the weblog of Alan Knox

Humility in action

Posted by on Apr 18, 2008 in blog links, discipleship | 9 comments

Recently, I’ve come across two excellent blog posts that demonstrate humility in action. If we consider others as more important than ourselves, then that attitude will demonstrate itself in our actions toward others.

Jonathan, at “Missio Dei“, wrote a very good post called “We Are First Human“. When Jonathan came across a new blog, we started to form preconceived ideas about the person based on the links on their blog. He says:

And then I had this surreal experience of realizing that I was judging the guy, who I don’t really know and before I ever even read much of his blog. It was a sad commentary on the brokenness of my own soul.

The moment revealed this bent in my soul to protect and control. The enemy had fed me lies that seemed so comforting and protective. “He’s not like you, so why waste time,” it said. And in some ways it is just easier to buy the lie. It’s easier to just stay out of relationship, to stay divided.

And then I had this really interesting conversation with myself about those things that divide us. It’s like this instinct to determine our differences, to find what separates us rather than what brings us together. It’s this bent of self-determination that produces conflict and argument. I found myself pulling away from commenting on his blog because of my own pre-conceived notions. And when I really looked at these judgments, they were stupid. If I was being honest, they were full of fear.

Here was a brother (We share the same Heavenly Father) and I was getting lost in the stupid stuff. I thought, “this guy probably doesn’t think like me.” What garbage.

After putting aside his preconceptions and reading what the blogger had written, this is what Jonathan found:

I ended up discovering he was a really cool guy, with great things to offer in his blog. I found he had written a paper that was very similar to the work that I do. It was cool. And this experience made me wonder how often I miss the moments that come only after I step into love and trust, into His kingdom.

Similarly, my friend Matthew, who has recently started a blog called “The Journey“, describes finding himself in a similar real-life situation in a post called “Saved by Doctrine?” In Matthew’s case, he was asked to help disciple some young men who were part of a “different” church. He admits that he was secretly dreading taking part:

When my friend from Gardner-Webb called and asked if I could help her out, I accepted immediately, but with quiet reservations. Even as I walked over from my dorm to the church (which is right on campus by the way) I was silently praying and fearing that they would shun me when they found out I was from the seminary. I was scared. And it was completely ridiculous.

What did Matthew discover when he decided to help out?

Not only did I meet some of the sweetest, nicest people I have ever met there, I was accepted immediately and treated like one of their own. The guys I taught were great, and while we didn’t agree on everything, we had a great time and I hope I get to know them better. I gave my contact info to the youth minister there, and he invited me to come and help anytime with anything, and even invited me to have lunch with him anytime.

Matthew learned that God’s family is bigger than he thought. He remembered that we are brought into God’s family by grace, not by doctrine.

How many times do we refuse to listen to someone or refuse to take part in something because someone believes something a little differently than we do? Could it be that God wants to use that other brother or sister to draw us closer to himself, to teach us something about him, or to give us an opportunity to serve him? But, we refuse to listen or take part because of pride. Yes, it is pride.

It take humility to admit that even though our doctrines differ, we remain brothers and sister in Christ – children of God. And, the injunction to consider others as more important than ourselves includes “them” too.


9 Comments

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  1. 4-18-2008

    Thanks for another thought provoking post, Brother. I can’t tell you how often I fall into that same trap. Seeing it for the lie of the enemy that it is, is an excellent insight into overcoming it.

  2. 4-18-2008

    Larry,

    I do the same thing…

    -Alan

  3. 4-20-2008

    . . . we are brought into God’s family by grace, not by doctrine.”

    Alan,

    I know you are not saying this, but to clarify for the readers, I would like to offer with humility some humble thoughts on the above statement. I think it is important to remember that when we write about such important things as grace and doctrine that it is important to do so in such a way that reflects what is a both/and versus an either/or situation.

    It is indeed a glorious truth that we are brought into the one universal body of Christ through God’s grace. However, we must first have knowledge of certain propositional/doctrinal truths (i.e., the 1 Cor. 15:3-5 basic gospel message) and only then can we assent to these propositions and by grace through faith, place our trust in Christ, the very One who providentially preserved these propositional/doctrinal truths in the Scriptures.

