Humble Yourself in the Sight of the Lord.. (Scripture Reference . . . Though it's a song too)
One of the great blessings of our camp being international is that I am required to travel all over the world. The greatest pleasure of my travels has included taking in the awesome beauty, design and grandeur of the medieval cathedrals of Europe. Truly it takes one’s breath away to walk into stone structures that were created prior to the discovery of America! In Reims (pronounced “rantz”) is a one such Cathedral. Built from 1213-1345 it has a tower 266 feet, is 490 feet long and has 71,000 square feet of floor space! It is an incredible structure that took over 120 years to build. Thousands of people poured their hearts (and purses) into this building. Why? Some would scoff that it was for pride in the city to show off a monster cathedral. But I choose to believe that just like the woman that poured the expensive nard on the head of Jesus, there was something else going on. The people loved God and were expressing it in giving him the best they had. Master artisans, masons, carpenters, architects, painters and plasters were employed to give something, in love, to God. They gave Him their best. 1000 years later France and much of Europe still are home to these splendid projects of love for Jesus Christ. To visit one for the first time is to lose your breath……It is good and proper to give God our best when we build a church, or write a sermon, or design and prepare things for Him! It is a gesture of love!
But before these magnificent buildings were imagined, there were living “cathedrals”
that are recorded in the New Testament. These were women of faith that gave their best, their trust and put “all on the line” for Jesus. Here’s one:
Luke 7: 36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you. (")Tell me, teacher,” he said.41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven. (")You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:36-50, NIV
So Jesus goes into a Pharisee’s home and a prostitute followed him in, washed His feet with her tears, wiped His toes with her hair and then poured perfume on His feet. Okay, that tops the list of how someone can show respect and awe to a man! Gracious—she humbled herself and was pleading for His mercy. This lady sincerely believed He could help her situation and expressed, in front of dozens of people, just how terrible and remorseful she was! Most of us have read this story many times, but what He said to her at the end of the story surprised me:
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” She was desperate—-the Savior was willing.
Yes, He said that her sins were forgiven”, but also that “your faith has saved you.” So, if I read this correctly, a lady that lived her whole adult life doing something very bad in God’s eyes, simply has to cry and pour some oil on Jesus’ feet and everything is fine?
Evidently so! And this is where I see Jesus turning all religious thinking upside-down. It’s not the “right living” souls that Jesus came to save, but the sinners. And sinners, like this prostitute, recognized that her life was so messed up that it was “hopeless” short of Jesus’ compassion. That’s where she “placed all (of) her eggs”, so to speak spiritually. She positioned all hope in His love and believed in her heart that if she truly humbled herself (she sat at his feet and wiped His feet with her hair), acknowledged her sins (she never stopped weeping and used the tears to clean His feet!) and recognized Him as the Messiah (she anointed His feet with an expensive perfume) she might be redeemed and saved. And her faith proved right. In God’s Kingdom, she might be regarded as one of the “great ones”.
Here’s another account of faith bringing joy: (Mt 9: 20)“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. (Matthew 9:20-22, NIV)
What an incredible sense of lightness must come when someone hears Him say, “Your faith has saved and healed you! ….All is well—you are now a redeemed, restored, justified member of the family of God”. It’s the sick that seek a physician—the poor that seek a philanthropist. It’s the sinners-those that have missed the mark and are walking (in in) darkness—that need a savior. Conversely, those that are well or well-off never have need of such intervention. The sad truth is that there are folks in our world that think they are wealthy, clean, pure, healthy—and therefore in no need of a physician, master and savior. And so Jesus correctly said: Blessed are the poor… i.e. blessed are those that know just how bad off they are…. This is why there won’t be many rich folks in heaven or those that go through life with little fear and nothing to work for. They think that they don’t need the help!
This is why humility is essential—and these women showed it! We can only be reborn when we come to Him with a sober and healthy understanding of how out of control we are and how in need of a shepherd and father we are. Who, in the body of believers, loves Him the most? The ones who have been forgiven of much. The ones forgiven of little, love little, or better to say, “those of us who know how much we need Him love Him the most, those of us who don’t know it love Him the least.
But let me argue that it was the Pharisees who were truly deceived—-as is anyone thinking that his/her sins are’t that much to be forgiven. The Pharisees did in fact “sin much”, but were so arrogant and blind they could not see it. A few years after Jesus was crucified, one Pharisee did realize just how blind, arrogant, lost and mean in spirit he was—-and I would dare say that because of the realization of the depths of his sin, he loved Jesus even more than this prostitute—-because he had been forgiven of even more. His name was Paul. There’s no place in a pulpit for an arrogant priest or pastor! We, like David, should realize more than our congregants how pitiful we are without Jesus.
But other than Paul, this woman was far wiser and more in touch with God than the other Pharisees and religious folks of this era. She knew how dirty and in need of cleansing she was. And THAT is what we are to preach to a world that is so confused about wealth, health, and purity. When any man or woman stands next to Him, Jesus Christ, then, and perhaps only then, can they really begin to grasp how wretched and crooked they are. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me . .
My goal at this church, and at my camp, is to help those I meet to seek Him, find Him, kneel before Him and experience the restoration to fullness and holy living that only He can give. And those of us that do love Him intensely are either the benefactors of having been forgiven of more than others——which is what Paul said of himself and I can say of myself—-or we love Him with great affection because we have been made aware of how deeply stained, undeserving and twisted we were until He came into our lives and made things good.
Two women were desperate—-the Savior was willing to forgive them and heal them because they both believed Him— i.e. they exercised faith. They trusted that He could heal them, forgive them and restore them. It’s noteworthy that our Bible is full of examples of women of great faith, courage that stood head and shoulders above the religious leaders that should have known better.
Remember, Jesus does not just say merely say, “Your sins are forgiven”, but “Your faith has saved you.” This is the part we must replay and repeat and preach! This the action that is required! This is where we must soberly decide to take a chance and leap off that cliff, so to speak in faith!!!!
The prostitute positioned all hope in His love and believed in her heart that if she truly humbled herself (she sat at his feet and wiped His feet with her hair), acknowledged her sins (she never stopped weeping and used the tears to clean His feet!) and recognized Him as the Messiah (she anointed His feet with an expensive perfume) she might be redeemed and saved. And her faith proved right.
What have you done for Jesus? Of what has He forgiven you? How extravagant has been your expression of love and gratitude? Have you poured expensive perfume on His feet or broken a flask of nard and anointed His head? Have you touched Him believing that you would be healed?
But consider this narrative from Matthew about those that lack faith:
“When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all of his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”
Matthew 13: 53-58, NIV
We can stop Jesus! Our faith is essential to God having His way in our lives and the lives of those we love!! He could not do many miracles because of their lack of faith! God have mercy on me if I am the reason people are not being blessed and healed! Pity the man or woman that prohibits God to do the miraculous because of callousness or indifference to what God is doing!
Do we believe and are we ready to step out in faith and trust Him!
An altar call reminds me of this woman. She would have rushed down the aisle to be first to receive Jesus Christ and would have readily admitted she needed a savior more than others—and the Master would have smiled and received her as one of the “great ones”—-a cathedral of faith.
This lady sincerely believed He could help her situation and expressed, in front of dozens of people, just how remorseful she was! But what about us? Are we desperate enough and full with enough disgust with our sin to humble ourselves and trust Him?
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