This sermon is number 3 in a series of 7
Encountering God - Part 3
"Pride vs Humility - The Condition Of Encountering God"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2013 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I want us to pray together now. If you were out last evening, we were thinking of 'Practising the Presence of God' - and if you were here, I want you to do what we talked about last night. I want you to do it now. We have already, I believe, if you're sensitive at all, you will have already encountered a sense of God in this place. Well, we want that to intensify and deepen in each of our experiences - so I want you to become present, even more present, to God's presence now. By faith, lay hold and open your heart and drink in that amazing Presence, just let it take over. I would ask you also, as I have requested on previous nights, that you pray for yourself, that God will speak to you tonight. It's going to be quite heavy tonight, we're going to be looking at a lot of scriptures and it's going to be deep, but I believe it's going to be surgical - deeply diagnostic and surgical, if you will allow the scalpel of the Great Physician to penetrate your heart. So why not open now to Him, and say: 'Lord, have Your way'? So let's come.
Heavenly Father, we come to You again as our Abba Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ - that name that is above every name. We thank You for such a definite sense of Your presence already, without much effort we have known a sense that You are with us - manifestly so. We thank You, Lord, for the graciousness of You coming near. We do not take for granted, and we say with the psalmist that 'The name of the Lord is near us'. You have come to us, Lord, in Your very name, the revelation of Your character. We can sense Your sweet holiness and gracious presence in our midst. We thank you for this testimony that even those in the closet today have been experiencing a sense of God and brokenness as You have come upon them. We praise You, Lord, we say: 'This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes'. Lord, we say we want more of you - we want more! We know that there is so much more, we know that You are the God who is able to do exceeding abundantly more than we ask or think. So, Lord, we are looking for the much more, more of You, Father; more of You, Lord Jesus Christ; more of You, blessed Holy Spirit - come to us, we pray, come now, come Holy Spirit, come Lord Jesus. We do declare, not just in song but in word, we proclaim what the word of God says the blood of Jesus does for us. We proclaim to the enemy and the kingdom of darkness what the blood of Jesus has done: it has overcome you, Satan, and it sets us free. We declare that tonight and, Father, we take the canopy of the protection of the blood over us this evening. We ask, Lord, that this would be a hallowed place and a hallowed hour. Lord, we say, have Your way, come Lord Jesus, have Your way in our lives and root out pride in each one of us. For Jesus' sake we pray, Amen.
I want you to turn to two passages of Scripture, first of all Philippians chapter 2, and then 1 Peter 5. Now, if you haven't been with us - on Sunday evening we looked at 'Encountering God' under the heading 'The Call To Encounter God', which was 'The Cost of Discipleship', the cost of following Christ. Last evening we looked at 'The Atmosphere of Encountering God', and the atmosphere is 'The Presence of God', and we need to learn to practice His Presence. All these are recorded, by the way, and it would be good, maybe, for you to get some of those. Tonight we're looking at 'The Condition of Encountering God', humility - and so the message tonight is 'Pride vs Humility'. Tomorrow evening, God willing, I'll be looking at 'The Energy of Encountering God', and that is the power of the Holy Spirit, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, 'How to Be Filled With the Holy Spirit'.
Let's look tonight at 'The Condition of Encountering God', humility. So it's Philippians chapter 2, beginning to read at first 1: "Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".
Then over to 1 Peter chapter 5 and verse 5: "Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble'. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you".
C.S. Lewis, that great author and Christian, said these words: 'Pride is the sin that made the devil the devil'. Pride is the sin that made the devil the devil - and if you know anything of the demise of the angel, Lucifer, the bearer of light, that cherub that had a unique position in the kingdom of God to reflect the glory of Almighty God, to hover over Him and reflect the glory of the Holy, Holy, Holy, Triune God of Heaven: he was not satisfied any longer reflecting the light and glory of Another, he wanted his own glory. Pride is the sin that made the devil the devil. Andrew Murray, in his classic on 'Humility', which I'm indebted to even for this sermon - he said: 'Pride can degrade the highest angels into devils. Evil can have no beginning but from pride'.
