I was going to title today’s devotional: “Perfect Humility and How I Attained It”. I was afraid no one would read it because the title would be a complete lie and everyone would know it.
I’m reminded of a song I played as a Country Music DJ many years ago: “O, Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way. I can’t wait to look in the mirror, ’cause I get better looking each day. To know me is to love me. I must be one heck of a man. O Lord, it’s hard to be humble, but I’m doing the best that I can.”
In today’s Bible reading from Philippians 2, Paul talks about true humility.
When many people think of “humility” they may picture someone groveling in the dirt, crying, “Woe is me.” Or they may picture someone self-flagellating, attempting to make atonement for their sins.
Funny… I don’t see that picture in Scripture except for the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9–14. The parable describes humility, but it doesn’t prescribe that everyone should do exactly what the Tax Collector did.
Pride is to be avoided. But I think in many people’s minds, humility is a virtue, but few people actually see humility as worth pursuing. After all, if you ever attained perfect humility and told someone that you had, well… would it be prideful to say so?
Paul actually prescribes humility in the first part of Chapter 2. He says, “Be humble like Jesus. Have the same mindset that Jesus did.” And then he gives us a picture of perfect humility.
Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. Philippians 2:5–8 (CSB)
If anyone who every walked on this planet had a right to be proud, it would be Jesus! He was the embodiment of perfection. However, Jesus didn’t exploit that truth. Instead, he humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of a humiliating death.
Just before he points to Jesus as our model, he tells the Philippians to be humble. He says, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3–4 (CSB)
Note that Paul doesn’t say that we shouldn’t look out for our own interests. Instead, he says, “Don’t look out for just your own interests, but include the interests of others as well.” That’s the key.
How different would the world be if we didn’t just look out for ourselves, but also looked out for everyone else, also? Instead, we are affected with a severe case of narcissism. If you don’t believe me, just look around. And then, look in the mirror.
Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself.
It’s thinking of yourself less.
We’re told we need to have a healthy self-esteem. People are applauded for their self-confidence and self-sufficiency. While these traits are to be admired, we must be on our guard against pride. Pride is so subtle. And the lines between self-confidence and self-sufficiency on one hand, and pride, on the other hand, are so easily blurred.
Why isn’t humility listed in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16? Could it be that humility is something that we must actually work on, instead of something that is (super)naturally produced as fruit as we grow in our walk with Christ?
I think Paul answers that question in Philippians 2:12-13: Work out your salvation with fear and trembling as God works in you. He isn’t telling his readers they can work for their/our salvation. He says them/us to work out your salvation. Work it out from the inside, knowing that God is working in you to will and to work according to His purposes. (Philippians 2:13)
Humility: I’m not there yet. And neither are you. Let’s work on it.
This devotional was originally published June 15, 2019.
Many of us enjoy reading our favorite authors and bloggers. We enjoy our listening to our favorite podcasts. We enjoy our favorite Bible teachers. The people, Bible teachers, podcasts, etc. that we align ourselves with could be called our “tribe”. Everyone is a part of a tribe.
We tend to think our tribe is the best. As a result, we don’t often associate with other tribes. We don’t read other authors. We don’t listen to other podcasts. We don’t expose ourselves to other Bible teachers.
I think one of the biggest downsides to all of this is, since we think our tribe is the best, we think the other tribes are less desirable and even to be avoided in some cases. Such was the case with some who were preaching the gospel in Philippi. Paul says,
To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will. These preach out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, thinking that they will cause me trouble in my imprisonment. Philippians 1:15–17 (CSB)
Paul says, “Yes, some Bible teachers have wrong motives. Some are selfish. Some are vindictive and downright mean.” But look at his next statement.
What does it matter? Only that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice Philippians 1:18 (CSB)
Paul tells the church at Philippi to step back a bit and take a look at the big picture. He would say, “Not every one of these Bible teachers is correct in all they say and they way they say it. Not every one of these Bible teachers is even sincere and some even want to desparrage my name while I’m locked up in prison. But as you take a few steps back, you’ll see that Jesus is being lifted up, even by the meanspirited and envious ones. And that’s what matters.”
Paul knew that it wasn’t about him; it’s about Jesus. And so long as Jesus is being exalted, it doesn’t matter what people think of him.
The Christian group, Casting Crowns has a song that I believe Paul would sing if given a microphone. In “Only Jesus”, singer Mark Hall sings, “I don’t want to build a legacy. I don’t care if they remember me. Only Jesus.”
I know it’s hard to give grace to other people, especially people who don’t always want the best for me. But Paul would say, “Don’t worry about that. Just keep your eyes on Jesus and aim to make His name famous.”
That’s a good reminder for all of us.
Enjoy the song I referred to earlier, “Only Jesus”
This devotional was originally published June 14, 2019.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul talks about living a consistent Christian Life. (Ephesians 5:15-22) Nobody wants to see a hypocritical Christian. And nobody wants to live a hypocritical Christian Life. So how do you live a consistent Christian Life? Paul answers the question in verse 18.
And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit Ephesians 5:18 (CSB)
Paul contrasts getting drunk on wine with being filled with the Holy Spirit. Many years ago, I heard a preacher say, “Getting drunk on wine makes you do foolish things. Getting drunk on the Holy Spirit makes you do things that seem foolish.”
