Snapshots Of A Humble Heart
November 24, 2019 | Randy Smith
Snapshots Of A Humble Heart
Sunday, November 24, 2019
Pastor Randy Smith
I was patient with my church computer. It was becoming painfully slow and it would at times crash on me. Even after we upgraded the Internet service in this building, I would still battle the temptations that probably come to all of our minds when we encounter these common 21st Century technical trials.
Finally, I broke down and accepted the reality that I needed a new computer. Since the family computer at home was not much better, it was time to replace both units – I mean, we depend on these things, right?
I believe during lunchbreak one afternoon; I took a drive with Pastor Jack to the Apple Store in the Freehold Mall. For the church I selected a small computer, but for the home I spent a little more for a computer with a large screen.
The salesperson wheeled out the two machines out on a cart. She asked if I needed help bringing them to the car. I looked at her and smiled. She said they were heavy. Still smiling, leaving the smaller one for Pastor Jack (ha!), I grabbed the plastic handle and forcefully lifted the large computer.
Within a span of about 2 seconds the 4-inch plastic handle came detached, the computer sailed through the air and came crashing down on the floor flat on face of the box. BAM!
Have you ever been to the Apple Store? Informal. Almost resembling a hip coffee house with brighter lights. Packed with people milling around, all having their personal conversations with the employees. The atmosphere is like a carnival.
Instantly the place went quiet and every head turned in my direction. Pastor Jack took a step away from me as I was holding nothing but this wimpy plastic handle in my hand looking at the salesperson in shock. If you could read my expression it must have shouted, “What did I do wrong?”
Yet when the slowest 5 seconds of my life had passed, the heads tuned away and everyone resumed their business.
I share that story because it really seems to depict the biblical account we have before us this morning. Jesus comes to a town. He makes a comment. He creates a commotion. The people are in shock. Yet in His case the people get angry and have a hard time turning away and going back to their business.
We are nearing the end of our Savior’s ministry. His statements are provocative. His opponents (the religious leaders) are unequivocally determined to kill Him. But to kill Jesus they need to find a good reason that will appeal to the authorities and the masses.
Therefore they, 14:1, they invite Him “into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees.” It was on the Sabbath and most likely it was a lunch. However, the mere fact that they invited Jesus and moreover, a sick man with dropsy (verse 2), unmasks their intentions. Verse 1, “They were watching Him closely.” This was a test to condemn Jesus. Would He heal this sick man on the Sabbath? Not a violation of God’s law, but rather a violation of their own man-made legalistic rules that were more important.
Jesus questioned them in verses 3 and 5. But verse 4, “they kept silent.” Of course they did because He recently “humiliated” them over the same incident – remember 13:17? Verse 6, “They could make no reply to this.”
I think the line that must have ticked-off these Jewish religious leaders the most is found in 13:28-29. Contrary to their beliefs, they were not a lock for the Kingdom of God. Rather they would look in and see Gentiles while they would be confined to a place where (13:28) “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
So, they seek to trap Jesus, but today we will see how Jesus traps them. They had nothing to say. Jesus will have plenty to say to them. They were watching Jesus to catch Him in error, but Jesus was also watching them as we will soon see.
So why could these leaders not enter the “narrow door?” (13:24)? Why did these leaders reject their Messiah, Jesus Christ? What was there evidence they were not in the Kingdom of God?
Today our Lord will provide two answers based upon their own actions pertaining to a common trait they were missing. And this teaching applies to us today as well. How do we come to Jesus? What does the heart look like that expresses true faith? And how may I know I am truly a citizen of God’s Kingdom?
I’ll provide the sermon conclusion at the beginning: God rejects the prideful but gives grace to the humble. Now let me attempt to support that with this passage.
So, while we are about a third done with the sermon, I present the first of two points – both are snapshots of a humble heart.
Selflessness In Seating (verses 7–11)
Let’s go to the first point – Selfishness in Seating.”
