Seek Genuine Humility!
O Lord God, my dear heavenly Father, I must confess that all too often in my life I have failed to turn to You when I should, but rather I have put my trust in my own limited strength, wisdom, and wealth. Lead me to genuine repentance over my sin and sincere faith in Your dear Son. Uplift me by Your mercy and strengthen me through Your word. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
The apostle Paul compares our lives as Christians to the training of various athletes. Just as athletes discipline themselves in order to win a prize, so we Christians are to live our lives with discipline and faithfulness before our Lord as we seek to enter heaven.
We are saved by God’s grace, not by our works. That is true of those who are baptized as infants and live long lives of Christian service, and those who come to faith at the end of their lives. Jesus illustrates that principle in His parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.
Text: Jeremiah 9:23-24
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD.
In Christ Jesus, in whom we find reason to glory, dear fellow redeemed:
All of the hype has ended for another year. The commercials have been reviewed and ranked. The fans have gone home, and Miami is cleaning up. People in Indianapolis are exultant, while up the road a bit in Chicago they are no doubt despondent. Yes, this year’s Super Bowl is over. Many people claimed that this Super Bowl was historic, because for the first time both head coaches were African Americans. Coach Dungy, however, of the Indianapolis Colts stated at one point that more importantly both head coaches were professing Christians. While I did not have an opportunity personally to watch the presentation of awards following the game, I understand that Coach Dungy at one point during that presentation alluded to his faith and acknowledged Jesus Christ as the source of every blessing—even victories in the Super Bowl.
I have liked Coach Dungy for a long time, not simply because of his connection to the University of Minnesota, but rather because I admire what appears to be a genuine humility on his part. That is something rare in professional sports and without question Coach Dungy’s humility is a fruit of his faith. Genuine humility is a virtue for which we should all strive, and so today I would encourage you: SEEK GENUINE HUMILITY! I would point out to you on the basis of our text that on one hand genuine humility does not seek to glorify self! On the other hand genuine humility does seek to glorify the LORD!
The prophet Jeremiah lived during the sixth century B.C.—a time of great difficulty for God’s Old Testament people. The majority of God’s people had forsaken Him and were at that time undergoing the effects of His judgment upon them. Three times Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded Israel and took large numbers of the Jewish people into captivity. The third time, he besieged Jerusalem, ultimately breached its defenses, and finally destroyed the city and God’s temple with fire. Up to the time of that destruction God’s unfaithful people had been proud and defiant. They trusted in themselves and other men, rather than in God. Consequently, the LORD had sent Jeremiah to proclaim to His rebellious people these words: “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches!’” Within their historic context these words were good advice, for the wisdom, power, and wealth of these rebellious people did not save them from Nebuchadnezzar and his armies, whom God had chosen to bring swift and certain judgment upon His impenitent people!
The historic context alone, however, does not make these words good advice, for they are good advice at any time and under all circumstances. People of all ages have tended to put their trust in themselves or in others around them—in their supposed wisdom, in their apparent strength, in their seeming wealth. Yet none of these—human intelligence, physical strength, or various types of wealth provide a basis sufficient to weather the storms of life. We need something more!
Is that really true? Yes, it is! Consider, for instance, the limits of human intelligence—that which we would like to think is true wisdom. This past Thursday evening our high school students together with various adults—parents, teachers, and other interested members attended a debate held on the MSU campus. It was a debate between an atheist and a Christian over the question: “Who is Jesus?” Both debaters used their considerable skills and intelligence to convince the listening audience of their positions—one insisting that the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life were unreliable, while the other insisted that they were substantively reliable. Yet, neither of them, as I recall, suggested and certainly did not emphasize that in order to truly answer the question, “Who is Jesus,” you must pass beyond the realm of human intelligence and understanding into the realm of faith. The true nature of Jesus Christ as both God and Man and a true understanding of His redemptive love go far beyond human wisdom and understanding. As we approach the greatest problems facing each of us—our sin and consequent mortal state, the fact that one day we will stand before a holy God to whom we are responsible—we must rely upon the Spirit of God to guide us. The apostle Paul pointed out to the Corinthian Christians: “‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (2:9-10).