    In other words, though we should not divide from others who profess the name of Christ over peripheral doctrinal issues (i.e., differing orthodox eschatological views, mode and recipients of baptism, ecclesiology, etc.), we should *never* compromise the core issues related to the gospel of grace, the nature of Christ, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and other important doctrines. If we have these core doctrines wrong, we cannot be united in one Spiritual body because we are not of the same spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 2:6-15). If we approach a discussion with the false antithesis of grace versus doctrine, we will soon find ourselves yoked with those who deny these core essentials; thus nullifying the very grace we claim that binds us together.

    I say these things with a deep love for Christ, His word, and His people.

  4. 4-22-2008

    Dusty,

    I think I understand what you are saying, and for the most part I do agree with you. However, I do not think we are saved because we know certain things – even correct and true things. We are saved by God’s grace. It is important for us to grow in knowledge and in faith, but we are not God’s children because of these things.

    -Alan

  5. 4-23-2008

    Alan, are you saying than that you can be saved and not know it? Salvation comes by grace through faith. Obviously it is God’s grace and my faith; a heavenly tango of sorts. And faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Would not then a faith knowledge be needed in order to be a recipient of the saving grace?

  6. 4-25-2008

    However, I do not think we are saved because we know certain things – even correct and true things. We are saved by God’s grace. It is important for us to grow in knowledge and in faith, but we are not God’s children because of these things.

    Alan,

    Thanks for your elaboration my brother. Indeed, I agree that we are not saved by propositional knowledge qua propositional knowledge. That was not what I was getting at. However, can a person be saved by the Mormon Jesus or the JW Jesus? After all, both of these false Christs died, were buried, and were resurrected according to their own cultic theologies. Alan, you know just as well as I that your faith is no better than the object (read “person”) in which it is placed. Can a person who outright rejects the deity of Christ be saved? Not according to Christ (John 8:24). Does that mean that a person has to immediately and automatically understand the intricacies of the Trinity at the moment of confessing faith in Christ. No, that’s virtually impossible any way you cut it. Can a person who attends the meeting of a cultic group who teaches a false view of Christ be saved? Most certainly; but this would be in spite of the group’s false teachings, not because of it. I’m not saying that a person needs to know all the intricate details of systematic theology to be saved, but I *am* saying that there is a clear and definitive line in the sand that must be drawn when it comes to understanding who can and cannot access God’s saving grace by understanding certain simple, doctrinal/propositional truths. Thus, doctrine does matter to a certain extent when it comes to accessing God’s saving grace even though that saved person’s understanding may be very, very simple and incomplete (1 Cor. 13:12).

    With all due respect for you as my dear brother, what I’m still having difficulty with regarding the aforementioned statement (i.e., “. . . we are brought into God’s family by grace, not by doctrine.”) is that I believe it to be a careless comment that implies an “either/or” distinction that is either unbiblical and unhelpful at best or heretical at worst.

    This type of sharp either/or distinction is a false antithesis that is prevalent in many emergent circles and it has spread into “house church”, “simple church”, and “organic church” circles too. I often hear on the internet and in reading emergent books, “It doesn’t matter really what you believe, just love Jesus!” Sadly, statements like that can be taken to mean that we are saved by God’s grace *apart from* the simple, yet propositional revelation of that grace in the proclamation of the gospel. This contradicts Scripture, smacks of some type of heretical inclusivism and universalism, and likens God’s grace unto a cheap brand of peanut butter rather than the exclusive truth that Jesus said it was (John 14:6). So, according to Scripture, to be brought into God’s family by grace logically necessitates the proclamation of gospel *doctrine*, albeit simple doctrine. Again, any other option leads to salvation outside of a knowledge of Christ and his gospel or salvation through a false Christ and a false gospel, something Jesus and the apostles took great pains to explicitly refute (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 2 Cor. 11:4; Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Tim. 2:5).

