Humility


Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.

Romans 1: 1

This is the opening thought that Paul expresses in Romans, and he states two really big ideas in this short sentence. First, Paul was called by God; the Lord had something in mind for Paul to be doing, and He communicated that something to Paul. Second, in responding to God, Paul was set apart. He was removed from the place in the world that he had previously occupied, and through the miracle of adoption into God’s household, he was granted a new identity and a new purpose in life. Thus, Paul became a distinctly new individual whose greatest mission was to do the will of God.

These same things are true for everyone else who decides to follow Jesus. You and I are also called by God. He has a plan for our lives, and He has given each of us specific skills and granted us certain gifts that He will use in us to answer that calling. Also, God takes everyone who responds to Him, and He moves us out of the view of the world that was ours before and provides us with a new perspective and a new mission within that life. It is not like we are living in some form of fairy tale, however, where the changes happen to us, and we are not really participants in them. God effects the essential change within us by giving us His Spirit; yet, He continues to dialogue with us over the remainder of our lives. He continues to reveal His calling to us, and we are asked by Him to continue to surrender ourselves to being separated from our old lives.

The daily challenge that I face is in listening to God’s call and in humbly giving up control of aspects of my life to Him so that I can respond to that calling more fully. Christ is speaking every day, and He has a mission in mind for us to respond to during each of those days. So, the big questions is this, am I willing to follow Paul’s leading and set aside my own desires and anticipations in order to answer? The gospel calls us into engaging fully in the adventure that is our new life in Christ, and Christ promises the blessing of God’s love, peace, and grace to all who set aside the old life and accept our new being as servants of the King. In Christ, we are each called to enter into that service. Let us follow the Apostle Paul and respond to Christ’s call to leave the world behind and to give up ourselves as servants to our Lord as we respond to Christ’s leading for our new lives in Him.  

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

            ‘You shall worship the Lord your God

              And Him only shall you serve.’”

Matthew 4: 10

This is not a thought that I can claim as great and unique revelation from God. In fact, it is almost laughable to even state this idea. But here it is, Jesus got life right all of the time. That is, when He said or did something that was in response to the sorts of issues and struggles that all people face while living out our days on earth, His responses are the model for the rest of us to follow. This scene involving direct, face-to-face temptation by Satan is not one that I have experienced, thankfully! Yet, this is what is occurring to all of God’s people every day of our lives. Satan is active and seeks to entrap and devour people. Often the methods and the means that he uses involve people and situations that on the surface seem safe, attractive, and benign. However, evil surrounds us; it has infiltrated the very structure of our world, and it always leads people away from God and His righteousness.

What does it mean to live righteously? That is a complex question that warrants examination and that each of us should explore prayerfully with God. However, in simple terms it means living in a manner that is fully consistent with God’s Word, that brings glory to His name in our world, and that declares Christ through the sacrificial love, mercy, grace, and truth that we live out regardless of life circumstance or situation. This is not exactly an easy path to follow or one that will guarantee popularity and success in human terms. Yet, anything and everything else is functionally and factually idolatry. It is setting before us a standard for living that comes from a source other than God, Himself. It usually places us as the arbiters of what is right and just so that our personal desires, lusts, and comfort are served while the sacrificial love of Christ is hidden and locked away.

So, on view here we have Jesus’ most direct response to the sort of pressure and temptation that we face. Satan has asked Jesus to bow down to him and offered the world as the reward. When we turn away from thinking, saying, and doing what is loving, gracious, merciful, understanding, just, and truthful; we are agreeing with Satan’s request. For us humans the tension that exists between evil’s continual appeal and God’s will is going to continue throughout our earthly lives. The situations and the power of the temptation will at times be subtle and deceptive and at others it will carry the force of a great waterfall. That is why Jesus’ modeled response matters so much. We certainly can and should invoke Christ and His Spirit’s power in order to resist evil in all of its forms. Yet, there is much more here. The real answer to temptation is found in worship. Righteousness is made real and is understood more fully as we bow down before God. Temptation is defeated as we remain with our hearts and minds focused on Christ and away from ourselves.  

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6: 2 

There are times when having some of the weight of the day lifted is not only helpful, but it can be almost life saving. Sometimes that involves something as simple as having another person come to me and offer to help with a task, talk through a situation, or pray with me for an answer. My shoulders lift a little higher, and my heart can beat a bit slower from the relief. On other days and in other times, I wind up being the one with a part of my friend’s load of bricks on my back; for, there seems to be a wonderful balance to the way that life goes in this regard. God doesn’t give us more than we can handle; however, I think that He looks at our capacity to take on weight based upon both our own strength and endurance and upon that of the other people that He will bring into our lives. 

God desires and plans for people to have a form of healthy interdependence that multiplies each of our strength, endurance, and effectiveness in ways that are supernatural. The Lord makes us sensitive to the needs of others, and He gives us the ability and the sense of security that are required to be vulnerable with others, too. One of the distinctives of the Kingdom of God is that none of us are all sufficient; yet, none of us are without capacity to help others. We are each uniquely, specially, and specifically given personal gifts and areas of strength that when combined create an unbeatable group that is a living, human image of Christ. 