So, if you like, pride is the mother of all sins. It is the devil in us that wants to exalt itself, as Lucifer did, to the status of God. It is the attitude of this age, and it has been the attitude of every age, that it is better to rule in hell than to serve in Heaven. Man wants to rule rather than serve. If all of us are honest, we've got a pride problem. We want to be the centre of the universe. There is a story told about the late German Kaiser, whose valet said about him: 'I cannot deny that my master was vain. He had to be the central figure in everything. If he went to a christening he wanted to be the baby; if he went to a wedding he wanted to be the bride; if he went to a funeral he wanted to be the corpse! He always wanted to be the centre of attention'. We must come to this point of honesty and transparency, and say: this is all our problem. Pride is the tyrant within. If you're not aware of it, it's not because of its absence, it's because of your ignorance. You've got it, you're just not aware of it!
If you are in denial, you've got a bigger problem than you ever imagined. Jeremiah 17 verse 9 says: 'The heart is deceitful, and desperately wicked; who can know it?' - and you have been deceived. You must not deny the reality of pride in your heart, it is there! My friend Andrew Watkins gave me a quote today from William Perkins, the Puritan who lived from 1558-1602, who said: 'This is a fruit of pride: to think well of ourselves because we are not proud'. So if you think you're not proud tonight, you've got a bigger problem than you ever conceived of. Maybe you're sitting here tonight, and you think: 'Preacher, you've got it really wrong this evening. You don't understand how I have such an inferiority complex, I'm such a broken person, I'm a failure in life - how could I ever be proud?'. Well, you have not understood pride, because pride manifests itself on a spectrum. One low-end is the dropout, the person who considers themselves a failure - they are filled with pride. Then on the top end of the scale there is the over- or the high-achiever, the person who excels, and pride often motivates them. At the root of both of those problems, the dropout, the failure, and the over-high-achiever, is perfectionism. I think I mentioned this last night - I don't know whether we had any perfectionists in the meeting - but the perfectionist is not just the person who wants to be perfect in everything, and so climbs the scale, but the perfectionist is also the dropout who decides: 'If I can't do it perfectly, I'm not going to do it at all' - and so you bale out. Maybe you're one of those.
I believe the creed of G.K. Chesterton, when he said: 'If a thing is worth doing...' - do you know that saying? His creed was, 'If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing poorly' - and I agree with him! If it's worth doing, you do it - eh? Is that not right? If it's worth doing, you do it. Whether you do it well or not is irrelevant, if it's worth doing you do it, even if it's poorly! A lot of people have fallen into this trap of spiritual perfectionism, another name for it could be legalism, and you've given up because you feel that you don't meet the mark. I hear people say constantly: 'Oh, I'm not worthy' - get over it! You're not worthy! You're a sinner! We're all sinners! The irony is that it's not just the Pharisee with his nose in the air that is proud, but it's the broken sinner who will not embrace the grace of God because they feel they're not worthy - that's pride!
I learned recently, and what a revelation it was, that my sin nor your sin will never keep you from God, because Jesus died for sin, He has put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, the only thing that will ever keep you away from God is your pride. It will build a wall of shame and guilt around you and prevent you getting to God - or, better, prevent God from getting to you. Do you know something? It is pride that made our salvation necessary - we need to be saved from our pride! The means of being saved was the unique humility of our Lord Jesus Christ that we read about from Philippians 2. You see, the only answer to the Satanic poison of pride is the humility of Christ. As we got our pride from Adam, we must get our humility from Jesus. When you think about it, what else was His incarnation only humility - and His humility began in heaven. He volunteered in Heaven to come to Earth, His humility was there. As He came, He emptied Himself and became a man, and coming in the form of man He humbled Himself - and what was His sacrifice as He died on the cross, only humility, 'even unto death, the death of the cross'. Even in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, it was because of His humility: 'therefore God also has highly exalted Him' - when it says 'therefore', ask 'Wherefore?'. Why has God highly exalted Him? Because He has humbled Himself - and so even His ascension is as a result of His humility.
