July 25, 2014

Will You “Come Down?”: A Sermon on Humility

humility.jpgThis is most of a sermon on humility I preached in the Monday chapel service at the school where I serve. It’s taken from the lectionary text for the previous Lord’s Day. In many places I included illustrations and more content, but this gets the sermon across.

Text: Luke 14: 1, 7-11.

If someone were to compliment you own your humility, would you feel it was a good compliment? Or would you feel slightly insulted?

Such is our view of the virtue of humility that we aren’t even complimented when someone calls us humble.

Christians are more likely to joke about humility than they are to pray for it. In a culture that tells us it’s normal to be selfish to the point of excess, humility almost seems like some kind of personality disorder.

Christians are unavoidably confronted with humility in the teaching of Jesus. Our text this morning is one of many that call us to obey Christ and imitate Christ in the way of humility. “He who humbles himself…” That is Jesus speaking to his disciples.

How much are you interested in taking on the characteristic of humility?

The basic problem in our version of Christianity is that we talk a great deal about Jesus and the Gospel, but we don’t want to be like Jesus or live in imitation of Jesus. It might surprise many of us to discover that our unbelieving neighbors are clued into this. They understand the humility of Jesus, and they are puzzled that we are so uninterested in it; that we are so devoted to the style and image of our self-exalted, self-saturated culture.

Christians: we need to answer the question of why Jesus tells us to humble ourselves. Why is humility important in the Kingdom of God, in our relationships and families?

Jesus’ story is about pro-active humility. Not humility that we adopt when we’ve been humbled. That kind of humility is valuable in life, but it isn’t the kind of humility Jesus is teaching. He is teaching us to choose humility when there are other options. He wants us to believe in a Kingdom where the humble are exalted by the One who humbled Himself for us and for our salvation. They choose humility now, and they choose it in ways you can observe at a dinner or a gathering.

Implied in Jesus’ story is a wholly different view of an array of values we’re all well acquainted with. How can you be happy if you aren’t the center of attention? How can you be satisfied if people aren’t making much of you? How can your life have significance if you aren’t on the front row and your picture on the front page?

Jesus is asking us to make a different choice in regard to happiness, satisfaction and significance. He asks us to begin subverting the world-system that’s taken root in our minds, homes and bank accounts.

Three thoughts come to mind when I think about this for our community.

I. To be a Christian is all about “coming down.”

We cannot receive the Gospel if we do not come down from our view of ourselves and admit that we are sinners; we are guilty rebels. Whatever status we’ve been standing on is abandoned, and we “come down” to the place where we can say “Have mercy on me, the sinner.”

To follow Jesus is to daily, intentionally, “come down” into the way of a disciple. We are called to the opposite place that our culture wants to place us. This is why following Jesus can’t be occasional or accidental. It’s intentional, and it’s best done in a community of believers that will show us what the Kingdom way looks like.

It’s quite true that, for many of us, there is almost no end to the constant steps downward the path of humility will take us if we simply take the step that’s in front of us. In America, coming to believe the message about Jesus costs us nothing. But if you become a Jesus follower, then dozens, even hundreds of choices between humility that trusts Jesus and the exaltation of the world are before you.

Perhaps the best application for this point is to stop right now and ask the Lord, “What is the step of humility that is in front of me now? Show it to me.” I do not doubt that if you pray that way, and meditate in silence open to the answer, God will show you what you’ve seen and passed over many times. Some move in the direction of humility that you’ve simply avoided, but Jesus is pointing to as the place where humility begins for you.

II. The second thought is that humility is the opposite direction of our sinful nature.
Taking the way of humility is going “against the grain.” It’s hard. It’s even hard to pray for it.

On this past Sunday, many churches had a sermon on this text and many of them used this prayer as part of the liturgy. (Prayer on overhead projection.) It’s a prayer for humility, and frankly, it’s a hard prayer to pray. As you follow along as I read it, you are going to feel the resistance in your mind and emotions.

O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being loved, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being extolled, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being honored, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being praised, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being preferred, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being approved, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being despised, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me Jesus
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Can you agree with me that humility is a beautiful thing? People are attracted to it. We should be attracted to it.

