Sunday, October 14, 2012

Humble: How and Why

Humble: How and Why
Intro.: I don't like today's sermon.
  1. You will see over the next few minutes, it asks me to be something I am not.
  2. It asks me to do something that is just not be – and having lived 61 years without this characteristic, why start now.
  3. I mean somethings are just not worth it – and this is one of them. 
  4. I never signed anything that says I should do this, why bother. Now if I were talking about being nice, you would understand.
  5. But I am not – listen to what James says.
Read:  James 4:6-10
  1. Humility is like a slippery watermelon seed. Once you get it under your finger and you think you have it, it slips away from your grasp.i
  2. Phillip Brooks is best known for writing “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.   He once commented about humility: “The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is”ii
  1. God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” James 6:4
    1. James, like most writers, is not very original. He is quoting Proverbs 3:34
(Ill.) Now if you were to check your own Bible, it would not read like this. To understand this quote we need to go back 300 years before Christ. A group of 70 Jewish scholars produced a translation of the Jewish scriptures into Greek. That version, known as the Septuagint, was written in an early form of the same Greek that Paul, Peter, and James (in fact all of the authors of the NT) used to write their various books, letters, and essays. Though James 6:4 is not a direct quote of the Hebrew version of Proverbs 3:34, but it is a direct quote of the Greek LXX version.
    1. Human pride is the one insurmountable barrier to grace. Over and again in the Gospels, Jesus lamented the inability of the scribes and Pharisees to get past their pride so that they might receive God’s grace like the poor and openly sinful had done.
    2. But God is willing to meet us once we set our pride aside and allow Him to take our lives apart and rebuild them.
    3. And with this simple quote, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.”,
      James prepares his readers for some of the most important instruction in his letter.
(Ill.) A small cathedral outside Bethlehem marks the supposed birthplace of Jesus. Behind a high altar in the church is a cave, a little cavern lit by silver lamps.  You can enter the main edifice and admire the ancient church. You can also enter the quiet cave where a star embedded in the floor recognizes the birth of the King. There is one stipulation, however. You have to stoop. The door is so low you can’t go in standing up.  The same is true of our relationship to Christ. You can see the world standing tall, but to witness, to draw near to the Savior, you have to get [down] on your knees.ii
    1. And it is with that thought that James begins the next sentence.

  1. James starts the next paragraph “Submit yourselves, then, to God.” (James 4:7)
    1. That word submit has a number of meanings that tie this verse, and the section, to the previous verse.
    2. First, let me point out that the word “submit” is a loose translation of a Greek word meaning to subject or attach to or be subordinate to. It implies that we are God's servants.
    3. But, and it almost caught me off guard, there is at least one translation that renders “submit” as “humble”. The New Living Translation says, “So humble yourselves before God”.
    4. Let me paraphrase what James is saying in verses 6 and 7:
      1. God opposes the proud but favors the humble.
      2. So “Submit yourselves, then, to God”
    5. But if we are to submit ourselves to God, how do we do that?
    6. James tells us with a series of commands
      1. Resist the devil and he will flee from you – we live in a world that does not believe in a devil. Yet Jesus certainly did – he had to resist Him. He set the pattern for us. We don't need to do everything we want to do – we can say "No”.
      2. Come close to God and He will come close to you – there are times that God seems far away.
(Ill.) I was reading last night of a woman who had just discovered that her husband had committed adultery with one of her best friends. Her friend sat across the aisle from her in church, her husband was hidden away in the sound booth. As she sat in the pew with her three children, she felt isolated, where was God, she had no one she could trust. She was near tears – but as she sat there, totally crushed, she felt someone put their arms around her, holding her in all her pain. She suddenly became aware that there was no one there – no one but Jesus. Out of that experience Mona Shriver came to know, that though there would be times that Jesus would seem so far away, he was still there. He would take care of her and be with her through all the pain. She had learned the truth of James instruction, “Come close to God and He will come close to you.”
      1. Wash your hands, you sinners” - we all are fallen, we are all sinners. And when we sin, when we become aware of our sin, we need to be on our knees (figuratively, if not literally) confessing our sin.
        1. Did you lose your temper? Confess it. Apologize.
        2. Did you fib or lie to a friend? Confess it. Apologize.
        3. Did you over eat? Confess it. Rethink what you are eating.
        4. I may not be Catholic, but they have a wonderful sacrament of "Confession”. We in the protestant church do not have a formal sacrament of confession – if we did, it might make it bit easier to take our errors to God.
      2. Purify you hearts for your loyalty is devided between God and the world.  Ouch – I follow God. But I read the same books as the world. I watch the same TV shows, I try not to behave too differently than my friends. I follow God – but, well “but”.
      3. Being humble before God, submitting ourselves to God will not be easy – look at the words James uses – tears, sorrow, deep grief, sadness, gloom. That does not sound like joy.  But putting our broken selves before a holy God is not easy to do. And tears are not uncommon when we bring the real us before a holy God.
      4. But when we do, God offers us a promise – and that brings us to the end of our passage.
  1. James concludes the paragraph with these words, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
    1. I don't know what God wants for you, I don't even know what God wants for me.
    2. But I know if I am willing to wait, willing to let him change me,  willing to be humble (and I know how hard that is), he will use me in unexpected ways.
    3. He may exalt me, but I still need to follow the process he gave me for learning to be humble:
      1. Resist the devil
      2. Come close to God
      3. Wash our hands of sin
      4. Purify our hearts


for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by
topic and indexed exhaustively
. 1989 (M. P. Green, Ed.) (Revised
edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker
Book House.
for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by
topic and indexed exhaustively
. 1989 (M. P. Green, Ed.) (Revised
edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker
Book House.
M., & Gibbs, T. A. (2000). Originally from The Applause of
. Quoted in Grace For the Moment: Inspirational
Thoughts For Each Day Of the Year
(384). Nashville, TN: J.

No comments: