“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic.6:8)
Short verse but very meaningful
It is well known and recognized that the Word of God, the Bible, is given by God’s inspiration and that it is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness (2Ti.3:16). This is a short verse but very meaningful, which, in few words, expresses great truths and important spiritual guidelines. These are words that the prophet pronounced by inspiration of the Holy Spirit towards a generation, which was perplexed because of a flagrant contradiction between God’s promises and the tough facts of his history. They were expecting happiness, victories and triumphs and they were, on the contrary, found in dramatic and tragic events. They were trying in their own ways to propitiate themselves and please God by offering burnt offerings of veal and ram and rivers of olive oil, and what are even worse, human sacrifices. God, however, was not finding pleasure in such things but, on the contrary, He had them in abomination. God was not interested in their sacrifices; He had already sacrificed for them, from the foundation of the world, His only Son (1Pe.1:20). This is also true for today! God is not pleased in our beautiful words, in our great activities or our activism, in our talents and gifts etc. He finds pleasure in the fear of God in us, in our repentance, in our faith in His words and in our trust in His character. He also takes pleasure in our faith when it is successfully tested in fiery trials, in our merciful character and in our humility and, in general, in the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in us. In other words, in “…love out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned”, (1Ti.1:5). God is interested but in our obedience proceeding out of love and respect. That is why he addressed them these soft and serious words: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?”
Given that the Bible, the Word of God, is supported and interpreted by the Bible itself, listen, please, what God says elsewhere in the same spirit and in nearly the same words. “Thus says the LORD: «Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the LORD.» (Jer.9:23-24) Now, let us begin with the expression:
WHAT IS GOOD
Comparison between De.10:12 and Ec.12:15 and the verse in question
If we compare De.10:12, which says: “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” with the one of Ecclesiastes 12:13 which says: “Let us hear the end of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole of man”, we arrive at the interesting conclusion that what is good for man is but THE FEAR OF GOD in him.
The fear of God: definition and characteristics
The fear of God is a mixture of fear and trembling but at the same time of attraction and love. It is the affectionate reverence towards God, the Great and Almighty God, Governor of the universe who is a devouring fire and who is exempt of all favoritism… but who is at the same time a God of love and mercy! The Bible says: “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Ps.2:11). He invites us to fear Him and Him only and call upon Him for our salvation, for it is He who can destroy both soul and body in Hell, but who also has loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him should escape eternal damnation and receive eternal salvation. It is He that we must fear and hallow in our hearts because it is He who can condemn us or justify us, who can save us and kill us and who can provide the power to live the life He requires of us. The Lord has stated: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.” (Pr.8:13).
But why is the fear of God our “good”?
But why is the fear of God our “good”? Because it is the fear of God, which brings us to salutary wisdom and salvation: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge». (Pr.1:7). John Bunyan said: “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and they that lack the beginning have neither middle nor end.” Let us also mention some other reasons:
1) The fear of God renders us prudent and protects us from traps of men and from snares of the Devil. The Bible says: “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death.” (Pr.14:27). Acts which are not based on God’s fear are deprived of understanding and he who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead (Pr.21:16);
2) The fear of God pushes man to avoid iniquity and hate sin. The Bible says: “By mercy and truth, iniquity is purged, and by the fear of the LORD men turn away from evil.” (Pr.16:6). Have you ever seen someone who does not avert of his sins but repeats them? Do not waste your time looking for the reason and the explanation: I can tell you on the authority of the Word of God… the fear of God is not yet in his heart: “The transgression of the wicked says within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Ps.36:1);
