True Humility

Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (John 1:24-28)

Humility is certainly an endearing and disarming character trait, is it not? True humility such as John the Baptist demonstrates in our verses for today attracts attention and points others to Jesus. Standing in familiar territory on the side of the Jordan, among throngs of people who flocked to him, John demonstrates to us the beginnings of becoming less while Jesus becomes more. His actions provide for us a wonderful example of “dying to self.” Not easy to do then, certainly not easy to do now, yet that is what Jesus calls each one of us to do:

“Whatever knowledge or skill we may obtain in the schools of human learning, the Scripture does not yet allow us to be truly wise, but calls us blind and mere worldly students, till we learn to be poor in spirit, lowly in heart, and dead to the world. Therefore, the more a man dies to this world, the more is he enlightened.”
-K. H. Von Bogatzky

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his their will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? (Luke 9:23-25)

Jesus’ words are worth contemplating. This same command appears in all four gospels and repetition in Scripture red flags us to take heed.

Have you ever noticed how often a braggart with at least a half a wit will tone down his boasting when in the presence of the truly humble? Boasting exhibits the insecurity in our lives while true humility demonstrates our security and standing in Christ. We are told in Scripture that God opposes the proud but gives grace upon grace to the humble:

In the same way, be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)

Indeed, God sets Himself against the arrogant yet grants favor and acceptance to the humble of heart. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians:

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

We must be particularly on guard if bestowed with strength or power or possessions or authority, lest our hearts become lifted up to our own destruction, remembering always that pride is an insidious monster often grabbing hold of us unaware with its long tentacles and strangling the very life out from us. We find in Isaiah:

“This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)

“I have never met a person I could despair of, or lose all hope for, after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.”
-Oswald Chambers

Take It to Heart

“A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God’s work well and triumphantly, is a sense of our own weakness. When God’s warrior marches forth to battle, strong in his own might, when he boasts, ‘I know that I shall conquer, my own right arm and my conquering sword shall get unto me the victory,’ defeat is not far distant. God will not go forth with that man who marches in his own strength. He who reckoneth on victory thus has reckoned wrongly, for ‘it is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.’ They who go forth to fight, boasting of their prowess, shall return with their gay banners trailed in the dust, and their armour stained with disgrace. Those who serve God must serve Him in His own way, and in His strength, or He will never accept their service. That which man doth, unaided by divine strength, God can never own.” (C. H. Spurgeon)