A Lesson in Humility
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A Lesson in Humility

1 Peter 5:5–7  (ID: 2929)

Humility and grace go hand in hand: the more we understand God’s grace, the more humble we should become. Alistair Begg reminds us that living a humble life involves serving others, regularly asking God for forgiveness, and remembering our utter dependence on Him. A life marked by humility thinks so much of God that there is little room left for thoughts of self.

Series Containing This Sermon

Lessons for Life, Volume 2

Biblical Wisdom for Young Adults Selected Scriptures Series ID: 26702

Sermon Transcript: Print

May I invite you to take your Bible and turn to where we were last night initially, to Romans chapter 12? And then we’re going to turn from there to 1 Peter chapter 5, but if you put your finger into Romans 12 to begin with…

Someone was remarking to me last evening, after I had concluded, about the fact that in our preaching, so often we only deal with verses 1 and 2, and precious little is ever said about the third verse. That actually struck me as I was speaking, and I boldly said, “Well, I’ll deal with the third verse tomorrow evening.” And so here we are. I want to deal with it, though, from Peter’s perspective in 1 Peter 5, but let’s set the context once again by reading here from Romans 12:1:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

Then, if you turn over to 1 Peter chapter 5, Peter, writing in the same vein, says: “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward[s] one another, because,

‘God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.’

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Father, we pray that you will take my words and speak through them, take our minds and help us to think clearly through them, and take our hearts and our lives and quicken them again with love for you and a desire to be obedient to your Word, which now we study. For we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, I’m tempted to say that I’m very proud of the message that I’m now about to bring to you—especially when you realize that the subject matter is humility. I think that to deal with this subject is as challenging as any in my own life. It is an important principle of preaching and teaching that those who have been called to such a task would first of all be recognizing that the first place that the Word of God needs to come with impact and with change is to the life of the individual who in turn becomes the proclaimer of that news. I want to say to you that on each occasion, as I have the privilege of opening up the Scriptures, it is my perspective that although I happen to be the voice that is talking, I do believe that God would speak both to the speaker and to the listeners—put his hand upon areas of our lives that are in need of correction and direction and change and renewal. And there is nowhere that that is more obvious in my own life than in this quite telling area regarding the express need for a humble heart.

For Paul and for Peter, to address the matter of humility in their day was to introduce a subject which was largely disregarded by their contemporary cultures. It was rather that the prevailing pattern of the time in which they were both writing was marked by self-assertion and by self-aggrandizement. Indeed, they had really no place at all for ethical humility in their scheme of things—no notion amongst the pagans that humility was the key to anything at all. Indeed, if it had any place in a person’s life, it merely served to exemplify their weaknesses. If you realize that that was the first century and now we’re in the twentieth century and towards the end of it, you don’t have to be particularly bright to realize that not a lot has changed. When we scan the bookshelves of contemporary stores, we realize that there is a tremendous absence of any kind of literature given to the issue of humility of any kind at all. I’ve had the privilege of speaking to a number of teachers’ in-service days in some of our public high schools in Ohio, and as I have not only spoken but had the opportunity to listen to some of the surrounding material and to observe their curriculum and agenda for the day, it has been quite striking to realize that there is an obvious absence, an almost total disregard, for the idea that humility is a foundational element of a person’s character and is essential to one’s self-discovery and to usefulness.

It has not always been this way. I think there have been times and generations and people who obviously have been marked out by an approach which is none other than humble. Some of you will have enjoyed the literature of the gentleman who wrote, for example, Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess of the d’Urbervilles, etc., Thomas Hardy. Thomas Hardy, growing up as a young man, longed very much to be a successful writer and novelist, and he began by sending little articles to the newspaper with little bits and pieces of observation of the countryside, etc. And then, of course, he had his first great success and was within a relatively short period of time able to command vast sums of money for the books that he was writing. And yet it is recorded in biographical material that when he submitted perhaps a letter or an article to a newspaper, even after the height of his success, he always sent it with a stamped, addressed envelope, in case it should be set aside by the editorial staff and regarded as not worthy of inclusion in the newspaper. Of course, they wanted everything that he wrote. If he’d written merely his address down, they would have published it in the newspaper. And it was a testimony to a humble heart that he genuinely anticipated the possibility of his material being rejected, and so he displayed it in that way.

Humility is the earth in which all the graces of Christian godliness grow.