All Christ Jesus was was humility. Do you know something? He was the embodiment of God, and that shows us that humility is at the heart of Divinity - that is a big statement, and a huge revelation. Humility is at the heart of God. At the heart of God there is a slain Lamb. I'm going to make another big statement: I believe that you need the humility of Christ perhaps more than anything else. William Law said: 'Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you'. Andrew Murray said: 'As much as you have of pride within you, so you have a fallen angel alive in you. As much as you have of true humility, so you have the Lamb of God within you'. So we need to ask Jesus for the gift, the grace of humility. We need to look to Jesus, we need to study Him and see His own humility. We need to hear what He taught about this great subject.
So I want us first of all to look at His example, and we're going to be turning to the Scriptures just now. How often the Lord Jesus used the words 'not' and 'nothing' in relation to Himself. I want you to see this, turn with me to John 5 verse 19: 'Then Jesus answered and said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner' - but the Son could do nothing without the Father, and that is the humiliation that the Lord Jesus subjected Himself to. He was God, He had the attributes of God, but He chose to resign those powers to His Heavenly Father as He came to Earth. I don't believe that the Lord Jesus ever operated independently of the Father when He was on earth. He says He does nothing without the Father. Look at verse 30 of the same chapter, look out for these catchwords: 'I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me', verse 41, 'I do not receive honour from men'. Turn to chapter 6 of John verse 38: 'For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me', chapter 7 verse 16, 'Jesus answered them and said, 'My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me'', verse 28, 'Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, 'You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know''. Chapter 8, look at verse 28: 'Then Jesus said to them, 'When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things'', verse 42, 'Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me', verse 50, 'And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges'. Then over finally to chapter 14 verse 10: 'Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works', verse 24, 'He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me'.
Is it any wonder that Paul said: 'He made Himself nothing'? He emptied Himself, He made Himself of no reputation that God, the Father, might be everything. He resigned His own will, He resigned His powers, He resigned His glory, He resigned His work and His very words entirely to the Father. The import of everything that we're reading that Christ said is: 'It is not I, I am nothing, I have given myself to the Father, the Father is all' - this was surrender and utter dependence upon God, His Father. I want you to note something here: Jesus did not find His identity in Himself, but in God. You must not find your identity in yourself. Some of you have a very low self-esteem, maybe you hate yourselves - you must find yourself, your sense of worth, your sense of being, in God; not in yourself, not in anyone else. Equally, there is old holiness teaching that tells us to crucify the self - you say: 'That's in the Bible'. Yes, it is but it tells us to crucify our old selves - that's the old man, and the old nature - but there's a lot of holiness teachers and holiness people that are walking around like the living dead, and they look like it and sound like it! Because not only have they crucified the old self, they have crucified themselves - their very personality has died! That's not what the New Testament teaches, the New Testament says that the old self must die with Christ, but the new self - Colossians 3 - must come alive! You've to put on the new self that is in the likeness and image of Jesus.
That's what Jesus was showing us as He lived out of His relationship with God. His being in God the Father brought Him a sense of being within, and it manifested itself in humility. Not just in humility towards His Father, but also He was just as humble in His dealings with men as He was with His Heavenly Father. This is exemplified in His teaching, let me just remind you of some of it - He taught us that the way to know Heaven's blessing on Earth was through humility. His opening words on the Kingdom of God were that the poor in spirit will enter in, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth'. Indeed, He taught us that greatness in the Kingdom of God was to be likened to a child, Matthew 18: 'Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven... for he who is least among you will be the greatest'. So the Lord Jesus is teaching that to seek after greatness is not the way to get it in the Kingdom of God! Luke 18 verse 14: 'For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted' - in other words, the way up is down. It's as if, as one man put it, Jesus Christ reached into the shopping window of humanity, and He switched the labels, the price tags. He has totally changed our evaluation of greatness. In the Kingdom of God the way up is down, the way to greatness is servitude.
