I want to talk about a third characteristic that Scripture tells us embodies those who will receive the Holy Spirit. This is a consistent attitude of HUMILITY. Look at these verses in Isaiah 66:1-2 – Thus says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? … But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit and who trembles at My word.” If you remember, we considered Mary’s womb as the first “house” in which Jesus was formed by the Holy Spirit. And we were to be like her womb in the sense that Jesus is to be formed IN US now, through the same Holy Spirit that formed Jesus in Mary’s womb. So you and I are the present-day houses of the Holy Spirit. And from Isaiah 66:1-2, a key virtue that God looks for as a prerequisite for dwelling in us is humility and contriteness of spirit! Let’s be clear about one thing first of all. We all want to be humble. I don’t think there’s even one human being who likes being called proud. Yet, very few people end up being truly humble, or even pursuing humility. So what’s the reason for this? First of all, I think we get in trouble because we look to the Webster dictionary and to culture’s definition of humility, rather than the Bible’s definition of humility. There are many misconceptions about humility that are NOT Scriptural, and that the devil has successfully used to keep Christians from living in the freedom and glory of this virtue:
- Humility is not low self-esteem. I believe that having low self-esteem as a Christian is a serious sin. When we have low self-esteem, we are basically telling God that we are NOT precious children of God for whom His Son came and died for. That kind of thinking is something that every Christian should take very seriously and always battle against.
- Humility is not thinking that I am no good. Yes, to be sure, we have no goodness to boast of in ourselves. But God tells us that Jesus Christ is our righteousness. So saying, “I am no good” is only half the sentence. The complete sentence is, “I am no good on my own, but God has given me Jesus, so I am now complete as I choose to stand IN Him!”
- Humility is not being soft-spoken. Being soft-spoken is a personality trait, not a spiritual virtue. There are extroverts who talk more than introverts. That is not a sin. There are people who genetically have a loud voice. That is the way God made them. The connection of soft-spoken and quietness with humility is usually a cultural definition that has no basis in the Bible. As Christians, we must be extremely careful not to allow our cultural ideas of various virtues dominate our spiritual understanding of them.
- Humility is not being constantly deferential, and allowing others to dominate us. This attitude is timidity, and God has specifically told us that the Holy Spirit does NOT give us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and discipline(2 Timothy 1:7). We are allowed to express our ideas and thoughts, and are allowed to be ourselves.
Being humble does NOT mean allowing others to dominate us. Being humble does NOT mean that we have to constantly concede to others. So what then is true Christian humility and how do we learn to be humble? I think that we must recognize that there is only one way to learn humility – and that is DIRECTLY from Jesus. Matthew 11:29 – Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. We must ruthlessly and consistently throw away all dictionary definitions of humility and learn it from Jesus alone. So here’s how we can become more and more humble: We become humble by staying focused solely on Jesus, and comparing ourselves constantly with Jesus and no one else. Think about just your day today? How many times did you compare yourself to your brother, or your wife, or your husband, or your sister, or your neighbor, or your co-worker, or your parents, or your grandparents, or the person at the store, or your Hindu friend, or your unsaved relatives, or your upbringing, or your past hurts, and so on. We live in a world where we interact with all these people and various thoughts. But I must be careful how I deal with these thoughts: Did I make assessments comparing them to me in a particular area? maybe that I was better off than them? Or maybe even that I was worse off than them? Then, based on that assessment, did I feel a sense of self-satisfaction because I was better off than them? Or maybe a sense of despondency because I was worse off than them? I believe that this is the source of my pride. And look, we ALL allow these thoughts to grab a hold of our thinking to varying degrees every day. So we shouldn’t be discouraged by the recurring evidence of this day after day. But if we stay committed to fighting all instincts to compare ourselves with others, we will slowly gain victory over this dangerous addiction. And in this day of social interaction on the Internet, I find that websites like facebook and Twitter can become huge sources of temptation to compare myself with others. Let me be clear – I am not criticizing these tools. In fact, I have active accounts on both these websites. But I have learned that I need to be very careful on how I spend my time on these sites. I have to be careful with what my eyes see and where my thoughts go – as I read about all the fancy vacations that my friends went to, all the great updates others are making, and so on. I must be on my guard that I don’t allow any envy, jealousy, pride, arrogance, etc to slip in.