Consider the limits of human strength and power—the very fact that we talk about “career-ending injuries” for men and women involved in professional sports reminds us that even the strongest among us are limited in their strength. With regard to power—is it not evident that soldiers only possess power as long as their ammunition lasts and that dictators only possess power as long as they can impose their will? Scripture, time and time again, warns us: “Do not put your trust in princes (Ps. 146:3a)…(do) not delight in the strength of the horse (Ps. 147:10)!” Why? Because they are always limited, whereas our Savior, Jesus, is able to say with awe-inspiring confidence: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Mt. 28:18).
Consider, finally, the limits of wealth—can wealth bring us true joy and contentment? Not really! Oh, people think that it can and wealth does afford us the necessities of life and certain pleasures in life, but the Bible informs us that “godliness with contentment is (actually) great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). Can we take wealth with us? Of course not, for it remains true: “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim. 6:7). Can wealth ransom our souls? Certainly not! The Bible once again explains: “Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him—for the redemption of their souls is costly” (Ps. 49:6-8a). Wealth is limited, and the love of wealth is dangerous, for again the Scriptures testify: “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10).
In conclusion, therefore, because we are so limited with regard to extent of our own wisdom, strength, and wealth—we should not glory in ourselves, but rather walk in humility before our God, who indeed does possess all wisdom and strength, and who is ultimately the source of all wealth! Indeed, it is only proper that we SEEK GENUINE HUMILITY and that we understand thatgenuine humility does not seek to glorify self!
Rather, genuine humility does seek to glorify the LORD! Jeremiah continued with his message from the LORD to His people: “Let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD. True glory leading to genuine humility is found in our relationship with our Savior God and our understanding of the LORD!
One of the most beautiful, comforting, and enlightening descriptions of the status of the child of God is found in Peter’s 1st Epistle. Peter writes to his fellow Christians: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (2:9-10). If ever you are low and feeling depressed meditate upon this description of your status as a child of God! Even better meditate upon the LORD who has given you that status!
Who is the LORD? He is the God who knows you personally and loves you individually, who understands all of your needs and is committed to meeting them in the best possible way…as our text indicates by “exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.” These are the qualities in which our text tells us the LORD “delights!” Oh, how thankful we can be that this is the case! The other gods known in the world today—inventions of men’s minds that they are—do not delight in such virtues, but rather seek to control and dominate men’s minds and hearts, or care little for their lives and future.
What is the “lovingkindness” of the LORD? It is the love and compassion that our Savior God has for you and for me—a love and compassion we do not deserve, but which is extended to us and best perceived by us in connection with God sending His Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to save us. Our sin separates us from God and deserves God’s judgment, but because God delights in “lovingkindness” he has not let the profligates go, but rather sent Jesus to be our “Good Shepherd”—to seek us out and through His precious word to call us to faith and by faith to give us the gift of everlasting life!
The LORD’s “lovingkindness” is effective because of His “judgment.” That may sound strange, but it is true. When we speak of the LORD’s “judgment” in this context, we are not speaking of His just punishment, for instance, upon His rebellious people in Jeremiah’s day, but rather about His decision to justify sinful mankind on the basis of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul speaks of this so very clearly as he addressed the Roman Christians: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood,… that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (3:23-25a,26). God sent Jesus to shed His blood on the cross and to die in our place, so that we might be redeemed from our sins. In view of Jesus’ work God has justified us—declared us righteous and holy in His sight by faith!
By faith, then, we receive the “righteousness” in which the LORD once again “delights.” It is not a righteousness that we produce, therefore, we cannot and ought not glorify ourselves, but rather it is the righteousness of Jesus Christ—a perfect righteousness received by faith. Count Zinzendorf captured the thought so compellingly in the first two stanzas of his famous hymn:
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
Bold shall I stand in that great Day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully thro’ these absolved I am
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
My dear friends, as we learn about the LORD and grow in our understanding of His ways and will, His plans and purposes…we really cannot but seek to glorify Him, even as we walk humbly ourselves! Coach Dungy was right to acknowledge the LORD in the midst of what will no doubt be considered one of his greatest successes, for it is the LORD who has saved us and who bestows upon us every blessing. While millions upon millions of people in this world fail to understand, the truth remains as stated by the apostle James: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (1:17-18). Let us, therefore, SEEK GENUINE HUMILITY as we seekalways to glorify the LORD! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting