Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Humility (page 1 of 6)

Satan Loves Our Self-Loathing

Sometimes we do the things we hate. And sometimes we get confused and begin to hate ourselves for the things we’ve done.

There is a world of difference between ‘walking in the light’ while confessing our sins (1 John 1.7-10) and letting our sins define our identity. While it is appropriate to mourn our sin (Matthew 5.4), it is not appropriate to hate ourselves.

In the heat of the moment of regret and shame, we can almost think that self-loathing is good and right and biblical (after all, we have offended a Holy God and become unclean!). But in truth, God never calls us to hate ourselves.

The truth is that God loves us (John 3.16, 1 John 4.10). And the only one who loves our self-loathing is Satan.

Why?

1. Because when I loathe myself I loathe someone created in the image of God

Proverbs 17.5 says ‘whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker.’ James writes that the tongue ‘is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so’ (James 3.8-10).

What I say about people, I say about God. This is true whether I am demeaning other humans or myself. Even inward, self-loathing insults my Maker, in whose image I was created.

2. Because it diminishes my joy

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The Guy I Don’t Want to Be

There are lots of things I don’t want to be. Right near the top of the list is stupid. I definitely don’t want to be stupid. Whatever it takes to avoid being the stupid guy, I want to learn that and be that.

Proverbs 12.1 tells us who the ‘stupid’ guy is, from a biblical perspective. It says ‘Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.’

I think there are at least a few ways that you can be biblically stupid, in keeping with this verse. I’ll try to tease a few of them out.

1. Fight Back

One way you can hate reproof is by fighting back against it. If someone corrects you, you resort to pointing out the log in his eye, you draw attention to her hypocrisy, or maybe you accuse them of having impure motives in bringing that correction to you. Either way, you’re hating reproof by turning the attention away from the reproof on to something else. That’s one way to be stupid.

2. Believe You Are Superior

Another way, though, that I think is far more subtle–and perhaps more common in our circles–is to politely receive the reproof (outwardly), while all the while thinking to yourself how ridiculous it is. We smile outwardly and in the best impression of feigned humility we can muster we thank the person for their reproof. But in our minds we think, ‘I’m actually far superior to this person spiritually–how dare she think she (of all people!) is qualified to bring me reproof!’ And then we go on our way, unchanged, not heeding the reproof. That’s another way to hate it… and to be stupid.
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How Revealing Should a Christian Woman’s Clothes Be?

Question: Just how revealing should a Christian woman’s clothes be? Answer: Very revealing… in fact, Christian women should aim to dress in a manner as revealing as possible.

Of course, what they are revealing should be something other than flesh. Christian women, rather than having ‘covering up my body’ as their goal, should have ‘revealing the gospel’ as their goal when they pick their clothes each morning.

The warmer weather is upon us again and the spring outfits are about to make their return. So I thought I might be able to serve our church by offering a little reminder to Christian women everywhere to pursue modesty for the sake of revealing the gospel.

Here are two truths Christian women can use to connect the gospel to modesty in their attire:
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What Should Motivate Humility?

What Do You Want?

Do you desire joy for yourself? Do you desire glory for yourself? Do you desire your own exaltation? Do you want to be great? Then, believe it or not, humility is your ticket. In fact, you should seek humility more than anybody!

This past Sunday I was blessed with the opportunity to preach at Grace Fellowship Church in Rexdale — the church which planted us almost a year ago now — and I had the challenge of preaching on humility. There is so much to say about a topic like this that I felt that I was barely scraping the surface. One of the places I wanted to go, but simply did not have time, was the whole area of the motivation for humility. I wanted to talk about that because biblical motivation for humility can be so counter-intuitive…

What Did Jesus Want?

In Philippians 2, the apostle Paul holds up Jesus as the paradigm of humility. He alone had equality with God, but didn’t grasp on to it. Instead he was willing to come be mistreated, rejected, despised, beaten, and murdered, bearing the hatred of people and the just wrath of his Father. That is humility. A willingness to subject himself to whatever his Father has for him; he alone models perfect humility and contrition, he alone trembles at the word of his Father (Is 66.1-2).

