Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Humility of Christ

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Some of you are familiar with the writings of Andrew Murray, who was a South African pastor and author. He lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He said if we were to ask, “'What is Jesus’ chief characteristic—the root and essence of all His character as our Redeemer?' there can be only one answer." What would you say?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, March 13, 2015.

Nancy is continuing to focus on Jesus in a series called "The Incomparable Christ."

So, what is the number one characteristic of Christ?

Nancy: Here’s what Andrew Murray had to say: “It is His humility.”1

The call to humility is a recurring theme in Jesus’ ministry here on earth. He said:

“Blessed are the meek”—the humble ones (Matt. 5:5).

“He who is least among you all is the one who is great" (Luke 9:48).

“He who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11).

Now, this whole teaching on humility was revolutionary in Jesus’ day. In fact, the ancient world had no word in Greek or Latin to communicate the Christian ideal of humility. So for Jesus to portray meekness or humility as something positive and desirable was radically different than the thinking of His day, and, I might add, it’s radically different than the thinking of our day.

Ancient philosophers thought of the word lowly, for example, as meaning cowardly or timid. Many considered humility a vice, not a virtue. So here comes Jesus to the earth, and He introduces a whole new set of values—the polar opposite of what the world values.

By the way, that’s the way it is with Christ’s kingdom. It’s just the opposite of the kingdom of this world, and nowhere is that more obvious than in this whole matter of humility.

By His example and by His teaching, Jesus introduced the concept of humility as a grace. He elevated it to a virtue.

Andrew Murray has written a wonderful little book called Humility. If you can get a hold of it, do so. Mine is marked up, underlined, highlighted, notes in the margins, dog-eared, corners turned down. It's a little book worth its weight in gold by Andrew Murray called Humility.

He says,

Humility is the recognition that we owe everything to God . . . humility is to be nothing, so that God may be all. . . . Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is the first duty and the highest virtue of man. It is the root of every virtue.

The first duty and the highest virtue of man; the root of every virtue.

Now, if humility is the root of every virtue, then pride is at the root of every sin—beginning at that moment when Lucifer exalted himself to be like God. He rebelled against God’s authority, and he was cast out of heaven.

It was pride that severed our relationship with God there in the Garden of Eden. So, to be reconciled to God, to be restored to fellowship with God, required the restoration of the humility that we lost at the Fall. Make sense? Pride broke our relationship with God. So, for that relationship to be restored, there had to be a restoration of humility. But how was that to happen? We were too proud to be humble.

Andrew Murray says—and I love this quote,

Jesus Christ took the place and fulfilled the destiny of man by His life of perfect humility. His humility is our salvation. His salvation is our humility. Therefore, study the humility of Jesus. This is the secret, the hidden root of your redemption.

So that’s what I want us to do today—to study the humility of Jesus. Now, we could spend a whole series on the humility of Jesus. It’s demonstrated in so many ways throughout His earthly life and ministry, but let’s look at what some of those ways are.

First of all, the humility of Christ is demonstrated in His Incarnation. We’ve talked about that in this series on the incomparable Christ. That moment when Christ, who is equal with God, took on human flesh and came to this earth. He laid aside the majesty, the splendor of heaven and took on the limitations of our humanity.

His humility is seen as He was born to a poor, teenage girl in humble circumstances—no pomp, no circumstance, no fanfare . . . a manger, an ox stall, a cattle stall in a stable.

His humility is seen as He laid aside His rights, His privileges, and the independent exercise of His divine rights and attributes.

C.S. Lewis says it this way:

The doctrine of the incarnation is emphatically at the center of Christianity, that the Son of God came down. [humility] No seed ever fell so far from a tree into so dark and cold a soil as the Son of God did. [His humility]1

There’s a wonderful Christmas poem that was written in the 17th century by Richard Crashaw that expresses the humiliation of Christ coming to this earth. Now, it’s old language, so you have to listen carefully, but I think you’ll get the heart of it:

That the Great Angel-blinding light should shrink
His blaze, to shine in a poor Shepherd's eye;
That the unmeasur'd God so low should sink
As Pris'ner in a few poor rags to lie;
That from His Mother's Breast He milk should drink,
Who feeds with Nectar Heaven's fair family;
That a vile Manger His low Bed should prove,
Who in a Throne of stars Thunders above;
That He whom the sun serves, should faintly peep
Through clouds of Infant Flesh! That He, the old
Eternal Word should be a Child, and weep;
That He who made the fire, should fear the cold;
That Heaven's high Majesty His Court should keep
In a clay cottage . . . .
That Glory's self should serve our Griefs and fears,
And free Eternity submit to years,
Let our overwhelming wonder be.