Why aren’t we attracted to it? Why are insisting on our rights all the time? Why are so unwilling to be passed over or to suffer at all? Why do we hold the Lord to a standard of “blessing” that’s really a reflection of our idolatries instead of a submission to His will and a pursuit of His glory?

Why do we teach our children, by word and example, that success matters so much? Have you ever asked yourself whether you would prefer a child who is humble in the Holy Spirit or successful in the world’s eyes? More importantly, have you asked God to deal with whatever it is in you that finds that choice at all difficult?

III. Finally, humility is the only position where the Christian receives some of God’s best gifts.

“He who humbles himself….will be exalted.” Do you hear that as “Humble yourself and you’ll get the promotion?” “Humble yourself and you’ll win the state championship?” Perhaps, but this doesn’t sound like the way of Jesus, despite the endorsement of “Facing the Giants” and most of the TBN preachers.

God can humble us. Ask Moses. Samson. Jacob. David. Ask the Christians in this room who have walked with God for years. God can and God will. When he does, you will be in a position to receive some of the greatest blessings God can give. But our passage says, you can and should “humble yourself.” Why? For the same reason.

I said earlier that humility is a “coming down” for the one following Jesus. That coming down can be coming down to work with the poor or the hurting. It can be to associate with the sinful or the overlooked. It can be to do the work that others do not want to do because of their pride. It can be the way of personal sacrifice or the way of apology and reconciliation.

All of these are ways of blessing. I don’t mean doing the occasional good deed for the applause of the church when you show the slides. No, I mean the blessing that comes from Jesus in the places Jesus blesses people with his presence.

Any of us who are aware that we’ve stepped down to serve at _____________ are generally also among the first to say we don’t deserve the blessing of serving here. That seems to be a contradiction to the world, but not so to us. We know exactly why the blessing is here when, for many of us, it wasn’t to be found on the way “up.”

It’s because a place of humble service is the place of blessing. Not wealth or fame, but the place where God blesses the humble. In fact, God blesses so much, you don’t feel very humble most of the time.

I can’t make humility something you want and pray for. I can’t make it beautiful to you. There are many Christians who separate humility from their theology entirely, and boast in being right. I think God would prefer they be wrong and know his humility.

The path for us to loving one another, to serving students, to reconciliation with one another and within our families, is the path of humility. I pray you see it, want to walk in it, and begin the journey with a step down you’ve never taken before today.

Let us Pray.

Comments

  1. Ah ha, this is the real “your best life now” and always.

  2. Michael, sorry. Nothing personal, but my BS detector is going off. This sounds more like Buddhist-style annihlation of the ego rather than distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate desires and placing those legitimate ones *in submission to* Christ.

    For example: the desire to be loved. People have done sinful things to get love, but what, exactly, is wrong with the desire itself? Am I supposed to not care anymore if my husband loves me? (I know I’m exaggerating, but you get my point.)

    Sounds like you’re setting up a false dilemma here: Either you’re completely devoid of self-interest to the point that if you’re not being abused or exploited, you’re doing something wrong — or you’re an indulgent opportunist like Joel Osteen.

    If I am mistaken in my analysis, please straighten me out. Thanks.

  3. Wow.

    I must be one heck of a heretic :-)

    >Sounds like you’re setting up a false dilemma here: Either you’re completely devoid of self-interest to the point that if you’re not being abused or exploited, you’re doing something wrong — or you’re an indulgent opportunist like Joel Osteen.

    Wow.

    I seriously don’t know how to respond. I don’t think legitimate desire is the question. I think the shaping of Christians by culture rather than by Christ is the question.

    Happiness, significance and love are legitimate desires. Christ showed us how to pursue them.

    >My BS detector is going off.

    Wow.

    Where have you been my whole life? Talk about helping me with my humility! :-)

  4. I have a homoletical question — do you take your manuscript with you into the pulpit to preach from or do a follow a different methodology?

  5. I write out a couple of pages of notes in my Moleskine journal. I don’t read. 300+ teenagers don’t go for manuscript preaching.

  6. Well, I read the litany that pleads for the deliverance of “the desire to be loved,” among other things, and it is hard not to conclude that the litany is saying that such a desire is illegitimate and contrary to being christlike.

    Michael, to be fair, I have tons of baggage in this area. I was raised in the South where, often, the womanly ideal was someone who never spoke up, never said “ouch” when hurt, never set boundaries, never expected appropriate behavior, et al. I subsumed my own desires for love, respect, significance and such in a series of devastating relationships and other humiliating situations that I stuck with out of a distorted sense of “sacrifice” and spirituality. In fact, since I met my husband and we married and — wow! — I’m actually enjoyed life more, I have had to fight to silence voices that still tell me I’m being selfish.

    How’s that for screwy?

    Nevertheless, the litany still seems unbalanced to me.

  7. Have you ever asked yourself whether you would prefer a child who is humble in the Holy Spirit or successful in the world’s eyes? More importantly, have you asked God to deal with whatever it is in you that finds that choice at all difficult?

    That’s a zinger. As a middle-class, professional, Christian parent, my immediate answer to “whether you would prefer a child who is humble in the Holy Spirit or successful in the world’s eyes?” is, of course, “Both”…

  8. I have a question: Is “homoletical” gay preaching?

    :-P

  9. Amy,
    Are you reacting more to the sermon or the prayer included in the second point?

  10. Michael,

    I don’t think that your communication skills are at fault. I think that true humility is so little understood that most Christians cannot begin to comprehend it.

    I’ve gone through several stages in my understanding of this virtue. At first, I thought it meant making oneself to be nothing.

    Then, I thought it meant being objective when “bragging” about ones strengths.

    Then I saw it as not needing the approval of others.

    Now I see it as depending entirely upon God and using whatever abilities he has given me as a gift to him.

    I can see how Amy might have difficulty understanding what you mean. Obviously, she hasn’t read much that you have written in the past few months.

    She is right that our desires are not wrong, they are just misdirected. But most of them are so twisted by ego that we can no longer recognize them for what they are “deep down.”

    The scandal of the cross is that Jesus Christ overcame evil, sin and death through weakness and apparent defeat. And he did this so that we can follow him down the path of weakness and brokenness.

    Too many people worship a Jesus who came to kick butt and take names. And they are signing up for his brand of kung fu.

    Rod

  11. “He asks us to begin subverting the world-system that’s taken root in our minds, homes and bank accounts.”

    Amy –

    I’m having trouble seeing Michael’s clear statements re the kind and type of humility he is speaking of morphing into what your BS detector is sensing.

    When I weigh myself on the bathroom scales I must always check to see if the device is “zeroed.” Perhaps your device wasn’t zeroed this time.

    Michael -

    Do these fit your thesis?

    And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. Luke 9:23

    Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 1 John 2:15-16

    You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:5-7

  12. Michael,

    Thank you for that prayer. When I was teaching children, it was always my desire that they grow up to love Jesus more than I do. (and He is the very best thing in my life.)

  13. Seriously, though, what in this sermon gives anyone the idea that this is Buddha-type ego annihilation? Gosh, what do we say to Jesus who tells us to take up our cross and follow him or if we want life we must first lose ours?

    More than anything, I’m convicted by this sermon, indirectly through Philippians:

    “he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.”

    This passage, placed in it’s larger context, really hurts. I look down on people far too much and look out for my own interests rather than the interests of others.

    Thanks for posting it, Michael!

  14. OK…the prayer. The prayer is RCC, so you might want to take that into consideration. I see it, like all non-Biblical, non-inspired prayer, as an example, but not with authority.

    Here in the Christian community where I live, however, this seems like a very practical prayer. Life “close in” really calls for practical humility; a willingness to let others go first; a dealing with your own need to be appreciated and recognized. These aren’t all “bad” things, but in community they can be disruptive in significant ways.

  15. “The prayer is RCC…” Niice – blame it on the Catholics! ha! I’m smiling as I say that. Maybe it just means Catholics are more Buddhist or more humble – I don’t know, I’m just being goofy.

