01 Sep Quarter Two Lesson Four
The Necessity of Humility
We’ve studied the last few lessons on the exciting power of God’s Word to change, grow and mature us. We’ve seen the need to study God’s Word, even to “immerse” ourselves in it (1 Timothy 4:15). We have learned that we grow when we study and meditate on God’s Word, praying that God would reveal the gospel to us and mature us in the process.
Today, we are going to address one of the hindrances to growth and maturity that can come with intense study of God’s Word. Consider the following verses and see if you can tell what the problem would be:
“We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” 1 Corinthians 8:1 (NIV)
“If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Galatians 6:3 (NIV)
Question 1. About what do the above two verses of Scripture warn us?
When we read Scripture to only get facts and information, we can end up with a head full of knowledge. In so doing we miss the point and can actually have the exact opposite of what we want to happen.
Imagine it: we start off well, wanting to grow in our Christian life, so we study God’s Word every day. We are excited to learn and grow. And indeed we start to learn things as we study. Now we’re learning all these facts and getting all this knowledge, and we share what we are learning with others who are impressed by what we say. At this point, it might happen that we start to become proud and think we are really something. After all, we know a lot; we understand the Bible.
And as we grow more confident in our knowledge of the Bible, we might become quite “puffed up”; that is, prideful and arrogant, thinking we’re something and somebody, and people should really listen to us. Now we are becoming top-heavy with our head full of pride. We started off well, but now we are in danger of being unstable.
I remember one time watching a carnival worker blowing up a balloon with an air compressor. The balloon was being “puffed up” and kept expanding until it became much larger than I thought was possible. Then to his surprise, as well as the surprise of all who were in the area, the balloon popped with a very large “bang”.
This being “puffed up” with knowledge is exactly the opposite of what we want to have happen, and can lead to disastrous consequences if left unchecked. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2 (NIV)
So the warning in this lesson is to check our hearts for pride as we seek to grow and mature in our faith through Bible study. Are we studying the Bible to appear to be spiritual, or to simply get some facts to tell others? Or are we seeing and treasuring Jesus, and seeking to become more like Him? These are good questions to ask ourselves now and throughout our lives.
As we continue in this lesson, let us examine a passage of Scripture that has the potential of leaving us in absolute awe of Jesus as He models the attitude that we want to have:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)
Question 2. According to Philippians 2:6 above, Who is Jesus Christ?
The Bible teaches clearly that Jesus Christ is God (Colossians 1:19), equal with the Father, having the same nature. God is the most exalted Being in the universe, the Creator of all things and all people, the Lord of all. He is worshiped in Heaven by unnumbered multitudes of angels (Revelation 5:11-12). He speaks and all of Heaven and Earth submit to His will (Matthew 6:10). He is the Supreme God, the Almighty God, the Everlasting God, King of kings and Lord of Lords. He is in command and in control of everything. This is Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Question 3. According to Philippians 2 above, to what did Jesus not grasp?
Yes, even though Jesus was and is fully God, Almighty God, He did not consider His equality with God something to be grasped. He let it go, and came to this earth as a human. He did not demand to stay in Heaven, remain in His position on the throne, and keep His exalted status.
Question 4. Instead of grasping to keep His exalted position in Heaven, what did Jesus do according to Philippians 2:7?
Is this not astounding? Jesus, Who is “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28) became “nothing.” A nobody. A common man. Jesus took on flesh, assumed human nature, and became one of us. God became man. The Divine became human. The “All” became “nothing.”
Question 5. According to Philippians 2 above, what nature did Jesus take?
Truly this should leave us speechless if we really think about it. The Lord became a servant. He says in Matthew 20:28 that He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many”.
To illustrate this point Jesus did a very interesting thing. He was with His disciples for supper, but before they ate, Jesus wrapped a towel around His waist and started washing their feet, like a common house-servant would do (John 13). The disciples were stunned. One of the disciples, named Peter, asked in astonishment, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” (John 13:6).
Dear friend, how much more astounded should we be that Jesus wrapped Himself with a human body and washed us from our sins on the cross? Should we not declare in wonder, “Lord, do you wash my sins?” What love! What humility! What a Savior!
So the “All” became “nothing” and “the Lord” became “a servant”. Who can fathom either the heights from which Jesus came or the depths to which Jesus descended, all because of His love?
Question 6. According to Philippians 2:8, how far did Jesus descend?
This is where we tend to get dumbstruck, and become lost in wonder and in awe. The One Who is life, and the One Who gave life to all things and all people (Isaiah 45:12), gave up His life for us. How do we understand this? It seems He went too low, became too humble, too self-debasing. And yet Jesus did it. And He did it for you.
