Recipe for Humility, Final Preparations

James 4:7-10: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Recipe for Humility:

Ingredient #1: Submission to God

Ingredient #2: Actively resist the devil

Ingredient #3: Draw near to God

When this recipe is made, you get humility!

We are made humble in our eyes and before the Lord. Not surprisingly, the world also takes notice of a humble person.

We don’t practice humility to be exalted (sounds like the opposite of humility) because that may not happen this side of eternity. But verse 10 does promise that GOD WILL lift us up. 

Whether it is here on earth or in heaven, we can trust God.

If God lifts us up, NO man can tear us down. God cannot retract this promise.

The best example of the humility/exaltation promise is found in Christ. As we saw in Philippians 2:8-11: 

And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

How are we to apply the recipe of humility in our lives?

First, we submit to God. We recognize that God is not only our Savior, but He is our Lord. We offer every aspect of our life to Him and His plans and purposes. We relate to God wholeheartedly in recognition of God’s total claim upon our lives.

Second, start your day by putting on the armor of God. The belt of truth, body armor of God’s righteousness, shoes of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (Word of God) all help us actively resist the devil. 

Third, we draw near to God through spiritual disciplines. As we read, meditate, and study the Word of God, and as we pray, fast, give, worship, confess, and fellowship with the faith family, we are drawing near to God. This must be done day in and day out.

Some questions to consider:

-If you were to try to make the recipe for humility, what ingredient would you be short of?

-In what ways have you been humbled before the Lord? In what ways is He trying to humble you now?-Do you trust God to keep His promise in James 4:10?

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MWM: Fix your eyes upon Jesus!

Focus. How many times a day do we have to tell our kids to focus on the task in front of them? I used to get in trouble as a kid for not being able to focus in elementary school. It turns out I was just bored! Once the teachers figured this out, they gave me more engaging activities and more challenging work. Even today, we jump from task to task or meeting to meeting while productivity continues to decrease. We have “full focus planners” and focus coaches and a whole host of other gimmicks, all designed to bring focus and clarity to our lives. While I am not knocking those (I utilize a daily planner/taskmaster and have consulted coaches/mentors), the Bible encourages us to narrow our focus to one thing: Jesus Christ. Are your activities encouraging people to look to Christ? Is your calendar centered around your achievements or spreading the good news of Jesus? Yes, we must attend to the mundane, but even then, we can do all things to the glory of Christ. Paul’s focus was on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Everything else took a backseat. Don’t be distracted by the things of this world. As the hymn says: Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full into His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace!

Philippians 3:13: “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…”

#MinuteWithMaxon #MWM #Philippians

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Recipe for Humility, Ingredient #3: Draw Near to God

James 4:7-10: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

We have already seen the base ingredient for humility is submission to God. The second ingredient was actively resisting the devil. Today, we are introduced to the third ingredient: drawing near to God.

Verse 8 opens with “Come near…” Other translations use the words “Draw near…” This contains the idea of moving toward something. In the case of God, this is an invitation with a promise!

Before the fall of man, before sin entered the world, there was no distance between man and God; there was perfect harmony and perfect relationship. Because of man’s sin and our continued sin, there is a distance and a separation from God.

Drawing near is more than a “try harder” aspect of the Christian walk. We are to come into the full presence of God, to reside, to be comfortable, to be at home.

There is a story of a husband and a wife driving in an old pickup truck with bench seats (I miss bench seats!). They see a couple in another car where the wife is sitting right next to her man. The older wife looks at the husband and asks, “Why don’t we sit closer?” The husband, a man of many words, simply grunted and said, “I didn’t move.” 

If you feel that there is any distance between you and God, the problem isn’t God. It is you. What sin is there in your life that is putting up a block between you and God? He is waiting to forgive you and restore the relationship.

Some folks think they have sinned so much, or done something so terribly wrong, that there is never anything they could do to get back in God’s good graces. You know what, they are right! There is nothing THEY can do, but God can, and God did. Because of what Christ did for us by dying on the cross for our sins, we can have fellowship with God once again. Jesus took our sins and the wrath of God upon Himself, so we can be free to be loved by God and pursue the Christian life. God never stops loving you; He is waiting for you to come near to Him.

The promise that we have in this verse that if we come near to God, He will come near to us. 

God’s heart yearns for His kids.

If you remember the Prodigal son’s story from Luke 15, it is the father in the story that represents God. He is waiting for his son to return, watching for him, yearning for him, and when the son returns, the father rejoices and throws a party.

When you return to God, when you repent, confess, and accept the free gift of grace, there is a massive party in heaven, just for you!

