Grace For The Journey
It happened just after the end of the college football playoff game between Georgia and Oklahoma. As the two teams exited the field, after Georgia defeated Oklahoma in a thrilling double-overtime victory, one of the Georgia players spotted the Oklahoma quarterback and shouted those two words at him: “Humble yourself!” It was unique enough that the video clip spread across the internet. You can hear lots of things after a football game, but you will rarely hear anyone shout, “Humble yourself!”
It remains good advice for all of us. Someone has said, “If pride is the first sin, then humility is the first virtue.” Years ago . . .
The First Rule
Of the Spiritual Life:
And we’re not.
All spiritual growth starts with this truth. Until you grasp what it means, you are still in spiritual kindergarten.
James 4:6-10 explains out what it means to humble yourself in the eyes of the Lord. In this passage we discover six steps that unlock the path of God’s blessing for his children.
- Would you like to know God better? Humble yourself!
- Would you like to receive God’s approval? Humble yourself!
- Would you like to break through to victory? Humble yourself!
- Would you like a closer walk with God in 2020?
Well then … Let’s look at these verses because it will help you jump-start your spiritual life.
# 1: Take a Knee.
The Bible says in James 4:6-7a, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says, ‘God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore, submit to God.” Humility doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It’s the virtue which, if you think you have it, you probably don’t. D. L. Moody used to pray, “Lord, make me humble, but don’t let me know it.”
No one likes being told what to do. We would rather be in charge of our own life, and that’s why the whole notion of surrendering our pride to the Lord sounds strange at first. But . . .
- There is no other way to get better.
- There is no other way to be healed.
- There is no other way to be forgiven.
- There is no other way to find a new life.
We can fight the Lord,
Or we can surrender
Everything to His control.
When we fight, we lose.
When we surrender in faith, we win.
A missionary saw this sign painted on the side of a bus in Nigeria: “Man no be God.” That sums it up, doesn’t it? You aren’t God, you never were, and you never will be. Start there, and you’ll be on the right path.
Humility grows best in the rich soil of God’s grace.
Don’t pray for
Pray that God will
Pour out His grace
In your heart
So that you
Will only boast
In the Lord.
The proud man must constantly remind you how great he is. He brags because he wants you to praise him. But if you have to tell me how great you are, how great could you possibly be? The braggart brags because he’s trying to convince you (and himself) of how great he is. The humble man doesn’t brag because the truth speaks for itself. He leaves his reputation in the Lord’s hands because it doesn’t matter to him what others think. He wants God’s reputation to become great in the land. What happens to him doesn’t matter as long as the Lord’s cause goes forward.
Walking in humility means you confess your sins, you forgive your enemies, you admit your mistakes, and you don’t brag about how great you are. It also means you serve others with a smile, not with a frown.
“God opposes the proud” – Don’t let that happen to you . . . “But gives grace to the humble” – So pray for the grace you need.
Take a knee . . . You’ll be glad you did.
# 2: Fight Back.
The Bible says in James 4:7b. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. This is both a command and a promise. If we submit to God, we may be sure that when we resist the devil, he will flee from us.
We have no power
Against the devil,
He has no power
To use against us
When we fight
With God’s power.
By ourselves, we can’t win;
With God’s help, we can’t lose.
The word “resist” is a military term. It means you stand and fight. You don’t run away.
We are to flee temptation,
We are to fight the devil.
That means taking up the armor of God and standing in the evil day (Ephesians 6:10-17). Satan is like a football coach studying the opposing team. He has “game film” on us, he knows our weaknesses and our strengths, and he uses what he knows against us. If he can get you discouraged, he’s already won the battle. He knows when you lose your temper. Satan isn’t equal to God, but he’s a lot smarter than you or me.
Don’t be surprised when he hits you out of the blue. Fight back!
Don’t be surprised when he comes to you with a seductive temptation. Fight back!
Don’t be surprised when he whispers in your ear in a moment of weakness. Fight back! The devil is a murderer by nature (John 8:44). He will destroy your career, your marriage, your family, and your ministry if you let him. You’ve got to stand and fight.
- Fight back with the Word of God.
- Fight back by singing great hymns.
- Fight back by praying to Jesus.
- Fight back by leaning on your brothers and sisters.
- Fight back by confessing Christ openly.
- Fight back by coming to the Lord’s Table.
- Fight back by fleeing every temptation.
- Stand and fight, child of God! Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
# 3: Draw Near.
The Bible says in James 4:8a, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
The question is not,
How near is God to us,
How near are we to Him?
Every married couple understands that proximity is one thing, but intimacy is something else. A couple may be seated on the same couch but be miles apart from each other. They may sleep together but not share the same bed spiritually. It is quite possible to be married and live entirely separate lives.
Drawing near to God
Starts in the heart.
Take another married couple and watch them for a moment. She may be knitting or playing the piano. He may be reading a book or listening to her play the piano. Minutes may pass without a word being spoken, but they are happy together. He has drawn near to her, and she has drawn near to him.