So if we’re to imitate Jesus it would be helpful to know what motivated Jesus, right? What moved him to go to the cross in all humility?

For one thing, he desired joy (Heb 12.1-2). He also desired glory (John 17.5). He also desired vindication and exaltation, in the view of people (John 17.24). He also wanted to be great (Mark 10.43-45). Not what you would expect to hear, right? And it begs the question…

Should I Want That Too?

The short answer is ‘Absolutely!’ The reason those things seem so wrong for us to desire is because we are so full of sin that we typically associate the desire for those things with whatever means we determine necessary to get joy, glory, exaltation, and greatness. We’re typically so convinced that God doesn’t want us to have those things that we ultimately want that we refuse to trust him to give them to us. We seek them by our own means.

But the essence of the message of Jesus is this: Trust God, he is for you. He will exalt those who are his… in the mean time, stop fretting about what other people think. Stop fighting for position here and now. Entrust yourself to God fully and be content with his providence. He will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you (1 Pet 5.10). He will freely give you all things; nothing is too good for you (Rom 8.31-32)!

So What Should I Do?

So what is the New Testament message on the motivation for humility? Stop fighting for glory and honour here and now in your time and your way; embrace God’s providence, and trust him to exalt you in his time and in his way (1 Pet 5.6-7).

Believe it or not, God wants your joy, vindication, and glory more than you do. He sent his Son to prove it. So stop contending for his supremacy and seek your exaltation through humility and service. He is for you more than you are.

How Do You Feel About Predestination?

Abraham & Isaac

The doctrine of God’s electing individuals to salvation, apart from any good in them (either actual or foreseen) is known as unconditional election (o predestination). It is exemplified in Isaac’s twin sons: ‘…when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”‘ (Romans 9.10-13).

Predestination is a doctrine that is often at the centre of controversy. And too often the controversy could be quelled, if not quenched, by a calm tongue and a gentle answer (Prov 15.1). But too much of the time those who believe the most strongly in predestination are (rightly or wrongly) associated with pride and arrogance and preachiness, rather than humility, gentleness, and love.

But that should never be.

That’s just one of the reasons why I loved reading this in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of faith the other day:

The doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election; so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel. (1 Thessalonians 1:4, 5; 2 Peter 1:10; Ephesians 1:6; Romans 11:33; Romans 11:5, 6, 20; Luke 10:20)

That’s a big mouthful, but basically it’s saying that this isn’t a doctrine to be wielded like an ax, to wound our enemies, but should be applied carefully, like a balm to give courage to wounded souls, and like a call to worship for those who embrace it and are humbled by God’s grace. For those who know the doctrines of grace and love them, this should be the very thing which calls forth our humility and our worship like nothing else. It should never be a source of pride and it is not a doctrine to be handled flippantly.

So how do you feel about predestination? Does it make you condemn those who don’t understand it? Or does it make you marvel at God’s mercy?

Humility

I have written often on this site on the topic of humility (all posts on humility) and that’s for good reason. It’s not because I’m an expert on it, or because I am humble, but because I know it’s what I need to become.

There is no virtue I need to grow in more than humility. There is nothing God hates more than pride. There is nothing that welcomes his favour more than humility. And yet, even after all these years as a Christian and a pastor, there is no sin more pervasive or more powerful in my life than pride.

The more I’ve thought about humility and seen God’s affections for pride and humility throughout Scripture, the more I’ve realized that this is a big deal. In fact, one could very well say the whole story-line of the Bible hangs on the battle of pride vs humility.

In the Beginning, Adam…

The temptation of Adam and Eve is the starting place for this battle. They were put in the Garden happy, naked, successful, knowing and being known. But along comes the crafty old serpent who tempts Eve (in Adam’s presence).

The temptation is multi-pronged, but at least on one level Satan appeals to pride:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3.4-5)

Satan essentially tells Adam and Eve that equality with God is something to be grasped at and achieved. God is trying to keep them back from what they could be. If they listen to him, they will be like God.

