Topical Textual Sermon June 2, 2018
©2018 by Maylan Schurch
(To hear the audio for this sermon, click the triangular “play” button on the line below.)
Please open your Bibles to Luke chapter 1.
If you were here last Sabbath, you might remember hearing me mention in my sermon that I was going to have to have a “Part 2” of that sermon, because I couldn’t fit it all into last week.
For her baptismal service last Sabbath, Cherry Zhao had chosen Matthew 23:12: “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” I started looking up everything Jesus had to say about humility, and I noticed that He didn’t just preach humility—He practiced it as well. In fact, everything the Bible says about Jesus makes up what you could call a “Biography of a Humble Man.”
But it’s more than just a biography. What Jesus said about humility is a call to action. And last week we looked at a couple of life lessons you and I need to take away in response to Jesus’ challenge. Here they are:
Last week we learned first that if you allow yourself to become humble like Jesus, He will choose the right status for you. He said that people who try to exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted—but exalted not in a worldly way of “look at me, look at how famous I am, look at how beautiful I am, look how many followers I have on social media,” but exalted to wider influence of eternally valuable service.
Thursday night at the Kirkland Seventh-day Adventist School 8th grade graduation, Mr. Craig Mohr, the school’s music director, gave the graduation address. He told the stories of three young persons who each saw a need and decided to try to meet that need.
One was a boy named Ryan. Ryan was a first-grader in 1998, and listened in horror and sadness as he teacher told the class that there were some parts of the world where people were sick and even dying because they didn’t have clean water. They would walk for hours to get water, and it sometimes it ended up being dirty water. Ryan thought to himself, “All I have to do to get a drink of water is to walk 10 steps from the door of my classroom to the drinking fountain.”
Ryan started raising money for one well, and got other people involved. The project grew so large that by now this young adult has an organization called Ryan’s Well, and they have provided water and sanitary latrines for nearly a million people. Ryan now speaks to organizations all over the world, and his story has made the front page of Readers Digest and other media. Ryan is famous—not in a Hollywood celebrity way (I’d never heard of him), but as a humanitarian, a doer of Jesus’ work.
As I think about Ryan’s story, I think it’s an example of the kind of humility Jesus was talking about. Both Ryan and Jesus saw a need, and went patiently to work trying to meet that need.
Last week we learned another life lesson about humility. This lesson came from Philippians 2, which told us that if you let yourself become humble like Jesus, your mind will become more like His mind. “Let this mind be in you,” Paul said, and went on to describe how Jesus, who humbled Himself four separate levels to rescue us.
So this week we’re going to look at two more Bible passages, and we’ll find two more life lessons we can put into practice this week.
And the first Bible words we’ll look at today come from the lips of a teenager. Young Mary has just found out from the angel Gabriel that she will give birth to a baby who is the Son of God. She hurries to the house of one of her relatives, who is named Elizabeth, who has also become pregnant, and in three months she will give birth to John the Baptist.
And after they talk awhile, Mary suddenly breaks out in a proclamation of thanks to God. But then this thank-you takes a startling turn. Let’s listen to what she says.
Luke 1:46 – 50 [NKJV]: And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.
So far, so good. Mary thanks God for the privilege of being a part of His plan. But notice the sudden turn that this proclamation takes:
Verses 51 – 53: He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty.
Doesn’t this tough, triumphant talk sound strange from the young lips of a teenage mom-to-be? I’ve been to a lot of baby showers, and I’ve never heard any pregnant wife say anything like that!
Well, Mary is not alone in making comments like this. Hannah, another “miracle mother,” gives thanks for the birth of her son Samuel. First she gives thanks, but then her prayer turns militant too:
1 Samuel 2: 1 – 8: And Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the LORD; My horn is exalted in the LORD. I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation. “No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God. “Talk no more so very proudly; Let no arrogance come from your mouth, For the LORD is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed. “The bows of the mighty men are broken, And those who stumbled are girded with strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, And the hungry have ceased to hunger. Even the barren has borne seven, And she who has many children has become feeble. “The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory. “For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, And He has set the world upon them.
