Often, when we talk about humility, we usually do so in context of how sinful we are. We stand before a holy God and in comparison to His righteousness, we are nothing. There’s a danger here in measuring humility against sin. One, it can encourage one to sin more (and this was a heretical view that did develop during the history of Christianity) or we can look at ourselves and say, “Hey, I’m not so bad. My walk is pretty good.” And then as a result, we start to lose some of that humility that should characterize us as Christians. The view is that we’re getting a little closer to His holiness and perfection and compared to others who are far off the path compared to ourselves, and so we, whether intentionally or not, begin to think more of ourselves than we ought.
I’ve been reading Andrew Murray’s Humility and he makes a great point that the view of humility with regards to us as sinners is only one aspect of why we should seek humility. He does bring up the the first issue, the heretical one that has risen up in history, where greater sin is justified in order to show the holiness of our God. But Murray doesn’t stop with that first aspect. He gives us two more. A second aspect is because it is expected of us as the redeemed in Christ. That is what our Master was about, so it should be what we are about. This view is talked about some in the Church, but not nearly as much as that first one about humility in relation to our sinfulness. Murray brings up a third aspect we almost never talk about, but which we all should realize is true: we are the created and He is the Creator. And the gap there is something we will never cross or even shrink. In this we are truly nothing and He is everything. And if we spend even a bit of time seriously pondering what it means to be His “creatures” (Murray’s word for us), what then do we have to brag about or put up as worthy?
To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less. – John 3:27-30, NIV
John was asked what he thought about everyone leaving to follow Jesus. The above set of verses was his response. He understood very well his position compared to Christ. He was nothing. Because John understood this, note how he characterized his feelings in seeing Jesus come into full prominence: joy. As a matter of fact, now that Jesus’ ministry had begun, John said his joy was now complete. And he went on to say that Christ must become even greater, and John even less. Talk about a spirit of humility!
We serve an Almighty God. He is the Creator of all things. We would not exist if it were not for Him. We would not continue to exist if it were not for Him. All of our works are nothing compared to what He has done. Nothing that we have ever created will ever measure up with His creation. And we can never be any greater than when we empty ourselves and let Him fill us up completely. But in order to do this we have to toss aside all pride. We have to do away with any sense of entitlement we think we ought to have. We must discard any idea that we are any better than anyone else, whether because of the circumstances of our birth, the details of our deeds, or the identity we have with Jesus Christ. We are His creation. And as a result we are nothing without Him.
This idea of humility is not well preached in churches today because it’s not a popular view of ourselves. It doesn’t make us feel comfortable. We like being important. We like being somebody. But as long as we hold on to those ideas, we are lying to ourselves. We are truly nothing without our God. And as such, it would do us better to embrace this view, this bedrock truth, and seek to do away with anything in our lives and in our hearts that keeps us from this truth. The better we are able to plow forward and embrace the fact we are nothing without Him, and I mean really embrace not just pay lip service, the more we become like our Savior and His example. The more we meet that second aspect of humility, too. And you know, if we are truly seeking to grasp this idea of nothingness without our Creator, then every sin hurts that much more. Every sin reveals to us how far we are from the perfection we ought to be. And that forces us towards that first aspect of humility. But it all begins with the real understanding of where we are as His creatures in comparison with Him, our Creator. That view, when honestly considered, forces us towards authentic humility.