    Seriously though – I put this prayer on my blog the other day too and in the comments I responded with some thoughts to a friend. I think this may speak a little to some of the back and forth in your comments Michael. Here’s what I said…

    I was thinking about this yesterday and some thoughts about balance in a litany like this hit me. Certainly we need to be delivered of the primary desire for these things, as things in themselves, massaging our egos. But there is also a concept of “humility” which is a little off kilter that says “I am a worm, most base of all men, don’t look at me” – I don’t think that’s what God wants of us or has created us for.

    Humility is sober estimation and realizing our dependence on Him for all things. Within that, it seems appropriate for us to know our gifts (recognizing them as gifts) and to want to operate in them for the good of the Kingdom.

    So, if I have some wisdom given to me by God, some gift to teach or spiritually guide people, I can rightly desire to be “consulted” for the good of all. That’s a bit different than what we’re asking to be delivered from in a prayer like this I believe. Worth noting.

  16. One of the best definitions of humility I have heard is being who God created you to be and depending on Him for all that you are.

    It strikes me that the prayer you shared reflects well the attitude of Jesus Christ that we are told to emulate in Philippians 2.

  17. Good post. I had some insights into this that were pure spiritual gold, but I am too humble to share them.
    =P

  18. Good words Michael.

    As a minister, I struggle with those things daily. Sometimes I want to be a “person of mass influence” like one of the contemporary Christian celebrities. Sometimes the desire is there for seemingly good reasons. But it’s wrong. It takes a lot of humility to follow Jesus but it’s the only way to go.

  19. Nicholas Anton says:

    Humility? Ya! Whatever–

    A number of years ago, a grandmother lamented that her dear grandson was distraught because the people in church had not clapped for him after he had sung. The poor dear little fellow thought that he had failed God because of the absence of applause. Poor thing!
    At much the same time, my wife and I attended a rendition of “The Passion of Our Lord according to St. Matthew”, by J. S. Bach. When the last notes commemorating the crucifixion and death of Our Lord died away, most everyone clapped, hollered, and whatever else goes on in concerts in praise of the performers.
    Within this past year, we started attending a small Baptist church, which has few people with musical talent. Yet, everything done must be praised to the hilt. Since there is no one left to play the drums and guitars, they have regressed to singing predominantly Gospel Songs accompanied by an electronic piano as they did a quarter century ago (That is a major reason for our attending the church).
    Though I have had musical training, piano is not my forte. I am nevertheless probably the best available in the little church. As usually happens in a small church, I have been asked to take my turn at playing for the worship service. After being praised up and down for my “wonderful” playing, I finally commented to a member that I wished people would stop praising those who take part in the service, because, after all, are we not serving God? The following Sunday after I had accompanied the congregational singing on the piano, this same person did not know how to approach me. The situation became quite awkward.
    Now, what should I do? Say Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the unsolicited, unwanted, undeserved praise, or what?
    I am fed up with human praise and human worship! Maybe I should do what my oldest brother did on his spelling test when he was a little boy. Make enough mistakes on purpose in order to be average, mediocre like the rest. But that isn’t humility, is it?

  20. I was more concerned about the litany (thanks, Michael, for the info/background). I think Alan summed up very well my concerns. Thanks, Alan.

    John Gillmartin: I don’t quite understand your metaphor of “zeroing out my device.” Sorry. :(

    All that being said, pride is the essence of sin, and humility is hard medicine for all of us, myself especially included.

  21. Hey Michael

    I really enjoyed that.

    I must say though, that I did put the text of your sermon back through my own interpretive grid; I completely agree for our need to be humble and I even agree with the RCC prayer (a humbling experience for one who once hated the RCC)

    I must say though that my understanding of Humility is definitely not in accordance with some of the ideas proposed in these comments. You may or may not subscribe to some of the ideas, I’m simply not qualified to make that assertion; I’m not you.

    I humbly submit my understanding of Humility:

    Humility is not about silently being beaten by your spouse. It is not allowing people to simply walk over you. Terry Cooper makes the argument that even the “submissive wife” can not-so-simply be exercising her own pride by copping the beating.*
    Humility however, IS still taking up the cross, it IS still submitting our rights (real and actual rights) over others at the expense of ourselves.

