“[T]he old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.” –G. K. Chesterton
We will never be really happy without being really humble. Only humble eyes seen how many things there are that are amazing. A proud person’s expectations are rarely satisfied. A humble person enjoys everything as unexpected or undeserved. He gives thanks always and everywhere because he knows he’s getting great stuff.
It is the humble man who does the big things. It is the humble man who does the bold things. It is the humble man who has the sensational sights vouchsafed to him, and this for [these] obvious reasons: first, that he strains his eyes more than any other men to see them; second, that he is more overwhelmed and uplifted with them when they come…. (Chesterton, Heretics, 28-29)
whereas it had been supposed that the fullest possible enjoyment is to be found by extending our ego to infinity, the truth is that the fullest possible enjoyment is to be found by reducing our ego to zero. (Chesterton, ibid., 69)
True happiness it isn’t about having a lot. More is not a way to be more merry. Nor does gladness perforce come from giving up what we’ve got. It’s just as easy to be a hoarder when you only have one precious than when you have a kingdom.
It’s why communion has every reasonable and dangerous expectation of turning into a party. If every sin is paid for, then we have nothing whatsoever to boast in. We cannot take any credit for anything good. The cross of Christ humbles us before our guilty sentence and eternal punishment. All of pride is killed. Seen from that angle, how could we possibly be more happy?
Only those who know they don’t deserve it can really delight in it.
Even Calvinists need to be humble. I preached all the way through John chapter 6 without using the word Calvinism once, though I most assuredly taught the truths from John 6 that Calvinism seeks to summarize. The Father chose a group of people to give to His Son. The Son gave His life, His flesh, for that group. The Spirit brings that group to life, giving them the desire to come to the Son. Each person in the group is guaranteed to be raised on the last day.
Not a one of them deserved it. They were hungry and Christ fed them. They could only behold Christ through unbelief until the Spirit opened their eyes. They were prone to walk away, and all of them would have except that Christ keeps them.
Peter’s affirmation of truth (in verses 68 and 69) was met by Jesus with another affirmation: Peter (and the staying disciples) believed because they were chosen (verse 70). There was no place for presumption, no place for uppityness, no reason to pat themselves on the back for theology well spoken. But for the grace of God they would have walked away with “many of His disciples” (verse 66).
Our time at the Lord’s table is similarly humbling. We affirm our belief that His sacrifice for sins is our only hope. We confess our personal trust in Christ when we eat and drink. We share a meal of peace with God and with God’s people. And the fact that we can do so says more about God than about us. But for the grace of God, we would walk away from the Table, not towards it.
We have every reason to be humbly thankful. We have every reason to boast in Christ. We have every reason to come to Him. He chose us for Himself.
Paul commanded the Philippian Christians:
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3–4)
These simple imperatives often feel impossible and, based on our struggle to remember them, let alone obey them, our practice seems to support how impossible they are. And, actually, they are impossible apart from Christ.
I want to point out that these commands are not simply what God requires us to do, they represent who He is. In other words, humble, glad, others-oriented service communicates God’s own character. How do we know that? We look at Jesus in whom the fulness of deity dwells (Colossians 2:9). We would be less proud, bitter, self-centered, and expectant of others serving us if we dwelt on the incarnation not just in December.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5–8)
Jesus did that for sinners. He did it because true joy and true glory gush out for others like a fountain can’t help but get the ground around it wet.
Our lack of grace to others cannot be fixed with tighter rules or frequent reminders or whipping ourselves into a guilt-frenzy because we blew it again. If we want to show more grace, then we must worship God more, in particular, we must worship the Word made flesh.
John Newton on how to be humble when handling the treasures of Scripture:
To be enabled to form a clear, consistent, and comprehensive judgment of the truths revealed in the Scripture, is a great privilege; but they who possess it are exposed to the temptation of thinking too highly of themselves, and too meanly of others, especially of those who not only refuse to adopt their sentiments, but venture to oppose them. We see few controversial writings, however excellent in other respects, but are tinctured with this spirit of self-superiority . . .
I know nothing, as a means, more likely to correct this evil, than a serious consideration of the amazing difference between our acquired judgment, and our actual experience; or, in other words, how little influence our knowledge and judgment have upon our own conduct. . . .
[I]f we estimate our knowledge by its effects, and value it no farther than it is experimental and operative (which is the proper standard whereby to try it), we shall find it so faint and feeble as hardly to deserve the name.
—Works of John Newton, Vol 1, 245-246
via Tyler Kenny at the Desiring God blog
On laughing as responsible leadership:
For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.
—King Lune in The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
On laughing as hard humility:
[K]ings in their heavy gold and the proud in their robes of purple will all of their nature sink downwards, for pride cannot rise to levity or levitation. Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One “settles down” into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness….It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do….For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.
—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
On laughing as Calvinist worship:
If, therefore, when thou hast fled, thou art taken, be not offended at God or man: not at God, for thou art his servant, thy life and thy all are his; not at man, for he is but God’s rod, and is ordained, in this, to do thee good. Hast thou escaped? Laugh. Art thou taken? Laugh. I mean, be pleased which way soever things shall go, for that the scales are still in God’s hand.
—John Bunyan, Seasonable Counsel