If we come to God with that same desire to know him, He will draw near to us. You do not need to be an advanced Christian, or a super-saint, or a deep Bible student. The newest saint and the weakest believer may know God’s presence. Years ago I heard the question put this way, “If God feels far away from you, who moved?” It’s never the Lord. We may know His presence and feel His pleasure if we truly want it. He will draw near to you if you draw near to Him.
# 4: Clean Up.
The Bible says in James 4:8b, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” We must cleanse our hands because they are dirty with sin. We must purify our hearts because they are divided, and we are distracted.
This means we stop making excuses for . . .
- Bad attitudes,
- Casual unkindness,
- Clever put-downs,
- Dabbling in pornography,
- Bragging about our accomplishments,
- Envy of others,
- A critical spirit,
- Our need to be in control,
- Giving in to despair,
- Hating our enemies instead of loving them,
- And for our failure to do what we ought to do.
Here’s a useful way to apply this truth. Take some time to get alone with God. Pray this simple prayer: “Lord, show me the truth about myself.” Then write down what the Lord shows you. In my experience, you can’t do this in ten minutes, and you can’t do this when you are busy or in a hurry. It takes time to open your heart to the Holy Spirit. When I have done this, I have been appalled at what the Lord reveals to me about my own heart, but then I am glad for the cleansing that comes from confession and repentance.
The Bible gives us a wonderful promise in Hosea 10:12, “Sow to yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, tile He comes and rains righteousness on you.” Plowing is hard work because it means digging up the rocks and pulling the weeds that keep the good fruit from growing. But if we by God’s grace do the hard thing, the Lord promises to send the rain that produces a new life with new joy and fresh fruit from heaven.
# 5: Get Serious
The Bible says in James 4:9, “Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” What God is saying does not sound like the typical sermon that we hear preached today. It doesn’t sound like “God’s best for your life now,” and it doesn’t sound like “the that wins.” In fact, this verse runs counter to the “I want to be happy all the time” version of Christianity that is very popular in America today.
Some would consider this verse as out of place.
- Be wretched – Who wants to be wretched?
- Mourn – The exact opposite of “don’t worry, be happy.”
- Weep – That’s a real downer.
- If we laugh, we should stop it and start mourning.
- If we have joy, turn it into gloom.
I’ll be the first to agree that this verse, stated this way, seems like a downer. But let’s step back and ask ourselves what James means by all this.
Is he a kill-joy? No, that is not what he is trying to be. Is he a frowning Puritan? That’s not fair because the Puritans were supremely happy in God.
James wants us to get serious
About our relationship with God.
When theologian R. C. Sproul died in December 2017, Russell Pulliam wrote an assessment of his life in the Washington Post. He located Sproul’s huge influence in the fact that he believed in the theology of John Calvin. That led to this sentence: “Sproul believed that we are more sinful than we usually think we are.”
That’s spot-on accurate, both as a statement of what Sproul believed and of the true American self-assessment. Most people, even those who don’t go to church, would agree they are sinners. That is, no one’s perfect, we all make mistakes, and so on. It’s not hard to get people to agree with that concept.
But the Bible goes much further.
It tells us that sin has infected every part of human life, that we are spiritually dead, spiritually blind, lost, separated from God, and without hope in the world (Ephesians 2). The Bible reveals the solemn truth that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). We have all missed the mark. The whole human race is lost, broken, dead, blind, deaf to God’s truth, in a state of perpetual rebellion, and so separated from God that we are under His wrath, and bound for eternal punishment in hell.
That’s what God says
About the whole human race.
That’s God’s verdict on you and me.
If you don’t believe that, or if you think that’s too harsh, or if you can’t handle the truth, then this verse will make no sense to you.
It all depends on how messed up you think you are.
Small sinners need a small Savior.
Moderate sinners need a moderate Savior.
Big time sinners need a big time Savior.
We are all big time sinners!
Once we see our sin as it really is, we will see ourselves as wretched and mourn and weep. We’ll stop laughing and start crying. We’ll let our joy be turned to mourning. And that opens the door to the abundant life we all seek. This promise comes true whenever we decide to take God seriously.
# 6: Stay Low
The Bible says in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” I heard Dr. Jimmy Draper talk about some advice he sought from Dr. Howard Hendricks when he was being considered for the pastorate of First Baptist Dallas, Texas. Dr. Hendricks’ reply was simple: “Lie low and exalt Christ.”
That’s a good word for all of us. We can brag on ourselves, or we can exalt Christ, but we can’t do both at the same time. That sentence stands as a powerful admonition for every Christian. It is great advice because it describes two choices.
You can exalt yourself,
Or you can exalt Christ,
But you can’t do both.
When we decide to lie low and exalt Christ, there is no limit to what the Lord may choose to do through us.
I began this blog by talking about one football player who shouted at another football player, “Humble yourself!” What he said to his rival, God says to us. His message is crystal clear.
We can be blessed, but we must humble ourselves.
We can change, but we must humble ourselves.
We can experience the abundant life, but we must humble ourselves.
In the early days of 2020, many of us are thinking about how we can get a fresh start and make a new beginning. James 4:6-10 shows us the path that will jumpstart your spiritual life. In the Kingdom of God, the way up is down. If you humble yourself, the Lord will raise you up.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”