Did He not show us the way in John 13 and in verse 14, He said: 'If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet'. In Luke 22 He said: 'The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors'. But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves'.
'Wouldst thou be great, then lowly serve;
Wouldst thou go up, go down;
But go as low as e'er you will,
The Highest, has gone lower still'.
The path to the higher life, to encountering God, means going lower down. An evangelist, when I was young man, once said to me: 'David, if ever you see a ladder, climb down it!'. Andrew Murray said: 'Just as water always seeks to fill the lowest place, so the moment God finds men abased and empty, His glory and His power flow in to exalt and to bless'. This is the Royal Spirit of the King of Heaven displayed, this is God-like: to humble oneself, to become the servant of all. It was our Lord's example that was His teaching, and it was subsequently the teaching of His apostles - and you remember that they were the ones who argued in His presence about who was the greatest among them. Yet, by the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost and the work of God's grace in their lives, they began to understand the way of their Master. You can see it in the writings of Paul in Philippians 2, how this mind ought to be in us, we ought to esteem others greater than ourselves. Peter, who often was putting his foot in his mouth, he learned - and we see it in 1 Peter 5 - how we need to clothe ourselves with humility, as Christ clothed and girded Himself with the towel to wash the disciples' feet. Once he said: 'You'll never wash my feet!', and now he is teaching us that this is the way of the Master.
Paul again, in Romans 12:10, says: 'Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another'. I love the NIV translation of 1 Corinthians 13 verses 4 and 5, that great passage on love, listen: 'Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs'. In other words, love has humility at its core, and forgiveness of one another is the fruit of love. Turn with me quickly to Colossians chapter 3, and this is the last passage I'll get you to turn to tonight - Colossians chapter 3 verses 12 and 13. Paul says: 'Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do'. Andrew Murray said: 'The humble person seeks always to act out of this daily rule', listen to it, 'Prefer one another in honour, serve one another, esteem others better than oneself, and submit yourself one to another'. It was the Spirit of Christ in Paul who said: 'Not I, but Christ'.
I think Scripture is very clear, isn't it, that the condition of encountering God is humility. The big question is: how? Isn't it? How can it be done? Well, I want to warn you: do not wrestle with pride, do not try to overcome your pride - because your pride is stronger than you ever imagine. Now, if you're in denial of it tonight, you've got a big problem, and you'll not even accept what I'm saying - but pride comes naturally to us all. I have enough pride to sink a fleet of battleships, and I'm not using false humility - I only know a fraction of what is in my heart, God knows it all, and there's a lot of pride there. We must not deny it, we must be real with it. All of us in our old human nature has Adam, we've got pride, it's there - don't deny it! How do you overcome it? How do you get this humility in order to encounter God? Well, you confess it! You become present to it, and you admit it, and I probably do it on a daily basis: 'Lord', I say, 'deliver me from my pride'. I confess it, and I repent of it, and I renounce it, and I forsake it - and, in faith, I ask Jesus for the grace of humility, the gift of humility. I don't have it, you don't have it, only God can give it.
I want to make this absolutely clear and simple tonight: you can't drum up humility, and you can't put pride to death in your own power. You've got to bring it to God - but, you see, the wonderful mystery and miracle of all this is: when we come in repentance for our natural, innate pride in the old nature, when we bring it to God and admit it, and tell God the way it really is, that in itself is an act of humbling ourselves that will encounter the actual grace of God in humility. What did we read from 1 Peter 5 and verse 5? 'God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble'. Do you know that grace and truth always come together? If you want to know the grace of God in your life, you've got to be truthful, you've got to tell things as they are and admit to God your sin. If your issue is pride - and it is, whether you realise it or not - you've got to confess your pride. If it's the failure, dropout type of perfectionism, or the overachieving, high-achieving excelling - you've got to confess it! Bring it into the light.
