You are listening to Philippians, “A Rebel’s Guide to Joy” – a teaching series by Pastor Mark Driscoll. The following is a presentation of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. For more audio and video content, visit marshillchurch.org.
Pastor Mark Driscoll:Well good evening, Mars Hill. Let there be light. Good to see you all. My name is Mark – preaching pastor at the church.
Two quick things before we get to work in Philippians Chapter 2, this is D.J. Jazzy Jesus. Two turntables and a microphone. I get the coolest shirts sent to me. Can’t wear all of them. Some of them are vulgar, but this one’s funny.
Second thing, you could really help me out. Starting in January, we’re gonna do a nine week preaching series that will be answers to the top nine questions as voted on by you and the pajama bloggers online.
So I’m gonna go ahead and pray, and we’ll get right to work on what I believe is the richest section in all of the book of Philippians – one of the richest sections of all the New Testament about Jesus. It’ll be Chapter 2, verses 1 through 11. And I’ll go ahead and pray and we’ll get right to work.
Father God, we begin by acknowledging and confessing individually and corporately that we are sinners, and that under our sin is the pride which compels us to live in defiance and disobedience and disrespect and disregard of who you are and how you’ve created us to live. So Father, we ask for the gift of humility. We ask that the life of Jesus would be a great example for us. And we ask for the Holy Spirit to enable us to be men and women who live lives of repentant humility in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Well as we get into it, tonight’s theme is humility. We’re calling tonight’s sermon “The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Humility”. And I will start by saying I have no right to teach on this subject. I know many of you are probably thinking, “Pastor Mark is teaching us on humility. That’s funny.” I guess Brittany Spears will come in and do a parenting seminar at Mars Hill as well since we’re at it.
It comes up in the book and so I need to preach it. But let me say this, that in all honesty, having reflected on this, I believe that humility is the great omission and failure in my 11 years of preaching. I believe that this is my greatest oversight, both in my example and in my instruction. I therefore do not claim to be humble. I do not claim to have been humble. I’m convicted of my pride and I am a man who is by God’s grace pursuing humility. And so in many ways, this is a sermon that I’m preaching at myself. This is a sermon that you’re welcome to listen in on as I preach to myself. But I truly believe that were there one thing I could do over in the history of Mars Hill, it would be in my attitude and in my actions and in my words, to not only emphasize sound doctrine and courage and strength and commitment and conviction, but to add in addition to that, humility as a virtue.
And so I’ll start by your forgiveness and sincerely acknowledging that this has been a great failure. And I believe that it is showing up in our church in the lives of men and women who have sound doctrine, but not sound attitude – that they may contend for good things, but their motives are bad, and their methods are bad, and their tone is bad, and their tactics are bad, and their actions are bad because their attitude is bad, even though their objectives sometimes is good. I see this in particular with the men. I see this with men young and old – men who have known Jesus for a long time and should know better, and men who are new to Jesus and are learning sometimes the hard way. I will take some responsibility for this.
Luke 6:40 says that when fully trained, disciples are like their teacher. And I am primary teaching pastor of this church, and I can’t simply look at the pride in some of our people and say that I am in no way responsible or complaisant. So I’m a guy who’s pretty busted up over this personally, and it really came to my attention last December, just in time for Christmas. The critics really brought me a lot of kind gifts of opposition and hatred and animosity. Merry Christmas. And some of those most vocal and nasty critics were Christian – some of them prominent Christians – and so I was getting ready to fire back my usual tactics. They hit you. You hit them twice and then blog about your victory, which I don’t have any verses for. I’m not saying it was a good idea, but it had been a pattern in my life until a man names C.J. Mahaney called. He wrote a book called “Humility”. Much of my sermon today will be simply taken from his book. I would commend it to you all for reading. It’s a good, simple book. He’s a very humble, gracious and good man. Not humble. He’s a man pursuing humility. That’s what he would say. I need to get that right; otherwise he’ll call me this week.
C.J. is a guy who pastored Covenant Life Church and handed it over. Runs the Sovereign Grace network. He called me up during these periods of criticism in December and said, “Mark, I know we don’t know one another. We have many mutual friends. How do you respond to these critics? What is your plan?” I said, “I don’t have a plan.” And he said, “Might I suggest that this is an opportunity for you to practice humility, grow in humility, learn humility – that perhaps God and his providential care for you has this season appointed to you for humility.” My first thought was, “Well I sure hope not. That sounds convicting.”
And so as he talked, I really came to understand humility in a way that I had not prior. I had always considered humility to be a cowardice and a compromise. In the name of humility, you give up biblical conviction and passion and the willingness to contend for the faith, as Jude 3 says, and to fight false teaching in the name of humility. And what he was describing was orthodoxy and belief and humility and attitude, and that those two together are really what God desires. And so it got me thinking and studying and praying through pride and humility and repenting and learning and growing.