Today we are surrounded by people who are, frankly, proud. We are surrounded by children who are little rascals and vagabonds and brats, and apparently have been led to believe by their ill-advised parents that the more they can develop this strange quirk in their personality, the better able they will be to make their way through life. And so we come across statements on people’s doors like, “I’m humble and proud of it.” Or the fellow who wrote across the door on his university hall of residence, “No, I am not conceited,” and then underneath it he put, “although I have every right to be so.” And the fact of the matter is that the preoccupations of our culture have far more to do with self-assertion and focusing on who we are and being our own person and selling ourselves and promoting ourselves and making ourselves out to be greater than we really are than ever it has to do with responding realistically to what the Scriptures have to say concerning this matter of biblical humility.

Nowhere has it reached its zenith more in the world of contemporary song—and I use “contemporary” for the last forty years—than in that song which is popularized by “Ol’ Blue Eyes” himself, the grandfather of crooning, as he sings with great frequency and boldness concerning how he’s lived and “laughed and cried” and had his “fill” and “share of losing.” But now, as the “tears subside,” he finds “it all so amusing to think,” he says, that

I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way.
Oh, no, oh, no, not me,
I did it my way.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels,
And not the voice of one who yields.
The record shows, I took the blows,
I did it my way.[1]

I’ve always felt horribly uncomfortable with the singing of that song—none more so than when I opened my morning newspaper in the last year and a half to discover that none other than Frank Sinatra had dropped down in a dead faint in the middle of singing that song. I thought that was—once I knew he was okay, I thought it was really pretty humorous, to tell you the truth. And how the whole concert came to a grinding halt, they wheeled out a chair, they put him in a wheelchair, and they pushed him off the stage, with the band still playing the melody line: “I did it my way, I did it my way.” And I wondered if there was gonna come a point—if there will be a point—when suddenly the classic awareness dawns both on the singers of the song and the listeners of the songs, and those who aspire to that kind of selfish preoccupation, that the very breath that we breathe and the life that we live and all that we are and all that we have is as a result of God’s grace and goodness to us.

I put it to you, young people, tonight, that we are all perhaps more in need of a talk on humility than most of us are prepared to admit. Well, I suppose I could test it, really. Why don’t you put up your hand if you’re a humble person? Okay, we had one taker, who immediately put his hand down quickly. The fact of the matter is that even with our best attempts at discrimination in relationship to who and what we are, we have a sneaking suspicion that all of us think a wee bit more of ourselves than we really ought to.

Humility is the earth in which all the graces of Christian godliness grow. And you or I may be possessed of great gift, and wonderful ability, and great aspiration, and tremendous passion, and the utmost diligence, and may even apparently be successful and useful—and actually amount to very little for God if at the core of our being there is an absence of this issue of humility.

This is not a particularly comfortable study; I want to let you know that so you can get used to it and ready for it.

Let me say five things concerning humility out of 1 Peter. I’ll try not to take too long with them. Let me go to them, and see if you can find them there in the text. If you can’t, you should probably just disregard them, ’cause it’ll mean that I’ve made them up.

Humility Is Revealed in Relationships

First Peter chapter 5. Humility will be revealed in our relationships. Humility will be revealed in our relationships. Humility is not something that is discovered and then displayed in a vacuum; it brings itself out into life in our interpersonal relationships. And so it is that as Peter addresses young men particularly in verse 5, he is addressing again something that he has made much of already in his letter: the absolute necessity of a submissive heart—submissive on the part of those who are employees towards their employers, submission that is there in relationship to the whole structure of living within the bonds of Christian marriage, and submission within the family of God to those who are placed in the unique position of leadership. And he says, “I want you, as young men, in the same way as you discover what I have already taught you, to display within your lives, in your relationships to and with one another, this characteristic of humility.”

You will notice in verse 5 he says, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward[s] one another.” In other words, it’s relatively easy to think about being humble; it’s quite a different thing in our interpersonal relationships to display it. And there is a particular need here for young men in relationship to this. That is largely why the Holy Spirit confronts young men. Not that young women are necessarily absented from the application, but the fact of the matter is that young men are unhappily prone to self-assertion and to believing more of ourselves than we really should. Now we tend to think that if we were in the position that another is in, we would do better than them—that if they were only young like us instead of old and a little foolish, then they would understand the way that we understand, and so we are absent genuine respect, which is born of humility.

