1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. 3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” (Titus 3:1–3, NKJV)
Reminders. We all need them. They reinforce what we already know, encouraging us to persevere, to be on guard, and to grow spiritually. Paul had just exhorted Titus to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Now he teaches him to remind Christians of sound attitudes and actions of faith. 1) We must remember to be submissive (v. 1-2). Obeying civil authority reflects the submissive lifestyle of the saint, equipping us for good works that cannot be successfully condemned (cf. Titus 2:8; 1 Pet. 2:11-12). Being submissive requires “showing humility to all men.” It takes moral strength to be humble, to be peaceable and gentle instead of speaking evil of others. 2) We must remember we once lived in sin (v. 3). Our salvation in Christ is not a license to be dismissive or condescending toward those who are still captives of sin. Recalling our previous sins (and forgiveness in Christ) is an incentive to remain vigilant in faith and responsive to help others escape evil. Do not be drawn back into foolish disobedience and selfish desires. The love of God in Christ compels us to be kind and careful to maintain good works that honor God and serve others (Titus 3:4, 8).
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, NKJV)
How do you define a successful life? Fortune? Leisure? Fame? Power? I watched a couple of TV shows today about former NFL players who set many records and won many championships? Their walls are lined with trophies and awards that recognize their athletic accomplishments. Yet, when they talked about what being successful was to them, it was not about statistics, championships, and awards. It was about being a good husband, a good father, a good friend, and a good citizen in the community. That is impressive. All these things are good, and yet, something was missing. They did not measure their success in spiritual terms. Jesus said, “What profit it is to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul” (Matt. 16:26)? When you wake up and consider how you intend to succeed that day (and in life), assess your success the way God does. God’s measure of success requires us to choose to practice justice and love mercy (to love our neighbor as ourselves, Matt. 22:39), and to choose to walk humbly with our God (to love God with all our being, Matt. 22:37). Define success as a life of justice, mercy, and faithful service to God. These things are good. God says these things make life successful.
17 Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, 18 To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more. (Psalm 10:17–18, NKJV)
Psalms 10 wrestles with the apparent immunity of the wicked from accountability and justice from the judgment seat of God (cf. Hab. 1:1-4). “Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (Psa. 10:1) The proud boast in their greed and renounce the Lord; They could care less about God (10:3-4). The oppressors always appear to prosper as they arrogantly devise evil against the poor (10:5-10). They do not believe God sees their transgressions, nor will He “require an account” (10:11, 13). In weariness of heart, the oppressed cry out for God to see their evil and lift His hand of judgment against them (10:12). God does see the sins of the godless. He is the helper of the fatherless, and the helpless commit themselves to Him and the justice He will bring upon the wicked (10:14-15). His sovereignty secures our confidence that God will right every wrong; He is “King forever and ever” (10:16; 2 Thess. 1:6-10). What began as the psalmist’s perplexity when the wicked appear to escape justice ends in a flourish of praise and adoration of the Lord. Nothing escapes His notice. In His time, God executes justice for the righteous cause of the humble, the powerless, and the oppressed, who prepare their hearts to accept His righteous judgments (Psa. 19:9; 2 Pet. 3:7-10).
13 “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13–14, NKJV)
This man knew his sins and what they had done to his spiritual condition before God. He was not bold to move close to the presence of God at the temple. Standing “afar off” from the sanctuary in the court of the men, he recognized his unworthiness before God. With lowered eyes of contrition, he beat his chest in shameful sorrow for his sins. His only hope was in God. He believed God to be a merciful God, ready to forgive a sinner like him. And so he pleaded for mercy, and God heard his prayer. Jesus declared the man’s humility before God resulted in gracious exaltation. The contrast is profound between the tax collector and the Pharisee, whose self-righteous pride prevented mercy from the throne of God (Lk. 18:9-12). Both were sinners, but only the humble was justified. We must confront our sins with honest humility when we approach God for mercy. By doing so, we will find His mercy and grace (Heb. 4:16).
11 “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:11–14, NKJV)
Jesus, the Son of God, was humble. He lowered Himself, humbled Himself, to help the helpless, to save His enemies – sinners, like you and me. We are not humble when we only bless those who can repay us. Such conceit arrogantly judges others as it says, “I will only treat you nicely because I expect you to be nice to me in return.” That is not loving, merciful, or the attitude of God (Matt. 5:43-48). Reciprocity is not the Christian’s motivation for being kind and pleasant. The gospel goes out to all, and we must try to bless all with whom we have contact, trying to save some (Rom. 12:17-21). So, keep and show godly attitudes, even toward those who mistreat you (Matt. 5:10-12). Always treat others kindly, even when they are not kind toward you (Matt. 7:12). The Lord will repay you at the resurrection (Jno. 5:28-29). That will be enough.