And so I would start by saying that I thank my dear friend, C.J. Mahaney, for his ongoing friendship and the kindness he’s extended to me and the things I’ve been able to learn through his instruction. Furthermore, I apologize and repent publically to you, the church, for whom I am responsible for much pride in the history of my ministry that some of you have poorly imitated. And for that, I’m deeply sorry. And thirdly, to say that I am not a humble man. But as result of study, I’m a man who is acknowledging his pride and pursuing humility by God’s grace.
With that being said, I still have to preach a sermon on this subject because it’s in the Bible, and so I’ll tell you a lot about Jesus, since he’s the only one who really has the right to tell you anything about humility.
I’ll start by telling you what humility and pride are. I believe it’s sometimes easiest to understand humility by juxtaposing it with pride. First thing I would say is as John Staut the eminent theologian says, “Pride is our greatest enemy.” You need to know that pride is your greatest enemy. Conversely, humility is your greatest friend.
Secondly, pride is in its origin and practice, demonic and satanic. If you read Isaiah, Satan was originally an angel created by God and he became very proud. That was the first sin and he was kicked out of heaven. He tempted the pride of our first parents and they sinned – that pride is demonic and satanic, and that humility is Christ like and its spirit enabled, meaning that any human being who has any measure of humility is a miracle.
Thirdly, pride is the encouragement to compare ourselves to other people, and we tend to pick people that we feel are less than us – less intelligent, less successful, less affluent, less attractive. Humility is continually comparing ourselves to Jesus Christ.
If you struggle with pride, compare yourself to Jesus, and that will help. You may be the smartest person you know, but you’re not that smart. You may be the most successful person you know. You’re not that successful.
Additionally, number four, pride covets the success of other people. When they succeed, we become jealous and envious and covetous. That’s why sometimes we’ll critique people when they succeed. We’re jealous. Humility allows us to not covet the success of other people, but to celebrate it – to rejoice in it and to be glad for God’s grace that has been extended to them.
Fifthly, pride is about me. It’s about what I want. It’s about what I need. It’s about what I think. It’s about what I feel. It’s about what I declare. It’s about what I deserve.
Humility is about Jesus and it’s about other people. And humility allows someone to be selfless, whereby their natural inclination would be to remain selfish.
Sixth, pride is about my glory. “Do you know who I am? Do you know what I’ve done? Do you respect me? Do you honor me? Do you praise me? Do you like me? Do you want to be like me?”
Humility is about the glory of Jesus Christ. Do you love Jesus? Do you know Jesus? Do you honor Jesus? Do you respect Jesus? Do you want to be like Jesus?
In pride, number seven, “I am God” – “Little G, God”. “I sit on a throne and I make commands and I expect people to obey and honor me.”
Humility is not about being God, but it’s about celebrating the fact that the real God has lovingly served me.
Number eight, pride leads to arrogance, cockiness, smugness, and it’s repugnant. I tell you this as a guy who has had some of his teaching rejected, not because I believe my doctrine was an error, but my attitude was in the way. Arrogance, cockiness, it’s repugnant.
Humility leads not to arrogance, but to confidence. Confidence meaning, I won’t deny my convictions. I won’t disagree with scripture. I won’t dishonor Jesus. I’m confident in what is right and wrong. I’m confident in what’s true and false. I’m confident in what God has me to be and say and do, and not be and not say and not do. But it is not arrogance, it is confidence.
I think my confusion with humility is that I always considered humility to be subsequently responsible for compromise. And in fact, only someone who is truly humble can have deep conviction and not compromise because they’re worried about God more than themselves.
Nine, the point of pride is independence. We see this in Satan who wanted to be separated from God. We see that as sinners, where we want to live independently of God, doing what we want. Humility is not about independence. It’s about dependence. It’s about acknowledging that we’re created and he’s Creator, and that we are dependent on God for love and grace and mercy and forgiveness, and compassion and instruction and correction and help. And so the humble person seeks in no way to be independent. They acknowledge their dependence on God and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Tenth, Augustine, the great church Father, says rightly that “pride is the mother of all sin” – that “pride is pregnant with all kinds of sin”. I believe that’s true – that under all sin is pride. That pride is the root sin that leads to the fruit of sin, which would mean conversely that humility is the mother of all joy. That’s what Paul is going to tell us this week – that humble people are the only ones who truly have the possibility of being happy people.
And eleventh, pride is something that you and I can achieve in this lifetime. We can be proud. We can achieve that objective. And humility is something that we must continually pursue throughout this life. Humility is not something that we achieve fully in this life. It’s something that we pursue vigorously in this life. That’s why no one can say, “And I am proud to report that I am now humble.” Can’t say it. You can’t write a book saying, “Now that I achieved humility, here are the seven steps to humility.” It’s repugnant. It’s foolish. All we can say is, “By God’s grace, I am a proud person pursuing humility.”
