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Humility - The Beauty Of Holiness

By Andrew Murray

    The call to humility has been too little regarded in the church, because its true nature and importance has been too little apprehended. Humility is not a something which we bring to God, or He bestows; it is simply the sense of entire nothingness, which comes when we see how truly God is all, and in which we make way for God to be all.  

    When the Christian realizes that this is the true nobility and consents to be with his will, his mind, and his affections, the vessel in which the life and glory of God are to work and manifest themselves, he sees that humility is simply acknowledging the truth of his position as creature, and yielding to God His place.

    In the life of earnest Christians, of those who pursue and profess holiness, humility ought to be the chief mark of their uprightness. It is often said that it is not so. May not one reason be that in the teaching and example of the church, it has never had that place of supreme importance which belongs to it?

    This, in turn, is owing to the neglect of this truth, that as strong as our sinfulness is as a motive to humility, there is a motive of still wider and mightier influence, that which makes the angels, that which made Jesus, that which makes the holiest of saints in heaven so humble. The first and chief mark of the relation of the creature, the secret of his blessedness, is the humility and nothingness which leaves God free to be all.  

    It is not our sinfulness that humbles us most, but grace. It is the soul led through its sinfulness to be occupied with God in His wonderful glory as God, as Creator and Redeemer, that will truly take the lowest place before Him.

    There are many Christians who will confess that their experience has been very much like my own in this, that we had long known the Lord without realizing that meekness and lowliness of heart are to be the distinguishing feature of the disciple as they were of the Master. Furthermore, that this humility is not a thing that will come of itself, but that it must be made the object of special desire and prayer and faith and practice.

    As we study the Word, we shall see what very distinct and oft-repeated instructions Jesus gave His disciples on this point, and how slow they were in understanding Him. There is nothing so natural to man, nothing so insidious and hidden from our sight, nothing so difficult and dangerous – as pride. Let us feel that nothing but a very determined and persevering waiting on God and Christ will discover how lacking we are in the grace of humility and how impotent we are to obtain what we seek.

    Let us study the character of Christ until our souls are filled with the love and admiration of His lowliness. Let us believe that when we are broken down under a sense of our pride and our impotence to cast it out, Jesus Christ Himself will come in to impart this grace, too, as a part of His wondrous life within us.

Our Need of Redemption from Pride

    When the old serpent, he who had been cast out from heaven for his pride, whose whole nature as devil was pride – spoke his words of temptation into the ear of Eve, these words carried with them the very poison of hell. When Eve listened and yielded her desire and her will to the prospect of being as God, knowing good and evil, the poison entered into her soul and blood and life, destroying for ever that blessed humility and dependence upon God which would have been our everlasting happiness.

    Her life and the life of the race that sprang from her became corrupted to its very root with that most terrible of all sins and all curses, the poison of Satan's own pride. All the wretchedness of which this world has been the scene, all its wars and bloodshed among the nations, all its selfishness and suffering, all its ambitions and jealousies, all its broken hearts and embittered lives, with all its daily unhappiness, have their origin in what this cursed, hellish pride, either our own or that of others, has brought us.

    It is pride that made redemption needful. It is from our pride we need above everything to be redeemed. As needful as it is that we confess and deplore pride as our very own, we must know it has satanic origin. If this leads us to utter despair of ever conquering or casting it out, it will lead us all the sooner to that supernatural power in which alone our deliverance is to be found – the redemption of the Lamb of God.

    The hopeless struggle against the workings of self and pride within us may indeed become still more hopeless as we think of the power of darkness behind it all. The utter despair will fit us the better for realizing and accepting a power and a life outside of ourselves too, even the humility of heaven as brought down and brought nigh by the Lamb of God, to cast out Satan and his pride.

    No tree can grow except on the root from which it sprang. Even as we need to look to the first Adam and his fall to know the power of the sin within us, we need to know well the Second Adam and His power to give within us a life of humility as real and abiding and overmastering as has been that of pride. We have our life from and in Christ as truly or more truly than from and in Adam. We are to walk "rooted in Him," holding fast "the Head from whom the whole body increaseth with the increase of God" (Col. 2:19).