    Again, according to Scripture, some type of simple proclamation of the doctrines of the gospel, no matter how skewed it may be, *is* the necessary precondition for “being brought into God’s family by grace” (cf. Romans 10:17). Thus, the statement in question is sloppy and misleading at best because it assumes an “either/or” antithesis that is neither biblical nor necessary and heretical at worst because it assumes that the proclamation of some type of simple gospel doctrine isn’t necessary for accessing God’s grace.

    In conclusion, while we are indeed saved by God’s grace, we cannot imply through careless statements that set up a false, “either/or” antithesis that we are thusly saved and have access to God’s saving grace *apart from* the proclamation of at least some simple form of the doctrine of the gospel. Thanks for your consideration my dear brother.

  7. 4-25-2008

    Alan,
    Thanks for the link to those blogs.

    I obviously can’t speak for you, but I’m certain you are not saying that one can be saved and not know it, I’m also as certain, that you are not saying that we can be saved without receiving intellectual information by hearing the doctrine (teaching) of salvation explained, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom.10:17).

    A comment has raised the question: From whence does “faith” arise?

    It seems to me that during all of my years of ministry one of the issues I have had to help people deal with is the belief that human generated faith, in co-operation with God’s grace, is the way of being saved.

    Jesus made it very clear, in the context that He knew there were some “who do not believe” that “no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (John 6:65). It was in much the same context, of some having “seen Me, and yet do not believe” , that Jesus declares, “all that the Father gives to Me will come to Me.” (John 6:37). There can be no doubt that Jesus connects “believe” and “come to Me”, which simply means “believe in Me”. So Jesus is saying that no one can believe in Him unless God gives them the ability to do so. In addition, Jesus is saying that all to whom God gives the gift to, will believe. God gives faith, the end result of which will unfailingly take shape in the hearts and minds of those He has given His Son.
    Saving faith cannot be self-generated by spiritually dead human nature. Saving faith is a work of God, from start to finish, through His Holy Spirit that causes a human being to become spiritually alive and humble enough to recognize his/her sinful need and submit to God. As Paul is inspired to say in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast”. It is a boast about our works (of co-operating), whether we like it or not, to say, “I co-operated with God, by mustering faith to receive His grace”. Paul made it abundantly clear in Romans 3:27; 4:4,5.
    John also made it abundantly clear in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life”.
    It is only when we understand that salvation is, from start to finish, ALL a work of God that we can have the confidence of Paul for the believers in Philippi, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus”. (Phil. 1:6).

    That is the confidence of this old sinner; God began a work in me during my teen years, He has continued it for 69 years, and He will bring it to completion when I “see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

  8. 4-25-2008

    Joan,

    Thank you for your comment. No, I certainly do not deny the importance of faith, although faith and knowledge are not the same thing. I certainly affirm salvation by grace through faith. And, I affirm the statement that follows in Ephesians 2:8-9 – “it is a gift of God, not of works”.

    Dusty,

    Thank you also for the comment and for the concern. I agree with everything that you said. Yes, it is very important that we teach “sound doctrine” so that we and others and grow in faith and in knowledge. Yes, there are many false gods and false saviors, and no, salvation is not found in any of them. But, like you said, it is possible for someone to be saved while in a cult and while being taught false doctrine. Their salvation is not based on what they are taught. Likewise, our salvation is not based on what we are taught or what we teach – whether that teaching corresponds to the truth about God, or whether that teaching does not correspond to the truth about God. This is a very good thing, because, like you said, we will not know the complete truth about God until we see him face to face. Thus, all of us misunderstand some things about God, while we certainly understand some things about God.

    Again, I’m not denying the importance of faith – in fact I think faith is extremely important – nor am I denying the importance of a correct understanding of God. Instead, I am simply affirming the reformational idea of salvation “by grace alone”.

    -Alan

  9. 4-26-2008

    Alan,

    Thank you again for your “hearing me out”. I appreciate your willingness to listen as well as further clarify your position. Again, I’m not trying to be difficult, I’m just trying to be “iron sharpening iron” with the hope that I get sharpened too!

    I hope you had a great vacation with your family and the Lord granted you some rest.