Now the reason we are so proud is that it is in our very nature as fallen sinners to be proud – to be rebellious and stiff necked and hard hearted and self-righteous. Additionally, we live in a world that absolutely encourages nothing but selfish pride. The entirety of western civilization is the continual, purposeful refocusing of our attention on pride and not humility.
We’re gonna do this sermon old school. I’m not gonna use video and lots of cultural media. But just next time you’re listening to an athlete or a musician or a celebrity or a politician, ask yourself, “Are they advancing the value and virtue of humility?” Just next time you watch a rap video, for example, see if you can find one that’s on humility.
This goes all the way back to the time of the Greeks – before the birth of Jesus, all the way to the present – that even the cultural narratives and stories which we have as the basis of the introduction of the values and virtues of western civilization, focus on pride and not humility.
I’ll give you one example. There’s a very lengthy book called The Book of Virtues. It was edited by William Bennett. It is to be a series of stories from the cannon of western civilization that you can read to your children to build virtue into them. The one virtue that is not included in that book is humility, because in western civilization, pride is a virtue and humility is a vice. Yet in the scriptures and in the life of Jesus, pride is a vice and humility is the virtue.
My point in stating that is to simply say that outside of scripture, humility is not to be found. It is not to be encouraged. It is not to be informed. That our world exists for self-help, self-esteem, self-love, self actualization. Not for humility. Not for love of God and others. And so we turn to the pages of Philippians. We start in Chapter 2. In here we find something that is absolutely countercultural – instruction on humility – and so we must rebel against our sin nature, against our culture, against western civilization, and sadly, even against much of the church’s teaching – that it’s about your destiny and your vision and your rights and your calling and your giftedness and your glory. We must rebel against all of that. And Paul gives us great exhortation and encouragement and instruction regarding humility. And in my estimation, in Philippians 2, 1 through 11, is the centerpiece of the book. Everything leads to it and flows from it. Furthermore, it is one of the most, if not the most, significant sections of the New Testament on the person and work of Jesus.
We’ll start in the first four verses of Chapter 2. Paul writes to his friends at the church of Philippi, whom he had not seen in four years, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy” – we will talk about joy in humility. So many people are miserable because they’re arrogant – “by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing” – that is a very important statement – “nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility” – there’s our word – “count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Here’s Paul’s first point – nothing builds a church stronger and surer than humility. Nothing breaks and destroys a church faster and certainly than pride. That we are a church – Mars Hill is a church, and because the church is big and growing, there is this false sense of strength and longevity. Let me tell you, as a leader in the church, this church is like every church – very frail. That health is gained slowly and lost quickly, and that Jesus has done a great deal in and through and for and by and in spite of this church and in spite of me.
I had someone ask me this week – they said, “In light of Mars Hill, how do you remain humble?” I said, “I am a kite and Jesus is a hurricane.” It would be ridiculous for me to boast on my ability to fly, because in a hurricane, even a broken, damaged, failed, flawed, horrendous kite flies pretty well. And I believe what has happened is that Jesus has showed up like a hurricane. Yet what we’ve been working on for 11 years could be undone by one or a few proud people. That’s how frail unity in the church is. That’s how frail we truly are as a community. It starts from the top down with me – to be sure as your preacher and teacher. It starts with the other pastors and elders whom I serve along side of, and it filters through our deacons and our leaders and our members. The one person who is proud all of a sudden becomes a point of division and controversy and conflict and separation.
“Pride works itself out,” he says here, “in rivalry and conceit.” Rivalry meaning you’re in competition for resources, information, power, title. Conceit – you’re jealous of other people in the church. He’s writing to a church. This is not non-Christian review. This is Christian warning.
In a church like ours, pride rises itself up in various ways. For some, it is the desire for a title. “Call me pastor.” “Call me deacon.” “Give me a title.” For others it is power. “I want to vote. I want the right to decide what we do and do not do.” For others it is money. “I want a job.” “I want a raise” or “I want to control that part of the budget.” For others it is information. “I demand to know right now.” “I demand to know whatever it is that I deem to be important because I’m very significant and I demand to know.” So information becomes a power – economic for the proud. For others it is access to the senior leadership. “The lead elders, they must listen to me. I must have audience with them. They must hear me. I’m very important, and what I declare to be urgent therefore is very urgent.” It’s all pride. It’s all pride. And sometimes those people have even good suggestions and council that would be helpful, but the pride so overwhelms the wisdom that it’s impossible to clearly hear what even may be helpful consideration that they’re providing.
So Paul says, “Do nothing out of rivalry and conceit. Rather the church must have a posture of humility.” And humility, he defines for us as this – “In humility, count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others.” What he says is this – “Proud people only care about what they care about. Humble people think of everyone. Proud people think of themselves.”
