“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” Daniel 4:37 (Dan. 4:37) “These things happened to them as examples (e.g., Nebuchadnezzar) for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.” (1 Cor. 10:11-12) We can live and learn (learn from our mistakes) or live and not learn (not learn from our mistakes and continue to repeat them) or learn and live; i.e., learn from the mistakes of others (which Scripture encourages us to do). Nebuchadnezzar was a good “bad example” for us to learn from as he boasted about his greatness after God clearly warned him to repent: “Twelve months later he (Nebuchadnezzar) was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:29-30) Since “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (see 1 Peter 5:5-6) it is wise for us to learn the virtue of humility as seen in Jesus. This week we will complete the study of Andrew Murray’s book, Humility – The Cardinal Virtue of Christianity. Murray defines humility as unceasing dependence on God and absolute submission to God. It is our response to God as we see Him as He truly is, perfect in power and glory, and ourselves as we truly are, contingent creatures who choose to rebel against our Maker and King. Humility is the characteristic and attitude of Jesus who said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19 – unceasing dependence); and, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt. 26:39 – absolute submission) Here is a brief summary of each of the last six chapters of Murray’s book:
CHAPTER 7 – HUMILITY AND HOLINESS – Isa. 65:5 (God speaking) – “Yet they say to each other, ‘Don’t come too close or you will defile me! I am holier than you! ’These people are a stench in my nostrils, an acrid smell that never goes away.” Luke 18:9-14 – “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” This shows us that even when we are praying and praising God, we can be proud. There is no pride so dangerous, none so subtle and insidious, as the pride of holiness which is only self-righteousness. This can be seen in our gossip and criticism of others and even in our thoughts and attitudes toward others. The holiest will always be the humblest and Jesus is the most holy because He was the most humble. Where man becomes nothing before God, he becomes humble before man. Holiness is humility at the root. Please read Job 19:6-9 and hear his complaints and then read Job 42:1 after God revealed Himself to Job. Only after seeing God’s awesome glory does Job repent of his self-righteousness and admits to God and himself that he is a mere creature and sinner who falls far short of God’s holiness. Like Job and the Pharisee that Jesus speaks of in Luke 18 above, we too may wrongly compare ourselves to others and think we deserve better treatment from God because we are more righteous. But we are to only compare ourselves to God and like Job realize how sinful we are apart from God’s grace to change us. Do you ever complain openly like Job did or in your private thoughts, that your good works deserve a better outcome than what your life has turned out to be? Do you ever feel that life (or God) is not fair? Why do we do this and what is the answer to our complaint?
CHAPTER 8 – HUMILITY AND SIN – 1 Tim. 1:13-17 – “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (This was written by the apostle Paul near the end of his life. Also see 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 and Ephesians 3:8.) Here Paul isn’t confessing his daily sinning (though he did in Romans 7) so much as he is confessing that he was a sinner saved by grace, even the chief of sinners. We must never forget the revolutionary change wrought only by God’s grace to change us from sinners who disobeyed God into sons of God who now desire to please God. (Romans 7:22). “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Eph. 2:1-10) Using 1 Timothy 1:13-17 above fill in the blanks in describing yourself before Christ. “Even though I once was a _________________ and a_________________ and a______________ etc., “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” Do you, like Paul, tell others of your sinful ways before God saved and changed you so God gets all the glory for any good that you do?
CHAPTER 9 – HUMILITY AND FAITH – John 5:44 Jesus asks, “How can you believe (humbly look to God for everything) if you accept praise (or honor) from one another (which is pride), yet make no effort to obtain the praise (or honor) that comes from the only God ?” Jesus says here that we are to seek honor from God. There is a right way to seek affirmation and that is from our heavenly Father even as a little child can rightly seek his father’s praise. Yet when we seek honor from man we exalt ourselves and it blocks faith and our ability to receive God’s gifts and power. Only a life of dependence and humility can give us the fruit of the Spirit we all long for –“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22-23) Faith and humility are at the root one and the same. We can never have more true faith than we have true humility. In Scripture we see many examples of faith and humility working together: Matt. 8:5-10 “When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. “Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.” Matt. 15:21-28 “Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered (her), “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” In Galatians 1:10 Paul says that if he were still seeking man’s approval and praise he couldn’t be a servant of Jesus. How does seeking man’s praise hinder our faith and service for the Lord? How can you “obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (see John 5:44) How can we “hear” God’s “well done” as we do the things that please Him even if no one else ever notices it?