The Incarnation—Christ stooping down. It’s a demonstration of His humility, but the humility of Christ was not just demonstrated when He was born as a baby in Bethlehem. It was demonstrated all through His life and ministry here on earth.

Now, at a human level, Jesus had much of which He could have boasted—His background, His gifts, His abilities, His knowledge, His inheritance, His royal heritage, and on and on. Yet, the Scripture says—and He says of Himself—that He was “lowly in spirit.” (Isn’t it ironic, by the way, that we who have nothing in which to boast or glory should proudly exalt ourselves? It’s so backwards!)

So how did Jesus demonstrate humility during His life and ministry here on earth? Well, the Scripture says He did not seek honor or praise from men, but only from God.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I do not receive glory from people” (5:41); “I do not seek my own glory” (8:50). When we seek glory or praise from men, we’re demonstrating a proud heart. But Jesus had a humble heart. He said, “I don’t seek My own glory. I don’t seek praise from men.”

We see His humility in the fact that He was totally dependent on His Heavenly Father—not independent, but dependent.

John chapter 5, Jesus said, “The Son can do nothing of his own accord” (v. 19). “I can do nothing on my own” (v. 30).

John 8: “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me” (v. 28). By the way, that humble dependence on His Father was seen nowhere more clearly than in His prayer life. We’ll talk about that in an upcoming session.

His humility was seen in His serving. He always sought the best interests of others. He placed their needs above His own well-being. We see Jesus coming to the disciples after they had just had a side argument about which of them was greatest, and then they come in for dinner, and what does Jesus do? He takes the lowly place of a bondservant—a slave—and He washes the disciples’ feet. He stoops to serve the servants. His humility was seen in His serving.

His humility is seen in what we call His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, which we’ll be celebrating a couple of weeks from now on Palm Sunday. That Triumphal Entry fulfilled the words that the prophet Zechariah said, “Behold, your king is coming to you, [how?] humble, and mounted on a donkey" (9:9). Warrior kings, when they would ride into town, they would come in on a horse. If a king came in on a donkey, that was a sign of peace, not war.

The Jews of that day expected the Messiah to come as a conquering warrior, but He came instead as a humble King on a mission of peace. Because He didn’t fit their expectation of what a conquering king should look like, they rejected Him. They missed Him. It was His humility that caused them to miss Him.

His humility was not only seen in His serving and in His humble entry into Jerusalem, but it was seen in His suffering, His response to insults and to injury as throughout His life and then even more so toward the end of His earthly life, the Passion of Christ, as we’re going to be studying it over these next few weeks, He was maligned. His character was slandered. He was accused of being demon-possessed, a drunkard, a glutton, crazy.

I can only say that my instinct, under those circumstances, likely would be to defend myself, to defend my reputation, to resent those who misunderstand or criticize me, to retaliate by criticizing them in return. But Christ did none of those things. Instead, He humbled Himself.

Then His humility is seen not in all those aspects of His life here on earth, but His humility is seen ultimately in His death. What does Philippians 2 say? “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death” (v. 8). We see that humility as He takes His final breath, and He says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46)—a humble submission of Himself to His Father.

His humility is seen in that absolute submission to the will of His Father. All through His life, in coming to this earth, in the life He lived here on this earth, in His suffering, His passion, His death—submission to the will of the Father. It’s an expression of humility, His humble, lowly heart.

And then, by the way, we need to remember that Jesus will always be humble through all of eternity. He wasn’t just humble when He got to the cross, but then He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. He didn’t lose His humility. He’s still the humble, incarnate God.

First Corinthians 15 tells us:

When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him [that is, to God] who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all (v. 28).

What’s that saying? (There’s a lot of subjection in that verse.) The Scripture is saying in that passage that God is in the process of bringing all things into the subjection to the feet of Christ. But when it’s all come under the feet of Christ, what will Christ do? He will place Himself in subjection to the One who subjected all things to Him so that God can be all in all—ever the humble, incarnate God.

When we see John’s vision in the book of Revelation, chapters 4 and 5, where he sees the resplendent, holy God seated on His throne, who does John see next to the throne? How does Christ appear in that picture? John said, “I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (5:6)—the humble Son of God—ever the humble, incarnate God, for all of eternity.

