Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Syriac Orthodox, Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Quad Centum (Issue 400) Souvenir Edition

Volume 7 No. 400 March 1, 2017

Chapter 15: Humility

St. Mother Teresa's 15 Tips to Help You Become More Humble

Mother Teresa called humility the mother of all virtues. She said: "If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal." ...

Greatness, Humility, Servanthood

Every good thing in the Christian life grows in the soil of humility. Without humility, every virtue and every grace withers. That's why Calvin said humility is first, second, and third in the Christian faith. ...

The Humility of Jesus' Servanthood

Jesus not only gave up His divine privileges when He emptied Himself, but He also became a servant. Paul's phrase "the form of a bond-servant" can also be translated "the essence of a slave." ...

True Greatness

A desire for greatness is normal. I hope you want to be great for God. But Jesus points out that there is a right and wrong way to achieve greatness. The world's way & God's way are often just the opposite. Oh, how our perspective on greatness needs to be changed! ...

God Lifts Up the Lowly

God literally lifts up the lowly. Sometimes we cling to our pride out of a sort of instinct of self-preservation - "If I don't look out for number one, who will?" But Mary's humility is a lesson for us. Our true self-fulfillment lies in becoming everyday more filled with God; We can only do that if we are not filled with ourselves. ...

Will You Come Down? - A Sermon on Humility

The path for us to loving one another, to serving students, to reconciliation with one another and within our families, is the path of humility. I pray you see it, want to walk in it, and begin the journey with a step down you've never taken before today. ...

Perspectives on Defeat

The Christian perception of weakness is also one steeped in the person and character of God. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of something he calls the "thorn in his flesh." No doubt a striking expression of limitation, scholars have debated for centuries what this thorn might have been. ...

A Lesson in Humility

John's ministry was a ministry of humility. Baptism is an expression of humility. The Son of God humbled himself to become one of us for our sakes. And the new life in Christ that is given to us by our Creator and Redeemer is a life of humility. It's not about me. If it were about me, what would I do? How can I heal my own past, my present and future? How can I redeem my own faults, sins, betrayals and rebellion? How can I secure my future or the future of those I care about? ...

 Chapter 15: Humility

St. Mother Teresa's 15 Tips to Help You Become More Humble

by Patti Armstrong

The world does not value or understand the power of humility but we do, because it was what Jesus used to save us.

Good self-esteem is confidence in one's worth or abilities. Think about Mother Teresa. That little nun had good self-esteem. She even dared to speak against abortion at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1993 before her invited hosts President Bill Clinton, and Vice President Al Gore, and their spouses. That’s guts. That’s self-confidence. And that’s humility.

All the saints understood that humility is the way to nail down a good self-esteem by depending on God rather than oneself. It’s the understanding that everything comes from God and that God is everything.

Mother Teresa called humility the mother of all virtues. She said: "If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal."

Three Myths About Humility

Humility, however, is often misunderstood. Some think it is synonymous with self-deprecation. In a recent Sunday homily, Fr. Jared Johnson, associate pastor of Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck identified three myths about humility.

Myth #1. The humble souls lacks confidence. "The most humble people out there are some of the most confident and sometimes some of the most prideful people are the most insecure," he said. " Humble souls know their life is dependent on God and know what to value - things lasting not passing. They values the Lord over anything else

Myth #2. Humility is not attractive. "True humility is attractive," he explained. "It is the humble person who listens and cares about others as opposed to the one focused on their self and trying to look good."

Myth #3. Humble people want to be recognized as humble. Father Johnson explained that wanting to look humble is false humility. In reality, he said they simply want to do something because it is right and they are not looking for praise.

"Our greatest block to growing closer to God is when we rely more on us than on him," Father Johnson said. By putting on the virtue of humility, he explained that we grow more confident and allow ourselves to grow closer to God. "When we look at a crucifix, we see a man who is humble and who is not about himself. We see a man who is for others. May we imitate that humility so that we can experience God in his fullness."

Ways to Become Humble

Mother Teresa’s example proves all three of Fr. Johnson’s points. While she was head of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa kept a list of ways to cultivate humility for the sisters in her care.

Speak as little as possible about yourself.
Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
Avoid curiosity (she is referring to wanting to know things that should not concern you.)
Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
Accept small irritations with good humor.
Do not dwell on the faults of others.
Accept censures even if unmerited.
Give in to the will of others.
Accept insults and injuries.
Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
Do not seek to be admired and loved.
Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
Choose always the more difficult task.

The Power of Humility

"It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels." - Saint Augustine

The devil preferred to leave Heaven for eternity in Hell rather than to humble himself before his creator. And humility would have protected Adam and Eve from thinking they could disobey God and become like him.

Yet through our humility and thus obedience to God, the devil is defeated. St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, who was often harassed by the devil, related a conversation with him. The devil said: "I can do everything you do, I can also do your penances, I can imitate you in everything. There is one thing, however, that I cannot do, I cannot imitate you in humility."

"That is why I defeat you," St. John Vianney responded.

Humility seems to be a contradiction, and yet, Jesus was meek and humble of heart (Matthew 11:29). "He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:7)

The world does not value or understand the power of humility but we do, because it was what Jesus used to save us. "Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28)

About The Author:

Patti Armstrong is an award-winning author and was the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’ bestselling Amazing Grace series. Her latest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. She has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration.

Source: National Catholic Register

Greatness, Humility, Servanthood

by John Piper

Scripture: Mark 10:32-45

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise." 35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." 36 And he said to them, "What do you want me to do for you?" 37 And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." 38 Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" 39 And they said to him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared." 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Mark 10:32-45

Gospel Humility

This message is a topical interlude in our exposition of the Gospel of John. It has been on my mind for a long time, and in recent weeks I have given versions of it to the Desiring God staff, the pastoral staff, and others. It is a message about the humility that defines a person who is transformed by the gospel of Jesus. It's about gospel humility.

