The Gospel and Daily Humility (Bridges)

 I enjoyed Jerry Bridges’ book, The Blessing of Humility.  It’s a readable discussion of humility based on the Beatitudes.  Chapter ten of this book is called, “The Humility and the Gospel.”  Below are four main points Bridges makes in this chapter.  I’ve summarized them for the sake of space.  The question is this: How does the good news of the gospel help keep us humble every day?

  1. For one thing, it frees us up to be honest with ourselves about our sin.  We can face our sin squarely when we know that it is forgiven.  Even when a particular sin is vile in our eyes – not to mention God’s eyes – we can call it what it is, and thank God for his forgiveness.

  2. The second way the gospel helps us live a life of humility is to show us another person’s sin in light of our own.  To paraphrase and even enlarge on the words of one of the Puritans, the proud person is so busy judging the sins of other people that he or she has no time to see the sins of his or her own heart.  Meanwhile, the humble person is so busy dealing with his or her own sins that he or she has no time to judge the sins  of others.

  3. A third way the gospel helps us walk in humility is that it helps us practice meekness and mercy.  We can only truly appreciate the gospel when we see it through the lens of our sin.  And as we do that, we can forgive the sins of others because we have been forgiven so much.

  4. Fourth, the gospel motivates us to want to live in purity of heart – that is, to have as our supreme goal in life to live no longer for ourselves but Him who redeemed us to be a people for his own possession. …I find myself often praying over a few phrases from the old hymn “My Faith Looks Up to Thee.” ‘Take all my guilt away / O let me from this day / Be wholly Thine!’

In summary, I would say that it is impossible to truly walk in humility without to some degree appropriating the truth of the gospel every day.

Jerry Bridges, The Blessing of Humility, p. 86-88.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

 

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Humility and Distrusting the Heart (Hutchinson)

 I’m enjoying this book by Christopher Hutchinson called Rediscovering Humility.  It’s an engaging read that walks through the different dynamics of biblical humility in a gospel centered way.  I’ll write more about it later, but for now I wanted to share these helpful paragraphs:

I have often participated in religious or philosophical discussions with people who had made up their minds long before and without any real examination of the issues. They are sure they are right and cannot wait to tell anyone who will listen.  How often people say something like, ‘I think God is like this or that,’ without any consideration that they ought not to think anything about God unless He has first told them.  Wisdom reminds us, ‘A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion’ (Proverbs 18:2).  Fools would rather hear themselves talk than actually grow in knowledge and perhaps even change their minds.  In contrast, humility is ‘quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger’ (James 1:19)….

Americans have a strong tradition of rugged individualism that pushes against humility.  In ‘Self-Reliance,’ Ralph Waldo Emerson says, ‘to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men – that is genius.’  So what happens when my genius heart disagrees with yours?  That is exactly why Scripture warns against trusting one’s own heart, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9).  Humility teaches people to distrust their own hearts and judgment until wisdom has grown and been proved by an abundance of counselors.

What then are believers to do?  They are to distrust their own first instincts and listen to facts – the facts of the world around them, the facts of other people’s thoughts and opinions, and most of all, the facts found in God’s Word (cf. James 1:19, 22).  They are to heed the advice found in Proverbs, ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding…’ (3:5-7).

Christopher Hutchinson, Rediscovering Humility (Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2018), p. 50-51.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

(NOTE: I received a copy of this book to review and was not compelled to write a positive review.)

A Proverb for Social Media

BRidgesProverbs Here’s an excellent inspired proverb for using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and the like: Proverbs 27:2.  This verse doesn’t use the term “brag” nor does it specifically refer to what we call a “humblebrag,” but the concepts are for sure there:

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips. (NASB)
Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips. (NIV)
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips. (NET)

Here’s how Charles Bridges commented on this verse.  I’ve edited it slightly for length and readability:

‘Praise’ – says an old expositor – ‘is a comely garment.  But though thyself doth wear it, another must put it on, or else it will never sit well about thee.  Praise is sweet music, but it is never tuneable in thine own mouth.  If it comes from the mouth of another, it sounds most tuneably in the ears of all that hear it.  Praise is such a rich treasure but it will never make thee rich unless another tell the same.’  Indeed…nothing so degrades a man with his fellow-men as setting out his own praise….

[Therefore] let our works – not our tongues – ‘praise us in the gates’ (ch. 31:31).  And while our works shine, see to it that ourselves be hid.  ‘Confess your faults to one another’ but leave to another to speak our praise (James 5:16).

