The Exclusive Nature of Humility, Part 4

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Jn. 3:16)

The Cost of Love

If I say romantically to a woman with honesty and genuine, long-term intentions: “I love you,” then a secondary, unspoken but very real question goes with this proclamation of love.  The question I should consider before I utter these words and going forward is: “What will this cost me?”  “What do I need to give up” or put another way: “What do I need to give of myself” to make the relationship work?

God says to mankind: “I love you.”  God gave no less than Himself for us.  He purchased us with His own blood at Calvary.  Jesus Christ the Son of God set aside His glory in heaven in order to take on the form of a human being, at the high cost of everything that is valued in worldly conventional normalcy.  It is medically said that when blood and water came out after a Roman soldier pierced the side of Jesus with a spear to confirm that Jesus was actually dead on the cross, that this means that Jesus died of a ruptured heart…a broken heart.  God gave His all for the new covenant Christian church…the bride of Christ…made up of Jews, Gentiles, and every other nationality across the globe.  People are being added to this church…the sparkling and radiant love of God’s heart…one-by-one every day.

There is one last point I want to make in this section on divine humility.

Another remarkable thing about the character of God is the unselfish, self-effacing humility of the Holy Spirit…the third Person of the Trinity.

When John the Baptist testified that at the Jordan River: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him” (Jn. 1:32), the Holy Spirit came to glorify Jesus the second Person of the Trinity…who has the difficult task ahead… and not Himself.

In John 16:15, Jesus says of the Holy Spirit: “that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.”  In John 14:26, Jesus says of the Holy Spirit: “he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”  In John 15:26 Jesus says of the Holy Spirit that “he shall testify of me” and in John 16:14 “He shall glorify me.”

At Pentecost, Acts 2:4 says: “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost…”  Peter and John making their defense before the Sanhedrin council in Acts 4:8 says of Peter that he was “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  As Stephen is about to be martyred, Acts 7:55 says he was “full of the Holy Ghost.”

As Spirit-born Christians we will know the Bridegroom Jesus someday in heaven not only through our current relationship with Him crafted through a God-composed adventure of faith, but also through the things we learn about God in our guided, premeditated, formal schooling through the Holy Spirit.  Like Jesus setting aside His heavenly glory through the incarnation, the Holy Spirit glorifying Jesus is the epitome of selfless service through divine love.

The Holy Spirit power in us is therefore also selfless and glorifies Jesus.  The divine character trait of radical humility is all over this narrative.  It soars far above the horizontally conventional, literary invention of human imagination.  It is complete, in-place, and fully functioning at the outset of the biblical narrative stories of faith.

The worldly-based question of “whom maketh thou thyself” and the divine calling to “take of mine and show it” unto others is energized from the character baseline of humility…of the emptying of ourselves like Jesus and the lifting up of the one Person Jesus Christ who is our hope and our salvation…like the Holy Spirit has done and is doing in self-effacing, divinely loving humility.

The Exclusive Nature of Humility, Part 3

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Tit. 2:11-12)

The True Expert on Everything

Jesus Christ is the absolute expert on everything…the physical universe, morality, and everything theological.  John 1:3 writes: “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”  When Jesus repeatedly says throughout the gospels: “but I say unto you” this is the eternal, divine Word of God speaking to us.

Yet Jesus did not insist upon His rightful place as the leader in Jerusalem, according to the modern-day self-assertive mindset.  The modern saying: “If you’ve got it—flaunt it” is totally absent from the program and life-script of Jesus.  Jesus does not rely upon the validation of external, visually authenticating glory in presenting Himself to mankind.  “Whom maketh thou thyself” is one of the key components in the earthly ministry of Jesus.  The salvation of mankind is rooted in the rejection of the Son of God…absent His outward divine glory.  Belief in Jesus as Christ and Savior is free of all outwardly visual influence.  This is a unique, narrowly exclusive zone of character where arrogant pride simply cannot go.

This is simply beyond human literary invention.

I want to make three concluding points in this post.

First, God is willing to endure Isaiah 53 for our sakes to create a human commonality as the foundation for a relationship.  This is what is so beautifully expressed by Paul in Philippians 2:5-11.

