THE SUBMISSIVE DISCIPLE
The first verse of the old Gregorian chant stated the point:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I could but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.
When one truly experiences the Jesus of the cross, there is always revival. In throwing ourselves prostrate before the cross, spiritual revival springs into life. It will continue until our last breath leaves our body.
There is no force more powerful to change our characters than to comprehend our Creator dying through crucifixion on a cross. If in the business of our activity-oriented lives we forget this, we are doomed to harbor attitudes that are simply contrary to those that are necessary for eternal dwelling. Therefore, we must call ourselves to the cross. And as we weep there with sorrow and thanksgiving, we must begin a revival in our spirit to the humility that moved Jesus to go there for us.
I. A humility revival through wilderness wandering:
David wrote, “My soul will make its boast in the Lord. The humble will hear of it and be glad” (Ps 34:2). The time would come in Israel after David’s death that the nation would exalt itself against God. God knew that the children of Abraham would eventually become a proud people. And being proud, they needed to be shown the way to humility. Before Moses left the nation, God, through him, explained to the nation why they had to walk forty years in the wilderness before being given the promised land:
And you will remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and allowed you to hunger (Dt 8:2,3).
If God’s work with Israel in the wilderness is an indication of how He works with us individually today, then He will allow the proud to walk in the wilderness until they learn humility. One of the first questions that one should ask himself when he finds himself in the wilderness is if his pride got him there. It may be that God has allowed one to walk in the wilderness in order to develop one’s character for dwelling with the contrite in eternal heaven. If after his time in the wilderness, we would ask King Nebuchadnezzar how he got there. He would be the first to confess that pride led him to eating grass in order to survive his time in the wilderness (Dn 4:25,32).
Moses said that God allowed Israel to walk in the wilderness for forty years in order to know “whether you would keep His commandments” (Dt 8:2). It may be easy to keep the commandments of God when everything is going great. But when one enters a wilderness, it is then that we determine if we are truly disciples. For this reason, during His ministry, Jesus cried out to the multitudes, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mt 11:15; 13:9,43; see 7:26). Jesus was crying out for those Israelites of faith who would be willing to follow Him out of the wilderness of Jewish religiosity and into the truth of the gospel. It would be only the humble who would heed His call. Therefore, it would be only the humble who would enter into the kingdom through their obedience to the commandments of Jesus.
Remember this statement of Jesus: “If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples” (Jn 8:31). If one would be a disciple of Jesus, then it is imperative that he humbly and obediently hear the commandments of Jesus and continue therein. If one finds himself in a wilderness of struggle, it may be that God has allowed one to be there for the same reason that He allowed Israel to walk for forty years in the desert sands of the Sinai Peninsula. If we would conclude that God is thus working on our pride in order that we humbly submit to His commandments, then we can understand what the Hebrew writer stated:
My son, do not despise the disciplining of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked by Him. For whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and scourges every son whom He receives (Hb 12:5,6).
Remember, our trip through the wilderness may be a confirmation that God loves us. And because He loves us, He will allow us to struggle through the wilderness. But as God did with Israel, we must always remember that He will not forsake us in the wilderness, neither will He leave us there.
II. A humility revival through humble service.
When Paul met with the Ephesian elders for the last time, he said to them, “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility …” (At 20:18,19). Humble people seek to serve, but proud people seek to be served. The proud sometimes pass off their responsibility to serve with the practice of “delegating responsibility.” It is true that good leaders know how to delegate responsibility, but they only delegate that which they cannot personally handle themselves. It was for this reason that Paul instructed Timothy to instruct the rich that they not try to pay their way out of personal humble service.
Charge those who are rich in this world that they not be high-minded …. Teach that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to share … (1 Tm 6:17,18).
No disciple can buy his way out of personal involvement in serving others. It was in service to others, especially evangelists, that Gaius was identified by the Holy Spirit as one who was doing well (See 3 Jn). He not only financially supported the evangelists who were traveling on their way to preach the gospel, he was also receiving them into his home. Paying for an evangelist’s hotel bill is not receiving the evangelist into one’s home.
1 Peter 5:5 says to “be clothed with humility.” The meaning of the Greek word in this text is to “tie on.” In other words, the humble tie on an apron in order to serve the needs of others. If one is too proud to tie on an apron and get his hands dirty by walking in the wilderness of struggle with and for others, then he has need of humility. There are no leaders among slaves who sit, watch and command from boardrooms.
We would not be as Belshazzar, the last king of Babylon when the kingdom fell to the Medo-Persians. He knew what was right, but he did not put into action through obedience that which he knew he should do. Therefore, it was said of him, “And you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this” (Dn 5:22).
The character of Belshazzar was, “… you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven” (Dn 5:23). Jesus admonished the religious leaders of Israel with the same judgment that was brought down upon Belshazzar. In judgment of His generation of religious leaders, Jesus said of them, “And whoever will exalt himself will be humbled. And he who will humble himself will be exalted” (Mt 23:12). This was Jesus’ call for repentance from the religious leaders of His day. These would be good words for every young preacher to remember.
Immediately after Jesus made this introductory statement, He started into a condemnation of the character of the scribes and Pharisees. “Woe to you,” He continued to say in judgment of their arrogant character and behavior. There is a religious community today wherein are a host of those who have lifted themselves up. They have puffed themselves up to be political leaders who would parade themselves on behalf of One who counted not being on an equality with God something to be grasped. We can always know when a preacher does not have the mind of Christ by how he would proudly present himself before the people. Pompous leaders can never represent the Prince who had not even a fox hole in which to dwell.
We sometimes forget that God desires those who will walk humbly with Him with a contrite heart (Mc 6:8). He commands that we put on a heart of humility (Cl 3:12). We must remember that we are the disciples of the one who humbled Himself to wash the feet of those whom He had created (Jn 13:4,5), and then died for His creation (Ph 2:5-8). We follow no person who would claim to be a leader for Jesus who does not have a dirty towel in his hands.
If we find ourselves in the wilderness of God’s discipline, we must do as King Rehoboam of Judah. “And when he [Rehoboam] humbled himself, the wrath of the Lord turned from him so that He would not completely destroy him” (2 Ch 12:12). If one would seek to get out of the wilderness of discipline, then he must search for “Humble Street.” As Rehoboam, Hezekiah also became somewhat arrogant as the king of Judah. His pride was about to bring down the nation of Israel. Thankfully, he came to his senses.
“Hezekiah humbled himself from the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah (2 Ch 32:26; see 12:12).
We must not forget that “by humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life” (Pv 22:4). The fear of the word of the Lord will always result in humility. It is for this reason that those who walk in pride usually have little concern for the word of God. Even wicked Ahab had enough sense to fear the pronouncement of God’s word upon his prideful behavior. God pronounced that he would not escape punishment for this behavior (1 Kg 21:21-26).
Now it came to pass when Ahab heard those words [of Elijah], that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body. And he fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about depressed (1 Kg 21:27).
There was still enough fear of the Lord in Ahab to bring him to his knees. The Lord said to Elijah who had delivered the judgment of the Lord to Ahab,
“Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he humbles himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days. But in his son’s days I will bring the evil on his house” (1 Kg 21:29).
It may be that in the wilderness of the discipline of the Lord we humble ourselves. But we must keep in mind that we may still have to reap the consequences of our own sin while living in arrogance. “Be not deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gl 6:7). Wilderness walking does not mean that we will not reap from our past wild ways. However, while we reap the harvest of wild seeds that we have sown, we can be assured that we can endure the reaping with a heart of humility. Reaping from wild seeds sown sometimes is a constant reminder never to return to the sowing of any more wild seeds.