May 28, 2017
Today is the last day in our sermon series Anatomy of a Christian. For the past 5 weeks we’ve been looking at the make-up of a Christian. We’ve studied what’s inside a Christian and how a Christian acts. If you haven’t been here for all of them, I encourage you to go to our website or our podcast and listen to the rest of them. I know it’s been an eye opening series for me. For this last week, we look at what a topic that we all struggle with and that’s humility.
There’s a story of a Doctor named Harry Ironside. One day he was convicted about his lack of humility. So one of his friends offered a cure. He suggested that Dr. Ironside walk through the streets of Chicago naked except for a sandwich board A-frame shouting the bible verses that were written on the A-frame. Dr. Ironside agreed that this would help with his lack of humility and so he went ahead and did it. After walking through the streets, he returned to his office, took of the A-frame, and sat down in his chair. As he sat down in his chair, he said to his friend, “I’ll be there’s not another man in town who would do that!”
This man walked around naked with an A-frame. He was absolutely humbled. It was a humiliating thing to have people look at you funny and avoid you. But as soon as the humbling situation was over, he went right back to his prideful arrogant self. This situation didn’t keep him humble.
5 weeks ago, we celebrated Easter and it was a day that changed everything for us. Jesus rose from the dead, and because he rose so will we. Now, our relationship with God has been restored thanks to Jesus. Because of that, we want to live a life to honor and glorify him. And one way to do that is to live humbly, and as we study Christians we see that humility is part of their anatomy.
Yet a lot of times we are like Dr. Ironside. We are humble while we listen to God’s Word or while we are in church, but as soon as we leave church, pride and arrogance fill us once again. So how do we remain humble?
But maybe you aren’t a Christian. You’re just checking us out here at Peace or listening to the podcast. Maybe you’re wondering, “Why in the world do I need to be humble? That’s not a very attractive quality especially if I have made something of myself. Why do I need to be humble?” That’s a great question too. Listen for the next 15-20 minutes because what keeps us humble and why we should be humble are both answered for us today in James.
Be humble by remembering who you are by nature
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
James holds nothing back. Notice what he says, “Wash your hands, you sinners.” Who are you by nature? Who am I by nature? We are sinners. We use that word a lot in church, but what does it mean? To sin means to miss the mark. You think of a bow and arrow and a target. You shoot the arrow and miss the mark. That’s sin. Sinners are a bunch of people who miss the mark. We don’t live up to the expectations God has for us. That’s who we are by nature. It’s one of the most humbling things to remember who we are by nature.
And notice what James says. He says come near to God and he will come near to you, but because we are sinners by nature, we have to humbly come to God on his terms and not our terms. What are God’s terms?
- Wash your hands. Remember James was writing to Jewish Christians. When they heard wash your hands, they immediately thought back to the temple. The high priest would constantly wash his hands so that nothing unclean would be involved in the sacrifices. It was also a powerful reminder that there needs to be washing involved to come before God. We can’t just approach him however we want. So when James says wash your hands, he’s telling us to stop committing the sins we are committing outwardly. Turn from them and remember that you have been washed clean in your baptism.
- Purify your hearts. In order to come before God, we have to have a pure heart. Get rid of the sin we have harbored in our hearts. Purify them with God’s Word. When we are reading God’s Word, those sins we harbor in our hearts get cleared away.
- Then grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. He’s not saying to go around being a depressed person who can never be happy. He’s talking in the context of approaching God. Why do we grieve, wail and mourn? Because we are sinful people. The sad part is, we can probably all remember a time in our life when we laughed at sin we committed or one of our friends committed. We can probably all remember a time when we were filled with joy and couldn’t wait to tell our friends about something we did even though it was sinful. James says we shouldn’t be bragging about it, we shouldn’t be laughing about sinful behavior, rather we should be mournful and humbled because it’s sin that is keeping us from a good relationship with God.
James says, when you are humble and wash your hands, purify your hearts, and your sin causes you to mourn and grieve, God will lift you up. He will lift you up by reminding you that your sins have been washed away in your baptism. He will lift you up as he announces to you that your sins are forgiven and your relationship with him is restored. That’s what he tells you when you are humble, and remembering who you are by nature helps you with that.