    Our one need is to study and know and trust the life that has been revealed in Christ as the life that is now ours, and waits for our consent to gain possession and mastery of our whole being. The chief characteristic, the root and essence of all His character as our Redeemer is His humility. What is the incarnation but His heavenly humility, His emptying Himself and becoming man? What is His life on earth but humility, His taking the form of a servant? What is His atonement but humility? "He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death" (Phil. 2:8).  What is His ascension and His glory, but humility exalted to the throne and crowned with glory? "He humbled Himself...wherefore God hath highly exalted Him" (Phil. 2:9).

    If humility is the first, the all-including grace of the life of Jesus – if humility is the secret of His atonement – then the health and strength of our spiritual life will entirely depend upon our putting this grace first too, and making humility the chief thing we admire in Him, the chief thing we ask of Him, the one thing for which we sacrifice all else.

The Humility of Jesus

    Listen to the words in which our Lord Jesus speaks of His relation to the Father, and see how unceasingly He uses the words not and nothing of Himself. The not I in which Paul expresses his relation to Christ, is the very spirit of what Christ says of His relation to the Father.

    "The Son can do nothing of Himself" (John 5:19).

    "I can of My own self do nothing; My judgment is just, because I seek not Mine own will" (John 5:30).

    "I receive not glory from men" (John 5:41).

    "I am come not to do Mine own will" (John 6:38).

    "My teaching is not Mine" (John 7:16).

    "I am not come of Myself" (John 7:28).

    "I do nothing of Myself" (John 8:28).

    "I have not come of Myself, but He sent Me" (John 8:42).

    "I seek not Mine own glory" (John 8:50).

    "The words that I say, I speak not from Myself" (John 14:10).

    "The word which ye hear is not Mine" (John 14:24).

    These words open to us the deepest roots of Christ's life and work. They tell us how it was that the Almighty God was able to work His mighty redemption work through Him. They show what Christ counted the state of heart which became Him as the Son of the Father. They teach us what the essential nature and life is of that redemption which Christ accomplished and now communicates.

    It is this: He was nothing, that God might be all. He resigned Himself with His will and His powers entirely for the Father to work in Him. This life of entire self-abnegation, of absolute submission and dependence upon the Father's will, Christ found to be one of perfect peace and joy. He lost nothing by giving all to God. God honored His trust, and did all for Him, and then exalted Him to His own right hand in glory.

    Because Christ had humbled Himself before God, and God was ever before Him, He found it possible to humble Himself before men, too, and to be the Servant of all. His humility was simply the surrender of Himself to God, to allow Him to do in Him what He pleased, whatever men around might say of Him or do to Him.

    It is to bring into us this disposition that we are made partakers of Christ. This is the true self-denial to which our Saviour calls us, the acknowledgment that self has nothing good in it except as an empty vessel which God must fill, and that its claim to be or do anything may not for a moment be allowed. It is in this, above and before everything, in which the conformity to Jesus consists, the being and doing nothing of ourselves, that God may be all.

    It is when the truth of an indwelling Christ takes the place it claims in the experience of believers, that the church will put on her beautiful garments, and humility be seen in her teachers and members as the beauty of holiness.

Humility in Daily Life

    "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4:20).

    What a solemn thought that our love to God will be measured by our everyday association with men and the love it displays! How solemn that our love to God will be found to be a delusion except as it is proved by standing the test of daily life with our fellow men! It is the same with our humility. It is easy to think we humble ourselves before God. Humility toward men will be the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real and that humility has taken up its abode in us and become our very nature and that we actually, like Christ, have made ourselves of no reputation.

    When in the presence of God lowliness of heart has become, not a posture we assume for a time when we think of Him or pray to Him, but the very spirit of our life, it will manifest itself in all our bearing toward our brethren. This lesson is one of deep importance. The only humility that is really ours is not that which we try to show before God in prayer, but that which we carry with us and carry out in our ordinary conduct.

    The insignificances of daily life are the importances and the tests of eternity because they prove what really is the spirit that possesses us. It is in our most unguarded moments that we really show and see what we are. To know the humble man, to know how the humble man behaves, you must follow him in the common course of daily life.

