Category Archives: Bible Study

Humble Yourself

humbled-before-the-cross

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10

Our human spirit is sometimes a funny thing.  We refuse to ask for directions, are hesitant to ask for help, and generally stick to the “I can do it myself attitude.”  Now in many cases there’s nothing wrong with that, unless of course your spouse or friend is sitting in the passenger’s seat begging you to stop and get a map or ask for help.  But like it or not these are small examples of pride.  While we can all probably think of several mostly harmless instances like these, there are probably more we can think of that cause us to stumble.  Recently I’ve been thinking of an encounter I was told about of a wealthy young man who is sick and hospitalized and my own interactions with an elderly gentleman I know who is also very wealthy.  The common denominators between the two are as I pointed to, their wealth, their unbelief in the Lord, and their pride.  The story, as it was told to me, of the younger gentleman involved a friend of mine ministering to him in the hospital.  After several verses and passages were read to him, my friend said to him all you have to do is humble yourself before the Lord and receive him as Lord and Savior of your life.  No doubt she was stunned in his response as he rose up in the hospital bed and said, “I’ll never humble myself before anyone.”

Shift now to the elderly man that I know.  A small group of us have been sharing the Gospel with him every chance we’ve gotten for probably 6 months.  Each time he makes sure we know that his beliefs fall right in the middle, believing in neither God nor the Devil, heaven nor hell.  His pride rest in his money, everything he does, every business move he’s made has been for financial gain.  His response to us resembles that of the rich young ruler from Matthew 19, thinking that he has led a good life, by his own standards, but ultimately if he were told to sell everything in order to gain eternal life, he would share a similar response to, “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Matthew 19:22

I started thinking about these two men and how pride had them snared, and it’s quite unlikely they’re alone.  It never really occurred to me before just how powerful pride can be and just how detestable it is to God.  But one verse kept coming to mind over and over, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I Peter 5:5.  This verse is a quote from Proverbs 3:34 by the Apostle Peter and the same reference is made in James 4:6.  Maybe like me you’ve heard this verse numerous times, but did you ever stop to really think about it?  How strongly God must abhor pride that He resists the proud.  The Greek word for resists in these passages of the New Testament is antitasso meaning to range in battle against or to oppose one’s self.  Think about what the Scripture is saying here, God literally battles the proud.

In the continuation of the passage we see that just as God resists the proud, He gives grace to humble.  The Greek word for grace as used here is charis.  This same word is found throughout the New Testament, but specific attention can be given to the familiar Ephesians 2:8,For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”  It is by grace we are saved, “it is”, referring to saving grace, the gift of God.  This is the same grace that the Bible points out is given to the humble.  In context we can read the passages of I Peter and James to mean that if God resists the proud, and gives saving grace to the humble, then He does not give this grace to the proud.  It’s not available, not offered, the proud are opposed and resisted by God.

But there’s hope for those bound by pride.  If we humble ourselves before the Lord, He will lift us up. James 4:10  God will not only supply that wonderful, amazing grace, but will do so abundantly and just as James 4:6 says He will give more grace.  Because just as God is able to resist the proud, He’s so abundantly compassionate to the humble, the broken and contrite heart that comes desperate before Him.  Are you prideful today Christian?  Has it crept up and ensnared you in its web?  Maybe you’re a non-believer, like the two gentleman I mentioned, refusing to humble yourself before anyone.  No matter how much wealth, how high your position, or how great your power, the path you’re on leads only to destruction and God is resisting you.  Come broken before the cross of Jesus, seek forgiveness, and accept the free gift of grace necessary for salvation in Christ.

Proverbs 16:18-19  Pride goes before destruction,  And a haughty spirit before a fall.  Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Proverbs 3:34  Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

Lighthouses


outerbanks-horse-lantern

Philippians 2:15 NKJV “that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world”

One of my favorite vacation spots is on the East Coast in North Carolina known affectionately as the Outer Banks.  It’s an old fishing destination because of its unique position as a series of islands off the coast that affords it access into the fringes of the Gulf Stream bringing in a wide variety of fish.  There is a natural beauty there and also some man-made wonders such as the lighthouses that stretch along the islands from the south at Cape Lookout to the north at Currituck, including the infamous Cape Hatteras, Bodie Island, and Ocracoke.   I’m sure most of you know the purpose for the lighthouses.  Years ago, mostly in the late 1800’s to early 20th century, the lighthouses served as a warning to incoming ships that they were getting to close to the shore.  The lights guided ships, the crew and cargo along the coast until they reached safety.