How is a close relationship possible? Because of Christ.

How do we cultivate, or come near, to God? The same way you do in other relationships: TIME together. 

Most people, especially kids, spell love T-I-M-E.

This requires intentionality and a plan. Start with your Bible and a journal. Keep it simple.

Some questions to consider:

-What does your allocation of time tell you and others about your priorities?

-When do you have scheduled time to draw near to God?-Do you feel far from God? If so, why do you think that is?

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MWM: Are you ready to live?

I love playing basketball. I’m not very good, and I have a miserable vertical jump, but I still love playing. I enjoy playing defense. One of my favorite defensive strategies in basketball is the full-court press. This is when you don’t let your opponent advance the ball one inch without contesting ground. You make it hard for them to move up and down the court. Full-court defense only works if you are in better shape than your opponent. In today’s verse, Paul presses on towards his goal of ultimate victory in Christ. Paul knows that Christ has already won the game, but he still works on living a good life. We call this sanctification. The believer in Jesus works with God to advance the gospel’s mission in the believer’s life and the community around them. The believer does not work for their salvation (this is called justification and is an entirely free gift from God), but we work out our salvation. So, Christian, how are you doing? As God works in you, how are you working out your salvation? How are you growing in Christlikeness? Are you truly living for Christ? How? If not, what is holding you back?

Philippians 3:12: “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.”

#MinuteWithMaxon #MWM #Philippians

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Recipe for Humility, Ingredient #2: Active Resistance of the Devil

James 4:7-10: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

The first half of verse 7 is the key to the second. Without an on-going submission to God, resisting the devil will be impossible. Every ingredient for humility from here on out is worthless without submission. Failure to fully submit hinders our relationship with Christ, and therefore we leak power. It is like you spill some of the base ingredient on the counter while cooking and don’t add more; the meal won’t come out well, and there won’t be as much.

Who is the devil? 

The devil thinks he is equal with God in power but isn’t even close. He stands in direct opposition to the things of God.

John 8:44: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

The function of Satan and His minions today is to steal, kill, destroy. He wants to steal as much glory from God as possible. He wants to ruin your life. He wants to kill anything in you that brings you closer to God or who God designed you to be. He is ruthless and doesn’t care about you in the least. He is selfish, narcissistic, and prideful.

What does it mean to resist?

Resist means to be against, to express opposition and hostility towards something or someone. It is an active word; it implies movement.

1 Peter 5:6-9: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Submission to God before resistance. The order is important!

Once again, we look to Jesus to show us proper resistance to the devil. In His temptations, Satan presents Him many opportunities to sin.

Matthew 4 outlines Jesus’ temptation by Satan. We see in verse one how the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness. A lonely place. Desolate. Harsh. In verse two, we learn how Jesus spent time with God to prepare to meet the devil’s temptations. Often, our resistance power is low because we don’t spend time with God. If you experience continual failure in temptations, perhaps your resistance is low. One such cause of that may be not enough time with God. Satan does his best to keep us from spiritual things. He fills our calendars, diverts our money, and surrounds us with worldly and material things to keep us from God. In verse three, Satan is trying to get Jesus to act independently of God.  Jesus uses Scripture to refute every temptation Satan throws at Him. You can’t quote what you don’t know! This is why Bible study, meditation, and memorization is key to winning the fight.

Occasionally, some people proclaim, “The devil made me do it…” NO! Christian, the devil can’t make you do anything. He can tempt, he can trick, he can place things in front of you, but you still have a choice. You can’t blame the devil. We are a NEW creation in Christ. This means the old has gone, and the new has come!

Stand against the devil’s deception and efforts to intimidate you. Satan is a conquered foe, thanks to Christ’s defeat of sin and death at the cross.

Stop resisting God and start fighting Satan. 

Stop believing the lies of Satan and start trusting the Word of God.

You need a well thought out plan. The devil has had thousands of years of experience and is very good at what he does. However, he cannot stand against the Word of God.

Know, meditate, return to, discuss with others, ask for help, pray scripture!

What is the result of this submission to God and active resistance of the devil?

A promise of God: Satan will flee from you! Satan will run away quickly.

Failure to resist Satan means he can stick around and harass us, entice us, and cause us all sorts of trouble and heartache. NO, CHRISTIAN! Resist him, he has NO power of you.

Ironside once said, “Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.”

Some questions to consider:

-Why must we submit to God before trying to resist the devil?

-Why is resistance significant?

-In what ways has your will to resist been lessened?

-What can you do today to resist the devil?

