Category Archives: Humility

A Humble Heart, So Hard to Come By

“Sense shines with a double luster when set in a heart of humility. An able, yet humble man is a jewel worth a kingdom.” William Penn

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble

James 4:5-10Do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

Jesus Christ models humility for us, and the Spirit of Christ empowers humility in us

Philippians 2:1-11  So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Give us the grace of humility, Lord, we desperately need this fruit of your Spirit’s character…

D.L. Moody: “A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility.”

Jonathan Edwards: “Spiritual pride tends to speak of other persons’ sins with bitterness or with laughter and levity and an air of contempt.  But pure Christian humility rather tends either to be silent about these problems or to speak of them with grief and pity.  Spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others, but a humble Christian is most guarded about himself.  He is as suspicious of nothing in the world as he is of his own heart.  The proud person is apt to find fault with other believers, that they are low in grace, and to be much in observing how cold and dead they are and to be quick to note their deficiencies.  But the humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own heart and is so concerned about it, that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts.  He is apt to esteem others better than himself.”

John Stott“For the essence of sin [pride] is man substituting himself for God [Gen. 3:1-7], while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man [2 Cor. 5:21]. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.”

Jonathan Edwards: ““Seek for a deep and abiding sense of your comparative meanness before God and man.  Know God.  Confess your nothingness and ill-desert before him.  Distrust yourself.  Rely only on God.  Renounce all glory except from him.  Yield yourself heartily to his will and service.  Avoid an aspiring, ambitious, ostentatious, assuming, arrogant, scornful, stubborn, wilful, levelling, self-justifying behaviour; and strive for more and more of the humble spirit that Christ manifested while he was on earth.  Consider the many motives to such a spirit… [Humility] is the attendant of every grace, and in a peculiar manner tends to the purity of Christian feeling.  It is the ornament of the spirit; the source of some of the sweetest exercises of Christian experience; the most acceptable sacrifice we can offer to God; the subject of the richest of his promises; the spirit with which he will dwell on earth, and which he will crown with glory in heaven hereafter.  Earnestly seek, then, and diligently and prayerfully cherish, an humble spirit, and God shall walk with you here below; and when a few more days shall have passed, he will receive you to the honours bestowed on his people at Christ’s right hand.”  

Robert Barnes, “On Glorifying Self”: ““…My preaching and writing isn’t much better. Too often, communication is my way to demonstrate what the world should have understood already–that I am extremely smart and spiritual and worthy of being paid and admired. The words I’ve been called to write and speak often speak of humility, of God-sized truths that transcend our tiny space and time, and yet I see in my heart–and on the page–me writing words to glorify… ME!” 

Tim Keller: “The essence of gospel humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. Gospel humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to such thoughts as [self-image]… True gospel humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”

A few practical ways to cultivate humility, by the Spirit’s power and grace:

  1. Know the greatness of God in light of the depth of your sin
  2. Recognize your complete God-dependence, and live confidently in the Spirit
  3. Avoid self-defensiveness, be teachable, and take your sin more seriously than that of others’—hate your own sin first and most.
  4. Pray for humility of heart and life—and never think you’ve arrived at humility
  5. Be fiercely committed to killing sin and pride, because it’ll come back
  6. Know your limitations, you cannot be anyone’s Savior
  7. Serve others and consider them more highly than yourself—not thinking less of yourself so much as thinking about yourself less. Seek to be self-forgetful…
  8. Be able to fail and experience weakness, for God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.
  9. Practice humility in the little things—be willing to be cut-off in traffic, yield to another in disagreement, be quick to take responsibility and seek reconciliation.
  10. Delight in the Lord—do not seek great things for yourself. Take no glory in human achievements or acknowledgements—Seek joy in making Him famous!

*Some of these were taken from a helpful post by Brian Hedges. Read the rest of his post here: Eight Strategies for Cultivating Humility.

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[1] Jonathan Edwards, Works (Edinburgh, 1979), I:398-400. Style updated.

[2] John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1986), 160.

[3] Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, 155-56.

[4] Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, 32.

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Reversing the Curse: Substitutionary Atonement

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve sought to “be like God”–or rather, they sought to be their own gods by declaring themselves king and queen in His rightful, exclusive place. We are guilty of doing the same thing. Yet, Jesus being in the form of God (Phil 2), because He existed as the eternal Son of God, did not exploit that glory for Himself. In fact, He humbled Himself by coming to earth in human form and taking the nature of a servant and dying on the Cross, a sinner’s death in our place. He took our curse so that we might receive His blessing; He became our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. His vicarious death and resurrection reverses the curse for us.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ:

“For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God [Gen. 3:1-7], while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man [2 Cor. 5:21]. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.”[1]

Praise be to God for the substitutionary life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the One who loved us and gave Himself for us (Eph. 5). He endured the terrors of hell so that we might experience the joys of heaven. Amen.

[1] John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1986), 160.