3) The fear of God is the source of numerous precious blessings. Yes, of so many blessings, which could not be compared with blessings of other promises, which are given as an answer or as a reward to other virtues. Here are some that God holds in reserve for those who fear Him:
Ø The secret (or the friendship) of the LORD is with them that fear Him… (Ps.25:14);
Ø The Lord teaches the way man must choose …(Ps.25:12);
Ø He takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in his steadfast love (Ps.147:11);
Ø He gives wisdom and knowledge to those who fear Him (Pr.1:7);
Ø His mercy is on those who fear him … (Lu.1:50);
Ø He protects and covers those who fear the Lord, even if they walk in darkness and have no light… (Isa.50:10);
Ø He listens to their discussions and writes them in a book of remembrance (Mal.3:16). God keeps minutes of their discussions! What an honor but also what a responsibility! This is the reason why we should …
Fear God and not men
Yes, we should fear God and not men, not only in order to be given His blessings but also to avoid the consequences of His warnings! This is the reason why the fear of God is our “good”. This is why, when we pray, we must ask God to put His fear into the hearts of those we pray for, whether it has to do with our children, our parents, our relatives or of friends or even our enemies. Yes, the fear of God leads to life but the fear of men lays or brings snares! The only way to get rid of the fear of men and of “calamities” is to fear God and to pay attention to all the “Thus says the Lord”. Someone said: “We fear men so much because we fear God so little.” The fear of men renders us weak in front of difficulties. Can there be happiness and strength when the fear of flesh exists? We should not therefore fear those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul but rather Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Mt.10:28). Jesus was often speaking about Hell! Do we? Or do we avoid it systematically? Are we more gentle and compassionate than Jesus? Let, therefore, pray God to teach us to so number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom and understand the fear of God (Ps.90:12).
My soul was seized by fear as I was considering either the judgments or the blessings that followed a word, a choice, an act or a thought of the men about whom the Bible speaks. God taught me the fear of the Lord (Ps.34:11), in the same way police teaches car-drivers the fear and prudence by means of images of accidents… The first thing I did was to ask myself whether I myself also was to suffer similar consequences from a bad or erroneous choice, or from a word, or act or a thought. That is why I asked Him to show me how He sees me, who I am in HIS eyes. A request that I usually express in the following way: “Teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more’! (Job 34:32). Let us mention briefly some Bible cases:
Moses: I saw the way the Lord treated Moses, when he did not follow exactly God’s instructions. Was Moses an unbeliever or a wicked man? Of course not! However, God was so severe with him! I humbly confess that I do not understand fully the seriousness of his act and God’s severity, but the fact itself that I do not understand them makes me more afraid… and more cautious (Nu.20:8-12);
Ananias and Saphira: What a horrible end did they have because they told a lie and pretended to be spiritual! (Ac.5:1-3);
Israel : For an act of unbelief at Kadesh, Israel erred for forty years in the desert: Let us therefore fear, lest, on account of unbelief and disobedience be deprived of God’s blessings (Heb.4:1‑6). Also, how the people of Israel were punished for their sins and mainly for the word he said “…His blood (Christ’s) be on us and on our children” (Mt.27:25; Mt.23:35): He “paid” it along the past centuries. And what should we say about the horrible crime that Hitler committed against the Jews now, in the 20th century?
David: David suffered – by grace and condescendence – a fourfold punishment inflicted on him by God and was not put to death himself (2Sa.12:5-13);
Zechariah: Zechariah stayed dumb for nine months because he did not believe the words of the angel (Lu.1:18-20);
Nebuchadnezzar: King Nebuchadnezzar paid for an arrogant thought with seven years of craziness… (Da.4:30-33). God will judge us “for every idle word”… but he will also reward us even for a cup of cold water given to one of His and in His name! Who can, therefore, can despise the day of small things? (Mt.12:36‑37; 10:42; Zec.4:10).
Let our prayer then be Job’s prayer: “Lord, do not ever permit that peace and riches reign in my home without God’s fear” (Job 21:9). The greatest treasure of a believer is God’s fear in his heart. God’s goodness, God’s greatness and His sovereignty, God’s possibility to forgive or not to forgive, His wonderful works and His judgments push us to be filled with God’s fear. God’s fear is necessary for worshipping God, for serving God, for abhorring and avoiding sin, for becoming faithful in our duties, for governing justly our fellow men, for doing works of righteousness, for teaching or transmitting the fear of God to others and finally for obtaining God’s blessings. God demands that the fear of God be demonstrated by works of justice, of mercy and by walking with God in a humble way. Let us examine them one by one:
DOING JUSTICE or DOING WHAT IS RIGHT
Doing justice towards all directions
God asks us to do justice towards all directions and in the same manner: towards God and towards men. Christ requires that man does justice towards God before doing justice towards his counterparts.
The best example of repentance; its characteristic: the acceptance of punishment
I do not know of a better example of this kind of justice, of expressed repentance, than that of the criminal on the cross of Calvary who did it spontaneously. With a humble spirit, he condemned both himself and the other criminal on the cross and said: “And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Lu.23:41). My friends, let us say to the Lord: “Yes, Lord, you are right, and I am wrong…, I am a sinner… but you are holy etc., etc.”. I have good grounds to believe that if a man does not do that act of justice condemning himself, admitting that what he deserved was death and Hell, God cannot forgive him, justify him and render him just. When someone admits, confesses and accepts his sins and the punishment of his sins (Lév.26:40-42) AND rejects his sins (Pr.28:13), he will then and only then obtain the forgiveness of his sins, life, righteousness and honor (Pr.21:21). One does justice when, without complaining, without pitying himself, without excusing himself, without throwing his responsibilities on other people, without pretending to be the victim of others – while he (she) is obviously guilty – accepts the punishment of his sins.
Two verses render this point clear:
· “Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD! Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven”… (Lam.3:39-41);
· “And (if) they [shall] confess their iniquity, and … their unfaithfulness… If then their uncircumcised heart be humbled, and they then accept the punishment of their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant…” (Le.26:40-42).
Repentance is an act of justice; God should never be misunderstood
I believe you remember the case of the two men who went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee was boasting of his “good works” but the tax collector would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ The tax collector’s humble, just and repentant prayer resulted in his justification! (Lu.18:10-14). Repentance is the basic characteristic of a true Christian. A genuine believer, in the first place, accepts himself as morally guilty before God not alone because he has committed certain sins but because sin dwells in him and that he is a sinner by nature. This act of repentance and confession is an act of justice, which allows God to bless him. God is just and good and merciful! “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1Jo.1:9).
We also do an act of justice when we do not permit the painful conditions and the difficult circumstances of life, as well as our failures to lead us to misunderstand God, turn against God and permit our heart to be offended with God. God is just and good! His acts should not, therefore, be misunderstood. God is good and does not push anybody to sin. God does not do any injustice and does not tempt any person to sin, but each is tempted when he is attracted and pushed by his own lusts and by his own proud and arrogant reflections. Let us tell, dear friend, to the Lord our God: “My Heavenly Father, my Lord God, I cannot understand your ways: Why, for example, you permitted Job to suffer; John the Baptist and James to be beheaded; Peter’s guards to be executed; innocent children to be sold, raped and/or assassinated, natural calamities removing thousands of people etc., etc. Help me not to misunderstand you and not to be offended in you… We know that you are holy and righteous, that you know all things that you love us with an everlasting love that you are wise in all your doings that you are almighty, and that you cannot lie! Father, many true Christians and giants of faith have passed through painful experiences: They were perplexed but not in despair… (2Co.4:8). Do not ever permit that I am offended in you, Lord, or move away from you or that I err and be deceived. Amen!”
Repentance must have a permanent character
Repentance must have a permanent character. If to every thing there is a season (Ec.3:1), as regards repentance there is no season. Repentance should be applied every time we grieve God. Repentance is one of the angular stones of true Christian life… Let us not become like some people, even Christians, who have deleted from their dictionary the words “forgive me”, “excuse me” or “I repent”. This is the reason why the Word of God says: “…unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Lu.13:3). The expression, “if you do not repent” means “if you do not keep repenting”… We must, therefore, do justice before God and men in the form of on-going or permanent readiness for repentance!