But there’s more. Jesus not only died, He died on a cross. A criminal’s cross. The Judge of all the earth died as a criminal. The One Who was perfectly holy, sinless, without spot or blemish was treated as the worst offender, and put to death on a criminal’s cross, and treated as the lowest of the low. What can be said about this? Sometimes the less said the better, as we just stop to consider all that Jesus did for us. This might be a good place to stop your reading, just worship God in your heart, and maybe say a prayer of thanks to Him.
Question 7. As we consider this tremendous humility that Jesus Christ exhibited, with what instruction does this passage begin (verse 5)?
Yes, our attitudes should be the same as Jesus. Let us apply His humility to our lives:
- Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, nor should we hold on to our pride, our position, or our status. We should not hold on to our pride and state that we are a “good person”; but rather acknowledge the truth that we are a sinner, and in need of a Savior. This is the start to true humility.
- Jesus made Himself nothing, and we should not seek to exalt ourselves or promote ourselves, but rather we should become low in our own minds.
John the Baptist said, “He (Jesus) must increase, I must decrease.” This should be our desire as well.
- Jesus became a servant, serving His disciples and serving all mankind. Likewise, we should be willing to lower ourselves to serve others, should think nothing of doing menial tasks—servant’s work. There’s nothing wrong with being a CEO, or a high up elected official in some capacity; it is just that a Christian CEO will use his position to serve others, sometimes in ways that might shock those whom he is serving. This is the heart of true humility as exhibited by Jesus.
- Jesus humbled Himself unto death. Likewise, we should not cling to our lives but die to ourselves and serve others. By this I don’t mean we must physically die, but rather like Jesus, we should give our lives in service. Not living for ourselves but submitting to humble work, even lowly tasks. After Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, He taught His disciples to do lowly acts of service as well: “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:13-17 (NIV)
Please examine the following Scriptures to see how they instruct us to live like Jesus:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3 (NIV)
Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5 (NIV)
Question 8. What thoughts do you have as you ponder the above Scriptures?
True understanding of the Scriptures should lead us to humility. The more we grow, the more humble we should become. In other words, the Christian grows downward, in humility, not upward in pride.
I remember hiking to the top of a peak one time and seeing a beautiful waterfall from the very top; the water cascaded about 200 feet downward and revealed a beautiful rainbow in the mist and spray near the bottom of the cliff. I thought at the time that this is how a Christian grows; we must go down in order to reveal the beautiful character of Jesus.
Yes, we should grow in our knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18), and it should delight us to immerse ourselves in Scripture. Studying the Bible is a special joy because the Bible is like no other book we’ve read—the Bible is alive and ever new. But we must be careful to look for Jesus in our studies of the Bible, and to make sure all the knowledge we are getting does not puff us up but instead humbles our hearts and gives us the attitude of Jesus.
Finally, to complete our lesson today, let us notice what happened to Jesus after He humbled Himself so greatly as to come to earth, take on human flesh, live as a servant, and die on a cross:
Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2: 9-11
Question 9. What happened to Jesus after He humbled Himself so greatly?
Yes, Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day and exalted to the highest place. He went to the throne of God, to the right hand of power (Matthew 26:64), to receive the worship of all in heaven and on earth. One day, every human being who has ever lived will bow their knees to King Jesus, and will confess Him as Lord.
There is an amazing truth here for us to learn. The principle is stated clearly in the following Scriptures:
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. Luke 1:52 (NIV)
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10 (NIV)
Here we see the principle that God exalts the humble. He lifts those up to higher positions of usefulness who have humbled themselves to serve others. We do not lift ourselves up, God raises us and lifts us. This is His work, not ours, even as God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:32) and exalted Him to the highest place.
So to summarize, in order to grow spiritually, we study and meditate on God’s Word. But we are careful that we do not become puffed up with all our knowledge, but instead we learn to see Jesus everywhere we read in the Scriptures.
As we see Him, we seek to become like Him. One of the greatest characteristics of Jesus Christ was His humility. He, though God, came to this earth as a humble man, was born in a manger (a horse or cattle stall), lived as a servant, and died on a cross.
Then God raised and exalted Jesus to the highest place, giving Him the Name that is above every Name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Even so we seek to humble ourselves and become like Jesus, serving others and giving our lives to help people. As we do so, God exalts us to greater places of service, where we might reach more people and serve them.
Question 10. Are you coming to understand how to grow as a Christian? Are you seeing the value of growing into the characteristics of Jesus Christ? What are your thoughts?