Second, God can enter into a human body through the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus, to establish a relationship with us only because of the exemplary character trait of divine humility.  The “son of perdition” personage of 2 Thessalonians 2:4 cannot similarly do this.  Divine humility is a character “narrow gate” pathway not passable while carrying the extra baggage of pride and arrogance.

Third, the incredibly unconventional human life of Jesus Christ from incarnation through the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension is the acid-test that forever separated salvation faith from skeptical unbelief (Jn. 9:39-41).  Anything even slightly more pride-filled than the super-humility of the totally human outward appearance of Jesus Christ…the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Jn. 1:29; Rev. 13:8)…would not only have upset the ongoing delicate balance between belief and unbelief, but would have prevented a thorough-going unbelief to have been separated out and exposed at the cross of Calvary (Lk. 23:34).

I have the sense that if we can over time correctly and accurately explain 2 Thessalonians 2:4-12 then we have maybe 50 percent of the end-times understood.  We did not in the first century foresee Jesus, the cross, and the resurrection.  We will probably need to witness the actual events of the end-times to fully understand 2 Thessalonians 2:4-12.  But I think this issue of the exclusivity of humility is a large part of the final controversy to be separated out, clarified, and decided in the upcoming end-times.

We have this crucial moral character trait of humility expertly personified in the life and teaching of Jesus…giving us the positive half as a present guide for Spirit-born Christians today to aspire to and to emulate in our own God-composed journeys of faith (1 Cor. 4:9-17).

The Exclusive Nature of Humility, Part 2

“Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Tit. 2:14)

At the beginning phase of His pubic ministry Jesus steps forward in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth, reads from the scroll containing Isaiah 61:1-2, and then clearly and without any hint of self-doubt about His identity, boldly proclaims: “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”  But Jesus does not possess a divine outward aura of light to help validate His claim.  The townspeople are offended by the audacity of this claim being made by an otherwise unremarkable person, interprets this statement as blasphemy, and then proceeds to attempt to throw Jesus off the precipice of a nearby cliff (Lk. 4:16-30).

In Mark 3:21, unidentified “friends” (presumably members of His family) come to “lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.”

In Mark 3:22, the scribes from Jerusalem grossly misinterpret the miracle working of Jesus as originating from Beelzebub “the prince of the devils.”

In John 6:48-65, Jesus refers to Himself as the living bread come down from heaven.  When Jesus then goes on to say in a spiritual sense (Jn. 6:62) that the disciples must eat His flesh and drink His blood (a foretelling of the upcoming future “communion service” part of worship), John records at this point that some of the disciples were offended and “went back, and walked no more with him” (Jn. 6:66).

“Whom makest thou thyself” (Jn. 8:53) is the constant taunting question put forward throughout Jesus’ ministry by His detractors, yet He cannot answer this question with a show of outward supernatural glory outside of the boundaries of the ministry of the messiah as expressed through a normal human body (Isa. 9:6-7; 35:5-7).

At the time of His arrest, Jesus answers Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Mt. 26:53-54).

At the crucifixion, Luke records that “the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God” (Lk. 23:35).  The famously classic saying by Jesus from the cross: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34) is humility displayed at the divine character level in setting aside, at the critical moment of testing, any outwardly visible claim to the glory that rightfully belongs to the Isaiah 9:6 king who voluntarily walks the lonely way through the “narrow gate” of Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 for our salvation.

How could Jesus credibly give us His Sermon on the Mount if He artificially enjoyed the preferential treatment afforded to someone who displayed a divine glow of light around His person?  Jesus perfectly lives every word of the Sermon on the Mount because He is the Word of God.  When Jesus says to us to take no thought for what we need to eat and to wear, but rather to seek first the kingdom of God, He has absolute credibility because He dies on the cross with zero worldly possessions.  Yet Jesus is able to bequeath to the early church disciples and to us today the priceless gift of eternal salvation, deliverance from the bondage of sin, and the Holy Spirit to lead us into the joy, peace, and purpose of the “all truth” of John 16:13.

This was not an easy challenge for Jesus any more than it is for us.  When pressed for authenticating evidence by the religious leaders, Jesus responds by saying: “I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.”  In John 12:27 Jesus says: “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say?  Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.”  In Luke 12:50 Jesus says: “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained till it be accomplished.”

