God Encounters: Humility

This morning, we’re continuing our message series entitled, “God Encounters.”  As we look forward to what this Christmas season holds, we also look ahead to what God has planned for us in the midst of it.  We’re going to learn about God encounters as we work toward the ultimate God-encounter ever experienced; the pregnancy and birth of Jesus!  Immanuel, literally God with us!

So far, we were challenged to seek after God encounters in the midst of our daily routines as to avoid missing them as Jacob almost did and proclaiming, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”  We were reminded that God has a reason for the seasons of waiting in our lives and He has given us hope as a placeholder until we’ve received what He has promised.

Last week, we learned how God’s word is failproof.  It may not come to pass when or how we think it ought to, but God’s word never fails!

This week, we’re looking at another key aspect surrounding God encounters; humility.  Humility defines the attitude and circumstances of nearly every part of the birth, life, and death of Jesus.

Humility carries the idea and concept of lowliness or submissiveness.  Humility is not haughty nor arrogant nor assertive.  Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.  Jesus is the prime example of what true humility looks and acts like.  He knew full well that He was the Creator of the universe, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the beginning and the end, and all of these other titles. 

Jesus did not deny this reality.  When arrested, He said that he could call on twelve legions of angels to put a stop to it.  He knew who He was and the authority that He held.  However, He chose to serve others instead of serving Himself.  Humility knows full well your value and identity, but chooses to use those things in service to others, not so that you might be served.

Philippians 2:3-8

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,

    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

7 rather, he made himself nothing

    by taking the very nature of a servant,

    being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,

    he humbled himself

    by becoming obedient to death—

        even death on a cross!

Humility is the very beginning of our faith.  In fact, the word for worship literally means to bow down.  We cannot claim to be a worshipper of God, a follower of Jesus, without humility.  Faith in Jesus begins with bowing down our lives to Him and allowing Him to raise them up however He sees fit.  Worship is not just a matter of song and words, true and proper worship to God is bowing down our entire life to Him.  Like a teeter-totter, we simply cannot exalt and glorify God without also lowering self.

Humility in action is considerate of those around us.  The act of being considerate is becoming a rare and priceless attribute these days!  The Christmas season used to be one when others would think of others and serve their needs.  It is transitioning into quite the opposite when we think only of ourselves and our wants and needs.  Think of Black Friday, for example.  It’s a pretty good snapshot of the launch of the Christmas season.  Consider the reaction of some children on Christmas morning if they don’t get exactly what they asked for!

Humility, being considerate, means to ask the questions such as:

How do my decisions affect others?

What are the needs of those around me?

What can I do to help?

Some rude and inconsiderate acts that go against the very nature of humility range from:

Taking up multiple parking spots

Cutting others off in traffic

Letting the door close in the face of the one behind you

Walking up and casting your fishing line over someone else’s

Rushing to get ahead of others in the checkout line

Leaving a public toilet clogged

Talking loudly on cell phone in a public area

Letting kids run wild in a store

Continuing to throw trash on top of an already full garbage can

Sitting in full waiting room while elderly person stands

Finishing the milk and putting the empty carton back in the fridge

Letting your dog relieve itself in your neighbor’s yard

Cutting people off mid-sentence

The list goes on and on and on…

The Christmas story teaches us a better way to live; a valued life of humility.  Choosing to be humble can lead us into encounters with God.  Jesus taught:

Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

James 4:6b

“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:10

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

1 Peter 5:6

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Humility is a choice.  If you think otherwise, just look to the example of the Old Testament account of King Nebuchadnezzar.  God had to go to some unbelievable extremes before he chose to humble himself.  Please don’t make God come against you with such opposition before choosing humility!

Again, humility has nothing to do with your wealth or possessions or position in life.  Humility is your chosen perspective toward life revealed by your actions toward God and others.  Someone with incredible wealth and power and prestige can actually be far more humble than someone homeless, poor, and overlooked by society.