You are I are part of a church that is across multiple campuses. That means we can not do what is best for one campus. We must do what is best for all the campuses. We’re part of a church that has multiple services, so we can’t do what is best for one service. We must do what is best for all the services. We have multiple leaders. We can’t do what is best for one leader. We must do what is best for all the leaders. We have many people, so we can’t do what’s best just for one person. We must do what is best for all. We have multiple departments and so we must do what is best for all departments and all ministries and all programs, and not just one.
And Paul says that humble people are given this insight of God where they have a broader perspective. They’re not single issue voters that only care about their campus and their service and their leader and their mission and their ministry and their gifts and their feelings and their wants and their needs and their demands. “Who cares about everybody else? Don’t you know who I am?” Yes, we know who you are and we would humbly ask that you would humble yourself, because you could ruin everything in the name of ministry.
This doesn’t mean that you always agree with the leaders and the decisions. This doesn’t mean that you sort of quietly, passively ignore things that you believe to be wrong. But it does mean that your methods and your motives and your tone and your tactics and your attitudes and your actions count, and that the ends don’t justify the means.
I would have been someone up until very recently who would have said, “Well, I know my tone was bad and my tactics were bad and my attitude was bad and my actions were bad, but my objective was good, so” – the ends justify the means.
Paul would say, “No. It’s the motive and the method and the mission.” They all count. You can’t pursue a good thing in a bad way and expect God to be well pleased. That in addition to a good cause, you must have the humility to go about it in a good way.
Now the only way we can truly continually see our pride is to look to Jesus, so I would ask you this, “Are you humble or proud?” We must all say, “I’m proud.”
Rephrase the question – “Are you pursuing humility or not?” That is possible. It is possible by God’s grace to pursue humility. And the only way to pursue humility is that you and I would not work out of rivalry and conceit thinking that we’re smarter than everyone else and better than everyone else and the world would be a better place if all the idiots just shut up and did what we told them. But if in humility we look to Jesus, and in looking to Jesus we see our own pride and we deal with it – humbling.
So Paul lifts up for us Jesus as the most humble person who has ever lived or will ever live in verses 5, 6 and 7. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” – only Christians have the ability to really understand humility, not because we’re better than anyone else, but because it’s only to be found in Jesus – “who, though he was in the form of God,” – Jesus wasn’t his God – “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” – or fought for, or held onto – “ but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant or slave, being born in the likeness of men.”
What he says is this, “No one is more humble than Jesus.” No one is more humble than Jesus. And Jesus demonstrates that in what we call the incarnation. It’s a theological term. Incarnation means God became a man. That word there is carne. Incarnation, carne. It’s the same thing you see on a can of chili. How many of you eat chili? Praise be to God. When you go to the store, you see chili and chili con carne. Gentlemen, what does “carne” mean? Chili with meat. Praise the Lord.
Now carne means meat, and it’s the same root word as incarnation. So Jesus is God with meat. That’s what he is. That’s what it means. This is redneck theology. That’s what it is.
So incarnation means God who as spirit, takes upon himself a physical body so that he has fingers and toes and he blows his nose and goes to the bathroom. And not to be disrespectful to Jesus, but he takes on a human body. And what he’s saying here is that in becoming a man, Jesus is the most humble man who has ever lived, because Jesus is God – become a man. Creator entered into creation. Timeless eternal enters into time. Omni present, everywhere, enters into a place. Seated on a throne chooses to be born in a barn. Surrounded by angels in glory comes to be disrespected, mocked and abused by sinners. Living in heaven comes to live in poverty on the earth, and to suffer is the man of sorrows. And what he is saying is that in that, Jesus is the most humble person who has or will ever live.
Now in saying this, we are not saying that Jesus ceased to be God when he became a man. Rather what he said here is that he set aside his rights and he set aside the use of his divine attributes. Doesn’t mean he didn’t possess them. He didn’t access them continually. While on the earth, Jesus was still God. He was worshiped as God. He declared himself to be God, and he forgave sin, which only God can do. So Jesus, while on the earth, was God. But God does not grow and change, and so Jesus set aside his divine attribute of immutability so that he could grow from a little baby, to a boy, to a man. God is omniscient. He’s all knowing. Jesus set aside that attribute so that he would learn to read and write as we do. That Jesus Christ humbly lived a fully human life while still being God, still having the right to be worshiped as God, still having the attributes of God, but humbled himself choosing instead to live with us, like us, without the sin.
This doesn’t mean that Jesus lost anything when he became a human being. Augustine, the church father, says that he maintained his divinity as God and he added to it humanity, or he became a human being.
In 451, the Christian Council of Chalcedon met. They pronounced a creed which says that Jesus is fully God, fully man. We call it the hypostatic union – that Jesus is one person with two natures, fully man, fully God. And as the title suggests, he is Emanuel, God with us. And what Paul is saying is that Jesus Christ is the most humble person – that God would come into human history the humble way to live a humble life. And furthermore, not is only Jesus the most humbler person, but his death on the cross is the most humble act in all of history.