The reason I am talking about it is that I want to be humble and to see this church marked by humility. As a church, we are human, we are large, we are widely known, and we are sinners. That's a very dangerous mix. It has almost all the ingredients that go into the recipe of pride.

Humility That God Sees

I know that the best and humblest person who has walked the earth was tortured to death because he was accused of blasphemous arrogance. "This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him because . . . he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:18). So I don't expect his followers will ever be able to avoid the accusation of arrogance. If you are the humblest outspoken witness for Jesus as the only way to God, you will accused of arrogance.

So avoiding that is not my aim in this message. What I want to avoid is the reality of pride. I want there to be real humility in me, and in this staff and these elders and this church - the kind of humility that God sees and that spiritually discerning people see, even if the world doesn't see it.

Getting a Sense of What Humility Is

So what I would like to do first is not start with a definition of humility but with six passages of Scripture and a brief comment about each. I think what will come out of these texts is a sense of what humility is. Then I will draw out some implications for us as a church. And close with the question why this is so important and try to answer some objections that the world has to humility.

First, then, six texts that open us up to what God means by humility.

1. 1 Corinthians 1:26–31

Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 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; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

My point here is that humility agrees and is glad that God gets all the credit for choosing us and calling us according to his purposes, not our merit. And he does this (v. 29) "so that no human being might boast in the presence of God," but that (v. 31) the one who boasts might boast in the Lord. Humility agrees and is glad that God acts in a way to take the focus of all boasting away from man and put it on himself. Are you happy about that? Are you glad God does it that way? Humility is glad about that.

2. 1 Corinthians 4:6–7

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Humility agrees and is glad that everything we have is a free gift of God, and that this severs the root of boasting in our distinctives. Whatever talents, whatever intelligence, what ever skills, whatever gifts, whatever looks, whatever pedigree, whatever possessions, whatever wit, whatever influence you have, put away all pride because it is a gift, and put away all despair because it is a gift from God.

3. James 4:13–17

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit" - 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Humility agrees and is glad that God governs the beating of our hearts and our safe arrival at every destination. If we get there, God got us there. And if we don't get there, God willed that we not get there. Humility gets down under this sovereign providence and nestles there gladly.

4. Colossians 3:12–13

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

One of the implications of this text is that our humble willingness to forgive others their offenses is rooted in God's forgiveness of us through Jesus. In other words, Christian humility is rooted in the gospel. True humility is gospel humility. It is not just copying Jesus in his willingness to die for others; it is enabled by Jesus because he died for us. Humility is rooted in the gospel.

5. Philippians 2:3–8

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Humility serves. Humility gets down low and lifts others up. Humility looks to the needs of others and gives time and effort to help with those needs. Jesus took the form of a servant and humbled himself, even to the point of death. "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Humility measures everything it does by whether it serves the good of other people. Am I feeding my ego or am I feeding the faith of others? Humility serves.

6. Mark 10:42–44

Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.

Humility agrees and is glad that this servanthood is true greatness. Verses 43–44: "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all."


So to sum up,

  • Humility is glad that God gets all the credit for choosing us so that we boast only in him and not man.
  • Humility happily admits that everything we have is a free gift from God, so that we can't boast in it.
  • Humility is glad to affirm that God sovereignly governs our heartbeats and safe arrivals, or non-arrivals.
  • The root of Christian humility is the gospel that Christ died for our sins. That's how sinful I was. That's how dependent I am.
  • Humility gives itself away in serving everyone, rather than seeking to be served.
  • And humility is glad to affirm that this service is true greatness.

If God would work this humility in us - O how freely we would serve each other. One of the reasons I am praying and preaching toward humility is that the church survives and thrives by servanthood. Every member of Christ is gifted in someway to serve.

The All-Pervasive Effects of Humility

My point here is that without humility we won't serve, or we will serve for the wrong reasons. It seems almost impossible to overstate how pervasive are the effects of humility in our lives. Listen to the way John Calvin describes the importance of humility.

I have always been exceedingly delighted with the words of Chrysostom, "The foundation of our philosophy is humility;" and still more with those of Augustine, "As the orator, when asked, What is the first precept in eloquence? answered, Delivery: What is the second? Delivery: What the third? Delivery: so, if you ask me in regard to the precepts of the Christian Religion, I will answer, first, second, and third, Humility." (Institutes 2.2.11)

Why is that? Why is humility so pervasive as to be the first, second, and third precept of Christianity? It is the work of God under everything that makes all other good things in Christianity possible.

For example:


Would anyone depend on Christ as a needy, weak, and sinful person, if God hadn't made him humble?


Would anyone earnestly make much of the worth of God, instead of craving to be made much of himself, if God hadn't made him humble?


Would anyone surrender his autonomy and submit obediently to the absolute authority of Scripture, if God had not made him humble?


Would anyone seek the good of others at great cost to himself, if God hadn't made him humble?

And on and on it goes. Every good thing in the Christian life grows in the soil of humility. Without humility, every virtue and every grace withers. That's why Calvin said humility is first, second, and third in the Christian faith. And he could have said fourth, fifth, sixth, and more. It is pervasively effective.

Answering the World's Objections

So in closing, and to give you a fuller flavor of what the humble life is like, let me try to answer briefly a few objections that the world may have to this emphasis on humility.

Objection 1: Humility makes a person gloomy, dismal, downcast, unhappy

Answer: No, gospel humility frees you from the need to posture and pose and calculate what others think, so that you are free to laugh at what is really funny with the biggest belly laugh. Proud people don't really let themselves go in laughter. They don't get red in the face and fall off chairs and twist their faces into the contortions of real free laughter. Proud people need to keep their dignity. The humble are free to howl with laughter.

Objection 2: Humility makes you fearful and timid

Answer: No, the world thinks that, because they think the best source of courage is self-confidence. It's not. God-confidence is the best source of courage. And only humble people lean on God for confidence. "I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker" (Isaiah 51:12–13). In other words, fear of man is a sign of pride, not gospel humility.