You will realize how old a man I am when I tell you that in Scotland growing up, as we sat in our classroom waiting for the schoolteacher to arrive in the morning, as soon as he or she walked in the door, all of us in the class stood to attention at our desks. The reason we did so was as a mark of respect. Whenever a lady came into the room, we also were called upon as men, boys, to stand. We grew up in an era when we knew that it is absolutely out of place to keep your hat on in a public building, and so we did not attend church wearing crazy-looking baseball hats, we did not sit in cafeterias wearing them either, and the reason was that it was an issue of respect. If you find yourself reacting to that and saying, “Who does this rascal think he is, coming in here and telling us about our baseball hats?” then, listen, you’ve got a little problem with humility. Sorry to let you know. Because I’m merely illustrating from a previous era; I’m not mandating it. You know the difference between a biblical mandate and an institutional preference, don’t you?

I just discovered… my wife was telling me that she saw a program just the other day; it had something to do with Chinese immigrants. And the Chinese lady had written to her family back in China, who were coming to visit her in America, and she tried to prepare them for what they would need to do and how sensitive they would need to be to the culture. And the lady wrote to them and told them, “You must wear baseball hats when you come. It is part of their religion.” Now, that was her conjecture; she had looked and seen so many people wearing these hats. But this is not a talk on baseball hats. You just do whatever you please with that. It is only an issue when we realize that in our relationships with one another, humility will come out.

Humility Is an Attitude of Mind

Secondly, humility is primarily an attitude of mind. You will notice that humility is revealed in our attitude and then, in turn, in our actions. We’re not exhorted to feel humble. We’re not actually exhorted to pray about being humble. We are exhorted to adopt an attitude of humility. The verb which he employs here is as descriptive as it is unusual. This phrase, “clothe yourselves with humility”—the Greek word egkomboomai, which is the verb, which it means to knot something on or tie something on tightly as a distinguishing mark. It came expressly to be used of a slave tying on an apron, so that when they put the apron on, they were declaring their status and they were declaring their activity—in much the same way that, in some homes, the mother has an apron which, when the father is called through for duty, she puts it over him and ties it round his back. And he is in no doubt as to what he’s supposed to do now: he is to fulfill the role of a servant. And he ties on his apron as an illustration of that truth.

Now, this is the picture that is used here. To be a humble person involves an action which emerges from an attitude. If I cherish exaggerated ideas of myself, I will determine that there is no need for me to put on the apron. Someone else can put on the apron—after all, they’re the folks who should be putting on the apron! But not for me!

Doesn’t it sound a little bit like John 13 and the disciples after the journey on the dusty road? Nobody washing the feet? And then the Lord Jesus himself taking a towel and putting it around him as an apron, as the egkomboomai of the slave’s activity, and taking a basin and washing the disciples’ feet. Each of these characters revealing in their actions the attitude of their minds as they looked along the row and said, “Somebody can wash my feet, but I’m not washing your feet.”

Listen to how J. B. Phillips paraphrases Romans 12:3: “As your spiritual [leader] I give this piece of advice to each one of you. Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to [all of you].” “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance.” An attitude of humility thinks about serving rather than being served. It thinks about giving rather than taking. It thinks about responding to leadership rather than always commanding. It thinks about fitting into the arrangements of others rather than always demanding that everyone will fit into my arrangements.

Humility Goes Hand in Hand with Grace

Humility is revealed in our relationships. Humility will be revealed in our actions, because it is primarily an attitude of mind. Thirdly, will you notice that humility and the discovery of God’s grace go hand in hand. He says, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, and I want to tell you why,” he says: “Because God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.” He’s dipping into the book of Proverbs himself. Proverbs 3:34 reads as follows: “[God] mocks proud mockers but [he] gives grace to the humble.”

I don’t know about you, but I find this very, very difficult—when young people come to me and they say to me, “Pastor, what’s some of the hardest things for you in your life? Really, honestly?” In fact, I was asked that question by somebody interviewing me for your newspaper here today: “What do you find the hardest things to deal with?” I said, “Pride, jealousy, thinking ill of others, thinking more of myself”—falling foul of the contemporary notion that the way to get ahead is to make much of ourselves, to cherish exaggerated ideas of who we are or what we can do. It’s never that way.

