“They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.’ To this John replied, ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah 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.’ The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all.” (John 3:26-31)
John is not only being clear. He is being profound. Whatever we have, whatever we are, along with any gifts that make up our being, come to us because of God. We cannot praise ourselves for those things. John also states that now that the bridegroom has arrived, John’s role would diminish. So should ours. The more we submit to Jesus, the greater He can work in and through us.
John states succinctly, “He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.” (John 3:33-35)
What a tremendous truth! Those who BELIEVE that Jesus is God the Son and that He came to offer a way of salvation are literally sealed by God. This seal is unbreakable. It provides eternal life. Notice John says that Jesus as the Son of Man (a title for deity) speaks the very words of God. Why? Because Jesus IS God in the flesh.
What John is saying is that those who are true believers in Jesus have eternal life. At the same time, it is because of that eternal life that God begins to change a person from within so that they become obedient to His will. This is the process of growing in Christ.
Meekness is an attitude or quality of heart [1 Peter 3:4] whereby a person willingly accepts and submits without resistance to the will and desires of someone else. To be meek is to deny self. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Humility is an attitude or quality of mind [Acts 20:19] whereby a person holds low esteem or opinion of his own goodness and importance. Spiritually, one abases himself because he realizes his sinfulness and therefore he is willing to depend on God to meet His needs. It is the opposite of pride, haughtiness, and self-exaltation. As directed toward God, meekness and humility require the following:
- We Must Recognize Our Sinfulness and Our Dependence On God.
- We Must Submit To God’s Commands.
- We Must Accept Circumstances of Life According to God’s Will.
- We Must Resist Error and False Teaching in the Lives of Others.
In James 4:6-10, we learn four marks that define Christ-like humbleness that should help any Christian who feels distant from God to draw near to him again:
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:6-10)
Submission is a posture of the body, mind, will and spirit. It’s a decision where you decide that, in everything you do, you’re going to put Jesus first, others second, and yourself last. Submission requires the humbleness to give up the control you have over your life, and the faith to give that control over to the God who is unseen. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Spiritual Mourning is an inner awakening of the vast offenses you have committed against your just and holy Creator. It is the understanding that you can do nothing to save yourself, and that apart from God’s mercy, you would be condemned to hell. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” (Matthew 5:4) is the promised blessing intended for sinners who feel the guilt and the scars of their sins that nailed him upon the cross.
Repentance may be the most difficult mark of humbleness. It is easy to ask for forgiveness and receive forgiveness – but it’s a whole lot harder when you actually have to change the way that you’re living and repent from hypocrisy. True repentance is the evidence that we are actively turning away from our worldly passions. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” (Acts 3:19)
Prayer is an expression of our dependence on God, that we desperately need his help. James is warning us against proud, selfish prayers. The very act of asking anything from God should emerge out of our humble dependency upon him, not some misplaced sense of entitlement. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15)
God says when you are humble, you are free from pride and arrogance. You know that in your flesh you are inadequate, yet you also know who you are in Christ. “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Romans 12:3) You can walk humbly in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in your own strength.
The picture of humility in the Bible is one of a strong person who loves others. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) Humility is recognizing that you need God’s help, knowing you can’t truly succeed in your own strength. It is thanking God for your talents and gifts, and giving him credit for your accomplishments. It is being comfortable with who you are in Christ and seeking to build others up, not yourself. It is gratefully walking in God’s grace, love, and forgiveness.
In the Bible, Jesus gives us a good example of humility in action. Although he was the son of God, he was gentle and humble–and he was strong. “I am gentle and humble in heart.” (Matthew 11:29) Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8)
Those who say they are Christians but never submit themselves to God’s will in obedience need to ask themselves what Christianity means to them. If they are not actually living the life, then something is wrong.
He who came down from heaven is truly above all things. He is greater than all things because apart from God, everything has been created. Submit yourself to Him as God of gods and Lord of lords. He and He alone deserves our praise, our obedience, our love.