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By Andrew Murray, Lore Ferguson Wilbert
B&H Publishing GroupCopyright © 2017 B&H Publishing Group
All rights reserved.
The Glory of the Creature
"[They shall] cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou are worthy, O Lord and our God, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."
When God created the universe, it was with the one object of making the creature partaker of His perfection and blessedness, and so showing in it the glory of His love and wisdom and power. God wished to reveal Himself in and through created beings by communicating to them as much of His own goodness and glory as they were capable of receiving. But this communication was not a giving to the creature something which it could possess in itself, a certain life or goodness, of which it had the charge and disposal. By no means. But as God is the ever-living, ever-present, ever-acting One, who upholds all things by the word of His power, and in whom all things exist, the relation of the creature to God could only be one of unceasing, absolute, universal dependence. As truly as God by His power once created, so too by that same power must God every moment maintain. The creature has not only to look back to the origin and first beginning of existence, and acknowledge that it there owes everything to God; its chief care, its highest virtue, its only happiness, now and through all eternity, is to present itself an empty vessel, in which God can dwell and manifest His power and goodness.
The life God gives is imparted not once for all, but each moment continuously, by the unceasing operation of His mighty power. Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is, from the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue.
And so pride, or the loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil. It was when the now fallen angels began to look upon themselves with self-complacency that they were led to disobedience, and were cast down from the light of heaven into outer darkness. Even so it was, when the serpent breathed the poison of his pride, the desire to be as God, into the hearts of our first parents, that they too fell from their high estate into all the wretchedness in which man is now sunk. In heaven and earth, pride, self-exaltation, is the gate and the birth, and the curse, of hell. (See Note A.)
Therefore it follows that nothing can be our redemption, but the restoration of the lost humility, the original and only true relation of the creature to its God. And so Jesus came to bring humility back to earth, to make us partakers of it, and by it to save us. In heaven He humbled Himself to become man. The humility we see in Him possessed Him in heaven; it brought Him, He brought it, from there. Here on earth "he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death" (Philippians 2:8). His humility gave His death its value, and so became our redemption.
And now the salvation He imparts is nothing less and nothing more than a communication of His own life and death, His own disposition and spirit, His own humility, as the ground and root of His relation to God and His redeeming work. Jesus Christ took the place and fulfilled the destiny of man, as a creature, by His life of perfect humility. His humility is our salvation. His salvation is our humility.
And so the life of the saved ones, the saints, must bear this stamp of deliverance from sin, and full restoration to their original state; their whole relation to God and man marked by an all pervading humility. Without this there can be no true abiding in God's presence, or experience of His favor and the power of His Spirit; without this no abiding faith, or love or joy or strength. Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure. Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others; it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all.
God has constituted us as reasonable beings, so the truer the insight into the real nature or the absolute need of a command, the readier and fuller our obedience to it will be. The call to humility has been too little regarded in the Church because its true nature and importance has been too little apprehended. It is not a something which we bring to God or He bestows; it is simply the sense of entire nothingness, which comes when we see how truly God is all, and in which we make way for God to be all. When the creature realizes this is the true nobility, and consents to be with his will, his mind, and his affections, the form, the vessel in which the life and glory of God are to work and manifest themselves, he sees that humility is simply acknowledging the truth of his position as creature, and yielding to God His place.
In the life of earnest Christians, of those who pursue and profess holiness, humility ought to be the chief mark of their uprightness. It is often said that it is not so. May not one reason be that in the teaching and example of the Church, it has never had that place of supreme importance which belongs to it? And this, again, is owing to the neglect of this truth, as strong as sin is as a motive to humility, there is one of still wider and mightier influence, that which makes the angels, that which made Jesus, that which makes the holiest of saints in heaven, so humble; that the first and chief mark of the relation of the creature, the secret of his blessedness, is the humility and nothingness which leaves God free to be all?