In his book called Miracles, C. S. Lewis gives us some wonderful word pictures of the humility and the humiliation of Christ. Let me read part of that to you. He says:

In the Christian story, God . . . comes down, down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity, down to the very roots and seabed of the humanity which He Himself created. But He goes down to come up again and bring ruined sinners up with Him. [emphasis added]

One has the picture of a strong man, stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift. He must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.

Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay. And then up again, back to color and light, his lungs almost bursting till suddenly he breaks the surface again holding in his hand the dripping precious thing that he went down to recover.

Isn’t that a great picture of the humble, redemptive work of Christ? Let me just read to you that passage, which is so familiar to most of us, but it’s one we need to read over and over and over again. Let me just wash our hearts in the Word.

Philippians chapter 2, verses 5–11—and think about that strong man stooping lower and lower to get under that burden, to lift it up; think about that diver going down into the slimy depths, those dark places, to rescue a precious thing and bring it back up again. Think about those pictures as I read to you from Philippians 2:

Have this mind among yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing [down] taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

That God may be all in all. He stooped. He went down, down, down, down to rescue us, to bring us up. So God exalted Him. But our hope of eternal exaltation, being rescued from the depths of our sinfulness, is in the fact that Christ humbled Himself and went down on that rescue mission.

Let me go back to one more quote from this wonderful book on humility by Andrew Murray. Murray says,

Is it any wonder that the Christian life is so often feeble and fruitless, when the very root of the Christ life is neglected, is unknown? . . . If humility be 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. . . . Oh for the humility of Jesus in myself and all around me!

So, how do we cultivate humility? I think the starting place is to realize that we don’t have it, that it doesn’t come naturally to us. It is a grace. It’s something that God gives, but we’re also called to humble ourselves. It’s a choice we make. What brings us to make that choice? What gets us off our high horse, off of our pride and our self-sufficiency and our independent spirit? What brings us to a place of humility where we would rather be humble than proud? As Murray said, “Study the humility of Christ. Consider Christ.”

Jesus said in Matthew chapter 11,

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle [or meek, as the King James says] and humble in heart, [some of your translations say lowly in heart—I am meek, gentle, humble, lowly in heart. Learn from Me] and you will find rest for your souls (v. 29 NASB).

Murray says,

It is only by the indwelling of Christ in His divine humility that we become truly humble.We have our pride from another, from Adam; we must have our humility from Another [capital A], too.

It’s Christ in us, the perfectly humble Christ, who becomes our source of humility. He motivates us to be humble. He enables us to be humble. He is our humility—Christ within us. “Learn from Me. I am meek and humble in heart.”

  • Meditate on Him.
  • Contemplate His humility, His servanthood, His love and the lengths to which He stooped to rescue us.
  • And then above all, meditate often on the cross. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look upon the cross. See Him suffering, bleeding, dying, going down, down, down, down into those depths to rescue the likes of us.

Meditate on Christ. Meditate on the cross. For:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.2

Oh, thank You, thank You, Jesus, for choosing the pathway of humility. For stooping, for coming down, for going down, for reaching down, for stooping down out of love, submission, obedience to the will of Your Father, and out of a longing, a desire to rescue us, and to make us Your prized treasure and possession. Thank You for lifting us up by Your humility.

So today, Lord Jesus, we lift You up. We exalt You. Yours is the name above every name. You are the incomparable, humble Christ, and we love You. Forgive us for exalting ourselves, for our pride, our foolishness, our independent spirits, our waywardness, our rebellion against You. May we this day humble ourselves as You have humbled Yourself that You may pour out grace, the grace of Christ on us this day. I pray this in Jesus’ holy name, amen.

Leslie: I’m motivated to worship Jesus for His incredible humility after hearing that message from Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

This entire teaching series has helped me appreciate the character of Jesus in a whole new way. The series is called “The Incomparable Christ.” And it’s opening my eyes to aspects of Christ’s life and ministry day after day.

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I find scriptural encouragement from Revive Our Hearts that I don’t get from many others. The Lord has used this program to help me examine my own heart as I am battling the enemy.

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Can you imagine the stress Jesus was under? He was constantly criticized. He invested in the lives of friends who didn’t understand Him, and He had a huge assignment from God. Yet the life of Jesus was marked by serenity. Learn serenity from Him. We’ll talk about it Monday on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1C. S. Lewis. Miracles. p. 401.
2 Issac Watts. "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."

 

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