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MWM: Are you ready to die?

There is a 100% chance you are going to die. Every one of us will someday take our last breath. What happens next? Well, that’s up to you! While some don’t believe in eternity after death, I prefer to think there is more to our existence than the here and now. I base this hope on the Words of the Bible. If the Bible is true, and heaven is real, then so is hell. If the Bible is true, there is only one way to experience eternal life, belief in Jesus Christ. When we believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, we are promised that though our bodies may die, someday they will be resurrected to new life and a glorious eternity in the presence of God and other saints. What amazing hope! What amazing grace! Most followers of Jesus are excited about the “afterlife” because of what we will experience. We may fear the process of death, but we know what happens after. Do you? Are you ready to die? You can be! Don’t wait. Say yes to Jesus.

Philippians 3:11: “so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!”

#MinuteWithMaxon #MWM #Philippians

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MWM: Mid-year Goal Review

We usually only talk about goals around the New Year. A few years ago, I tried one of those goal journals where you set a three-month goal, broke it down into smaller pieces, and then track your progress daily. I found that goals set in the middle of the year are just as likely to fail as those set in January unless there are a clear plan and ruthless accountability. Paul had one goal in his life: to know Christ. The idea of “know” is to acquire first-hand knowledge through observation of the senses. We can know Christ through reading, studying, and meditating on the Bible. We can also know Christ by praying, speaking to God, and listening in silence. We can know Christ through serving others. Is knowing Christ your ultimate goal? What can you do today to get to know Christ? Either for the first time or getting reacquainted with Him? 

Philippians 3:10: “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death.”

#MinuteWithMaxon #MWM #Philippians

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Recipe for Humility-Ingredient#1: Submission to God

James 4:7-10: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

When I was in college, and before I got married, I did a lot of cooking. It was generally awful. I don’t know how many times I would start dinner and get half-way through the recipe before I realized I didn’t have all the ingredients. I didn’t plan. You would think I would learn, but it took a long time and many failed recipes before I started to get just okay. Now, keep in mind, this was mostly before smartphones and Google, and my mom didn’t always answer the phone (no cell phones), so I was left up to my own choices. Not good. 

We ended the last blog talking about how God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. What does it mean to be humble?

Webster defines “Humble” in this way: Lowly; modest; meek; submissive; opposed to proud, haughty, arrogant, or assuming and in an evangelical sense, having a low opinion of one’s self and a deep sense of unworthiness in the sight of God.

All of the commands in James 4:7-10 flow from James’ desire that we live a life of godliness, not worldliness. The world promotes pride and arrogance, doesn’t it? How much do we pay our actors or our sports heroes to play a part of arrogance? What gets the most significant news coverage? Not humility.  Pride wins the day in the world economy, but not God’s.

In this passage, we see four ingredients in the recipe for humility.

Today, we examine Ingredient #1: Submission to God.

Submit means “To yield, resign or surrender to the power, will or authority of another.” It is a military term. In our relationship to God, we are to order ourselves under the authority of God, to give absolute and complete control of our life to Christ.

Most of us have voluntarily submitted our lives to something or someone. Notice that James says we are to submit to God. The object of our submission is essential.

The best illustration of submission to God is Jesus Christ Himself.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but thy will.”

We submit our desires, dreams, purposes, plans, and hopes to God’s will, not ours. We utterly abandon ourselves to God.

Is your car out of alignment? You may not be able to see it by looking at the vehicle and may not feel it, but there are other indications. Look at your tires! If the tread shows wear and tear in places it shouldn’t, your car might be out of alignment. 

Similarly, look at your life! Look at your marriage. Is there wear and tear where there should be unity? You might be out of alignment. This happens when you fail to submit every aspect of your life to God.

If you fail to get this first ingredient correct, it messes up the entire recipe. One time, I was baking a cake, and I didn’t have flour, so I substituted baking powder or powdered sugar. They look the same! What a nightmare. It was inedible and ruined the entire evening. 

Similarly, if we submit to the wrong thing or don’t fully submit to God, the rest of our Christian life will not go according to plan.

Submission involves active obedience to God’s commands. Crying out, “NOT MY WILL, BUT YOUR WILL!”

Some questions to consider:

-Where is your spiritual life out of alignment?

-Have you fully submitted to God?

-Why is submission to God key to living the Christian life?

