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Posts Tagged ‘humility’

The last few days my perspective on what constitutes genuine Christianity has been sharpened so keenly.  Just when I think I “get it” the picture then gets even more distinct and new details come into view.

As I continue to delve into the words of Jesus, and His actions as well, I earnestly seek  the Heart and Mind of God who lived as a man.  A pattern then begins to emerge so vastly different than the one which now carries His name.  How can we hear Him, then look at what we have created, and believe this is what He intended or meant?  Where can we find the similarities?  Why do I only find opposites?

I was willing to follow the radical teachings of the Hebrew Roots Movement because I believed this is what God wanted from us as His followers.  I was seeking something real and radical, not status quo and dead.  But Jesus is that radical.  He is so vastly different than the wisdom we learn in this world, which Christians seem to approve as appropriate for church and ministry as well.

In “Commercial Christianity” I discussed the money/business focus that the church finds itself serving as an institution.  Lately I am seeing another contrast even more troubling; a characteristic so intrinsic to “church” and public ministry that we have come to accept it as completely normal.  We call it Christan while in reality, it is the opposite of Jesus.

I can’t quote scripture, because it would take nearly the whole of the New Testament to show you.  The picture is everywhere in the life and words of Jesus, and those who followed Him.  How can we read it, yet miss it?  In a word: humility.

Words from a *friend of mine, writing about the woman at the well:

Scripture said that this woman was anticipating the coming of her Messiah, “I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ; when He is come, He will tell us all things.” John 4:25    She was waiting for her salvation from God.  When Jesus told her that He was the Messiah, she LEFT HER WATERPOT to proclaim to her people that she had met the promised Messiah.  “Come, see a man, which told me all things that I ever did; is this not this the Christ?” she said.  She was searching and He came to her and this encounter changed everything for her!

God didn’t choose to reveal Himself first to the town mayor or the head of the city council nor the high priest of the top synagogue.  God chose the scandalous woman, the talk of the town, who most likely was the black sheep of her family, the one who disappointed her parents.  But God sees and knows the hearts of all (I Samuel 16:7, in reference to David, a man after God’s own heart according to Acts 13:22).  “Jesus saith unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you (chief priests and the elders), that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.  For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the publicans and the harlots believed him.’” Matthew 21:31 & 32   “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things that are mighty.  And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea and the things which are not, to bring to naught things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” I Corinthians 1:27-29

Jesus is GOD.  If anyone had the logical right to promote Himself or seek the high and lofty in human society, He did.  Instead, He sought out the outcasts that no one else would touch: lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, demon-possessed, uneducated poor people, dead people, sick people, other ethnic groups, the evil Roman conquerors, and even a traitor.  Do you realize it takes humility to walk, talk, and minister to these people?  You have to see the value God gives them.  You have to be willing to get dirty with them and be touched by their infirmities.. just as Jesus did when he was born into this depraved human race.  He was not born with our depravity, but He was willing to be surrounded by it and take on its guilt in order to save it.

Over and over Jesus emphasized that God values sacrificial love that does not advertise its exploits for its own gain or fame.  Even if you do go out on the streets to find the lost sheep but flaunt your works before men, you are still not serving the Jesus that walked this earth.  God knows your heart.  He warned many would come to Him on the last day and say… “We did all these works in your name,” and yet He does not know them at all.  Most of these “healers and prophets” want the masses to come to them, and give generously.  They like to be on TV and they are all striving for fans and influence.

I have often heard critics of the big names in Christendom ask why the healers don’t go into the hospitals if they really have love, compassion, and the faith to heal.  But the same question could be asked of ANY gifting God has given us.  We train musicians to stand up and use their gift in the church for the weekly performance.  And yes, they may have hearts of true praise toward God, not motivated by the joy of having their gift “recognized”…  but are our hearts bleeding with the same grief, for the same people Jesus is seeking?  Or have we accepted a man’s agenda and his priorities over what Jesus said and demonstrated constituted “true religion?”  What did James say?  What is the witness of all the Apostles?

We were commanded to go OUT – not gratify, entertain, and magnify ourselves with our gifts and callings.  We make sure our buildings are pretty and comfortable so the upper middle class will feel comfortable.  We would not want to appear shabby or poor.  We seek to be known in our communities by other church leaders and civic leaders.  We have an image… a MINISTRY.  I am weary of men who are more concerned with promoting THEIR ministry with the world’s priorities, than following Lord they claim to serve.  He must increase, and we must decrease.  We can do far more good when no one knows our name.  We don’t need to brand our churches and make our own names known.  We need the humble Jesus to break our hearts and purify us for His work.

