HUMILITY – A LOST ATTRIBUTE OF MODERN MAN

Picture hanging in our office
Picture depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding His lamb in His nail-pierced hand.

Listening to the news reports, listening to radio talk show participants, listening to parents and children interact, listening to parents and children at the sports stadium … just listening to what is going on around you reveals, in a nanosecond, that there is an absence of humility in our modern society.

Humility has, from the beginning, been difficult to find among mortal men. Adam and Eve turned their back on humility and sinned when they ate the forbidden fruit in their attempt to “be like God”. Genesis 3:5.

But Scripture reveals that we have no basis to be proud or arrogant.

O LORD, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.

Psalm 144:3-4.

According to Scripture, we are temporal, finite; sinners who have absolutely no standing with God. While we may look good to other sinners here on earth, we have no basis to stand puffed up before God.

God is at work in His creation and in my life on a moment by moment basis. He is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (all over, everywhere), and He has extended His grace to us through Jesus Christ, His Son, and our Savior.

What is the response to this powerful, present Creator God? It certainly should not be strutting our stuff before Him, as if we could accomplish anything without Him!

Rather, it should be the response that Abram had when God told him that He was making a covenant with him. Genesis 17:3 says:

 Then Abram fell on his face.

It has been said that Western society is blessed to be steeped in the teaching of Scripture and the person and work of Christ. However, this blessing of familiarity can readily motivate contempt in us for the things of God. Even if we do not consciously disregard the Lord, when we fail to marvel at the Father’s grace, simply because we hear of it every week, we must be careful not to fall into a subtle and powerful form of contempt. 

Canon 6 of the Council of Orange says:

“…if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

We must beware of Satan’s subtle urging that we take credit for our salvation, that we believe that we are not dependent upon God for our very existence, that we forget exactly what we are – sinners, deserving of punishment from a Just God. Satan does not want us to remember that, even though sinners, we have been rescued from that punishment by the grace and mercy of God which is extended to us through belief in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Someone who is drowning and is virtually unconscious of his plight should not become arrogant when a stranger jumps into the water and rescues him from death.  Rather, there should be a recognition that he was unable to do anything to save himself and that the rescuer is due great honor for the valor extended on his behalf.  

This is a picture of us, Beloved.  We were drowning in sin and stuck in the mire of evil deeds, thoughts and desires.  Jesus through God’s providence rescued us – we had nothing to do with it because it is all God’s grace.  There is no basis for us to become proud, holier than thou, arrogant or puffed up in ourselves. 

Take time to meditate on the greatness of our God and His love for us.

This is the antidote for us to defeat Satan’s maneuver against us.  In humble submission to Christ, thank Him for His love and grace. 

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

John 10:11

The Good Shepherd wants you to come to Him as a lamb, one of the most humble of creatures.  Rest in Him as He holds you in His arms. 

Father, I pray that You would forgive me when I have slid into a pattern of placing myself before You.  The reality that the God of the Universe knows me, loves me, and sent His Son to die for me calls for nothing other than humble obedience, reverence, love and awe. 

 

WORTHY IS THE LAMB

Often at Christmas time we hear Handel’s oratorio Messiah with the announcement to Mary and the shepherds.  “For unto us a child is born” and “Glory to God in the highest” and then the oratorio moves into the second and third parts with prophesies of the coming Messiah and affirmation that the Redeemer lives and is worthy to receive all power, and honor and glory.   All the words are taken directly from Scripture.

The Messiah is really the story of Christ throughout His life with the focal point being His rejection, suffering, death and resurrection.  It is, therefore, properly considered at this time of the church year, when Jesus’ passion, His sacrifice and His resurrection is center in our collective minds.   

In Part II we are directed to “behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world”.  This is a direct quotation of John 1:29, the words of John the Baptist in reference to Jesus Christ.  

Then the alto sings Isaiah 53:3.

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

After describing the misery that the Lord would endure for our sin, the chorus vividly describes mankind, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6 ESV

The tenor presents the crucifixion and resurrection, after which the choir erupts into a chorus describing heaven when Jesus defeats death and sin. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.”  Psalm 24:7 KJV

The oratorio continues by describing the mission of the Lord’s people, going into all the world preaching the gospel and then by telling of the rebellion to that Word.  “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?”  Psalm 2:1 KJV  After questioning why, the soloists reveal the Lord’s response to mankind’s opposition: 

“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. … Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Psalm 2:4, 9 KJV

At this point we hear the famous Hallelujah Chorus, proclaiming the power of the Lord God and that God’s kingdom will reign forever and ever.  This too is from Scripture, specifically from Revelation 19:6. 

“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

It is at this point that the audience rises in honor of the majesty of the music and of its message. For many of us, this is the crescendo of the oratorio.

After a recent presentation Parts II and III of the Messiah, I found it interesting to think about the placement of the Hallelujah Chorus.  It is not at the end of the work, rather it comes immediately after describing God’s prevailing power over man’s revolt against Him and His Anointed One.  This should be encouraging for each of us. 

The Chorus certainly praises God for His authority over mankind, for the strength of His kingdom, in recognition of His power and of the inviolate guarantee that things that He has ordained will, indeed, come to pass.  His providence will not be thwarted by anything that man or any other created being can do.  In short, God wins!  Hallelujah!

But, this is not the only instance of praise in the oratorio. 

Part III of the oratorio begins with the soprano singing “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” Job 19:25.  These words should bring praise to the lips of every believer in our Lord.   