Our lead verse from the Apostle Paul’s epistle points toward exactly this same concept.  As Christians we are to be “lights in the world.”  Our light should shine forth so bright that all those around us can see God working in our lives.  As Charles H. Spurgeon points out, “His [Christian’s] conversation should be such that all who are about him should clearly perceive whose he is, and who he serves, and should see the image of Jesus reflected in his daily actions.”  Christians this is one of our roles in life.  To serve as not only an example to each other, but to non-believers alike, we must act as the lighthouses and protect others from the dangerous shores as well as point others towards the shores of Salvation.  Jesus emphasizes these very points in His Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

But there’s more to the verse from Philippians, “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” and there’s more to the history from the Outer Banks.  My vacation destination that I described earlier is usually in the Nags Head area of the islands and this town has a history all to her own.  You see Nags Head gets her name from the pirates that would troll her shores looking for those ships I alluded to earlier.  Those pirates would walk the shores with a “nag”, horse, mule or otherwise, that would have a lantern around her neck or head.  The purpose of this would be to provide a false light and deceive the ship captains into thinking they were following a lighthouse and were safe, but in fact they were falling into a trap leading to their destruction.  Just like the lighthouses pointed toward our role as Christians, the pirates’ deception alludes to the false leaders of the church today.  From a distance, they too look safe and look like their light is shining just like those true followers of Christ.  But just like the ships of old that followed the false light of the “nags head”, without proper discernment and guidance, once you get too close it’s too late to turn back and a shipwreck is imminent.

Brethern throughout the history of the church there has been deception of great magnitude.  The best deceivers always manifest themselves as purveyors of truth and light, but in fact their deception is more dangerous than the shallow shores of the coast, because their path leads to eternal destruction.  Today is no different, in fact Scripture tells us in the last days these deceptions and deceivers will increase in number. (Matthew 24:11) This has never been more evident than now and it’s so critical to test everything (I Thessalonians 5:21) and pray for the discernment of the Holy Spirit that we might be able to follow the true lighthouses of the world and not the deceivers of light.

“The wreckers of Satan are always abroad, tempting the ungodly to sin under the name of pleasure; they hoist the wrong light, be it ours to put up the true light upon every dangerous rock, to point out every sin, and tell what it leads to, that so we may be clear of the blood of all men, shining as lights in the world.” Charles H. Spurgeon

Additional Study:   Proverbs 2:1-22     Proverbs 15:21      Philippians 1:9

By Faith We Understand; By Faith We Live

Imperative to a Christian’s salvation is our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  We know this truth as detailed in the key verses of Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.”  But our faith does not stop here, it only begins.  It’s from this faith step that each subsequent step of faith begins.  It’s through this faith in Jesus Christ that all faith must reside.  Hebrews 11:1-2 NKJV tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.”  In this passage we have the assurance of the faith referenced in Ephesians, a guarantee of eternity in Christ Jesus.  The second verse of the passage describes to us that faith doesn’t occur at a particular point in our life, but it is a process by which we live the rest of our lives and through that faith, we provide a testimony to others.  It’s in this verse that the author points to the titans of biblical history and their great faith in God that carried them through their lives.  For it is, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11:3 And it is by faith that we are to live, like the elders of the ancient days:

By Faith Abel offered sacrifice…

By Faith Enoch was taken up…

By Faith Noah prepared an ark…

By Faith Abraham was tested…

By Faith Sarah conceived…

By Faith Isaac offered blessings…

By Faith Jacob blessed his sons…

By Faith Joseph gave instructions…

By Faith Moses led the Exodus…

By Faith the walls of Jericho fell…

By Faith the harlot Rahab did not perish…

“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.

 

 

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented- 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”
Hebrews 11:4-40

This list is a litany of who’s who in the Old Testament.  Just as the author of Hebrews alludes to, no doubt he could go on and on with great examples of living by faith if time would permit him.

Living by faith is not limited to the Old Testament alone, Jesus makes it clear in His admonishment of the disciples (Matthew 17:19-20) that with faith the mere size of a mustard seed literally anything is possible, even the ability to physically move a mountain.  Why is it that we struggle so much then with steps of faith?  Surely if we faithfully stepped out of the boat like the Apostle Peter to answer Jesus’ call, we too could walk on water (Matthew 14:29-30).

But our nature is sinful.  Our flesh is wrought with sin that keeps us from this perfect faith and that’s why we sink in the water just like Peter.  But there too is hope for us, because like Peter we have Jesus right there with us.  And like with Peter, Jesus reaches down and lifts us up when our faith is weak, that in this moment our faith might be made perfect through Him. It’s in our weakest, most difficult moments when the waves are crashing all around us and the tempestuous sea is at her worst that faith is needed most.  If we would only keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the “Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) how easy it would be for Him to tell the stormy seas, “Be Still” that through it all we might be able to continue to walk on the sea towards Him.

By Faith We Live…

Prayer:  Our Prayer today is straightforward.  Let us follow the path of the apostles who said to the Lord, increase our faith. Luke 17:5 Pray that in all things the Lord increases your faith.  So that it will be by faith you live and by faith that you trust in Jesus.

Additional Study: Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Matthew 14:22-33

Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”