But what’s the big deal if your humble or not? You can’t know that unless your humble? Here’s why being humble is such a big deal because…
A lack of humility leads to disregard for God.
Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
How often are we like this? We recognize and fully admit we are sinners before God. We come to church and admit it. We read it in his Word. As we lay our heads down at night, we confess our sins to God, but in the very next moment we are filled with pride and arrogance. We end up being just like that doctor. We leave church or finish reading his Word and immediately get puffed back up. And the lack of humility leads to disregard for God. Now, a lack of humility leads to many different ways we disregard God, but James brings up three examples.
- Do not slander. A lack of humility leads us to disregard what God says about loving other’s reputation. He says to guard and keep their reputation, but when we lack humility, we disregard what God says and slander people. We talk badly to their face or behind their back. Lack of humility not only disregards the person’s feelings, but it disregards God’s feelings. Don’t do it.
- Check your judgmental heart. Now, here’s something we need to realize: not all judging is bad. Scripture is filled with encouragement for us to get involved in other people’s lives, to call them back from sinful choices, and to rebuke, correct, and encourage. However, lack of humility leads to disregard for God and sinful judging. Sinful judging is when someone says they are sorry and you say no you’re not. Sinful judging goes beyond criticizing the sin and makes people feel worthless. Sinful judging thinks ourselves to be morally superior. In other words, I’m better than you because I don’t do as bad of sins as you do. That’s sinful judging. Sinful judging criticizes without love, and criticizes others to make yourself feel bigger. This is what a lack of humility leads too. We disregard God, kick him off his judgment seat, and says, “I’m judge here.” But God says, “I’m the judge. Yes, you warn people about their sinful choices, but leave the judgment to me.”
- Watch the boasting. This attitude disregards God’s control. It’s saying, “Look at what we are going to do because we have the power and the wisdom to do it. It is our hard work, it is our smarts, it’s our business savvy mind that will make all of this happen.” But honestly, we don’t even know if we have tomorrow because we aren’t the one in control. God is. But a lack of humility disregards God’s control and takes it for ourselves.
See, that’s why it’s important to remain humble because otherwise we disregard God and what he wants for our lives. Then we go back to the beginning and we are humbled by our remembering our nature right? But really the fact that humbles us the most, and keeps us humble, is the fact that God regarded us worth dying for.
God regarded you worth dying for.
Just stop and think about that for a second. God, holy and perfect, the creator of the world, thought you were worth dying for. He looked down and he saw the lack of humility, the slander and judgmental thoughts, and what did he do? He left his heavenly throne and stepped into this world.
Jesus, God himself, humbled himself to live like us. In heaven he never needed to eat, now he suffered from hunger pains. In heaven he never needed water, now he thirsts. In heaven he never could be tempted, but now faced every temptation we do, yet was without sin. In heaven he could never get hurt, now he could die.
And that’s exactly what he came to do. But even there, we see the humility of our Savior. Because even in his death he died in the humblest way. He died on a cross; one of the most humiliating ways to die. It was reserved for the worst of the worst. And yet our Savior-God, our Jesus, died on that cross because he regarded you worth dying for. He humbled himself to that extreme to save you.
Talk about humbling. God himself did all that for you. I don’t know if there’s anything more humbling in the all the world. I really don’t. Our Savior-God has incredible such incredible love for us that he was willing to go to the extreme depths of humility just to save you.
In 2015, a picture floated around the internet. You may have seen it. It was a picture of a big bearded tattoo artist on a train. He was standing next to his daughter who was sitting down dressed as a snowman. But the thing that really caught your eye was the long blonde wig that the man was wearing, oh and the long blue dress he had on. He was taking his daughter to a Frozen singalong and his daughter really wanted him to dress as Elsa. So not only did he dress as Elsa, but they even took the train to the sing along. This big burly guy humbled himself to the point of dressing like Elsa out in public because he loved his daughter that much.
How much does your God love you? He didn’t just put on a human costume, he became human and he lived and died for you. If you’re looking for the secret to remaining humble, you don’t have to wear a sandwich board in public while shouting bible verses. You simply need to remember that God regarded you worth dying for. You only need to remember the lengths Jesus went too to save you. The more you remember that, the humbler you’ll be and your heart will turn from disregarding God to a heart full of humble thanks and praise.