    It is in our relation to one another, in our treatment of one another, that the true lowliness of mind and the heart of humility are to be seen. Our humility before God has no value but as it prepares us to reveal the humility of Jesus to our fellow men.

    The humble man seeks at all times to act up to the rule, "In honor preferring one another" (Rom. 12:10); "servants one of another" (Gal. 5:13); "each counting others better than himself" (Phil. 2:3); subjecting yourselves one to another" (Eph. 5:21).

    The question is often asked, how can we count others better than ourselves when we see that they are far below us in wisdom and in holiness, in natural gifts or in grace received. The question proves how little we understand what real lowliness of mind is.

    True humility comes when, in the light of God, we have seen ourselves to be nothing, have consented to part with and cast away self, to let God be all. The soul that has done this and can say, So have I lost myself in finding Thee, no longer compares itself with others. It has given up forever every thought of self in God's presence. It meets its fellow men as one who is nothing and seeks nothing for itself, who is a servant of God and for His sake, a servant of all.

    A faithful servant may be wiser than the master and yet retain the true spirit and posture of the servant. The humble man looks upon every child of God, the feeblest and unworthiest, and honors him and prefers him in honor as the son of a King. The spirit of Him who washed the disciples' feet makes it a joy to us to be indeed the least, to be servants one of another.

    The humble man feels no jealousy or envy. 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 learned to say with Paul, "I am nothing" (2 Cor. 12:11). He has received the spirit of Jesus, who pleased not Himself (Rom. 15:3), and sought not His own honor, as the spirit of his life.

    Amid what are considered the temptations to impatience and touchiness, to hard thoughts and sharp words which come from the failings and sins of fellow Christians, the humble man carries the oft-repeated exhortation in his heart and shows it in his life: "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another...even as Christ forgave you" (Col. 3:13).

    He has learned that in putting on the Lord Jesus he has put on the heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and long-suffering. Jesus has taken the place of self, and it is not an impossibility to forgive as Jesus forgave. His humility does not consist merely in thoughts or words of self-depreciation, but, as Paul puts it, in a heart of humility, encompassed by compassion and kindness, meekness and long-suffering – the sweet and lowly gentleness recognized as the mark of the Lamb of God.

    In striving after the higher experiences of the Christian life, the believer is often in danger of aiming at and rejoicing in what one might call the more human, the manly virtues, such as boldness, joy, contempt of the world, zeal, self-sacrifice. Even the old Stoics taught and practiced these.

    The deeper and gentler, the diviner and more heavenly graces, those which Jesus first taught upon earth because He brought them from heaven – those which are more distinctly connected with His cross and the death of self-poverty of spirit, meekness, humility, lowliness – are scarcely thought of or valued. Therefore let us put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, and let us prove our Christ-likeness, not only in our zeal for saving the lost, but before all, in our relationship with the brethren, forbearing and forgiving one another, even as the Lord forgave us.

    Let us look upon every brother or sister who tries or vexes us, as God's means of grace, God's instrument for our purification, for our exercise of the humility Jesus our Life breathes within us. Let us have such faith in God being all and self being nothing, that we may in God's power seek only to serve one another in love.

True Holiness

    In the Christian, humility is the one thing needed to allow God's holiness to dwell in him and shine through him. The one infallible test of our holiness will be the humility before God and men that marks us. Humility is the bloom and the beauty of holiness. The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is its lack of humility.

    One may have had times of great humbling and brokenness, but what a different thing this is from being clothed with humility, from having a humble spirit, from having that lowliness of mind in which each counts himself the servant of others and so shows forth the very mind which was also in Christ Jesus.

    May God teach us that our thoughts and words and feelings concerning our fellow men are His test of our humility toward Him, and that our humility before Him is the only power that can enable us to be always humble with our fellow men. Our humility must be the life of Christ, the Lamb of God, within us.

    In our desires and searching after holiness, let us beware lest we find that we have been delighting in beautiful thoughts and feelings, in solemn acts of consecration and faith, while the only sure mark of the presence of God, the disappearance of self, was all the time lacking. Come and let us flee to Jesus and hide ourselves in Him until we be clothed upon with His humility. That alone is our holiness!

    – Arranged from the book Humility – The Beauty Of Holiness.