Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Self-Forgetfulness


God has been convicting me recently about pride and selfishness. And I have been challenged by reading and reflecting on Gary L. Thomas’ Not the End but the Road, especially the chapter on Humility.

 “The truth is this—pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.” (Andrew Murray)

“The irony is, the more we experience the character of Christ, the more natural reason we’ll have to become prideful. If we’re not careful, spiritual growth can sabotage itself. Perhaps that’s why the great reformer John Calvin calls humility the “sovereign virtue…the mother and root of all virtue.” And Jonathan Edwards, the renowned 18th century American preacher, names humility the “most essential thing in true religion.” (p. 16)

Andrew Murray says that humility is “the displacement of self with the enthronement of God.”

“Humility is the disposition that makes us available to be blessed by God. The Psalms seem obsessed with God’s eagerness to reach out to the humble: God saves the humble, guides the humble, sustains the humble, and even crowns the humble. Everything flows from God to the humble servant. Pride seeks to reverse this. Pride is self-reliance and self-dependence. Arrogance seeks to obligate God instead of receive from him.” (p. 17)

Humility is thinking less about yourself, not thinking less of yourself.” (Peter Kreeft)

“The inner discipline of humility acts like a filter, saving us from the tyranny of grossly unrealistic expectations that everyone and everything should bend our way. Self-forgetfulness also means that way we are liberated to serve others at God’s direction, rather that trying to impress them. The ultimate picture of this is Jesus washing the feet of His disciples.” (p. 18)

“The humble life is a life in which deep joy and profound appreciation—both for what God has given us and for what we in turn can give others—become a daily occurrence because the wellspring of that joy isn’t limited to our own personal happiness or good fortune. We can appreciate others without feeling diminished because they have skills we don’t; we can revel in the beauty of a landscape without feeling envious that we don’t own it; we can be fed by a well-preached sermon rather than fretting over the fact that we’re not behind the pulpit. Selfless living is liberated living.” (p. 19)

“Arrogance can never be satisfied; you will never become God. Humility can never be disappointed; if you want to serve someone you can always find someone to serve.” (Gary Thomas)

This week our family started listening to Tim Keller’s series on the Gospel in Life. I thought his message on Sin as Self Righteousness was the best I’ve ever heard on the story of Jonah! He said that to turn to Christ we must first repent, but that the last idol to go in our hearts is always that of self-righteousness. Jonah was wrestling with this hidden sin, which was as repulsive in God’s eyes as the gross sin of the Ninevites. Even though Jonah felt superior to these wicked people and didn’t want to see God extend compassion to them, in reality, Jonah was no better than they were. God exposed Jonah’s self-righteous heart and challenged him with his lack of love for the city of Ninevah.

I’ve felt challenged by the question of how much I really love people and how much of my energy and focus is actually on myself, like it was for Jonah. I want to live self-forgetful-ly, to have the “wellspring of joy that isn’t limited to my own personal happiness or good fortune.” I don’t want to carry around unrealistic expectations of people and of God “to bend my way” and to meet my needs. As I think less about myself, I want to “serve others at God’s direction, rather than trying to impress them.”

We finished listening to the audio version of The Christmas Carol last week, and I was touched at the end when Scrooge wanted to buy the biggest goose available and have it delivered anonymously. The dreams of Christmas Past, Present, and Future had completely changed from “being a scrooge” to finding real joy in giving, such that receiving credit for his gift was not even in his thinking. I want to be like this “Transformed Scrooge.”

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 115:1)

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