I often hear comments spouting the virtue of humility. I wouldn’t consider, even for a microsecond, speaking against humility. I do, however, wonder if we have a deep enough context to understand how the virtue fits within our fellowship with God. It seems to me that without context humility is simply a plastic way for people to make themselves look more pious so they can feel like they’re doing something that empowers them to be rewarded by God. Proper context, I believe, removes false piety and adds a healthy dose of fear and realism that attacks the glamorous light we tend to see ourselves in.
Romans 11:11-21 reveals Humility As A Surprising Twist That Keeps Our Fellowship With God Healthy
In the text Paul gives us two big examples that should really eradicate all spiritual sham. We’re given the example of God’s rejection of Israel and then the illustration that we (Gentiles; non-Jews) have been grafted into something that was really designed for someone else.
1. Be humble because it’s not about you
Yes, God absolutely loves you, and me. But, that’s too simple a truth – it’s not deep enough to carry us into a friendship with God that could be built over a lifetime.
Humility isn’t an option that we choose to pursue, it’s a recognition of who (and what) we are. I am no better than anyone. You are no better than anyone. You and I have broken the heart of God. We are among those who should be punished with an eternally broken relationship with God. (Heads up, an eternally broken relationship with God is a good starting place when looking for a definition for Hell.)
So, within the context of our text, we don’t wear humility as though it’s a spiritual discipline that we grow into. Humility is a recognition of our reality – without God we are all in a great deal of eternal trouble, and our only rescue is God’s grace.
2. Be humble because grace is the catalyst of substitution
I’ve been asked to define grace for people. Honestly, that is sometimes hard to do. I find it a challenge because many people think that they’re really good people at their core. They acknowledge that they do something bad every now and then, but they also feel that if I could zoom out and see the big picture of who they really are then I’d see that they were actually good.
Everyone is going to struggle with a definition of grace if they feel that they are mostly good.
In humility we recognize that we are not mostly good. Actually, we’re totally wrong and deserve punishment. Which is why grace is so wonderful, and helps us recognize how humble we truly are.
Grace is the catalyst (the agent of change) for substitution. (That’s my definition, feel free to use it and quote me.) Where we should be punished with an eternally broken friendship with God, God choose to be motivated by His grace. His grace motivates Him to make a substitution. He substitutes punishment and gives forgiveness instead.
It’s really clear to see that grace is the catalyst of substitution when we consider the cross. Because of God’s grace, Jesus is our substitution and was sent to the cross instead of us.
3. Be humble because you feel afraid
Talking about fearing God can also be challenging for me. It seems to me that many people have taken a number of set backs in life, and they struggle with a lack of self worth. It feels like I really need to be building people up and telling them about God’s great love. However, without understanding that there are things to fear about God we won’t grow into a healthy and deep spirituality.
Lets be clear, though. You don’t have to fear God when you’ve chosen to believe in Jesus and you’re consistently choosing to love Him first and love others second. You also don’t have to fear God because He may run out of love for you, or choose to be more interested in someone else over you. But, you do have to be fearful about a heart that harbours self-righteousness and unbelief. If you find arrogance within you, you really do need to be fearful enough to get yourself running away from it.
God didn’t spare the Jews. Because of their unbelief God rejected them and extended salvation to all the world (which was part of His plan from the beginning). The Jews can still befriend God, just like the rest of us can. But, we’re all in danger when we self-righteously think that some rules apply to others but not us.
We do not naturally fall into a relationship with God. We have naturally fallen out of it. That’s a really big deal to understand because it means that our tendency is to move away from God, regardless of how many years we’ve walked with Jesus as Believers. If we’re coasting in our Christianity by not putting the necessary work into our faith (being intentional about loving God and others), then we are very naturally coasting out of our relationship with Him.
Here’s the Surprising Twist That Keeps Our Fellowship With God Healthy
When we recognize that we’re not worthy of fellowship with God, and that our natural tendency is to move out of our fellowship with God, we are more likely to recognize our humble condition and stay intentional about growing our friendship with Jesus.
What about you?
Do you recognize your humble condition? Are you able to agree with God that you need His grace? And, are you allowing that true humility to make you intentional about pressing into your friendship with Jesus?
Or, did you see something different in the text?
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