Our name will lose nothing by this self-renouncing spirit.  If our own mouth is silent, another’s will be opened.  John was ‘unworthy’ in his own eyes to ‘unloose the latchet of his Master’s shoes.’  Yet his Lord’s mouth did proclaim him as ‘the greatest of all that had been born of women’ (Mt. 3:11).  The centurion spoke of himself as ‘not worthy that Christ should come under his roof.’  Yet his elders did testify that ‘he was worthy for whom he should do this.’  Yes, the Savior’s own mouth confirmed the testimony – ‘I have not found so great faith in all of Israel’ (Lk. 7.3, 4, 9).

Self-seeking is a shameful blot upon Christian profession.  Shall one that has said before God, ‘Behold, I am vile!’ be ready to say before his fellow-men, ‘Come, see my zeal for the Lord! Come, see how humble I am!’  Oh for the self-abased spirit of our glorious Master – ever ready to endure reproach, never seeking his own glory (John 5:41; 8:50). …Surely that we are so little truly humble is matter enough for the deepest humiliation.

Charles Bridges, Proverbs, p. 502-3.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Trembling Before the Word

 Here’s a great section of Jerry Bridges’ commentary on the fruit of the Spirit and other Christian virtues.  Here he talks about one aspect of Christian humility.

“The person who is truly humble before God is also humble before God’s Word.  God says he esteems the person who is humble and contrite in spirit and who trembles at his Word.  …[We] must develop this kind of humility toward the Bible.  As we search the Scriptures, we must allow them to search us, to sit in judgment upon our character and conduct.  We must treat the Scriptures not only as a source of knowledge about God but also as the expression of his will for our daily lives.  As the familiar statement goes, ‘The Bible was given not just to increase our knowledge, but to guide our conduct.’  Far too often it seems we approach the Bible just to increase our spiritual knowledge of the facts of the Bible.  We do need to increase our spiritual knowledge, but it should be for the purpose of obeying God’s will.  Paul prayed that God would fill the Colossian Christians with the knowledge of his will so that they might live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way” (p. 50-51).

That’s the great balance of the Bible.  Christians, like Paul, should want to know Christ but also how to live a life worthy of the calling to which we’ve been called.  Or, as James so aptly put it, we should not just be hearers of the word, but doers as well.

Jerry Bridges, The Fruitful Life (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006).

shane lems

Growing (Painfully!) In The Gospel: P.T. Forsyth

One of the neat things about running a book blog is the recommendations we get from time to time.  We appreciate it when you notice the different kinds of books we enjoy and then let us know what you think we’d enjoy based on our blog posts.  Awhile back one of you mentioned that we might like P.T. Forsyth.  I finally got around to reading something by him.  I chose The Soul of Prayer because I’ll be preaching through the Lord’s Prayer this spring.

This is a strange book – but it is strange in the best sense of the word.  After reading it, I can see why someone called Forsyth the English precursor to Karl Barth.  Though there are parts of the book that I’m not too wild about (i.e. his use of the term sacrament and his discussion of God’s will), other parts were amazing and profound.  Here are a few quotes to give you a taste of Forsyth’s book on prayer.  In this section he is talking about the preaching and praying pastor.

“If it were only texts or men we had to handle!  But we have to handle the gospel.  We have to lift up Christ – a Christ who is the death of natural self-confidence – a humiliating, even a crushing Christ; and we are not always alive to our uplifting and resurrection in him.  We have to handle a gospel that is a new rebuke to us every step we gain in intimacy with it.  There is no real intimacy with the gospel which does not mean a new sense of God’s holiness, and it may be long before we realize that same holiness that condemns is that which saves.”

He continues,

“There is no new insight into the Cross which does not bring, whatever else come with it, a deeper sense of the solemn holiness of the love that meets us there.  And there is no new sense of the holy God that does not arrest his name upon our unclean lips.  If our very repentance is to be repented of, and we should be forgiven much in our very prayers, how shall we be proud, or even pleased, with what we may think a success in our preaching?  So that we are not surprised that some preachers, after what the public calls a most brilliant and impressive discourse, retire…to humble themselves before God, to ask forgiveness for the poor message, to call themselves most unprofitable servants – yea, even when they knew themselves that they had ‘done well.’  The more we grasp our gospel the more it abashes us.”  [note: abash means humble or shame.]

Quotes taken from The Soul of Prayer (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2002).  I forgot which of you recommended P.T. Forsyth’s work, but thanks!

shane lems

What’s Wrong With Society?

 Nearly a hundred years before George on Seinfeld asked this quesition, a newspaper in England did: “What’s wrong with society?”

The story goes that G.K. Chesterton wrote a brief letter to the newspaper, responding to the question.  His answer?

“Dear Sirs:

I am. 

Sincerely yours,
G. K. Chesterton.”   

That’s what humility looks like.  It takes a broken and contrite spirit to quit pointing the finger of sin at others and aim it at one’s own heart.

Quote taken from Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God, p. 46.

shane lems

sunnyside wa