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MWM: Legalists Can’t Save

I apologize for the long break in these devotionals. It is a good thing my works don’t save me (and yours don’t save you). Since I’m a “recovering” legalist, it is easy for me to get down on myself when I have items on my to-do list incomplete that day. If I look back at the last three weeks, I could barely keep up with brushing my teeth. It wasn’t because I was too busy, but because my dad died, I didn’t have the headspace to do much more than the bare minimum. I still don’t have much room up there. If I were still a full-fledged legalist, I would have lost my faith and doubted my salvation these past few weeks because my daily spiritual disciplines suffered, my prayer life all but disappeared, I had bouts of selfishness, and the list goes on. Praise God; my righteousness comes through faith in what Christ has done and not my works. I’d be lost without the saving power of Christ and Christ alone. It is God who makes me right with Him. Amen and Amen!

Philippians 3:9: “…and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.”

#MinuteWithMaxon #MWM #Philippians

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Intolerance of God, Part 2

James 4:4-6: “4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’”

In this passage, we see how God is intolerant of two heart attitudes.

In the last post, we saw how God is intolerant of rivals. He wants to be first place in our life. Today, we see the second heart attitude that God is intolerant of. Pride.

God is intolerant of PRIDE

Scripture says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Opposes/resists: military term for getting arranged for battle. Can you picture God getting arranged for battle? What resources does He have at His disposal? Do you want to try to stand against God’s opposing forces?

Pride: feelings of unwarranted importance. These are those “look at me” moments in life.

Humble: gentle, lowly,

The greatest example of pride in the Bible is Satan, and our greatest example of humility is Jesus Christ.

Let me share with you some “proverbs” that flow throughout the book of James. They are warnings against pride and arrogance:

•           “Arrogant eyes” are at the top of the list of seven things the Lord hates the most (Proverbs 6:16-19).

•           Pride leads to disgrace and humility leads to wisdom (Proverbs 11:2).

•           Humility leads to honor (Proverbs 15:33).

•           Pride leads to a downfall (Proverbs 18:12).

•           “Haughty eyes and an arrogant heart” indicate sin (Proverbs 21:4).

•           Mocking others is a reflection of “excessive pride” (Proverbs 21:24).

•           Humility leads to godly fear (Proverbs 22:4).                    

•           Pride will ultimately humble a person (Proverbs 29:23).

Pride cheats God of the honor and glory due Him.

When we act independently of God, it reminds Him of Satan, the ultimate do-it-yourself guy. 

These two heart attitudes can also be considered idols. We don’t think in these terms here in the United States much because we don’t have little golden calves. Satan has been more discreet with the idols we are presented with today.

Webster provides two definitions of idolatry: 

1. The worship of idols, images, or anything made by hands, or which is not God. Idolatry is of two kinds; the worship of images, statues, pictures, &c. made by hands; and the worship of the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon and stars, or of demons, angels, men and animals.

2. Excessive attachment or veneration for anything, or that which borders on adoration.

Since our idols are the things we treasure and value more than Jesus, we discover them by honestly asking what gives our life meaning, worth, and value.  Look at the table below. Which of these idols give your life meaning?  What are the things you treasure that give your life value and worth? 

Power IdolApproval Idol
control
position
influence
success
strength (exerted)
relationships
achievement
ethnicity
social circles
appearance
Security IdolComfort Idol
family
finances
protection
religion
safety
future
pleasure
health
freedom
excesses
home/vehicles
recreation
From Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood

As you can see, even if water and oil appear to be mixed, they separate themselves because water is intolerant of oil. As vibrant followers of Christ, we are to be intolerant of the worldly system. We are to be intolerant of anything inside of us that sets itself up in opposition or rebellion to God. 

Christ has overcome the world, and with His power and by His grace, as we rest in Him, we will overcome the world too. 

The oil in our passages are rivals in our heart and pride in our heart.

So, what can we do?

1. Learn how to live in the world without being of the world. We are sojourners, or travelers in this world. We need to travel through this world without being stained. This doesn’t mean we withdraw to a monastery and become hermits. We engage the world with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We daily submit our lives to the One who is able to keep us pure. We use the common sense that God has given us; if we have a problem with alcohol, we avoid bars; if we struggle with lust, we stay out of adult entertainment stores; if we struggle with drugs, we stay away from the dealers. God has given us a brain, use it for His glory, don’t let Satan control it. Ask God to show you where you are living in the world, confess, and REPENT.

2. Accept God’s GRACE! Grace is the driving force behind our salvation, sanctification, and security.

We are saved by grace. God is overloaded with it! God never runs out of grace. God’s grace is able to overcome our unfaithfulness. When our heart strays, it is God’s grace that brings us back and God’s grace that forgives.

Some questions to consider:

-What are some idols in your life?

-Why is God intolerant of pride?

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