"A ruler questioned Jesus, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone" (Luke 18: 18,19).
We have been hearing that we need to study the inner life of Jesus and that we need to follow in His footsteps. Let us ask ourselves a question in the context of the above verse. Why did Jesus, who never sinned even once, ask this man not to call Him "Good"? It was Jesus' humility that made Him make such a statement.
Jesus lived on this earth as the Son of man and hence He could identify with others who were going through trials, temptations and difficult situations. It was as though He was telling them, "I am also a man just like you who feels the pain and difficulties of life. As I live beside you in this world, I can understand you. This world is under the influence of the evil one and there is nothing good that dwells in the flesh. I am also being tempted just as you are being tempted. I too am going through suffering just like you. I have had a family. I was the bread-winner and I needed to work to support my family. Every day I am being tempted in diverse ways. I need to undergo trials. Perhaps you are defeated while I am victorious. God cannot be tempted by evil, but I am being tempted. So as long as I am being tempted, I cannot consider myself 'Good'. The fact that I am victorious and you are defeated is immaterial. We are all going through suffering".
This is what the Holy Spirit revealed to Paul about Jesus. As a man, Jesus humbled himself. By appearing on this earth as a human being, He was humbling himself. We need to understand this with the same clarity that we understand that 2+2 = 4. If we are human beings, then the proper thing to do is to humble ourselves. Because Jesus was as a man on this earth, He did what man should do “ He humbled Himself. Therefore, even though He never sinned once, at any time, He did not agree to be called 'Good teacher'. Heb 2:18 tells us that Jesus appeared on this earth to help us. But with what kind of help? When we are being tempted we fall. Since we are fallen creatures, on this earth, every situation that we go through is designed to make us small in our own eyes.
Shall we ask ourselves a question based on this verse? How can we receive help from Jesus? All of us are being tempted. Jesus says that He too is tempted. But who can be helped by Jesus? Jesus can help only those who are humble like Him. In Matt 11:28, Jesus calls those who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him. We would like to be very happy after we are saved and have come to Jesus. But on many occasions, we go through difficult situations. In the home, some say that their wives are causing difficulties for them. Others complain that their children are the cause of their problems. In the church, some say that those who cause problems are the brothers who misunderstand such 'good persons' like them. All who are here are going through some problem or the other. The Lord is speaking to you personally and asking you to come to Him and take His yoke upon you. Jesus had a yoke too. He also lived on this earth just like us. He was 100% man. But He says, "My yoke is easy. Come to me if you want your problem to be solved. Come and learn from me". How much are you expected to learn from Him? If you have been 10 years in the church, should you have learned 10 things? Or 20 things in 20 years? Or if you are an elder, does He say that you should have learned 30 things? No.
I remember very clearly what Brother Zac said in a conference. "There are three secrets of the Christian life. 1. Humility 2. Humility 3. Humility." Even if you have been a Christian for 30 years, what you need to learn from Jesus is HUMILITY. Whenever you go through a problem or a difficult situation, Jesus is inviting you to learn humility from Him. Whenever I go to Him with my problems, the one thing he tells me to learn from Him is humility.
Dear brothers and sisters, the Christian life is very easy. Whenever we go through difficulties, the normal tendency is to go to men for help or comfort. But if we go to the Lord instead, He will deliver us. In Deut. 8: 2, we read "The Lord your God has led you, humbling you and testing you" How do you think it was in the wilderness? Was it easy or difficult for those Israelites? Our life on this earth is like a wilderness journey. There are difficult situations that we often need to go through. We read further in Deut.8:3, "God humbled you by allowing you to be hungry." When things are difficult - perhaps you don't have enough food to eat at home, or perhaps you are sick - do you recognize that God is seeking to humble you through those circumstances? Maybe you are financially well off. Your children may be grown up and earning good salaries. Many young men go to Dubai and America nowadays and earn ten times what they earned in India. Good. But material abundance can also become a kind of 'difficulty'. Deut. 8:13-17 says, "When your silver and gold multiply and your heart becomes proud and you say in your heart, `My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.'" When we have an abundance, we are in danger of imagining that it was our own ability and smartness that produced that wealth. Then God tells us to humble ourselves. How many understand that even in our abundance, God seeks to make us small in our own eyes? Even when we have much, God wants to humble us.