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Purge Us, O Lord–Give Us Humility

Addison Alexander was a professor at Princeton Seminary in the 1830s and was known for his high expectations, as well as his anger and impatience toward those who failed to meet them due to laziness or apathy. While he was known for his impatience, he was equally known for his genuine repentance. The Lord grew him in grace and longsuffering toward his students. Here’s one of the prayers that he wrote in his journal following a moment of frustration toward his students:

“Mercy and help, O Lord, my sovereign Lord! Thou who lovest little children, make me a little child. Make me humble, simple-hearted, tender, guileless, and confiding. Kill my selfish pride. Shiver my hard heart. Break my stubborn spirit. Make me love my kind by making me to love Thee. O soften me, my Saviour, by showing me thy own tender, bleeding, melting heart. Purge envy from my heart by causing me to live and work for thee. O that this foul fiend were wholly dispossessed! I bless thee for trials: may they do me good. Compel me to remember that I am not my own. Save me from being the object of envy or ill-will. Save me from the wickedness of trying to excite it. Lord, I would give the world for true humility. O, make me–make me humble!”[1]

While I am not a professor and have no students, I understand his deep need for humility. Everyday I am reminded of how prideful and self-promoting my flesh actually is–it’s ugly and pathetic, but serves to point me toward the Cross. Pride keeps me from acknowledging my sin and responding humbly before God, and worst of all, it keeps me from treasuring Christ rightly as the greatest Treasure. In my heart, there is a deep-seated desire to please self and to find satisfaction in the things of this world. This cannot remain this way!! If there is no other way to purge me of pride, then I trust that God will graciously beat it out of me through the providence of suffering. However, I pray for His grace to purge me of my pride in less painful ways, but most of all, I want to be humbled so that I might honor Christ. May our lifelong mission be the same as John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30).

[1] David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary: Faith & Learning 1812-1868 (Volume 1) (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994), 204.

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Spiritual Pride

Jonathan Edwards:

“Spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others, whereas a humble saint is most jealous of himself.  He is so suspicious of nothing in the world as he is of his own heart.  The spiritually proud person is apt to find fault with other saints . . . and to be quick to discern and take note of their deficiencies.  But the eminently humble Christian has so much to do at home, and sees so much evil in his own heart, and is so concerned about it, that he is not apt to be very busy with others’ hearts.”

HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

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Spiritual Pride

“Spiritual pride is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christianity.  It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind and mislead the judgment.  It is the main source of all the mischief the devil introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God.

Spiritual pride tends to speak of other persons’ sins with bitterness or with laughter and levity and an air of contempt.  But pure Christian humility rather tends either to be silent about these problems or to speak of them with grief and pity.  Spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others, but a humble Christian is most guarded about himself.  He is as suspicious of nothing in the world as he is of his own heart.  The proud person is apt to find fault with other believers, that they are low in grace, and to be much in observing how cold and dead they are and to be quick to note their deficiencies.  But the humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own heart and is so concerned about it, that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts.  He is apt to esteem others better than himself.”

Jonathan Edwards, Works (Edinburgh, 1979), I:398-400. Style updated.

HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr.

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Servant Leadership

Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In the context of this verse, James and John came to Jesus with the request that they be given places of honor in His eternal kingdom.  Jesus responds to them by describing that the Son of Man came to serve rather than be served, and that they should do likewise.  From Jesus’ example, I’ve drawn six applications for the manner in which we are to serve.

Servant Leadership is Purposeful: The Son of Man had a specific purpose for which He came.  He was not confused or ambiguous as to His role or responsibility.  He knew exactly what He was doing and why He was doing it.  He had a clear, measured purpose.  When we choose to serve, we ought to have a clear, measurable purpose.  We should know what we are and are not called to accomplish with the limited resources that we have.

Servant Leadership is Outward Focused: Although Jesus was the second person of the Trinity, the Almighty Creator, and the only One worthy of our worship (Col. 1:15-20), He did not come to be served.  He came to serve.  His focus was to meet the greatest human need–deliverance from sin.  In that very pursuit, He often met the physical and emotional needs of those He came to serve.  While in the course of His life and ministry He met many needs, His ultimate focus was reconciling sinners to God so that they might once again become sons and daughters.  The life that He lived in the flesh, He lived for us. The Spirit He gave, He gave to us.  Therefore, our service ought to be an expression of our gratitude toward God and our love for others.  Service should not be self-motivated, but glorifying to God and edifying to our fellow man.

Servant Leadership is Sacrificial: Not only was Jesus focused on serving others, but He was willing to pay the tremendous price of that spiritual service (Phil. 2:1-11).  He knew that His purpose was a costly one, but He joyfully sacrificed His own divine rights, privileges, and preferences (Heb. 12:1-3) in order to serve those who had rejected Him.  When we embraced our sin, we rejected the One for which our lives were made.  Jesus’ servant leadership was characterized by self-denial of the most painful kind.  While we may not have to give up our lives to serve another, we often have to give up our time, energy, preferences, comfort, convenience, and on occasion, our priorities to serve the physical and spiritual needs of others.

