Humility: True Greatness

C. J. Mahaney

174 pages

Multnomah (2005)

Humility

Recommend: Yes

Genre: Christian Living/Practical Life

Introduction:

In Isaiah 66:2, God says, “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit” (ESV). What a standard! Humility is one of those character traits that the world values in word but not in actuality. For the Christian humility is not only indispensable, but a mandate. One of my good friends would often jokingly tell me, “I’m the most humble person I know,” while I would respond, “I’m so proud of my humility.” While we may joke around with humility, we all know the natural human tendency to become puffed up and arrogant. Sometimes we even portray a “false” humility where we fake our piety in order to receive applause and praise for our facade. Indeed, to be humble is the pursuit of a lifetime when placed under the perfect shadow of our Lord who Himself came not “. . . to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

From the outset, C. J. Mahaney makes this disclaimer:

“I’m a proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God. I don’t write as an authority on humility; I write as a fellow pilgrim walking with you on the path set for us by our humble Savior. I can only address you with confidence in the great and gracious God who has promised to give grace to the humble . . .” (pp. 13-14).

Book Structure:

The book is easily organized into three sections. In the first section, Mahaney examines how humility is our greatest friend with all its promises and how pride is our greatest enemy with all its perils. The second section seeks to redefine success by taking a look at the Word of God and observing Christ who not only redefined greatness by His words but ultimately by the giving up of His own life for His own creation. And then finally in the third section, Mahaney gets very practical with the “How To’s” in cultivating humility and weakening pride each and every day for the glory of God.
Notable Quotes:

  • “The sad fact is that none of us are immune to the logic-defying effects of pride. Though is shows up in different forms and to differing degrees, it infects us all. The real issue here is not if pride exists in your heart; it’s where pride exists and how pride is being expressed in your life. . . . Pride takes innumerable forms but has only one end: self-glorification. That’s the motive and ultimate purpose of pride—to rob God of legitimate glory and to pursue self-glorification, contending for supremacy with Him. The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive” (pp.29,32).
  • “Jesus alone came to give His life as a ransom for the sins of many—and this separates Him from any other sacrificial service that anyone else anywhere could ever offer. Here we find what is completely, utterly, and categorically unique about the Savior and His example. And in true humility, our own service to others is always both an effect of His unique sacrifice and the evidence of it. His sacrifice alone makes it possible for us to achieve and experience true greatness in God’s eyes” (p.48).
  • “What a powerful death! The cross ransoms, the cross liberates, the cross transforms! So make it your aim and lifelong habit, when you see someone serving, to be reminded of the sacrifice of the Savior, for apart from His sacrifice there is no serving. True greatness is attained only by emulating the Savior’s example—and made possible only by the Savior’s sacrifice” (p.58).
  • “Let each of us recognize every day that whatever grace we receive from God is so much more than we’re worthy of, and indescribably better than the hell we all deserve” (p.71).
  • “Humility doesn’t demand mathematical precision from another’s input; humility postures itself to receive God’s grace from any avenue possible” (p.134).
  • “Those who know true joy in the midst of suffering are those who recognize that, in this life, our suffering is never as great or as serious as our sins. As Jonathan Edwards wrote, ‘How far less [are] the greatest afflictions that we meet with in this world . . . than we have deserved!’ That’s a divine perspective of suffering. Regardless of the severity of suffering we experience in this life, it will always be less than what we have deserved for our sins” (p.149).
  • “That, my friend, is amazing grace, simply amazing! And because of Him we can know forgiveness of sins and freedom from fear of future wrath. Because He ‘humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross,’ we can be reconciled to God and know Him as Father and no longer as Judge—and only because of His perfect humility and perfect sacrifice on the cross for our pride” (p.168).

Conclusion:

Being humble is no easy job. To be truly humble as God defines it goes against the grain of our world’s conception of humility. It is only by the work of Christ that we can become truly humble. And yes, in a sense, in this side of heaven we will never arrive to perfection. By grace we strive each day to mortify the remaining presence of pride in us, and by that same grace we plead with God to grow in us a heart akin to God’s that seeks no recognition and no fame. What a calling?!

I hope Mahaney can awaken your heart to the reality of pride and the necessity for humility as he has in me. I recommend this book whole-heartedly for any Christian who seeks to glorify God in all things.

Additional Resources:

– Listen to this free sermon by C. J. Mahaney on the subject of humility, entitled “True Greatness.”

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