Isn’t that interesting? Here’s another woman who not only wholeheartedly thanks God for what He has done for her, but who just as fervently proclaims that God will level the playing field.
In fact, let’s make that today’s first sermon point. I’ll just recap last week’s points as well as I do this.
What’s another life lesson we can learn from the Biography of a Humble Man?
First, if you allow yourself to become humble like Jesus, He will choose the right status for you. Second, if you let yourself be humble like Him, your mind will become more like His mind. And third, if you let yourself be humble like Jesus, you’ll be more able to trust God to level the playing field.
The first life lesson was that Jesus will find the right status for people who are humble. And this third lesson is a followup to it—God will not just bring you to where He wants you. He will also cast down the proud and exalt the humble.
Back when I was a kid I would sometimes hear my mother talk about people who seemed to think too much of themselves. She would say, “He needs to be taken down a peg.” Have you ever heard someone say that?
In the little church I grew up in, there was a sweet old bashful farmer. He had a huge, welcoming grin. He took a special interest in my brother and my two sisters and me, and he would often sing the bass part when we sang for special music.
This man never seem to have a bad word to say about anybody. His habit was to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and cut them a lot of slack. But I remember one time hearing him discuss a relative of his. This relative lived a long way away, I think in another state, and I had only met that relative once.
But somehow this relative’s name came up in a conversation this farmer was having with someone, a conversation I was listening to, and I remember that the farmer paused for a while, and the smile faded from his face. He said just one sentence about this relative, and here it is: “He is a proud man.” And that’s all he said. But he emphasized the “proud.” I’ve never forgotten that.
From everything I read in the Bible, pride makes God’s blood boil. And from the lips of our two mothers-to-be, Mary and Hannah, we get the clear message that God will take the proud down as many pegs has He has to in order to level the playing field.
How can you tell if you’re proud? Well, there’s good pride and bad pride. Thursday night at the Kirkland Seventh-day Adventist school eighth grade graduation, a lot of parents and teachers was glowing with good pride as they saw the students getting their diplomas.
To see what bad pride is, you simply have to glance at the biography of the inventor of bad pride. In Isaiah 14, starting with verse 12, we find out what his pride looks like:
Isaiah 14:12 – 14: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ . . . .
Do you see how Lucifer’s pride played itself out? He decided to climb up toward God’s throne and try to push Him off it, and take His place.
And that seems to be the problem with any other Bible person who is labeled as proud. They turn away from God, and they start trying to be their own God. It makes your skin crawl to watch Satan at work in the Garden of Eden. Because sure enough, the most tantalizing temptation he offered was that, if Eve ate the forbidden fruit, she would be like God, knowing things she hadn’t known before.
So pride is actually idolatry. It’s deciding that you can play God in your own life. King Saul, Israel’s first king, turned his back on God and made his own rules about animal sacrifice, and the rules he made benefited himself and his people rather than being obedient to what God had said to do.
And the Bible “pride” examples go on and on. Pharaoh king of Egypt. Nabal the brutishly selfish husband of Abigail. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Judas. And on and on.
Maybe one of the Bible’s most comforting truths is that God will level the playing field. And maybe this emotion is most keenly felt in a mother’s or father’s heart. Last night at the senior consecration service there was a little girl, maybe three or four, standing in the aisle just across from where Shelley and I sat. The program came to an end, and the seniors marched one by one down the aisle and passed this little girl. And as each one came along, she followed them with her eyes, and turned her head. No matter if it was a senior boy or a senior girl she gazed at each one with the deepest interest.
Thinking back on that little girl, I can imagine that her parents, along with loving her deeply, are sometimes desperately fearful about anything or anyone who might harm her. Earlier that evening, each senior gave a tribute to his or her parents, recorded ahead of time, which played while they gave flowers to their families and others. They were responding to this deep and protective love their parents had given them.