There’s a famous story concerning this that comes out of Scotland. There’s a church in the west end of Princes Street—actually, just a little off it in Edinburgh. And it was in this church that a very godly cleric spent the greater part of his ministry. He was eminently useful in the pulpit; he was able both in diction and in speech and was powerful in his delivery. And a young man, who obviously felt that he was up there with this bold fellow, was looking forward to his first opportunity to preach in the church. He had been called there as an assistant minister, I believe. And he determined, as the day came for his first opportunity to preach, that he would just preach a fantastic sermon. Now, it wasn’t wrong for him to determine that he was going to do his best. And he thought, actually, that when he did this, people would be so awestruck by him that they would immediately hail him as at least on a par with the gentleman for whom he was filling in.

There is no substitute for the genuine, honest, soul-exposing, deep, heartfelt cry to God that our pride may be crucified.

And so he came out of the vestry, and the pulpit in this particular church is set up high, and someone remarked on how he came, holding his Bible up and striding out and holding his chest out as best he could and coming up into the pulpit with a great flourish. After all, he was about to preach, he thought, one of the greatest sermons that had ever been heard in Free St George’s. He was going to show them. He was good! And he felt sure they would find out.

And so he announced his text, and he began to preach. And he wasn’t doing very well. In fact, he was doing poorly. And he started bad and fell away to nothing very quickly. He had that horrible problem of not being able to get moisture in his mouth, and all of his saliva dried up on him, and his tongue felt like the size of an elephant’s tongue inside his mouth. If you’ve ever had it, you know exactly what I’m referring to. And eventually, he just kind of crumbled and ended it and had a benediction and sat down. And as the organ began to play following the benediction, he took his Bible and began to walk off down the stairs, sort of slinking out. And an elderly gentleman at the back, observing him go, turned to his friend, and he said, “If that young man had come up the way he went down, he would have gone down the way he came up.”

Let me tell you something: there is no substitute for the genuine, honest, soul-exposing, deep, heartfelt cry to God that our pride may be crucified. Let those of us who think we stand, says Paul, take heed lest we are the very next one to fall down.[2]

Now, you need to understand something also before I come to my second-last point here, and that is that the humility which is being described here is not simply a kind of winsome graciousness. This is not a personality thing. Because those of us who are a wee bit outgoing, those of us who are frankly outrageous, those of us who are extroverted rather than introverted, who’ve always got an idea, who are always thinking of taking the initiative, who’ve always got a story, who’ve always got an anecdote—we face a particular problem here, because we look at the guy who never does that, with glasses, and he’s always quiet, and he sits in the corner, and after we’ve been going for a while, we say, “Oh, goodness gracious, why couldn’t I be that fellow? A nice humble chap like him.” Now, we may be absolutely right, but we may be giving him an accolade of which he is undeserving. Because he may be, on the inside, a really proud and arrogant chap; he just happens to have a quiet personality. So don’t fall foul of believing that to become humble means that you’ve got to disengage who you are in terms of the way God made you as a personality. There are humble introverts and humble extroverts.

And what this is not calling us to is the ministry of Uriah Heep—if you remember Uriah Heep, in David Copperfield. I see by your blank stares that David Copperfield has not made it into the English Literature department here for some time. Well, that’s okay. But anytime you want to read it, you will meet Uriah Heep, remember? David Copperfield? Yes, I can see three of you do. That’s fine. But Uriah Heep is always telling David Copperfield how he is “ever so ’umble.” “I am ever so ’umble, Master Copperfield. I am a very ’umble man, Master Copperfield.” And he thought by the saying of it, he was becoming it. He wasn’t. He was a creep! He was a cringing, crawling, self-assertive creep! And he thought that by pronouncing on his continual humility—“I am ever so ’umble”—people would believe how humble he was. When in point of fact, all he did was draw attention to the fact that he was totally stuck on himself and had to talk about himself and how humble he was all the time.

