Tag: Humility

Age, Humility, and Discipleship

Discipleship, in the words of Mark Dever, is helping another person follow Jesus. Said another way (by Dever): Discipleship is doing deliberate spiritual good to another Christian.

Jesus commands Christians to make disciples (Matt 28:18-20), and Christians should count it a privilege to come alongside others to aid them in their walk with the Savior. We should also receive discipleship from others with gratefulness and a desire to learn. In light of Christ’s command in Matt 28:18-20 and, for that matter, the entire structure of the New Testament where believing relationships are an indispensable means of spiritual growth (e.g., Rom 15:14; Heb 3:12-15), discipleship should be central to our individual Christian lives and our corporate church life.

It’s likely, however, that when we consider the task of discipleship we think in terms of age. That is, in any given discipleship relationship, it should be the older teaching the younger. There is certainly biblical precedent for this model: Paul instructed Titus to have the older men teaching the younger men and the older women teaching the younger women (Titus 2:1-5). Wisdom typically attends and grows with age, so an older Christian will often have something of spiritual value to share with those who are younger.

But this is not always the case, nor would the Scripture have us conclude that age guarantees wisdom. We should not determine, based on mere age, that we cannot disciple or be discipled by another person. In his book, DisciplingMark Dever offers helpful counsel on this issue of age and discipleship.

Normally you would disciple someone younger than yourself. Having said that, Scripture is full of exceptional examples of the younger teaching the older. And surely, as we advance in age, we also want to advance in the humility of learning from those of our own age, and even those younger than us. Otherwise, we will have no teachers left! Personally, I find I learn much from friends in their twenties and thirties, even as I do from folks in their seventies and eighties (77).

In any discipleship senario, there will be, by definition, some asymmetry in the relationship. That is, there will be a teacher who has knowledge and a student who needs to glean and grow in that knowledge. In order to disciple someone, you must be able to teach them in some measure what the Scripture says and how they can apply it to their lives. You might be older than your disciple, or you may be younger. What matters is that you have something of spiritual value to offer them.

But also implied in Dever’s counsel is the truth that all of God’s people are called to be teachable and be ready to receive the truth of his Word, even when that truth comes from a younger disciple. The wise man is the one who listens to advice (Prov 12:15). Left out of this brief proverbial gem (and others like it) is any indication that we should first consider the age of the one who offered the advice before listening to it.

Indeed, as we grow in Christ, we should be cultivating the ability to receive wisdom from those who are younger without feeling threatened or fearful that our disciple might surpass us in godliness and theological acumen. Actually, we should pray that they would progress well past our level of spiritual maturity! We don’t hope for this because we are negligent, but because we want to see our brothers flourish in the grace of God.

The best disciplers, therefore, will be those who not only teach others well, but those who are ready to learn from the people they are disciping. Again, this doesn’t imply that the roles of discipler and disciple are equal–there is a teacher and there is a student. Nevertheless, that younger brother to whom you are ministering has the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures, and it is likely he will have a few things to say to bless you in your walk with Christ.

[For more on humility and discipleship, please see my article 8 Signs You Are a Discipleship Bully at The Gospel Coalition.]

A Tough Means of Grace: Profiting from the Rebukes of Others

Our ability to receive rebuke from others is a quality essential to our making enduring progress in our spiritual lives.  There are no two ways around this truth: either we will readily receive correction and enjoy the fruits of godly wisdom, or we will entrench ourselves against reproof and gradually harden our hearts to our soul’s peril.

Yet nothing seems to be more difficult and more contrary to our nature than gladly taking pointed words about our sin and failure and then using those words as a means to sincere repentance.  Instead, we often attempt to defend ourselves with complex and even “biblical” arguments, blame others for their negative influence, or douse the confrontation altogether by pointing to the hypocrisy in the one delivering the rebuke.  Our sin will do whatever it can to be left in the dark. Continue reading “A Tough Means of Grace: Profiting from the Rebukes of Others”

Staying the Course: Humility and Christian Leadership

Rarely is humility exalted as a fundamental element of true leadership.  Yet, despite what some popular leadership proponents may allege, an honest and discriminating look into contemporary business culture confirms what the Scripture proclaims: God is opposed to the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.  Christian leaders, then, must make every effort to cultivate sincere humility for their task of leadership within the church an in other organizations they might oversee.  Aiding in this endeavor is the goal of this article.