So what should I do, now that I know how earnestly God promises to level the playing field, to knock down the proud and to help the humble up?
I think one thing I need to do is to keep alive a distaste for the evil which proud people do. It’s so tempting to hear about injustice, where the strong mistreat the weak, and simply sigh and say, “What a wicked world we live in,” and then hurry on to happier thoughts.
Instead, we need to pray against evildoers. We need to review those Psalms where David cried out to the Lord, urging him to smite the wicked. If we hear about kidnapped children in an African country, we need to pray about them. If we hear about corrupt governments keeping needed resources from people, we need to pray that God will topple the counsels of the proud.
Yet as we’re becoming prayer warriors against injustice, we need to remember not to be vengeful. Here’s what Paul says in Romans 12:
Romans 12:18 -21: If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Now let’s look at just one more life lesson we can learn from the humility of Jesus. Let’s go to John 13, and read what Jesus has to say about the familiar event we act out every time we have communion. Jesus and his disciples have gathered for their final Passover meal together, and there’s no servant there to wash the feet of those men who had been shuffling their sandals along the dusty streets and roads all day.
Jesus was probably hoping that one of his disciples would quickly jump to fulfill the role of a servant, but nobody did. In fact, right then, their minds were filled with prideful thoughts about who would have the highest position when Jesus finally set up His kingdom.
So Jesus Himself got up, took a basin and towel, and went around and washed each of His disciples’ feet. Let’s pick up the story in John 13:
John 13:12 – 17: So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
The disciples were filled with prideful thoughts, so Jesus had to show them how to be servants.
So what’s another life lesson we can learn from our humble Savior?
First, if you allow yourself to become humble like Jesus, He will choose the right status for you. Second, your mind will become more like His mind. Third, you’ll be more able to trust God to level the playing field, leaving all vengeance to Him. Fourth, if you allow yourself to become humble like Jesus, you’ll be as happy as He is.
Jesus said, “If you know these things—in other words, this servant-like humility I am teaching you—blessed are you if you do them.” Do you see that word “happy”? That’s the exact same word Jesus used in the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” and so on.
That’s the Greek word makarios, and it means “happy.” But it’s not a surface, giggly happiness. It’s not the chuckle you might make when somebody tells a joke. This is a deep, satisfying happiness. In Acts 20:35, Jesus is quoted as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” That’s that same “deep happiness” word makarios. In Revelation 22:14, John says, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”
So this is real happiness, the deep satisfaction and joy that Jesus felt there in the Upper Room, as He washed His disciples’ feet. This is real happiness, the happiness of those who have learned how important God’s commandments are to Him, because they reveal His humble, selfless, servant-like character which He wants His children to have all throughout eternity, because He knows this will make them happiest.
I’m holding in my hand and object you might be able to recognize if you saw it up close. Can anyone tell me what this is?
This is a metal bristle from a street sweeper’s brush, from one of those little vehicles that drive around with circular brushes rotating underneath them. This bristle broke off one of those brushes, and I found it beside a curb in our neighborhood.
If you could see it up close, you would realize that it isn’t shiny. It’s covered with rust. This little metal bristle reminds me of a true servant of God. IF Jesus were here talking about this bristle, He might remind us, “Do you not know that you are of more value than many bristles?”
But even though this bristle is humble and a bit rusty, it does an important work. It cleans the streets, scrubbing them from organic material that might have bacteria, or bits of broken glass that could cause a child’s foot to be infected. This bristle stands in its place, ready to do what the sweeper-truck’s operator wants it to do.
I think it would be a good idea to once in a while ask God to make us His street sweeper. In other words, just as He humbled Himself all the way down to where He was clamped by gravity to this planet He created, we need to allow Him to humble us down from any pride we might possess, pride which might make us disdain to do the humblest work for Him.
Are you ready to dare to do this? There’s so much out there beyond these walls that needs to be done, so many prayers that need to be prayed, so many people who need to be encouraged, or just some helpful work that needs to be done.
Would you like to recommit yourself to the Lord as His servant today?