Only the Humble can be Taught or Corrected

Psalm 25:9   New American Standard Bible (NASB)

He leads the [a]humble in justice,
And He teaches the [b]humble His way.

This is a difficult subject for me to write about, mostly because pride and arrogance are among my biggest stumbling blocks.  But, pride-filled as I am, I am humble enough to know that I am no prophet.  I am just a sinner who seeks to draw closer to the Lord, and the closer I draw to the Lord, the harder it becomes for me to write.  More and more, I find that I am asking myself “Who are you to preach to others when you cannot remove the plank from your own eye?”  Still, there are some things about which the Lord commands me to write and this is one of them.  I know it is of the Lord because it comes entirely from His word, and because, if I do not write, it will consume me from within — like a fire.  Therefore, to whomever this is meant, let me share what the Lord has shown me about humility and its relationship to our ability to be taught or corrected by the Lord.

To start with, I would ask you to read the whole of Psalms 25.

Psalms 25 tells us over and over that the Lord will teach His way to those who humble themselves before Him: to those who acknowledge and fear Him.  Once we understand that we must humble ourselves before God will teach us, then we must understand what it is the Lord promises to teach us.  Read Psalms 119. The Lord’s Word promises that He will teach His ways, His precepts and His Laws to those who humble themselves before Him.  This promise encompasses much more than most of us understand.  Yes, it means the Lord will teach His moral laws to us, but also His Natural Laws (Romans 1-2*) and the way in which He works in and through the affairs of men (through His covenants, his judgments and His influence over the hearts and minds of men**).  In fact, Jesus refers to message of Psalms 119, and we can find the connection in the first line:

How blessed are those whose way is [a]blameless,
Who walk in the law of the Lord.

John 14:6  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

In other words, Christ (Who is God) is the Way (God’s Law) and the Truth (a reliable testimony to the Truth of God’s Law) and the Life (the only way to salvation and eternal life).  However, if we do not humble ourselves before the Lord, and submit to His authority and the authority of His laws, we will never see or understand the Truth in God’s Word.  And if we cannot see or acknowledge God’s Truth, then how can we ever obey it?

So, what does the Bible mean when it speaks of being humble?  It means more than our outward demeanor.  The Greek word translated as humility in Colossians 3:12 is ‘tapeinophrosyne,’ which means “lowliness or humility of mind, modesty.”  Here is yet another problem most believers have in properly understanding Scripture.  When the Lord’s Word speaks of ‘the heart,’ most of us in the West think in terms of feelings or emotions.  However, the Scriptures intend something much more than this.  Most the time, what we see translated into English as ‘the heart‘ should actually be translated “your whole being — body, mind (will) and soul.”  Therefore, what the Bible is trying to tell us is that humility is an inward state of being; not an outward action.  In other words, Scripture is trying to tell us that our humility must be real, and sincere, and not just an act we put on for the sake of show.  But humility is not something that comes naturally to us.  It is something we must choose and train ourselves to be.

How do we know what true humility is?  Wat does it look like?  It is an attitude that not only puts others first, but which sincerely considers others to be of more value or importance than ourselves.  It shuns selfish ambition, conceit, self-justification and self-defense. If a truly humble person is falsely accused or unjustly persecuted, they will not try to defend themselves.  They will defend the Truth — which is really just bearing witness to the Truth of God’s Word and Laws — but they will not defend themselves.  This is what Jesus tries to teach us when He says:

Matthew 5:39  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

[NOTE: Christ is speaking here about being insulted, which is what a slap on the face symbolized in His time.  God’s Ward does provide for just defense, but only in connection with civil and moral law, which are subjects for another post.]

