Revival Is A Humbling Time
By Roger Ellsworth
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:17).
"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Is. 57:15).
"He giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble…Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up" (Jas. 4:6,10).
"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time" (1 Pet. 5:5-6).
There can be no revival among God’s people until they are broken with humility. The best-loved of all revival texts says: "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves...then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chr. 7:14).
To be humble is to be "low lying." It is to have a lowliness of mind and spirit. It is, of course, the opposite of pride which amounts to us being intoxicated with ourselves: our gifts, our looks, our position, our accomplishments. Nothing is more repugnant and distasteful in the Christian than pride. The proud-hearted Christian is a sickening sight. It almost seems as if "proud Christian" is a contradictory term, but sadly enough, it is not. Christians enter into God’s family through the door of humility, but once in they can be filled with pride.
The above verses warn us about the danger of pride by commending humility to us. They call for us to think about two very important aspects of humility: what produces it and what it produces.
What Produces Humility
The remembrance of sin and mercy. One humility-producer for the Christian is the remembrance of his sin and of the greatness of God’s mercy.
It is good for us to remember often our sinful condition. Many today think they are not sinners at all, or if they are, it is not very serious. The Christian knows better! He knows that he came into this world with a sinful nature that was indisposed toward God and harbored hostility for Him. The Christian is one who has understood the seriousness of sin. He found it impossible to lightly dismiss his sin or to shrug it off. He came to see that he must give account of himself to a perfectly holy God. He is one who came to understand that the vital question is not how we stack up against others but rather how we stack up against God. The Christian is one who has recognized that he was both deserving of God’s judgment and bound for it.
But thank God, the Christian is one who also remembers often the mercy of God. The Christian has received that mercy. God did not have to do anything to provide a way of forgiveness for sinners. He would have been just and fair if He had allowed sinners to stay in their sin and then plunged them into eternal destruction. But because God is merciful, He desired to rescue sinners from their sin and to make them His own children.
In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul recalls both our sinfulness and God’s mercy. He reminds his readers that they had been "dead in trespasses and sins" and that they "once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air." Furthermore, he says they had once conducted themselves in the lusts of the flesh and had fulfilled the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Having said these things he triumphantly writes: "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…" (Eph. 2:1-5).
Every swelling of pride goes away when the Christian rethinks his unworthiness and God’s mercy. Derek Kidner rightly observes: "God is looking for the heart that knows how little it deserves, how much it owes."
Myself my gift; let my devotion prove
Forgiven greatly, how I greatly love.
The redeeming work of Christ. Another great humility-producer is the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the channel through which the mercy of God flows to guilty sinners. There is no forgiveness apart from Him. He came to provide it.
Now think for a moment about what it cost Christ to provide our salvation. What did it require of Him? It required this: He had to stoop in humility. He had to strip Himself of the trappings of glory and take unto Himself our humanity, and in that humanity He had to render perfect obedience to the law of God and receive in it the punishment our sins deserve.
The Apostle Peter may very well have called to mind the humility of Christ when he called upon his readers to be "clothed with humility" (1 Pet. 5:5). Those words do not give us the full force of what he was saying. The Greek word translated "be clothed" means "bind on yourself the clothing of a slave."
One cannot help but wonder if the apostle, as he wrote those words, called to mind that unforgettable moment when Jesus, on the night before His crucifixion, girded Himself with the clothing of a slave and went about washing the feet of the disciples (Jn. 13:3-10).
What Jesus did on that occasion was nothing less than a miniature picture of His whole work of redemption. His removal of His garments to don the garb of a slave, His serving the disciples, and His donning again of His own garments take us to the very heart of His work. Christ stripped Himself of His royal garments, served and then put His heavenly garments on again. And He did it all so we might be saved.
The Apostle Paul perfectly captured the redeeming work of Christ by saying He "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" (Phil. 2:7-8).
Paul did not share these words to merely inform the Philippians. He shared them so that the Philippians would themselves follow the example of Christ. Before he begins to detail the humility of Christ, Paul says to his readers: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…" (Phil. 2:5).
We could go on and on with the things that produce humility. There is, for instance, the grandeur and the glory of God (Is. 57:15), and there is the greatness of the Christian’s tasks (for example 1 Kings 3:6-14). Let us proceed, however, to consider what humility produces.
What Humility Produces
Several things could be mentioned under this heading. On the basis of our texts, we can say that God offers unusual blessings and usefulness to the humble-hearted.
The Lord tells us that He is pleased to dwell with the one who has "a contrite and humble spirit" (Is. 57:15). The book of James tells us that the Lord gives grace to the humble and He lifts them up (Jas. 4:6,10). The book of 1 Peter informs us that the Lord exalts in due time those who humble themselves (1 Pet. 5:6).
What all is involved in these remarkable promises? We may be sure that we will never succeed in completely understanding them as long as we are in this world. But this much is clear: there is a special closeness to God, grace to face life’s toils and trials and encouragement in the same, and eventual vindication for those who walk in humility before the Lord. What blessings humility produces!
But there is more. Humility or meekness of spirit also enables us to hear and heed the Word of God. That Word is the spiritual food that enables the Christian to grow (1 Pet. 2:2). But even as food sitting on the table will not benefit us unless we eat it, so the Word of God will not benefit us unless we appropriate it. How do we appropriate it? James says we must "receive with meekness the implanted word" (Jas. 1:21).
The Word of God confronts and challenges us at many points. The proud heart resists this. It makes us defensive and combative as the Word pierces us. But the humble heart agrees with the Word, submits to it and acts on the basis of it.
One of the ways the Word most challenges us is through its calls to confess our sins (Jas. 4:8-9; 5:16; 1 John 1:9). If we have sinned against God, we must confess it to Him. If we have sinned against a brother or sister in Christ, we must confess it to God and to that brother or sister in Christ. How the proud heart fights against this duty! The proud heart begins to justify, rationalize and blame. The humble heart, on the other hand, readily cries out: "I have sinned!"
Finally, we can say the humble heart gives us reason to expect revival. The Lord says: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Is. 57:15).
While we understand that revival is finally locked up in the sovereignty of God and cannot be produced by men, we can say that God is more likely to move upon people who are broken by their sins and humble before Him. As we seek revival, let us join together in resolving that we will discard our pride and humble ourselves before God. In so doing, we will at least hoist our sails to catch the wind of heaven if and when it blows.