CHAPTER 10 – HUMILITY AND DEATH TO SELF – John 12:23-24, 27, 28 “Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 2 Cor. 4:11-12 “For we who are alive are always being given over to death (to self) for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” Col.1:24 “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” Humility precedes death to self even as Jesus’ humility (not My will but Thine be done) led to His death on the cross. We must depend on the Spirit to grace us with humility but our part is to humble ourselves and submit to God’s will in all things as Jesus did. As we submit our attitude (inner) and actions (outer) to the Lord’s will, He graces us with humility and death to self. This is a matter of complete trust in God as seen by our Lord on the cross when He felt God-forsaken but called out in a loud voice just before He gave up His spirit, His life: “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit.” (Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46) The death to self is the empty vessel God can fill with Himself – His resurrected life, to do His will in His power for His glory. Chapter eight in The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer is entitled Restoring the Creator – Creature Relationship. When we forget that we are God’s creatures which are created for His honor and glory, all of life gets out of sorts. The Fall had and has horrendous implications in our lives as the creature rebels against God and rejects the very purpose for Him creating us: “Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth– Even everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, whom I have made.” (Isa. 43:6-7) Jesus Christ, the God-Man, lived every day of His life for this purpose even to death on a cross. “Then said I, Behold, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me; I delight to do Your will, O my God; yes, Your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:7-8; Heb.10:5-10 applies this to Jesus.) “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4) Jesus as a Man is the way man is supposed to live and our highest pursuit in this life is to become more and more like Him. This is a prayer by A. W. Tozer you may want to pray regularly to surrender your whole life to God as our Lord Jesus did and trust Him fully for all your needs and for His power to enable you to glorify Him in all you do: “O God, be thou exalted over my possessions. Nothing of earth’s treasures shall seem dear unto me if only Thou art glorified in my life. Be Thou exalted over my friendships. I am determined that Thou shalt be above all, though I must stand deserted and alone in the midst of the earth. Be Thou exalted above my comforts. Though it mean the loss of bodily comforts and the carrying of heavy crosses I shall keep my vow made this day before Thee. Be Thou exalted over my reputation. Make me ambitious to please Thee even if as a result I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream. Rise, O Lord, into Thy proper place of honor, above my ambitions, above my likes and dislikes, above my family, my health and even my life itself. Let me decrease that Thou mayest increase, let me sink that Thou mayest rise above. Ride forth upon me as Thou didst ride into Jerusalem mounted upon the humble little beast, a colt, the foal of an ass, and let me hear the children cry to Thee, `Hosanna in the highest’.” Pray this together at your table and then discuss how these words of total surrender to God affected you.
CHAPTER 11 – HUMILITY AND HAPPINESS – 2 Cor. 12:7-10 “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The ultimate deliverance is deliverance from self; self-confidence, self-pity, self-vindication, self-glory, my agenda – my will be done, etc. Paul wasn’t a masochist. He didn’t delight in pain and hardships for the sake of suffering, but for Christ’s sake, Christ’s glory, Christ’s strength and peace and power through his weak and yielded life. Jesus was completely free from all these self-sins and thus had peace in the midst of every trial He faced. This is the peace He promises us as we surrender all to God as He did. John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Have you ever experienced the joy and amazement of God’s power enabling you when you were weak and helpless but prayerfully seeking God’s strength? Have you ever experienced God’s peace in the very midst of a great trial? Have you ever experienced God’s provision to meet a need you couldn’t possibly meet on your own? Have you ever experienced God’s love and affirmation when you were insulted and/or rejected by someone? If so, then you know what Paul means by boasting in his weakness so that Christ’s power may be experienced by him and revealed to others. Our needs are met and God gets all the glory. Discuss a time when you experienced God’s amazing grace in your weakness or great need and share it with the group so you can boast about Christ’s power.
CHAPTER 12 – HUMILITY AND EXALTATION – Luke 14:11 “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 1 Pet. 5:6 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” Blaise Pascal in his book Pensees (“Thoughts”) spoke of man’s depravity and dignity. And to paraphrase Dietrich von Hildebrand in his book Transformation in Christ: “Humility does not command a rejection of one’s self, pure and simple. Though we are nothing by ourselves and though everything we have is received, still we have received a great deal from God. First of all we are created in God’s likeness – spiritual beings which is the ontological superiority of man to all other beings and our call to participate in divine life through the imparting of supernatural life through the new birth.” King David marveled at this in Psalm 8. God will exalt the man who will humble himself yet we are not to seek humility to get exaltation for ourselves but only for God’s glory. And even then in the eyes of man our faith and humility may not be fully rewarded on this side of heaven as was true for many of the saints. (Hebrews 11:35-39) But we can be certain that our faith and humility will be fully rewarded in heaven as we stand before Jesus Christ on that Day and redound to the glory of God for all eternity. Murray says we are to take every opportunity to humble ourselves before God and man; that we are to accept with gratitude all trials (James 1:2-4) God allows – both the inward trials of feelings of inadequacy, fear and doubt, and the outward trials of insults, rejection, sickness and lack, as the opportunity to trust God to lift us up in due time knowing that His grace is sufficient to keep us in the trial and even to help us boast in our weakness and thus His power. As we seek and pray for the humility of Jesus we will come to see the depth of our pride more clearly and our unwillingness to be nothing before God and our utter helplessness to conquer pride. This realization will drive us to our knees to look to God alone to deliver us from this deadly enemy. With whom can you practice acts of humility most frequently? (e.g., wife, children, work associate, difficult family member, others.) Knowing you can’t cast out pride yourself, do you see how your prayer life will grow by leaps and bounds as you look to God almost minute to minute to enable you to humble yourself in thought, word and deed throughout the day?
“But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” (Dan. 4:34-37) Nebuchadnezzar had a wonderful ending to his story as he humbly praised and exalted God. He “lived and learned” from his mistakes and from God’s discipline. May we “learn and live” from Nebuchadnezzar that God is able to humble those who walk in pride.