I think it was Warren Weirsbe who said: 'God resists the proud, but He can't resist the humble' - and if you bring the truth of your pride to God, God's grace will meet you, and the grace of humility will come to you. You need to receive it by faith - you know, I'm going to repeat myself this week: everything in the Christian life is by grace, it's a free gift, and it is received by faith. So this is a gift of humility that comes in Jesus, He has bought us this by His own precious blood, and we must receive it by faith alone; repenting of our pride and receiving the grace of His humility - and as you receive, you need to thank Him for it! You need to take it, and accept it, and receive it - it's not yours, it's His. You can't even take pride in it.
You say: 'Well, David, is there anything I can do practically to move towards this?'. Well, faith without works is dead, you're right, there are usually practical things that we can do. We must receive this by faith, but there are some things that would be good to put into practice. Dallas Willard, whose writings I highly recommend, has a helpful little devotion that I do day by day called 'Hearing God', and he points out in one of his daily readings how Moses may be the all-time record holder for lengthy encounters with God. Isn't that right? If you know about Moses, you will know there are many times when God talked with him as a man talks to his friend - but Numbers 12 verse 3 says this: 'Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth'. Dallas Willard links these two things: Moses' encounters with God and his humility - and this is what he says, and this is profound: 'We will receive the grace of humility when we refrain from these three things', here's practical for you, 'One: pretending, pretending we are what we know we are not; Two: presuming, presuming a favourable position for ourselves in any respect; Three: pushing, or trying to override the will of others in our own context'. He says, 'This is a failsafe recipe for humility: never push, never presume, and never pretend'. Surely you can remember that? Never push, never presume, and never pretend.
Now let's take those in the time that we have left and be practical. You must confess pride, it's in us all, you must give it to God. Receive in exchange the new nature of the humility of Christ, but in a practical way: one, you must desist from pretending you are what you're not. Do you know what pretending you are what you're not is? It's hypocrisy. 'Hypocrisy' comes from a Greek word which means 'a mask', and the actors used to wear it in the old classical plays. Pretending you're something you're not is self-righteousness, it does not come from God. You could be here tonight, and you could be in denial about the struggles that you're having, you could be in denial about the temptations. You come to church and you look the part, and you sound the part, and you say the cliches, and you believe the doctrines, and you do the right things in the right place - but you know that you're struggling, you're pretending to be what you're not.
We need a lot of honesty, don't we? Transparency, we need to be real with each other, and real with God, and real with ourselves. I have to say, if I'm being real with you: there are some men, Christian men that I know, some of them elders, some of them preachers, and I could never imagine them sinning - I really couldn't. Now stay with me here: I'm not trying to imagine them sinning, don't get me wrong! But I couldn't imagine them sinning, not because they are so holy, but because they are so unreal - they are like cardboard cut-outs. I couldn't even imagine them having temptations! Do you know, the worst pride is religious pride - the worst. Jesus said of the Pharisees: 'You are whitewashed sepulchres, you're whitewashed tombs, all clean and pristine on the outside, and dead men's bones on the inside'. The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is a lack of humility. Now, you hear that please: the chief mark of a counterfeit holiness is a lack of humility. So if you've got a sect, or a group, or a denomination, or a clique of people that walk around with their nose stuck in the air, and their big Bibles under their arms, and they're hammering people over the head with their doctrine: it is a counterfeit holiness, for the true holiness of God manifests the fruit of humility.
You see, this is what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of the publican and the Pharisee. The tax collector who was unclean, ritually, ceremonially unclean - he was a traitor, he was in cahoots with the Roman Empire, and he was a thief because he was lining his pockets with the extra taxes that he was taking off people that the Empire wasn't charging. He was an untouchable, and he came to the Temple - and there was this Pharisee, and he had his head held high, and in his arrogance he prayed out loud and he said: 'I thank You that I am not as other men. I thank You that I'm not like this tax collector'. Have you ever said: 'I thank You, Lord, that I'm not a drunkard, or I'm not...' - and you're looking down at the sinner. Or you say: 'I thank You that I'm not a Roman Catholic', or 'I'm not a Muslim', or 'I thank You, Lord, that I'm not a Presbyterian' - who would say that? - or 'Thank You, Lord, that I'm not a Baptist, or I'm not Brethren, or I'm not Congregational, thank You, Lord, that I'm not Congregational'? Who would say that? But how many of us look down our noses at people who do not believe what we believe, and that is Pharisaism, it is arrogance, and it has pride at its heart and root: 'I am not like other men'.