Comparing myself to Jesus is a different experience altogether. Jesus had very little to boast about in this world. He was a friend to sinners, but He was also utterly holy. He was full of compassion towards the worst of sinners, but also full of stern rebukes for the self-righteous. Then again, as I find that as I compare myself to Jesus, I find myself consistently and woefully short of His standard in my love, in my holiness, and my commitment to righteousness. He had no desire for self-gratification. It made absolutely no difference whether a person was rich or poor. He had no respect for empty religious titles. But here’s a key difference when I compare myself with Jesus: I am not discouraged one bit, because the Jesus I know is LOVE. Love is not just one of His virtues or one of His attributes. Jesus is God – so Jesus IS love. So when I come to Jesus, I come to Love. And when I compare myself to Jesus, I do that in the context of infinite Love. Now you would think that this should make coming to Jesus so much enjoyable and so easy. But unfortunately, we are such self-centered creatures that we still choose not to interact with the Love of Jesus. I think this is because we want love – but simply a love for ourselves. So we find more gratification from feeling sorry for ourselves, because that allows us to love ourselves without having to love others. So we choose not to come to Jesus. He is Love and He will tell us that He loves us infinitely. But He will also tell us that He loves the whole world, and not just us. We are the apple of His eye, but so are many others.
So as I assess my life, it is hard to consistently make it about comparing myself with Jesus alone. It is so hard to keep it that simple. But I nonetheless believe that this is the BEST TRUE TEST of my pride and humility. So to summarize what we’ve discussed in the last few articles, do you want to be assured of the rich presence of the Holy Spirit with and in you? Let me summarize what I’ve said so far:
- Let us stay HONEST that it is impossible to bear the life of Jesus without the power of the Holy Spirit. It is as impossible as a virgin bearing a baby by herself. But the good news is that the Holy Spirit has been given to PARTNER with us, and to make us like Jesus. The Holy Spirit does not possess us, but fills us – where we cooperate with Him.
- Maintain an unquenchable HUNGER for Jesus. Recognize that your life is a scorched ground without His constant waters flowing over you and keeping you soft and fertile
- Stay HUMBLE by constantly comparing ourselves to Jesus and not to any man or woman. Let us slowly let go of the mental tendency to compare ourselves with others. Now there’s nothing intrinsically divine about making things all start with the same letter, etc. But it does help remember.
So hopefully, you will remember these three H’s when you consider the wood that the Holy Spirit sets ablaze: Honesty, Hunger, and Humility. Finally, look at these words of Jesus said about the Holy Spirit: Luke 11:11-13 – Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? In all that I have written so far, I sincerely hope that I have not made receiving the Holy Spirit more mysterious and complicated than a simple hungry child asking his father for food. I hope that this will be the final word on receiving the free gift of the Holy Spirit. If asked, a human father will quickly provide fish and food to a hungry child. Loud fanfare, spine-tingling feelings, and earth-shattering experiences may or may not accompany such a provision. The provision of the food is what really matters. So it is when our Heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit. There may be the occasional time when feelings or earth-changing events accompany such a visitation. But the evidence of Scripture also proves that such experiences (extraordinary physical events) were the exception rather than the rule. But this I also know from Scripture – the Heavenly Father moves quickly to give His Holy Spirit whenever any human sincerely asks for the Holy Spirit – like a child asking for food. So if we maintain our honesty, hunger, and humility before God, we can also believe with FULL CONFIDENCE that God freely gives us the Holy Spirit when we ask Him – just like any earthly father or mother would feed their children when they are hungry. So may we also open up our spirits to God, and accept with gratitude the FREE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
©Copyright – Sandeep Poonen
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