Tag Archives: Humility

“The cross and criticism” by Alfred J. Poirier

“The cross of Christ reminds me that the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me. And because of this, God has thoroughly and forever accepted me in Christ.

Here is how grace works: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit (Gal. 3:13f).

What a sure foundation for the soul! Now, I don’t practice self-justification, but boasting—boasting about Christ’s righteousness for me.

If you truly take this to heart, the whole world can stand against you, denounce you, or criticize you, and you will be able to reply, “If God has justified me, who can condemn me?” “If God justifies me, accepts me, and will never forsake me, then why should I feel insecure and fear criticism?” “Christ took my sins, and I receive His Spirit. Christ takes my condemnation, and I receive His righteousness.”

In light of God’s judgment and justification of the sinner in the cross of Christ, we can begin to discover how to deal with any and all criticism. By agreeing with God’s criticism of me in Christ’s cross, I can face any criticism man may lay against me.

In other words, no one can criticize me more than the cross has. And the most devastating criticism turns out to be the finest mercy.

If you thus know yourself as having been crucified with Christ, then you can respond to any criticism, even mistaken or hostile criticism, without bitterness, defensiveness, or blameshifting. Such responses typically exacerbate and intensify conflict, and lead to the rupture of relationships. You can learn to hear criticism as constructive and not condemnatory because God has justified you.

  • Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? (Rom. 8:33–34a).
  • Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it (Ps. 141:5).

If I know myself as crucified with Christ, I can now receive another’s criticism with this attitude:

‘You have not discovered a fraction of my guilt. Christ has said more about my sin, my failings, my rebellion and my foolishness than any man can lay against me. I thank you for your corrections. They are a blessing and a kindness to me. For even when they are wrong or misplaced, they remind me of my true faults and sins for which my Lord and Savior paid dearly when He went to the cross for me. I want to hear where your criticisms are valid.’

The correction and advice that we hear are sent by our heavenly Father. They are His corrections, rebukes, warnings, and scoldings. His reminders are meant to humble me, to weed out the root of pride and replace it with a heart and lifestyle of growing wisdom, understanding, goodness, and truth.

I do not fear man’s criticism for I have already agreed with God’s criticism. And I do not look ultimately for man’s approval for I have gained by grace God’s approval.

In fact, His love for me helps me to hear correction and criticism as a kindness, oil on my head, from my Father who loves me and says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone He accepts as a son’ (Heb. 12:5–6).”

–Alfred J. Poirier, “The Cross and Criticism,” ed. David A. Powlison, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Number 3, Spring 1999 17 (1999): 18-20.

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“Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works” by John Newton

“There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only shewing a becoming zeal in the cause of God.

I readily believe that the leading points of Arminianism spring from, and are nourished by, the pride of the human heart; but I should be glad if the reverse was always true; and that to embrace what are called the Calvinistic doctrines was an infallible token of a humble mind.

I think I have known some Arminians—that is, persons who, for want of clearer light, have been afraid of receiving the doctrines of free grace—who yet have given evidence that their hearts were in a degree humbled before the Lord.

And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of.

Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit.

Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.

Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments.

Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress this wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify.

I hope your performance will savour of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.”

–John Newton, “Letter XIX: On Controversy,” The Works of John NewtonVolume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2015), 1: 272-273.

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“As we ripen in grace, we shall have greater sweetness towards our fellow Christians” by Charles Spurgeon

“As we grow in grace, we are sure to grow in charity, sympathy, and love; we shall have greater and more intense affection for the person of ‘Him whom having not seen we love.’

We shall have greater delight in the precious things of His gospel. The doctrine which perhaps we did not understand at first, will become marrow and fatness to us as we advance in grace.

We shall feel that there is honey dropping from the honey-comb in the deeper truths of our religion.

We shall, as we ripen in grace, have greater sweetness towards our fellow Christians.

Bitter-spirited Christians may know a great deal, but they are immature. Those who are quick to censure may be very acute in judgment, but they are as yet very immature in heart.

He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more. He overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case.

He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it.

As he has sometimes to say of himself, ‘This is my infirmity,’ so he often says of his brethren, ‘This is their infirmity,’ and he does not judge them as he once did.

I know we who are young beginners in grace think ourselves qualified to reform the whole Christian church. We drag her before us, and condemn her straightway.

But when our virtues become more mature, I trust we shall not be more tolerant of evil, but we shall be more tolerant of infirmity, more hopeful for the people of God, and certainly less arrogant in our criticisms.

Sweetness towards sinners is another sign of ripeness.

When the Christian loves the souls of men, when he feels that there is nothing in the world which he cares for so much as endeavouring to bring others to a knowledge of the saving truth, when he can lay himself out for sinners, bear with their ill-manners, bear with anything, so that he might but lead them to the Saviour– then is the man mature in grace.

God grant this sweetness to us all.

A holy calm, cheerfulness, patience, a walk with God, fellowship with Jesus, an anointing from the Holy One– I put all these together, and I call them sweetness, heavenly lusciousness, full-flavouredness of Christ.

May this be in you and abound.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Ripe Fruit,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (vol. 16; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 16: 448–449.

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“Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ” by A.W. Tozer

“To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention until the light of God is focused upon them.

The grosser manifestations of these sins – egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion – are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders, even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in evidence as actually, for many people, to become identified with the gospel.

I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the church visible.

Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice.”

–A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, in Three Spiritual Classics in One Volume (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1948), 253.

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“A humble Christian studies his own infirmities, and another’s excellencies” by Thomas Watson

“A humble Christian studies his own infirmities, and another’s excellencies.”

–Thomas Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture Drawn with a Scripture-Pencil, or, Some Characteristic Marks of a Man who is Going to Heaven (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2003), 79.

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“Emulate those whose constant confidence and boast is in Christ Jesus and in nothing else” by D.A. Carson

“In the flow of the chapter, then, Paul makes these points, at least in part, to insist that the Philippian believers emulate those whose constant confidence and boast is in Christ Jesus and in nothing else.

Most who read these pages, I suspect, will not be greatly tempted to boast about their Jewish ancestry and ancient rights of race and religious heritage.

But we may be tempted to brag about still less important things: our wealth, our status, our education, our emotional stability, our families, our political or business successes, our denominational alignments, or even about which version of the Bible we use.

Be careful of people like that.

They tend to regard everyone who is outside their little group as somehow inferior. Somewhere along the way they inadvertently—or even intentionally and maliciously—imagine that faith in Christ Jesus and delight in Him is a little less important than their personal accomplishments.

Instead, look around for those whose constant confidence is Jesus Christ, whose constant boast is Jesus Christ, whose constant delight is Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the center of their worship, the center of their gratitude, the center of their love, the center of their hope.

After that, doubtless we shall sometimes need to argue about relatively peripheral matters. But in the first instance, emulate those whose constant confidence and boast is in Christ Jesus and in nothing else.”

–D.A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996), 86.

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“Sweet unity” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“Love for our neighbor, humility, and meekness will beget peaceableness. Wherever the first three are to be found, the last will also be found.

Peaceableness is a believer’s quiet and contented disposition of soul, inclining him toward, and causing him to strive for, the maintaining of a relationship with his neighbor characterized by sweet unity— doing so in the way of truth and godliness.”

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 4, Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1994), 4: 91.

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