    Humility is not about recognizing that we have no rights or authority over others, but realizing that we DO have those rights, and THEY have those rights over us likewise.

    God responds in the cross by laying down his right to the destruction of humanity, at the destruction of himself. The eternal triune God doesn’t deny his authority over humanity, he exercises it through the ontological change within the trinitarian community. He invades humanity in the person of Jesus, becomes our “brother” in addition to already being our God and Father. Jesus submits his own rights over us, but he never loses them. No-one takes his rights from him, he lays them down willingly. He doesn’t quite do it silently…He proclaims His humility through the Spirit, via Scripture. He calls us to account, but nevertheless bears our burdens, the chastisement of our peace. He also takes his rights back up again, through the Power of the Spirit.

    This view obviously requires redemption (and also Humility) to be a fully trinitarian act, the suffering of God to be the suffering of the very Trinity itself, rather than simply that of the Son.

    I hope this is helpful.

    * (Cooper, Terry D. “Sin, Pride and Self Acceptance”)

    http://www.amazon.com/Sin-Pride-Self-Acceptance-Identity-Psychology/dp/0830827285/ref=sr_1_1/102-7534787-1288961?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1188969671&sr=8-1

  22. When we start zeroing in on “what is proper humility in this situation?”, it may help us define an action or it may actually stab any humility in the heart. It’s a catch 22, how do you purposefully intend to be self-forgetful? (a synonymn of humility I believe) I think we are most humble when we are around bigger things than ourselves…bigger causes, bigger people, bigger God. I don’t think humility resides in actions as much as in the motivations of those actions.

    Here’s a quote by Piper though, that I found a few days ago and love:
    “Humility is not a popular human trait in the modern world. It’s not touted in the talk shows or celebrated in valedictorian speeches or commended in diversity seminars or listed with core values. And if you go to the massive self-help section of B. Dalton’s or Barnes and Noble you won’t find books on humility.

    The basic reason for this is not hard to find: humility can only survive in the presence of God. When God goes, humility goes. In fact you might say that humility follows God like a shadow. We can expect to find humility applauded in our society as often as we find God applauded—which means almost never.”

  23. Memphis Aggie says:

    Amy,

    Too funny: the similarity between Buddhism and Christian is real, and part of what helped my own conversion to Christianity. I think of the denial of self and the death of self “He who loves his life will loose it …” is just like Buddhist death of ego. This similarity is explored by Thomas Merton at length.
    However there is a major difference: Christ Himself. The death of self for Buddhist leaves one open to some intentionally ill defined “Nirvana” whereas we empty our hearts of our own desires to make room for Christ’s will. Buddhists and Christians build an empty house but for us Christ indwells in the heart we’ve emptied for him. “Not my will but thy will” (Christ) or “let it be done to me according to thy word” (Mary) should be familiar.

    Even Buddhists hit on a piece of the truth – although not the most important piece. Don’t be dismissive of the theology behind Buddhism just because of the their popularity in West. The version of Buddhism that comes to us through celebrities is like the Osteen version of Christianity.

  24. Just for the sake of proper crediting, the litany was written by Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val in the nineteenth century.

    (Am I the only Catholic here who sees “RCC” and gets a sudden craving for a Royal Crown Cola?”

  25. Fro Nicholas Anton

    At this point in my journey when someone compliments me for something I did in church I usually say, “Thank you, that is so kind of you.” God knows my heart and often the person thanking me is just being Christ-like in expressing appreciation and encouragement. I have come to accept those interactions as beautiful moments of mutual affirmation in the body of Christ and I believe God is glorified in the life of his people. Constantly deflecting thanks, affirmation and even praise can be a tedious and stilted kind of humility that isn’t very attractive to anyone and I doubt increases our appreciation of God’s glory.

    Loved the prayer, Michael, and the sermon. How did the students respond? Did you get any feed back?

    John H–you side stepped the question. It is forced choice exercise. Many middle class professional parents would be frightened to have to honestly answer it IMO.