Servant Leadership is Clothed in Humility: Jesus was the High King of Heaven.  He could have asserted His authority on the Cross and call ten thousand angels to save Him.  Yet, He endured the shame of the Cross in order to serve our greatest need.  He did that with humility and love.  The heart of a servant leader is marked by gospel humility.  It recognizes its humble state before a holy God, and seeks to glorify Him while serving others.  Such humility does not mean thinking less of ourselves, but thinking more honestly about ourselves.  It requires looking more intently at Christ than at ourselves.  Then we will be weaned of our selfish pride, our fear of man, in order to honor God by thinking rightly of Him, of others, and lastly, of ourselves.  We ought to consider others more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:1-11).

Servant Leadership is a Lifestyle:  The entire life of Jesus was marked by service.  He came into this world in the lowest of natures for the very God of the Universe, and yet He did that in order to serve as our sympathetic High Priest. He experienced the growth and maturity that comes with being a human being as He grew in knowledge and stature.  He took on flesh completely and did it without sin.  When He obeyed in the wilderness and later in Gethsemane, He did so for God’s glory and for our good.  His service was not a one-time act, but a lifestyle of giving of Himself.  Through His service, He accomplished for us what we could never accomplish for ourselves.  He served us on the Cross so that we might serve others with our lives.  He loved us to the point of death so that we might love others with our lives.  Our service to others ought to be a lifestyle of giving so that we might be poured out for the sake of the gospel in the moments, as well as the years.  There is no greater purpose than to spend and be spent for the One who was slain for us.

Servant Leadership is Gospel-centered: The heart of Jesus’ service was the gospel (Mark 1:15).  He came to proclaim and fulfill the good news of God’s grace.  He came to endure the Cross and put an end to sin and death.  He came not to be served, but to give up His life to save sinners.  The very heart of His ministry was redemption.  Therefore, He preached the kingdom of God and mankind’s need to respond by faith and repentance.  Without embracing the truths of the gospel as centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ, mankind would be left with its greatest need eternally lacking.  As we seek to serve others, we must do it with a heart for sharing the gospel.  The good news of God’s love as found in Christ must accompany the work of our hands.  If people are not called to repent from their sin and place their trust in Jesus Christ, then we have failed to serve their greatest need.  We are helping no one if our lips and our lives do not proclaim the excellencies of Christ (1 Pet. 2; Rev. 19:11-16).

May God give us the heart of Christ that we might serve a world in need with the grace and love of the gospel…


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Edwards on “Humility”

Love Requires and Produces Humility:

“If we love God as infinitely superior to ourselves, then love is exercised in us as infinite inferiors, and therefore it is an humble love… Divine love does not only imply humility in its nature, but also tends to cherish and produce it, and to call forth its exercises as consequences and fruits of love.” (Charity and Its Fruits, Edwards)

“The gospel leads us to love God as an infinitely condescending God. The gospel, above all things in the world, holds forth the exceeding condescension of God… The gospel leads us to love Christ as an humble person. Christ is the God-man, including both the divine and human natures; and so has not only condescension, which is a divine perfection, but also humility, which is a creature excellency.  Now the gospel holds forth Christ as one that is meek and lowly of heart… If we, then, consider ourselves as the followers of the meek and lowly and crucified Jesus, we shall walk humbly before God and man all the days of our life on earth.”  (Charity and Its Fruits, Edwards)

True or False Humility: Examine Yourself!!

“There are various imitations of [humility] that fall short of the reality.  Some put on an affected humility; others have a natural low-spiritedness, and are wanting in manliness of character; others are melancholy or despondent; others, under the convictions of conscience, by which, for the time, they are depressed, seem broken in spirit; others seem greatly abased while in adversity and affliction, or have a natural melting of the heart under the common illuminations of the truth; in others, there is a counterfeit kind of humility, wrought by the delusions of Satan: and all of these may be mistaken for true humility.  Examine yourself, then, and see what is the nature of your humility, whether it be of these superficial kinds, or whether it be indeed wrought by the Holy Spirit in your hearts; and do not rest satisfied, till you find that the spirit and behaviour of those whom the gospel accounts humble, are yours.”  (Charity and Its Fruits, Jonathan Edwards, Banner of Truth-1969, 153-54)

Cultivating a Heart and Life of Humility:

“Seek for a deep and abiding sense of your comparative meanness before God and man.  Know God.  Confess your nothingness and ill-desert before him.  Distrust yourself.  Rely only on God.  Renounce all glory except from him.  Yield yourself heartily to his will and service.  Avoid an aspiring, ambitious, ostentatious, assuming, arrogant, scornful, stubborn, wilful, levelling, self-justifying behaviour; and strive for more and more of the humble spirit that Christ manifested while he was on earth.  Consider the many motives to such a spirit… [Humility] is the attendant of every grace, and in a peculiar manner tends to the purity of Christian feeling.  It is the ornament of the spirit; the source of some of the sweetest exercises of Christian experience; the most acceptable sacrifice we can offer to God; the subject of the richest of his promises; the spirit with which he will dwell on earth, and which he will crown with glory in heaven hereafter.  Earnestly seek, then, and diligently and prayerfully cherish, an humble spirit, and God shall walk with you here below; and when a few more days shall have passed, he will receive you to the honours bestowed on his people at Christ’s right hand.”  (Charity and Its Fruits, Edwards, 155-56)

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