Monday, June 9, 2008

The way up is down

by Charles E. Ramsey [1]

Jesus is the God-source of true wisdom, and therefore our most authoritative teacher.

He is the greatest teacher because He is the perfect human example of scriptural teachings. However, it takes more than exposure to words and a good example to change mankind's prideful attitude. The Holy Spirit empowers Christ's work and word in individual hearts. Jesus promised; "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you..." (NIV Acts 1:8)

Humility surfaced as an attribute foremost in Jesus' life and teaching. The Old Testament exposed humility as godliness, but Jesus employed it. (NIV Isaiah 57:15) The opposite of humility is pride, which caused the fall of Satan and mankind. Humility is described as "seeking God's face, praying, and turning from wickedness." (2 Chronicles 7:14). Most scripture passages refer to humility as "lowly," or "to be brought into subjection." One word translated humble describes "a man whose face is on the ground." How can this attitude become the means of greatest exultation? Simply, it's God's way, and in the end the only way that succeeds.

Jesus' whole earthly history was a display of humility.

  1. Born in a manger Luke 2:7
  2. He never owned property. Matthew 8:20
  3. He came as a servant. Matthew 12:18
  4. He died a humiliating death as a falsely accused criminal. Matthew 27:18-26

Before Jesus' death and on His last trip to Jerusalem, Jesus reaffirmed the need of humility to His disciples. (Matthew 18:4). At the start of the Passion week Jesus revealed the Pharisees' lack of humility. (Matthew 23:12). Humility also became a difficult lesson for His disciples to grasp.

Jesus dealt with the problem of pride. At the Last Supper Jesus washed His disciple's feet. Peter objected. Jesus came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" (NIV John 13:6). Jesus took time to explain the situation but required a change in Peter's attitude. Peter quickly repented.

Jesus identified the overall purpose of His ministry when He said: "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself." (John 12:32). In this verse Jesus refers to His death, plus the glory accompanying His resurrection. Jesus Christ became forever the foremost example of scriptural teaching that humility brings exultation.

After His crucifixion Jesus' humility was part of a discussion between Philip and an Ethiopian. They were reading from Isaiah 53 which foretold Christ death. It read: "In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth." (Acts 8:33 quoted from Isaiah 53).

This essence of Christ's humility continued to be appreciated in the Apostles writings. Paul summarizes the humility of Jesus ministry; "For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: 'The insults of those who insult you (God) have fallen on me," (Romans 15:3) and as to His exultation, "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth," (Philippians 2:10).

Jesus' ministry will continue forever as an example encompassing revealed wisdom from the beginning of creation. He is the master teacher of illustration by word and example. Observe this phenomenon when reading the New Testament. Submit to its truth as applied by the Holy Spirit, and enjoy the deepest longings for relevance satisfied. (James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 5:5,6)

(Here is a link to all the verses referenced in this post.)

[1] Charles Ramsey is the paternal grandfather of Cara, Daniel, Claire, and Gabrielle. He is the pastor of Mt Pleasant Baptist Church, Gilman City, Missouri, and he is referred to simply as "Dad" in posts "Ora et labora" and "Ezra seven fifteen."

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