Jesus's entire life was summed up in this word: He humbled Himself. As long as man is in the flesh, he must humble himself. If we do that, we can always be happy, as Jesus was; and our sorrows will pass away.
By the grace of God, I can say that I am a really happy man.
In John 12:25, we are told what we should always do, in our earthly lives. Each day we may have to go through many difficult situations. It was like that for Jesus too. He also had to go through many difficult situations every day. But He lived by this principle:"He who loves his life will lose it. But he who hates his life will save it" (John 12 :25). Each day He said, "Not my will but My Father's will". Each day He humbled himself. Then at the end of His earthly life, He says, "Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 'Father, glorify Your name'", (Jn.12:26,27). We should be like that too. I am not thinking now of Jesus's death on the cross but of our daily cross. When we go through difficulties, don't pray that the difficulties should be removed. Instead, say, "For this purpose, I have come to this hour: Lord, you are humbling me. You have allowed this situation. My desire is that Your Name should be glorified."
See what Jesus said here, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" (Jn.12:23). In each and every situation that we go through in this world - even if everyone misunderstands us and no-one loves us - if we only have this attitude "It is for this purpose that I have come to this hour. Lord, glorify Your name", then we will receive His help. That is why He asks us to learn only humility from Him. He humbled Himself. He denied His own will constantly. Thus He has shown us that the one thing all human beings need to do is to humble themselves.
In John 12, we see Jesus's humility in relation to His Father. In John 13, we see His humility in relationship to other human beings. When Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, what was He manifesting? John 13:1 makes it clear: "He loved His disciples unto the end". How did He show that love? He washed their feet. And He said, "I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master" (John 13:15,16). Jesus washed even Judas's feet. Then we read, "Jesus became troubled in spirit, and said, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.'" (John 13:21). Why was He troubled in spirit? What was his difficulty? He was tempted like us. It was difficult to love Judas also until the end, but Jesus did it. He washed the feet of Judas also, exactly as He washed the feet of John who was closest to Him. He sent Judas away only after giving him the bread and the cup. Then He said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him" (John 13:31).
Do we find it difficult to love people in the church? Maybe somebody does not agree with you in some matter and then you find it difficult to love him. Jesus was determined that He would love everyone until the end - including Judas, who was going to betray him - and that too, in the best possible manner.
After doing that, He says with great relief, "God will be glorified now". He came through that temptation also victoriously.
Now, listen carefully to what he tells us next in John 13:33-35: He had told the unbelieving Jews that they would not be able to come where He was going. Now He says the same thing to His disciples. It was His heart's desire that they also should come to where He was going, and so He says to them. "Didn't you see me washing the feet of Judas, with the same sincerity with which I washed the feet of Peter and John? Didn't I send him away without exposing him, even after knowing that he was going to betray me? You also must love one another like this. And so I am giving you a new commandment “ Love one another as I have loved you".
God's name will be glorified only when we learn to love others like Jesus did - until the end.
Last night, we heard Brother Zac share his burden. He said that many older brothers who have been in the church for many years are no longer humble. I took it to my heart. How can we please God and also please godly men who have a concern for us? By following Jesus. To follow Jesus, we don't have to do a great many things. Actually, we have to do only one thing. Every day, whenever we go through any difficulty and our hearts are troubled, we must hate our self-life and humble ourselves. You may imagine that you are right as an elder brother and wonder why others do not accept you. Don't waste any time justifying yourself. Don't even have try to gain their acceptance. Just give up your self-life to death.
Why is it that many of us are not growing spiritually, even though many years have passed since we have known the truth? Because once upon a time, we were humble; but now we are proud. That is why we need to learn humility from Jesus every day.