The Exclusive Nature of Humility, Part 1

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”    (2 Cor. 4:7)

By entering into a human body through the incarnation of the Son of God…Jesus Christ, God is opening Himself up to the hard realities of a radical downgrading in outward appearance compared to His glory in heaven.  The classic book The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain gives us a wonderfully adventurous and compelling story that parallels the situation of Jesus Christ closely in this regard.  The real prince disguised in pauper’s clothes, unprotected by his voluntary loss of royal status out in the rough-and-tumble world at-large, is subject to the same perils faced every day by the look-alike pauper boy with whom the prince has temporarily and secretly exchanged places with.

Jesus Christ cannot live-out His unique mission in a human body and still retain some portion of His outward appearing glory.  Jesus cannot walk around Israel in the first century with a low-level exterior glow of light surrounding His body in a sort of low-calorie, sugar-free, “God-Light” aura.  God cannot split the difference halfway between the unremarkable outward appearance of a normal human being and the unmistakably divine glory that Jesus enjoyed as the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity in heaven.  In terms of outward appearances the incarnation is an all or nothing enterprise.  Any amount of visible, supernaturally divine light emanating around the exterior Person of Jesus the son of Mary and step-son of Joseph the carpenter, growing up in Nazareth and during His subsequent public ministry, would have tipped the salvation scale away from the free-will exercise of commendable faith in Christ as Savior for all of the right reasons, towards the morally neutral, bland, merely factual observation of the physical phenomenon of a visually glorified Jesus Christ.

One of the most remarkable things about the character of God is that He has the breadth of capacity to be able to empty Himself fully of all of the advantages of the outward appearances of His glory, and enter into the unvarnished status of a normal appearing human body as Jesus Christ from the small and unremarkable town of Nazareth (Phil. 2:5-8).  God can craft salvation for mankind through the self-effacing humility of the exterior visual downgrading of the divine through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, eventually leading even to the ultimate setting aside of all divine status in submitting Himself to the cruel and undeserved death on the cross at Calvary, for our sakes.

Everyone can relate to this on some level.  At many points in each of our lives we have been unappreciated, passed-over, set-aside, put-down, un-esteemed, or made to feel less than important.

But the humility component of the stepping down of the Son of God from heaven into a human body is a central factor in the rejection of Jesus Christ foretold in Isaiah 53, which directly leads to the cross, the resurrection, and our eternal salvation.

Not in the Reactive Mode

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”                                                          (Eph. 2:10)

In the reactive mode (as opposed to being proactive) the only person who can be any good is the one person with the decision-making power in-the-moment, responding to questions and issues within a tight window of time.  In the reactive mode, because of time-crunch, all other people within the organization (whatever that might be) are by the practical expediency of the moment reduced to a substandard, ineffectual, less important, bystander status.  When an autocratic leadership style and the reactive mode are combined, the performance of everyone outside of the decision-making zone can never rise above the lower level of the “go along to get along” glass ceiling of mediocrity…because all of the power…for better or for worse…is focused upon that one person making the decisions in-the-moment in the exclusivity of the reactive mode.

The dynamism of a combined group effort…even the combined energy of two people walking together at the same pace towards a common goal…is partially or completely erased by the time demands of the reactive mode that by necessity places all of the leadership decision-making in one person.

The top-level brilliance of a God-composed journey of faith is that it is a blend of the divine and the human.  Jesus Christ was thoroughly human but divinely perfect.  Our unique journeys of faith have the singular feature of free-will choice plus God’s proactive planning.  There is no reduced, ineffectual, substandard status for the believer.  The elevated status of God’s active participation in our lives produces just the opposite effect.

Only a perfect manager and script-writer God could do this.  No humanistic model or evolutionary mechanism can explain the sudden appearance of the brilliantly sophisticated management structure of a biblical narrative story of faith beginning over 4,000 years ago with Abraham the “father of faith.”

Jesus is perfectly righteous because He perfectly followed His life-script.  Jesus can be the perfect Lamb of God sacrifice for the eternal redemption of Spirit-born believers because He exercised perfect faith and trust in the Father’s plan for His life, which was formulated by the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit before the foundation of the world.

