Be Humble

The Blessed Series

Sermon by Dr Ben Hooman (22 March 2020)

Listen to the Sermon

1 Peter 5:5b-11

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”

1 Peter 5:5-6

We looked last Sunday at: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

We are called to recognize our poverty before God. You may have much to offer your family, your business, your friends or your work team, but standing before God, you are in an entirely different position.

What do you have that you did not receive?

When Jesus first called Peter, Peter said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). It was in the presence of Jesus he felt his unworthiness. That’s what happens when Christ comes near to you.

We saw how this poverty of spirit brings a surprising blessing: “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Jesus is speaking about a taste of heaven now.

Isaiah 57:15 “…I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit.

We saw this taste of heaven is God living with the person who has a humble spirit. Heaven is in the humble before the humble are in heaven.

The question then is: How can we cultivate this humility?

In this series, we noted that there is a progression in the Beatitudes. We used the analogy of the Beatitudes being like a series of rings.

They are—humility, mourning, meekness, righteousness, mercy, purity, and peace.

The rings at the end are often the ones we want to get to. We really want to have purity of heart, but how do we get rid of the things that messes us up?

We really want to get to forgiveness, but how do we get beyond the wounds in our hearts? We really want to have peace, and to bring peace to others, but how do we deal with the turmoil that is inside?

The questions we then ask is:

How do I get to being merciful? How do I get to purity? How do I get to peace? These things often seem to be out of our reach.

That is why we explained previously that the Beatitudes are like a series of rings, and you move to the next ring with the momentum you gained from the last.

Momentum is the key in reaching the next ring. The momentum of swinging on the first ring will take you to the second, and the momentum on your swing on the second ring will take you to the third, and so forth.

That is why it’s so important for us to grasp this first ring. To be poor in spirit is the gateway blessing. This is where you get started. There is no other place to begin.

The way to purity, and peace and forgiving others begins with becoming poor in spirit, and using the momentum you gain from this to move forward to the next ring.

Today we are asking: How do I get on that first ring?

How do I get started? We’re going to look at:

1. The curse of pride;

2. The blessing of humility; and

3. How to become a person who is poor in spirit.

  1. The Curse of Pride

“God opposes the proud …”  1 Peter 5:5

If you’ve always thought that God is for everybody, you have to get rid of that idea, if you want to believe the Bible.

Remember Peter is writing to Christians. He is telling us that pride blocks the blessing of God!

If I give way to pride, God will stand against me. I will come under His discipline. God stands in the way of the proud. He opposes them, “but He gives grace to the humble.”

There will be a very different experience in life depending on whether you are pursuing pride or you pursuing humility.

If you want God to be for you, not against you, 1 Peter 5:6 says: “humble yourselves… under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you”. The fight against pride is a lifelong battle.

Humility is the first grace given to a Christian. This is where the Christian journey begins. But pride is the last enemy to be subdued. Pride was the first sin to enter the world and it will be the last to be expelled from it.

The battle against pride is a hard one because…

Humility goes against the grain of a self-affirming culture

In the current culture of affirmation, it sometimes seems that parents, teachers, counsellors, politicians and media all conspire to tell us how great we are, and apart from a miracle of God’s grace, we’ll believe them.

The teaching of Jesus is directly opposed to the creed of this world that says: Believe in yourself.

Jesus does not say, “Believe in yourself.” He says, “Believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14). The man who says: “I believe in myself” has put himself in the place of God.

Those far from God will often feel that he or she has the ability to face whatever comes: “I can handle this… I can do it”, and even say with pride “I can do all things in Christ”.

The person who walks with God says something different. He looks at the challenge and says, “Because the Lord is at my right hand I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).

Where is your confidence?

Wisdom calls you to trust God and doubt yourself, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). But the world says: “Go with your heart, with your feelings, with your emotions, do it your way” and you then doubt God.” Satan has been working this ever since the Garden of Eden.

Trusting yourself and doubting God is rampant in our culture, so much so that we cannot recognize the lie of the devil!

Humility goes against the trajectory of religion

Religion works on the principle that you must live a life that is pleasing to God so that you may win His favour. This idea is fundamental to all religions across the world.

But Jesus says precisely the opposite: The blessing of God belongs to those who know they cannot win God’s favour: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

It is the Gospel that turns religion on its head. Every religion in the world says, “Live a life that pleases God so that you may win His favour.” The Gospel says, “Receive God’s favour, through Christ crucified, so you may begin and pursue a life in the Spirit that’s pleasing to God.”

The blessing of God itself makes humility harder

The poor in spirit experience the blessing of God.

But the more you and I experience God’s blessing, the more difficult it is for us to stay in the place where you are poor in spirit.

It is very hard for a great achiever to feel that he or she has nothing to offer God. The more successful you are, the easier it is to believe that you really are something, and the harder it is to humble yourself before God.

If your children believe while others are in rebellion; if your marriage prospers while your friend’s is falling apart; if your business succeeds while others fail; if your ministry grows when others are in decline—it’s hard to avoid the proudful feeling you must have done something right!

Success of any sort, tends to make us think that we’re something. Thank God for the work of the Holy Spirit, who has come to convince of sin and righteousness and judgment.

  • The Blessing of Humility

“God opposes the proud but He gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5

We saw that the poor in spirit are blessed because God lives with them. God dwells with those who have a lowly and contrite heart. That is the first and greatest blessing, but the presence of God brings a whole cluster of other blessings.

