Thoughts on Andrew Murray’s Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness (Part 1)

The next few blogs will be my thoughts I have written in the margins of the book Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness by Andrew Murray. Published by Bethany House in Minneapolis, MN 2001.

When I first picked up this book, it was as a part of a book study for our college ministry. My husband and I decided to read through the book first and as I read, I found this book to be captivating. I honestly think it was because I had just had my pride exposed in an ugly way. Because my heart was newly soft in this area, the words found fertile soil to grow.  

With pride, as with any other sin in our lives, I feel like I can only want to be rid of it when we have been completely undone by it. Whether that sin is premarital sex, lying, rage/anger, gossip, or pride, that sin has to be something we despise before we will think about doing anything about it. You see, we like to point out the sin in other people’s lives, but make excuses for ours. “My dad was always angry; it is just a part of who I am”. “No one needs to know what is going on in our relationship”. “I just thought you needed to know that, since you used to be so close to that person”.

Yet, pride is a sticky one. You may be “doing’ everything you are supposed to be doing. From the outside, everything looks like you have your life together. You think that you have your life together, managing things well on your own. When you work hard, whether for the church or for your family, you are praised and it feels good. It feels good when people say good things about you and the work that you are doing. What started out as service soon becomes what you can do to get praise from others.

Pride also makes you think that you are right, all the time. You couldn’t possibly be wrong here. If that person took my comments the wrong way, then there is something wrong with them. You know that your way is the way is the best way something should be done, because you have so much experience and have thought through everything. You make everyone work to your timeline and when they don’t there will be wrath to pay.

At least, that how it was with me. I had been through a natural disaster that didn’t cause me to be angry of prideful. Part of the aftermath of the disaster uncovered the anger in my life. It wasn’t until I was working through the anger, that I realized the root of my problem wasn’t anger, it was pride. Pride made me angry when things didn’t go “my way”. Pride made me think everyone had to work exactly how I wanted. Pride made me serve so people would praise me. Pride made me legalistic and miserable. Pride made me think that my sins were no one else’s business: “I will keep these, thank you”. Pride made me rename sin, so I could keep it close and not confess it. Pride kept me away from truly repenting of my sin, because pride blinds you.

A year or so after being broken by my sin and going through a season of repentance, my husband and I stumbled upon Andrew Murray’s Humility. This small book was packed full of truth that transformed my thoughts about pride and how humility was dominant in the life of Christ. As I read and re-read pages, I couldn’t stop my highlighter or my pencil from highlighting quotes and writing my thoughts in the narrow margins of the book.

There were times when I had to have the dictionary app out when I was reading through this book. Andrew Murray wrote this book in 1897, so the language can be difficult at times. Maybe it was because the language was difficult, that I focused down into the truth that was found in these pages.

Over the next few blog posts, I will attempt to write out my thoughts that were scrawled in the margins of my book.

 You know that the book is going to be good, when it starts with this sentence: “There three great motivations to humility; it becomes us as creatures; it becomes us as sinners; and it becomes us as saints” Andrew Murray (Preface 1st sentence)

As a creature, a sinner, and a person wanting someday to be considered a saint, I know that humility is something that I need: not an optional part of my walk with Christ. As a culture we have a misunderstanding of humility. We think it is about being humiliated or that humility will make you the doormat of the world, but that is really not it. It is our sin that humiliates us, but it is God’s grace that makes us truly humble. (preface)

So, then what is humility? Humility is seeing who you are in the scope of who God is. When I compare myself to others, I can be something special. When I compare myself to the sovereign, almighty, world creating God, I am nothing. Humility is being so caught up in the awe of God that I begin to understand my place. Too many people think that humility has to do with feeling guilt for our sins, as opposed to realizing what is actually is, the amazing opportunity we have to serve under such a powerful God. Living in humility and letting God be God is our greatest destiny. We will have our greatest fulfillment in being the humble, empty vessel God uses for His work. (Preface)

When I think about being a vessel, I cannot help but think about the collection of milk glass dishes I inherited from my grandma. Those are the dishes I take out at the holiday dinners. They have collected dust the rest of the year and have to be rewashed before they can be used. They are my most special vessels I have. However, if you were to ask me what vessels I use most often, I pull out a set of bowls that have some scratches on them. I use them at least three to four days a week. I honestly don’t know how I would cook without them.

In the same way that I couldn’t cook without my scratched bowls, God seeks those who are humble enough to be obedient to do his daily work. Too often I get caught up in wanting to be the person who has the stage and gets the praise and adoration. God doesn’t seem to be too concerned about how many people follow my blog, how many people like my tweets, or how many people share my posts. He is more concerned that I am ready to serve where I am now. Obedience and humility are the hallmark of a life that He is going to be ready to use.