Do you know what Jesus said? Listen to how He ends that parable: the tax collector beat his breast, would not so much as lift his eyes heavenward, and he said, 'Be merciful unto me a sinner', and Jesus said, 'I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted'. I'm telling you from personal knowledge of my own heart that pride is the evangelical, fundamentalist, conservative Christian sin. I hope you have ears and heart to receive that. At the root of doctrinal arrogance is pride. Oh, I believe doctrine is important, but it's not more important than humility. If you hold your doctrine with pride, it's an idol. Denominational sectarianism, and so-called holy separatism, I believe is arrogance and pride that is a stench in the holy nostrils of God. Let me ask you a question: does your expression of Christianity produce arrogance, does it? Young fellows running around like old men, know-it-alls. There are a lot of angry Christians about: does your expression of Christianity produce anger? Or does it produce humility and love? Jesus says: 'By this shall all men know that you're My disciples'. We've got to start being honest with each other, we've got to start being honest with God, and being honest with ourselves. I have struggled with pride, every preacher does - Pastor, Amen? If we preach well, we walk out with a fat head, and if we make a mess we're hammering ourselves because we should have done better - it's pride, it's pride! We need to stop looking into ourselves and at ourselves, and look to God, Christ, and His Kingdom. You see, when you have a revelation of God, and a true encounter with God and Jesus Christ, do you know what happens? You're not walking around as if you've no sin, but the consciousness of your sin weighs you down. You become more aware of it. Now, you ought not to stay there, as I said last night, you've got to then look out from your sin, bring your sin to Christ and look to Him for the remedy.
Stop pretending you are what you're not - amen? Secondly, stop presuming a favourable position for yourself in any respect - presumption. Jesus spoke about this in Luke 14, listen to this, verse 8 says: 'When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honourable than you be invited by him', one more honourable than me? How could there be such a person? This is how He ends in verse 11: 'For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted'. Is this not a problem with us?
Moody, D.L. Moody, was one of the greatest used evangelists the world has ever known I believe. There's a little book I prize in my library, it's falling to pieces, called 'Why God Used D.L. Moody' - it was written by R.A. Torrey. In that little volume there is a chapter on humility, God used D.L. Moody because of his humility. This is what Torrey says: 'I think D. L. Moody was the humblest man I ever met in my life. He loved to quote the words of another; 'Faith gets the most; love works the most; but humility keeps the most''. F.B. Meyer, that great Bible teacher of renown, said of Moody: 'Moody is a man who never seems to have heard of himself, no wonder God used him so wonderfully'. Torrey relates that at his conventions at Northfield and the like, he would push other men to the front and, if he could, he would have them do all the preaching - McGregor, Campbell Morgan, Andrew Murray, and all the rest of them - and he said: 'The only way we could get him to take any part in the program was to get up in the convention and move that we hear D. L. Moody at the next meeting. He continually put himself out of sight' - is that not why God used him?
Now maybe you're confused, and we've got to be honest here and reasonable and rational - you might be, I hope, thinking: 'But, hold on a minute, if you say D.L. Moody was a tremendously gifted man, and God used him perhaps more than many, if not any in modern times, well, was he blind to this? Did he not know that God was using him, and that God had gifted him?'. No - now don't misunderstand here, this is the answer to this problem: you see, you can be exceptionally gifted, you can be tremendously used of God, but true humility is not to deny that but it is to view yourself in the light of God. What do I mean? You lose yourself in Him! You see, you become nothing when you lose yourself in Him! And wait till I tell you: everybody else becomes nothing when you lose yourself in Him! You see, it's not comparing yourself with another - we are not of those who compare ourselves with ourselves. You see, we're not to practice the presence of the audience, or the congregation, and I'm not to practice the presence of some preacher down the road who's probably - there's probably about a hundred of them that are better than I am or will ever be - I'm not to practice their presence, whether I'm better or they're better. I'm to practice the presence of God - and in His presence, I am nothing, and you are nothing.
