Humility, Part Two: Its Source & Its Growth
In Part One, I more than suggested that the path to becoming humble is to start practicing acts of humility—acts where we put the interests of others above ourselves.
It is through action that our lives will be transformed. We become more humble—our lives of humility grow—by action.
Yet what is the root of this growth?
As I presented this thought to us, taking action as the means to transform ourselves, I knew it was not complete.
I was following the thrust of the Biblical text, which first presented a fundamental challenge to the idea that we can think our way into transformed living. The first thought was to act. I find it remarkable that in the first century people needed to be challenged to get moving, to take steps to put into practice virtue. Over-thinking is not just a 21st century problem.
To drive home this point of action, I stopped at verse 5. However, that thought is incomplete. I left out God. We cannot, by ourselves, apart from God, accomplish anything. Especially when we are talking about taming our pride. We need God.
That is why today as Philippians 2:1-5 exhorts us to action, this action of humility is directly connected to Jesus’ humility in verses 6-11.
No tree can grow except on the root from which it sprang.
At the Fall, pride—seeking independence from God—destroyed our humility and dependence. Pride has Satan at its root. Satan sought independence from God.
When you think of its power, be not dismayed; the humility of the Lamb of God cast out Satan and his pride.
Our victorious Lamb is the Second Adam. The root to which God enters the Incarnation, is the root we are to stand and grow in – it is the same power which is found in the Cross.
What is at this root of Jesus’ character? Humility. Humility is the simple consent of the creature to let God be all in all, the surrender of oneself to His working alone. To let God be all requires we empty ourselves of self.
His Incarnation required humility
His Servanthood required humility
His Atonement required humility
His Ascension required humility
Humility was not, and is not, a temporary condition of Jesus – He is this way today.
For you, for me, to become people of humility, we must first receive Jesus into our lives. The action to receive Christ is to confess him as Savior and Lord.
Forgive me for being so basic... but let me spell this out a bit more.
To accept Jesus as Savior means: 1. You acknowledge you need to be saved, saved from your sin which is your rebellion against God—that is an act of humility. 2. You also need to admit you cannot save yourself—another act of humility.
To accept Jesus as Lord means: 1. You are literally letting someone other than yourself have authority over your life, daily and otherwise. 2. You accept Jesus on his terms—not yours. It is Jesus’ Death, Resurrection, and Ascension which has made him Lord of all. (He is not your Lord just because he is a good teacher and an all-around nice guy.)
These statements may seem as basic Christian teaching. Yet I find I must remind myself of them. They establish a starting point for me, the creature, to draw near to God, the Creator. It is the action which sets my starting position as a position of humility.
This position of humility is the right place, and I find I must return to it, to this root, daily, if I am to grow.
There are a few ways I “return to this place”. My sin and God’s grace. Let’s look at both.
Daily I must make a moral inventory of where I have missed the mark, where I have sinned, and confess it. Some people challenge me that this is too morbid. By my way of thinking, if I am trying to grow, would I not look at areas of my life where my growth, by my own actions, is being stunted?
However, I must confess, I tend to focus too much on using my sin as my motivation. To focus on my sin, makes it too much about me.
Consider the following: what if we did not sin—should we therefore not be humble? Jesus was without sin, and yet he was humble.
Therefore, humility is valuable in and of itself, and sin cannot be the singular motivation for humility.
It should be that I am motivated not only by sin but by grace. When I reflect on God’s grace, its mystery, then the floodgates of the greatness of his redeeming love pour upon me.
Consider the universe: its vastness, its complexity, its beauty. All of these come from God. When I set the infiniteness of the universe against the singular and personal relationship God invites each of us into, it is simply stunning.
Consider also that The Infinite Being we call God, receives prayers from a little finite person—me.
Consider, not my sin, but God’s response to my sin, when I survey that my savior should die for me, it gives me more than pause. Gratitude flows.
In total, it is the soul – occupied by God as Creator and Redeemer and Lord – that kneels in the lowliest place before Him.
And our Lord, after receiving our worship, says, “up off your knees, go, you are my stewards of this world…go be men and women of action.”
Our action, our service to God, is born of humility. And our humility must be born not only from our sin, but from our overwhelming gratitude for God’s grace.
The thoughts for this reflection started with a question. What is the root from which our lives of humility may grow? It is Jesus and our relationship to him. He is this infinitely deep source, the New Adam, the root, from which we grow.
Humility is the cardinal virtue: the distinguishing feature of discipleship.
Where in my life, do I need to take action to be more humble? How about you?
***Thoughts for this reflection are highly informed by Humility: The Journey Towards Holiness by Andrew Murray and several chapters from Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men by Stephen Mansfield