Humbling ourselves is contrary to human nature: learning to put others first and refusing to defend ourselves against unjust attacks does not come naturally to most people.  We have to consciously work at training ourselves to do so, which is what the Scriptures really mean when it tells us to do something “with all our hearts.” Thankfully, God’s Word promises that, if we will make our best attempt to humble ourselves, His Holy Spirit will fill us and help us in our efforts to humble ourselves.  But, more than this, God’s Word promises that — if we will humble ourselves before Him, and recognize Him as Lord and His Laws as binding our actions — He will teach us His ways, His precepts and His Laws.  This way, we will learn the Truth, which is the path to True wisdom (a God-like understanding of the world and how it actually works), and to ever lasting life with and in the Lord.

Therefore, we have to learn to let go of our impulse to control things.  This is driven by our sense of ‘self,’ and a sense of ‘self’ is the foundation of pride and arrogance — as well as defiance and rebellion!  We have to stop trying to control the universe and learn to accept the universe as it is, and to live by the laws God has put in place to govern not only the world, but us, as well.  This teaches us to walk in harmony with the Lord’s creation, which then leads to a sense of inner peace. We have to learn to stop trying to impose our will on others, and to serve them instead of trying to rule over them.  This teaches us to live in harmony with other people, which makes it possible to love others as ourselves.  We have to train ourselves not to distort things to suit our desires, but to present them as they really are.  This teaches us not to deceive others, and to deal justly with other people: not bearing false witness or gossiping.  All of this and more is what true humility looks like in action, and it is how we are called to be.  The closer we get to this goal, the more the Lord can teach us, and the less need He will have to correct us.

However,  if we refuse to humble ourselves by doing these things, and we insist on trying to have our own way over all things instead; if we believe that we can control the laws of this world and we act accordingly; if we seek to impose our will on others; then the Lord cannot teach us — nor can He correct us.  When all we see is ourselves, we become proud, and arrogant, and the Lord tells us that He opposes proud:

1 Peter 5:5 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

The Lord cannot teach us when we are proud because we will not hear nor heed His Word, nor acknowledge His laws.  We will hear and obey only ourselves, and we will acknowledge and obey only our own desires.  This is the essence of pride: the refusal to see beyond ourselves.  Pride is the source of all sin, and the Lord hates it for that reason.  He hates it because it makes us blind and deaf, and a blind and deaf person cannot be taught — nor corrected when they go astray.  The Lord loves each of us, but He tells us He only corrects those who belong to Him.  If we refuse to turn back to Him and to humble ourselves before Him for too long, it will eventually cause us to become depraved.  If that happens, God’s Word tells us what He will do.  Once we become depraved, the Lord will leave us to the end result of our depravity (Romans 1:18-32).

28 And just as they did not see fit [j]to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, [k]haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

This is why we are told to “come out of the world,” to “be in it, but not of it.”    God calls us to live according to His ways, not the ways of this world.  However, before we can live according to His ways, we must learn them; but the Lord also tells us that He cannot teach us His ways until we humble ourselves.  Therefore, we should train ourselves to be humble, and to accept the Lord’s teachings and corrections.  We should learn to empty ourselves of our sense of ‘self,’ and replace it with a desire to serve others in all that we do.  Once again, I know that this is contrary to human nature, but this is why the Lord’s Word does not tell us to ‘feel’ this way, but to apply every aspect of our being to choose to live this way.  We are called to use our will in controlling our desires, training our feelings and directing our actions.  And we must understand that we do all of this not as a means by which we can work our way to salvation, but as a natural product of our love for the Lord.

[NOTE: this entire post is inherent in the proper understanding of agape love.  Humbling ourselves before the Lord is a part of agape love, as demonstrated by the Lord, Himself, when He washed the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.]

‘  John Locke specifically states that he drew a great deal of the inspiration which lead to his theories of Natural Law and Civil Governance from Romans 1 and 2.  Locke also wrote a commentary on the entire book of Romans, in which he offers his thoughts on every individual line of Romans — line by line.  Such was the influence of Romans on Locke’s understanding of Natural Law; and Locke was equally as influential on the founders in the construction of this nation’s legal structure.

** This is what the founders called ‘The Hand of Providence:’ the way God acts in the affairs of men by influencing their hearts and minds and directing their actions according to His will.

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