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A Deep Dive Into Humility, Part 2: A Definition

April 28, 2022 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Say my name and I disappear? What am I? My kids love to riddle one another with questions like this. As with all riddles, there is some play on words. I can’t help but think that trying to define humility is just like this riddle. The more we try to define and think about humility the more we miss the mark. C.S. Lewis implies the challenge of identifying humility when he wrote, “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody… He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” Looking to dictionaries do not help much either. The Oxford Dictionary defines humility as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance.” The Cambridge Dictionary says, “humility is the quality of not being proud because you are aware of your bad qualities.” Merriam-Webster defines it as “freedom from pride or arrogance.” And Christianity.com states, “True humility is to see ourselves as we actually are, fallen in sin and helpless without God.” ... Keep Reading

A Deep Dive Into Humility, Part 1: Why?

April 21, 2022 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This is part one of a multi-part series diving into the biblical teaching on humility. I personally enjoy using this writing space for series like these because it gives me the opportunity to take a deeper look into specific topics that we may not be able to give as much attention to in a sermon or other teaching outlets. I have not fully mapped out this series, but I want to give attention to all the angles from which Scripture approaches humility. Today, I want to take time to answer the question: Why take a deep dive into the topic of humility? Reason #1: The topic of humility, and its antonym pride, have been a life-long interest of mine. I was a teenager when I read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity with weekly discussion with my pastor. In this book Lewis has a chapter titled “The Great Sin.” He makes the case that pride is the greatest sin. He writes, “Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” He concludes this chapter by describing what humility is like. Again, he writes, “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays… He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” Ever since I have read that chapter, Lewis’ words have shaped how I think about pride and humility. I have probably quoted from that chapter in my sermons over the past 25 years more than from any other work outside of the Bible. Even with that great of an impact, I have never done a thorough study on the biblical teaching on humility. Certainly, as I have come across the topic in specific passages, like the humility of Christ in Philippians 2, I have given attention to it. But I have never focused solely on the topic of humility and sought to understand the full scope of what the Bible has to say about it. I would like to do that in this series. ... Keep Reading

The Dying Love of Christ

April 14, 2022 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

One of my favorite Bible verses about God’s love is Romans 5:8. Paul writes, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul magnifies the greatness of God’s love for us by drawing attention to our sinful state. Did you notice, though, the first word in this verse? Yes, it is the adversative conjunction “but.” Paul loves to use the logic of the adversative conjunction to highlight contrasting realities. When we pay attention to the logic and grammar of Scripture (the Holy Spirit inspired those as well), we get to dive deeper into the wonders of God’s love for us. So, to what contrasting realities does the adversative conjunction at the beginning of Romans 5:8 draw attention? Well, we need to look at verse 7, where Paul writes, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In verse 7, Paul is speaking about the extent to which one would go in sacrificing himself out of love for another. A righteous person in this context is someone who upholds the law and commits to seeking justice for others. The righteous person does no harm to you. Paul says, “one will scarcely die for a righteous person.” While we may be thankful that this person does not harm us, we would not be inclined to give the ultimate sacrifice of our lives for a merely just person. The “good person” is the one who brings some sort of benefit to us. They not only don’t cause us harm, but they add something positive to our lives, like friendship, companionship, financial sustenance, etc. Paul says, “perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die.” The inclination to make the ultimate sacrifice increases, albeit, not much, for the good people in our lives. So, in verse 7 Paul is speaking about the extent of human love for others as illustrated through our willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for others. I image that each of us would have a very short list of “good people” for whom we might be willing to die. Then comes the adversative conjunction in verse 8. Paul wants to lay out the contrast between our sacrificial love in verse 7 with God’s sacrificial love in verse 8. This contrast exalts God’s incredible love for sinners like us. Christ does not die for righteous people. Christ does not die for good people. Christ dies for sinners. Paul makes it even more stark (or plain) in verse 10 when he says we were enemies of God when Christ died for us. Our expressions of sacrificial love pale in comparison with God’s great sacrifice of his Son for rebellious sinners like us. ... Keep Reading

