It happened again; I interrupted one of my pastor’s conversations on a Sunday morning. In my desire to speak to him I was rude and interrupted his conversation. He gently pulled me aside after his conversation finished and said we needed to get together this week to have a chat while playing golf. On the drive in his car from church to the golf course, we had a chat. He then told me that I needed help with my relational maturity and to grow in humility. Those words hit me like a ton of bricks and immediately, I knew he was right. If I was going to continue to serve in any ministry at all, I needed to grow in humility.
While this conversation happened about five years ago with one of my pastors and now closest friends, I realized recently how far I still have to grow in this area of my life. While I don’t interrupt conversations now and aim to wait my turn now in conversations patiently, I still have plenty of room to grow. As I prepared to preach all the sessions of the Men’s Retreat back in May of this year, this same Pastor encouraged me as he read my sermons for the Men’s Retreat. He said, “Dave you have great theology and great exegesis. You just need to continue to grow in relational maturity and humility. That’s one key to being a good shepherd.” I’ve taken those words to heart as well, since, I know I have a lot of room to continue growing in the grace of God.
There was a time in my life when I thought answering all the theological questions people could ask was enough. To that end, I wholly devoted myself to study theology. I’ve realized over the past five years of being out of seminary that isn’t bad since it’s good to answer people’s questions. It’s also not wrong to desire to serve people. It’s bad though to pursue knowledge for knowledge sake devoid of love. At the heart of what my pastor was saying to me is you have to love people and be humble.
Cultivating True Humility
True humility it’s often said is thinking less of ourselves and thinking more of Christ, and that’s partly right. We should think more of Christ and less of ourselves. But true humility also finds its origins in the gospel and one anothering each other. True humility is considering others better than ourselves and serving them in a manner worthy of Christ in our communication and our relationships with one another. To do so takes Scripture centered, and gospel-fueled wisdom.
Bible College and Seminary students are pumped full of theology in their classes. They are also taught how to write theological research papers and read vast piles of books each semester on a wide variety of topics. We must ask ourselves the following questions:
- How am I doing relationally with others?
- Am I growing not only in the truth but in the grace of God?
- Am I able to communicate the truths I’m learning in love to others?
- Am I also increasingly able to discern truth from error?
The answers to these diagnostic questions are important not only for Bible College and Seminary students but for every Christian. As Christians, we one another each other because of the gospel, as we are taught over fifty times in the New Testament epistles to one another each. These commands are made possible to obey because of the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Consider the following:
- We don’t obey these commands out of duty but because we supremely treasure Christ.
- We cultivate humility in our lives as Christians because of Christ.
- We listen and esteem others greater than ourselves because of Christ.
- We pick up the cross and follow Jesus in all of life because of the gospel.
- We communicate in a manner worthy of the gospel with one another because we treasure of Christ.
Cultivating Humility is Life-Long Gospel Work
J.C. Ryle a famous Anglican Bishop once said, “Thankfulness is a flower which will never bloom well except upon a root of deep humility.” Ryle’s point is a significant one- namely that our view of God impacts how we see God. And since our view of God affects everything including how we Christ, creation, and the whole of Christian life and theology- Ryle’s point is “thankfulness is a flower which will never bloom well except upon a root of deep humility.”
For you and I to grow in humility, we need to understand who God is and what He is like. We also need to know who Jesus is, what He is like, and what He demands. Also, we need to know what the local church is and our place in it. And at the heart of all of this is the Great Commandment. The Lord has sovereignly replaced our heart of stone with a new heart, with new desires, and new affections for Himself. He has also filled His people with the Holy Spirit and placed us into the family of God giving us a new mission and a new purpose in the gospel. And since all of this is true, we one another each other because of the gospel.
Peter wrote 1 and 2 Peter to people who were scattered and suffering persecution. They were facing all sorts of challenges and hostility in a non-Christian culture. Much like Peter’s audience today we are facing much of the same issues he addressed in 1 Peter. In 1 Peter 5:6-11 Peter writes the following, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Peter is saying that our view of God matters for every area of our lives. He then calls the congregation to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (v.6). Only then will they be able to properly cast their cares on the Lord, be sober-minded, watchful, resist Satan, face suffering, and grow in the grace of God.
We cultivate humility by regularly reading our Bible’s and faithfully attending our local church. There we submit to the teaching of God’s Word faithfully proclaimed each Sunday through biblically qualified men of God.
Cultivating humility is the work of a lifetime of growing in God’s grace. Cultivating humility doesn’t happen overnight, and it also doesn’t happen by mistake. Instead, it occurs through intentionally putting ourselves daily before the Word and exposing ourselves to the central message of the gospel in Scripture. Scripture is not only authoritative it is also sufficient for all of our lives.
A Plea For Humility
Wherever you are at in your Christian life today, I want to plead with you to not stay there. Do not say that all is well with your soul when you are not cultivating humility because that’s a lie. Each day we should become less, and Christ should increase in our affections.
That day that five years ago now where my pastor lovingly rebuked me was a turning point in my walk with God. Today you have the choice to choose, will you decide to grow in humility and interpersonal maturity, or will you just continue to do things however you want? The road of godliness is fraught with suffering, with hardship and with many challenges. All of these difficulties are aimed for our good, since, the Lord uses each one of them for His purposes to conform us into the image of Christ. We may never know why we face the things we do in this life and we also may never get to tell others about them. And yet it is all worth it in the end.
All I want my life to testify to is the glory of God in Christ. If everything in my life were to fade away today even at this very moment and all I had left was Christ that would be enough for me. I only desire to continue to be amazed by Him and to grow in humility before the face of the Lord. Our desire as Christians should be the same to be daily consumed by the supremacy of God in Christ and to find our treasure therein all the days our lives. That’s a vision for our lives not only worth living for—it’s also worth dying for and being consumed by each moment of each day for all of our days to the glory of God. It is only there as you, and I live before the face of God that we will cultivate humility and pursue the supreme treasure of Christ for His renown and glory.