Tag Archives: Humility

“Theology should humble us” by David Wells

“The effects of theological knowledge should be humility and a deepened desire to serve and honor God in all of our commerce with created reality.

The truly profound thinkers in life are often brought to humility, too, but perhaps for different reasons.

They are humbled out of a sense of their own smallness; theology should humble us through a sense of the greatness and wonder of God.

It is what we know, not what we do not know, that subdues our pride and causes us to render to God the worship that is His due.”

–David F. Wells, “The Theologian’s Craft” in Doing Theology in Today’s World: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Kantzer, John Woodbridge and Thomas Edward McComiskey, Eds. (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 1994), 174.

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“God is not a quantity that can be mastered” by David Wells

“There are few lines quite so poignantly applicable to the theologian’s craft as those of the medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote of ‘The life so short, the craft so long to learn. The attempt so hard, the victory so keen.’

It is, in fact, surprising that the thought should ever cross our minds that the theological undertaking could be otherwise, for understanding– understanding of God, of ourselves, of the world– comes so slowly, so painfully slowly, that ‘life’s’ summer passes and the winter arrives long before this fruit is ripe to be picked.

Or so it seems. And that, perhaps, is why we are so fiercely tempted to turn theology into a technique that we can use to produce a more efficiently gained and bountiful knowledge of God!

God, however, is not like the periodic table.

He is not a quantity that can be ‘mastered’ even though He can be known; and though He has revealed Himself with clarity, the depth of our understanding of Him is measured, not by the speed with which theological knowledge is processed, but by the quality of our determination to own His ownership of us through Christ in thought, word, and deed.

Theology is the sustained effort to know the character, will, and acts of the triune God as He has disclosed and interpreted these for His people in Scripture, to formulate these in a systematic way in order that we might know Him, learn to think our thoughts after Him, live our lives in His world on His terms, and by thought and action projection His truth into our own time and culture.

It is therefore a synthetic activity whose center is the understanding of God, whose horizon is as wide as life itself, and whose mission echoes the mission of God Himself, which is to gather together in Christ a progeny as numerous as the stars above (Gen. 15:1-6; Gal. 3:6-16).”

–David F. Wells, “The Theologian’s Craft” in Doing Theology in Today’s World: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Kantzer, John Woodbridge and Thomas Edward McComiskey, Eds. (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 1994), 171, 172.

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“A child of God keeps two books always by him” by Thomas Watson

“A child of God keeps two books always by him:

One to write his sins in, so that he may be humble;

The other to write his mercies in, so that he may be thankful.”

–Thomas Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture Drawn with a Scripture-Pencil, or, Some Characteristic Marks of a Man who is Going to Heaven (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2003), 132.

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“The throne of God’s saving grace” by Robert Traill

“I know no true religion but Christianity. I know no true Christianity but the doctrine of Christ: of His divine person, (the image of the invisible God, Col. 1:15); of His divine office, (the Mediator betwixt God and men, 1 Tim. 2:5); of His divine righteousness, (He is the Lord our Righteousness, Jer. 23:6; which name is also called upon His church, Jer. 38:16) and of His divine Spirit, (which all that are His receive, Rom. 8:9).

I know no true ministers of Christ, but such as make it their business, in their calling, to commend Jesus Christ, in His saving fulness of grace and glory, to the faith and love of men; no true Christian, but one united to Christ by faith, and abiding in Him by faith and love, unto the glorifying of the name of Jesus Christ, in the beauties of gospel-holiness.

Ministers and Christians of this spirit, have for many years been my brethren and companions, and, I hope, shall ever be, whithersoever the hand of God shall lead me.

Through the Lord’s mercy to me, (as to many in London), I have often heard what is far more worthy of the press, than anything I can publish.

Whatever you may think of my way of managing this subject, (and indeed there is nothing in that, either as designed or expected by me, or that in itself deserveth any great regard); yet the theme itself, all must judge, who have spiritual senses, is of great importance, and always seasonable.

It is concerning the throne of God’s saving grace, reared up in Jesus Christ, and revealed unto men in the gospel; with the application all should make to that throne, the great blessings to be reaped by that application, and mens great need of those blessings.

May the Lord of the harvest, who ministered this seed to the sower, make it bread to the eater, and accompany it with His blessing on some that are called to inherit a blessing, and I have my end and desire; the reader shall have the benefit; and the Lord shall have the glory; for of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things; to whom be glory forever. Amen.

Robert Traill
London
March 25, 1696″

–Robert Traill, “Preface to The Throne of Grace,” The Works of Robert Traill, vol. 1 (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1810), ix-x.

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“Poverty of spirit” by D.A. Carson

“Poverty of spirit is the personal acknowledgment of spiritual bankruptcy. It is the conscious confession of unworth before God. As such, it is the deepest form of repentance.

It is exemplified by the guilty publican in the corner of the Temple: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” It is not a man’s confession that he is ontologically insignificant, or personally without value, for such would be untrue; it is, rather, a confession that he is sinful and rebellious and utterly without moral virtues adequate to commend him to God.

I suspect that there is no pride more deadly than that which finds its roots in great learning, great external piety, or a showy defense of orthodoxy. My suspicion does not call into question the value of learning, piety, or orthodoxy; rather, it exposes professing believers to the full glare of this beatitude.

Pride based on genuine virtues has the greatest potential for self-deception; but our Lord will allow none of it. Poverty of spirit he insists on—a full, honest, factual, conscious, and conscientious recognition before God of personal moral unworth. It is, as I have said, the deepest form of repentance.

It is not surprising, then, that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit. At the very outset of the Sermon on the Mount, we learn that we do not have the spiritual resources to put any of the Sermon’s precepts into practice.

We cannot fulfill God’s standards ourselves. We must come to him and acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy, emptying ourselves of our self-righteousness, moral self-esteem, and personal vainglory. Emptied of these things we are ready for him to fill us.

Much of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount is designed to remove these self-delusions from us, and foster within us a genuine poverty of spirit. The genuineness and depth of this repentance is a prime requirement for entering into life.”

–D.A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: An Exposition of Matthew 5–10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999/2018), 18–19.

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“Hyphenated sins” by A.W. Tozer

“We have but to look in our own hearts and we shall see a veil there, sewn and patched and repaired it may be, but there nevertheless, an enemy to our lives and an effective block to our spiritual progress.

It is woven of the fine threads of the self-life, the ‘hyphenated’ sins of the human spirit. They are not something we do; they are something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and their power.

To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention until the light of God is focused upon them.

The grosser manifestations of these sins – egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion – are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders, even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in evidence as actually, for many people, to become identified with the gospel.

I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the church visible. Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice.

One should suppose that proper instruction in the doctrines of man’s depravity and the necessity for justification through the righteousness of Christ alone would deliver us from the power of the self-sins; but it does not work out that way.

Self can live unrebuked at the very altar. It can watch the bleeding victim die and not be in the least affected by what it sees. It can fight for the faith of the Reformers and preach eloquently the creed of salvation by grace, and gain strength by its efforts.

To tell all the truth, it seems actually to feed upon orthodoxy and is more at home in a Bible conference than in a tavern.”

–A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, in Three Spiritual Classics in One Volume (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1948), 253-254.

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“Never be ashamed of being a learner” by J.C. Ryle

“Humility was the beginning of Solomon’s wisdom. He writes it down as his own experience, “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Prov. 26:12).

Young men, lay to heart the Scriptures here quoted. Do not be too confident in your own judgment.

Cease to be sure that you are always right, and others wrong. Be distrustful of your own opinion, when you find it contrary to that of older men than yourselves, and specially to that of your own parents.

Age gives experience, and therefore deserves respect. It is a mark of Elihu’s wisdom, in the book of Job, that “he waited till Job had spoken, because they were older than himself” (Job 32:4).

And afterwards he said, “I am young, and you are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not show you mine opinion. I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom” (Job 32:6, 7).

Modesty and silence are beautiful graces in young people.

Never be ashamed of being a learner. Jesus was one at twelve years; when He was found in the temple, He was “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46).

The wisest men would tell you they are always learners, and are humbled to find after all how little they know. The great Sir Isaac Newton used to say that he felt himself no better than a little child, who had picked up a few precious stones on the shore of the sea of knowledge.

Young men, if you would be wise, if you would be happy, remember the warning I give you,—Beware of pride.”

–J.C. Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1888/2018), 22-23.

 

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