You see, genuine humility reveals itself in keeping short accounts with sin, in coming continually to God with a repentant heart, in recognizing ourselves to be in desperate need of his help every day we live our lives and for every occasion. Our need of Jesus and his impact in our lives is not partial; it’s absolutely total. Isn’t that what Jesus said? “Apart from me you can do nothing.”[3] You can make it look like you’re doing stuff, but you’re doing nothing. And that’s the scariest thing of all: that we could have, by our public persona, apparent success—that we could use criteria for assessing our usefulness that is totally human, totally pagan—and discover on the day when we stand before God and the record is unfolded that we have been ministering in the realm of wood and hay and stubble rather than in gold and silver and precious stones.[4]

“Think about what you were when you were called,” says Paul to the Corinthians. “Not many of you were noble. Not many of you were big guys. Not many of you were smart. Not many of you were the intelligentsia. Not many were of the nobility. And God purposefully did this,” says Paul, “so that in the awareness of your finitude you may understand how infinite and powerful he is—in the awareness of our smallness, that we might understand the wonder of his grace.”[5]

Humility Lives under God’s Hand

Well, second last, humility lives under God’s mighty hand. Verse 6: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand.” What does that mean? Well, the hand of God that reached out and spoke into the experience of the king of Egypt to let Moses go. The hand of God which rested on the ministry and life of Nehemiah, who was able to tell those under his leadership not only about his ambitious plans but also about the hand of God which rested on him.[6]

What does it mean? It means this: that when you and I come to terms with this—when we begin to understand what this calls us to and the nature of what it means to humble myself—it means that I become aware of God’s sovereign purpose in my life, that I become aware of his providential dealings. There’s a book written in the earlier centuries—I think, the nineteenth century—by a guy called Bishop Bayly.[7] It’s written about pleasing God. I got it not so long ago ’cause it was cross-referenced in a book, and I began to look at it, and he has a section there about saying grace before meals. It runs to twenty pages as he explains why and how thoughtful and reverential and humble we should be before God in light of his provision for us. It made me smile. I couldn’t imagine this Bishop Bayly standing in the line at McDonald’s, you know, in some kind of fast-food encounter, and working his way through his twenty pages. I don’t know how he kept his food warm, to tell you the truth—but the principle nevertheless struck me like a ton of bricks. In our “rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub” culture, you know. “Two, four, six, eight, dig in, don’t wait. Heavenly pa-ta, let’s eat.” And this guy says, “No, you oughta consider the way in which God has worked within your life.”

Who woke you up this morning? How did you manage to put your feet on the floor this morning? Do you know why your tongue still worked today when you woke up? Do you know why it was you were able to put your hands out and greet somebody in friendship? Do you know why it is you’ve been able to walk up and down this aisle? Do you know why it is that the faculty of your mind is thinking, “Good, he’ll be finished soon, and we can go head out of here and get ice cream”? Do you know why all of that works? Because of God’s grace and goodness to you.

Do you remember when God revealed that to Moses? He says to Moses, “I want you to go up to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘Let my people go.’” And Moses says to God, he says, “You know, I got a brother who’s really good at this stuff, and I think you ought to use him.” And the conversation goes back and forth as God presses upon his servant Moses the necessity of his submission to God’s plan and purpose in his life. And eventually, he says to him, he says, “Hey Moses, who made your mouth?”[8] Who made your mouth, so you can hold a tune? God made you able to hold a tune. So you can run fast? God made you fast. So you are able to communicate? God enabled you to communicate. And in a moment he may still your tongue and mine and silence us once and for all, should he so choose.

The answer to self-love is not self-denigration. It is love for God.

The Christian knows that he didn’t make himself. The Christian knows that he or she didn’t save themselves. The Christian knows that our total dependence is upon God’s grace.

Now, the humility of those who serve Christ in this way is not merely an absence of pride. It’s not simply an awareness of our limitations. It is the realistic recognition of the fact that God’s grace is the key to understanding and accepting who and what we are, and who and what we’re not. That’s why the Bible is always really clear on issues such as self-esteem. The answer, you see, to self-love is not self-denigration; it is love for God. The answer is not to hate ourselves or to deny the way in which God has put us together, but it is to sublimate our focus, that can so readily become internal and warped, away to the Lord himself, recognizing, as the psalmist says, that he has exalted above all things his name and his word.[9]

I’d personally like to be six foot two and tough. As it is, I’m five foot ten and a half and fairly weak. I would like to be able to sing the way these fellows sang tonight. But as it is, although I have a great singing voice, something happens to it when it comes out. I frankly wouldn’t mind having the hairline of some other guys around here. I’m envious of the fact that they have muscles in places that I don’t even have places. But you know what? God made you you, and he didn’t make any mistakes with you.

Remember the children’s song that came out of the ’60s—a kinda silly wee song, but not a bad principle contained in it. It started, “If I were a butterfly…” Remember that song? You know that better than David Copperfield; that’s good.