Being controlled by alcohol leads to reckless living. And Paul spells out what being controlled by (which is what the Greek word “filled with” means) the Holy Spirit leads to:
speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:19–21 (CSB)
Being controlled/filled by the Holy Spirit expresses itself in praise and thanksgiving to God. It also expresses itself in mutual submission to other believers.
In the following verses, Paul expounds on how being filled with the Holy Spirit and submitting to each other expresses itself: it bubbles up and overflows into marital relationships, relationships between parents and children, and relationships between employers and employees.
But what is being filled with the Spirit? First off, the verb expresses a continual process. In other words, you aren’t just filled with the Spirit once and that’s all you need. Paul says, “Keep on being continually filled/controlled by the Holy Spirit.” Being filled with the Holy Spirit isn’t a one-time experience; being filled with the Holy Spirit should be a moment-by-moment experience.
Next, being filled with the Spirit results in relationship changes, beginning with a believer’s relationship with God and extending to the believer’s relationships with other believers.
So how is someone filled with the Spirit? Some would say by someone laying their hands on you and you speaking in ecstatic words. But is that what Paul says? Look at what Paul tells the Colossians in a parallel passage:
Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:16–17 (CSB)
Just like being filled with the Holy Spirit is a continual, moment-by-moment process, letting the word of Christ live in us is a continual, moment-by-moment process: Let the word of Christ “keep on continually living in you”.
Notice: The expressions of being filled with the Holy Spirit are identical to letting the word of Christ live richly among you: relationship changes between the believer and God (praise and thanksgiving) and relationships with other believers. Just like he does in the verses following Ephesians 5:18, Paul spells out these marital, parent/child, and employer/employee relationships in the verses following Colossians 3:17.
So being filled with the Holy Spirit is the same thing as letting the word of Christ dwell in you. In other words, as believers spend time reading God’s Word, studying God’s Word, and memorizing God’s Word, our relationship with God and our relationships with other believers change. These changes won’t happen overnight. It’s a continual process as we keep on being filled and as we keep on letting God’s Word fill our lives.
Are you keeping on being continually filled with the Holy Spirit? Do you let the word of Christ live in you? Do you read it? Do you study it? Do you memorize it?
How would you describe your relationship with God? Are you full of praise and thanksgiving to Him?
How are your relationships with other believers? Is your life characterized by mutually submitting to other believers? How is your relationship with your spouse? Your children or parents? Your employer or employees?
Again, being filled with the Holy Spirit and letting the word of Christ live in you is a continual process. Don’t be discouraged by the process. Trust the process. Spend some time in the Word today. And spend some time today just praising and thanking God.
This devotional was originally published June 12, 2019.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul highlights the fact that his ministry isn’t about him. He constantly points out that he is reaching out to others. His focus is never about him.
He emphasizes here (and elsewhere) that one of his purposes — and one of our purposes — is to build up other people. Look at Social Media. Look at TV shows. Look at movies. Look at the headlines. Putting people down is everywhere. It seems that every month (every week?) another teen has made a really bad choice because he/she was bullied on Social Media. “Be Kind” seems to be the motto of the day.
We shouldn’t have to be reminded to be kind. (Ephesians 4:32) We shouldn’t have to be reminded that it’s not about us. but Paul reminds us anyway.
Who can you build up today? Maybe it’s a family member. Maybe it’s a friend. Maybe it’s a coworker. Maybe it’s a complete stranger. Building up someone is never a bad thing to do.
And be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving one another,
just as God also forgave you in Christ.
Ephesians 4:32 (CSB)
This devotional was originally published June 4, 2019.
Look carefully at what Paul says. He appeals to believers to present their bodies as living sacrifices in the light of God’s mercies. He doesn’t give the appeal in a vacuum. It’s in the context of the last few verses of Chapter 11.
In just three verses (Romans 11:30-32), Paul uses the word mercy four times before launching into a hymn of praise. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to miss the connection between 11:30-32 and 12:1, given the chapter division in our Bibles. Given that our daily readings were broken between chapters eleven and twelve, the problem is compounded. But in Paul’s mind — and in God’s mind — the intended connection is there.
It’s in light of God’s mercies, Paul invites his readers to die. The invitation to follow Jesus is an invitation to die. Jesus said that if anyone wants to follow Him, he should deny himself and pick up his cross daily. (Luke 9:23) A cross was an instrument of death. Picking up one’s own cross is a willingness to die. And picking up one’s own cross is a daily choice. Paul’s choice of grammar in Romans 12:1 means that one doesn’t just make a one-time sacrifice. It’s a continual sacrifice.
It’s in light of these mercies that he appeals to believers to present their bodies as living sacrifices. Could Paul have been thinking of 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 when he made this statement? I think so.
Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body. (CSB)
Paul says that because God’s Spirit lives in us and we have been bought with the blood of Jesus, we can — and should — glorify God with our bodies. Actually, the context suggests that glorifying God doesn’t stop with our physical bodies; it extends to all that we are and all that we have, not unlike the Great Command to love God with all that we are. (Matthew 22:37)
Presenting all that we are is a daily choice. Every day we make the choice of staying on the altar … or crawling off.
The problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar!
Every single day, each of us has a choice to make. Am I going to continue following Jesus? Am I going to die to my choices? Am I going to pray that His will be done, realizing that that includes that my will not be done?
Every. Single. Day.
Will you stay on the altar? Or will you crawl off?
I like the way that Eugene Peterson translated Romans 12:1-2:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Romans 12:1–2 (The Message)
This devotional was originally published on May 30, 2019.