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Even the Appearance . . .

The apostle Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians (5:22) said, “Abstain from all appearance (form) of evil.”

These words were a living reality in the life of the apostle Paul who took public opinion very seriously and did everything within his power, as long as it did not compromise the Gospel, to avoid any appearance of evil.

Living for the glory of God was Paul’s consuming desire. He did not want any shadow to fall on that Blessed Name. He took great precautions to avoid any hint of scandal. Paul’s wisdom in this matter arose from a deep respect for God and a divinely-given humility, which put the name of Christ before his own concerns.

“It was not enough for the apostle to do right, he recognized the importance of appearing right,” Charles Hodge writes. “It is a foolish pride which leads to a disregard of public opinion. We are bound to act in such a way that only God, who sees the heart and knows all things, may approve our conduct, but also so that men may be constrained to recognize our integrity. “

It doesn’t matter who you are, a manager a teacher, a parent, a student or a housewife, your duty before God and men is not only to be honest but to appear honest. It may take extra effort and prior planning to arrange a situation so that you do not put yourself in a compromising position. It may take sacrificing the easier way or doing what you want to do at a given moment in order to remain pure in appearance.

This does not mean though that you become bound by the consciences of others. Remember, the greatest act of love is to put others first and to place the honor of God before our own desires.

May you have a blessed week serving the Lord and submitting to our God’s commands out of obedient love to Him.

Blessings and Peace to You,

Pastor Mark

Humility

March 29, 2011 2 comments
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,
but with humility of mind regard one another
as more important than yourselves…”

Philippians 2:3

I wonder, have you every stopped to think about the irony of so many of the realities found in God’s Word? Just think about it:

  • In order to live you must die (Romans 8:13).
  • The  first  will  be  last  and  the  last  will  be  first
    (Matthew 19:30).
  • The  least  in  God’s  kingdom  are  considered  the
    greatest (Luke 9:48).
  • We must become blind in order to see (John 9:39).
  • The humble will be exalted and the exalted will be
    brought low (Matthew 23:12).

Paul says in verse one of Philippians chapter 2:

“…if there is any encouragement in Christ,
if there is any consolation of love,
if there is any fellowship of the Spirit,
if any affection and compassion…”

all these things are made complete in one thing: HUMILITY. He reminds us that our unity and common purpose are built upon the solid foundation of “humility of mind…regarding one another as more important than ourselves.”

God calls us to live as Christ who humbled himself and became obedient to death –  even death on the cross. The king of heaven became a suffering servant. He veiled His robes of majesty with the lowly rags of humanity so he might be exalted above all for the salvation of the many. The one who descended into the depths of this earth has been raised to the highest heavens. The one who kneeled to wash the feet of his disciples now sits at the right hand of God the Father. He who was beaten, cursed, scorned, and killed now reigns on high, holding the sword of judgment and offers the olive branch of peace… this is the one whose footsteps we are called to follow.

We speak of this aspect of Christ, the King’s life, as His humiliation. His being born, in a low condition; His submitting willingly to the demands of the law; His undergoing the miseries of this life; His experiencing the wrath of God against disobedience; His cursed death upon the cross; His being buried and continuing under the power of death for a time.

He who “existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to grasped, but emptied Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” The one who knew no sin became sin for us. He muttered no complaint. The King of Kings became the Servant of servants.

“Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.
Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5)

“There are six things the Lord hates,
yes seven which are an abomination to Him… haughty eyes… ”
(Prov. 6:16)

God is not pleased with us when we try to maneuver ourselves into positions where we think we might be noticed and receive praise. He is pleased when we are clothed by faithful humility in Christ’s righteousness. God loves the Davids, the Jeremiahs, the Johns, and the Marys of this world – he frowns upon the Sauls, the pharaohs, the Nebuchadnezzars and the Herods.   Those who seek after their own selves, who think highly of themselves, who seek to exalt themselves even above God will not hear those blessed words, “In you I am well pleased.” But will only hear “away from me for I never knew you.” Andrew Murray defines humility as . . .

“perfect quietness of heart.  It is to expect nothing,  to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me.” It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep-sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble. The humble person is not one who thinks meanly of himself,
he simply does not think of himself at all.”

The proud imagine themselves to be greater than they really are. Like Pharaoh, they laugh at God and ask “Who is the Lord?” It took the crashing waves of the Red Sea for this proud man to discover the answer. Pharaoh’s pride was in his power. But pride can also be in beauty, our talents, and abilities, our position, our goodness, our ability to help and to serve. The ugly head of the serpent of pride can even be found in an expectation of “Thanks” for something we may have done.

Whatever the source, be aware that at the center of PRIDE is the singular “I” of self, a self that has forgotten that it is but dust held together by a God of grace and power. We have nothing that we haven’t received from Him. We are nothing, but what we are in Him! Each of those God calls as His children are also called to be servants. And as servants, your primary duty is obedience borne out of your love for the One who calls you. But you must remember that even this obedience is powered by God’s abundant grace poured out upon you in Christ Jesus.

Faithful obedience that looks for a “Thank You” or a “Way to go” pat on the back or an exuberant “high-five” is motivated by pride, not humble service. It is moved along by self, not selfless service. It was as Christ humbled himself becoming obedient even to the point of death, that “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).   It is through your humble obedience even in the midst of performing those “thankless” and “unnoticed” tasks that those you serve will see Christ in you. They will be compelled to confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

O Lord,

I am a shell full of dust, but animated with an invisible rational soul and made anew by an unseen power of grace; Yet I am no rare object of valuable price, but one that has nothing and is nothing, although chosen of thee from eternity, given to Christ, and born again; I am deeply convinced of the evil and misery of a sinful state, of the vanity of creatures, but also of the sufficiency of Christ. When thou wouldst guide me I control myself, When thou wouldst be sovereign I rule myself. When thou wouldst take care of me I suffice myself. When I should depend on thy providings I supply myself, When I should submit to thy providence I follow my will, When I should study, love, honour, trust thee, I serve myself; I fault and correct thy laws to suit myself, Instead of thee I look to man’s approbation, and am by nature an idolater. Lord, it is my chief design to bring my heart back to thee. Convince me that I cannot be my own god, or make myself happy, nor my own Christ to restore my joy, nor my own Spirit to teach, guide, rule me. Help me to see that grace does this by providential affliction, for when my credit is god thou dost cast me lower, when riches are my idol thou dost wing them away, when pleasure is my all thou dost turn it into bitterness. Take away my roving eye, curious ear, greedy appetite, lustful heart; Show me that none of these things can heal a wounded
conscience, or support a tottering frame, or uphold a departing spirit. Then take me to the cross and leave me there.

From The Valley of Vision – A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Arthur Bennett

Blessings and Peace to You All,

Pastor Mark