Pride can act humble.
I can act as humble as Moses (“Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Wait a minute, didn’t Moses write Numbers? What’s up with that? Anyway, I can act meek as Moses while simultaneously being proud of how humble I am.
Don’t get me wrong – I really do want to be humble. But true humility isn’t being preoccupied with whether you’re humble or not. Did you ever get preoccupied with humility and pride? Someone commends you for your humility and you’re immediately tempted to be proud about it. Here’s what we need – a good dose of self-forgetfulness.
As Tim Keller says in The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness:
If we were to meet a truly humble person, (C.S.) Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.
How do we think of ourselves less? By being interested in others. “The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us.”
This is gospel-humility – counting others more significant than ourselves. Being genuinely interested in and concerned for others. A good dose of self-forgetfulness.
Paul says we should “put on” compassion and love for our brothers and sisters. I’m not naturally emotional or compassionate. I’ve had to learn to put on compassion. All my life I looked to my own interests, but when Jesus saved me I had to learn to start looking to the interests of others.
To put on compassion means we try to enter into what someone is going through, try to imagine what it would be like to suffer what they’re suffering. We can’t fully know another’s pain, but we can do our best to empathize.
But self-forgetfulness is more than sympathizing. It’s rejoicing with those who rejoice. Celebrating God’s work in someone’s life. Being glad when others are blessed. This is true humility.
And when we sincerely sympathize or celebrate with others we forget ourselves. And we’re truly humble.
So ask Jesus to help you think of yourself less and more of others today. Now, enough about you, what do you think about me?
What do you have that you did not receive? 1 Corinthians 4:7
Meditating on this truth goes a long way toward producing humility and thankfulness in us. All that we know about God we received as a gift, either from God or from others. Our knowledge of God comes primarily from Scripture. We didn’t write it or print it or distribute the Bible. God gave his word to Moses and Isaiah and Matthew and Paul, who wrote it down. Others distributed it, translated it, printed it. Eventually God’s word came to us. Maybe someone witnessed to us or we heard a preacher or someone gave us a Bible. But all we know of God is ultimately a gift from God and others.
Our talents, our ability to think, our eyes, ears, hands, fingers—all a gift from God. If you can read this you are using hundreds of blessings he has heaped on you. The other day I was racking my brain to try to remember something I hadn’t thought about for months. Suddenly it popped into my mind. Where in the world does memory come from? What a miracle. Our brain—a mass of flesh—can store immaterial information, then recall it. My 95 year old dad is in a personal care facility, highly medicated for pain and out of it much of the time, will sing along if you start singing “Dancing Cheek to Cheek,” a song written by Irving Berlin in 1935, sung by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the 1935 movie Top Hat. How does that work? What a gift memory is. (And what a gift is Google, which I used to look up the song.)
Our incomes, jobs, our home—all gifts from God. “But I worked hard to get my degree, applied myself, worked hard—that’s how I got where I am.” Who gave you your intelligence to study? Who gave you diligence? Who made the opportunities for you to advance? All you have is a gift.
All we have we were given. The country we were born in, the language we speak, the educational opportunities—we didn’t make those for ourselves. Hey Mr. Proud Peacock, nice feathers you’re strutting around showing off. Who gave you those? Did you make them yourself?
What do you have that you did not receive? Think about this today. Turn it into thankfulness and humility before your generous King.
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.
We will all be criticized at one time or another. Sometimes justly, sometimes unjustly. Sometimes others’ criticism of us is harsh and undeserved. Sometimes we may need it. How do we respond to criticism? I haven’t always done well and I’m still learning, but here are a few things I try to think of when others criticize me.
Be quick to hear. (James 1:19)
This can be hard to do because our emotions rise up and our minds begin to think of ways to refute the other person. To be quick to hear means we really do try to listen to and consider what the other person is saying. We don’t just write it off. Even if it seems unjust or undeserved.
Be slow to speak (James 1:19).
