True vs. False (X)
TRUE AND FALSE HUMILITY
(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 1/28/01 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's turn to Proverbs 16:18-19:
Proverbs 16: (18) Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (19) It [is] better [to be] of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.
Today, the Lord willing, I will be preaching on true and false humility. The reason I chose this as one of the topics in this series on the true versus the false is that most people have no idea what true humility is. Lost religionists of all stripes, from Arminians to Calvinists, are full of false humility. You can see the false humility just oozing from them. I hope to show you that this is actually a form of pride. As we've seen time and time again in this series, what they call good, God calls evil. God says in Isaiah 5:20 "Woe to those who say to evil, good; and to good, evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" We've seen that what lost people call the true God, the true Christ, the true Holy Spirit, and the true gospel, God calls a false god, a false christ, a false spirit, and a false gospel. What lost people call shepherds, God calls wolves. What lost people call a church of God, God calls a church of Satan. What lost people call love, God calls hate. They call the darkness light, and the light darkness. What they call godly, God calls satanic, wicked, evil, blasphemous, and an abomination. This is true for the subject at hand. Their view of humility is actually the OPPOSITE of humility. Let's look at the TRUE humility that believers have and contrast it with the FALSE humility that unbelievers have.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew words that are translated "to humble," "humble," and "meek" all come from the same root, a-NAH. Literally, it is "depressed" or "to depress." We think of someone who's depressed as someone who's overly sad, but that's not the way "depressed" is used. It is used in the sense of "debased" or "lowly" or "needy." It's the same in the New Testament. The word that is used for the verbs "to humble" or "to abase" is tap-i-NO-o, which means "to depress," and the word that is used for the adjective "humble" or "lowly" is tap-i-NOS, which means "depressed." The one English word to keep in mind that best describes humility is LOW. Humility is being LOW.
How is godly humility manifested? First, it is manifested in a knowledge of one's sinfulness in light of the holiness of God. When one comes to the knowledge that God is absolutely sinless and undefiled and that He demands holiness that equals His, the sinner sees himself as unable to meet up to the standard that God requires. He sees that he is totally unworthy in and of himself to receive even the least of God's favors. He sees in the light of God's justice that his sin deserves everlasting death. Let's turn to some examples of this:
Genesis 32: (10) I am not worthy of all the mercies and all the truth which You have done for Your servant, for I passed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies.
Psalm 51: (5) Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.
Isaiah 6: (3) And one cried to the other and said, Holy, holy, holy [is] Jehovah of Hosts; all the earth [is] full [of] His glory! (4) And the doorposts shook from the voice of the one who cried; and the house was filled with smoke. (5) Then I said, Woe [is] me! For I am cut off; for I [am] a man of unclean lips, and I live amongst a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of Hosts.
Romans 7: (14) For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, having been sold under sin. (15) For what I work out, I do not know. For what I do not will, this I do. But what I hate, this I do. (16) But if I do what I do not will, I agree with the Law, that [it is] good. (17) But now I no longer work it out, but the sin dwelling in me. (18) For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good. For to will is present to me, but to work out the good I do not find. (19) For what good I desire, I do not do. But the evil I do not desire, this I do. (20) But if I do what I do not desire, [it is] no longer I working it out, but the sin dwelling in me. (21) I find then the law, [when] I desire to do the right, that evil is present with me. (22) For I delight in the Law of God according to the inward man; (23) but I see another law in my members having warred against the law of my mind, and taking me captive by the law of sin being in my members. (24) O wretched man [that] I [am]! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
You might be wondering why I didn't read verse 25. Well, it's to make a point. While it is true that a regenerate person shows humility by seeing his sinfulness, IT DOESN'T STOP THERE! There are many who have admitted their sin but who were unregenerate! Think of Pharaoh. Think of King Saul. Think of Nebuchadnezzar. Think of Judas. They admitted that they sinned, but they were lost. If one goes no further than saying he's a sinner and deserves God's wrath, he remains dead in his sins! And here's where we get into the first point of false humility. Suppose someone is under deep conviction of his sin and deeply troubled about the state of his soul and is telling people that he is on his way to hell because of his sin and doesn't know the way out. Or suppose someone says that he is too sinful for God to save him because he knows that God is holy, righteous, and just. What would the false religionists say? They'd say, "That man is under Holy Spirit conviction. Look at the humility of that man." But in truth, that man is not showing godly humility at all! He is showing false, satanic humility! Now that sure sounds mean to the lost religionist. Here's a guy who's struggling with his sin, he knows he's doing wrong, he knows he's not worthy, and yet we're calling all this wicked? That's exactly what we're doing. And the reason why we're doing this is because this man is ignorant of the only thing that makes the difference between heaven and hell. As long as he hasn't found the answer, he is wicked and evil, no matter how much crying and sleeplessness he goes through.
