1 Peter 5:5-7  –– Clothe Yourselves with Humility

This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on September 3rd, 2017.

I Spent time in Scotland thinking and praying about the Life of discipleship – Jesus begins Sermon on the Mount with the beatitudes. I began to see that engaging in the beatitudes merely by study would not do much to change the real issues I struggle with as a Christian – the desires of the heart. So I decided to take each of the beatitudes and develop a week long set of prayer-meditations on each. I took an hour each day, and prayed through the passage of scripture for the day. What I want to share with you this morning is the fruit of one of those meditations which was on being “poor in spirit” or on humility. My meditation comes from 1 Peter 5:5-7.

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward 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.

This morning I want to ask two questions about these verses, which I wrestled with in prayer in my meditation.

What does it mean to “clothe ourselves” with humility?

How can we clothe ourselves with humility?

What does it mean when Jesus says it is blessed to be “poor in spirit?”  What are we to clothe ourselves with? Paul tells us two things in Phil.2:5-8 that help our understanding. Humility means…

to make ourselves nothing as Jesus did, and

to become obedient as Jesus did

I thought about this. There are a couple of things I know that I can do in order to be humble…

I can try to be a servant to people – in fact, I can try to serve people in secret ways – do things for people that bless them – but that they don’t notice or so that they don’t know that I am the one who served them. That takes some thought, but I can do that.

I can try not to do and say things which bring attention to myself – I can try not to get people to focus on me and admire me. I can try to do that.

I can also try to thank God when my will is crossed and when I don’t get my way. That is hard and unnatural – it hurts to do it – but I can try to do that.

So, now I have three practices – three ways to train myself in humility. I have to be intentional about these things, I have to train myself to them, to think about how I am doing with them. I have to be patient with myself and understand that my effort here is not earning God’s love – but rather that this is my way of responding to God’s love – of trying to be like the one who loves me. I have to be as patient with myself as God is with me as I clothe myself with humility.

But Here’s where I begin to have trouble. Not in understanding how to practice humility, but in accepting this call to humility. Honestly, I don’t want to make myself nothing – I want to be someone! someone important and interesting. I want to exalt myself – I don’t know if I trust God to “lift me up in due time,” as the ApostlePeter says he will.

While I was thinking about this, a verse from Luke 11, and Matthew 23 came into my mind. Jesus says the same thing two times but a little differently, and what came into my mind was a combination of the two sayings mixed together – so I took it as God speaking to me… Jesus’ words to the Pharisees: “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup…  but inside you are full of robbery and self-indulgence… You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup… so that the outside of it may become clean also.” (Lk11:39-41, Matt.23:25-26).

I realized that I had been thinking about the outside of the cup/ life, and not the inside as well.

I began to think about what the inside of the cup was – in other words, I began to think about the motivations of my heart. Why don’t I want to humble myself? Why don’t I trust Jesus when he says that the poor in spirit are blessed?

The answer is that inside of me there is a great pit of desire for admiration. It is a pit that is always hungry but never full. The more I feed it by trying to get others to admire me, to look at the things I am proud of, the more empty it feels. This is the inside of the cup, and it is an inside that I feel helpless to change. I cannot talk myself out of this desire that is in the pit of my heart.

I don’t mean to suggest that receiving admiration is a wrong thing – but when a desire, or a fear, becomes this kind of never satisfied hunger – it takes control of the ways we live and how we react and respond to others, and leads us into all kinds of sinful living and pride – it is what the Bible calls an idol.

I think that at the center of all of us there is some kind of internal desire or demand that makes humility very difficult. How are we to deal with this? How can we truly become people who not only act with humility – but actually come to accept, and even want and cherish, the practice of humility?

I want to finish by saying two things…

We need the practice of humility – training in humility – the outside of the cup. Training in outward behavior is important and part of the way we learn and change. Jesus did not tell the Pharisees not to clean the outside of the cup. A verse later he says to them, “Woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and het disregard justice and the love of God; but these things you should have done without neglecting the others.” We need training in the Christian life – but it needs to be done not as a way of earning God’s love, but of responding to God’s love.

But before, or maybe as, we begin to pay attention to externals in training ourselves in holiness, we also need to begin to address the inside of the cup. Hearts are not changed by human effort, but through prayer and dependence on God. I saw that if I was ever going to love humility, God must deal with the pit of admiration at the center of my heart. I saw that I was going to have to give this desire to God again and again and again, if I was ever going to see it change. The inside of the cup is God’s work. Our part is, with as much brutal honesty as we can muster, to bring the inside of the cup – the desires and fears of our hearts to God, and to trust God to do his work.

This morning, we are celebrating communion. There could hardly be a more appropriate time, as you come to the tables this morning, to receive the love and forgiveness of God through the sacrifice of Jesus, and to honestly confess to God what is going on in the inside of the cup – of your life – regarding the call to humility, or any other issue with which you are wrestling.