Humility: The Key to the Kingdom

q4cacrxxhgca8xk3s1cauhtms5cauhwh2hca9gn7vkca3eigwgcab7nvw2cadiw0×0ca6aa7umca8mi5oqcab08bqzcakyuvtbcacpddm1ca07esqlca0d4raqcaudhe4ucaduwro9caw4u30fcaa7j1c8.jpgA few weeks ago, listening to a radio interview, I heard  the guest refer to the Bible as “the greatest self-help book ever written.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Throughout the Bible God’s message is loud and clear: “You can’t help yourself! Stop trying! You are not self- sufficient! And what you need is me!” However, as C.J. Mahaney writes in Humility: True Greatness, “contrary to popular and false belief, it’s not ‘those who help themselves’ whom God helps; it’s those who humble themselves.” (21)
 
Because we are created in the image of God, there is much about us to admire and like – those aspects of our traits which we share with our Maker. Scripture tells us clearly – “All good things come from God.” Not some. Not most. Not the best. ALL. Anything, EVERYTHING good we have in our life is due not to us, but is rather a free, undeserved gift from our loving God.

God loves His creation so much that He lavishes his goodness on the just and unjust, Christian and non-Christian alike. Gratitude should be our logical response.

But we tend to forget that we didn’t develop the good things ourselves or earn them ourselves. We tend to credit ourselves for the good things in our lives: “I worked hard for this!” “I sacrificed to get this.” “I earned this.” “I discovered this.” Pride surfaces from this kind of thinking. And, as we have heard, pride is not only the chief sin, but it goeth before the fall.

When we study the matter honestly, we can see others working, sacrificing, meriting, and discovering more than us, but without getting the blessings we do. How do we explain that? We might say that they COULD have had what we have if it weren’t for -bad genes, bad luck, sin…. The list goes on and on. Self-justification emerges.

The fact is that God will do what God will do. God is by nature just and fair. Absolutely just and fair. So He is not bound to conform to our limited human understanding of fairness or justice. From God’s point of view, we all fall short and deserve nothing but condemnation. But fortunately we do not get what we deserve, earn, or merit because God is also absolutely loving.

All the good things people have are freely given by the grace of our loving God. Why some people seem to have more and others less is, to us, a mystery. But God’s perspective, unlike our temporal one, is eternal and all-knowing. His justice and fairness exist and reign in the Kingdom Age of the Age to Come absolutely, but now, in our Present Evil Age, only in part.

The real mystery is not why bad things happen to some people, but why anything good should ever happen to anyone. From God’s perspective – in which our thoughts are heard as clearly as our actions are seen – we deserve nothing good.  God’s grace is the only explanation for the existence of good things in our lives. And this should bring us back to gratitude.

The grateful heart in action is known as humility. The word “humiliation” comes from the same root, and often only humiliation can bring us to the virtue of humility.

Only with our spirit broken or crushed, are we ready to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It is, in fact, the pre-requisite:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Oswald Chambers observed that “when I repent I am utterly helpless.”

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Broken of spirit, humiliated, and as helpless as a child – that’s the way our loving God desires us. Only then can He lavish on us all the blessings of Eden we once turned down for our own personal Knowledge of Good and Evil. Like the father of the prodigal son, our Heavenly Father is waiting on the porch (the light’s still on) ready to throw us a welcome home party!

But, as long as we sincerely believe that we can do what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, we will remain outside the Kingdom of Heaven. Once we realize we can’t do it, and our heart and spirit break under the weight of our failure, we swallow our pride, ask for His help, and confess our dependence on Him as the Lord of our life. Then Our Father sends His Holy Spirit to replace our broken human one, and we find ourselves reborn into the Kingdom of Heaven. As C. J. Maheney observes,”the fundamental explanation of our conversion was not that we were wiser or morally superior to others in choosing God, but that God chose to have mercy on us and intervened in our lives, revealing our need for His provision of the gospel.” (102)

God breaks what He will bless – whether bread or people. The crack is the space through which the Holy Spirit enters to renew, remake, refresh, and restore.

The unmerited love of God – grace – flows into our broken places, but not just to live there for our benefit. Rather, the spirit produces fruit which we then pass on to help our broken fellow-pilgrims in this Present Evil Age. In this way, we proclaim that the Kingdom of God is here! Now! And more’s yet to come!

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