Good News for The Prone to Wander

April 7, 2022 | by: John Lee | 0 Comments

This past Sunday, I briefly brought up how we are all prone to wander from the gospel. We are prone to develop a Jesus+ theology. Many of us would not dare to say we do such a thing, yet the reality of our lives tends to prove otherwise (I’ll be the first to admit it!). A Jesus+ Theology gets at least two fundamental things wrong: 1) That Christ’s work is not enough (Heb. 10) and 2) That we view ourselves much more highly than we should (Gal. 6:3). With that, it isn’t enough to merely know that we are prone to cultivate a Jesus+ Theology. So, what are some particular ways we are prone to add to the gospel? We often tend to describe our walk with the Lord in ways that are utterly contingent upon us. We believe that God’s disposition toward us changes based on what we do or don’t do, how we feel, or even what others say of us. Our Christian life is often characterized by an anxious preoccupation to keep God pleased with us rather than enjoying communion with Him through Christ by His Spirit. In this, we can begin to see some of the ways we might add to the gospel. Often a Jesus+ Theology is formed when we merely want to fit Jesus into our lives rather than have our lives utterly collapse in complete dependence and trust in Him. Ask yourself this question. What are some things that you do (or don’t do) that make you feel that God loves you more or is at least more pleased with you? Now, to be sure, joyful obedience to God’s Word is vital to the Christian Life. Jesus even says that if we love him, we will keep his commandments (John 14:15). The problem is not that God’s Word is too high of a standard. The problem is that we are sinful and rather than turning to the Lord for mercy, we’d much rather create a system, a pseudo-gospel, that we can achieve on our own. ... Keep Reading

In this series, I have been painting a picture of what a healthy, growing Christian looks like. The central, core commitment of a growing Christian is the commitment to the ordinary means of grace. The ordinary means of Word and Sacrament offered in the weekly worship of the church are the fountainhead of God’s sustaining and empowering grace in our lives. This core commitment flows into and invigorates personal commitments to the Word, prayer, and body fellowship throughout the week. These health-sustaining habits then flow into the third level commitment, living as a blessing to others. Today, I want to conclude the series by talking about the fruit of such commitments. Paul opens his letter to the Colossians by giving thanks to God for their faith in Christ and love for the saints. Then he explains that the gospel, “which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1:6). In this greeting, Paul is celebrating the powerful work of the gospel. The Colossian church has enjoyed the benefits of the gospel since the day they heard it and understood God’s grace offered in it. The promise is the same for us. Paul says, “In the whole world it [the gospel] is bearing fruit and increasing.” When we commit to hearing and understanding God’s grace offered in the gospel, it will bear fruit and increase among us. ... Keep Reading

In this series, I have been painting a picture of what a healthy, growing ChriOrdinary Means of Grace flow chartstian looks like. I created this graphic to help illustrate the commitments of a growing follower of Christ. The fountainhead is at the center, God’s grace poured into us through the ordinary means of the Word and sacrament. This flows into and invigorates personal commitments to the Word, prayer, and body fellowship throughout the week. These health-sustaining habits then flow into the outer ring of commitments. This third ring represents the commitment to be a blessing to others. Let me explain from Scripture how this is a commitment of healthy, growing Christians. The phrase, blessed to be a blessing, comes from Genesis 12:2, where God promises to Abraham, “I will bless you so that you will be a blessing.” In many ways, Abraham is not only the father of all those who are justified by faith, as Romans 4:11-12 states, but he also is the model and example for God’s plans for the community of faith. God intends to extend his grace into the world through the covenant community. From the very beginning, the people of God had a mission from God to bless others. We praise God from whom all blessings flow, but we are never meant to be buckets, storing more and more grace for ourselves; God desires us to be conduits, channeling his grace to others. As long as we remain committed to the ordinary means of grace in our lives, we are never at threat of becoming empty.... Keep Reading

In this series, I have been painting a picture of what a healthy, growing Christian looks like. At the center of spiritual health is the commitment to the ordinary means of grace offered in the weekly worship of the church. This habit is supplemented by personal commitments to the Word, prayer, and body fellowship throughout the week. Last week I outlined some practical ways to be committed to the ordinary means of grace and to Scripture. Let’s think about practical ways to be committed to prayer and body fellowship. A healthy, growing Christian is committed to prayer just like humans are utterly dependent on breathing. A few weeks ago I wrote that a commitment to prayer is evidence of a worshipful heart, a mind thinking rightly, and a humble esteem for our abilities. Those are the internal qualities of a commitment to prayer. What about the external qualities? To be a person who prays without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17), we need to cultivate daily prayer habits. Just like any commitment of value, we need to make time for prayer. Write it into your schedule. It does not have to be a long period of time. Using a journal to write out prayers or keep track of prayer requests can help keep our minds from wandering while praying. Pray with your Bible open; let Scripture fill the content of your prayers. Take the words of the Psalmist and make them your own in prayer. A healthy habit of Scripture memory and meditation will strengthen your prayer life. And pray with people on a regular basis. Spouses and families should prayer together. Life Groups and Bible studies should pray together. Church members should pray together. A diminished commitment to prayer is functional atheism at work in our lives.... Keep Reading

