Get Your Fresh Humility Here

Tim Keller wrote an article in Christianity Today.  Link: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/december/20.51.html

Get Your Fresh Humility Here

This is the place where the author is supposed to come up with practical solutions. I don’t have any. Here’s why.

First, the problem is too big for practical solutions. The wing of the evangelical church that is most concerned about the loss of truth and about compromise is actually infamous in our culture for its self-righteousness and pride. However, there are many in our circles who, in reaction to what they perceive as arrogance, are backing away from many of the classic Protestant doctrines (such as Forensic Justification and Substitutionary Atonement) that are crucial and irreplaceable — as well as the best possible resources for humility.

Second, directly talking about practical ways to become humble, either as individuals or as communities, will always backfire. I have said that major wings of the evangelical church are wrong. So who is left? Me? Am I beginning to think only we few, we happy few, have achieved the balance that the church so needs? I think I hear Wormwood whispering in my ear, “Yes, only you can really see things clearly.”

I do hope to clarify, or I wouldn’t have written on the topic at all. But there is no way to begin telling people how to become humble without destroying what fragments of humility they may already possess.

Third, humility is only achieved as a byproduct of understanding, believing, and marveling in the gospel of grace. But the gospel doesn’t change us in a mechanical way. Recently I heard a sociologist say that for the most part, the frameworks of meaning by which we navigate our lives are so deeply embedded in us that they operate “pre-reflectively.” They don’t exist only as a list of propositions, but also as themes, motives, and attitudes. When we listen to the gospel preached or meditate on it in the Scriptures, we are driving it so deeply into our hearts, imaginations, and thinking that we begin to instinctively “live out” the gospel.

So let us preach grace till humility just starts to grow in us.

Tim Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York, and author of The Reason for God.

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20 thoughts on “Get Your Fresh Humility Here

  1. theoldadam

    Excellent!

    Just a couple of things.

    You’ve got to have both, the law and the gospel (the full council of God)otherwise there is nothing for the gospel to raise…it needs a corpse…you can’t have new life until you have a…death (hence the law)

    So, do you pull out the canned version of the law that Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron advocate in their Way of the Master ministry? You can, but canned presentations of the law are Sunday schoolish and do not resonate with many. “Have you ever stolen anything?” “Have you ever told a lie?” “What does that make you.” Sure that is the law, but the formulaic presentation of it is, well, less than adequate…I beleive…most of the time.

    What then? Well, how about using life’s current circumstance in the life of the hearer. That’s the law too, you know. That someone is going through, or has been in a divorce. That someone’s job is killing them. That someone is getting older and their health is starting to fail them. Someone near them has died, and they are now thinking about their own mortality. These are all the law….grinding on them…wearing them down. People can relate to this type of law preaching. Done properly, this preaching wil cut them off at the knees to their own projects of ascendence. It will put them to the death. That’s what the law does. It doesn’t take much of the law to do this, and when one reads scripture as part of their worship service, the law is right there also…so they get a double dose of death staring them in the face…working on them…killing them.

    OK, now hand Christ Jesus over. That sweet sound of forgiveness and love will DO it’s work on them. It will raise them again (whom it will, anyway) to new life. They all won’t hear it, there is no formula for making believers, but now and then someone will hear it. That is the power of the Word unto salvation for sinners and the lost.

    And then there is something else that is very important, which most Evangelicals do not understand. The Sacraments. They are God’s visable Word, and they are meant to be a comfort and an actual handing over of the gospel to work on and in the life of that person receiving them.

    “It’ just bread and wine, for cryin’ out loud!” We need to see real progress!”

    That’s the problem. We don’t trust in what God is doing and we want to see evidence and action and that will come about from preaching the law and goading people to ‘prove’ that they are worthy. (that is the real force underlying this lack of humility and it is what creates pride and self righteousness)

    But people mistakingly believe that if they value the sacraments that strongly they will become defacto Roman Catholics. Wrong. And that’s a whole nuther story. I beleive the Lutheran understanding to be fundamentaly different and a proper understanding, not leading to religiosity. “Many Lutherans are religious, though.” True enough, but that too is another story.

    That’s my take on it.

    Thanks for letting me opine!

    Steve Martin San Clemente, CA

  2. theoldadam

    Excellent!

    Just a couple of things.

    You’ve got to have both, the law and the gospel (the full council of God)otherwise there is nothing for the gospel to raise…it needs a corpse…you can’t have new life until you have a…death (hence the law)

    So, do you pull out the canned version of the law that Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron advocate in their Way of the Master ministry? You can, but canned presentations of the law are Sunday schoolish and do not resonate with many. “Have you ever stolen anything?” “Have you ever told a lie?” “What does that make you.” Sure that is the law, but the formulaic presentation of it is, well, less than adequate…I beleive…most of the time.

    What then? Well, how about using life’s current circumstance in the life of the hearer. That’s the law too, you know. That someone is going through, or has been in a divorce. That someone’s job is killing them. That someone is getting older and their health is starting to fail them. Someone near them has died, and they are now thinking about their own mortality. These are all the law….grinding on them…wearing them down. People can relate to this type of law preaching. Done properly, this preaching wil cut them off at the knees to their own projects of ascendence. It will put them to the death. That’s what the law does. It doesn’t take much of the law to do this, and when one reads scripture as part of their worship service, the law is right there also…so they get a double dose of death staring them in the face…working on them…killing them.

    OK, now hand Christ Jesus over. That sweet sound of forgiveness and love will DO it’s work on them. It will raise them again (whom it will, anyway) to new life. They all won’t hear it, there is no formula for making believers, but now and then someone will hear it. That is the power of the Word unto salvation for sinners and the lost.

    And then there is something else that is very important, which most Evangelicals do not understand. The Sacraments. They are God’s visable Word, and they are meant to be a comfort and an actual handing over of the gospel to work on and in the life of that person receiving them.

    “It’ just bread and wine, for cryin’ out loud!” We need to see real progress!”

    That’s the problem. We don’t trust in what God is doing and we want to see evidence and action and that will come about from preaching the law and goading people to ‘prove’ that they are worthy. (that is the real force underlying this lack of humility and it is what creates pride and self righteousness)

    But people mistakingly believe that if they value the sacraments that strongly they will become defacto Roman Catholics. Wrong. And that’s a whole nuther story. I beleive the Lutheran understanding to be fundamentaly different and a proper understanding, not leading to religiosity. “Many Lutherans are religious, though.” True enough, but that too is another story.

    That’s my take on it.

    Thanks for letting me opine!

    Steve Martin San Clemente, CA

  3. theoldadam

    Jon,

    You, and Tim Keller, have hit upon something great here.

    A solution must be found for this lack of humility and pride that we have.

    It resides in the person of Christ and His work ‘for us’.

    Although there is always a danger in preaching ‘trust’ (a danger in someone taking God’s grace for granted) we musy still do so, and do so often, without blinking in the face of those that would shackle us with the law towards a greater obedience to God.

    Sacramental theology goes a long way (that’s why, I believe,that Jesus instituted them)towards handling this problem, and helping us to rely on Him…only.

    Thanks, Jon!!

  4. theoldadam

    Jon,

    You, and Tim Keller, have hit upon something great here.

    A solution must be found for this lack of humility and pride that we have.

    It resides in the person of Christ and His work ‘for us’.

    Although there is always a danger in preaching ‘trust’ (a danger in someone taking God’s grace for granted) we musy still do so, and do so often, without blinking in the face of those that would shackle us with the law towards a greater obedience to God.

    Sacramental theology goes a long way (that’s why, I believe,that Jesus instituted them)towards handling this problem, and helping us to rely on Him…only.

    Thanks, Jon!!