Mary was obviously a humble girl.  How do we know?  Last week we learned that her response to the news about her carrying Jesus was simply, “May your word to me be fulfilled.”  This is the mark of true humility.  God’s word and His ways are better than mine, therefore, I bow myself down to them.  Humility chooses to value others greater than ourselves.  Humility is to have the same mindset that Jesus had in our relationships with others.

Now pregnant and visiting her cousin, Elizabeth who was also pregnant in her old age miraculously with who would become John the Baptist:

Luke 1:46-55

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord

47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

48 for he has been mindful

    of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

    holy is his name.

50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,

    from generation to generation.

51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones

    but has lifted up the humble.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things

    but has sent the rich away empty.

54 He has helped his servant Israel,

    remembering to be merciful

55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,

    just as he promised our ancestors.”

Mary acknowledged that this incredible opportunity that she had to serve God by bringing about the birth of His Son was because of God’s mindfulness of her humble state.  Her humility brought her into the single most intimate and incredible encounter with God that she alone in all human history could experience; carrying God’s son within her own womb.  She declared that God is the One whom lifts up the humble and performs mighty deeds on their behalf.

Humility within the Christmas story didn’t end with Mary’s attitude toward her life.  In fact, humility continued as a theme all through the Christmas story!

Luke 2:4-20

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

The very birth of Jesus took place in one of the lowliest places possible; in a barn with a manger as His crib.  Consider this contrast, though.  Bethlehem was buzzing with people coming in for the census and the inn was packed.  How arrogant and selfish must have the people been to refuse a young couple and a woman at the very end of her pregnancy a place to stay?  How many people missed out on an incredible God encounter, being a part of the birth of Jesus Christ, because they were thinking more of themselves than this poor couple?

Humility can bring us into a God encounter, but selfishness can cause us to miss out on them.  This theme of humility continued on.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

These shepherds just out doing their routine jobs on the night shift just had a powerful encounter with God.  They were the first ones chosen by God to be told that their long-awaited savior had just been born and He invited them to come and meet Him.

We would have expected that God would have chosen a priest or elder or teacher of the law who were eagerly anticipating this prophecy coming to pass to be the first told.  After all, they were the spiritual leaders of the people and were well respected in these matters.  Or perhaps the king or some other civil leader who could have announced the good news on a large scale very quickly about this good news, someone with prestige and power.

Instead, God chose simple shepherds to be the ones to first hear the good news, meet the savior and then go off and tell others all about it.  God chooses the humble and opposes the proud.

This Christmas season, consider bringing others into a God encounter with you.  You know how awesome God is and what He is able to do within a person’s life.  You have personally encountered the God of all of the universe and know full well the good news of His salvation.  Why not look to the example of these shepherds and share it?  Why not look for opportunities to share the good news about Jesus with those around you in need of it?

While doing it, why not also look to the example of Jesus on the issue?  Did Jesus proclaim that He was the savior and nail up invitations everywhere to go meet Him in the temple and synagogues?  Did Jesus walk each person through the ABCs of salvation and pray a prayer with them?

Nope!  In fact, even when Jesus was questioned directly about this, look at His response:

Luke 7:18-23

18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”

21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

Jesus essentially said, let my life speak for itself.  They were standing there at the very same time that Jesus cured diseases, sicknesses, and evil spirits.  They watched Him give sight to the blind.  Jesus was essentially saying, “Look at the evidence that you firsthand are seeing.  Of course I’m the savior!”

Like Jesus, let’s let our lives preach louder than our words.  Let’s let our actions preach the good news about Jesus.  Let’s do more show-and-tell and less crafty convincing.  Let’s do less talking about God’s Kingdom and more presenting of God’s Kingdom.  Let’s get out there in humility and serve those around us however we can.  Let’s be more considerate of others and less selfish this Christmas season.

Next week, we finish up this series learning how these unique God encounters can serve to:

– Guide Us

– Correct & Teach Us

– Encourage Us

– Save Us

and how they always serve to:

– Change Us