I am sure there are many Christians who will confess their experience has been very much like my own: that we had long known the Lord without realizing meekness and lowliness of heart are as much the distinguishing feature of the disciple as they were of the Master. And more, this humility is not a thing that will come of itself, but it must be made the object of special desire and prayer and faith and practice. As we study the word, we shall see what very distinct and oft-repeated instructions Jesus gave His disciples on this point, and how slow they were in understanding Him. At the commencement of our meditations, let us admit there is nothing so natural to man, nothing so insidious and hidden from our sight, nothing so difficult and dangerous, as pride. Let us feel that nothing but a very determined and persevering waiting on God and Christ will discover how lacking we are in the grace of humility, and how impotent to obtain what we seek. Let us study the character of Christ until our souls are filled with the love and admiration of His lowliness. And let us believe that when we are broken down under a sense of our pride and our impotence to cast it out, Jesus Christ Himself will come in to impart this grace too, as a part of His wondrous life within us.
Note A: "All this is to make it known the region of eternity that pride can degrade the highest angels into devils, and humility raise fallen flesh and blood to the thrones of angels. Thus, this is the great end of God raising a new creation out of a fallen kingdom of angels: for this end it stands in its state of war betwixt the fire and pride of fallen angels, and the humility of the Lamb of God, that the last trumpet may sound the great truth through the depths of eternity, that evil can have no beginning but from pride, and no end but from humility. The truth is this: Pride may die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you. Under the banner of the truth, give yourself up to the meek and humble spirit of the holy Jesus. Humility must sow seed, or there can be no reaping in Heaven. Look not at pride only as an unbecoming temper, nor at humility only as a decent virtue: for the one is death, and the other is life; the one is all hell, the other is all heaven. So much as you have of pride within you, you have of the fallen angels alive in you; so much as you have of true humility, so much you have of the Lamb of God within you. Could you see what every stirring of pride does to your soul, you would beg of everything you meet to tear the viper from you, though with the loss of a hand or an eye. Could you see what a sweet, divine, transforming power there is in humility, how it expels the poison of your nature, and makes room for the Spirit of God to live in you, you would rather wish to be the footstool of all the world than want the smallest degree of it." — Spirit of Prayer, Pt. II, p. 73, Edition of Moreton, Canterbury, 1893.
Bible Study Questions
1. Read Philippians 2:1–11 and paraphrase it in your own words.
2. Why was becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross, important for the Savior of the world?
3. Look up other Bible verses that use the phrase selfish ambition.
Personal Reflection Questions
1. In what ways do your ambitions in life have selfish motives?
2. In what ways do you count "equality with God as something to be grasped?" (Philippians 2:6 esv).
3. Murray says, "Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others; it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all." How does having the root of pride instead of humility change your attitude before God?
Father, I confess You are God and I am not. It is the belief that I am, or that I can alter Your will, Your intentions, Your love, or Your discipline, that turns my attitude before You from righteous to unrighteous, from Your child to a slave. Teach me to see You fully as God and to see myself fully as a created one. Guide me to approach Your throne of grace with confidence and with deference to You as sovereign God. Help me learn to love humility and to hate pride; and help me see the vestiges of pride in my life and repent of it. Thank You for loving me fully and not waiting until I am perfect in Your sight to save me. In Your Son's name. Amen.CHAPTER 2
The Secret of Redemption
* * *
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him."
No tree can grow except on the root from which it sprang. Through all its existence it can only live with the life that was in the seed which gave it being. The full apprehension of this truth in its application to the first and the Second Adam can only help us to greatly understand both the need and the nature of the redemption there is in Jesus.
The Need. — When the Old Serpent, he who had been cast out from heaven for his pride — whose whole nature as devil was pride — spoke his words of temptation into the ear of Eve, these words carried with them the very poison of hell. And when she listened, and yielded her desire and her will to the prospect of being as God, knowing good and evil, the poison entered into her soul and blood and life, destroying forever that blessed humility and dependence upon God which would have been our everlasting happiness. And so instead of this, her life and the life of the race that sprang from her became corrupted to its root with the most terrible of all sins and all curses, the poison of Satan's own pride. All the wretchedness of this world's scene, all its wars and bloodshed among the nations, all its selfishness and suffering, all its ambitions and jealousies, all its broken hearts and embittered lives, with all its daily unhappiness, have their origin in what this cursed, hellish pride — either our own or that of others — has brought us. It is pride that made redemption needed. And it is from our pride we above everything need to be redeemed. And our insight into the need of redemption will largely depend upon our knowledge of the terrible nature of the power that has entered our being.