Let's read verses 24 and 25 of Romans 7 and then go on and read the first two verses of chapter 8:
Romans 7:(24) O wretched man [that] I [am]! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (25) I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I myself with the mind truly serve [the] Law of God, and [with] the flesh [the] law of sin. (8:1) [There is] therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to flesh, but according to Spirit. (2) For the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set me free from the law of sin and of death.
Paul knew his sinfulness, but he also knew that he was not going to be judged based on his sinfulness! He knew that he had a righteousness that answered ALL of the demands of God's law and justice, even while he remained a sinner in his character and conduct! He knew that he was NOT condemned, because of the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone! And what did Isaiah know when he had confessed his sinfulness? Let's go back to Isaiah 6 and read verses 6 and 7:
Isaiah 6: (6) Then one of the seraphs flew to me [with] a live coal in his hand, snatched with tongs from the altar. (7) And he touched [it] on my mouth, and said, See, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is covered.
His iniquity was covered by the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of the coming Messiah!
Now let's turn over to the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18. Let's read verses 10 through 14:
Luke 18: (10) Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. (11) The Pharisee [was] standing, praying these things to himself: God, I thank You that I am not as the rest of men, rapacious, unrighteous, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. (12) I fast twice [on] the sabbath; I tithe all things, as many as I get. (13) And standing at a distance, the tax collector would not even lift up [his] eyes to Heaven, but smote on his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me, the sinner! (14) I say to you, This one went down to his house having been justified, [rather] than that one. For everyone exalting himself will be humbled. And the [one] humbling himself will be exalted.
Jesus uses the tax collector as an example of humility. The lost religionists will use this passage, too, to promote their false view of humility. They will say that the tax collector called himself a sinner, so those who realize that they are sinners are either saved or on their way or under Holy Spirit conviction. But look at what the tax collector knew. He didn't just admit that he was a sinner - HE KNEW WHERE MERCY IS FOUND! And when he asked God to be MERCIFUL to him, what was he asking? A study of this word is very enlightening. The verb that the tax collector used was one that is only used one other place in the New Testament. It's found in Hebrews 2:17. Let's turn over there:
Hebrews 2: (17) For this reason He ought by all means to become like [His] brothers, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the things respecting God, in order to make propitiation for the sins of [His] people.
The word translated "be merciful" in Luke 18 is the same word as what is translated "make propitiation for" in this passage. And if that isn't enough, then take a look at the other Scripture passages that use words that come from the same root as the word in Luke 18.
1 John 2:2:
1 John 2: (2) And He is [the] PROPITIATION relating to our sins."
1 John 4:10:
1 John 4: (10) He loved us, and sent His Son [to be] a PROPITIATION relating to our sins.
Romans 3: (24) being justified freely by His grace through redemption in Christ Jesus, (25) whom God set forth [as] a PROPITIATION through faith in His blood.
The self-righteous religionists will almost inevitably point to the tax collector - or the publican, as the King James Version puts it - to defend their heresy that newly regenerated persons don't know about the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ. They'll ask, "How much did the publican know?" Well, the Bible tells us how much he knew. He knew that he did not have a righteousness that answered the demands of God's law and justice, and he knew about propitiation, which is God's wrath being appeased. And from Romans 10:1-4, we know that he was submitted to the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, which is the propitiatory sacrifice and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. How much did the publican know? He knew what ALL Christians know - that salvation is by the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone, which demands and ensures the salvation of all whom He represented.
Next, as we have already seen in some of the verses we read, true humility is evidenced by a spirit of repentance. And since I'm not planning to do a sermon on true repentance versus false repentance in this series, let me just say a word about it now. There are two main kinds of repentance that a believer engages in. The first kind is the repentance at regeneration, in which the regenerated sinner acknowledges that everything he did before salvation was dead works and fruit unto death and that he worshiped and served a false god and believed in a false gospel. This kind of repentance is never repented of again. Some think that it's the essence of humility to say that they're continuing to repent of all the dead works that they continue to produce, including continuing to repent of confessing a false gospel. This is not humility that comes from God; this is the false humility that comes from Satan. The other kind of repentance is that ongoing repentance that characterizes a believer's life, in which one not only confesses that he continually falls short of perfect righteousness, but he confesses SPECIFIC sins when they are brought to his attention. This means that a humble person is willing to take correction. Proverbs 9:8 says, "Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you." A person who claims to be humble but will not receive godly rebuke from a brother thinks too much of himself.
And speaking of thinking too much of one's self, the Bible in many places shows that Christians are to not think more highly of themselves than they ought. Let's turn to some of these passages.
Galatians 6: (2) Bear one another's burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. (3) For if anyone thinks to be something, he deceives himself, being nothing.