Growing in humility helps us to bear affliction

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you.” 1 Peter 4:12

Earlier in the letter, 1 Peter 1:7 speaks about how genuineness of faith will be tested like gold when it’s refined in the fire. Trouble is on the horizon and Peter writes to prepare believers for it, so that they will stay standing.

How are they to do that? “Humble yourselves under God’s almighty hand. That’s how you’re to get through this,” Peter says. “God gives grace to the humble.”

Growing in humility will also nourish your love for others

“Love does not boast. It is not arrogant. Love does not insist on its own way.”  1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Pride is always self-seeking. It is easily provoked.

Let as look at an example:

Pride will pour cold water on the fires of love in your marriage. If you begin to think more highly of yourself, your marriage will be in trouble. But humility will fan the embers of love into a flame.

Maybe you at a place this morning wondering: Do I really love him?  Do I really love her? And the world says to you, “You have to think about yourself.” And you may have friends who will say the same thing to you.

Christ says precisely the opposite: “You should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus… He humbled Himself” (Philippians 2:4-5, 8). The path to restoring a marriage that is burning low begins here, grow in humility!

Growing in humility will also strengthen you to overcome temptation.

Proverbs 16:18 “Pride comes before a fall.” 

The Bible also tells us that the person who “thinks he stands should be careful lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

It is the person who knows the weakness of his or her own flesh, who will watch and who will pray, and who will, therefore, not fall into temptation.

Pride is the gateway sin that opens the door to other sins, but humility is the gateway blessing that opens the door to other blessings.

Growing in humility will also release you from the tyranny of self 

Some of us may be feeling that we are a long way from pride. We may be thinking that for this reason: “My problem isn’t that I love myself. My problem is that I hate myself!”

For many this is a great battle, a particular battle for some of the youth today. You experience it in an intense way. You get up in the morning and a voice in your head says, “I hate myself.” Perhaps sometimes you even think about harming yourself.

The focus is on self. Self is dominating. Self is at the centre. When you hate yourself, you are simply battling with an inverted form of pride.

Self is dominating your mind! Satan doesn’t really care whether self is exalting you or condemning you, the problem is the same. Self is on the throne, and self is always a tyrant!

The great blessing of humility is that it releases from the tyranny of self.

  • How to Cultivate Humility

The word “cultivate,” reminds us that this is a lifelong pursuit.

Cultivation is never a one-time deal. We are always working at it.

Let us look at some brief encouragements:

Measure yourself by the law of God

Use the Bible as a searchlight in your soul. Measure yourself by 1 Corinthians 13:

 “Love does not insist on its own way.” Where am I insisting on my own way, Lord?  “Love is not irritable or resentful.” Help me Lord to see where I’ve been irritable. Where am I resentful?

Open the Bible and ask God to show you yourself. Measure yourself by: The Great Commission, measure yourself by the Beatitudes, measure yourself by the Sermon on the Mount, measure yourself by anything and everything that God calls you to in His Word!

When we do this, we will become poor in spirit. You will find yourself saying: “Lord, I fall so far short of your calling on me, I need to find in You what I do not have in myself.”

This is what the Christian life looks like every day!

Use the law of God as a mentor to bring you to Christ. The commands of God, rightly understood, always cultivate humility in a Christian believer. They’ll bring you to the place of saying “I don’t have what it takes.”

The good news is that Jesus, seeing your need of Him, says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

That’s where the law brings you. The end of the law is the beginning of the Gospel! The law will bring you to a place called “poor in spirit,” and Christ will meet you there!

Model yourself on Jesus

My first thought about humility is that I have every reason to be humble because my sins are many. At my best, I fall far short of what God calls me to be and to do.

But there is more to humility than to be put in our place on account of our sins. Jesus was humble and He was without sin. The humility of Jesus did not arise from sin. It is a characteristic of Jesus Christ, the One we to follow, the One to imitate.

Listen to Him. Learn from Him. Model yourself on the Son of God. He says to you: Matthew 11:20, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart”.

Listen to what Jesus says:

I can do nothing on my own… John 5:30

I have not come to do my own will… John 6:38

I do not seek my own glory… John 8:50

If these are the words of Christ, how much more should they be mine?

Motivate yourself through the grace of God

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble…

Humble yourselves therefore… 1 Peter 5:5-6

Humility is a grace that brings more grace. People who are poor in spirit, who know their need and their poverty before God, have a blessing that will lead to even greater blessing!

Get on this first ring today!

God has gifts of grace for the humble. Blessings of purity and peace lie ahead of you. Healing that will make you want to show mercy will be within your reach.

These things can be yours! But you have to begin here: Get on the first ring. Humble yourself.

Come to Jesus Christ today and tell Him you don’t have what it takes to live this life. Tell Him that you can’t change without Him. Ask Him to give you what you do not have. Trust Him. Look to Him.

Believe in Him to do for you what you cannot do for yourself.

Nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to your cross I cling!

Is that you?

Look to Jesus for what we do not have, and know that in Him we have all that we need.

Let us pray:

How poor are they that think themselves rich O’ Lord,

How rich are they who know themselves to be poor in spirit,

Give to us what we do not have, be for us we are not!

All for Your grace and for Your glory,

In the Name above all names, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour!

Let us this week humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God! Go in His favour and under His protection. No harm will come to those who obeys the Lord!

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