No tree can grow except on the root from which it sprang. The power Satan brought from hell, and cast into man's life, is working daily, hourly, with mighty power throughout the world. Men suffer from it; they fear and fight and flee it; and yet they know not from where it comes, from where it has its terrible supremacy. No wonder they do not know where or how it is to be overcome. Pride has its root and strength in a terrible spiritual power, outside of us as well as within us; as needed as it is that we confess and deplore it as our very own, is it also to know its Satanic origin. If this leads us to utter despair of ever conquering or casting it out, it will lead us all the sooner to the supernatural power in which alone our deliverance is to be found — the redemption of the Lamb of God. The hopeless struggle against the workings of self and pride within us may indeed become still more hopeless as we think of the power of darkness behind it all. The utter despair will fit us the better for realizing and accepting a power and a life outside of ourselves too, even the humility of heaven as brought down and brought near by the Lamb of God, to cast out Satan and his pride.
No tree can grow except on the root from which it sprang. Even as we need to look to the first Adam and his fall to know the power of the sin within us, we need to know well the Second Adam and His power to give within us a life of humility as real and abiding and overmastering as has been that of pride. We have our life from and in Christ, as truly, even more truly, than from and in Adam. We are to walk "rooted ... in him" (Colossians 2:7), "holding the Head, from which all the body ... increaseth with the increase of God" (v. 19). The life of God which in the incarnation entered human nature, is the root in which we are to stand and grow. It is the same almighty power that worked there, and works onward to the resurrection, which works daily in us. Our one need is to study and know and trust the life that has been revealed in Christ as the life that is now ours, and waits for our consent to gain possession and mastery of our whole being.
In this view it is of inconceivable importance that we should have right thoughts of what Christ is, of what really constitutes Him the Christ, and specially of what may be counted His chief characteristic, the root and essence of all His character as our Redeemer. There can be but one answer: it is His humility. What is the incarnation but His heavenly humility; His emptying Himself and becoming man? What is His life on earth but humility; His taking the form of a servant? And what is His atonement but humility? "He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death" (Philippians 2:8). And what is His ascension and His glory, but humility exalted to the throne and crowned with glory? "He humbled himself, ... wherefore God also hath highly exalted him" (vv. 8–9). In heaven, where He was with the Father, in His birth, in His life, in His death, in His sitting on the throne, it is nothing but humility. Christ is the humility of God embodied in human nature; the Eternal Love humbling itself, clothing itself in the garb of meekness and gentleness, to win and serve and save us. As the love and condescension of God makes Him the benefactor and helper and servant of all, so Jesus of necessity was the Incarnate Humility. And so He is still in the midst of the throne, the meek and lowly Lamb of God.
If this be the root of the tree, its nature must be seen in every branch and leaf and fruit. If humility be the first, the all-including grace of the life of Jesus, — if humility be the secret of His atonement, — then the health and strength of our spiritual life will entirely depend upon our putting this grace first too, and making humility the chief thing we admire in Him, the chief thing we ask of Him, the one thing for which we sacrifice all else. (See Note B.)
Is it any wonder that the Christian life is so often feeble and fruitless, when the very root of the Christ life is neglected and unknown? Is it any wonder the joy of salvation is so little felt, when that in which Christ found it and brings it, is so little sought? Until a humility which will rest in nothing less than the end and death of self; which gives up all the honor of men as Jesus did, to seek the honor that comes from God alone; which absolutely makes and counts itself nothing, that God may be all, that the Lord alone may be exalted — until such a humility be what we seek in Christ above our chief joy, and welcome at any price, there is very little hope of a religion that will conquer the world.
Excerpted from Humility by Andrew Murray, Lore Ferguson Wilbert. Copyright © 2017 B&H Publishing Group. Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
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Table of Contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS
HUMILITY: THE BEAUTY OF HOLINESS 4
HUMILITY: THE GLORY OF THE CREATURE 4
HUMILITY: THE SECRET OF REDEMPTION 6
HUMILITY IN THE LIFE OF JESUS 8
HUMILITY IN THE TEACHING OF JESUS 9
HUMILITY IN THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS 11
HUMILITY IN DAILY LIFE 12
HUMILITY AND HOLINESS 14
HUMILITY AND SIN 16
HUMILITY AND FAITH 18
HUMILITY AND DEATH TO SELF 19
HUMILITY AND HAPPINESS. 21
HUMILITY AND EXALTATION 23
A PRAYER FOR HUMILITY 25