Until Jesus Christ came, humility was considered a weakness and not a virtue. It’s not difficult to understand why humility would be frowned upon when pride rules in the hearts of the natural man. However, pride also overcomes many of the saints. So I conclude that humility isn’t natural to us, it is of divine origin. Therefore, to know true humility, one must know God. How well do you know God? Do you recognize the humility of Christ in your life?
Matthew 11:28-30, Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Philippians 2:5-11, Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Know Jesus, Know God
We know God by knowing Jesus. We learn about Him by reading the Bible, then meditating on what we read until the Holy Spirit makes His presence known to us by giving us insight and understanding. Jesus is known by experience as we meet Him personally and fellowship with Him. Knowing Him by experience changes our thinking, then our attitudes, and then our lives.
A Working Definition of Humility
One of my favorite and most helpful definitions of humility is this: Humility is recognizing that everything I have and need comes from God. Let me explain why this understanding of humility is so meaningful. First, it’s an attitude of heart that affects everything a person does and says. Here’s how Jesus explained His humble attitude. “So Jesus said, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me’” (John 8:28). That’s the humility of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Every action and word originated with His Father and not Himself. Jesus understood why He was sent. He loved His Father and came into this world to reveal Him. He recognized that everything in His life comes from His Father. Humility, then, is understanding that our words and actions should come from Him.
The second reason this understanding of humility is meaningful is that it gives us a basis for worshiping God in every relationship or circumstance in life. Two illustrations of this kind of thinking come to mind. Jesus’ response to Pilate during His inquisition shows His humility. “So Pilate said to Him, ‘Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above’” (John 19:10-11).
When the disciples were commanded not to teach or heal in the name of Jesus, they responded with this humility. “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur” (Acts 4:27-28). In both cases, each one recognized that whatever was happening was given to them by God for His purposes and glory. That’s humility.
What Does the Humility of God Look Like?
Philippians 2 fleshes out the humility of God. First, one must experience Jesus’ humility toward him or herself, which reveals itself in consoling love, affection, compassion, and fellowship (2:1). Then, all who experience interaction with Jesus should become intentional about expressing His humility as the purpose of their lives (2:2). As you read through Chapter 2 you discover what the humility of Christ looks like:
- doing nothing from selfishness (2:3)
- thinking about the interests of others above yourself (2:4)
- emptying yourself to serve others (2:7)
- and willingly bearing the sins and weaknesses of the flesh (2:8)
- without grumbling or complaining (2:14)
- because you know that the situation comes from God who is at work in you to both will and do His pleasure (2:13)
Paul admonished his readers to have the same attitude that was in Christ Jesus. The only attitude mentioned was humility—with humility of mind (2:3) and He humbled Himself (2:8). I encourage you to meditate on those characteristics of humility listed above.
You Won’t Know Jesus Until You Intentionally Have His Humility
It is in Paul’s letter to the Philippians that he wrote that his purpose in life was to know Jesus Christ by experience (3:3-12). , I think you’ll discover, as I have, that as you intentionally look to Jesus Christ to live in you and express His humility in you, you’ll know Him more personally and enter into a deeper fellowship with Him. As I look at His selflessness that saved me and empty myself before speaking or responding, I experience His peace and love for others and thus know Him experientially. As I receive a difficult situation or relationship as an act of God in my life, I learn as well in a small way what it was like for Jesus to humble Himself and bear my sins and fleshliness. When I experience God at work in me giving me both the desire and grace to do the Father’s pleasure, I enter into the same grace Jesus experienced as He tasted death for me. As I ask Jesus to help me humble myself and empty myself of grumbling and complaining, I discover firsthand the humility of Jesus. Just as He recognized that everything that happened to Him in life was to be received from His Father, I learn that with Jesus in me, I can have the same humility of mind. The purpose of the difficulties in relationships and circumstances is so I can know Jesus as I learn from Him!
The Humility of Christ Produces Rest
When we don’t receive everything in life as from our Father and we don’t look to Him for everything we need (which I’m suggesting is the essence of humility), there’s only one other reaction we can experience as things happen: fight against them and try to change them. Now think this through with me. God has willed for you to be conformed to the image of His Son and to know His Son through suffering. So He allows difficult circumstances or relationships in your life. You don’t like that, so you grumble and complain as you try to either get out of the situation/relationship or try to control the situation/relationship to your liking. In pride, you make everything all about your own comfort and happiness. What’s happening inside you as you respond in this way? Don’t you experience fear, anger, frustration, stress, and destruction? (I’m certain you could add other negative consequences to this list.)
However, when we recognize that God is at work in everything and we look to Him for the grace to know Christ in all things, we experience His rest. We can learn from Him as we go to Him and ask Him to fill us with His humility. He teaches us that He is lowly and humble of heart. He opens our eyes to see how we can empty ourselves, think of others, serve them, and bear the burden by the grace He provides. Sometimes bearing the burden of others’ sins calls for confrontation, discipline, and maybe even avoidance. Jesus displayed all of these in specific situations. At other times, bearing the burden of others’ sins calls for silence, patience, and forbearance. However, forgiveness is always a part of humility. When God’s grace is flowing in our lives, whatever He places in our lives becomes easy and light, and we know Jesus more deeply and intimately.
Do you know Jesus?
When you step back and look at yourself in the presence of Christ, what does He see? Do you know Him? Are you intentionally seeking to know Him in your circumstances and relationships by taking His yoke upon yourself, learning humility from Him, and entering into His rest?
“Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest…Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, ‘Today,’ saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, ‘Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.’ For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience (Heb. 4:1-3, 7-11).
May the Holy Spirit fill you with the humility of Christ so you may know Him more deeply and intimately.