The Pharisees are silenced. Jesus breaks the silence in verse 7 with a parable. They were watching Jesus. Jesus was watching them. Verse 7, “He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table.”
Now, a brief lesson on the culture. Back then everything was based on shame and honor. You basically lived to avoid one and receive the other. It tricked down to the smallest affairs of life. Even things like where you sat at the dinner table. The host would take the primary seat. Then in descending honor would be those who sat on his right and left working all the way to those removed furthest from his presence. Everyone covets the seats immediately in his presence. They feared the seats at the “kid’s table” – you know, the metal card table in the kitchen. Yet nothing imaginable could be more shameful than sitting up front on your own and then being forced to move to a seat at the kid’s table in the presence of all.
So, with that given truth of the day, Jesus said in verses 8-10, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.”
So, what is our Lord’s point? On the surface level it’s good etiquette. Good manners. Surely applicable as we anticipate Thanksgiving this week! Is that it?
Or deeper, it’s a good way to save yourself embarrassment. After all, a similar saying is found in Proverbs 25. “Do not claim honor in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the place of great men; for it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,” than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen” (Pro. 25:6-7). Is that it?
They knew all knew this. There must be something deeper! You see, if we just stay with that interpretation it will literally prove the opposite of what our Lord is trying to teach. The problem is pride. In our heart, we all desire to be first. So, if this is to show the best way to avoid excessive shame and receive greater honor it falls into a deeper state of what Jesus despised. Now our love for self is rewarded in the praise of others and achieved in a more crafty and creative way. Is this therefore good advice to be a better hypocrite? If that is the case, our Lord is teaching us to act like, if not worse, than the Pharisees because now our prideful intentions are subtle, sinister and strategic.
In a few chapters, Jesus will warn the people using this very example from the Pharisees. “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets” (Lk. 20:46). Point: Do not act like them!
There is Jesus at this luncheon observing these Pharisees running for the chief seats (grown men in long robes) like a game of musical chairs, shoving others for the best location like general admission at a rock concert.
What is the faith that enters God’s kingdom? A humble heart willing to take the last seat (in life so to speak). Or I could say, a humble heart willing to identify in the shame with Jesus. Consider His suffering! This is not about finagling a way to get a better seat in this world or more honor for yourself. This is about making yourself last, not to be honored by the human host of a party, but rather to be honored by the Lord of Hosts in the final resurrection (verse 14). Humble yourself so the Lord of Hosts can say – come up here!
The question is: Do you love to be noticed by man or do you love to be noticed by Jesus? How much shame will you suffer with Jesus so that He might be honored? Are you willing to make yourself last (at the luncheon – verse 12) in this life that He might make you first (at the “wedding feast” – verse 8) in the life to come? What can be disastrous in a social gathering will be even more disastrous in the final judgment.
This is about humility. When our love for self in this world is the proverbial penthouse we’ll wind up in the outhouse. But when we forsake the quest to fuel our pride, we in turn get the Lord’s penthouse.
I can’t state it any clearer than Jesus. Verse 11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Clamoring for a chief seat or gaming the system to get a chief seat is based on the goal of self-exaltation. That’s what keeps people, like the Pharisees, out of the Kingdom. On the contrary, our Lord gives grace to the humble heart. Humble faith to get in (dying to self) and humble selflessness that gives evidence we truly got in.
Philippians 2, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3–4). Why? The verses continue: Because we are to have “this attitude in [our]selves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).
Clearly our Lord’s point is about entering His Kingdom. Even the crowd knew it as we see them testify in verse 15: “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” We see an essential Kingdom principle at work. God humbles the proud and exalts the humble, yet they didn’t understand that.
Selflessness In Serving (verse 12–14)
Let’s move to the second point and look at one more snapshot of a kingdom citizen. A kingdom citizen is also selfless in serving – another example of humility. So, in point one, Jesus spoke to all the guests fighting for the top seat. Now Jesus speaks to the host who invited his guests.