So that's why it's imperative that we get into His presence, and we see everything in the light of His glory, in the light of His Kingdom and His cause - and that will free us to esteem others better than ourselves, are you getting it? Andrew Murray put it well like this: 'The humble man feels no jealousy or envy' - now the old man will, but the man who has put on the humility of Christ, made no provision for the flesh, who repents of his innate pride and puts on the humility of Jesus as a grace gift, he can praise others! 'He can praise God when others are preferred and blessed before him. He can bear to hear others praised and himself forgotten, because in God's presence he has learnt to say with Paul, 'I am nothing'. He has received the spirit of Jesus, who did not please Himself, and did not seek His own honour'.
Do you know, William Kelly said: 'True humility is not thinking bad about yourself, it's just not thinking about yourself at all'. God doesn't ask us to think bad of ourselves, He asks us to lose ourselves in Him - and do you know what will happen? We will then find our true selves. Stop pretending, stop presuming, but thirdly and finally: stop pushing, or trying to override the will of others in your context and surrounding. There are a lot of pushy Christians about, aren't there? No 'Amen's', no? There are a lot of pushy believers, and there are a lot of pushy Christian leaders about as well. Now leaders must lead, and they must lead with the authority - which comes with character by the way, not with rank - but few people lead with humility. It has to be said that few church members act in humility. Do you know what you need to do from this night? If you're pushing, stop pushing - and as for those pushy people around you, you need to look on every brother or sister who irritates or troubles you, as God's means of grace to humble you, as an instrument to start to see them better than yourself. Boy, what an exercise that would be!
Listen, you can remember this, surely you can: never push, never presume, never pretend - in fact, do what Paul did: he took every opportunity to humble himself before men. He says: 'I glory in my infirmities, in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me'. He took pleasure in his trials, in his weaknesses, in his distresses - he took pleasure in humiliation, for it freed him from self. 'Whatever is said about you, rejoice, for you're with the prophets' - you're in good company if men are saying ill about you! As Murray puts it: 'It is only in the possession of God that I lose myself. In the height, and breath, and glory of the sunshine, the littleness of a particle of dust is seen flying in the sunlight. In the same way, humility is our being in God's presence nothing but specks dwelling in the sunlight of His love'.
What do I want us to do at the close tonight? I want you to celebrate your littleness and God's greatness. It's not that you aren't special to God, He shed the blood of Jesus for you, but if you want to encounter God tonight and every day of your life: God dwells, the High and the Holy One, with them that are of a low and a contrite heart - the humble.
'He humbled Himself to the manger,
And even to Calvary's tree.
But I am so proud and unwilling
His humble disciple to be'.
I love the story about the family that went on holiday, and they all shared the one room and the one bed. Above the bed head there was a picture of Jesus Christ, and opposite the bed there was a dresser with a mirror. The wee girl in the morning got up, woke up, sat up in the bed, and she saw herself. Then she lay down again, then she got up, then she lay down, and she said: 'Mummy, Daddy, Mummy, look at this! When I lie low I can see Jesus, but when I see myself I don't see Him'.