Let us learn humility from Paul, who says in Philippians 3:13.14: "One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize¦" It is easy to become proud of our past victories. Paul decided to forget his past victories and to press on into the future. Maybe you are spiritually rich today “ and you are inwardly proud of the fact that your spiritual wealth came as a result of many years of your own faithfulness. Remember that you are what you are by the grace of God. Do you forget the things you have achieved and the victories you have won?
I have discovered one reason why many brothers are not growing spiritually, lack love for one another and cannot have fellowship among themselves. It is because each one imagines that he alone is doing everything right and that he alone loves everyone. Maybe you did love everyone, once upon a time. But how is your heart today? Paul exhorts us to have a perpetual debt of love to everyone (Rom.13:8). Do we recognize this debt? Do we acknowledge that we have not loved our marriage-partners and our brothers and sisters, as we should have. We are debtors to them all.
Many of us may keep telling our children how much we have suffered and laboured for them, because we want them to love us. Do you live expecting others to be always grateful to you and to love you? Then hear these words: We need to think more about how little we have loved others instead of thinking about how little others are loving us. We are the debtors, not them.
Paul says in 2 Cor. 12:15 (Living), "I am glad to give you myself and all I have for your spiritual good, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me." To be humble is to have the same thought in us: "However little you may love me, I want to love you more, because I am in debt to you. I have not yet loved you as I should have. I have no complaint that you have not loved me enough."
If we have a complaint against our wife or our children or our brethren, we can be certain that we do not have the mind of Christ. We are not humble, but are standing on our own strength and thinking about the sacrifices we have made for others. We are living in our past.
I think of an incident that took place in Pondicherry recently. One Sunday morning, I spoke zealously on the righteousness of God and said that as long as I was there, I would not permit any unrighteousness to take place in the church. When I went home and lay down, I asked God what He thought about what I had spoken. I felt the Lord saying to me, "Since you are there in the church to take care of everything, you don't need Me!!" I saw my sin and at the very next meeting on Wednesday, I confessed my sin to the whole church.
Dear brother and sisters, how strong we are in ourselves? Paul says that we are not adequate in ourselves to serve God (2 Cor.3:5). I had said that as long as I was in the church, I would not allow unrighteousness. But the Lord asked me, "How long are you going to be there? Let Me be in charge of your church. Then I will take care of everything - and you won't have to worry."
We need to be broken men. The Prabahar who stands up to speak next Sunday should be more broken and more shaped by God than the Prabahar who stood up to speak last Sunday.
I was reminded of another thing when I heard Brother Zac's message last evening. What is it that we should value the most? Intimacy with God.
Dear brothers and sisters, what is it that you long for in this world? I can say with a clear conscience that I am willing to give up everything in this world for intimacy with God. If I am told that from tomorrow I am not to be an elder in my church, I will gladly accept it and go and sit in the back row in the meetings and sincerely ask the Lord to appoint a good elder in my place. If I am told that what I spoke in one meeting was not proper, I am ready to keep quiet and to listen to what others speak.
If we truly follow Jesus, we will be able to say like He did, that we can never be alone. Our Father will be with us always. Since that is true, it does not matter if others misunderstand me. It will not matter if my ministry is taken away from me. It does not matter even if I am bedridden with some sickness. If I have to walk one day, leaning upon a walking-stick, I will say like Paul, "Lord, your grace is sufficient for me. Even if my sickness is never healed, Your presence and Your Lordship over all the situations in my life is more than enough for me."
In Psalm 25:14, we read that the secret of the Lord is with the humble. The marginal rendering there reads, "The intimacy of the Lord is with the humble."
So, dear brothers and sisters, whatever situation you may be going through, it is enough if you have the presence, the intimacy and the counsel of the Lord with you there.
Intimacy means closeness. I have been married for 33 years now. When my wife is with me at home, I have no problems. But when she goes away to help one of our children, even for a week, then things turn upside down in the house. So I am happy whenever my wife is with me. In the same way, when Jesus is with me, I need nothing else. Knowing Jesus and the Father is eternal life. Those who live in His presence always are truly blessed.
May the Lord help us all to enter into such a blessed life. Amen.