Paul articulates this in verse 8. Speaking of Jesus he says, “And being found in human form,” – God became a man – “he humbled himself” – Jesus Christ. God humbled himself.
One of the reasons I know the Bible is true is that you and I would have never invented a humble God. Our God is the most humble God. And one of the most distinguishing features of the God of the Bible is humility. “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Here’s what he is saying. Jesus is the most humble person and his death on the cross is the most humble event and act in the history of the world. Practically here’s what this means for me personally. I murdered God. I murdered God. Because when Jesus went to the cross, he died in my place for my sins.
Romans 5, I believe it’s verse 8, says it this way – “God demonstrates his love for us in this while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God left glory and came humbly. God left his throne and was born in a barn. God left being worshiped by angels continually to be disrespected by stiff-necked, stubborn, unrepentant, self-righteous, proud people, like me, continually. And how did I – how did we respond to God? We murdered him. That’s how proud we are. Not only that, Jesus, who is God, allowed me, allowed us, to murder him. That’s how humble he is. And in dying, he is so humble that he died for me that I might have salvation and love and reconciliation with God who made me.
2 Corinthians 5:21 is called by Martin Luther, the protestant reformer, the great exchange. I articulate this truth this way. “God made him” – that is Jesus – “who knew no sins, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Not only did Jesus humble himself in becoming a man, he humbled himself to die on a cross. And in dying on the cross, he died in such a way as to be my substitute and pay the penalty of death for my sins. And the great exchange is this – all of my sin goes on Jesus, and all of his perfection is given to me. My condemnation goes on Jesus and his salvation comes to me. My separation from God goes to Jesus and his reconciliation with God is given to me. That my pride is laid on Jesus and his humility is laid on me. That I murdered God and God was so humble as to allow me to murder him. And God is so good that in dying for me, he forgives me and gives me a new life and forgives all my sin.
This is absolutely astonishing. I first learned this 18 years ago at the age of 19 as a brand new Christian. And with all sincerity, I will tell you that it is still absolutely overwhelming to even consider how wicked and proud I am and how good and humble Jesus is.
He then goes on to say that the name of Jesus is more important than anything, and that the name of Jesus is the most beautiful thing of all. That is because as fully man and fully God, Jesus is the only mediator who can reconcile us proud sinners to our humble and good God.
Paul says it this way elsewhere – “There is only one mediator between man and God. That is the man Christ Jesus. God became a man to live humbly, to die on a cross for sinners to reconcile them to God.” As a result of that, Paul says, “The name of Jesus is the name that we should exalt. The name of Jesus is the name that we should sing. The name of Jesus is the name that we should live for. The name of Jesus is the name that we should humbly and gladly proclaim.”
In verse 9 he declares it this way – “Therefore God has exalted him.” So now we’re not talking about the humble incarnation, but also the glorious exaltation of Jesus. Jesus is eternal God, and from eternity past, he ruled an exalted glory. He humbled himself and came into human history for his life, death, burial, resurrection, having achieved salvation through his death on the cross, having conquered sin and death through his resurrection from the grave. Jesus then ascended back into heaven. And today were you and I to see Jesus, we would see him exalted in glory. We would see him as Revelation does – seated upon a throne ruling over angels and demons and men and women, and the young and the old, and the rich and the poor, and the black and the white, and the foolish and the simple, and the gay and the straight. We would see him exalted. Exalted.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus – if you’re here and you don’t know who God is, his name is Jesus. 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 the singular only Lord to the glory of God the Father.
In that day, the greatest name was Nero. He ruled over Rome, the greatest empire on the earth. And Philippi being a Roman city, had as part of its practice the bowing to Nero and declaring of his name as Lord and Savior at every public event – at every sporting event, every political meeting, every rally. Anytime the citizens gathered, they would bend their knee and they would raise their voices to declare that Nero was Lord and Savior, and his name is to be praised above all.
And Paul says, “There is a name that is above that name. There is a man who is above that man. That at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, both on the earth alive when he returns, under the earth, those that have died apart from Jesus and are in Hades awaiting torment of hell, those saints who were before Jesus worshiping him today, that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father.” That means that even Nero would bend his knee to Jesus and raise his voice to Jesus.
And so the question is not, “Will you bend your knee to Jesus and confess in acknowledgement that he is God and he is Lord, and he is overall and above all?” The question is, “Will you do it today for salvation? Or will you do it on the other side of the grave for condemnation? Will you do it today as a friend of Jesus? Will you do it then as a foe of Jesus? Will you do it today for your joy? Will you do it then for your shame?”
Here’s the bottom line. Your name really doesn’t matter that much. My name really doesn’t matter that much. Our name, Mars Hill Church, really doesn’t matter that much. The name of Jesus, that matters. That matters, because Jesus is wonderful. Jesus is good. And Jesus is loving and gracious and merciful and kind. And Jesus is sinless and Jesus is God who became a man who lived humbly and allowed us to murder him, and he rose in victory to give us new life. And he has been exalted and he is worthy of our speaking of his name honorably, gladly and humbly and continually.