That is why humility is the opposite of pride. Pride says “I can do it myself”. Whether that is crafting an image of yourself or creating something that will be trending. Humility is saying, “I can do nothing without Christ”. When you try to take control of “your life” from God it is nothing but pride. Only a truly humble heart is open to God; used for Him to increase faith, to grow love, to experience joy, and to gain strength. (16)

In a culture where it feels like everyone wants to be a YouTube star, Insta famous, or make a viral video/ blog post, it is easy to see that humility is not the hallmark of our culture today. So how can we even figure out what humility looks like on a daily basis? As with every other Sunday School answer, we have to look to Christ. Jesus showed his humility in heaven. He understood the role he had to play in humanity: His death is our salvation. Because of Jesus’ humility in putting on human flesh and sacrificing himself for our sins, we can have a place in God’s kingdom (Philippians 2:5-9). How amazing is that? (17)

Here’s the thing, though, we cannot make ourselves humble. I know what you are thinking, “Yes I can. I can do work and not seek a praise. I can do things secretly and hope no one finds out. I can say negative things about myself and then have people correct me, saying that I am a good person”. As crazy as this sounds, all of those things are false humility; yet another form of pride. When I say negative things about myself and someone stops me and says something nice about me, I feel good. Saying those things about yourself to get that affirmation, is a form of pride. In the same way, when someone finds out what you did for the church, or a neighbor, or friend and praise you, and you feel good.  (17)

Maybe that is just my experience, but I think it will resonate through other people too. I enjoyed doing work and working hard. That was a part of who I was and how I was raised. I was raised, that if there is something that needs to be done, just go ahead and do it. If the trash in the bathroom needs to be taken out, then do it instead of complaining about it not being done. If there were dishes in the sink at my campus ministry, I would spend the time and get them washed, or vacuum the dirty floors. Whatever it was, I enjoyed doing those jobs. When someone would ask who did the work, I would say I did and get praise. The praise became something that I craved so much that I would eventually start timing my good work to be finishing up when I knew someone else would probably be there. I never realized I had a problem until I started being disappointed when someone didn’t come. I didn’t get the affirmation I now felt like I needed.

Nothing that I was doing was bad. These were all good things and acts of service. It was the state of my heart that was the issue. The vast majority of the time I enjoyed having the opportunity to serve in this way. Doing the dishes was relaxing for me. I had some good time to think and process through things. By the end of my time in college, I was described by others as a person with a servant’s heart. Little did they know that part of my service was to bring glory to me. I was feeding what would become the monster of pride in my life; all while I was thinking I was a good humble servant. Pride was blinding me by making me feel good with my false humility.

As much as I thought I was being a good servant, I only had an inkling of an idea of what humility was. I thought I could become humble without getting rid of pride. Honestly, I didn’t even think that I had a pride issue. Now I knew some proud, arrogant people. I was related to some proud, arrogant people. Compared to others that I knew, I was the humble one. What I failed to realize was that just being less prideful than other people doesn’t mean that I am automatically humble. Only recently did I read this passage from 2 Corinthians 10:12 “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” When I was comparing myself with others and thinking I was humble, I was still not getting the point of humility. Somehow, I thought that if I worked hard enough, I could just be humble.

What I didn’t know was that we cannot make ourselves humble. It is not something we can conjure up on our own. Pride is something you have to ask Jesus to remove from you on a daily basis. Removing pride is done by the grace of Christ. It is grace that brings us freedom. A humble heart accepts this grace and understands its place that I am nothing and God is everything. (17-18)

How can I be okay when I have to admit that I am nothing? We all want to be something. We are told from when we are little, that we can be anything we want to be. In our jobs, we work hard to earn more or get a promotion. All our lives, we want to be someone everyone notices. If we serve or speak, our flesh craves the stage and the attention it brings. Here is the thing though, we don’t have to be anything for God. Let that sink in for a moment. I don’t have to be anything for Christ to love me. I don’t have to be perfect – or try to be. I don’t have to be the best singer, hardest worker, most loving mother, for God to love me. What a relief! The burden of having to prove yourself to God is gone. If we desire to just be, knowing who I am in my core is who God sent Jesus to die for, I will become the humble empty vessel God will choose to do his work through. (18)

We must seek humility, because it is contrary to our nature. The original sin was not disobedience, but pride. Eve wanted to be like God. The pride to want to be like God led to the disobedience against God. When pride deceives your heart, actions will soon follow. In James it says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me’. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:13-15 The temptation will come, your pride will convince you it will be okay, and then you will sin. That is why it is so important to seek out humility. (23)

Here’s the thing, you cannot read a book (or a blog series) and be free of pride. It is too strong and too deceptive to be done away with that easily. Only through the redemptive blood of Jesus may we be set free from pride. All too often, we call Jesus our Savior and redeemer, because he saved us from our sins. Still he longs to save us from “our self” – the pride that deceives us. Pride lies to us, but has been so rooted in our lives that we believe in our own abilities instead of in the One who came to save us. Pride makes us believe that our plan for life is what is best. It lies to our hearts to say that letting God take control will only cause disappointment. Ephesians 3:20 says that a life rooted and established in Christ will be better than we could think or imagine. We need to quit listening to pride.  (24-25)

Start imitating Christ. “Christ is the expression of the humility of God embodied in human nature; the Eternal Love humbling itself, clothing itself in the garb of meekness and gentleness, to win and serve and save us.” (25-26) The one attribute of Christ that can be linked to all parts of his work on earth is humility. It was never about what Jesus wanted to do, but in what Jesus humbly did as a vessel God sent to save humanity. (25-26)

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