Do Not Think of Yourself More Highly than You Ought

Scripture is full of praise for the humble and warnings against pride. A few examples include:

  • “For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.” (Psalm 138:6)
  • “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.” (Proverbs 3:34)
  • “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” (Proverbs 29:23)
  • “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)

Many of us, when we consider humility, tend to think of godly sorrow accompanying repentance when we have realized our error in regards to a grave or embarrassing sin. But can we be humble without necessarily having any “big” or “serious” sins to repent of?

Perhaps some of us feel as though we would be more than willing to humble ourselves, but we do not see anything in our lives that would require us to repent in dust and ashes.

Scripture makes no mention of which I am aware of any “serious” sin the life if Isaiah when he came into God’s throne room as described in Isaiah chapter 6. But that certainly did not stop him from being humbled in God’s presence:

“The foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.
Then I said,
‘Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.’”

Coming into God’s throne room, which is open to us through the avenue of prayer, has a way of opening our eyes to just how puny and imperfect we are in comparison to the God that we serve. After all, the life that we live here on earth is a life that Christ “emptied himself” according to Philippians 2, in order to share in. God is above us, and we only have His grace because of His willingness to condescend to our low level.

With this in mind, consider the instruction of scripture in Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has given you.” (Romans 12:3)

Many quote Isaiah 64:6 when they need encouragement in humility: “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” The truth is that none of us measure up to Christ. All have sinned. If we say we have not sinned we make Him a liar. All have fallen short of the glory of God. All are deserving of death. As such, even the best that we can do is woefully inadequate.

“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.’” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

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What do we Know about the Holy Spirit?

We MUST have the Holy Spirit

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)

“You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9)

God Gives the Spirit to us

Those who ask:
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13)

Those who repent and are baptized:
“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38)

Those who obey Him:
“And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:32)

What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)

“But I have written very boldly to you on some points… so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:15-16)

“…if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

“…and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

“…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:16)

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…” (Romans 8:26)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Getting the Fruit of the Spirit

In Acts 2:38, Peter preached the gospel to thousands of people at one time. When many of them wanted to respond, he instructed them all, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 19:2-5, Paul became deeply troubled when he met some men who said that they had been baptized, but that they did not have the Holy Spirit:

“He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

In John 3:5, Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Notice something about all three of these passages: they emphasize the importance of the Holy Spirit in baptism and spiritual rebirth.

Galatians 5:22-23 gives a beautiful list of positive character traits, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” All of these traits, we are told, are the fruit of the Spirit.

It is no wonder that the Spirit is so important, if these things are the fruit that follows from Him. If these things are the fruit of the Spirit, how can we expect to have them without first having the Spirit? That would be like trying to create an apple without first having an apple tree, or painting a tennis ball orange and claiming it is an orange, or planting soybeans and hoping they sprout into corn. As with any other fruit, if you want the fruit of the Spirit, get the Spirit, and then you can enjoy His fruit. It’s the only way.

This is why producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is not simply about “trying harder” or just “being a good person.” Until we are washed in Christ’s blood and filled with His Spirit, we can never hope to be righteous in His sight. As Isaiah 64:6 says, all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.”

 May we spread the good news about Jesus’ blood and God’s Spirit, and the wonderful things they can do, and rather than grieving that Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), may we all make that Spirit welcome in our hearts and lives, that we may enjoy His fruit.

What Would Jesus Tolerate?

One portrayal of Jesus popular today is that of the socially progressive, tolerant teacher who encourages everyone to follow their own heart, do what makes them happy, and spread love and cheer to everyone.

Studying the Jesus of the book of Revelation might yield surprising results for those who conceive of Jesus only in such a manner. The church here in Mankato has devoted a few weeks to studying the first 2 chapters of that book, and here are some noteworthy observations:

Jesus appears as a brilliantly shining, terrifying being, who among other things, has a sharp two-edged sword coming out of His mouth (1:16). John tells us, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man (1:17).”

Jesus commends the church in Ephesus, saying “you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false (2:2).”

Similarly, Jesus reproves the church in Thyatira, saying “I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess (2:20).”

It is remarkable in our culture that so much prizes tolerance to see a Jesus who commends people who “cannot tolerate evil men” and reproves those who “tolerate the woman Jezebel.”

In addition, Jesus tells the church in Ephesus: “repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent (2:5).”

Similarly, He says to the church in Pergamum, “repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth (2:16).”

And as to those in Thyatira who are following Jezebel: “Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds (2:22).”

Notice the language: “unless you repent,” “repent; or else,” “unless they repent.” This is not the kind of language that tends to make us feel comfortable.  Jesus is warning of negative outcomes contingent upon repentance from wicked actions.

It is important, however, to note what Jesus says to the church in Laodicea: “those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent (3:19).”

Jesus reproves and disciplines without apology, but this does not at all mean that He has ceased to love.

The lesson is this: warnings and reprovals are not necessarily “unloving,” indeed they are often the very evidence of unconditional love.

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What to Do When Your Brother is in Sin

Accusation of Sin

I write this not as a response to anything in particular that has happened to me or to anyone I know.  It is simply a reminder for us all of a very wise teaching of our Lord.

Human beings are sinners.  Sometimes we think that our sins do not affect anyone else, but this is wishful thinking.  No sin is in a vacuum and any sin you can think of is detrimental to the self, the family, the church, and society in some way.  So what do we do if we know our brother is in sin and we feel compelled to do something about it?

Jesus gives us a progression of actions to take in Matthew 18:
1) “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.”

2) “If he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.”

3) “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.”

4) “If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

Notice that there is a certain order to these steps.

Confronting the brother or sister in private comes first.  Then take someone with you.  Then bring it before the church.  Then shake the dust from your feet and let him be separated from you.

We are not following Jesus’ instructions if we immediately bring an issue to the church without first going to the individual.  We are not following Jesus’ instructions if we count him “as a Gentile and a tax collector” without ever saying a word to him.

Jesus did not tell us to send an anonymous email to the eldership.  He did not tell us to gossip to our friends and speculate as to what has caused our brother or sister to sin.  He did not tell us to post a vague facebook status.

I want to encourage us all to follow Jesus’ wise model.  We may find ourselves surprised by the receptivity of the one whom we seek to restore.  And even if our brother continues to refuse to repent, we will know that we have done everything that we could do.