True repentance is based but on facts
True repentance should not be based on feelings but on facts and on the position of heart! In other words, it must produce fruit worthy of repentance. True repentance should not be confused with the impatience or with the momentary feelings of contrition, which push each other and give a deceitful image of true repentance. King Saul’s tears, his public confession in front of two armies, and the recognition of his sin vis-à-vis David did not profit: What was missing was the fruit worthy of repentance! And in order to produce fruit of justice, in the form of repentance, one needs time to evaluate the situation, decide and express oneself in a conscious and conscientious confession, in a spirit of mourning, of deep godly sorrow, which works salvation not to be repented of (2Co.7:10). True repentance never draws back! Repentance is an act of justice also for another reason: The sinner who admits his sin or fault or error admits, at the same time, the uprightness and the justice of God.
The lack of trust in God’s love and truthfulness constitutes an act of injustice
In reality, injustice towards God is but the lack of faith or trust in Him: “… he that does not believe in God has made him a liar…” (1Jo.5:10). He dishonors God’s veracity, goodness and love for man! Unbelief to God is equal to an act of injustice and faith or trust is equal to an act of justice. Faith and trust in God do justice. Adam and Eve did not believe in God’s love and veracity. They committed an injustice. They dishonored God. Abraham, on the contrary, believed in God’s Word, did an act of justice and honored God, believing in His words and in His love. His faith was imputed to him as justice. We also do justice by speaking the truth in our heart (Ps.15:2) about our sins and our sinful nature (Ro.3:4).
It is necessary to extend our justice towards men
When one does justice towards God, it is then and only then that one will be able to do justice, true justice, towards men. Justice in love must be done at any cost! You cannot be a Christian and at the same time live unjustly. Let us mention certain basic examples, such as the lack of respect and honor to our parents, murder, adultery, stealing and lies or false witnessing (Ex.20:1-17). To these basic ones, we could add the following:
· To judge unjustly and have secretly or openly partiality (Le.19:15; De.16:19; 24:17; Ps.82:2; Job 13:10; Jas. 2:4, 33);
· To use diverse weights and measures which is an abomination to the Lord (Pr.20:10);
· Backbite with our tongue and do evil to our neighbor… (Ps 15:3);
· Seek our own in an egoistic manner (1Co.13:5; 1Co.10:24,33);
· To pervert the truth and call evil good and good evil… (Isa.5:20);
· To have hidden thought or motive or ulterior purpose (Pr.23:7);
· Accept accusations with pleasure against other people, denominations, churches or elders (Ps.15:3);
· To doubt the truthfulness, without serious reason, of honest men (Joh.8:46);
· Not open our mouth for the speechless, the poor and needy, for the rights of all who are left desolate (Pr.31:8-9);
· Not warn those who are heading to perdition (Pr.24:11);
· To remove freedom of speech and prohibit any true dialogue leading to the truth and to transparency; where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty (1Co.14:30; 2Co.3:17);
· To act arbitrarily or be authoritarian in our family, in our church, in our job etc. (1Pe.5:3);
· To commit an injustice to someone or to a minority on behalf of the majority unless the person suffering the injustice accepts it on behalf of others as did our Lord (Joh.11:50).
The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (1Co.6:9). It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb.10:31)!
In closing this important point, I would like to add one more thought: The only case of being capable of doing justice and of living a normal Christian life is to put our heart wholly at God’s disposal so that He may take our heart and fill it with the fruit of His Holy Spirit and the gifts of His grace. And now, let us examine the phrase…
TO LOVE MERCY: It means Forgiving Spirit, Tolerance, and Goodness
God is merciful
God is merciful and that is what He asks of us. Mercy means forgiveness, comprehension and compassion! The prophet Hosea said in verse 6:6: “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Yes, our Lord takes pleasure in doing mercy to us. Jer.31:3 says that his mercy is everlasting: “…Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” The whole ch.31 of Jeremiah reveals God’s mercy. His mercy was manifested on the cross and magnified up to heaven. “Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam.3:22-23 and Ps.85:10). It is God’s mercy which leads us to repentance and to salvation.