If I were a butterfly,
I’d thank you, Lord, for giving me wings.
And if I were a robin in a tree,
I’d thank you, Lord, that I could sing.
And if I were a crocodile,
I’d thank you, Lord, for my big smile.

Remember all that stuff?

And if I were a fuzzy, wuzzy bear,
I’d thank you, Lord, for my fuzzy, wuzzy hair.

But I just thank you, Father, for making me, me.
Because you gave me a heart, and you gave me a smile,
And you gave me Jesus, and you made me your child.
And I just thank you, Father, for making me, me.[10]

I wanna tell you something, freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors: Keep your eyes on the Lord Jesus. Learn from one another. Don’t compare yourself to one another in an unhelpful way. Understand this: that God in his great plan and purpose has made you in the way that he desires for you to be, and it is an act of humility on your part and on mine to accept the way in which the Maker has put us together. What a dreadful mistake to spend our lives trying to reverse the plan and purpose of God in the way in which he has fashioned us.

Humility Anticipates Exaltation

The last point is there in the text also. Humility can anticipate exaltation. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” This final phrase is not there to provide motivation for living humbly. It’s not a principle of motivation; it is a word of explanation. What Peter is saying is this: that the only people whom God will ultimately lift up are humble people. It will be only those who have recognized who they are and what they are and how great their need of God is, and as they lie down on their face before him, that he in turn will lift them up. Isaiah 57, the prophet speaks from God: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit.”[11] The prophet also speaks and he says, “This is the man or the woman to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at my word.”[12]

Do you realize what it must have cost Peter to write these words? “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” Don’t you think that his mind must have shot back down through the years, down to the scene that is recorded in Matthew 26? As Jesus gathers the group around him, and he says, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I[’ll] strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” And Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”[13] In other words, “I can’t speak for the rest of these guys, Lord. You know, you know them, and I know them. I’ve seen ’em, I know who they are, and even if they all blow out on you… Jesus, look at me. I’m your main man. I’ll never do it.”

“‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the [cock] crows, you will disown me three times.’”[14] Now, you would have thought at that point that Peter would have bit his tongue, right? “But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’”[15] And he got the other guys cranked up: “And all the other disciples said the same.”[16] And in the garden Jesus wept, and around the fire Peter tumbled and fell.

It is pride that will keep a man or a woman from coming on bended knee and saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, be my Savior.” It is pride that will keep you and I, in our Christian living, from any measure of usefulness. And it is pride that will ultimately destroy our effectiveness.

One of the scariest sections that emerges from the rule and reign of the kings is in the reign of King Uzziah, of whom it is recorded that Uzziah was gloriously helped until he became strong, but when he became strong, he grew proud to his own destruction.[17] Look around in Christian ministry, and see the tragedies of those who have stumbled and fallen, never to rise. And I can guarantee you that in every case the issue was the absence of humility. And then, with a healthy fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom,[18] on a daily basis let us seek to crucify our ugly pride, which cherishes exaggerated ideas of who we are and what we can do. And let us ask the Spirit of God to form within us the very character of the Lord Jesus, so that we in turn might be useful to the Master.

I do encourage you to think these things out. As I said, it’s a kind of sober thing to deal with, but it is a necessary thing to deal with. And I do appreciate, again, the attention which you’ve given to our study.

[1] Paul Anka, “My Way” (1969). Lyrics lightly altered.

[2] See 1 Corinthians 10:12.

[3] John 15:5 (NIV 1984).

[4] See 1 Corinthians 3:12–13.

[5] 1 Corinthians 1:26–30 (paraphrased).

[6] See Nehemiah 2:8, 18.

[7] See Lewis Bayly, The Practice of Piety (1611).

[8] See Exodus 3:1–4:17.

[9] See Psalm 138:2.

[10] Brian M. Howard, “The Butterfly Song” (1974). Lyrics lightly altered.

[11] Isaiah 57:15 (NIV 1984).

[12] Isaiah 66:2 (paraphrased).

[13] Matthew 26:31–33 (NIV 1984).

[14] Matthew 26:34 (NIV 1984).

[15] Matthew 26:35 (NIV 1984).

[16] Matthew 26:35 (NIV 1984).

[17] See 2 Chronicles 26:15–16.

[18] See Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.