False Humility

Every post I write, in some way, relates to my own experience.   What I mean is that I have at some point been either directly or indirectly culpable for transgressing the very requirement of God’s law, doctrine or practice that is the topic I am expounding on.  There are certain things about us that we need no one else to point out, but there are flaws in our nature that seem to escape our awareness.  Sometimes we need others to critique us.  Does it ever seem to you that the preacher has an informant in the congregation that feeds him dirt on you?  How else would he know to write a sermon just about you?

Well, don’t get mad and shoot the messenger, so to speak.  Peter is the king of being called out by the Preacher.  In August of 1728, Thomas Boston preached a series of sermons showing the connection between being in Christ and Sanctification.  On the Sunday of the Lord’s Supper observance he exposited John 13:8.  “No, said Peter, you shall never wash my feet.”

Peter, no matter how hard he tried, seemed to be the disciple who always got it wrong.  However, as you have probably already figured out, Peter is also the disciple that best represents us.  The setting for this passage is just before the serving of the Passover Feast, the Last Supper.  In that time the custom of foot washing, due to the sandal fashion, (I don’t do sandals) was normally the job of the lowest ranking member of the household or servant.  On this occasion Christ performed the menial task and had already washed some of the other disciple’s feet when he came to Peter. Impetuous as ever, he spoke up to stop Christ’s service to him.

At first glance it is easy to side with Peter on this one.  The King of kings and Lord of lords has lowered himself to do a servants job.  The Very God of Very God should not be condescending to this low position. Peter should be applauded for being the only one to notice this and speak up.  Peter is merely showing humility and deference to his Master, right?  Peter never lacked for zeal, even in his humility.  The problem was that his humility was self created, a false humility.

Do you ever do a litmus test on you humility to see what is driving it?  I, for one, really needed Boston to zero in on this often unnoticed chink in the armor.  Is my humility a form of works righteousness?  Am I, like Peter, treating my unworthiness of Christ’s cleansing blood as a barrier to fully receiving my assurance of his acceptance?

As noted in the last post, the lack of assurance of your salvation, resulting in a depressed emotional condition, can bring on a false humility.  When your evaluation of your state of being gives rise to doubt and fear, you have forgotten how you came to be saved.  The practice of judging yourself can have drawbacks.  Yes, there are times when assessing our practice verses our profession is good for us.  We have just finished looking at that topic.  However, when the result of your assessment humbles you to the point of doubt, you have gone too far. Your humility has just become pride.  Who are you to question how God accepts you and what his sovereign will is for your life.  It is pride that tells you that your opinion counts.

Peter, when told that in order to be saved he must be washed, responded that he desired his hands and head be washed also. He still did not get it. So in verse 10 Christ declares, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean, though not every one of you (speaking of Judas).” Peter, in his false humility, thought himself beneath the work of Christ.  That he must do something more to be included in Christ.  Our false humility manifests itself in our attempting to wash ourselves before we come to the feast.  Not unlike the ceremonial cleansing of the Jewish priests or the washing before prayer of the Muslims, our attempts at cleaning up our own act and then presenting ourselves to Christ are a reflection of our unbelief in his service on our behalf.  He has already cleansed us with his blood.

From the Reformed Theological perspective, the doctrines of Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace, make a case to help relieve the believer of this false humility.  Without giving a full explanation of these doctrines, simply put, they propose that you can do nothing to save yourself and you cannot deny God the ability to save you.  In fact, true humility is an act of God’s grace.  He humbles you by the awakening of your dead heart.  You cannot humble yourself apart from his grace.

So the next time you ponder the thought of your unworthiness to come before the laver of Christ’s blood, lift up your heads and receive his promise to you.  The free gift of God is the work of Christ.  He applied it to your account regardless of your position.  Do not think yourself beneath receiving it.

 

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