The Importance of Humility in the Christian Life (Part 1)
God is humble by nature. And when He came to the earth as a man, He lived a life completely absent of pride. But this means that God utterly detests pride as well. So if we want to approach Him, we must value and cultivate humility in ourselves. This teaching is foundational here at Pure Life Ministries. We hope that anyone seeking to overcome sexual sin, or any life-dominating sinful habit, will see the value of humility in combating sin. (from Podcast Episode #469 - Don't Stop Fighting for Humility)
Nate: So, Pastor Steve, we want to talk about humility. Humility is so important because God makes it clear in His Word that He, because of His lowliness and His humility, is repulsed by pride. So that creates a barrier between Him and someone who is proud. If we're going to be Christians, humility is absolutely essential. It's a condition for fellowship with this humble God. But it can be hard for us because humility is not easily defined. So, the first thing that we want to talk about is how to know if someone is humble. What things do you look for in a person's life to say, “I believe this is a humble man or woman?”
Steve: Well, I don't tend to look at people and even think that, but let me just say a couple things about humility. I think maybe the reason why it's hard to define is because it's a negative to something, meaning that it is not pride. Pride is something. The negative of that is the absence of pride. So, what is pride? Well, pride is self-importance, and it comes from the self-life. So, the stronger the self-life, the more pride there is, and pride is the aspect of the self-life that protects the ego.
Pride is like a watchdog that is going to protect its ego no matter what. And if it has the opportunity, it's going to do that by rising up and making itself look better than other people around it. If it feels threatened then it's going to attack the perceived threat. Now first of all, to know God, we have to humble ourselves. We have to have a level of humility to even approach Him because He is such a magnificent, awesome being and He is humble by nature. So, when you think of the devil and how he rose up against God, that is pride and that's the spirit of the enemy. That's why God abhors it: it's coming against Him. So, like I said, I don't go hunting to see who is in pride, but when someone's a prideful person, I can't help but see when it comes out.
<pull-quote>Pride is like a watchdog that is going to protect its ego no matter what.<pull-quote><tweet-link>TweetThis<tweet-link>
Nate: That's interesting when you think about the life of Jesus, because when it comes to either protecting self or rising up in pride against other people, you don't ever see that coming out of His life.
Steve: No. Never. He lived His life always with the mindset of wanting to do for others even at His own expense. Even when you see Him go on that rant so to speak in Matthew 23 against the Pharisees, that wasn't to one up them, or get over on them, or come out as the one that's right, or any of those underlying, sinful, human motives that we usually have. That was for one thing only. It was to protect other people from their ugly pride and the false system of religion that they had set up in Judaism. And that rant, so to speak, has been there for 2000 years for everyone to see the things that Jesus called out that we don't want to see in Christianity.
Nate: And maybe even to reach some of them.
Steve: Yeah. Some of them did come to the Lord eventually. So maybe it began on that day. Maybe He was putting His finger on something that they couldn’t squirm out from under. Maybe the conviction of the Lord and His truth was stirring something up inside of them. And then after Pentecost, maybe they were some of those priests that actually came to the Lord.
Nate: One of the things that really resonates with me when I listen to people's testimonies about coming to the Lord is when they say something like, “Pride has just been my nemesis even after coming to the Lord.” They’ll talk about just how natural it is to be proud. And I can attest to the fact. Without the Lord's help, the world I live in is the world of pride. You've been working with people for over 40 years. You have a lot of experience watching God's dealings with people as He's teaching them how to live a life of humility. Could you give us two big categories of things that God uses to help people live the life of lowliness.
Steve: Yes. I would say one is through teaching, and another is through the Lord's direct intervention in a person's life. I think teaching is always His default. He wants to see people come into humble living and He wants to develop in a person the sense of value for humility. He wants them to feel inside that it would be so much better for them, and certainly for those around them, if they would learn to be more humble.
If a person can learn to value humility, they can start seeking God for it, saying, “Please bring me down. Help me not to rise up in pride. Help me to walk in humility.” God’s first desire is that someone can seek after humility in that way. If that doesn't work then sometimes He will revert to stronger measures. There's nothing like affliction and suffering to humble a person, and I've had plenty of both. I just thank God for it now. Some of the things I've gone through that really humbled me when nothing else would mean everything to me now. So yeah, of course God has other things in His arsenal to humble a person, but I would say those are the two main things He uses.
Nate: Yeah, it's like when we tenderize meat. Sometimes our hearts just need the hammer.
Steve: Yeah, it's definitely true that we need our hearts to be constantly tenderized because they harden up so quickly in the self-life.
Nate: Yeah, like you said, in the middle of the humbling it's so hard and it feels awful, but it's so precious in retrospect because you realize what God is doing for you.
Steve: That's right – if your heart's right. But how many people have gone through stuff like that and they come out on the other end of it bitter? They can even be bitter towards the Lord when the Lord is just trying to help them. But all I know is I’m grateful myself for what He's done to help me.
Nate: Can you think of someone in the scriptures where you can see that happening over a period of time?
Steve: Well, there are lots of examples. There was Joseph in prison. The Lord had to humble him before he was going to rise into such a position of prominence. Saul the Pharisee got a sight of Jesus the lowly one that absolutely devastated him because his whole life had been built on self-righteousness and looking down on other people. And that just came collapsing down in that one vision of Jesus. There was also Moses who was so prideful in Pharaoh's palace. He was humbled throughout his entire lifetime. He had become self-righteous and that drove him to killing an Egyptian soldier. So he had to go out into the desert for 40 years. And really, 40 years out in the wilderness after the palace life will humble you. There are many stories I could allude to, but those are a couple of examples.
Nate: As you talk about those things it's helpful for me because I realize that this is God's way of dealing with us. It's not even punishment in a certain sense. It's His loving, fatherly discipline, which we all need.
Steve: Yeah, it's not punishment at all when it’s a believer He is dealing with. It's totally remedial. He wants to help them get better because pride destroys, and it just makes us ugly and ruins everything we touch. It's only God's goodness that causes Him to step in and help us come down.