Summary: God calls us to humility...it is part of the call to be like Jesus. What is humility, really? How does James help us to find it?
Grace for the Humble - Sermon for CATM - June 12, 2005
A pastor in Toronto who I deeply admired, Dr. Winston Nunes, was once praised for his humility. He looked up at his admirer and said, “I’m not humble, I’m accurate”. A lot of the Bible, God’s Word, is dedicated to helping us see things as they are, to see the truth about ourselves, to understand the truth about God as it is revealed in Scripture.
We’ve been studying the book of James for a few weeks now. We’ve looked at faith and works and seen that faith and works are not separate things, but really two legs of the same animal. We’ve looked at taming the tongue, harder than taming the wildest animal and yet something that makes us continue to reach for God’s grace, the tongue reminds us of our weakness. Today, James takes us on journey of a different sort. It is to a place of humility.
James outlines for us the way of humility, the steps we need to take to come into right relationship with God for he writes, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
1. Submit to God (vs. 7)
The first is to submit to God. The word submission raises red flags for many of us. I’m pretty sure that you’ve known someone in a position of authority who has abused their authority. You may have trusted, you may have submitted before, and it turned out badly, because you had to submit to someone who was not worthy of being submitted to. Fair enough.
Part of the healing God brings us through is in disentangling the baggage we carry - and we all
carry it - that confuses God’s character with mankind’s behaviour. If this is a real struggle for
you, don’t just leave it like that. You need healing prayer. You need to pray to understand who God really is, and you may need others to pray with you to support you and ask for God’s grace to enable you to understand that God alone is completely worthy and that we are completely safe in giving our lives to him.
2. Resist the devil (vs. 7)
Sometimes we get the first part, submitting to God, but then we act as though we don’t have an enemy of our souls. Sometimes I’ve said that we don’t need there to be a devil. We mess things up enough on our own. Jeremiah says in chapter 17:9 that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
But, there is a being who is the very substance of evil. Peter says in chapter 5 of his first letter “8
“...Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith...”
Satan comes to us in the form of temptation. James says earlier in chapter 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 4 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
How do we resist the devil? Well, Satan is the author of deception, or lies. He thrives on them. Deceit and untruth are like food to our enemy. He even uses Scripture with us, as he did with Jesus at His temptation.
Remember? Satan said to Jesus, who was weakened after fasting for 40 days "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, "It is written: ’Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’"
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.
6 "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "’He will
command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not
strike your foot against a stone.’"
7 Jesus answered him, "It is also written: ’Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’"
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the
world and their splendor.
9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ’Worship the Lord your God, and
serve him only.’"
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.