The Spiritual Disciplines of Submission and Humility (7-17-21)
Mankind is known throughout our history not for our humility and submission, but for our arrogance and pride. Sin causes us to want to be like God and the lord of our own lives. It causes us to disobey the authorities God has placed over us and to pridefully think of ourselves more than we should. The spiritual disciplines of submission and humility desperately need to be a daily practice of the people of God. As disciples of Christ, our daily aim is to submit ourselves to His leadership and His word. That is what a disciple is: a humble student who is listening to, learning from, and submitting to the One we seek to be like.
Philippians 2:1-2 (NIV) Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
Paul begins by reminding the church of the unity we have in Christ and with each other. He is calling the church not to go at life alone but to pursue like-mindedness and unity in spirit and purpose. We are not meant to do this life alone. We will not make progress in growing in humility if we go at it alone. It is of first and foremost importance that we know who we are in Christ and that we walk together in unity.
Philippians 2:3 (NIV) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit …
Note Paul is saying to do nothing in PRIDE (self-centeredness). The prison of our pride has us constantly thinking of how we promote ourselves, or how we make ourselves look good, or “save face.”
This reminds me of an old Groucho Marx scene: He is going on and on about himself with another guy, and then pauses to acknowledge the lopsidedness of the conversation. He turns to the other guy and says, “I am sorry, I have been talking about me all this time. Let’s talk about you! What do you think about me?”
John Stott writes that pride is more than the first of the seven deadly sins, “It is itself the essence of all sin.” Why is pride, or vanity, the centerpiece of SIN?
- It is “me-centered.”
- It is a direct challenge to God’s glory.
Proverbs 6:16-17 (NIV) There are six things the Lord hates … [first] haughty eyes …
Proverbs 16:5a (NIV) The Lord detests all the proud of heart.
Let’s take a deeper look at specifically what Paul says we are NOT to practice!
Philippians 2:3 (NIV) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit …
- Selfish Ambition
Ambition is the pursuit or activity of achieving something for oneself.
These are the things we do, dream about, or long for that all end up rewarding ourselves. This is an endless maze that deteriorates all of life. Why? When selfish ambition rules our lives, the goal of filling our own cups never ends, because there is always something better out there, something to improve, or something more to have.
Be honest. How often do you find yourself looking for ways to take your current circumstances and wishing they were “better?” So, if you are living with your parents, the improvement for you is to rent a cheap apartment. Once you have your own place, the improvement is to have some cool amenities. Once you have a cool apartment, the improvement is to “own” a house. Once you have a house, the improvement is to have cooler stuff that your house can do or stuff with which to fill your house. Once you have a cool house, you want a bigger house, then a house in a better neighborhood, and on, and on. We are always looking to make “mine” bigger and better!
Now, here is how bad it is: take your current living situation and place it in the middle of the raw ghetto. If you are really honest, your pride says, “Oh, but I can’t live here! My property value is diminished. My neighbors are dirty and trashy.”
The modern mindset of selfish ambition has us a long way away from the modeled, humble life of Jesus! Jesus had little more than the sandals on His feet and the robe on His back. Our selfish ambition is a dangerous poison. In the end, it’s really a cup with a big hole in it that we keep trying to fill!
Do you realize that selfish ambition is completely based on how you are doing next to the other guy? We feel good when ours is better, and we feel worse when others’ is better. We actually, deep down, celebrate when others fall behind us and complain when others seem to be doing better. It’s a race, a never-ending competition! The truth is, you can increase your humility if you are willing to decrease your comparisons.
- Vain Conceit
Let’s look at vain conceit, or more specifically, empty glory! Empty glory is the need to be honored—the need to be lifted up. It is our need to be noticed, enjoyed, loved, and feel important.
Empty glory is a form of “secular” self-esteem. In it, we position ourselves around people who will flatter us with compliments that highlight our strengths and will withhold comments that point out our weaknesses. This brings us into a place of feeling entitled, deserving, and important.
But let’s stop and observe something: People who live with this high self-esteem based on the world are often:
- more judgmental
- critical of others
- more showy
- likely to use relationships only long enough to advance themselves
- likely to struggle entering into relationships because they view themselves as above the rest—no one seems to meet their criteria of “worthy”
Is this who you want to be?
On the contrary, those with a humble self-regard are people most of us long to be around. They are people who tend to be:
- team players
- more understanding
- the kind of people you can simply kick back and enjoy the moment with
Why? It’s because the moment doesn’t have to be about them. This is also the kind of person that tends to be more compassionate and a more loyal friend.
