Once in my mid-thirties, I preached a sermon on humility. I only recall two bits of info from that service. I remember the topic, and I most likely remember it as a result of someone’s comment back to me. There are very few of the times I taught in the pulpit which I can specifically think of now, but this sermon stands out clearly because of this comment afterwards. A man about my age approached me. He greeted me, then stated he appreciated my exhortation to humility but lamented over hearing about humility for all his Christian life. He was ready to move on to deeper truth and greater action as a Christian.
Scanning over from then until now, I recognize that any depth of my experience of God or effective action of mine in His love is a function of the humility I embraced as a believer. There is an on-going debate among Christians over what is our responsibility before a God who is ultimately in control of all things. “After all,” it is said, “if God hardens and softens hearts according to His will, what can we do beyond what He ordains?”
Humility is the key we can choose to open ourselves to the Father and to the actions He might direct in our lives. We each wrestle in some manner with an inner ego of self. Our personhood, if you will, cannot be denied. We cannot help but think and feel according to an inner emotional state which is a function of two things outside our control. These are our genetic make-up and our conditioning through the nurture, or lack of it, while young. Nature and nurture mold our inner sense of self in all its significance and complexity, yet our souls must move away from this natural state ruling our feelings and decision-making. If we will mature with depth as people, and consequently, realize the most authoritative expression of love which is our potential; then our sense of self must grow into the larger understanding of who we are within the Spirit of God. There is no other way to live as if one does not belong to this world but to the next.
I suspect this invites thinking about Calvinism and God's complete sovereignty over Creation. I'll be honest with you. I can't or won't wrap my head around this and other theologies concerning the Father. For right or wrong, or possibly just functioning within the limits of understanding we each must face, I have cast aside the pre-destination of Calvinism as unnecessary to understand. Inside the crucible of our physical earthly lives, we have a free will even if it is simply so in our limited perceptions, and that is significant.
The exercise of our will toward God is the measure of whether or not we experience Him fully. Jesus said you must become as a little child to enter the Kingdom. Adults who feel like children in their hearts? What is that all about? Humility. In humility our life with Him begins, and it must follow this path to reach its potential. I propose our natural human pride and fear, which are at the root of all our stubbornness before God, are both fully undermined and made ineffective by an act of our will to embrace humility. Is this will limited? Unquestionably, but it is all I know. God's sovereignty beyond that is beyond my comprehension.
All Christians will state likewise: Faith must embrace the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. And faith begins and flourishes when we exercise our will to choose humility. Yes, we become as a little children to enter the Kingdom. An act of humility or for some of us like me, the moment when all one's arrogance is shattered in humiliation, is at the onset of a functioning faith. Read Philippians 2. If the God of the universe chose a path of humility to reveal Himself to us--an utter and complete emptying of His God status to become human--is this not our example? Is it not wonderfully simple? We empty ourselves of the fallen nature that is so opposite His nature as a function of humility before Him to move toward Him. This reflects that which He demonstrated in moving toward us. His humility initiated toward us first. We look and learn and trust in His example; then our will humbles itself, all the wonder of His redemptive plan kicks in, and we are filled by His glory.
Just some thoughts as I listen to the morning birds in this part of the wild wood.