Beginning in verse 12, “And He [Jesus] also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner [the customary two Jewish meals], do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment.”
You get the idea, right? The host chose the specific guests that he would personally benefit from. When his guest list was drafted, His eye was not on blessing others, but rather how they might reciprocate and bless Him in the future. Again, another indication of personal pride. Me first!
Let me see if I can put it like this based upon the recent news. God hates pride that desires to put oneself first. Where did it begin? It goes all the way back to creation. Man was made to love God more than He loved himself. But after the fall, Adam shift-ed to worship himself. He was impeached from the Garden, the position of God’s favor. From that time on, we are all born with the tendency to love self more than we love God. We try to bribe Him with our good deeds which is Ukraine, I mean insane to think we can ever feign the Almighty. Listen, no one can Trump God. He sees through our selfishness like He did these Pharisees who invited their guests entirely on a quid-pro-quo basis. Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.
So, the invitation list revealed a selfish heart. It was drawn up solely on the basis of how it would personally benefit the host.
So, Jesus says to the host, verses 13-14, “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you.”
Now this is not saying we cannot invite our family and friends over for a bite to eat. Based on the grammar we could translate this, “Do not [only] invite.” Nor should we conclude that entrance into the Kingdom is opened for those who reach out to the misfortunate in society. If that’s the case we are back to the Pharisees self-righteous, works gospel.
Jesus is merely giving an example (and He could have provided many more) based on what He observed that day of how our hearts are selfish – of how we operate, like in point one, to put ourselves first in everything.
These Pharisees thought they were in the kingdom of God and Jesus is showing them and perhaps some of us that based upon their selfish actions they were greatly deceived. Remember, that is the overall context.
I believe these last three sermons have provided a tremendous exposition of James 2.
“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (Jas. 2:14-17).
We are saved by our faith alone, but as we have seen today, the faith that saves is never alone. It results in a changed heart, ultimately a decrease in pride and increase in humility seen in our attitudes and actions.
We learned three weeks ago in 13:25-27 that there will be many people who have believed in Jesus, have identified with Him, have found the “narrow door,” have believed they are going to heaven, only to hear Jesus say, (13:27), “I do not know…you…depart from Me.”
Yes, we are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is a humble trusting faith that surrenders to Jesus as Lord and acts like the humility of the Lord. Of course, there must be a certain type of faith that our Lord requires. James 2:19 concurs, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”
You see, as Jesus clearly taught here, a humble selfless heart reveals who is truly in His kingdom. That helps us make sense of James 2:24, a verse that evangelicals feel very uncomfortable reading:
“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
We all fall short, but God’s people in general have a heart that seeks to obey their King as Lord. And in order for their King to get the glory, they have to get off His throne. They have to, 14:25, understand what it means to hate their own lives. They are forever becoming less as He becomes greater. And when this happens, Christ can shine through them and receive the glory due His name.
It’s funny how we struggle with sermon like this that tells us to renounce our pride, but we despise the pride we see in others. No one enjoys arrogant, boastful, egotistical, self-righteousness and smug individuals. You see, when we humble ourselves, not only does the Lord receive glory, but we become more beautiful people. Don’t buy the lies of this world. We win now and we win big-time in the life to come. Verse 14, “For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Who wants the praise of man now only to forsake the praise of Jesus then?
“And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted’’” (Lk. 18:9-14).
Or put succinctly as I was read this week from 1 Peter: “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). And that humility is displayed (as we observed today) in our willingness to prefer others as we imitate the beauty of Jesus Christ.
So, I can tell you of the need to give others the place of honor and care for the misfortunate—and we should! Or I can beat the pulpit and generally tell you to put God’s Word above your own feelings and serve others in the church and stand up for those that can’t stand up for themselves and a whole list of other things—and we should! Or I can just preach this sermon and allow the Holy Spirit through His marvelous grace to allow you to act according to your new nature—humility—to shine as a citizen of God’s kingdom.