Tag: Humility

The Pursuit of Mutual Encouragement: A Mark of Spiritual Maturity

I hadn’t noticed it until recently, but Paul says something unexpected in the first chapter of Romans. The apostle first introduces himself to the church (1:1), then underscores his theological and spiritual credentials (1:2-7), and expresses his genuine love for the believers in Rome (1:8). Paul longs to see these brothers and sisters, and he reports that he has prayed toward that end (1:9-10).

Paul had good reasons why he wanted to see the Christians in Rome; he desired to strengthen them through the impartation of a spiritual gift (1:11) and the preaching of the gospel (1:15). That makes sense. What I find remarkable is what Paul says immediately following verse 11.

For I long to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to strengthen you–that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine (Romans 1:11-12; emphasis added).

What is stunning about this highlighted sentence is that it came from the most eminent and gifted of the apostles. Paul’s commission from the living Christ, his profound theological insight into the Old Testament Scriptures and the gospel, and his vast missionary experience would have put him leagues beyond these lowly Romans. Certainly, they had much to learn from him, but in what ways could he be encouraged by their faith?

But this question itself is probably an expression my own pride and spiritual immaturity. See, I am wired to think of spiritual maturity as a kind of spiritual superiority. Biblically, however–from the Proverbs through the New Testament–spiritual maturity expresses itself in the keen ability to learn from and be encouraged by all Christians, whether those Christians are older or younger in age or in the faith. In other words, the more mature we get, the more humble we become, and this humility will manifest itself in the ability to receive wisdom and instruction from anyone, regardless of age.

I was reminded of this important truth when our college ministry gathered a few weeks ago to honor our graduates. About mid-way through our “Senior Night,” a fellow leader—a local physician and graduate of Stanford University, thirteen years my senior with significant ministry and teaching experience–stood up to say a few words to two graduating members of his small group.

A good portion of his address, however, characterized Paul’s spirit in Romans 1:12. This leader confessed that over the past year he had learned as much from them as they, he was sure, had learned from him.

What? Surely he had misspoken. These young brothers were his disciples, not the other way around. He had faithfully taught them the Scripture every week over the past academic year; they weren’t instructing him during these weekly Bible study sessions.

But he had been instructed. He confessed he had learned much from the example of one young man’s sober-minded approach to his academic work, his labor as a collegiate athlete, and his life as a Christian. He thanked the other brother for his example of gentleness and mentioned his own need to grow in this area.

This wasn’t pseudo-humility; this was spiritual maturity, expressed in this leader’s total indifference about being recognized for his superior knowledge or piety. He was at least thirty years older than either of these young men and had a grasp of the Scripture that surpassed the most diligent disciple in the group. No matter: he desired to be encouraged by their faith just as much–and probably more so–than they did by his.

This is wisdom. This is the mark of spiritual maturity. Spiritual superiority had no place with the apostle Paul, and it should have no place with us. Humility opens vistas of wisdom, learning, and spiritual growth for the disciple of Christ, and we will know we are moving in the right direction when it is easy for us—like it was for Paul and this local doctor—to be encouraged by another Christian’s faith.

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. Continue reading “Age, Humility, and Discipleship”

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.