In this series, I have been painting a picture of what a healthy, growing Christian looks like. At the center of spiritual health is the commitment to the ordinary means of grace offered in the weekly worship of the church. This habit is supplemented by personal commitments to the Word, prayer, and body fellowship throughout the week. So far, I have focused on the biblical grounds, or reasons, for these commitments. Before we consider the next level of commitment, let’s think about what these first commitments practically look like in a healthy, growing Christian’s life. A healthy, growing Christian is committed to the ordinary means of grace. A few weeks ago I wrote about the posture of reception that undergirds this commitment. This posture includes humility, longing, and diligent effort. These inward qualities may manifest themselves in different ways in different people. But let me highlight some ways a posture of reception may be seen in us. First, we would come to church on a Sunday morning expectant to receive grace through the worship, prayers, ministry of the Word, and communion. We go to church to receive grace, not to critique, evaluate, or judge. Second, we would prioritize in our schedules the weekly gathering of the church. This includes our habits of preparation on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. We would want to be prepared mentally and physically to engage with the means of grace. Even while on vacation, attending church on a Sunday morning would be a priority. Third, in line with our fourth membership vow, we would support the worship and work of the church to the best of our abilities. If we value Sunday morning worship, we would want to serve every person who comes into our doors, to the best of our abilities, to help them receive the maximum benefit of the worship service as well. This includes everything from a friendly, warm welcome to setting an example of engagement in worship to volunteering with children’s ministry. These are just three ways a commitment to the ordinary means of grace would manifest itself in our lives. ... Keep Reading

In this series, I have been painting a picture of what a healthy, growing Christian looks like. At the center of spiritual health is the commitment to the ordinary means of grace offered in the weekly worship of the church. This habit is supplemented by personal commitments to the Word, prayer, and body fellowship throughout the week. I want to focus on this commitment to body fellowship today. Our relationship with the church, the body of Christ, is a vital component to being a healthy, growing Christian. When I think of the church community, and the responsibilities and needs of individual followers of Christ, two Scripture passages always stand out as the most influential. Of course there are many passages that speak to the nature and responsibilities of the Christian community, but these two, in my estimation, lay the essential groundwork. They are Romans 12, which speaks about our interconnectedness as believers, and Hebrews 3, which speaks about our need for the community to persevere in faith. Let’s look at these in turn. Romans 12 paints a picture that Christians are interconnected to one another. This chapter is known for the transition from theology to practical application in Paul’s letter to the Roman church. It is in view of the mercies (12:1) and grace (12:3) of God that we live differently. Paul’s attention is on the body. He says, “We are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (v. 5). This awkward phrase, “members one of another,” is a significant descriptor of Christians. In Christ, God has knit believers together in a unique relationship. We are interconnected because of our faith in Christ. In the rest of the chapter, Paul fleshes out what this interconnected relationship looks like. We serve one another with our gifts (v. 6), we love one another with brotherly affection (v. 10), we contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality (v. 13), we rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (v. 15), and we live in harmony with one another (v. 16). ... Keep Reading

In Luke 18:1, the gospel writer tells us that Jesus “told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” If only we had such a clear statement of the purpose for every parable! In this parable, we hear of a widow pestering an unjust judge for justice. The judge eventually gives in because of the widow’s persistence. Jesus compares God to the unjust judge. If such an unrighteous man is swayed by persistent requests, how much more will a loving, gracious, patient God respond to persist prayer? This call to persistent prayer is repeated in Paul’s letters. We are to be “praying at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18), “continue steadfastly in prayer” (Col. 4:2), and “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). Can any of us claim to be steadfast in prayer? Do we pray without ceasing? Of course, these commands do not mean that we need to be kneeling, eyes closed, hands folded, all day, every day in order to “pray without ceasing.” They speak about a posture of our hearts, priorities of our thinking, and the humble esteem of our abilities. As one has said, prayer is like breathing to a Christian, it constantly happens, sustaining our life, even if we are not fully conscience of it.... Keep Reading

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