Let us pray. Now let us be still - I hope that you are aware of the presence of God here tonight. We want to create space for God to move, and for you to respond. Is there anyone here tonight - theoretically, I know we don't do it on theory, but theoretically there should not be anyone who is exempt from my statement now - but is there anyone whom God has spoken to about pride, that has either been very very evident and you're conscious of it, or has been dormant and you have been ignorant of it - you haven't realised. Maybe you have even taken pride in some kind of humility, some people take pride in poverty and being working class and all the rest - that's pride. Is there anyone here tonight, in the presence of God, and I'm going to ask you to stand - I'm going to ask you to stand, because it's pride that stops you doing things like standing: 'I don't need to stand, I don't need to stand I'm standing in my heart, God reads my heart'. He reads your heart if you're afraid to stand because of pride and what other people will think. I'm not wanting to put guilt on you - there are people standing already - I don't want to put guilt on you, but we are trying to be real with God in order to encounter Him. If you want an encounter with God, and you're going to walk out of this place not admitting your pride - forget about it!
Just in the quietness and the presence of God, stand to your feet. Now you confess, I can't do it for you, and I would encourage you, please, to take it on your lips - the person beside you doesn't need to hear, but it would be good to whisper - it's important to declare and pronounce truth. I'm not asking you to say it out loud, don't be afraid - just take it on your lips as if you were speaking to someone who was lip-reading. Speak it out, confess pride, and the type of pride it is. Confess the worst of it: religious pride. If you have been legalist, confess it, for it's a curse if ever there was one. Confess it. Confess looking down your nose at other people, other denominations. Confess - this might rock some of you - confess criticising Catholics. Who are you to criticise anybody? Who am I? Oh yes, we must present the plumbline of truth - but oh, we have so often stepped over the mark, so often, and we've enjoyed it - and I've done it more than probably most of you. Repent now, what other pride is there? Pride of position? Pride of education? Christian homes are filled with intellectual academic pride. Pride of class? Pride of profession? What is there? Pride of family? Pride of culture? Come on, confess it - blood and thunder bands around, blattering drums at the pride of this, and the pride of that, and the pride of the other - confess it. Bring it to the Lord, bring it out, bring it present, confess it and say: 'Lord, I can't do anything with it'. I want you to do something, with the eyes of your heart I want you to see Jesus on the cross - and I want you, as it were, and you can even do it physically, lift all that pride and say: 'Lord, here it is, here's what I am and what I have, take it into Yourself. You died for my pride' - and the great exchange will be, 'Lord Jesus, give me Your humility by the Holy Spirit. I give You my pride , give me Your humility, Lord Jesus'.
Receive it by faith, and thank Him for it: 'Thank You, Lord Jesus, I receive, I accept Your humility. Help me not to pretend any more, help me not to presume, help me not to push'. Ask Him now, I know we'll be preaching on it even tomorrow night, as you're empty now, ask Him to cleanse you by the precious blood, and ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Receive it by faith, we will talk about it tomorrow night - but you don't have to wait until tomorrow night, say: 'Lord, give me the power to live this Christ-life, give me Your life, fill me now with the Holy Spirit of God, in Jesus' name, Amen'. You may be seated.
Father who sees all, and searches the deep things of the heart, I confess my pride - and I ask You, Lord, as I repent of it, to deliver me afresh. All of us together would ask, O Lord, deposit within us the very meekness and humility of Jesus. We humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God tonight, may we be exalted not in ourselves but in our God. High and Lofty One, take us into Your presence even higher now, as we descend even lower - for I must decrease, and He must increase. Amen.
Don't miss part 4 of Encountering God: "How To Be Filled With The Spirit - The Energy Of Encountering God"
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Abbots Cross Congregational Church in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the third recording in his 'Encountering God' series, entitled "Pride vs Humility - The Condition Of Encountering God" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
All material by David Legge is copyrighted. However, these materials may be freely copied and distributed unaltered for the purpose of study and teaching, so long as they are made available to others free of charge, and this copyright is included. This does not include hosting or broadcasting the materials on another website, however linking to the resources on preachtheword.com is permitted. These materials may not, in any manner, be sold or used to solicit 'donations' from others, nor may they be included in anything you intend to copyright, sell, or offer for a fee. This copyright is exercised to keep these materials freely available to all. Any exceptions to these conditions must be explicitly approved by Preach The Word. [Read guidelines...]