Objection 3: Humility makes you passive and removes the driving motor of achievement

Answer: No, the world thinks that, because for them the driving motor of achievement is feeding the ego with accomplishments. But Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:10, "By the grace of God I am what I am . . . I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me."

The power of God's grace in the heart of the humble believer who depends utterly on God produces incredible energy and industry. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12–13).

Joy, Courage, and Industry

So the answer is no. Gospel humility, grace-based humility, Jesus-exalting humility does not make you gloomy, or timid, or passive. It makes you joyful, and courageous and industrious.

It makes you a servant - like Jesus. Only God can do it. And he does it through Jesus in the gospel. May he work this in us and unleash a tidal wave of service in our church and in the world. Amen.

© Desiring God

The Humility of Jesus' Servanthood

by John MacArthur

"Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6-7).

Jesus is the role model of the suffering servant.

Jesus not only gave up His divine privileges when He emptied Himself, but He also became a servant. For us, this is the next phase in His supreme example of humility. Paul's phrase "the form of a bond-servant" can also be translated "the essence of a slave." Christ's servanthood was not just external—it extended to the essential, down-to-earth role of a bond-slave doing the will of His Father.

We would expect Jesus, the God-man, to be a servant only in the truest fashion. His servitude was not performed like a stage player putting on and taking off the costume of a servant. Jesus truly became a servant. He perfectly fulfilled everything Isaiah predicted about Him (52:13-14). Jesus was the Messiah who was a suffering servant.

Christ's entire earthly ministry is the yardstick by which we can measure servanthood. As God, He owned everything; as the servant, He had to borrow everything: a place to be born, a boat in which to cross the Sea of Galilee and preach from, a donkey (itself a symbol of humility and servitude) to ride into Jerusalem for His triumphal entry, a room to celebrate His final Passover in, and a grave to be buried in.

Our Savior acknowledged His role as a servant very simply: "I am among you as the one who serves" (Luke 22:27). And it was all done with love, with consistency, with humility, without the pretense of outward form.

As we continue to look to our Lord Jesus as the role model of humility, the challenge for us is to follow His attitude and practice. Paul instructs those who would be servants of Christ, "Let love be without hypocrisy. . . . Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" (Rom. 12:9-11).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank and praise the Lord that Jesus was such a humble but willing servant on your behalf.

For Further Study

Isaiah 52:13—53:12 is known as the Suffering Servant passage. As you read it, write down the various ways it describes Jesus' suffering. How is His humility in evidence?

Source: Grace to

True Greatness

by Dr. Stephen Felker

Gospel: Mark 9:30-50


Shortly after Jesus warned of His upcoming death, His disciples began to argue quietly with one another as to who would be the greatest. Human pride seized on the expectation that the long-awaited Messianic kingdom was immanent. After all, Jesus had promised that some of the disciples were going to see "the kingdom of God come with power" (9:1), & they imagined themselves reigning with Jesus. Who would sit next to Jesus? Who would be the greatest?

Of course, Peter, James, and John thought they would be the greatest, for they were chosen to go up on the mountain with Jesus. The other 9 disciples must have been envious, and each thought they should be the greatest. Judas thought he should be the greatest. He was the only Judean in the group, & he was the treasurer. Matthew was probably the one who had made the most money.

Perhaps he would be the greatest. Andrew was Peter's brother. He brought Peter & many others to Jesus. Surely he would be the greatest. Nathaniel could have said, "You guys are all crazy. Jesus told me, 'Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!'" (Jn. 1:47).

When they settled down in a house in Capernaum, Jesus asked in v.33, "What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?" Jesus already knew the answer, but He asked it that they might begin to reflect on what they had done, and might feel thoroughly ashamed. And sure enough, there was an embarrassing silence. Jesus had been talking about giving Himself to die on the cross for others (v.31), and they had been talking about self-glory.

Now Jesus did not rebuke a desire to be great. In fact, He went on to tell them how they could be truly great. A desire for greatness is certainly normal. Many just watched the Olympics, and everyone who competed had trained & worked hard to win the gold metal. They wanted to be the greatest at their particular sport.

Even children want to be the greatest, but they usually do so by identification with someone else. Did you hear about the boys that were arguing as to whose dad was the greatest?

One boy said that his dad could whip the other boy's dad. That fellow said, "Oh yea, well how do you know?"

He replied, "My dad has a list of everyone he can whip, and your dad is number 1 on the list."

The boy went home and reported what his friend had said. His dad got upset and went to that other dad. He told him what his son had said (..whip me... #1 on your list.) Then he said, "Well I'm here to prove to you that you cannot whip me. Now what are you going to do about that?"

The other dad replied, "Well, I am just going to take you off my list."

So we see, a desire for greatness is normal. I hope you want to be great for God. But Jesus points out that there is a right and wrong way to achieve greatness. And we're going to see that the world's way & God's way are often just the opposite. Oh, how our perspective on greatness needs to be changed!

So this morning I want to share with you three ways to achieve true greatness:


The world believes that greatness is achieved by bullying & manipulating your way to the top. That is where you can rule & use your position of power to lift yourself up in pride, & accomplish self-centered goals. But Jesus teaches that greatness is achieved by humility. In v.35 Jesus said, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." He says we should be willing to take the last place, the position of lowliness. There are two manifestations of humility here in this text.

A. Be Humble in Your Associations

Jesus uses a visual illustration to get His point across. In v.36 we read, "Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them…." He tenderly reached out to a little child. Whenever He wanted a child there was always one present. Children loved to be near Jesus. He was not too big or too busy to take interest in a little child. Imagine how lovingly & tenderly Jesus must have taken that child in His arms. Jesus gave this child His time & attention even though the child had no influence or power to do anything for Jesus.

In contrast, how does the world seek greatness? They seek out those who have influence, power, or money, & cater to them, & try to use them. But true greatness is showing an interest in people like this little child. And He is telling His disciples to forget all about rank, pre-eminence, and prominence. Instead, they should give at least as much attention on the least of society, even just one little child. He said in v.37, "Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me…." Those who are great in the eyes of God do not reject children & others who seem insignificant, but we receive them, love them, & care for them. And notice that Jesus said we should receive such a child "in My name" (v.37). That means to treat the child with all the love and consideration which Christ Himself has a right to expect of His followers. So the Son of God declares that the way to greatness lies in devoting ourselves to the care of the weakest and lowest of his flock.

Humility is not only demonstrated by our associations. Humility is also manifest:

B. Be Humble In Your Service

Notice in the last of v.35 that Jesus also said, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be … servant of all." The lowly place is that of a servant. The word "servant" is from the word "deacon," which literally refers to one who waits on tables. It's not necessarily the person who has the title of "Deacon" that is great, but the one who fulfills the role of a deacon or servant.

Jesus said in v.41, "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward." Even just giving water to a thirsty person in the name of Christ is a form of service that qualifies someone for true greatness. But be sure your service is done in the name of Jesus. There are some groups that help people in the name of the U.S. government, or political party. There are other groups that help people in the name of the United Way. There are other groups that help people in the name of a service club. But true greatness is ministry in the name of Jesus Christ, and that ministry will be rewarded for eternity.

Are you more interested in being served, in self-indulgence? Or are you seeking opportunities to serve others. Only in service do we attain true greatness in the eyes of God. So we see that true greatness is achieved through humility. Another way to attain true greatness is this:


The world says that greatness is achieved by political partisanship. "We win, you loose" is their motto. And you win by forming political parties, and you demand loyalty to the party. You have to tow the party line or you're out. I have never seen so much partisanship in Washington in my life. The #1 concern is not what best for the country. The #1 concern has been what's best for me & my political party.

Well, the apostle John was falling into the same mistake, & I'm sure he thought he was doing the right thing. Jesus had just talked about receiving a child, yet in v.38 we see John had not received an outsider who was casting out demons in Jesus name. This man was in all probability a true believer in Jesus. He was doing a good work. He was warring on the same side as the apostles. But he had not yet established a close relationship with the regular followers of Jesus. So John and others tried to stop (cognitive imperfect) him from casting out demons. Likewise, the church has practiced a similar kind of partisan spirit to this day. Members of all branches of Christ's church are apt to think that no good can be done in the world unless it is done by their own party and denomination. They are like him who cried when Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp, "Moses, my lord, stop them!" (Numbers 11:28).

Religious partisanship or sectarianism has led to all kinds of conflict, and even violence. We see this in the Muslim world, and we even have witnessed it in the Christian community to a lesser degree. Our Baptist forefathers were persecuted because the established church did not allow any disagreement, even for conscience sake. That is why Jesus said in the last of v.50, "have peace with one another."

So notice what Jesus said beginning in v.39, "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me." Jesus establishes the basis of fellowship among believers. Notice the repetition of the references to the name of Jesus in vv.37, 38, 39, 41. Now that's the basis of fellowship. If you believe in Jesus, we are in the same family, regardless of your denominational label.

So let us reach out the hand of brotherhood to all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ and build upon the firm foundation of His infallible Word. We are to fellowship & work with other churches that openly confess Jesus as Savior & Lord, regardless of their denominational label. We are not to care which denomination or church is getting the credit. We are to minister in Jesus' name. He is the one who is to get the credit! So we are to guard against an attitude of intolerance, narrow exclusivist, and any kind of sectarian or partisan spirit. Let us beware of the slightest inclination to stop and check others, merely because they do not choose to adopt our plans or work by our side. We may think our fellow Christians mistaken in some points. We may imagine that more would be done for Christ if they would join us, and if everyone worked in the same way. But all this must not prevent us rejoicing if the works of the devil are destroyed and souls are saved. Let us have the spirit of Moses. He did not forbid Eldad and Medad from prophesying. Instead, he said, "I wish that all the LORD'S people were prophets" (Numbers 11:29; cf. also Phil 1:14-18).

Did you realize that such a partisan spirit can exist within a church? There is a natural tendency to form cliques within a church, & if you are not in their clique, you are always on the outside looking in. But those who are great in the kingdom of God have a welcoming attitude toward all, especially those who profess faith in Christ.

Finally, if you want to be great in the eyes of God:


Many of the so-called great people of this world are some of the greatest, most immoral sinners. They do anything it takes to get to the top. They will lie, cheat, steal, & even murder. Yet according to Jesus in vv.42-50, those who are truly great pursue holiness, purity, & righteousness. Hebrews 12:14 says, "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord." You cannot be great in the eyes of God unless you live a holy life. I don't care if you become the C.E.O. of a major corporation, or the President of the United States. If you are not living a holy life in the eyes of God, you are not great. You are nothing.

So what should we do? We have seen that those who are truly great are considerate of others. Therefore:

A. Pursue Holiness in the Lives of Others

In v.42 Jesus warned against causing "one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble…." He is talking about stumbling into sin. There are always those who would lead Christ's little ones astray.

Jesus gives a good reason why you should not lead someone astray. He says in the last of v.42, "it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea." The millstone referred to was a big, donkey-drawn millstone that had a big hole in the middle. Jesus says it would be better to die a terrible death than to lead someone, especially a child, into sin.

Parents, do you cause your children to stumble into sin because of a bad example? If your utter profanity, how can you rebuke them if you speak profanity? If your teenage child starts to drink alcohol, & even get drunk at times, what can you say if you drink your booze yourself? Big brother or big sister, are you leading your younger siblings astray. After all, they want to be like you? Watch out! There are dire consequences for leading someone astray, especially a child. Those who are truly great lead others to live right.

B. Deal Decisively with Temptation & Sin

Jesus said in v.43, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…." Then He said in v.45, "And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off…." Finally, in v.47 He said, "And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out." He is saying here that sin is a very serious matter to God. The believer must be severe in dealing with any sin that creeps into our life.

Now I believe that Jesus is using a common figure of speech here called hyperbole. A hyperbole is an obvious exaggeration for the purpose of making a strong point. Jesus is not saying that you should literally tear out your eye if you have a problem with lust, for example.

He is not saying that you should literally cut off your hand if you have a problem with stealing.

He is not saying that you should literally cut off your foot if you have a problem going to bars or other such places. But He is saying that sin is not something we should take lightly. Instead, we should be very severe in dealing with sin in our lives. Sin, being a very destructive force, must not be pampered. It must be "put to death" (Col. 3:5). Temptation should be flung aside immediately and decisively.

Now in the physical realm, most people do not have a problem accepting this. Let's say you go to a doctor, and he finds some body part that is diseased. Perhaps it has cancer or a bad infection, and if it is not removed, the disease or infection could spread, and kill you.

Considering the alternative, you would allow the doctor to perform surgery. Now if we are willing to do that in the physical realm of life, why shouldn't we be willing to do that in the spiritual realm of life?

So what is Jesus saying to us? If you want to be great, you are to cut out of your life those activities and enticements that may result in sin. Folks, you can't play around with sin and treat it lightly.

If there some amusement in your life that is causing you to sin, get rid of it! Perhaps you need to go home & cut up some magazines, or destroy some DVDs or CDs.

Is there some place that you go that often becomes an occasion for temptation and sin? Then stop going there.

  • Do you have any obscene material? Then burn it!
  • If there is some habit in your life that is sin, then cut it off.
  • Are you watching something you shouldn't watch? Then cut it off.
  • If there something you are reading or looking at that is wrong, cut it out of your life!
  • If the Internet is causing you to sin, get a filter, or get ride of the Internet!
  • Let us walk in Job's steps, who said, "I made a covenant with my eyes" (Job 31:1).
  • Young people, are there certain friends that you hang out with that often lead you into sin? Then cut them off as close friends.
  • Is there a girl friend or boy friend in your life that is leading you into sin? Then break off that relationship. But you say, "Oh, if I do that, I will have to spend some weekends at home." I doubt that you would, but even if you did, that would be better than making a sinful mistake that adversely affects you for the rest of your life. It is better to be alone on a Friday night than be alone for all eternity in outer darkness. Besides, can't you trust God enough to bring someone or something better into your life? Don't settle for the devil's substitute for God's best.

Now Jesus knows that human nature has a strong attraction to sin. So He provides the motivation we should need to pursue holiness. Now I conclude my message with one final point about the pursuit of holiness:

C. Consider the Motives of Holiness

Jesus provides two strong motives for pursuing holiness in the way He has described.

1. Hell Awaits Those Who Pursue Sin

Why is it that people do the right thing?

One motivation is to avoid the consequences of sin. Here in this text of Scripture, Jesus warns of some rather serious consequences. In vv.43-44 Jesus said, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched - where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'" Jesus speaks of a place called hell. In fact, He spoke about hell more than anyone else in the New Testament. Hell is so bad that Jesus says it is better for you to loose one of your hands than to go to that place.

Now the word "hell" is translated from the word "Gehenna." Every Jew was familiar with that word. It described a valley to the south of Jerusalem. It had been a place for the worship of the pagan god Moloch. Israel itself fell into the terrible sin of worshipping that false god (2 Kings 16:3; 21:6). The image of Moloch had arms extended as if to receive something from the worshipers. Do you know what that something was? People would sacrifice their own children to Moloch. The image would be heated, and when the parents would place their child on the arms of Moloch, the child would be scorched and die. Can you image a parent killing their own child like that? Yet, something similar is going on today. One method of late term abortion uses a saline solution, and that unborn child experiences another type of burning until the child dies inside the womb. Anyway, in that valley, there was a time when people could hear the cries of pain from children dying in the fire in Gehenna.

But when good king Josiah came to the throne, he changed that (2 Kings 23:10). Then he turned that valley into a garbage heap for the city of Jerusalem, which remained unto the day of Jesus. They would burn the garbage, and usually a fire was going at all times in the city dump of Jerusalem. It was a place of foul odor. Worms would eat away at the garbage and dead bodies that were not being burned at the time. So what was Gehenna? It was a place where the foul and impure things of Jerusalem were cast.

You may not want to believe it, but Jesus declared that there is such a place. You see, Gehenna illustrates a truth about God's universe. God is holy, pure, and just, and He must cast out of His presence all that is impure and sinful. God has determined that He will purify His universe of what is sinful and impure. If you choose to hold on to your sin, God will have no choice but to cast you and your sin into hell.

Notice one of the worst things about hell. It is eternal! 3 times Jesus says that it will be a place "where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." The torment, accordingly, will be both external, the fire; and internal, the worm. This suffering will last for ever and ever. Now that's the bad news. But I have good news for you. Jesus suffered the judgment of God upon sin on the cross. He suffered hell on the cross. You can trust in Jesus as your Savior, and God can take your sin away because it has been judged already on the cross of Calvary. My humanity hesitates to preach about hell, but I do not hold back, because of its reality, & because God has provided a way of escape.

Oh, dear friend, don't go to hell. Don't choose sin and hell over Jesus and heaven. Repent of your sins. Give up anything that stands between you and the salvation of your soul. If you truly believed what I am saying to you, then you would not leave this building today without knowing for sure that you have been forgiven of your sin. Christian, look at what Jesus says in v.49, "For everyone will be seasoned with fire…."1 Jesus is saying that if you, as a believer, will use the fire of self-judgment & the Word of God to purify your life, then that will be good for you. If you don't, God will allow fiery trials into your life to purify you. One way or another, "everyone will be seasoned with fire," for God is a holy God.

2. Holiness Is Required for Usefulness

Look at v.50, "Salt is good…." What is it good for? Salt penetrates and burns out the corruption and stops the spread of impurities. It is also good for seasoning. But Jesus goes on to say, "but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it?" When you pursue holiness & purify your life, then there is that salty nature in your life, that you will be a blessing to others, and a witness to others. The pure, dedicated life is an attraction for the cause of Christ. Do you have a salty nature, a life full of truth, love, joy, and peace?

But Jesus warns of a problem here. When Christians let sin get into our lives, we have lost our flavor. We have lost our saltiness. There is spiritual deadness in such a person. There is no zeal for the Lord. You can't be useful to God & others if you are not willing to cleanse sin out of your life.

Are you useful for the Lord? Are people coming to Jesus because of your life and ministry? Are Christians being led closer to the Lord because of your life and ministry? If so, you are great in the kingdom of God. If not, then you are not among God's great servants, and your reward will be small.


Are you pursuing greatness in the eyes of God? Or are you content to living a mediocre Christian life? Well to be great, Jesus has shown us what we must do. We must practice humility in our associations & service. Don't be partisan & sectarian, but loving & receptive. And finally, pursue holiness.


William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Mark (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975);

J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible, Vol. 4 (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Radio, 1983);

Larry Pierce, Online Bible [CD-ROM] (Ontario: Timnathserah Inc., 1996);

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900), Mark: Expository Thoughts on the Gospels 1 Our older texts leave out the rest of this verse. (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1993);

Dr. Jerry Vines (notes from sermon tape of 1/22/84).

Other sources listed in the footnotes.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982).

God Lifts Up the Lowly

by Father Steven Reilly, LC

Introductory Prayer:

Lord, I believe in your wondrous, shining glory, although this is hidden from my eyes. I hope in the peace and everlasting joy of the world to come, for this world is a valley of tears. I love you, even though I am not always able to discern the love in your intentions when you permit me to suffer. You are my God and my all.

Gospel: Luke 1: 39-56

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry,

"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."

And Mary said,

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.


Lord, help me to be humble!

1. All Generations Will Call Me Blessed:

Our Lady is brought to heaven to share in the glory and joy of her Son and our Lord. She is with Christ, and she is our mother more than ever. We entrust ourselves to her.

2. Scattering the Proud:

Proud people are generally very focused on whatever serves their best interests. So "scattering" is a very good verb to use to indicate what happens to the proud when God goes into action. Mary rejoices in that "scattering."

But who are the proud? Maybe we don't have to look any further than ourselves. How much we fight with that root sin of pride! Mary is happy when pride gets scattered and the perspective we have widens. Instead of just seeing things from our own myopic point of view, this scattering opens up the "thoughts of our hearts" to see others and their needs. Nothing is more Mary-like than that.

3. Lifting Up the Lowly:

God literally lifts up the lowly. Like her Son and his Ascension, Mary is lifted up by God into the realm of eternal life.

Sometimes we cling to our pride out of a sort of instinct of self-preservation - "If I don't look out for number one, who will?"

But Mary's humility is a lesson for us. Our true self-fulfillment lies in becoming everyday more filled with God; We can only do that if we are not filled with ourselves.

Let's ask Mary to help us to live more like her and experience the true joy - the lifting up - that there is in humility.

Conversation with Christ:

Lord, I thank you for giving us such a wonderful mother. She helps me to stay on the path of fulfilling your will. Help me to be able to sing a Magnificat in my own soul, "The Almighty has done great things for me!"  

Will You Come Down? - A Sermon on Humility

by Michael Spencer

This is most of a sermon on humility I preached in the Monday chapel service at the school where I serve. It’s taken from the lectionary text for the previous Lord’s Day. In many places I included illustrations and more content, but this gets the sermon across.

Text: Luke 14: 1, 7-11.

If someone were to compliment you own your humility, would you feel it was a good compliment? Or would you feel slightly insulted?

Such is our view of the virtue of humility that we aren't even complimented when someone calls us humble.

Christians are more likely to joke about humility than they are to pray for it. In a culture that tells us it's normal to be selfish to the point of excess, humility almost seems like some kind of personality disorder.

Christians are unavoidably confronted with humility in the teaching of Jesus. Our text this morning is one of many that call us to obey Christ and imitate Christ in the way of humility. "He who humbles himself…"¯ That is Jesus speaking to his disciples.

How much are you interested in taking on the characteristic of humility?

The basic problem in our version of Christianity is that we talk a great deal about Jesus and the Gospel, but we don't want to be like Jesus or live in imitation of Jesus. It might surprise many of us to discover that our unbelieving neighbors are clued into this. They understand the humility of Jesus, and they are puzzled that we are so uninterested in it; that we are so devoted to the style and image of our self-exalted, self-saturated culture.

Christians: we need to answer the question of why Jesus tells us to humble ourselves. Why is humility important in the Kingdom of God, in our relationships and families?

Jesus' story is about pro-active humility. Not humility that we adopt when we've been humbled. That kind of humility is valuable in life, but it isn't the kind of humility Jesus is teaching. He is teaching us to choose humility when there are other options. He wants us to believe in a Kingdom where the humble are exalted by the One who humbled Himself for us and for our salvation. They choose humility now, and they choose it in ways you can observe at a dinner or a gathering.

Implied in Jesus' story is a wholly different view of an array of values we're all well acquainted with. How can you be happy if you aren't the center of attention? How can you be satisfied if people aren't making much of you? How can your life have significance if you aren't on the front row and your picture on the front page?

Jesus is asking us to make a different choice in regard to happiness, satisfaction and significance. He asks us to begin subverting the world-system that's taken root in our minds, homes and bank accounts.

Three thoughts come to mind when I think about this for our community.

I. To be a Christian is all about "coming down."¯

We cannot receive the Gospel if we do not come down from our view of ourselves and admit that we are sinners; we are guilty rebels. Whatever status we've been standing on is abandoned, and we "come down"¯ to the place where we can say "Have mercy on me, the sinner."¯

To follow Jesus is to daily, intentionally, "come down"¯ into the way of a disciple. We are called to the opposite place that our culture wants to place us. This is why following Jesus can't be occasional or accidental. It's intentional, and it's best done in a community of believers that will show us what the Kingdom way looks like.

