What is genuine humility?

by Mike Ratliff

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others
(Philippians 2:3-4 NASB)

Our pride is insidious. When we are convicted of our prideful behaviour or thoughts it takes cover and transforms itself into false humility. We take pride in our humility or our service or our devotion. Pride is idolatry of self. When we are not humble our pride actually displaces God with self as our center. Christians are not immune from it.

Pride was Lucifer’s primary sin that caused him to become Satan, the one who opposes God.

1 It is a trustworthy statement:if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-6 NASB)

Man’s fall, the original sin, resulted from Adam being persuaded by Satan to disobey God so he could become like him. (Genesis 3:5) All of the evil in the world now is rooted in that sin. Also, all sin is an expression of this attempt by man to become “like God.”

9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 NASB)

Our deceitful hearts are full of self-admiration. Even as we declare and believe our wonderful and how awesome God is and how wicked we really are, the pride in us is still lurking ready to increase this self-worship in order to counterfeit joy by replacing it with self-gratification. The intellectual dishonesty that we all struggle with in our hearts is part of the house of cards our pride has constructed that views self as worthy or good when we all know that we want no one to know what is really in us.

This is why God takes us through the fire, the deep valleys, and the circumstances that reveal the pettiness and ugliness and sinful motives that drives us even when doing good things in our service of the Lord. Our response to these tests and trials reveal much to us about how far we really are from the humble standard of our Lord. This is also why so much of the teaching in the Word of God addresses this dire need we all have to become those who deny self and are humble.

Personal holiness, godliness, consists of genuine humility. Any work we do such as preaching, teaching, devotion, prayer, sharing our faith, or comforting a hurting brother in Christ, that is not preceded, accompanied, and followed by humility is not a good work.

Paul defined humility as living for God and others rather than self. (Philippians 2:3-4) If we will genuinely do this then we will not be self-focused and this starves pride. If we continually view our salvation from the aspect that is all we have was received and we contributed absolutely nothing (1 Corinthians 4:7) then we will have God-focused hearts rather than being all concerned about what’s in it for us. Then we will have servant hearts like our Lord.

We cannot put our pride to death overnight. No, it takes a life time. If we do not strive to be separate from the world and not conformed to it then killing our pride will be impossible. Just drive around the city where you live and you will witness people forcing their will upon others. This is what pride does. We must be separate from that way of thinking.

One of the hardest things for us to do is to confess our sins to one another. Why? It is humiliating to do so and if we will do it then we will be actively mortifying our pride. Our pride will fight us on this, convincing our hearts to be self-protective. We must not give in to it. We must do the hard work of hacking our pride to death so that our lives will be honoring to our Lord by becoming like Him.

Oh Lord, we are sinners saved by your grace. You have made us new creations with the ability to walk by faith in our obedience of You. However, our pride is still in our hearts causing us to be self-centered, self-focused, and self-dependent. Oh Lord, we pray that You will help us put our pride to death. We know that you are working in us as we go through various trials to accomplish Your good work of sanctifying us. Please don’t give up on us as we complain and turn away from the path in order to alleviate our pain. Draw us back to face the fires of sanctification by your Grace. Humble us, and be glorified in us.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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