  26. Patrick Kyle says:

    Michael,

    Just an observation… your style and presentation are good, your reasoning is good, the subject is important. But the subject is entirely US.

    WE should be humble.
    WE are not humble.
    WE need to desire humility.
    WE need to do thus and so to become more humble.
    WE get Christ’s blessings if we are humble.
    Christ and His Work are a pretext to getting us to be more humble.

    What of the proclamation of Christ? “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” and that is what ultimately changes us. Your sermon is almost entirely law. (read that moral exhortation)
    The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation,( and sanctification too, says Paul in Galatians.)
    I do not wish to be critical in a harsh or mean way, however for a post evangelical you sound alot like a real evangelical.

  27. Patrick Kyle says:

    PS
    When I speak of the Gospel I mean Christ’s life ,death, and resurrection, on our behalf for the forgiveness of sins and new life in Him. This is the message that has real power to change us, and gives us the faith it demands.

  28. Patrick. I preach 120+ times a year. I endeavor to preach the Gospel in some way in every sermon and in an obvious, central way in most sermons.

    But every sermon is not evangelism. I actually believe the Lordship of Jesus causes the sermon on the mount to make plain sense.

    I note that a number of gospel-loving Christians struggle with any kind of admonition to live the Christian life. If we don’t run back to Romans 3 and justification by faith, then they are uncomfortable.

    I believe the gospel.
    The Christian lives under the Lordship of Christ and in the Kingdom of Jesus.
    In that Kingdom, Jesus teaches a subversive, new ethic of, among other things, humility. We humble ourselves. That’s the text, and there are several others.

    It’s not an imbalance to preach the commands of Christ.

  29. I find that preaching the teaching of Jesus often gets this kind of criticism. No criticism to you, but it seems to be a move in the direction of passivism and even hyperCalvinism. If the Sermon on the Mount and the parables are “law” and the Gospel is only “believe,” then imo the Gospel of the Kingdom has been truncated.

  30. Patrick Kyle says:

    Michael,
    I hear what you’re saying. I was not trying to blunt the effect of the Words of Jesus,and in no way try to avoid the plain meaning of the text. I do think however, that every sermon is Evangelism.. for the believer.(Unbelievers may or may not be present) The Gospel is needed by believers just as much for daily life. According to Paul (Romans 7) the line between believer and unbeliever cuts through each one of us. To that end we must be constantly reminded of the Gospel,both to avoid despair and a dependence on our own moral effort, and to ‘re-evangelize the unbeliever that still dwells within us.
    As to passivism and hyperCalvinism- I disagree. God, through the the Gospel of reconciliation works in us ‘the will and to do of His good pleasure’ It is counterintuitive, but the Gospel places the ‘want to’ in our hearts as opposed to the ‘have to’. The question then becomes “Do we really believe that God’s Word will work in us what He has promised?”

  31. Patrick,

    If you knew the extent to which I nag my chapel preachers over a lack of gospel….

    A Christian community or a church is a preaching/teaching context. 6 sermons a week here. If the gospel is plainly preached as a rule, it does not have to be preached the same way in every text.

    I am not at all following you at this point of “re-evangelizing.” I grew up being re-evangelized. All it did was make thousands of people doubt their salvation and submit themselves over and over again for “real” salvation.

    Kerygma and Didache are not opposite Bibles. They are the same Jesus. The Jesus of Romans 3 is the Christ who spoke the parable to “humble yourself” and to do many other things yourself.

    Pirate Josh used to point out his frustration with some of his Lutheran brothers who objected to any kind of “piety” as “pietism.” WHen Paul says the Law is for lawbreakers he is not canceling out the proclamation of the Law of Christ or the message of the Kingdom for disciples.

    I’m happy to be criticized for law preaching as I know what the thrust of my ministry is. But it is a tad disturbing that I may be misrepresenting Jesus. Am I misrepresenting Jesus’ application of this parable? Are we commanded to “come down?”

  32. Michael, I am also finding genuine humility to be the most confounding and ‘alien’ (to our fleshly way of thinking) aspect of Christian discipleship.