It's quite true that, for many of us, there is almost no end to the constant steps downward the path of humility will take us if we simply take the step that's in front of us. In America, coming to believe the message about Jesus costs us nothing. But if you become a Jesus follower, then dozens, even hundreds of choices between humility that trusts Jesus and the exaltation of the world are before you.

Perhaps the best application for this point is to stop right now and ask the Lord, "What is the step of humility that is in front of me now? Show it to me."¯ I do not doubt that if you pray that way, and meditate in silence open to the answer, God will show you what you've seen and passed over many times. Some move in the direction of humility that you've simply avoided, but Jesus is pointing to as the place where humility begins for you.

II. The second thought is that humility is the opposite direction of our sinful nature.

Taking the way of humility is going "against the grain."¯ It's hard. It's even hard to pray for it.

On this past Sunday, many churches had a sermon on this text and many of them used this prayer as part of the liturgy. (Prayer on overhead projection.) It's a prayer for humility, and frankly, it's a hard prayer to pray. As you follow along as I read it, you are going to feel the resistance in your mind and emotions.

O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being loved, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being extolled, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being honored, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being praised, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being preferred, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being approved, deliver me Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being despised, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me Jesus

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Can you agree with me that humility is a beautiful thing? People are attracted to it. We should be attracted to it.

Why aren't we attracted to it? Why are insisting on our rights all the time? Why are so unwilling to be passed over or to suffer at all? Why do we hold the Lord to a standard of "blessing"¯ that's really a reflection of our idolatries instead of a submission to His will and a pursuit of His glory?

Why do we teach our children, by word and example, that success matters so much? Have you ever asked yourself whether you would prefer a child who is humble in the Holy Spirit or successful in the world's eyes? More importantly, have you asked God to deal with whatever it is in you that finds that choice at all difficult?

III. Finally, humility is the only position where the Christian receives some of God's best gifts.

"He who humbles himself….will be exalted."¯ Do you hear that as "Humble yourself and you'll get the promotion?"¯ "Humble yourself and you'll win the state championship?"¯ Perhaps, but this doesn't sound like the way of Jesus, despite the endorsement of "Facing the Giants"¯ and most of the TBN preachers.

God can humble us. Ask Moses. Samson. Jacob. David. Ask the Christians in this room who have walked with God for years. God can and God will. When he does, you will be in a position to receive some of the greatest blessings God can give. But our passage says, you can and should "humble yourself."¯ Why? For the same reason.

I said earlier that humility is a "coming down"¯ for the one following Jesus. That coming down can be coming down to work with the poor or the hurting. It can be to associate with the sinful or the overlooked. It can be to do the work that others do not want to do because of their pride. It can be the way of personal sacrifice or the way of apology and reconciliation.

All of these are ways of blessing. I don't mean doing the occasional good deed for the applause of the church when you show the slides. No, I mean the blessing that comes from Jesus in the places Jesus blesses people with his presence.

Any of us who are aware that we've stepped down to serve at _____________ are generally also among the first to say we don't deserve the blessing of serving here. That seems to be a contradiction to the world, but not so to us. We know exactly why the blessing is here when, for many of us, it wasn't to be found on the way "up."¯

It's because a place of humble service is the place of blessing. Not wealth or fame, but the place where God blesses the humble. In fact, God blesses so much, you don't feel very humble most of the time.

I can't make humility something you want and pray for. I can't make it beautiful to you. There are many Christians who separate humility from their theology entirely, and boast in being right. I think God would prefer they be wrong and know his humility.

The path for us to loving one another, to serving students, to reconciliation with one another and within our families, is the path of humility. I pray you see it, want to walk in it, and begin the journey with a step down you've never taken before today.

Let us Pray.

Source: internetmonk

Perspectives on Defeat

by Jill Carattini

A few years ago Forbes magazine published a special edition issue dedicated entirely to a theme they boldly called "the biggest concern of our age." The articles began with the blunt assertion that "we've beaten or at least stymied most of humanity's monsters: disease, climate, geography, and memory. But time still defeats us. Lately its victories seem more complete than ever. Those timesaving inventions of the last half-century have somehow turned on us. We now hold cell phone meetings in traffic jams, and '24/7' has become the most terrifying phrase in modern life."(1)

Certainly this statement is a telling look at some of our modern assumptions. Particularly fascinating is the categorizing of time as a monster. Time is limiting after all and, no doubt, the greatest modern monster of all is to find ourselves limited in any way.

I was reminded of this article and its fearful expressions of limitation while reading something in the book of Psalms. Like the candid passage above, the Psalms are known for their sincere expressions of troubling ailments and enemies. And yet the gigantic differences in worldview are not only evident but helpful in uncovering a logical perspective. It is easy to be blinded by progress and convenience such that we find "humanity's monsters" to be the problem that needs correcting - and not humanity itself. Limitation is far from what ails us. Yet, it is often what brings us to the physician.

Significantly, the psalmist presents his list of the various monsters that limit and block his way before the God he seeks. "Be merciful to me, O Lord," writes the psalmist, "for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief" (Psalm 31:9). Standing before one who is limitless casts limitation in a wholly different light. The psalmist powerfully concludes, "But I trust in you, O Lord, I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands… Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love." Gazing at trustworthy hands that hold fleeting days, the psalmist recognizes that, like time itself, all that limits and weakens us will also eventually fade - but God's unfailing love will not.

The Christian perception of weakness is also one steeped in the person and character of God. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of something he calls the "thorn in his flesh." No doubt a striking expression of limitation, scholars have debated for centuries what this thorn might have been - a physical ailment, a burdensome opponent, a disability of some sort. No one can be sure. But what is certain is that Paul was a uniquely significant influence in spite of this limiting thorn. He writes, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But God said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" "Therefore," continues Paul, "I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).

It is a countercultural proclamation for sure. Yet what God can do with us through hardship, through limitation, even through seeming failure, is a testimony to the grace and authority, sovereignty and care of the God these weak proclaim.