You will be miserable if you live for the glory of your own name. I will be miserable if I live for the glory of my own name. We will be miserable if we live for the glory of the name of our church or our ministry or our organization or our mission. Above all of that must be the name of Jesus, which means that the right answer to every question is this – “What will exalt the name of Jesus? What will make Jesus look good, because Jesus is good?”
Now I tell you this in great sorrow because I have not told you this enough and I have not demonstrated it well. I have failed you in that regard.
So I would like to share with you the way in which Jesus both exemplifies our humility and enables it. This is what I love about Jesus. He’s our example of humility. But without him, we can’t accomplish it. We not only need him to exemplify humility, but also enable it. And he enables it by taking away our sin and giving us the Holy Spirit and continually convicting us of sin and giving us the ability to change.
I want to share with you some scriptures that I’ve been meditating on that I find deeply convicting and concerning. I share them as someone who though teaches you, is learning these things himself. As someone who is elevated on a stage above you, in every way, stands with you condemned apart from Jesus because of pride. And I share these things because I want you to have a sense of the importance of this matter.
My first point is this, that God hates proud people. He hates them. I want you to think about who or what you hate and why. God hates proud people.
Proverbs 6:16 and 17 – “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him.” First on the list, haughty or proud eyes – that cocky, smug, self-righteous guy like me.
Proverbs 8:13 likewise states, “Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” “Pride and arrogance, I hate.” God hates proud people.
Secondly, God humiliates proud people. This is terrifying. Plan A is always humility. Plan B is always humiliation. But either way, the lesson is to be learned.
Proverbs 16:5 – “Everyone who is arrogant in heart” – and God knows your heart – “is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.”
Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Some of you are very smart, very competent, very skilled and very frustrated because you’re not successful. What you seek to accomplish continually fails. You may even have a good mission where you’re trying to serve Jesus and do something that is a good idea, but if your motives are based in pride and your methods are based in pride and your tone is based in pride and your tactics are based in pride and your actions are based in pride and your attitudes are based in pride, God is going to, in every way, humiliate you. You will fail. And if you do succeed, it will just be so that you can be rised up to such a level that you will fall further and make sure that the pain is excessive.
Some of you do not need a better plan, a better strategy, or more work. Some of you need more humility.
The next verse is one that I have been meditating on and it is terrifying. In James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5, they both declare this – “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.” Jesus is God. He’s in heaven seated back in glory as we speak doing two things – opposing proud people and giving grace to humble people. People who rise up in pride, he takes them down. People who humble themselves, he rises up. God actively opposes, fights against, declares war against, combats against, proud people.
None of you would wake up in the morning and say this – “God, I dare you to fight me. I dare you to oppose me. I dare you to resist me. I dare you to try and stop me, to attempt to thwart me. In fact, I beg you to step in the ring and see if you can handle me.”
If you wake up with pride in your heart, God knows your heart, and that’s what you’re saying. And God opposes the proud. He thwarts the proud. He fights the proud. He combats the proud. He resists the proud. He can not bless the proud, because if he did, they would only be more proud, and others would follow them. And God’s a loving God and he would not encourage any of us to the same sin as Satan.
Are you fighting God?
God opposes the proud. That should sober us, should it not? But he gives grace to the humble. God is a God who loves to bless, and loves to serve, and loves to help. He just told us that he has the posture of the humble slave. Ours is a God who wants to give grace, but he only gives it to humble people.
I’ll give you an example. In the middle of our reorganization as a church – we go to multiple campuses – we’ve just reconstituted what we’re calling a Board of Directors. It is sort of a senior level of eldership that oversees a lot of the policies and procedures for the whole church, and I was meditating on it this week. And I could tell you about all the men on the board. I’ll just tell you of a few. These are new men that were recently added to this board, and the one common thread which I see weaves all their stories together is this, humility. Not that they are humble, but they are pursuing humility by God’s grace.
First story is a man named Steve. He’s our campus pastor up at Shoreline, and he is a Board of Director member of our eldership. The first time I met him, he was at the Ballard campus after a service with a trash bag. He and his son were picking up garbage. Didn’t know who he was. The church was smaller at that time. I walked up to introduce myself. Took him out to coffee and said, “What’s your story?” Had to sort of pull it out of him. He was very humble. Come to find, he had two master degrees in theology, a great family, and 15 years plus experience as a Senior Pastor in a church.
I said, “What are you doing picking up trash?” He said, “Well somebody needs to pick up the garbage.”
Now he’s a campus pastor on the Board of Directors for your eldership. Why? Because God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. That’s how it works. God needs someone to lead. He would rather have someone who is humble – that thinks of others and Jesus, not just themselves. That has the posture of a humble servant and a slave, not just a king who wants to rule.