Christ’s law is one of grace, love, and selflessness. Although it does not remove the stresses and struggles of living in this fallen and fractured world, it does provide the freedom, the skill, the strength, and the support to go through that life with our heads high and our hearts made lighter. This lightness is of an unworldly, a heavenly, form, for it can exist in the middle of pain, crisis, and the hardest of times. It is born out of the certainty that Christ has walked the same path that I am following, that He is walking with me in the here and now, and that I am joined on my journey by a world-wide community of faith. Jesus calls each of us to seek the opportunity to walk with others and to support them in handling the burden that they are carrying, and He asks us to trust others enough to open our hearts to let them help to shoulder our weigh with us.. Although, this may sound like a strange prayer request, I think that Christ will smile if we ask Him to bring us another person’s heavy load for us to help carry today.


And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

Amos 7: 12, 13

The characters and the setting for this drama are important. Amaziah is a priest serving in the unsanctioned temple at Bethel in the northern kingdom, Israel, and Amos is the God-ordained prophet that has been given a message of repentance or destruction for both Israel and Judah, his homeland. The king of Israel is Jeroboam, and he has been continuing to lead his people ever further away from God’s law and into a form of worship that is a blend of various pagan beliefs, rites, and rituals that have been combined with worship of their one true God, Yahweh. Amos has come to Amaziah with a warning regarding the impending destruction that the Lord will cause to fall upon Jeroboam, his household, the people of Israel, and the land itself if they do not turn back to God alone and change their way of living so that it conforms to the Lord’s law of life.

Amaziah responds on behalf of his king with a caustic and dismissive comment about Amos being a seer. This is not a compliment, for the title that God-ordained speakers would be given would be prophet. Thus, labeling and dismissive statements are used to minimize the validity of Amos’ words of warning. Then the king’s advisor priest sends the offending prophet away and tells him to stay away, for these gloom and doom words are unpleasant to the king’s ear, and they tend to interrupt his times of rest and recreation. Jeroboam seems to hold that his own comfort is more significant that taking in the sound advice of God’s emissary. Despite these stern and derisive words of rejection, Amos is not silenced, and he does not go away to his homeland without continuing to deliver the truth that the Lord has revealed to him regarding the future destruction of Israel and the resultant captivity that its people would endure. 

In response to the Lord’s calling to speak the truth, Amos stands up in the face of rejection, dismissal, and even threats of harm, and he continues to proclaim the Lord’s word to the nation. The power and the authority of people, even of kings and of their ordained advisors, is of little to no importance when it comes to the authority that is contained in God’s Word and that flows out of the Lord’s calling to His people to proclaim His gospel message of justice, righteousness, and respect for all of creation. As God’s people we are all commissioned, as was Amos, to go to our kings and to their advisors and the priests of their temples with this same word of truth that comes directly out of God’s Word. We should not continue to ignore the voice of the Spirit as He speaks to our hearts and implores our minds to personally repent of our own wayward ways and to seek the same from our leaders and for our nations. The Lord is calling to us all to turn to Him so that we all “do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8) 

“For behold, I will raise up against you a nation,

   O house of Israel,” declares the LORD, the God of hosts;

“and they shall oppress you from Lebo-hamath

   to the Brook of the Arabah.”

Amos 6: 14

God is the perfect example of the engaged and loving parent and also of a truly good friend. He is willing to enter into those hard conversations and deal with the issues that everyone else tries to avoid. This can be very unpleasant, and it can lead to relational tensions that are monumental in their scale. However, the Lord is fully aware of the fact that we all sin and fall far short of the righteousness that God’s standards set out for us to follow. He recognizes with equal clarity that these times and situations of engaging in the selfishness of sin are harmful to us and to the world around us if they are left unchecked. Departing from God’s path in small ways can start people along a course that grows ever further off track to the point that recovery becomes almost impossible. We can get to a place in our journey of life where there are no visible points of reference left to sight and to turn toward.

The Lord does not want to see any of His people end up on the far side of the world with no means of finding our way home again. So, He intervenes in our lives. This is what He is promising to do in the days of the prophet Amos. At the time when Amos wrote out these words, the Lord was still waiting upon the repentance of His people in Israel and Judah. Now, God was certainly aware of the fact that they would not listen to these pleas, and Amos was not the only human voice that the Lord inspired to speak out about the dangers of continuing to follow their own sinful ways. Still, stubborn is stubborn, and self-serving people can be very set in the path that they have chosen to take. We know that both of these Hebrew nations would be overthrown and the people taken from their homes into captivity and slavery in a foreign land. Sometimes, harsh measures are needed in order to bring wandering people back into relationship with God.

