Thursday, January 29, 2015

Go and Sit Down in the Lowest Room

"When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him;

And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room.

But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.

For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."  -- Luke 14:8-11

One of the best short books I have read is Andrew Murray's book Humility. I first read it a few years ago and it had a tremendous impact on me, but later on I forgot the very principles that were helping me so much. I am not going to go into huge detail and make this a book report, but let me begin with an excellent quote from Murray in his book:

“Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue. And so pride, or the loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil.”  

This is an amazing statement and arguably nothing can be more important for Christians to understand in the generation which we live. I praise God that he brought to my remembrance this book. I had given the book away to someone else years ago, but when I remembered it once again recently, I ordered in online (only $3.00 used, praise God). I will not cover everything he covers (I hope to make this a short post-- hope!) but I do strongly encourage you to get this book and read it, and meditate on it. If not, I hope you will at least take the encouragement that he offers, which is, to study the life of Jesus in light of his humility, and to study his teachings on humility, and the teachings on humility in the scriptures.

Practical Applications-- Sitting down in the lowest room

How can we consider a little practical application of the principle of Luke 14? Taking the lowest room can be applied to every area of your life. It is a principle to live by. It is sort of like the example of Jesus running away from the crowd when they wanted to make him a king by force (John 6:15).

We should continually seek to deflect all honor and praise away from us, onto the Lord Jesus. And when opportunities present themselves (because certainly you will be tempted) for me to be the center of attention, for me to "steal the show", for me to stand out above my peers; when these things happen, we ought to at least proceed with extreme caution. Do I desire to speak the great words that will cause a sinner to repent, or am I more pleased and more blessed, and yea, more inclined to desire to be that hidden prayer warrior that nobody recognizes, and nobody will ever give thanks for?

"...and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." -- Matthew 6:6

What is my reward? As Keith Green puts it in his Christ honoring and spot on lyrics (as always) in "O Lord, You're Beautiful", My reward is giving glory to you [the Lord Jesus]. It is natural to want to receive a pat on the back, or some sort of recognition. We want to feel important, valuable, and needed by others. We want others to know that we really are good Christians. But are we willing to lay these desires on the alter of sacrifice to the God of heaven, willing to be nothing, so that Christ may be all?

Do we have to get the last word in on a discussion (I say discussion because a Christian should not engage in a debate-- a debate is one of the works of the flesh-- Romans 1:29, 2Cor 12:20), so that everyone knows that I am right and he is wrong? Would you rather tell a whole lot of people that you are praying for them (so that they think how loving and kind you are) or would you rather secretly pray for that person and have them be blessed.

A recent example from my life

Recently I was attending a church prayer meeting, and if you know anything about the typical church prayer meeting in the good old USA, you know that almost every prayer request is for some health problem someone is having. I am not against praying for health problems, but really, that is what the prayer list is full of; that and "traveling mercies". And again, I am not against praying for those things. But, really, when is someone going to stand up and say, "Please pray that God's name would be glorified in our land. Please pray that God would be glorified in our church and make us a testimony and a witness to our communities." When is someone going to be grieved in their heart about what they see going on around them? When is someone going to get a vision for God truly working a work in our land, and pray about it, and not let go of the Lord until he moves mightily?

I guess a little background is due before I tell the rest of the story. We have been attending this church consistently (although not every single Sunday) for over a year now. We are not members. We have a few disagreements doctrinally with the church, but we would not have a problem being members if we were asked to be. I have a bigger problem with some of the lifestyle and practical decisions of the members and Pastors than I do the doctrine, but that is a story for another time.

Anyhow, we typically do not attend Wednesday night prayer meetings. So on the rare occasion we are there, I do not feel particularly qualified to lead out in prayer. Combine that with the fact that we are not members and I doubly feel unqualified. In my days of youthful pride, I would have wanted to come in there, and pray for those things that I believe are severely lacking in their prayer meetings; in order to wake the people up, to stir them up, or to show them what real prayer is like.

Can I pray better prayers than they can? Are my prayers of more worth? Maybe, but that is not really the point. The point is that God wants me to humble myself and trust in his providence. He wants me to see his hand working through my private prayers. He wants me to stop trusting in my own wisdom, in my own power, in my own words and persuasion, to change these people for the better. Too many times in the past I have tried to change or even convert people by my own might, and God has made sure that it never happened, at least as far as I can see, to teach me humility; to teach me to rely on his power and his grace alone to convert or change someone. My problem has always been that I have not trusted God enough to believe that he can and will change someone.

So back to the story: Here I sit in the prayer meeting with all these thoughts running through my head and even frustrations at the others (which I do not repent of, because I am grieved legitimately at the lukewarmness that I see around me). The lead Pastor stands and calls for us to pray and he specifically, but discreetly hints that he wants me to pray as he looks in my direction. I know him well enough and know people well enough to know what he was doing. And this combined with a conversation I had with him at the New Year's Eve prayer meeting, I was sure that he was hinting at it.  And I know why he was doing it; despite his flaws, he is a very loving, caring person, and wants to make sure that I know our family is included and accepted and loved. He has a shepherd heart. I bless God for him, and bless him for being that way.

Did I take that opportunity that God seemingly placed in my lap? Certainly I would not be sinning by doing so, but I took that as an opportunity to humble myself and pray secretly. I have an unction that perhaps if I had prayed, I would have developed a proud spirit shortly after.

Would you rather be the one that publicly prayed and is recognized as the source of a blessing, conversion, change, etc? Or would you rather be the one that secretly prayed for the others, and the others were changed, and prayed for those very same things, and received the praise and compliments of the brethren? It is something to ponder. Most of us go out of the way to seek the recognition and praise we believe we deserve. We do not want to be nothing. But....

"Verily, Verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." -- John 12:24

Do we want to bring forth much fruit, or are we content with shallow, same old, same old, Christianity, just going through the motions?

Some things are not necessarily sinful if we choose to do them, but we should not do them anyway because they are not expedient or profitable (1Cor 6:12, 1Cor 10:23). And every situation is not the same. We need to learn discernment from walking with Jesus and knowing the voice of the Holy Ghost. But if you are going to err, then err on the side of denying self, and humbling yourself in every decision. It is a learning process we all need to grow more in. The more we do so, the more likeness of Jesus Christ will be in our lives.

Swiss Kinist 

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