Continue reading “Staying the Course: Humility and Christian Leadership”

Too Proud to Blog?

Blogging is not for everybody. Some people rightly hesitate to develop or host a blog. Some may feel that blogging would promote too much pride in their heart and life. Others may sense the gravity and power of writing and are therefore reluctant to write publicly. Still others may not consider blogging a good use of their time.

Each of these three reasons are legitimate. I would suggest that a person should forego blogging if they find their pride inflamed by writing their thoughts publicly. I respect those who realize how powerful writing is and therefore keep themselves out of the arena altogether. I also understand the struggle to correctly align priorities and decide on how to best use one’s time. But I wonder—I just wonder—if some are kept from blogging, not because their are humble, but because they are proud.

Continue reading “Too Proud to Blog?”

Calvin's Humility in Preaching

This was a particularly moving quote about John Calvin from T.H.L. Parker:

There is no threshing himself into a fever of impatience or frustration, no holier-than-thou rebuking of the people, no begging them in terms of hyperbole to give some physical sign that the message has been accepted.  It is simply one man, conscious of his sins, aware how little progress he makes and how hard it is to be a doer of the Word, sympathetically passing on to his people (whom he knows to have the same sort of problems as himself) what God has said to them and to him.

CalvinObviously this does not mean that Calvin pulled any punches when it came to fully and accurately delivering the whole counsel of God to his people, or that Calvin didn’t possess the qualifications that distinguished him from others as a pastor, but it does picture a man who trembled at the Word that he delivered because he knew it to be for himself as well as those under his care.  And since Calvin was so deeply acquainted with his own sins and struggles, and with the great majesty of God, he was able to come to the pulpit with compassion and humility – as a fellow Christian who was seeking to apply the truth to his life first and foremost.  Let us pray along with Steve Lawson, “May God give His church in this day humble and holy shepherds who practice what they preach.”  Amen.

How to Respond to Right Doctrine and Wrong Motives

A few months back, I wrote an article entitled, How to Listen to a Pharisee. In that post, we examined how Christ instructed his disciples to respond to truth when it is taught by someone who is flagrantly hypocritical. The conclusion: Christ commands us to listen to and obey the truth, even when it is taught by someone who does not listen to and obey the truth they are teaching. “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you–but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:2-3). Jesus doesn’t allow us to give in to the ever-so-easy inclination to ignore truth when it is taught by someone who is not being affected by the very truth they proclaim. Insofar as they are teaching God’s Word accurately, our responsibility is to listen and obey.

In a similar way, we can tend to forego rejoicing in the truth when it is proclaimed by those who we know are preaching and teaching the truth from wrong motives. What should our response be when we hear wonderful, Christ-exalting truth preached and taught by those whom we know are preaching and teaching from altogether wrong motives of pride and ungodly competition? Paul was confronted with this same question and gives us an insightful answer in Philippians chapter one.

Paul wrote the book of Philippians from prison. While in prison, Paul learned of two groups of people preaching the gospel in his stead. One group was preaching the gospel out of right motives; the other, out of ” envy and rivalry;” out of a desire to advance to a place of prominence and recognition (1:15). Since Paul, the “Big-time” apostle was locked up, they could now pursue their own fame among the Christian community by preaching the gospel. They had right doctrine but the wrong motives.

But what is Paul’s response? Verse 18, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, I will rejoice.” Rejoicing! Paul’s response when he learned that people were preaching Christ out of wrong motives was to rejoice that Christ was preached! So, how should we respond when we learn of someone who is preaching Christ from wrong motives? If they are teaching the truth about Christ; if they are teaching the real, life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, our response should be rejoicing that our Savior is being proclaimed. Don’t let your heart become entangled with bitterness and anger by those who are already entagled with bitterness and anger. Focus your heart on Christ and His gospel and rejoice when He is preached. This will mean glory for God and freedom for you.