The Joy Manual: Humility

Phil 2:1-11

John Stott, "Pride is our greatest enemy." If pride is our greatest enemy. Conversely, humility is our greatest friend. Augustine says rightly that "pride is the mother of all sin" – that "pride is pregnant with all kinds of sin. Humility is the mother of all joy. Humble people are the only ones who truly have the possibility of being happy people

Pride is in its origin and practice, demonic and satanic. Isaiah 14:12–15 , Satan was originally an angel created by God and he became very proud. That was the first sin and he was kicked out of heaven.

Pride is the encouragement to compare ourselves to other people, and we tend to pick people that we feel are less than us – less intelligent, less successful, less affluent, less attractive. Humility is continually comparing ourselves to Jesus Christ. You may be the smartest person you know, but you’re not as smart as Jesus. You may be the most successful person you know. You’re not that successful. Pride covets the success of other people. Humility allows us to not covet the success of other people, but to celebrate it – to rejoice in it and to be glad for God’s grace that has been extended to them.

Pride is about me. It’s about what I want. It’s about what I need. It’s about what I think. It’s about what I feel. It’s about what I declare. It’s about what I deserve. Humility is about Jesus and it’s about other people. Humility allows someone to be selfless. Pride is about my glory. "Do you know who I am? Do you know what I’ve done? Do you respect me? Do you praise me? Do you like me? Do you want to be like me?" Humility is about the glory of Jesus Christ. Do you love Jesus? Do you know Jesus? Do you respect Jesus? Do you want to be like Jesus?

Pride says, "I am God" – "Little G, God". "I sit on a throne and I make commands and I expect people to obey and honour me." Humility is bout celebrating the fact that the real God has lovingly served me. Pride leads to arrogance, cockiness, smugness. Humility leads not to arrogance, but to confidence. Confidence meaning I’m confident in what is right and wrong. I’m confident in what God has me to be and say and do, and not be and not say and not do. Humility doesn’t need to mean compromise. And in fact, only someone who is truly humble can have deep conviction and not compromise because they’re worried about God more than themselves.

Pride is focussed on independence. We see this in Satan who wanted to be separated from God. We see that as sinners, where we want to live independently of God, doing what we want. Humility is about dependence. It’s about acknowledging that we’re created and he’s Creator, and that we are dependent on God for love and grace and mercy and forgiveness, and compassion and instruction and correction and help. The humble person seeks in no way to be independent. They acknowledge their dependence on God and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Pride is something that you and I can achieve in this lifetime. We can be proud. We can achieve that objective. Humility is something that we must continually pursue throughout this life. Humility is not something that we achieve fully in this life. That’s why no one can say, "And I am proud to report that I am now humble." Can’t say it. You can’t write a book saying, "Now that I achieved humility, here are the seven steps to humility”. All we can say is, "By God’s grace, I am a proud person pursuing humility."

We live in a world that absolutely encourages nothing but selfish pride. The entirety of western civilization is the continual, purposeful refocusing of our attention on pride and not humility.

Now the only way we can truly continually see our pride is to look to Jesus, so I would ask you this, "Are you humble or proud?" We must all say, "I’m proud."

1. The Humility of Jesus (2:5-7)

No one is more humble than Jesus. And Jesus demonstrates that in what we call the incarnation. It’s a theological term. Incarnation means God became a man. That word there is carne. Incarnation, carne. It’s the same thing you see on a can of chilli.

Jesus is God with meat. Incarnation means God who as spirit, takes upon himself a physical body so that he has fingers and toes and he blows his nose and goes to the loo. Creator entered into creation. Timeless eternal enters into time. Omni present, everywhere, enters into a place. Seated on a throne chooses to be born in a barn. Surrounded by angels in glory comes to be disrespected, mocked and abused by sinners. Living in heaven comes to live in poverty on the earth, and to suffer is the man of sorrows.

This does not mean that Jesus ceased to be God when he became a man. Rather he set aside his rights and he set aside the use of his divine attributes. While on the earth, Jesus was still God. He was worshipped as God. He declared himself to be God, and he forgave sin, which only God can do. God does not grow and change, and so Jesus set aside his divine attribute of immutability so that he could grow from a little baby, to a boy, to a man. God is omniscient. He’s all knowing. Jesus set aside that attribute so that he would learn to read and write as we do.

In 451, the Christian Council of Chalcedon met. They pronounced a creed which says that Jesus is fully God, fully man. We call it the hypostatic union – that Jesus is one person with two natures, fully man, fully God.

Paul articulates this in verse 8. Speaking of Jesus he says, "And being found in human form," – God became a man – "he humbled himself" – Jesus Christ. God humbled himself.

One of the most distinguishing features of the God of the Bible is humility. "He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Here’s what he is saying. Jesus is the most humble person and his death on the cross is the most humble event and act in the history of the world.

Romans 5:8, says “God demonstrates his love for us in this while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

2 Corinthians 5:21 is called by Martin Luther, the great exchange. "God made him" – that is Jesus – "who knew no sins, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Jesus humbled himself to die on a cross. He died in such a way as to be my substitute and pay the penalty of death for my sins. And the great exchange is this – all of my sin goes on Jesus, and all of his perfection is given to me. My condemnation goes on Jesus and his salvation comes to me. My separation from God goes to Jesus and his reconciliation with God is given to me. That my pride is laid on Jesus and his humility is laid on me.

2. I will bow the knee to Jesus (2:8-11)

"Therefore God has exalted him." So now we’re not talking about the humble incarnation, but also the glorious exaltation of Jesus. Today were you and I to see Jesus, we would see him exalted in glory. We would see him as Revelation does – seated upon a throne ruling over angels and demons and men and women, and the young and the old, and the rich and the poor, and the black and the white, and the foolish and the simple, and the gay and the straight. We would see him exalted.

In that day, the greatest name was Nero. He ruled over Rome, the greatest empire on the earth. And Philippi being a Roman city, had as part of its practice the bowing to Nero and declaring of his name as Lord and Saviour at every public event – at every sporting event, every political meeting, every rally. Anytime people gathered, they would bend their knee and they would raise their voices to declare that Nero was Lord and Saviour, and his name is to be praised above all.

And Paul says, "There is a name that is above that name. There is a man who is above that man. That at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, both on the earth alive when he returns, under the earth, those that have died apart from Jesus and are in Hades, those saints who were before Jesus worshiping him today, that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father." That means that even Nero would bend his knee to Jesus and raise his voice to Jesus.

And so the question is not, "Will you bend your knee to Jesus and confess in acknowledgement that he is God and he is Lord, and he is overall and above all?" The question is, "Will you do it today for salvation? Or will you do it on the other side of the grave for condemnation? Will you do it today as a friend of Jesus? Will you do it then as a foe of Jesus? Will you do it today for your joy? Will you do it then for your shame?"

3. How to be clothed with humility

God gives grace to the humble. God is a God who loves to bless, and loves to serve, and loves to help. He just told us that he has the posture of the humble slave. 1 Peter 5 says, "Therefore clothe yourself with humility, and God will lift you up when he feels it’s the right time."

1. Follow the truth wherever it leads.

2. Invite and pursue correction and counsel.

3. Learn from everyone, including your enemies and critics.

4. Repent quickly.

5. Seek and celebrate God’s grace at work in other Christians. 

6. Cultivate a spirit of thankfulness.

7. Listen to scripture more than yourself.

8. Exalt the name of Jesus in all you do.

9. Laugh.

10. Sleep well.