Posts Tagged ‘humility’

The Requirement for Usefulness

November 13th, 2017

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (Acts 9:15-16 ESV)

Several people mentioned to me yesterday how much they appreciated the sermon on Joseph’s promotion. For years he had been locked up in confinement, and seemed to maintain his faith and servant attitude, but suddenly he was catapulted into national prominence. Yet this promotion did not go to his head, he did not become proud. Rather he learned to listen to others rather than speak himself. He was humble and wanted God to get the glory from his life.

Most of us can handle adversity easier than we can handle success. We learn to worship and serve the Lord, even though we are personally going through a difficult time. But when we receive a promotion, when God blesses our job or our ministry, then we are tempted to pride. We are tempted to lord it over others, to forget God, to become selfish and stingy. The one who tithes sacrificially on a meager salary, will be tempted to give less than a tenth when he gets a raise. We far too easily forget God’s goodness to us, and imagine that we do not need Him any more.

Joseph did not do this. His faith was as remarkable when he was experiencing advancement as when he was undergoing adversity. He was humble, God-centered, ready to serve others, not lustful over attention or the praise of men.

A requirement of all who God will use is a broken spirit. Jesus said:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:24-26 ESV)

When God called Paul, along with the call was a prophetic statement, “For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” We are unsure how much money Paul had - we know that sometimes he was in significant financial hardship, but we also know that he was always like this. Paul himself said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil. 4:11-12). He had learned - by the Spirit’s work in his life, by his challenging life calling, by the examples of other believers around him - the art of dealing with all circumstances.

Kipling has this marvelous line in his little poem “If” - “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.” Paul learned, as we all should learn, that disaster does not remove God’s hand from our lives, and triumph does not remove our need to remain humble and faithful before Him. In all situations and conditions, the Christian’s goal must remain the same - that God would be glorified in and through our life.

There is no person in Scripture that God used in any significant way that He did not also break. He broke strong wills, egotistical mindsets, hedonistic lifestyles, self-centered agendas. He broke people that He might use them, and bless them. Brokenness leads to greater usefulness and greater joy than selfishness does. The selfish person is a miserable person. Harry Overstreet made the profound observation: “The ungiven self is the unfulfilled self.” We are made by God not to live selfishly for our own glory, but to be broken, humble, and poured out before Him.

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My Sacrifice

October 11th, 2017

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17 NIV)

What can we bring to God in our worship?

The Israelites were taught to never appear before God empty handed (Exodus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:16). They were to bring a suitable sacrifice to God when they worshiped. But over the centuries this came to be an excuse for hypocrisy. Their hearts were far from God, filled with lusts and pride and anger, but they thought that it did not matter so long as they brought the material sacrifice. So, they would go through the motions of worship.

We are a bit at a quandary here, because we often say to each other to just act as you should and your emotions will follow. That is not completely untrue, that many things we do in life, not because we want to but because we ought to, and we find that after we start the action our emotions support us. But we should understand that this is very different from what the Israelites were doing. They decided that emotions did not matter at all, and, in fact, they could run in an entirely different direction. You may hate your brother, under this type of thinking, and still go and worship with a sacrifice.

Or you may have a ruined relationship with others, one of anger and fighting, and ignore your own responsibility to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Levi. 19:8), and still go and offer your sacrifice. This is the problem behind the teaching of Christ:

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:23-24 NIV)

So God spoke through David that what they should really first bring to God in worship is broken and contrite heart, one that is repentant over sin and comes humbly to God. That person is the one justified and whose worship is acceptable.

What about Christians? Do we come to worship with something in our hands? Do we offer something to God in order to worship?

We believe that Christ is the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. The Old Testament believers, when they brought sacrificial animals, they expressed their faith that God would one day provide the suitable sacrifice for them. But a Christian comes to worship with faith in his heart that the sacrifice has already been made. As the old hymn says, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.”

And like the Old Testament believers, we are also to bring hearts that are surrendered to him. Our hearts should have our old human stubbornness broken and they should be surrendered to Christ, meek and moldable. A broken and contrite spirit is to be the attitude of every worshiper. This is evidenced in a life that seeks to live in peace with all, to do the right thing, and to honor Christ.

Our giving, whether done in the worship service or by modern banking before the service begins, is an expression also of gratitude. We do not give in order to be accepted - our financial gifts do not win our salvation. We give out of gratitude and out of faithfulness to God. Our giving is an expression of our faith in Christ and of our surrendered hearts to Him.

Randy Alcorn wrote:

By giving, we enter into and participate in the grace of Christ. We worship. By giving in concert with our brothers and sisters in Christ’s body, we jointly worship him, moved by each others’ example and mutual participation. In the building of the tabernacle, building of the temple, and repair of the temple, it was the corporate involvement of the community of saints in which the spirit of God moved so dramatically to produce extravagant giving. The same was true with the New Testament saints of Jerusalem in the early chapters of Acts and those in Macedonia spoken of in 2 Corinthians 8. (Randy Alcorn)

How do you worship? The heart of a biblical worshiper believes:

  • I am accepted by God only through Christ. He is the sacrificial Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.
  • I am surrendered to Him, repentant of my sins and obedient in my will to follow His leadership.
  • Because I am accepted in Christ, I give in gratitude and faithfulness, that His will would be done.
  • Because I am accepted in Christ, I seek to be right with my fellow believer and my unbelieving neighbor and live a righteous life - not in my strength but in God’s.

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