Don’t interrupt or respond too quickly. Let them finish. If you speak too quickly you might speak rashly or in anger.
Be slow to become angry.
Why? Because James 1:19-20 says the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Anger won’t make someone do the right thing. Remember, God is slow to anger, patient and long-suffering with those who offend him. How much more should we be.
Don’t rail back.
“When (Jesus) was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Talk about being unjustly accused – Jesus was, yet continued to trust the Lord and did not revile in return.
Give a gentle response.
“A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Be gracious even to those who offend you, even as God is gracious to us when we offend him.
Don’t defend yourself too quickly.
Defensiveness can rise out of pride and being unteachable.
Consider what might be true in the critique, even if it is given in a poor way.
Even if it is given with the intent to hurt or mock, there still might be something worth considering. God might be speaking to you through this person.
Remember the Cross.
Someone has said that people won’t say anything about us that the Cross hasn’t said and more, which is, we are sinners who deserve eternal punishment. So actually, anything anyone says about us is less than what the Cross has said about us. Turn to God who accepts you in Christ unconditionally despite your many sins and failures. We can be discouraged when we see areas of sin or failure, but Jesus has paid for those on the cross and God is pleased with us because of Christ.
Consider the fact that you have blind spots
We can’t always see ourselves accurately. Maybe this person is seeing something you can’t see about yourself.
Pray about the criticism
Ask God for wisdom – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalms 32:8).
Ask others for their opinion
Your critic could be right or completely off-the-wall. If this is an area of sin or weakness in your life, then others will have seen it too.
Consider the source.
Don’t do this too quickly, but consider the other person’s possible motives, their level of expertise or wisdom, etc. They may be criticizing you to hurt you or they may not know what they’re talking about.
If an outsider came into your Sunday meeting and observed you worshiping, what would he conclude you think about God?
Does your expression of worship say how great and glorious, delightful and exciting you think God is? Does your worship say you’ve found God to be faithful and good, loving and satisfying? Would an outsider conclude you believe God to be real and present?
Or does your worship say you find God about as exciting as an exam on protein chains (maybe you bio majors would get excited about this – I wouldn’t). Do you sing with all the enthusiasm of someone who has just been asked to shovel 2 tons of manure? Does your worship say you believe God is distant and uncaring?
What does our worship say about what God did for us? Do we sing like those who have been redeemed eternally from the wrath of God? Like those who have been seated with Christ in heavenly places? Like those who are grateful to have every sin wiped away? Do we rejoice like those who have the king of the universe living inside them?
We should worship God expressively, not for a show or to impress others, but as a way of saying to him how much we love him. That we consider him to be infinitely great and glorious and majestic. That we consider him to be praiseworthy.
Worship is primarily an issue of the heart. So someone could worship God wholeheartedly and not show it on the outside. But I like what I once heard John Piper say – worship begins in the heart but should not stay there. It should be expressed.
Our glad hearts should overflow with thanks for all God did for us in Christ. Hey, Jesus DIED for us. He was tortured, spit on, mocked, pierced, so that we could enjoy God for ever and ever. Essentially, Jesus went to hell so that we don’t have to. Isn’t that worth getting excited about?
We should worship like rich people! Because we are. We’ve been given every spiritual blessing in Christ! We should sing with more enthusiasm than if we just found out we won the lottery.
We should sing like those who know God is working all things for good in our lives. Like those who are being transformed into the very image of Christ. Like those who will worship around the throne for eternity?
God has designed us to express delight in things excellent and beautiful. We gush when we see a glorious sunset. We clap and shout at Coldplay concerts and Steeler games (well, maybe not if you’re a Cleveland Browns fan). We give standing ovations for outstanding accomplishments. Our cheers show what we think of that diving catch or that guitar solo.
Again, our worship isn’t some kind of performance we put on for others. Our worship is for God. But it says something about what we think about him.
This Sunday let’s show God what we think of him and sing the roofs off our church buildings.
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter.
Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.