As we have worked our way through Matthew’s gospel, we have frequently encountered the concept of personal humility. We are to be a humble people because Christ was a humble Savior. We saw this reality again on Sunday morning in Matthew 21:1-11. Jesus is the Perfect God-Man, and when He came to earth in the incarnation, He should have been recognized and celebrated as the Messiah. Yet He was not welcomed so warmly, nor did He demand it. He came in perfect humility as our Suffering Servant. Even when He entered Jerusalem on the eve of His final passover, it was not with chariots and well-adorned attendants and a victorious army. He came humbly, on the foal of a donkey, accompanied only by simple fishermen and tax-collectors.
As God’s children, by grace through faith, we are likewise to cultivate humility in our lives. But how do we do that? We know we are supposed to strive for humility, but what does that look like? How do we go about it? I would like to answer that question this week by referring you to a book called “Humility: True Greatness” by C. J. Mahaney. In this text, he gives us numerous personal strategies for developing personal humility. Here are just a few of them.
(1) Reflect often on the Wonder of the Cross. Martin Lloyd-Jones said, “There is only one thing I know of that crushes me to the ground and humiliates me to the dust, and that is to look at the Son of God, and especially contemplate the cross.” John Stott further reflects, “Every time we look at the cross, Christ seems to be saying to us, “I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.” Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”
(2) Begin your day acknowledging your need for God. Your first thought every day should be an expression of your dependence upon God and your need for God. Sin is always active, it does not wake up tired because it does not sleep. When you wake, it stands ready to pounce upon your mind and heart. Engage each day in the battle against sin, and particularly against pride, by acknowledging your need for God’s presence, God’s truth, God’s strength, God’s provision, and God’s protection. Acknowledge that you have nothing and are nothing and have hope in nothing apart from Him. These are humbling realities.
(3) Practice Spiritual Disciplines. Pray, study God’s Word, and worship Him. These are the means of grace, the spiritual disciplines that nourish and strengthen our our souls. And if we’re properly motivated, these disciplines will be a daily demonstration and declaration of our dependence upon God and our need for Him. Mahaney notes that it is so easy to charge into our day motivated by self-sufficiency and confidence in our own abilities. Such a mindset is so prideful when we pause to consider that we could not exist or even draw a single breath apart from God’s sustaining mercies. If we would live humbly, we must daily wash away any sense of self-sufficiency by cleansing our minds and hearts at the fountain of life.
(4) Avoid Cosmic Plagiarism. Every time we claim credit for our lives, our ministries, our work, or our successes, we are committing cosmic plagiarism; we are claiming authorship of that which God has accomplished. Every good thing in our lives comes down from our Father of light (James 1:17). Thus, we must guard ourselves by intentionally transferring the glory to God. When we achieve success, we must praise Him with thankfulness, for He has done it. When we receive encouragement or words of praise, we should thank the encourager, and then give the glory to God. You may be the means by which your business has been successful or the means by which your children have been raised correctly, but you do not have any ability whatsoever to transform hearts, to love sacrificially, to labor diligently, or to affect change. God does it through you. Only He gets the glory.
Mahaney provides many other practical suggestions for cultivating humility, so I encourage you again to acquire and read his book. Even more importantly, be a person who is daily studying God’s book. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)