  5. Howard Nowlan

    Very insightful mailing.
    It’s only the Gospel that keeps us tripping head first into either the Galatian (legalism) or Colossian (dualism) heresies which so devour the church from within, and provide the necessary remedy to the ‘coaching’ of wormwood. Let’s seek to keep that light burning in our short time here, especially in the year ahead.

    In the bonds of grace,
    Howard.

  6. Howard Nowlan

    Very insightful mailing.
    It’s only the Gospel that keeps us tripping head first into either the Galatian (legalism) or Colossian (dualism) heresies which so devour the church from within, and provide the necessary remedy to the ‘coaching’ of wormwood. Let’s seek to keep that light burning in our short time here, especially in the year ahead.

    In the bonds of grace,
    Howard.

  7. Howard Nowlan

    Another thought of mine that we need to keep in mind is that people who are self-righteous, at least in my own past, are also people that are highly insecure. This is why the assurance of Christs’ atoning sacrifice needs to be preached to them. That only, “in Christ”, can I have any hope whatsoever.

    Spot on, John. I recall how on the single occassion when someone came and shared THE Gospel when I was in a legalistic church, it did wonders for myself and others.

  8. Howard Nowlan

    Another thought of mine that we need to keep in mind is that people who are self-righteous, at least in my own past, are also people that are highly insecure. This is why the assurance of Christs’ atoning sacrifice needs to be preached to them. That only, “in Christ”, can I have any hope whatsoever.

    Spot on, John. I recall how on the single occassion when someone came and shared THE Gospel when I was in a legalistic church, it did wonders for myself and others.

  9. theoldadam

    Good comments, Jon and Howard.

    The full council of God ought be preached. Each Sunday (or whenever) we need the law to kill us off,to put a stake (at least temporarily) in the heart of the self-ascendent man and end the self-righteousness.

    Then the gospel is handed over, freely, without cost to the hearer (NO STRINGS – no shoulds, oughts, musts)

    We all need this…all throughout our lives. It should never stop to make room for more interesting self-improvement projects, or biblical principle exercise (those are just more law).

  10. theoldadam

    Good comments, Jon and Howard.

    The full council of God ought be preached. Each Sunday (or whenever) we need the law to kill us off,to put a stake (at least temporarily) in the heart of the self-ascendent man and end the self-righteousness.

    Then the gospel is handed over, freely, without cost to the hearer (NO STRINGS – no shoulds, oughts, musts)

    We all need this…all throughout our lives. It should never stop to make room for more interesting self-improvement projects, or biblical principle exercise (those are just more law).

  11. theoldadam

    Will do, Jon.

    Luther was terrific. I think he had a real good handle on Christianity and his theology (to me) is second to none and parrots the Apostle Paul about as close as is possible.

    Sacramental theology plays a huge role in Luther’s theology.

    It is terribly hard to stay away from ‘the self’ and the “God project” (working on performance or feelings…or whatever) without trusting in the what the Lord does for us and to us, in baptism and Holy Communion.

    I believe that it was exactly to keep us off that ‘religious treadmill’ by putting the focus onto Himself, that Christ instituted those sacraments.

    Thanks Jon!

  12. theoldadam

    Will do, Jon.

    Luther was terrific. I think he had a real good handle on Christianity and his theology (to me) is second to none and parrots the Apostle Paul about as close as is possible.

    Sacramental theology plays a huge role in Luther’s theology.

    It is terribly hard to stay away from ‘the self’ and the “God project” (working on performance or feelings…or whatever) without trusting in the what the Lord does for us and to us, in baptism and Holy Communion.

    I believe that it was exactly to keep us off that ‘religious treadmill’ by putting the focus onto Himself, that Christ instituted those sacraments.

    Thanks Jon!

  13. theoldadam

    Many people have a knee-jerk reaction to ‘sacraments’.

    They appear Roman Catholic and therefore ought not be taken with too much seriousness.

    Well, they are catholic…but the Lutheran view, while similar in some ways and very similar in appearence (to Roman Catholicism), they are quite different in understanding.

