The heart is deceitful above all things….. (Jeremiah 7:9). It often takes us where we don’t want to go, where we never even THOUGHT of going. It’s as if it purposefully detours us from our intended course, blurring the most obvious warning signs passed along the way.
As believers in Christ, our heart continues to exert its influence on us with the temptation to glory in our “faith”, as opposed to our Lord. As we grow in maturity, it can become a double-edged sword, as we may unintentionally grow in self-righteousness, exalting ourselves over others “less godly”.
I have found that the truly “mature” are the ones most humble about themselves and most in awe about Jesus. They have found the path to overcoming “self”, realizing the propensity of the heart to glory in the wrong things, even godliness and the attention it garners.
As I exit out of the gospels in my chronological Bible, I begin reading in Acts where I notice a seemingly unimportant detail that strikes my attention. Peter and John are going up to the temple to pray, when they encounter a crippled beggar asking them for money in Acts 3:1-16.
After spending time with Jesus after He was resurrected and being filled with His Holy Spirit, these two men have grown in their faith by leaps and bounds. Yet, in this passage, I recognize how well they are responding to this newfound maturity.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?
I can’t help but notice Peter’s humility, as he quickly set the crowd straight on the viewpoint to explain what had just happened. The crowd was beginning to exalt Peter and John, as they witnessed the powerful miracle displayed before all their eyes. But Peter immediately corrected their assumption that the credit was due to the apostles’ own power or godliness.
The word that comes to my mind is “humility”, which means to have a modest or low view of one’s own importance. There is a tendency to believe that the more we despise ourselves or thinks less of ourselves, the more humble we are. Unfortunately, this can bring about a false humility, which in reality is the pursuit of attention. It can be tempting to “hide” behind this false humility, but it usually becomes obvious to others the game being played.
I like the definition of the word humility that I heard years ago, as it clarifies the distinction for me.
In essence, “self” is out of mind and of no importance. A person with humility does not consider themselves as often, or as much, as a prideful person. They are not after attention in the least, usually they shy away from it, as in the case of Peter and John.These two apostles understood that their “godliness” was of no value publicly and it was not to be exhalted before others.
This contrasts greatly with just a few chapters over in Acts 8:4-23, where Simon coveted the power and ability displayed by Phillip, Peter and John, as they performed miraculous signs and the laying on of hands for the receiving of the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw the attention garnered from the ministry given to others, he wanted some for himself. But Peter saw his false motive for ministry, the promoting of self before others, and he called Simon out about his selfish ambition.
That’s the tricky thing about motives- any and all can become skewed by our hearts if allowed. Proverbs 16:2 explains the reality.
All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.
Who would have thought that serving others, ministry, or even godliness could be rooted in impure motives? Jesus did and He was blunt with crowds who were following Him in Matthew 6, warning them about using religion to obtain favor and praise. He openly rebuked parading righteous acts before others for attention. You would think that self-righteousness would be a “no-brainer”, obviously inappropriate in the life of believers. But to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, it was too often the norm.
That’s why it is so wonderful to see the apostles example such humility as they grew in power and authority. They discounted their own abilities or godliness and gave credit where it belonged. Acts 3:13-16 says,
13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
How refreshing to see the attention placed where it belonged! How powerful to learn how to tame the beast of “self” that wages war against God’s path for us!
Our hearts may chart a course for themselves at times, but humility takes the reigns and submits the control to the One deserving it. As deceived as we can become in life by not recognizing when “self” perverts our motives, we can overcome by rejecting selfish thoughts and considerations. Christ can be exalted in our hearts as “self” is kicked to the back of our minds. Humility teaches us that self needs to be considered less and less!