This does not begin to paint the picture I see, but I hope in some small way, someone will see in Jesus what is truly important to the heart of God.

* My friend I have quoted here is someone Jesus saved out of a lesbian lifestyle.  She now writes and ministers her testimony to God’s grace and restoration to the “outcasts”.   You can read more of what she has to share here: Sharing Light in the Midst of Darkness

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I heard a sermon a few years ago on the radio relating many stories of men who rose to fame in Christian ministry only to end in defeat or humiliation.  The stories sobered me because you seldom hear “the rest of the story.”  The speaker shared statistics which indicated this is actually the more common outcome, rather than the exception.  I have been reading over the life of Solomon lately, and this sermon came back to mind.  We have no shortage of examples in scripture or in modern Christianity.

An interesting paradox in our Christian walk is that the greater a gift God gives His children, the more potential we find for the gift to become our bane instead of a blessing.   The first temptation is to love the gift more than the One who gave it, not realizing we have misplaced our highest devotion.  I believe this was Solomon’s downfall – his heart being drawn after the women in his life and passively following their spiritual desires at the expense of his love for the true God.  Sometimes the gifts and blessings of God overwhelm me, and the temptation is to focus all my energies on those things, especially my children and family.  But if we make an idol out of our career, house, family, church family or a charismatic leader, our love will quickly grow selfish, constricting, conditional, and even abusive, as we have cut ourselves off from the true Source of real love.  These idols are hard to see because we are supposed to love and nurture these things – but not more than we love God.  We often don’t realize we have crossed the line.   But others can often tell something is wrong, even if they don’t know why.

The other trap, especially in the area of ministry, is the feeding of our pride.  We mistakenly begin to ascribe to the sometimes subtle belief that our gifting originated in ourselves, not in God, or we may want to think He gave it to us because we are special in some way.  This describes the first evil found in our universe – when Satan became lifted up in his own beauty and aspired to sit on God’s throne himself.  We can never delude ourselves into believing anything good originates in us, and not lose the benefit of it in the end.  Solomon asked for wisdom in humility, telling God he was like a child who did not know how to go out or come in.  I wonder how long he remembered this was his natural state before God answered his prayer?

This is where we learn that the greater our revelation, the more we must be willing to suffer.  The great men and women of faith I admire the most, have suffered things I can only imagine. Why is this?  God’s mercy I believe, as Paul wrote:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.   Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.   But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:7 -10

This is why we are instructed to not despise the correction of God.  He does it in love to protect us from ourselves.  Not every calamity comes for this reason.  Some obstacles we are called to stand and fight against in spiritual warfare, but we must have discernment to hear when He says to us, “My grace is sufficient.”

God’s giftings come with testing built in – to see if we will love Him the most, and walk in humility before Him.  But if this is not enough, the church turned institution developed an over-dependence on leadership not found in the New Testament.  This structure places men on platforms they should not have to stand on, and binds burdens on them which should be shared by other giftings designed to work together as.. a body…. maybe?   This damaging symbiosis weakens both the pastor and the flock.  One is taxed to the point of his flame being burned out while the flock becomes passive. They expect their leader to spoon feed them, inspire them,  hear from God for them, soothe their every wound, and do the work of building the church by reaching the lost.  Some enjoy being large and in charge I suppose, but I have known those who have crumbled.  They need intercessors urgently – especially those who truly have a heart for honest truth and obedience to the Spirit.  Spurgeon said his ministry was a result of fervent intercession by those called to pray for him and the body.  Once during the Israelite’s wilderness wanderings, God allowed the burden to fall on 70 other men to prophesy with Moses – to lighten his load.  Moses declared at that time he wished all of Israel would prophesy.  This is the reality of what we have in the New Covenant and of God pouring out His Spirit on all flesh!  Yes we need leaders most definitely – but they are not ordained to be our everything.

Burnout, giving in to temptations, being distracted from our First Love in idolatry – just a few reasons why we do not end well.  Paul spoke of running the race and seeking the prize at the end.  I don’t believe he meant striving to be saved, but striving to end with integrity and faith, glorifying Christ.  In Ecclesiastes it appears that Solomon gained the greatest wisdom in the end – realizing the vanity of this world and the importance of a singular focus on God Himself.  Yet the consequences of his disobedience played out in a sad story of a divided kingdom.  We are living in an age of divided families, friendships, and churches.  We are not ending well, and it is my greatest desire and prayer that our true focus may be restored – to the praise and glory of God alone.

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Watchman Nee on Christ as the Light of Life..