    In Roman Catholicism there is an ‘us to God’ aspect.

    In Lutheranism it is always ‘God to us.’

    Huge difference.

  14. theoldadam

    Many people have a knee-jerk reaction to ‘sacraments’.

    They appear Roman Catholic and therefore ought not be taken with too much seriousness.

    Well, they are catholic…but the Lutheran view, while similar in some ways and very similar in appearence (to Roman Catholicism), they are quite different in understanding.

    In Roman Catholicism there is an ‘us to God’ aspect.

    In Lutheranism it is always ‘God to us.’

    Huge difference.

  15. theoldadam

    Jon,

    Thanks for the book recommendations, Jon.

    I like to get different theological views, as well. I have found, though, that in almost all cases, the differing theologies (in comparison to Lutheranism)usually drift toward man’s involvement or cooperation, or seriousness of committment.

    Lutheranism realizes that we are not serious about God. That we are in bondage to sin and do not want to leave that bondage. We basically do not want God.

    That is why the emphasis on what God has done, is doing, and will yet do…for us.

    Other theologies lift up man in some manner, even if just a little bit. We always try and lift up Christ…ALONE.

    So, I tell many of my friends that dabble in, or are interested in Lutheran theology…”why don’t you go all the way?” (not become a Lutheran necessarily) but let go of the self, and grab onto Christ and let Him do it all. It really is quite liberating and faith strengthening.

    Jesus…no +’s …whatsoever.

  16. theoldadam

    Jon,

    Thanks for the book recommendations, Jon.

    I like to get different theological views, as well. I have found, though, that in almost all cases, the differing theologies (in comparison to Lutheranism)usually drift toward man’s involvement or cooperation, or seriousness of committment.

    Lutheranism realizes that we are not serious about God. That we are in bondage to sin and do not want to leave that bondage. We basically do not want God.

    That is why the emphasis on what God has done, is doing, and will yet do…for us.

    Other theologies lift up man in some manner, even if just a little bit. We always try and lift up Christ…ALONE.

    So, I tell many of my friends that dabble in, or are interested in Lutheran theology…”why don’t you go all the way?” (not become a Lutheran necessarily) but let go of the self, and grab onto Christ and let Him do it all. It really is quite liberating and faith strengthening.

    Jesus…no +’s …whatsoever.

  17. steve martin

    “Luther-esque types are different in that they see everything through the Gospel message, the Cross, and in my opinion try to see scripture through the eyes of Christ. However, Lutheranism, IMO, is angling away from this more and more.”

    I’m afraid you are right. Most churches seem to be gravitating towards man’s side of the equation. (and for righteousness sake, that side does not exist at all)

    One of the reasons I like traditional liturgical Lutheran worship is that it forces Christ centeredness on us.

  18. steve martin

    “Luther-esque types are different in that they see everything through the Gospel message, the Cross, and in my opinion try to see scripture through the eyes of Christ. However, Lutheranism, IMO, is angling away from this more and more.”

    I’m afraid you are right. Most churches seem to be gravitating towards man’s side of the equation. (and for righteousness sake, that side does not exist at all)

    One of the reasons I like traditional liturgical Lutheran worship is that it forces Christ centeredness on us.

  19. steve martin

    “IF your not liturgical then the pastor himself has to have Christ centeredness at his core or he will eventually gravitate away from this center.”

    Good point, Jon.

    I just wonder what it is in each of us, that is our core?

    A love and trust for God, or a love and trust of the ‘self’.

    Something to think about, that’s for sure.

    Thanks, Jon!

  20. steve martin

    “IF your not liturgical then the pastor himself has to have Christ centeredness at his core or he will eventually gravitate away from this center.”

    Good point, Jon.

    I just wonder what it is in each of us, that is our core?

    A love and trust for God, or a love and trust of the ‘self’.

    Something to think about, that’s for sure.

    Thanks, Jon!

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