Summary: God strengthens us with everything we need for God-glorifying and self-satisfying humility.
Our church in Chicago participated in a prison ministry. One week the director of the work sent out an email with this last line: “And remember (as we say in Texas) don’t squat with your spurs on.” That is “practical” knowledge—a fact which quickly pays a dividend.
God intends his truth to be practical. Many people are surprised to hear that because they can imagine nothing less so than sermons and theology. We pastors are partially to blame—at times we fail to show clearly enough how great theological truths work out in practical application.
But the fault is not all mine—sometimes God’s answers are clear, but we dislike what he says and refuse to obey! Romans 7 describes this conflict between the sinful desires of the heart and the spiritual desires given by God: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7.15,21-23).
I remind you that the Bible is practical because these verses are among the deepest and most theologically profound teachings in the whole of Scripture. As a result, we usually think about this passage away from its context. For example, the index in the back of our hymnal shows 15 hymns reference Philippians 2, six about Jesus’ birth, one his crucifixion, and eight his exaltation. All of those are good and true, but the context of Christian humility is not represented. Our confessions of faith use Philippians 2 as a proof text many times, but never connect the work of Christ with the character of humility. Make no mistake—Philippians 2.5-11 explains the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus. Just be sure to remember that Paul does not aim to display theological profundity but to challenge the church to the practice of humility.
I will read verses 1-11, then we can ask Jesus, “gentle and lowly in heart,” to teach us godly humility.
[Read Philippians 2.1-11. Pray.]
One of the first conductors born and educated in the United States to receive worldwide acclaim was Leonard Bernstein. He directed the New York Philharmonic, conducted concerts by some of the world’s leading orchestras, wrote symphonies, and music for Broadway hits such as West Side Story and Candide. His obituary in The New York Times (October 15, 1990) called him “one of the most… talented and successful musicians in American history.”
Bernstein once was asked which instrument was the most difficult to play. He said, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem.”
Last week Dave attended at the annual conference of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools. There he heard a lecture entitled, “Second Fiddles—How to Lead When You’re Not the Primary Leader.” George Grant explained from the lives of the Reformers how important is the work of those who do not get all the attention.