31 The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. 32 He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding. 33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility. (Proverbs 15:31–33, NKJV)
When these proverbs are combined they give us good insight into developing and living in wisdom. First, we must accept the rebukes of life (v. 31). There are lessons to be learned from the school of hard knocks. Life’s ups and downs will teach us wisdom – if we will hear them. Otherwise, we foolishly continue to repeat the same mistakes. Secondly, redirecting our lives through instructive rebukes means we care our about our own soul (v. 32). Understanding comes from accepting wise instruction. Unfortunately, pride and selfishness will prevent us from learning and heeding the rebukes of life, as well as the rebukes contained in God’s inspired word (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Matt. 16:26). Thirdly, when we couple fear (reverence) of God with humility we will gain wisdom and its honor (v. 33). Jesus repeatedly said only by humbling ourselves will we be exalted (Lk. 14:11; 18:14; Matt. 23:12). God gives grace to the humble, but He resists the proud (Jas. 4:6). Let us humble ourselves to hear the rebukes of life (v. 31). Let us reverence God and properly value the life He gives us (v. 32). And let us fear God, receive His wise teaching, and humbly do His will (v. 33). God will come in due time if we will hear, heed and humble ourselves before Him (1 Pet. 5:6).
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, NKJV)
God is willing to forgive us even after we have been unfaithful to Him (Jas. 4:4-5). His intent is not to see us perish, but that we should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Oh, what love! And yet, we must understand this calls on us to abandon our sins against God and turn to Him for grace. (When we do, He gives it.) This takes humility, which is at the heart of repentance. Indiana Jones famously said, “Only the penitent man will pass.” Harrison Ford’s character also said, “The penitent man is humble before God,” and he “kneels before God.” Indeed, only the humble person repents. Pride prevents us from admitting our sin, changing our heart, and turning to the only One who is willing and able to save us from sin’s pain and punishment (Rom. 6:23). We must understand that God dispenses His grace according to His will, not ours. The “gospel of the grace of God” teaches us to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 20:24; 2:38). It teaches Christians to repent and pray God’s forgiveness when we sin (Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jno. 1:9). God’s grace is greater than sin, but we cannot continue to sin and expect grace to abound (Rom. 6:1-2). That is pride, and God resists the proud. To be saved by God’s grace we must have the faith to humbly repent and submit to “the word of His grace” (Eph. 2:8-9; Acts 20:32).
14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 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. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:14–17, NKJV)
Nothing in the context of this text demands the conclusion that Jesus was instituting a foot-washing ceremony for today (John 13:1-17). Far from it. He was, however, setting an example of humble service that every disciple must follow in our treatment of each other. At this Passover meal, none of His apostles lowered themselves to the menial task of washing the dirty feet of their companions (or even to wash their Master’s feet). In fact, there had been an ongoing squabble among them about who would be greatest in the kingdom (Mk. 9:34-37; 10:35-45). Earlier, Jesus had taught them, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Jesus is great because Jesus served. And so, the Son of God sees greatness when we humbly serve each other (Matt. 20:27). Practicing humble service toward others is crucial. Jesus said the blessing comes when we actually follow His example and become a servant of others. We cannot say but not do, and expect to be blessed. By serving others we remove self-interest and give ourselves over to the welfare of others. That’s the example of Jesus we are called to follow.
31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” 34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:31–34, NKJV)
Peter had faith in Jesus, but overconfidence in himself led to compromise and sin. As Jesus said, Peter’s repetitive denial of Jesus left him weeping bitterly (Lk. 22:54-62). But, that was not the end of the story. Peter did not remain in the depth of despair. Jesus’ prayer for Peter was answered. He returned to the Lord, strengthened his brethren, and powerfully preaching the gospel. Peter continues to be an important example for Christians. Like him, we are tempted to be overconfident in ourselves instead of humbly trusting Christ to guide our decisions and actions through His word. Loudly proclaiming we would never forsake the Lord can set us up for failure. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” continues to warn us (1 Cor. 10:12). By submitting to Christ’s word and humbling ourselves in His sight, we are prompted to mourn our sins, cleanse our conduct, and purify our hearts. By doing so, we trust the Lord will lift us up (Jas. 4:7-10). Then, with His help, we can humbly resist the temptation to lift up ourselves in our own eyes.
3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3–4, NKJV)
Combative mindsets and contentious conduct permeate society. The works of the flesh (“adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like”) are producing devastating results all around us (Galatians 5:19-21). Look at the contrast in today’s passage with the works of the flesh. Selfish ambition thrives in the arrogant heart that sees others as “less than” we are. Pride feeds the desire to look out for ourselves first – before others. When we estimate others to be better than ourselves it follows that we will not injure and harm them through the works of the flesh. (Look at that list again and see how often our sins invariably hurt others.) By developing hearts of humility we become servants of others instead of users and takers. Living for others instead of ourselves protects us from sin as it spreads the influence of righteousness. Be the salt of the earth by maintaining a humble heart that values others and becomes a blessing in their lives (Matthew 5:13).