1 Cor. 10:12:
1 Corinthians 10: (12) So that he that thinks to stand, let him be careful that he not fall.
Romans 12: (3) For through the grace which is given to me, I say to everyone being among you, not to have high thoughts beyond what is right to think. But set your mind to be right-minded, even as God divided a measure of faith to each. ... (16) minding the same thing toward one another, not minding high things, but yielding to the lowly. Do not become wise within yourselves;
And look at how Paul urges the brothers to humility by using Christ as an example in Philippians 2:3-8:
Philippians 2: (3) [doing] nothing according to party spirit or self-glory, but in humility, esteeming one another [as] surpassing themselves; (4) each not looking at the things of themselves, but each also [the] things of others. (5) For think this within you, which [mind was] also in Christ Jesus, (6) who subsisting in the form of God, thought [it] not robbery to be equal with God, (7) but emptied Himself, taking [the] form of a slave, having become in [the] likeness of men (8) and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, having become obedient until death, even [the] death of a cross.
Christ humbled Himself for us, and we ought to humble ourselves for the brothers.
I'd like to address a couple more things that false religionists see as humble. The first one is this: "I really don't understand anything about God. I really don't know anything about salvation. I'm just a poor ignorant sinner, and all I know is to rest in Jesus." "Oh, how humble he is!" say the false religionists. Pleading ignorance is a favorite of the falsely humble. And not only this, they seek to make others ASHAMED of their knowledge. They call others "proud" and "know-it-alls" when others talk about the KNOWLEDGE that all believers have. Well, as we have seen before, the Holy Spirit does not deal in ignorance. Upon regeneration, the Holy Spirit gives a SPECIFIC KNOWLEDGE to every single regenerate person without exception. Romans 10:3 shows that IGNORANCE is DEADLY when it comes to the knowledge of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel. Isaiah 45:20 says that the idolaters are missing KNOWLEDGE. And there are many verses that we've already gone over in previous sermons that talk about the KNOWLEDGE that all believers have. This KNOWLEDGE is knowledge of the GOSPEL. It is knowledge that includes who God is, who man is, who Jesus Christ is, and what Jesus Christ did. It is knowledge of God's promise of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. The one who says that he knows nothing about salvation but just rests in Jesus rests in a FALSE Jesus. He rests in someone he doesn't know anything about. How can one REST in Jesus when one is ignorant of the PERSON and WORK of Jesus?
And there's something else that sounds so humble to the ear of the lost religionist. It goes like this: A person who is already a professing Christian says, "I'm so, so sinful. I'm just too sinful to pray. God would never accept my prayers because I'm so filthy." Oh, that'll bring out the tears of the false religionists. They'll come up to him and hug him and say that they understand and that everything is okay. But what this man has shown is SATANIC PRIDE. He believes that acceptance before God is based on WHAT? His own righteousness. He believes that he can't come to God because he is UNRIGHTEOUS, so what does he believe will gain him acceptance before God? His OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS. What a proud, haughty man it is who would say that he believes in Jesus but who is too sinful to have access to God. Just think of this: Once this guy is over his depression and starts praying again, why has he begun to pray again? Because he feels that he's not so sinful anymore! He has somehow washed himself up to the point that he now can be accepted before God. What does the Bible say about this? Let's turn to Ephesians 3:11-12:
Ephesians 3: (11) according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, (12) in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through His faith.
Upon what basis do we have confident boldness and access? Through our own works and cleanness? No - it is through His faith. Let's turn to Hebrews 4:14-16:
Hebrews 4: (14) Then having a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast the confession. (15) For we do not have a high priest not being able to sympathize with our weaknesses but [One] having been tried in all respects according to [our] likeness, apart from sin. (16) Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and we may find grace for timely help.
Upon what basis do we confidently draw near to the throne of grace? Through our own works and cleanness? No - it is through the Great High Priest who intercedes for us. Let's turn to Hebrews 10:19-23:
Hebrews 10: (19) Therefore, brothers, having confidence for the entering of the [Holy of] Holies by the blood of Jesus, (20) which He consecrated for us, a new and living way through the veil; that is, His flesh; (21) and [having] a Great Priest over the house of God, (22) let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts having been sprinkled from an evil conscience, and [our] body having been washed in pure water; (23) let us hold fast the confession of the hope unyielding, for He who has promised is faithful.
Upon what basis do we have confidence for entering the Holy of Holies? Through our own works and cleanness? No - it is through the blood of Jesus. Notice in verse 22 that we have full assurance of faith. Upon what basis do we have this? Through our own works and cleanness? No - it is because we have been sanctified by the blood of Christ. The false religionist sees a person who doubts his salvation and says, "humble." God says, "proud." The false religionist sees a person who is fully assured of his salvation and says, "proud." God says, "humble." A truly humble person acknowledges and repents of his sin, and says that he is not sufficient in and of himself to be accepted before God, and, at the same time, he is fully confident that he is accepted before God because of the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. To close, let's turn to a passage of Scripture that clearly shows the humility and confidence of believers: 2 Corinthians 3:4-5.
2 Corinthians 3: (4) And we have such confidence through Christ toward God; (5) not that we are sufficient of ourselves to reason out anything as [being] out of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.