March 12th – 16th, 2018
Dr. Allen Roberts, Pastor
Euclid Avenue Baptist Church
Humility. Brokenness. These are two words that perhaps we may have heard on occasion in church life, and within the realm of the Christian worldview. Unfortunately, it is quite apparent that too many of us as professing followers of Jesus are unacquainted, and unfamiliar, with all that these two terms entail in the context of the Christian life.
In our present day western world of Christianity, we do not hear great accolades of esteem and value being placed upon the rightful place of both humility and brokenness in this walk of faith. Instead, we seem to be bombarded with an emphasis upon the pathways of prosperity and success, the pursuit of happiness, and a pragmatism of how to help ourselves do better in every arena and season of this earthly life. I am convinced that such teaching has done nothing less than promote the idolatry of a self-centered form of Christianity. We desperately need to be reminded that the focus of the Christian faith is not primarily about our individualism. This life of faith is centered in the Person of Jesus— who He is, what He has accomplished on our behalf through His crucifixion and resurrection, who we are in Him, and what His purposes are for us in this life.
So, why might we view the trait of humility, and the experiences of brokenness, as related to one another? How do these two attributes work together as we seek to live this life of faith under the authority and grace of the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Well, we need to realize that both humility and brokenness are intricately designed by God Himself to combat, overcome, and ultimately, to lead us to die to our selfish pride (cf. John 12:24 – 25).
Most professing Christians that I know, or have known, desire to live out this life of faith in devoted, joyful obedience to God. Yet, we often seem to struggle for much of our lives to experience the fulfillment of this sacred desire. We wrestle with our moments and decisions of disobedience. We live under the weight of the guilt, the shame, the regrets, the consequences of our failures and defeats. We may even find ourselves questioning whether or not to live the Christian life is even possible (cf. Romans 7:15, 19).
So then, the question begs to be asked: “Why do I have these kinds of struggles when I really do want my life to be pleasing to God?” I am persuaded that these tensions with which we so often struggle boil down to the spiritual and internal war between the humility of Christ and our self-centered pride (cf. Galatians 5:16 – 17).
The greater question, though, is this: “What is the key to experiencing all that God has promised for those who have declared their trust and faith in His Son, Jesus?” The answer lies with Jesus Himself. Let us consider the earthly life and ministry of our Savior. It was characterized by one all-encompassing, undeniable trait; that of humility. For example, let us note that Jesus…
- described Himself as being “gentle and lowly in heart” (cf. Matthew 11:29).
- declared that He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (cf. Matthew 20:28).
- demonstrated His unchanging love to His disciples by washing their feet (cf. John 13:1 – 17).
- willingly yielded His will to that of the Father’s during one of His most painful times in life (cf. Matthew 26:39, 42).
- fully identified with His creation, and in so doing, “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (cf. Philippians 2:8).
It was this trait of humility which drew the hurting, the hopeless, the broken to Jesus. It was His humility that positioned Him to change and influence peoples’ lives with the Gospel. And it is the humility of Christ that must be manifested through our lives and personalities if we are going to reach our culture with this same Gospel message!
On Wednesday, February 21st, 2018, Dr. Billy Graham died at the age of 99. He was well-known, of course, for the numerous crusades that he preached all over the world. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has reported that Dr. Graham preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to over 215 million people in over 185 countries and territories through his many crusade efforts. For many decades he was regarded to be “America’s Pastor.” He also served as a spiritual counselor to a number of past Presidents of our nation.
However, Dr. Graham’s family and his closest friends have said repeatedly that what they will all remember him the most for was the humility he displayed throughout his life. It was the humility of Jesus that was manifested through his personality and life which compelled fellow preachers, world leaders, and common, everyday people alike to love and respect this great man of God. Therefore, may we purpose within our hearts to yield ourselves to God and His processes of brokenness in our own lives so that He might develop within us the humility we need in following Jesus, for serving in His name, and in pointing others to Him and His redeeming grace.
In his renowned book entitled, Humility, Andrew Murray wrote the following profound thoughts. I trust that you will take them to heart as I have:
If this [humility] be the root of the tree [of salvation], its nature must be seen in every branch and leaf and fruit. If humility be the first, the all-including grace of the life of Jesus— if humility be the secret of His atonement— then the health and strength of our spiritual life will entirely depend upon our putting this grace first, too, and making humility the chief thing we admire in Him, the chief thing we ask of Him, the one thing for which we sacrifice all else.
Is it any wonder that the Christian life is so often feeble and fruitless, when the very root of the Christ life is neglected and unknown? Is it any wonder the joy of salvation is so little felt, when that in which Christ found it and brings it, is so little sought? Until a humility which will rest in nothing less than the end and death of self; which gives up all honor of men as Jesus did, to seek the honor that comes from God alone; which absolutely makes and counts itself nothing, that God may be all, that the Lord alone may be exalted— until such a humility be what we seek in Christ above our chief joy, and welcome at any price, there is very little hope of a religion that will conquer the world (pp.14 – 15).
How can such humility become a wondrous, life-changing reality even within our lives today? Through God’s ordained experiences of brokenness. I can confess from firsthand experience that such seasons result in an anguish of the soul that proves to be painful, intense, and hard. But, such seasons are also good for us when they are recognized as part of God’s design and intent for us in order to grow up into spiritual maturity; as our lives are conformed to the life of Jesus Himself.
The message which God gave His prophet, Jeremiah, through the potter and the clay serves as a precise illustration of how He uses those experiences of brokenness in our lives for His glory, and for our good (cf. Jeremiah 18:1 – 11). In the process of working with the clay, a potter potentially has to reshape and redefine the clay a number of times before the piece is perfected. The potter does so not for the purpose of destroying his work, but rather, in order that he might make the most beautiful, desired piece that he or she can possibly form and present.
Charles Stanley provides for us some incredible insight to the good which stems from the seasons of brokenness which God uses to reshape and redefine our lives. Soak in these words:
Brokenness is not something to be shunned or avoided at all cost. Rather, it is something to be faced with faith. If we truly want to be all that God designed us to be, and therefore all that God desires for us to be, we must submit to Him during times of brokenness and allow Him to reveal to us why we are going through what it is we are experiencing and what He desires for us to learn from the situation.
…The potter’s purpose is not to destroy his work, but rather, to make a more perfect work— to shape and fashion something more beautiful and more functional. In like fashion, God is at work in our lives, shaping and making us into the people He longs for us to be so that we might bring glory to Him and be of maximum use to Him in the building of His kingdom… Brokenness can be a path toward great blessing, but only when we allow God to do the breaking and to design the blessing (The Blessings of Brokenness, pp.12 – 14).
Throughout these days of concerted prayer, may each of us surrender to the indwelling Holy Spirit to work within our hearts— and the life of His church at Euclid Avenue. And may God’s Spirit work within us in such an awesome manner that the supernatural humility of the Lord Jesus would be evident within and through our everyday lives, to one another as a church family, and to the people within our community and city who so desperately need to experience the miracle of His amazing, redeeming grace! May we declare and echo the words of John the Baptist when he wrote, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Scripture passages for reading and meditation:
- Matthew 20:26 – 28
- Matthew 26:39, 42 \ Mark 14:36 \ Luke 22:42
- John 13:1 – 17
- Philippians 2:1 – 9
- 1 Peter 5:5 – 6
- Jeremiah 18:1 – 6
- 2 Chronicles 7:14