Another man we appointed to that board is a man names Tim. I’ll tell you his story. He has an MBA in not-for-profit management. He has 20 or 30 years, I can’t remember, of not-for-profit manage experience. He’s run some very large, very significant ministries. He’s consulted for very large, very significant ministries. He nominated himself for eldership. Was a faithful member of this church. And he said, “You know, I think I can help. I think my management background will help organize Mars Hill.” We said, “Okay, well what’s your proposal?” He said, “I’ll work 50 hours a week for six months free of charge. I’ll quit my well paying job. I’ll shut down most of my consulting business. I’ll reduce my expenses, live off of my savings. I’ll nominate myself for eldership. I will work for free for six months, and I’ll come under Pastor Jamie, who’s young enough to be my son, and has none of the experience or education that I do so that I can humbly serve him so that Mars Hill can become a better church.”
God opposes the proud. Gives grace to the humble. The elders vote and say, “He should be an Executive Elder and on the Board of Directors.”
Third man I’ll tell you about is Zack Hubert. He’s working at Amazon.com. I think he has a master’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in theology. He’s smart. He was making very significant money writing code and doing programming for the Amazon.com website. Loves Jesus. We approached him. He was an Elder candidate. Said, “Would you take over all of our web development at Mars Hill Church? To do that, you would need to finish the eldership process. You would need to resign your job. You need to take a significant pay cut. And Mars Hill has a nice website, but it’s not nearly as cool on your resume at Amazon.com. And it will come to you and your family at the expense of your life’s earnings. Millions of dollars – you will give up millions of dollars.”
Here’s what he said. “It’s best for Mars Hill Church. That’s my church. I love that church. I’d love to do that.” Resigned, walked away from a prominent job, millions of dollars, to humbly serve at Mars Hill. We make him an Elder at the level of Director. Why? Because God opposes the proud and he gives grace to the humble. That’s how he works.
The last one is James. He was running a drug and alcohol treatment center, I think for the Union Gospel Mission. He was an elder at Doxa Church in West Seattle. He and Pastor Bill were there and I approached them and said, “I think we should partner together,” and turned that building into Mars Hill West Seattle. I don’t know what the building’s worth – $4 million, whatever. He said, “Well what’s the deal?” I said, “Give us the building, resign as elders, work through the membership process, work through the eldership process. I guarantee you nothing – no power, no job, no eldership. If you meet the qualifications and the men vote you in, we’ll make you an elder, but I guarantee you no job. Nothing. If you believe it’s right for Jesus, give us the building, resign, give up all power of authority, give up your position. Walk away from it all for the cause of Jesus.”
He said, “Okay, I think it’s best for Jesus.” He resigned, voted to hand us the building and the people. Humbly went through the eldership process. After he finished the membership process, oversees our drug and alcohol addiction recovery. We just voted him onto the Board of Directors. Why? Because God opposes the proud and he gives grace to the humble.
I want you to know that this actually works. I was a guy who was very skeptical. In some regards, this sounded like God talk to me. It actually works. God opposed the proud and he gives grace to the humble. And so 1 Peter 5 says, “Therefore clothe yourself with humility, and God will lift you up when he feels it’s the right time.”
So in closing, I’ll give you ten recommendations that I have taken from my friend, C.J. Mahaney, and I share them with you as various ways to clothe yourself in humility so that God might give you grace.
First, follow the truth wherever it leads. If it means it leads to “you’re wrong”, then follow it. If it leads to “you’re fired”, then follow it. If it leads to “that’s not what’s best for you, but it’s best for all”, then follow it. If it leads to “you need to apologize”, then follow it. Don’t defend yourself. Don’t always do what is in your best interest. Follow the truth wherever it leads.
Secondly, invite and pursue correction and council. Tell the people in your life, “I’m blind to my own blindness. I’m foolish to my own folly. I need you to confront me. I need you to rebuke me. I need you to speak the truth to me. When I’m acting like a jerk, I need you to say it. I need you to give me council because sometimes I don’t know what to do. I need correction because sometimes I say and do the wrong thing.” And receive it, don’t argue, don’t blame shift, don’t change the topic. Receive it.
Thirdly, learn from everyone, including your enemies and critics. Have the humility to overlook their pride, because God may have something that is truthful for you if you’re humble enough to overlook their pride.
Forth, repent quickly and thoroughly. Don’t force it to be an enormous issue where multiple people have to get involved and it has to become very formalized, and all the way to church discipline and something that is very arguist and painful and complicated and divisive. Don’t make someone pin you to the mat and break your arm before you tap. Just tap. “I sinned. I was wrong. I screwed up. That was evil. I’m a jerk. I’m sorry.” Make it simple.
Five, seek and celebrate God’s grace at work and other Christians. God is at work in other Christians. Look for it. Encourage it. “I see God is changing you here, growing you here. I see what he’s doing through you here. I’m encouraged by this.” Nurture and encourage God’s grace at work in others.