The substitutionary atonement of Jesus is told when the choir sings “since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”  1 Corinthians 15:21-22. 

And the hope of everlasting life is described when the bass sings “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed–in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 NKJV

The final song is one that is sung in heaven:  “saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’”  Revelation 5:12 NKJV

Not only should we sing Hallelujah because God defeats sin and evil, we should continue our praise and worship of our God and of His Son by acknowledging and praising Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, for His work on the cross, for His atoning death and resurrection for us, for He alone is worthy to be praised. 

Here is a presentation of the song “Worthy is the Lamb” as found on the album Glory to the Holy One, words by Dr. R. C. Sproul and music by Jeff Lippencott.

I am including the text of the words for your reference:

The veil of heaven opened wide
The scene was clearly set
John saw a scroll writ either side
Where seven seals were met
With booming voice the angel said
To now unseal the scroll
But none was found to meet the task
Not even one lone soul

Refrain

Worthy, worthy, worthy is the Lamb
Worthy, worthy is the Lamb who was slain

Convulsed with tears and broken heart
John’s hope was now assailed
“Weep not,” the elder counseled him,
“A Lion has prevailed!”
No lion came to take his claim
No beast of royal reign
Instead there stood a bloodied Lamb
Like one who had been slain

Refrain

Ten thousand times, ten thousand more
The host of heaven cried
All blessing, honor, glory, and pow’r
To Christ, the Lamb that died

Refrain

Christ the Lamb, who was slain

Father, during this time of the year when we consider the Passion of our Lord, I can do nothing other than fall at the foot of the cross in recognition that He has taken my sin upon Himself and I have nothing to bring other than a broken and contrite heart.  May my life reflect praise for my Lord and my King to whom all glory and honor belongs.  

LAUGHTER, JOY AND LOVE.

We live very close to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

 

Smoky Mountains vista
Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Picture taken of vista that is seen from Cades Cove.

 

In Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a town at the entrance to the Park, there are many things for tourists to do, and among them is having your picture taken while you are dressed up in old-time garb. The resulting picture in sepia tones appears to be very old, perhaps of people who bear a striking resemblance of you but who lived generations ago.

 

One of the requirements when the picture is taken is that you have to look serious. I am told that holding a smile for a period of time is more difficult than holding a frown. Before the days of fast shutter speeds or digital photography, it took time for the image to be exposed, for example, for a tin-type. In short, you had to be still. If you smiled, your mouth would be a blur – if you frowned, or at least were serious, your mouth would be in focus.

 

Here is one picture where the children had an incredible level of seriousness, while Mom, who probably glanced at them just before the camera snapped, seemed to be ready to laugh.

 

old time family picture
Tourist picture of family taken by photographer at an “Old Tyme” studio in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Laughter – Joy – Love. What blessings from the Lord!

Laughter

When I think of laughter in Scripture, the first thought is of Sarah laughing when the angel of the Lord told her husband that she would have a child in her old age. See Genesis 18.

 

Actually, the word for “laughter” is not often used in the Scripture, but the Bible is replete with times that people reveled in the joy that the Lord their God gave to them. I can’t help but think that, in the midst of the glorious joy that they had, the people in Scripture laughed – not in derision, but in sheer joy!

Joy

What can be more infectious than a child’s joy!

 

Happy baby girl (C)
Smiling baby girl showing her joy at her surroundings.

 

The Psalmist wrote numerous psalms about joy, of which this is an example:

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Psalm 32:11 [ESV]

 

Paul wrote in Romans:

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14:17 [ESV]

 

Luke characterized the disciples as follows:

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 13:52 [ESV]

 

What can be more infectious than the joy of a small child? The Joy that the believer has in his/her Lord and Savior. It is a glorious gift from the Holy Spirit.

Love

The number of Scripture passages that deal with love are myriad – the love of God, the love of Jesus Christ, the love we should have for each other – love is written throughout the pages of Scripture. For example:

 

The Psalmist says:

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 13:5-6 [ESV]

 

When I think of God’s love, the first thing that comes to mind is, of course, the cross. But the image that speaks to me about Jesus’ love for His sheep is this one that is hanging in our study at home. The lamb is resting so comfortably on His shoulder and it is being held so tenderly by the nail scarred hands of the Lord.

 

Picture hanging in our office
Picture representing the Lord Jesus holding a lamb on His shoulder. His nail pierced hand is shown and the lamb is secure in His loving grip.

 

Paul, in Romans 5, provides this picture in words when he says:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8 [ESV]

 

Sometimes we want to laugh but the occasion does not warrant it – but even then, our eyes can shine with the joy that we are experiencing. God did not create us without feelings – He clearly wants us to experience laughter, joy and love.

 

While the world experiences a type of joy and love, the fruit of the Spirit encompasses joy and love on an entirely different level. It is joy that is not based on circumstances but on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Spirit that indwells the believer. We will consider the fruit of the Spirit next week when the new series begins on The Ruminant Scribe blog site.

 

Ask the Lord to give you glimpses of His joy and His love through His Spirit. You will be glad you did.

 

Father, thank You for granting to us the incredible blessing of emotions and feelings so that we can experience the summit of love and waves of joy. And, thank You for being with us when we experience difficulties and trials, too. Thank You, Sovereign Lord, for providing us with the Holy Spirit Who gives to us your joy and love now and for all eternity.  We praise your holy name.