    I sometimes wonder if we truly appreciate just how humble Christ was, relative to who he Is. I wrote a reflection on this recently. I’ll never read the Psalms the same way again after coming to this realization.

  33. Patrick Kyle says:

    Michael,

    I was probably less than clear when I spoke of “re -evangelizing.” What I meant was Christ’s Person and work proclaimed,for you, the believer. This is different from the harangues to re- commit or re-dedicate yourself because you’ve “backslidden” and maybe weren’t saved the first time.
    A decent example can be heard here:http://crosebrough.typepad.com/cwirlapodcast/lent/index.html

    Listen to the sermon for the third Sunday in Lent.(It is,typical of Lutheran sermons,rather short.) I think you will find it quite a bit different than what you were expecting.

    I am a fan of Pirate Josh,and have run into those of whom he speaks, but those guys are the exceptions, and I don’t count myself among them.

    I don’t think you have misrepresented Jesus. Upon further reflection I think this conversation hinges on the task of preaching and a difference regarding what it is supposed to accomplish.

  34. One question might be what motivates you towards humility? As I’ve watched God develop in me over the years a desire for insight, I’ve found some aspects of humility easier. I’ve found that learning requires humility – the proud don’t learn very much. So if I want to continue learning, I have to value humility. It’s a continual re-learning of humility also, as the more you learn, the easier it is to get puffed up about how much you know. I’m motivated to keep humble because I value learning and insight. If I give up the humility, I give up the learning and insight that I value. I’m motivated to keep the humility because it’s necessary for keeping something I value more. I’d rather keep quiet, look unlearned, and keep the ability to learn than shoot off my mouth and lose that ability (of course, you can’t *always* keep the mouth shut if that learning and insight are to be of use to anyone other than oneself).

    Could learning humility in general be similar? We need to get clear that our humility (or lack of it) affects our day-to-day relationship with the Lord, and value that relationship enough to keep the humility. The key may be focusing on the relationship (and making sure we value it highly) rather than focusing on ‘being humble’.

  35. James Aguilar says:

    I initially had the same reaction as Amy, but a couple of the later comments straightened me out. Thanks especially to Alan Creech for putting me again on the right path.

  36. I remember, when I was a child, I listened to a priest give a homily where he pointed out that the word “Christian” is spelled “Christ – I – A – N.” He said that the letters “I – A – N” should be a reminder that, without Christ, “I Am Nothing.”

    Second. I’d just like to share something from St. Ignatius of Loyola, who distinguished among what he called three degrees or modes of humility. (Later on, I learned that many of the saints talked about degrees of humility: Augustine, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, St. Benedict.)

    Ignatius described the first mode as humbling one’s self enough to obey the law of God so that I would be willing to give up anything on earth rather than commit a mortal sin (which, for Catholics, refers to the kind of sin that could separate me from God’s sanctifying grace). In other words, I should be willing to give up everything that could lead me to grave sin.

    The second mode is humbling one’s self enough so that I would be willing to give up anything on earth that could hinder me from serving God better. I should be able to make myself so spiritually free (i.e., so detached from my self-centeredness) that I would be equally willing to choose either riches or poverty, honor or shame, a long life or a short one, depending on which of the two would allow me to serve God more.

    The third mode is humbling one’s self so much, that, assuming that it leads me to serve God better, I should in fact desire the more difficult choice: to enter into Christ’s poverty rather than the world’s riches, and to endure the shame that Christ endured rather than to receive the world’s honor, so as to accompany Christ more fully in His Passion and suffering. (A spiritual mentor of mine later advised me that we should be careful, though, not to fall into a kind of self-righteousness disguised as humility. There is a thin line between sinful pride and authentic humility.)

    I know that some of your readers might disagree with St. Ignatius’ discussion, but I thought of sharing it nonetheless, just to give your readers something to ponder.

  37. Oh, I should also mention (in case it isn’t obvious): for St. Ignatius, the first degree of humility is the “lowest” degree, the “minimum,” if you will. The second degree is higher, and the third is the highest, possible only in people who have attained the first and second degrees.

    (But the first and the second are hard enough ….)