Six, cultivate his spirit of thankfulness. Be thankful for people and tell them be thankful for God, and tell him cultivate an attitude of thankfulness. Proud people think they deserve everything. Humble people know they deserve hell. And anything beyond that is a real gift, and so they’re able to be thankful.
Seven, listen to scripture more than yourself. We can lie to ourselves, deceive ourselves, con ourselves, condemn ourselves, justify ourselves. Don’t listen to yourself so much. Listen to scripture. God will speak to you truthfully through his Word.
Eight, exalt the name of Jesus in all you do. The right answer to every question is whatever makes Jesus look great, because he is. Don’t do what exalts your name. Do and say what exalts the name of Jesus. You’ll never regret that. Just by wave encouragement, you’ll never regret that.
Ninth, laugh. Proud people can not laugh. They’re way too serious and they can not laugh at themselves. So let me just state this. You are ridiculous. You are. You are ridiculous. I am ridiculous. And proud people can’t laugh at themselves. “Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know how I feel? Don’t you know how that hurts?” You’re ridiculous and now you’re even being more ridiculous, because you are ridiculous and that’s funny. And you should laugh. You’re great comedic material. Don’t waste it. Redeem it. You’re a joke, so laugh. Proud people take themselves so seriously.
And ninth, sleep. Sleep like a Christian. Pursue humility, repent, exalt the name of Jesus and then go to bed and sleep. Proud people don’t sleep well. They’re wondering “What are people saying? What are people thinking? What are people doing? How will they perceive me? How will they respond to me? Will I win? Will I lose?”
Humble people say God opposed the proud, gives grace to the humble. “God, teach me humility. I’m going to bed now and I trust you to work it out when you feel it’s the right time.”
Humble people sleep differently than proud people.
In conclusion, I apologize for my failure to both exemplify humility and to emphasize it in my instruction. Furthermore, I am exceedingly glad that Jesus is our God. And in that, I find much hope for our future.
I love you guys, and I believe that this issue of humility is the defining issue for the next season of our church. The question is not, “Will we grow?” The question is, “Will we grow in humility?” I pray that we do.
We’ll close with the biography of Philip Bliss. He wrote a song called “Man of Sorrows”. He was a humble man who lived a humble life. And before the pastors at our various campuses step forward to call you to personal response, we hope you enjoy the story of his life.
Narrator: Philip Bliss was born into humble beginnings. He was born July 9, 1838. He lived in a log cabin in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
Philip Bliss was uneducated for the first ten years of life. He grew up with a Bible as his only textbook. From a very young age, Philip was drawn to Jesus and music. His parents sang and taught him what they could.
At age 11, he left home to make a living for himself as a logger. He spent the next five years in lumber camps and sawmills and walked with Jesus throughout this rough environment. Between these jobs, he would attend school and study music. He was also active in ministry throughout Methodist revival services.
At the age of 17, he took the final steps to attain his credentials, and he became the school master at Hartsville, New York. With the encouragement of friends and mentors, he became a music teacher in Rome, Pennsylvania.
A few years later he was married to Lucy, the love of his life, and struck out as an itinerate music teacher from town to town. This changed when his wife’s grandmother gave him money to attend a formal music academy in New York.
In 1864 at age 26, they moved to Chicago, and he became widely known as a teacher, a singer and composer. For the next eight years, he was very well known nationally and financially successful. Bliss was at the top of his game.
Throughout this time, he developed a friendship with the great Evangelist preacher, D.L. Moody, and his associate, Daniel Whittle. They challenged him to leave his business and work with them.
After a number of years, Bliss decided to join Whittle at an Evangelistic meeting. He sang one of his songs, and numerous people felt the conviction of sin and surrendered their lives to Jesus.
Despite his success financially, as well as an educator and song writer, in humility, he walked away from his business and began fulltime work as an Evangelist along side Whittle and Moody. He traveled with them for the next two years seeing many lives transformed for Jesus.
In 1876, Bliss conducted a service with 800 inmates of a Michigan prison. He sang “Man of Sorrows”, one of his last hymns. As they sang this expression of Christ humility and sacrifice, many of the prisoners openly wept and gave their lives to Jesus. No one could have known this would be his last public performance.
After celebrating Christmas with his family in Pennsylvania, Bliss boarded a train to Chicago to sing at a New Year’s service for Moody. It was snowing heavily when he came to that bridge in Ohio. After the bridge collapsed, the train fell and burst into flames. Bliss initially survived by being thrown from the train, but with his wife on board, Bliss, like Jesus, became obedient, even to death, to save his wife. He rushed back into the burning train, and both he and Lucy were consumed in the fire.
Philip Bliss, both in life and death, was a humble man who consistently considered others before himself. D.L. Moody said this of his friend – “In my estimate, he was the most highly honored of God of any man of his time as a writer and singer of gospel songs. And with all his gifts, he was the most humble man I ever knew. I loved him as a brother.”
Female: Please stand and sing in response with us.