What is in the time you hold before you this very moment? Do you see limits and fear? Or do you see as Paul saw, limitations and impossibilities made approachable by the power of a God who is near? Even in our weakness, maybe because of our weakness, God can accomplish far more than seems available. No one hoped for a weak Messiah. No one would have asked for a suffering servant where a military leader was needed. No one thought the death of Jesus could be the catalyst for a powerful grace. The defeat of Jesus as a display of power still seems a foolish suggestion. But the love of God is jarringly given in the broken gift of the Son. God's defeat is boldly God's victory. And the last are made first, the broken made beautiful, and the weak made strong in the power and the life of the Spirit.

About The Author:

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.


(1) Forbes, special edition, 2000

Source: A Slice of Infinity;
Copyright © 2013 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, All rights reserved.

A Lesson in Humility

by Mike Feazell

Gospel: Mark 1:1-8

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— "a voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'"

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Who would you say was the greatest man ever born? If you are a Christian, you might say, "Why, Jesus Christ, of course!" Suppose Jesus himself were asked the question. What do you suppose he would say?

You might be surprised to know that Jesus did once attribute that distinction of greatness to a certain man. He told his disciples, "I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he" (Luke 7:28).

Major Celebrity

John the Baptizer was an amazingly popular figure. Everybody in Jerusalem and people from all over the Judean countryside went out to listen to him preach. But they didn't just listen--they responded; they confessed their sins and were baptized! Not only was John popular, he was also successful.

For all his popularity and success, though, John was strikingly different from the average man. Many people respond to great popularity and success with a certain degree of pride and swagger. But from the beginning, John the Baptizer was different.

'Not about me'

Perhaps you have seen the slogan, "It's not about me."

That was the root of John's message. He preached about someone else, someone who would come after him whose sandal thongs John did not consider himself even worthy to tie.

John wasn't interested in the limelight. He wasn't interested in the praise or admiration of others. He was interested in preparing the way for someone else, and he didn't let personal ambition get in the way of doing his job well.


John was a baptizer. Among the preparations he made for the coming of Christ was the task of preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It was into this kind of baptism that the people listening to him entered.

Baptism was not an invention of John, nor was it unique to the Israelites. From ancient times, baptism was a well-known symbol, an outward sign, of a new spiritual birth, of entering into a new form of life.

For those whom John baptized, it marked their confession that they were sinners. When we admit we are sinners, we are laying aside our human pride and confessing the truth of what we really are. But we are not making that confession blindly. We are making it in the light of the revealed knowledge that God loves us immeasurably, and that he has made atonement for us in Jesus Christ.

In other words, because God has revealed to us that he is for us, we are free in Christ both to fearlessly acknowledge our sinfulness before God, and free to accept God's gift of atonement and his new creation of us in Jesus Christ.

Because we have met with the grace of God in Jesus Christ, we can entrust ourselves to him fully and without reservation. Safe in his love, we can give over to him even the crushing burdens of our darkest sins and fears.

New creation

Within that confession of our sinfulness is our recognition that we need God's forgiveness. We admit that we are rebels who have betrayed God's love, and we place ourselves at his mercy, having now renounced our rebellion and pledged faithful obedience.

But actually becoming that new person, entering that new life, turning over that new leaf, is another question entirely. When we try to do that, we find ourselves failing--fighting our old ways, but losing so often we can easily fall into despair.

That is, unless we trust God to be who he really is for us in Jesus Christ!

In Christ, we are a new creation (see 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15). And we are set free (Galatians 5:1)! God has freed us to be the new, redeemed, healed and complete persons he has made us to be in Christ. We can use that gift of freedom to hear and obey our heavenly Father, or we can reject it and continue to live as though God had not made us his covenant partner, as though he had not made us the beloved recipients of his overflowing grace in Christ (verse 13).

No longer must we live in spiritual bondage, struggling in vain to grasp here and there a little respect, dignity, security and love in this heartless world. No longer must everything in life be about us and our anxieties about not getting all the things we think we want. No longer must we live in opposition to God, ourselves and our neighbor.

The Holy Spirit both gives us ears to hear God's command and provides us our new life in Christ. In that new life provided by the Holy Spirit, we are free to choose to be the person in Christ God has already chosen us to be. To do otherwise is not freedom, but a return to bondage.

In Christ

All this repenting, believing and passing through the waters of baptism have meaning only because God gives them meaning. Only because the Son of God took the indescribable action of becoming one of us--living sinlessly as one of us, dying on the cross as one of us, being resurrected as one of us, ascending to and being received by the Father as one of us, does any of it make any sense at all.

It makes sense because God, in his divine freedom to be who he wants to be for our sakes, makes it make sense. We are saved by God's grace--his love, his utter faithfulness to his redemptive purpose for the humanity he loves so much that in Christ he took humanity itself into himself.

A Lesson in Humility

God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus Christ, and through Christ to reconcile to himself all things in heaven and earth through Christ's death (see Colossians 1:19-20).

That is the way God chose to make us into a new creation. The Son of God took humanity into himself, and in his perfect obedient sacrifice of love, he reconciled humanity to God. It is to this God, the God who in immeasurable love humbled himself to take all our burdens upon himself, including our ugliest sins, and turn us into a new and beautiful creation in his Son, that we owe complete allegiance and obedience.

John's ministry was a ministry of humility. Baptism is an expression of humility. The Son of God humbled himself to become one of us for our sakes. And the new life in Christ that is given to us by our Creator and Redeemer is a life of humility.

It's not about me. If it were about me, what would I do? How can I heal my own past, my present and future? How can I redeem my own faults, sins, betrayals and rebellion? How can I secure my future or the future of those I care about?

No, thank God, it's not about me. It's all about Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate (in the flesh) for our sakes. He is the one who heals our personal history, redeems our every dark sin, secures our future and gives us deep peace and rest.

Praise be to God that we can drop all our airs of superiority and pride, and humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God, because he is truly our all in all.

For reflection:

How did Mark describe the gospel (v. 1)?
What prophecy did John fulfill (vs. 2-3)?
How are repentance and humility related?
Why can we confess our sins without fear?

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