Of course, they gave in to the temptation and all of humanity was cursed both with their guilt and with their nature. Ever since then, every human ever born has believed in their inherent goodness and their right to not be dominated by a ‘god’. Humans have, throughout history, contended with God for his supremacy. Just like Adam and Eve, we were and are proud.

And Being Found in Human Form…

The story of Christ is the story of God taking on human form, becoming a man. He was the only innocent man since Adam. He was the only man who ever lived who could legitimately claim equality with God. And yet, rather than contending for supremacy the way the first Adam did, he humbled himself:

… though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, 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. (Phil 2.6-8)

Christ, who legitimately held glory, who alone has equality with God, didn’t cling to it. He didn’t fight to be equal with God. He humbled himself and obeyed.

The Divine Dare

The Divine Dare throughout Scripture is to take God at his word: to risk everything on him, believing that he will fulfill his promises. This is what we read again and again throughout the OT Scriptures, as God longs to show favour to his people:

… if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron 7.14)

And Jesus himself knows the dare:

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matt 23.12)

But Jesus alone is the only one to actually faithfully and completely trust God, willingly humbling himself to the point of losing everything: glory, honour, praise of people, riches, adoration, comfort, wealth, even life itself.

The Payoff

Of course God kept his word. His Son, who humbled himself, taking the divine dare, casting all his hope on God, was rewarded:

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.(Phil 2.9-11)

The honour he was willing to sacrifice in not clinging to equality with God is returned to him. He is blessed with the highest honour of all honours: he is given the name of God, welcomed to the throne of God, and honoured as God.

The Call to Follow

The call to humility is the call to follow Jesus in going low. Peter puts it this way:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Pet 5.6-7)

As we go low, like Jesus went low, God will exalt us at the proper time, just as he has now exalted Jesus. The call to humility is the same dare now as ever: Do you believe that God will faithfully reward those who take him at his word? Will I ever learn to stop contending for supremacy and simply accept the role of a servant, believing that at the right time God will exalt me in his way at his time?

So far in this life I have not done well. I pray that with the years I have left, God will give me grace to faithfully follow the second Adam, not the first. I pray that he’ll make me a man who is willing to forsake the pursuit of honour in the sight of other humans for the pursuit of honour in the presence of God — as he sees fit.

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** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

The Greatness of a Man

** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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Waves on the Shore

Just before my thirtieth birthday, I walked down to the beach by our house and ended up contemplating my life (I’m hopelessly introspective). I began to think: What have I done with my life? Am I successful? Am I a failure? Will anyone ever know my name? Does it even matter an iota? What will be my lasting mark on this world? My wife? My children? What will I be remembered for?

Sometimes I long to be great. I’m not sure why.  I’m pretty darn certain I’d do a really bad job at being ‘great.’ But on this night I got thinking about greatness, and what is the significance of being a ‘great man.’

As I once heard someone say, ‘Even the greatest of men is still a man at his greatest.’ That seems about right if I think about it.

That night I watched the waves on the water rolling in on the beach. There were millions of them. Tiny, little ripples, barely noticeable from any distance. They were rolling every which way, and there were more of these than any other kind. Then there were the big breakers. It was a pretty calm night, so these were rolling in slowly. Each one came roaring in, full of froth and everything impressive. But then each one died on the shore, and rolled back, absorbed by the giant lake from which it came. The same lake from which every wave came. And when it was gone, the next one was there; the first was easily replaced and quickly forgotten. Even the sand that the big waves moved rolled back to where it began.

That’s pretty much what it means to be a man. Some of us are ripples, some are breakers, but all are here for a time, then gone. Easily replaced, quickly forgotten.

So when it’s all said and done, and I think about ‘greatness,’ I’m pretty sure greatness is not something I’d ever want. I’d much rather just learn to be faithful with little than extrapolate my failures over a long period on a big scale.

Besides, Jesus defines greatness not by popularity or impact, but by likeness to him: by humility and service without selfish ambition or conceit. And if that’s the case, then maybe the ripples who are content to be what they were created to be are really the greatest after all.

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