Sermon May 24, 2020


Sermon 5/23/2020

 

Why does not God wipe out all suffering, pain, and the source of all suffering? Why doesn’t God do what the Marvel Comic, villain,  “Thanos” ,  does, simply snap his fingers and make us all holy and end all this fuss about sin, etc.  The answer appears to be that the key to finding God, on this plane of existence, is by simply avoiding sin, but by embracing humility. To find God we must find humility, there are no other options. And nothing destroys spiritual growth like personal pride. It’s only by emptying ourselves of our self-love that we can  hope to be filled by the Holy Spirit.  There’s not room for both. You love one and hate the other—that’s how Jesus described it. You cannot serve two masters.

 

Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

 

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

 

James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

 

Many years ago I took a trip to visit a boys’ orphanage in South America. On that trip I took several volunteers and about four youth from our summer camp. The youth that assisted us were from affluent families in the USA.  Anyway, there were 20 orphans, so we got 20 hats, 20 t-shirts and some candy from the mall here in North Carolina. When we got there and the little boys were indescribably excited to see us and proudly showed us how they raised chicken for eggs,  and their neat little beds, and how they performed their daily chores—it was a very special visit and these boys made us feel like movie stars. They were all without mothers or fathers, abandoned on the streets of Valencia or simply dumped on the back alleys by parents that did not want to keep them.

And so after playing with them and allowing them to show us their new home and activities, we proceeded to hand out the gifts. But we found that one new boy had been added to the group, so there were now 21 boys. The ladies in our group quickly divided up the candy and toys so that it was not divided by 21, not 20, but we still only had 20 baseball hats and 20 t-shirts. So after talking to the orphan leader, we decided to give the 20 that were first there the 20 hats and t-shirts and that the last boy would just have to understand that we could not go back to Winston-Salem, NC for anther shirt and hat.

 

And so the youth that I brought from the USA passed out the shirts and hats, but when the 21st boy did not get his portion, he did nothing. He did not pout, cry or ask why he was forgotten.  He smiled and was grateful for the candy and toys.  But one of the youth from our camp asked the orphan leader why the new did not get upset or become hurt that we did not bring him a hat or T-shirt, and he responded that the boy had been an orphan his entire life and was used to being forgotten and ignored.  When the fourteen year-old teenager that I brought from Raleigh, NC, heard this he quickly left the room, sobbing and obviously quite bothered by what he heard. And when he came back, he was not wearing his t-shirt or his hat——he had taken them off, wrapped them in a bag from our van, and gave them to the 21st orphan.

 

That little orphan’s humility brought out compassion and empathy from this wealthy 14 year old boy in a manner no preacher ever could.  It’s the best story of humility and Godly  compassion I have ever witnessed first hand.  That little orphan was an angel, displaying true humility, and it touched the heart of this teenager. Do my children—-or your children—have such humility when things don’t go their way and are they as compassionate to those who don’t have a good life as this 14 year old from Raleigh was?

Consider for a moment the people that we celebrate in sports, politics, entertainment, business and even in the pulpit. Are they people of true humility, like this little orphan, or are they the accomplished, polished, witty, the best at what they do, the most beautiful, eloquent, and articulate of all mankind?

Please think of the folks that really touch your hear, and think of the ones that touched God’s heart, i.e. the ones that He celebrated, e.g. Moses, Noah, Abraham and Isaiah— godly men of integrity and passion for the Lord. Isaiah cried out when He saw a vision of God,  “Woe is me!… I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” 

These men all showed great humility and God smiled at them and was proud of them.  Why did they have this humility? In Isaiah’s case, why did fear grip his heart?  He was quite aware of how small he was compared to God and just how filthy he was as stood before the holiest of all beings.

In the gospels Jesus spoke about the lowest of the low, a tax collector, and the most respected of the respected, a Pharisee. The tax collector (a Publican) and the very religious fellow (a Pharisee) went to the temple to pray. “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  Jesus said that the TAX COLLECTOR, a man despised for his vocation, left the temple justified because of his repentance, remorse, and humility.

In my work at our camp I realize that there are primarily two types of people when things don’t get done or there’s a mistake: those that blame others (the arrogant) and those that blame themselves (the humble). There are those that constantly hide behind excuses and those who offer up no excuses. There are those that point the finger at the faults of others and those that never stoop to self-pity. As you can imagine, one of these types are difficult to work and live with, while the other type are an inspiration and breath of fresh air!

But what am I? Do I blame others for my lazy actions and ill-advised decisions? Do I admit my own shortcomings (before others are tempted to point them out), or do I carefully orchestrate the situation to make me appear the hapless victim? It’s so easy to make myself an innocent prey for all my hardships, but all so humbling to acknowledge that I am “what is wrong” in my family or business or ministry, or relationship.  Am I willing to accept the truth about my own ego, pride and general lack of humility.

G. K. Chesterton said that ultimately,  “Humility is truth” . “ Once we are awaken to real truth about our selves we  are intellectually  made to know ourselves as we really are – and in our life we soberly are taken, in relation to God and to men, to our proper place.”  If you are really truthful with yourself, you simply cannot be vain or proud!  Who you really  are—not the charade or act you present.

