Gospel Culture: Part 2By Scott Hamilton
April 8, 2021
What does your church sound like? By ‘sound like’, I mean more than how loud it is or what the spoken or sung content is, or what accent people have (although these are all significant elements). Maybe tone is the word we might use to clarify the distinction on the sound that we are searching for. Tone tends to reflect the character and culture of the church more than we perhaps would care to acknowledge.
As we started to think about in Part 1 on Gospel Culture, Ephesians 4: 1-3 gave us a great insight into the kind of cultural elements that a healthy local church can and should be wholeheartedly pursuing. These verses offer us 5 cultural distinctives that are wholly Biblical and create holy disciples. Last time we considered the cultural trait of surrender. This time we are going to be looking at cultivating a culture of humility.
2. Humility: He saved me.
Earlier in Ephesians, we are presented with a significant spiritual diagnosis. We are spiritually dead, scarred by disobedience, sin dependent with a somber destiny. One of the most remarkable things about ourselves and the people who are part of churches is that humility is such a struggle, even though we understand how God’s Word assesses us. It is surely impossible to be in any way proud when we consider what we were without Jesus, and yet…
Humility needs to become a more vital component of our church culture. It helps us to walk in the love, help, freedom, and purpose of the Gospel, yet pride makes us reluctant. Pride views humility as a threat from the vantage point of her self-made my ground. The mistake we often make when it comes to pride is to reduce our definition of it to only being boastful or bigheaded humility. It is way more subtle and pervasive than that.
Pride is blindness to our faults, sins, and failings. Most importantly, pride is blind to the existence of itself. Therefore, the more proud you are, the more humble you will feel, and the more humble you are, the more proud you will feel. That is because true humility is the opening of the eyes to our personal sin, and one of the first things a humble person becomes aware of is his or her pride.
Do you see how much help we need? If you do, that is a sign that God is humbling you. Pride shows up in all kinds of ways. It promotes the idea of self-reliance in a heart so as to create the perception that we are doing better than we are. Pride is great at pretending, prone to parading, intent on avoiding, and determined to keep people at a distance. Pride rejects help, flees from transparency, and avoids accountability.
Pride is the sin that has scarred every woman and man since the garden, a piece of fruit, and an enemy ready to prey on mankind. Pride is, by nature, us seeking to take God’s place. That might be why God started His work of helping us to humility by taking our place.
The extent of Christ’s punishment leaves us without an excuse for pride. Humility starts with this realization… Jesus saved me! When we stand beside the cross and understand the cost it creates a clarity that cuts us down to size.
That is what the Gospel invites us to do: to stand before Jesus and see ourselves as we are so we might more readily surrender to who He would seek to make us to be. A culture of humility is the most helpful thing we can seek to nurture in our churches It creates a context for worship, it provides a foundation for lasting relationships, it keeps us in a place of repentance, it allows us to find the relational help and encouragement to holiness that we all need.
Most of all humility causes me to look to God and not myself, to listen to His Word rather than lying to myself, and to learn from those around me rather than looking down on them or looking for a way to avoid being truly seen by them.
Humility makes us slow to take offense. Pride reduced is harder to ruffle. This is particularly clear when we consider how we have been offended through the lens of the offense our sin caused God. Humility before God encourages us to hold out grace like never before.
Humility also makes us low on our sense of entitlement. Entitlement follows an enhanced sense of importance and rights. I wonder if entitlement might be one of the single most destructive attitudes in the church today. Humility before God see how little we deserve and is awed that God delights to give us anything.
Ultimately humility is the characteristic that frees me to love others as Jesus has loved me without pride and her foot-soldiers getting in the way. We have more cause for humility than we generally realize and humility causes us to be spiritually healthy in ways we probably fail to recognize. God calls us to a holy humility that releases us from the harm of pride. May our churches echo with the healthy sound of humility as God creates within us a culture of humility.