First of all, let us point out that the light of life is not a knowledge of the Bible.  Everybody knows Christians should read their Bible diligently.  But if we read it as a book of knowledge or as a textbook of theology, we will get nothing but knowledge.  We may be able to acquaint ourselves with some Bible doctrines which are accurate, yet these are only letters.  At the time that our Lord was born in Bethlehem, many priests and scribes were extremely familiar with the books of the prophets; nonetheless, they did not recognize the Christ.  Today the New Testament is added to the Old Testament.  It is still possible for people to remember the letters of the Bible and yet not know Christ.  Not for a moment do we suggest that we need not read the scriptures; we simply stress that in reading the Word we may obtain knowledge without ever knowing Christ.

Many priests and scribes in the day of Christ had only a kind of dead knowledge; they did not know the living Lord.  Many people mistake knowledge, doctrine, theology and teaching as the light of life.  Some will even say they get light, though theirs is not necessarily the light of life.  What they consider light is only some interpretation regarding a certain passage of scripture or a kind of teaching about the Bible.  The real light is not mere knowledge.  It is none other than the Lord himself.  The Lord emphatically declares that HE is the light of life.  (all caps mine)…

…What then is the difference between seeing the light and not seeing the light?  What kind of transformation will come over us if we see?  the difference here is tremendous. If we have really seen light, we will fall to the ground.  For light not only enlightens but also slays.  Before Paul was enlightened, it would have been fairly difficult to cause him to fall down; as soon as he was stricken by the light, though, he immediately fell to the ground.  Some people force themselves to be humble:  their words are humble, their manners are humble.  Except that their kind of humility is very exhausting – both to themselves and onlookers….  How difficult for us to fall down from the throne of pride!  But when the light of the Lord shines, we instantly fall flat.  We do not undersatnd how we only know light levels us.

Doctrine does not cause anyone to fall.  One may listen to eight or ten messages and even memorize them; still, he remains the same.  He can treat a message which ought to induce weeping or treat a word which ought to shatter man’s natural life as a subject for painstaking research.  Alas, in this case doctrine has become a thing, teaching has become a thing, word also has become a thing.  These are all dead; there is no light…

..Light is rigorous.  It can do what man cannot himself do.  What doctrine cannot do, what the help of brothers and sisters cannot do, and what our own effort cannot do, light can immediately accomplish.  We may consider ourselves rather hard – but when light shines, we are softened.  When John saw the light he became as one dead; so too with Daniel.  No one is able to see the face of the Lord and not fall down.  None can behold the Lord without becoming as one dead.  It is difficult for us to die;  it is hard for us to be humble, but as soon as light shines, these are done.  The light which comes from the Lord has slaying power.  It fells people as it shines…

Dear Friends, never confuse light with many other things.  What we usually call light is not necessarily light.  Many are but doctrines or so-called “truths”. These have no spiritual effectiveness in us. …  Many are attempting to discover doctrine, but they have not found fact.  It therefore remains as words and a dead matter.  It is neither light nor life nor Christ…

May God have mercy upon those who are so self-righteous and self-conceited.  For such people have never known light; all they possess are but doctrines and knowledge.  Had they seen the true light, they would have confessed, “Oh Lord, what do I know! I know absolutely nothing!”  The greater the revelation, the deeper the blindness; the stronger the light, the severer the stroke.  Light will humble and fell us before it enables us to see.  If we have not been smitten, humbled, dazed and reduced to nothing, we are by this fact proven to still be in darkness, possessing no light.  May the Lord be merciful to us that by His light He may take way our self-reliance, so that we no longer dare to trust in our own knowledge and judgment.  …

Light is not something abstract, it is something very substantial.  The Lord Jesus is that light.  With Him in our midst, we have light among us.  How pitiful that many matters in the life of believers are too theoretical.  They have heard countless abstractions which offer little practical help…. We must realize that since light was concrete and practical in the life of our Lord Jesus, it ought to be the same in our lives.  Being a living Person the light of life quickens us when it is revealed.

Friends, why is it that after many days the truth of God seem to lose its power, becoming so weak that it cannot touch us?  For no other reason than that it has become too much doctrine, too much theological knowledge!  We need to recognize that only the living Lord can beget living people.  We look to God to be truly merciful to us, enabling us the more and more to see that things are all dead but that the Lord alone is living.  The most attractive and spritual things in Christianity – if they are outside of Christ – are but dead.  We should let the Lord himself be this thing or that thing to us.  Then it is living.  It is living both in us and in those who receive from us.  May the Lord be gracious to us that we may be cast to the ground before the Lord and know Him far differently.

excerpts from

Christ the Sum of All Spiritual Things, p. 47-54

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