He enjoins us to imitate his mercy
God loves to show mercy and bless us. He asks that we should be inspired of same mind. Our merciful character must be demonstrated in various manners and notably:
· In forgiving our brethren, from our heart, the sins committed against us (Mt.18:33-35) blotting out the handwriting of their debts towardss us and in praying for them earnestly (Job 42:10; Col.2:14);
· In forbearing each other with love and in all humility and sweetness (Eph.4:2);
· In loosing the bonds of wickedness and in removing all kind of yoke in the context of our family, of our job and of the brotherhood (Isa.58:6-10; Gal.6:22);
· In laying down our lives for the brethren, in opening our heart to them and in loving them not in word or speech but in deed and in truth (1Jo.3:16-18).
What is difficult is to know how to do good with discernment, in order not to harm instead of doing good! Is it right, for example, to give a pair of scissors to a baby to play, just because he asks for it crying; to give money to someone to buy drugs; to «spoil » your child with too much money; to help someone so as to spare him from working; to let someone live in sin just because your erroneous idea about love does not allow you to make him sorry?
Help us, Lord, to be merciful with discernment and without transgressing your Law!
Let us adopt God’s mercy
The only way of becoming merciful is to accept by faith the merciful character of Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit can produce this fruit, so that we may love, forgive and pray even for those who sin against us. When the Holy Spirit fills our hearts, then we can become participants of Christ’s merciful character and to love our neighbors, not in words and with the tongue but in actions and truth. God gives the Holy Spirit to all those who seek and obey Him in a spirit of repentance and faith. The Bible includes also some promises and warnings:
· “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Mt.5:7);
· “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (Jas.2:13).
· “He who follows righteousness and mercy finds life, righteousness, and honor.” (Pr.21:21)
Then, God’s love will be in us and we will love our neighbors neither in word nor in tongue but in deed and in truth. Now, let’s examine the last point:
AND TO WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD
I was deeply touched 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, at this point, 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 my value is
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 of 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 oneself for one’s negligence and/or indifference and speak continually of one’s “pretended” inability or one’s weakness or one’s 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 one, so that one may use it. Besides, one seeks to add new gifts and virtues in one’s 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).
What God requires is indispensable for our salvation
All these virtues that God requires are not intended to become prettier Christians but because they are indispensable both for our salvation and for our spiritual development.
· If we do not do justice towards God by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ Who died for our sins and was raised for our justification, we are not going to enter the kingdom of God. The unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God. The best way to do justice is to admit the truth of God, to repent, to believe His words and to entrust yourself into His hands;
· After we are saved and changed, if we do not show mercy to those who need it, if we do not forgive from the depths of our heart even up to seventy times seven a day but keep bitterness within us, we will not receive mercy; judgment is at the door. We are forgiven from God if we forgive our neighbor wholeheartedly: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Mt.5:7)
· If we do not walk humbly with our God and we do not become like the small children, we will not enter the kingdom Heaven.
Jesus Christ has already offered what God requires from us
I know, dear friends that my words, up to this point, have burdened you, have made you sorry and may be they have discouraged you because they do not refer to God’s consolations and encouragements but they refer to God’s perfect requirements from imperfect beings such as we are. But listen, please, now: What God demands He has already offered it! IT IS GOD WHO PUTS HIS FEAR IN US: “And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for their good and for the good of their sons after them. And I will cut an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good. But I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me.” (Jer.32:39-40).
All these virtues of justice, of mercy and of humility, which are enjoined and required, were obtained by Christ on the cross of Calvary by means of his propitiatory death. Jesus 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 act in us! AMEN.