Isaiah knew that He stood before God with no excuse for his sin or association with others that sinned, etc. Likewise the tax collector knew that arguing about how it was not his fault for being a corrupt tax collector would go nowhere with an omniscient heavenly Father. So they both did a very wise thing: They admitted that their mistakes and errors were their own fault and not the fault of someone else. God takes delight in this, I can see why. Nobody, particularly God, likes a whiner or coward. It takes courage to accept the blame and admit that you deserve to be held accountable.

Aren’t we blessed to worship a God that rewards such a heart with forgiveness and restoration? It was said that the closer Saint Francis came to God, the more aware he was of his sins, and the more he sought to turn away from them. There was nothing fake about his humility.  He once said. “Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, it is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt that we must desire— for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God.”

Jesus set the tone when He taught, ’You know that the rulers of the heathen have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority. This, however, is not the way it shall be among you. If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of the others — like the Son of Man, Who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life to redeem many people.‘ (Matthew 20:25-28).

 

Humility is the virtue of casting aside our pride, hubris, conceit, narcissism and arrogance. Just as pride is the worst, foremost and root of the Seven Deadly Sins, humility is its cure. Jesus is the best example for those who seek to humbly follow God's plan for His life (Matthew 11:29). He is meek and His burden light.  Just be honest with yourself and boldly seek the truth about yourself.

 

CS Lewis: “To even get near a humble person, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” True humility is not a matter of  thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

 

These are the few ways we can practice humility from Mother Theresa:

To speak as little as possible of one's self.

To mind one's own business.

Not to want to manage other people's affairs.

To accept a compliment and thank the one offering it.

To pass over the mistakes of others.

To accept insults and injuries.

To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.

To be kind and gentle even under provocation.

Spend time listening to others

Be grateful for what you have

Ask for help when you need it

Seek feedback from others on a regular basis

 

 

 

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me . . .” —

Galatians 2:20

 

These words mean the breaking and collapse of my independence brought about by my own hands, and the surrendering of my life to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus. No one can do this for me, I must do it myself. It means breaking the hard outer layer of my individual independence from God, and the liberating of myself and my nature into oneness with Him; not following my own ideas, but choosing absolute loyalty to Jesus. Once I am at that point, there is no possibility of misunderstanding.

 

Has that breaking of my independence come?  Have I honestly looked in the mirror? All the rest is religious fraud. The one point to decide is— will I give up? Will I surrender to Jesus Christ, placing no conditions whatsoever as to how the brokenness will come? I must be broken from my own understanding of myself. When I reach that point, immediately the reality of the supernatural identification with Jesus Christ takes place. And the witness of the Spirit of God is unmistakable— “I have been crucified with Christ . . . .”

 

The passion of Christianity comes from deliberately signing away my own rights and becoming a servant of Jesus Christ. Until I do that, I will not begin to be a saint.

One visitor a year who hears God’s call would be sufficient for God to have called this church into existence.  Let’s be honest and allow Him in our hearts true humility —and then watch this little church grow.

 

And if you are sincerely interested in acquiring the humility of Jesus, here’s a prayer to try:

“Lord, reveal to me areas of pride in my life and replace them with the sweet humility of Jesus.”   Pray this prayer for 30 days and you will be astounded at the areas where you are proud; you will be delighted to chose to give them up and become more like Jesus. You will be humbled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening Prayer:

 

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,

    the people he chose for his inheritance. 

From heaven the Lord looks down

    and sees all mankind;

from his dwelling place he watches

    all who live on earth—

he who forms the hearts of all,

    who considers everything they do.

No nation is saved by the size of his army;

    no warrior escapes by his great strength.

A economy and defenses are a vain hope for deliverance;

    despite all its great strength it cannot save. 

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,

    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,

to deliver them from death

    and keep them alive in famine.

We wait in hope for the Lord;

    he is our help and our shield.

In him our hearts rejoice,

    for we trust in his holy name.

May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,

    even as we put our hope in you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRAYER OF INVITATION (John Wesley)

 

 

O Lamb of God, who, both by your example and precept, instructed us to be meek and humble, give me grace throughout my whole life, in every thought, and word, and work, to imitate your meekness and humility. Mortify in me the whole body of pride; grant me to feel that I am nothing and have nothing, and that I deserve nothing but shame and contempt, but misery and punishment. Grant, O Lord, that I may look for nothing, claim nothing; and that I may go through all the scenes of life, not seeking my own glory, but looking wholly unto you, and acting wholly for you.

 

Let me never speak any word that may tend to my own praise, unless the good of my neighbour requires it; and even then let me beware, lest, to heal another, I wound my own soul. Let my ears and my heart be ever shut to the praise that comes from men.

 

Give me a dread of applause, in whatsoever form, and from whatsoever tongue, it comes. Deliver my soul from this snare of hell; neither let me spread it for the feet of others. Whosoever perishes thereby, let their blood be upon their own head, and let not my hand be upon them.

 

O giver of every good and perfect gift, if at any time you please to work by my hand, teach me to discern what is my own from what is another’s, and to render unto you the things that are yours. As all the good that is done on earth you do it yourself, let me ever return to you all the glory. Let me, as a pure crystal, transmit all the light you pour upon me; but never claim as my own what is your sole property,

Amen.

 

 

BENEDICTION: (Saint Paul)

 

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 


Leave a comment


Please note, comments must be approved before they are published