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Series: Clothe yourselves with humility

Today we finish up our series on humility. Remember with me these basics:

The proud are those who raise themselves up:

  • to be honored because they think they are better than others
  • to be above others; to be separate and in charge
  • to be served by others
  • to have what they want, what’s best and easiest for them

Notice how all of this is self-centered.

The humble, however, are those who lower themselves:

  • to forsake seeking honor
  • to be with others on the same level
  • to serve the needs of others and to lower themselves to do this
  • to sacrifice,  as they serve, lowering themselves still further

Notice how this is completely other centered.

Well, we have talked about what it means for us as individuals to clothe ourselves with humility, but today we ask the question, “What does a humble congregation look like?”

And we are working with the same four components of humility that we have just reviewed.

1. A humble church remembers its own lowliness

As a group we know that we are not better than anyone else that might come to our door, or any group of people that we reach out to.

Luke 18:9-14 says, “Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.”

It’s easy to forget that we are forgiven sinners ourselves. And that God loves those who have needs and problems just as much as he loves us. And that if we don’t have those same needs and problems, it’s because of the grace of God. And it is this same grace that we are to share with those who come to us.

Paul had to deal with a church that had some who were proud. This is what he says in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 – “For consider your calling, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

He calls them to remember their lowliness. And that God loves the lowly, and works his will through them – so why try to lift yourself up?

  • A proud church thinks it’s better than others.
  • A humble church knows that it is not better than anyone who comes to its doors or that it seeks to reach out to. It gives up lifting itself up, just as Jesus set aside his glory in heaven to come to us (Philippians 2:6-7).

2. A humble church is with the lowly

What I am trying to say here is that we don’t just relate to those who are like us, or those we are comfortable with, we also and especially relate to and are with the lowly.

Who are the lowly?

  • Those who are rejected. In Jesus’ day these were the sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors and lepers.
  • Those who have low social status. in Jesus’ day this included women, children and slaves.
  • Those who are weak. In Jesus’ day this included the poor, the unlearned, the sick, the demonized, the mentally ill, older people and the disabled.

Who are the rejected today? Who are those with low social status? Who are those who are weak today? I would suggest that the list is much the same. And we are called to be with them in relationship, not to pull away as if we are better.

Think about the example of Jesus’ ministry. He said in Luke 4:18 – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed . . ..” He also said in Matthew 9:12-13 – “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

James talks about some who were proud in James 2:2-4. He rebukes those who favored the rich over the poor in their fellowship. He says, “if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

  • A proud church sees the lowly as beneath them. Sometimes it even pushes them away or treats them with contempt.
  • A humble church follows Jesus’ example and is also in relationship with the lowly.

3. A humble church serves the lowly

We serve by lowering ourselves to meet the needs of others and to lift them up. And what I’m saying is that we don’t just serve those who are like us, or those we are comfortable with, or just people who are already in our group We also and especially serve the lowly.

As he said in Matthew 9:12 he is the doctor who seeks to make the sick whole, not those who are healthy:

– Jesus’ preached to the lowly and invited them to receive God’s grace, forgiveness and acceptance. He preached “good news the poor” – Luke 4:18.

– He helped with their needs through healing and casting out demons. Through him the Spirit brought “recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” – Luke 4:18.

– He included the lowly in his congregation of disciples, for instance Matthew the tax collector – Matthew 9:9.

  • A proud church wants to serve certain people, those like us, who will benefit our congregation, our programs, who fit into our social events, who make us look good.  If the lowly are served it is at a distance and not with personal contact.
  • A humble church serves the lowly, following Jesus’ example who “came not to be served, but to serve” – Mark 10:45.

4. A humble church sacrifices for the lowly

As we lower ourselves to serve others, it will cost us and to sacrifice means we are willing to do this for the well-being of others. And what I’m saying is that we don’t just sacrifice for those who are like us, or those we are comfortable with, or just people who are already in our group. We also and especially sacrifice for the lowly.

Jesus tells a parable about the lowly in Luke 15:4-6 – “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’” Hey, it’s way easier to hang out with the 99. It takes work to go a find those who are lost. It takes a sacrifice of time and effort.

But of course, the supreme example of his sacrifice for the lowly is when he laid down his life on the cross. And we are to lay down our lives and this includes sacrificially serving the lowly. Jesus gave up everything for the lowly. What have you given up?

  • A proud church wants what makes it comfortable and takes the easy road.
  • A humble church make sacrifices to serve those in need, following the example of Jesus who “came not to be serve but to serve and to give his life” on the cross – Mark 10:45

Now, congregation we have many opportunities to be a humble church. . .. May God help us to grow in our willingness to be with and to sacrificially serve the lowly.

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