Two points I want to make here.  First, in a biblical-quality journey of faith neither God, nor the believer, are in the reactive mode.  God has our life-scripts pre-written before we are born, and we discover our individually unique callings by direct revelation or by patiently listening in the Spirit while we “work out our own salvation” over time through our Christian discipleship.  When we have a perfectly clear (or even a pretty good) understanding of what God is calling us to do, righteousness is imputed to us based upon faith like Abraham because it is righteous and good to place our trust in the character and trustworthiness of God to enable us to actualize this calling.

Second, it takes guts and courage to be a Christian because our discipleship is not a “go along to get along” conformity to the conventional standards of this world.  To be called of God into a particular mission is a calling to be different…to be the light of the world…a lamp placed upon a lampstand…a city on a hill that cannot be hid.  The Christian life in the danger zone is a calling into a joint-venture partnership with the living God and Creator of the universe, where we are included within the decision-making sphere of power because of our high value to God and the inestimable gift He has given to us of free-will choice.  A God-composed journey of faith is a calling into an expedition into the discovery of the knowledge of good and evil, so that we can be crafted into free-will moral beings who can be a blessing to God and to ourselves and others for all eternity.

A Calling from God

“And above all things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”               (Col. 3:14)

For God to be able to call Abraham “righteous” there has to be a context of events and circumstances in reality that sets up the conditions for faith to operate.  Staying in the city of Haran and dictating the course of his life will not work.  Worldly conventional normalcy founded upon self-reliance will not produce the need to place faith and trust in God…and in turn will not produce the context for a personal relationship.

The faith to give God the benefit of the doubt comes out of a good heart that corresponds in actuality to real, tangible, internal righteousness.  In a God-composed journey of faith, righteousness is “earned” through acted-out and demonstrated faith rather than simply being imputed undeservedly.  Righteousness imputed by faith, demonstrated out of a believing heart, cannot actualize for Abraham until he steps out in faith and goes to Canaan.

God’s calling entirely and wholly displaces worldly conventional normalcy with a divinely composed journey of faith…which is not at all self-realization or salvation by works…because we could not, nor would not, dream up the specifics of our own journey of faith.  A God-composed journey of faith includes the central element of the cross of Christ putting to death the limited foresight of horizontally conventional, worldly thinking and aspirations…because these things stand in the way of the living out of a context leading directly to a personal relationship.  God is after a personal relationship with us that sets up the context for faith that by definition produces internal righteousness from the heart.

This is the clear-cut, unavoidable, and inescapable message of the life-script of Abraham the father of faith. This is a large part of the truth that will set us free (Jn. 8:32) to soar above the hopeless mediocrity of worldly humanistic standards based upon material wealth, outward appearance, and self-governance.

Out of a Good Heart

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”                                                                                                           (Col. 3:17)

“The just shall live by faith,” fulfills the law because it requires a basic internal goodness to give God the benefit of the doubt to trust Him.  This sets in motion a worldview that has no ill intentions towards our neighbor.  This imputes to the person of faith a righteousness that is real, tangible, practical in application and expression, and has a correspondence to actual events and circumstances in a journey of faith.  Faith in God has a direct link with righteousness, because only a good heart will trust and follow God’s leading.

The promise to Abraham is a promise from God.  Righteousness is imputed to Abraham because only out of a good heart will someone act upon God’s promise by faith.  A bad heart would say: “Forget it…I am doing things my way.”  Like Abraham and the other people of faith in the Bible, only a good heart would continue to place their faith in the good character of God even after circumstances appear discouraging according to horizontally conventional thinking.

Through a God-composed journey of faith, in the most practical, rational, and realistic sense, a way is created for humans to obtain goodness and righteousness.  Our individually crafted journeys of faith are a gift to us from God.  A God-composed journey of faith is a gift because it is free…it cannot be purchased or even accessed through works…it is accepted as a gift by faith.

Such an arrangement is designed to produce a personal relationship…not necessarily to produce a perfect, stellar, sinless performance on our part.  The righteousness that was imputed to Abraham was wrapped up within the faith and trust he placed in God…out of a good heart.  A God-composed journey of faith life-script drives honesty, integrity, and goodness, because it sets up a context of events and circumstances whereby we can abandon total self-reliance based upon conventional thinking, and exercise faith and trust in God leading to a personal relationship.