So, why is it that society so often chases after the self-centered person—the famous, the glory hogs, the pretty and the popular? Why is it that we look at humility as weak, needy, and wimpy, when, in fact, the people we like the most are humble people? Let’s look at humility!
Philippians 2:3b-4 (RSV) but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
What is humility? John Calvin wrote, “…it is evident that one never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.”
A biblical worldview of humility would then be: Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in the light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.
Another definition: Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.
Another definition: Humility is being exactly who God made you to be.
Pride looks to attract the attention of others. Humility attracts the attention of God!
Isaiah 66:2 (BSB) … “This is the one I will esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word.”
James 4:6-10 … Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
So, how does one move from me-centered to other-centered—from vain, selfish, and prideful to serving, loving, and humble? You might be saying to yourself, “Someone show me how to get off this merry-go-round.” There is One who can clearly show us, inspire us, and make it possible for us to be humble: Jesus!
Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV) In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
To kill the poison of pride we have to embrace a life of humility. This is only attainable if we are healed and redefined by JESUS!
Instead of SELF esteem, we need to esteem IN Christ alone!
The amazing grace of Jesus is His humility in saving us. Jesus gave up His esteem in order to give us a lasting esteem in Him. We have spent our entire lives running from these things: the feeling of not being noticed, the possibility of not getting picked, the horrible feeling of not being loved. Jesus ran straight toward these things. The only way to look away from self, so that you can truly look towards others, is to first look to JESUS!
The good news is God the Son humbled Himself to put on flesh and walk among us; to be ridiculed by us. Because of His humility, He didn’t stand up and level us with His wrath. He chose to free us with His sacrifice.
God humbled Himself:
- for the corporate executives.
- for the glamour queens.
- for the arrogant husbands and the vain wives.
- for the “always-judging, back-talkers” and the “stubborn-in-their-ways” dominators.
- for those who use their bodies to be noticed and those who use their minds to make others feel dumb.
- for those who use money to buy power and those who use their skills to remind others they fall short.
Jesus humbled Himself unto death, so we could finally be humbled in the gift of life!How can you and I be liberated from the dominating power of the world’s empty definitions of greatness? JESUS! How can you and I experience the lasting joy of being fully known and still fully loved? JESUS! How can you and I experience the satisfaction of Christ’s definition of who we are and no longer seek after the world’s definitions that never leave us satisfied? JESUS!
Philippians 2:1 (NIV) says, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ …” In Christ. What does it mean to be “united with Christ” or, better yet, to be “in Christ?” It essentially means that you have given up your pursuit of your significance, your dreams, your success, and your need to prove yourself to God; and you have taken on Christ’s significance, His dreams, His success! It means what is true of Jesus is true of you. You have received Christ. You are in Christ!
What was Christ’s success?Look at verses 9-11:
Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
If you are united to Him, you are destined to glory! So, let’s stop the self–centered pursuit of empty glory and pride, and clothe ourselves in humility!
Humility paves the way for submission. You will not practice the spiritual discipline of submission if you are not truly humble. Sinful pride says, “My way is better than your way. I don’t care who you are. I will do what I want.”
We are all, at some level, under the authority of another: a boss, pastors/elders, parents, etc. So, how are you doing at showing humility and submission to those whom the Lord has put over you?
Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Our witness of the gospel is, many times, best put on display when we show humble submission to those put over us. It is joyful submission that says, “My identity and my joy is not found in getting my way; it is found in Christ alone. Therefore, I will joyfully submit to the authorities in my life.” Submission is not weak nor second class. It is modeled for us by the Lord Himself.
Luke 22:41-42 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
At the greatest crossroads of Jesus’ earthly life, with an incomprehensible weight before Him, Jesus humbly submits to the will of the Father. His flesh wants nothing to do with the suffering before Him, but His spirit rightly surrenders to the perfect will of God the Father. This is huge for us. Our flesh will often want to reject what we are being asked to do by those over us, but the fruit of the Spirit in us should cause us to joyfully, and humbly, submit.
Finally, for you who are leaders, overseers, managers, and/or parents, we can take away great counsel in God’s instruction for the shepherds of His flock:
1 Peter 5:1-11 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
May we who lead do so humbly and faithfully, not for our own selfish interest but for the good of those we lead and the glory of the One we serve. We will mature so much, and our testimony in Christ will be so bright, if we will truly practice the spiritual disciplines of humility and submission. May God be honored and exalted in and through us as we do.
By His grace and for His glory,
Pastor Joshua Kirstine