Before I venture deeply into writing this article, I would like to offer a postscript to my post from last week. That is, I want to make it clear, as I did not do last week, that many Evangelicals I have met, are genuinely kind, and lovely, and sincere. I suspect that I saw someone I know to be an Evangelical running away from me in the street over the course of this last week, and that made me feel bad, as I did not mean to offend anyone. However I still have to stand with my assertion that I made last week that I simply do not believe the same thing as Evangelicals do. It is essentially a different faith. And with all the grace in the world, there is a huge divergence between standard Evangelical practice, and what the Bible actually teaches. And yet I know that God deeply loves the Evangelical church. Each Evangelical is a precious person, made in the image of God. God has huge plans for the Evangelical Church, and I am confident that He would desperately love to work through it. But I think that the Evangelical church has to come back to a radical embrace of true Bible doctrine, refusing to remove all those parts of the Bible which seem difficult or challenging.
For today’s post, I would like to share some fresh thoughts that have been occurring to me about humility. Humility is one of my biggest ongoing challenges in my faith. I’ve just never been able to grasp what it means to truly walk in humility.
In many prosperity doctrine churches, each year is given a grandiose title reflecting the material success that people hope to achieve within the year: “2014 is my year of incredible, outstanding blessing and favour from God with supernatural outpourings of Open Heavens.”
Well, in a joke emulation of that, I call 2014 “My year of stupendous, earth-shattering humility.” That is because one of my biggest goals for this year is to finally, truly grasp a deep understanding of Christ-like humility, to see this thing resound deeply throughout my life, to see it reflected in everything I am, everything I do; my interactions with God, my interactions with people…my blog posts.
In a post from quite some time ago, (just over a year) I wrote about what I called “fake humility”. What I failed to communicate when writing that post (because it did not actually occur to me) was how culture colours our understanding of the Bible. In that post I wrote about self-deprecation. To be perfectly candid, in the British culture, in my experience, humility is often equated with self-deprecation. And yet, this is not actually Biblical. Jesus did not call Himself “less than the Son of Man”, or “less than fully God”. The Apostle Paul did not self-deprecate either. This is what I have often struggled with, and I have always chosen full candour rather than to describe myself as being less than I actually am. And yet, thinking back to the situation I described in that post, even then that self-deprecation was fake because it was not sincere at all; these people clearly thought very highly of themselves but pretended to think little of themselves, it was as if they were merely putting a self-deprecation filter on their words, while their true and actual pride shone out in every other way.
This then, is what has recently occurred to me about humility: It is not about describing myself as being less than I am. Rather it is knowing that these things genuinely do not make me better than other people, and it is behaving accordingly. It is about cultivating this mindset right from my heart. It is knowing that everything I am and I have comes from God, so there is never any reason to elevate myself in my mind against Him, to refuse to listen to Him or to His word.
It is like this. In human society, we naturally elevate some things, some positions in life, as being better, or more desirable than other positions or circumstances. For instance, it is considered “better” to be clever, or educated, or wealthy, or successful in our careers, or married, or to live in a respectable, middle-class area. There might be nothing wrong with any of these things. Each of these things might represent something that is genuinely good and excellent to desire. However, I think that this is what true humility is: recognising that even the attainment of any of these things does not make you truly “better” than any other human being. Every human being – every single one – is made in the image of God. Every human being – every single one – is of phenomenal and unspeakable worth – in the eyes of God Himself, worth the blood of Jesus. This includes all the people who do not rank at all in these criteria that we human beings elevate as being important. So even when we have attained all our human goals, we remember this about ourselves, that we sincerely are not better than other people, and we also remember this about God, that He is the One who gave us everything in the first place. It is not about lowering ourselves in our mind to associate with people who are not as “high” as we are, as I used to think it was. Rather it is about recognising that there there is no actual difference between us and them in the first place.
I think that true humility springs from the heart. It also springs from the thoughts that we allow ourselves to meditate upon. From experience, thoughts will occur to us throughout each day, inviting us to fall in love with our own excellence or brilliance or whatever else. It is from this, what we habitually meditate upon, that pride flows in our interaction with other people, our lack of gratitude towards God… our blog posts. To be truly humble, we need to root out these thoughts whenever they occur to us. We need to refuse to give these thoughts room to grow in our hearts, choosing instead to remember the truth. I am not better than anyone just because I…. All I have is from God. All I am is as a result of God’s grace. Everyone is of infinite value before God, even Christians who don’t pray.
If I systematically manage to root out pride in my thoughts, then it cannot manifest itself anywhere else. One of the strengths of meditating on the Bible is that I can practise what to think, and fill my heart with how God wants me to think. So whenever a proud thought rears its head, wanting to take root in my mind, I can immediately pull it out, and I will instantly know what to replace it with instead.
PS: I totally forgot to write in this post that even though I described myself in last week’s post as struggling so badly, God did something amazing, to bring me to a place of peace and calmness, so that all of a sudden, things seem to be generally back under control, I now longer feel as if I’m at the end of my tether, and I am actually also getting some sleep! God is so good, and I am so grateful to Him! 😉