Are we in our world today in a place where this sort of extreme measure is the only thing left for God to do in order to get us to turn away from our self-determined journey and fall upon our knees in repentance before the Lord? I am not a prophet, and God has certainly not provided me with an image of His future plans or of the details of the way that He will work out His promise of redemption for our world. I do know that the Lord has a plan for the restoration of the purity and the glory of His original creative handiwork upon the earth. I believe that I am correct when I look around and see the angry, violent, and unloving nature of so much of what is happening upon the face of our globe that God is more than displeased with it all. For I am convinced that God’s heart is breaking and that His patience must be running out at the sight of our depravity and lack of just treatment of each other. So, the engaged father and the good friend that is the Lord is not likely to withhold His judgement for much longer. It is time for people who know Christ to speak up, to act boldly in love, and to become well known in our world as people who proclaim the truth of the gospel of Christ in order to bring a foretaste of the Lord’s redemptive work into contact with the world that we touch.  

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you; 

But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6: 8

When I watch high level athletes competing in their sport, I am always amazed at the ease with which they perform so many very hard tasks under the pressure of the competitive environment. There is grace and balance in their movements that is well beyond what most of us are capable of achieving.  It is this same degree of balance that God wants us to seek in our walks with Him. Yet, it is even more important in the spiritual realm than it is in the athletic. For in our spiritual lives the stakes are much higher than any national championship, and the opposition is more focused and considerably more fierce.

Micah points out three characteristics to hold onto as we seek to live out God’s will in our world. Each of them is important; however, our most effective approach to life is found by embracing all three in a balanced combination that leads to a graceful and love-filled walk with the Lord. Justice without kindness can be harsh and often becomes self-serving; yet, when kindness stands on its own, people tend to be too accepting of the sinful behaviors and attitudes of others. That is no more loving than it is to stand in front of someone and shout at them about their failure to live up to God’s standards. Finally, if we embrace justice and kindness without the humility to recognize that our ability to understand these complex characteristics comes from God, Himself, we are likely to make them into causes that become greater than the God who we should be serving by engaging in their implementation.

So, justice is linked to kindness, kindness is linked to justice, and both are controlled by humility. We can know God’s standards and view of justice by seeking out His Word on everything. We must be willing to pursue justice in our world with the same zeal that God does. We should also develop a heart that is filled with Christ’s kindness, for this is what keeps the zeal for justice in check, and this is what makes us willing to take the time and to risk truly getting to know people at the heart level. Then it all becomes functional and balance is achieved when we humbly place our own drive, desires, and thoughts under the control of the Spirit. The result is a walk through life that has the grace and the fluid movement of a champion for Christ.

And he said:

“The LORD roars from Zion

   and utters his voice from Jerusalem;

the pastures of the shepherds mourn,

   and the top of Carmel withers.”

Amos 1: 2

Amos, the humble shepherd, speaks, and the world listens to his words, for he is speaking into history the heart and the desire of the Lord, God Almighty. For God does speak His truth to us. This was true in the days of Amos some 2,900 or so years ago just as it is still so today. For a time or even for a season it may seem that the Lord’s voice is silent, but that never remains the case indefinitely. God cares greatly for us, and He also is truly concerned about the way that we go about living. There is no aspect of the manner in which people exist and in the form that our conduct of life is framed that escapes the Lord’s view. So, we can count upon the fact that He will hold us accountable for all of it. The Lord will respond to the good that we do and to the despicably evil that we carry out or that we allow to exist through inaction and failure to hold ourselves and others accountable for following the mandates that God sets out in His Word.

Like the citizens of Israel and even of Judah we may think that we are experiencing God’s blessing because we are comfortable, wealthy, and powerful. Yet, this is all a false form of security, for its basis is not God’s will or the Lord’s expressed desire. Instead, we, like they, are smugly self-satisfied in the accomplishments of our hands and with the power and the control that we think that we exert upon the world around us. Although Amos has commenced his series of comments about the wickedness of the world and of its nations with pointed expressions regarding the various peoples and counties that surrounded Israel and Judah, the prophet will, in turn, spin about and point the Lord’s figure of judgement inwardly toward God’s own nation and its inhabitants. They were to be held to an even higher standard of righteousness and compliance with God’s stated will than were their neighbors. This is not just a historic comment; rather, it is a basic reality of God’s character. He does hold His people accountable for living out the love, grace, mercy, and justice that the Lord has poured over us.

We may desire for the Day of the Lord to come when He will speak forth truth and justice into the world so that all that is evil will be destroyed and everything that is out of conformity to His Word will be set right again. Yes, we might desire for that great day to come, but we must also realize that the Lord’s judgement falls upon all people equally. So, as the Lord roars from Zion with His voice of righteousness sounding forth the end of all that stands in opposition to His will in the world, its reverberations are felt most powerfully by those who are closest to the source. Israel and Judah would not escape from the earth-cleansing work that the Lord would accomplish over the next periods of time, and we will not be granted immunity from His judgement, either. So, today is a good one for each of us who seek to follow Christ to examine the depths of our hearts and to turn to the Lord with a sincere desire upon our lips to know Him well so that we can live out the Lord’s will and the desires of His heart. This is a time for repentance and for the restoration of our faith. Christ is calling to His people to turn from our arrogance, our willfulness, and to renounce the ways of the world so that we can truly follow him and bring the light of justice and righteousness into the dark corners of that same earthly expanse.    

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