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Of all the pursuits that come with the Christian life, is any more constant, any more consuming, and any more difficult than the pursuit of humility? Surely nothing cuts harder against the grain of our natural, sinful humanity than to be humble before God and humble before our fellow man.
Yet God calls us to display humility. He warns that he opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. So how do we become humble? Or, to say it another way, how do we humble ourselves? Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it! Give me a course I can take, a list I can check off, a procedure I can follow, and I’ll keep at it until I’m properly humble! But as David Mathis points out in his new book Humbled: Welcoming the Uncomfortable Work of God, such an attitude is all wrong because it elevates us too much. “In contrast to this attitude, the humble-self theme in Scripture turns our human instincts and assumptions upside down. Yes, this is indeed a biblical directive. And at the same time, it’s not something we can just up and do. We cannot humble ourselves by our own bootstraps.” There is no simple plan to follow, no course to take, no step-by-step procedure. That’s because …
… we humans are not the drivers of our own humility. Our God designs the humbling way in which he forges the virtue of humility. He takes the initiative. He acts first. Our humility happens on his terms. He sees. He knows. He moves, with sovereign, omnipotent, meticulous care. He is intimately engaged with his created world and with each of his creatures. He is the one who humbles us with his mighty hand, and when his humbling hand descends and we’re cut to our knees or flat on the ground, then the question comes to us: Will you humble yourself and embrace God’s humbling hand, or will you try to fight back?
Will you receive his humbling providences, or attempt to explain them away?
Will you soften to him in humility, or harden with pride?
True self-humbling is not our initiative, but it does require our doing as we learn to welcome the uncomfortable work of God.
That uncomfortable work, and our response to it, is the theme of Mathis’s book. In its eight brief chapters he offers a study of the Bible’s humble-self language. Specifically, he follows the lead of the “humble-self” texts “for what we might discover not as much about humility in general, though that’s not unimportant, but specifically (and practically) about what it means to pursue humility, and especially to humble-self, when God is the one who initiates our humbling, not us.”
So he asks first “How do I humble myself?” and explains how God humbles us through our response to his Word and his work. He shows the importance of providence, Scripture, prayer, fasting, and local church fellowship in God’s working out of our humility. He explains how we can think less of ourselves and think of ourselves less. He shows how most ultimately, humility is the means through which we admit to ourselves, to others, and to God himself, “I am not God.” In that way, it is “a posture of soul and body and life that acknowledges and welcomes the godness of God and the humanness of self.”
All-in-all, Humbled is as helpful a book as you’ll find on the essential but oh-so-difficult task of becoming humble—of responding appropriately to God’s pursuit of our humility. I highly recommend it.
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The Lord be with you and bless you today.
Westminster Books has a really good deal on a really neat set of books.
Remembering Don Lewis
“Dr. Donald Munro Lewis died Tuesday, October 19, 2021 in Vancouver, BC, of cardiac arrest. He was seventy-one. A beloved and respected historian, professor, mentor, friend, and parishioner, Don will be mourned and missed around the world. He was a wise and steadying presence from Vancouver to Cape Town.” Don was also the man who led my dad to the Lord (who in turn led my mom to the Lord).
Identity vs. personhood
This is a really good one from Janie Cheaney. “Anyone over 40 could have a lot of fun with 249 genders, but it’s no laughing matter for young people trying to figure out who they are in a confused and confusing world. The tragedy is, some may be so intent on crafting identities that they’ve let go of personhood.”
The Woke Non-Gospel at the Chappelle Netflix Protests
Rhys Laverty has some interesting analysis of a recent protest. Note that there is a really bad word that comes up in the article, but it is asterisked out. “I awoke this morning to a protest video. A friend had forwarded a video of yesterday’s demonstration outside Netflix’s head office in LA. Employees walked out, joined by plenty of others, to protest comedian Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix standup special.”
Sing When You’re Losing
“The gathered church sings. That’s what we do. It’s not the only thing we do, but it is what we do. … We sing to worship the Lord, we sing to bolster one another, we sing to ‘push back the dark’ by declaring the victory of Christ. But, occasionally, we struggle to sing. Especially I think we struggle to sing—or at least I struggle to sing—when it feels like we’re losing.”
Four Types of Men in Leadership
I appreciate Chopo’s thoughts on leadership here. Focusing specifically on leadership in the home and church, he highlights four kinds of men commonly found in the church and in our society.
What the Lord’s “Imminent” Return Means
This is a helpful look at what it means that the Lord’s return is “imminent.”
The Church Among the Deathworks
I’m committed to linking to pretty much everything Carl Trueman writes. “Hegel writes that the 1820s witnessed a rise in anxiety and despair because cultural symbols and institutions began to lose their meaning, plunging the world into a state of random flux. Of course, this is all the more true of our own world, where old symbols—national flags, national anthems, national narratives—have lost their shared meaning, and have thus also lost their authority. Which flag to fly—Stars and Stripes or Pride? Which anthem to sing—’Star Spangled Banner’ or ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’? Where to date America’s founding—1776 or 1619? These are now serious questions.”
Flashback: Young Christian: Give the Lord a Lot to Work With
The teens and twenties—these are years that can be put to very good use or that can be squandered. These are years that can form the firm foundation of a life well-lived or the unsteady foundation of a life tragically wasted.
Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance). —John Stott
The reason why we can be wrong is that God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. Does Job have an answer to the question “Why?” No, he does not. But he can lay his troubles at the feet of Almighty God. This is whom we need to direct people to when they are suffering inexplicably.
Perhaps Job wished his friends had remained silent. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar initially didn’t speak a word to Job. His suffering was too great. They remained silent for a week. But Job 4 marks the beginning of their speeches, where they begin to tell Job what they really think.
Eliphaz is the first of Job’s friends to speak. He speaks first probably because he’s the oldest. We pick up in Job 15:9–10 that he’s a gray-headed man, older than Job’s father. Bildad is the second of Job’s friends to speak, beginning in Job 8. He is brasher than Eliphaz. Zophar is the third of Job’s friends to speak, and he is even brasher than Bildad. Job’s friends all share something in common, however: their understanding of Job’s suffering. It can be summarized in a few questions from their speeches:
Eliphaz:_ “Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?” (Job 4:7)_
Bildad: “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right?” (Job 8:3)
Zophar: “Do you not know this from of old, since man was placed on earth, that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment? (Job 20:4–5)
Job’s friends each understand the universe as operating according to a certain law. The reason for suffering, in their minds, is very simple. You reap what you sow. You get out of life what you put into it. You are responsible for your actions, and suffering is a consequence of your actions. The implication is that Job has sinned. It may have been a little sin, it may have been a medium-sized sin, or it may have been a big sin. It may be a present sin or some past sin that Job has forgotten about. One way or another, their answer to this predicament—from a philosophical, theological point of view—is that Job is reaping what he has sown. It’s karma. You get whatever’s owed to you.
What do we make of that as a principle, as a philosophy, as a theological way of understanding Job’s predicament?
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