, rendering slander for slander. He keeps his silence and tries to discern; he does not insult but, to the contrary, he rather looks for his interlocutor’s blessing knowing that he himself is called to inherit blessings promised by the Lord.
- · He does not endeavor at all to excuse himself by means of the sins of those who accuse him or by comparing his behavior with that of others. He compares himself with the Biblical pattern, that is, Christ and not with his brothers and his sisters. The humble man, knowing himself, avoids judging other people. He is very conscious of what exists in him. In addition, he does not make use of expressions like this: “Forgive me IF I offended you” if he knows that he has offended him/her…
- · His trend is to serve others (Php.2:7; Mk.10:42-43) and lay down even his rights for the good of others (1Co.10:23; 1Co.9:32)
- · He is thirsty for learning and is not embarrassed by asking questions. When he finds the truth, he does not hesitate to abandon his previous position because he loves the truth more than himself, the Bible more than his personal opinion, the truth more than his denomination, the truth more than his pastor, the truth more than his reputation and his popularity. Men humiliate each other, but the truth never! God will never humiliate those who are humble!
- · He does not hasten to abuse or to usurp rights and authority, which do not belong to him. I must, at this point, open a parenthesis: How sad it is to see people abuse their power or authority and, even worse, to see Christians pretending to have, for example, the gift of healing or to drive out demons while they do not have it: To see them commanding (rebuking) an illness (!) to get out of man and/or to drive out demons from man and be banished definitely and no more come back, while they are not invested with that spiritual gift! The illness remains there and the evil spirits continue to torment the suffering man!
Let there be no misunderstanding: I believe wholeheartedly that our God is a God of miracles. I am not referring simply to the miracles we see in the nature, that is, for example the existence and physiology of a tree, of a flower, of a cat or of man etc. I am referring to miracles like those described in the Bible. God has never stopped performing miracles. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow! We are enjoined to pray for the healing of the sick (Jas.5:16). The fact that our Lord has given His apostles the power to heal the sick and drive out demons (Lu.10:19) does not mean that all believers have been granted this gift or authority: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (1Co.12:7-11). Yes, miracles are performed by the power of God, even today! One of the most evident miracles of God is the miracle of conversion performed in the heart of a sinner who is set free of his passions and in whose heart are engraved the holy God’s desires and laws; in whose mind the Word of God is enlightened! I believe that our God is a God of miracles but I do not trust pretenders. And, in order not to admit their «poverty» and their presumptions, they accuse the sick or those who are demon possessed … that they don’t have the necessary faith or the suffering people should continue to hope and pray and that in due course, maybe after some years, the deliverance would come! When did the Lord or the apostles act in such a way? Were not the results seen immediately? (Example: Ac.3:6-8). The Word of God says that we must pray and wait for the result in a holy optimism but the Bible does not say that he who rebukes a disease (!) or drives out a demon should wait patiently to see the results after some years or when the faith of the demon possessed arrives at maturity! “Pray” and “rebuke” do not have the same meaning! And we should never forget God’s sovereign will! “God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will” (Heb.2:4)
- · The man who is really humble does not try to use God as a means of achieving his purposes and of accomplishing his objectives through God’s promises. He does not seek God’s hands… but God’s face… (2Chr.7:14)! I have seen people who turn their back to God because, for example, God has not given them a husband or a wife!
- · He who is humble waits for God to lift him up. “For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.” (2Co.10:18). He commits himself to God unconditionally and gives Him glory even for the smallest things. He prays to God to lead him in everything. He does not decide for himself, but lets God decide for him the “what”, the “how” and the “when” etc., because he knows that he does not belong to himself but to Jesus who saved him… He lives, moment by moment, in a state of absolute and total dependence on God, his Heavenly Father!
How God rewards the humble
Let us examine briefly how God rewards those who are humble:
- · The Lord hears the prayers of the humble, forgives their sins and heals them physically, emotionally and spiritually, according to His sovereign will (2Ch.7:14);
- · The Lord dwells with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones (Isa.57:15). So, he who is truly humble enjoys a continuous revival. He is never in need of a revival!!! “The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Ps.34:18); the Lord looks on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at His word (Isa.66:2);
- · Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Lu.18:14);
- · God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Jas.4:6); God comforts the humble (2Co.7:6) and gives them rest (Mt.11:28) and renders them agreeable to His eyes;
- · The man who is humble is wise, because “…with the humble is wisdom.” (Pr.11:2).
Two big sins and how to avoid them
1. It is a great sin to want to seem humble (or spiritual) if you are not! False humility is a lie; it is hypocrisy. The Psalmist said: “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression.” (Ps.19:13). Pride and arrogance are the sins that are an abomination to God, as declared in the Word of God in Pr.8:13 and 6:16-19;
2. It is a great sin to want to justify himself for his negligence and/or indifference and speak continually of his “pretended” inability or his weakness or his lack of gifts. This is an insult against God, as if God had deprived him of His gifts or of His power. He is interested and tries, to the contrary, to find what is the gift that God has bestowed on him, so that he may use it. Besides, he seeks to add new gifts and virtues in his life for God’s glory (2Pe.1:5-11). If things were not so, then the apostle Paul, when he spoke of his virtues, he could be the proudest man of the world!!!
How humility is obtained
Humility is obtained when we become conscious of ourselves; when we admit our spiritual bankruptcy and when we humbly and in godly sorrow confess our pride; also when we contemplate the majesty of our God (Job 42:5-6). Humility is obtained mainly during the moments of trouble and of affliction. The Psalmist said: “… You have known my soul in troubles” (Ps.31:7). There are many people who think that humility is acquired by reading books on humility or by talking about humility. There are many people who believe that it is our daily sins that keep us humble. If things were so, the greater sinners would be the most humble men of the world. This is a misleading error of the Devil! We need God’s truth; we need God’s grace; and we need the Holy Spirit in order to become humble and remain humble. This virtue, as well as all the other virtues, is obtained in the same manner: By repentance and by faith, in an instant, but it increases according to the measure man obey the truth, the light that he receives (1Pe.1:22). God’s virtues are not obtained with the time and the age but by admitting our moral and spiritual poverty, through good willful choices, acts of repentance and faith as well as through an absolute surrender to God.
Many Christians have a certain difficulty to appropriate God’s virtues by faith. They easily believe that the Lord forgives their sins but they cannot believe that the Lord grants them these virtues. However, as we receive by faith our salvation in the twinkling of an eye, as we receive, in an instant, the forgiveness of our sins when we sincerely confess and reject them, it is in the same manner that we can make ours, in an instant, by faith these virtues! These virtues develop by obeying the truth, as Peter instructs us in his second epistle (2Pe.1:5-11).
Jesus has already offered what God requires from us
All the virtues, including humility, were obtained by Christ and for our account on the cross at Calvary by means of Ηis propitiatory death and are offered to us. Jesus Christ has removed, on the one hand, our sins and our weaknesses and He added, on the other hand, His power and His virtues, among which the most important are, justice, love and humility. He has made us participants of His divine nature. The only thing that He requires is our sincere and irrevocable consent! Then, the Holy Spirit will realize this work in us! Christ’s victory will become our victory! God who has called us to this wonderful life, He is faithful and it is He that will do it, it is He who will make it possible for us, “for it is God who works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Php.2:13). Let us allow God to speak to us and react in us! AMEN.