by Andrew Murray

Humility and Holiness

…Yet they say to each other, “Don’t come too close or you will defile me! I am holier than you!” They are a stench in My nostrils… (Isaiah 65:5)

We sometimes talk about “the Holiness Movement.” We sing “I want to be holy, set apart for You, my Master, ready to do Your will.” We hear about holiness teachings and meetings. The truths of holiness in Christ and holiness by faith can be found in countless books. But is the holiness we claim to have and seek alive and true in us? If we want to know the answer, we must ask ourselves whether it produces an increasing humility in us.Humility is the one thing needed to allow God’s holiness to live inside of us and shine through us. Jesus, the Holy One of God, is the only One who can make us holy, too. Divine humility was the secret of His life, death, and resurrection. The only genuine proof of our holiness is humility before God and man. Humility is the bloom and beauty of holiness.

Counterfeit holiness can be recognized by its lack of genuine humility. Every one who seeks holiness should be on guard so that he or she doesn’t carelessly stumble into this trap. “After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit,” you can lapse into “trying to become perfect by your own human effort” (Galatians 3:3). Pride can creep in where it is least expected. Two men went into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The “Pharisee” can worm his way into any place, no matter how sacred, if we let him. Pride can rear its head in the very temple of God, and can degrade the worship of God into a showcase for self-life.

Sometimes the Pharisee can even disguise himself in the clothes of a tax collector! People who confess their deep sinfulness need to be just as careful as those who claim a deep holiness. Right when you want your heart to become the temple of God, you will probably find those two men coming in to pray. And the “tax collector” will find that the greatest danger is not from the Pharisee next to him, who despises him, but from the Pharisee inside him, who congratulates himself on how well he repents! In God’s temple, when we think we are in the Most Holy Place, let’s be on guard against pride. Remember, even the devil can enter God’s presence. “One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and satan the accuser came with them” (Job 1:6).

“I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there” (Luke 28:11). Instead of being truly thankful to God, self uses His blessing as an excuse to be complacent. In the very act of confessing that God has done it all, self finds a way to take credit. Yes, even in the temple, with the words of repentance and praise echoing off the walls, the Pharisee may chime right in, and in thanking God be congratulating himself. Pride can dress itself up in the clothing of religion.

We may laugh at someone who would be so blatant as to say, “I thank you that I am not like everybody else.” But that same attitude can often be found in our own feelings or words towards others. Do you want proof? Walk into any religious assembly or Bible study or home group or “men’s business meeting,” and simply watch and listen for a while. How much of the “no beauty or majesty” of Jesus will you find? Will deep humility be the keynote of what the servants of Jesus are saying of themselves or each other? Are there not many congregations, conventions, “missions,” committees, schools, and “ministries” where the harmony has been disturbed and God’s work hindered? And isn’t it usually all because people who are considered faithful Christians have proved—by touchiness and impatience, by self-defense and self-assertion, by sharp judgments and unkind words—that they do not consider others better than themselves? Is it not because the popular brand of “holiness” doesn’t include humility as its main ingredient?

It is one thing to experience a season of great humbling and brokenness. It is another thing entirely to have a humble spirit, to be clothed in humility, to have the mind of Christ that considers self to be the servant of all.

“Don’t come to close or you will defile me! I am holier than you!” That’s not holiness—it’s a bad joke. Jesus the Holy One is also the Humble One. The holiest will also be the humblest. There is no one holy but God. We have as much holiness as we have of Him. And what’s really of God will show itself in genuine humility. Humility is simply the disappearance of self in the vision of God’s holiness. We’re too well mannered to boast openly like the Jews of Isaiah’s day. But the same spirit is often seen in professing Christians’ treatment of fellow believers or of the lost. In the attitude in which they offer opinions or try to work for God, their clothing can be tax collector but their hearts total Pharisee: “I thank you that I am not like everybody else.”

Is there any remedy for this false humility? There is. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). The power of agape love forgets itself and finds its blessedness in blessing others. It bears with them and honors them. The power of this love exists wherever the Spirit of Love has been poured into a human heart, wherever the divine nature has been birthed inside a person’s life, and wherever Christ, the humble Lamb of God, is formed within. When God comes in, He brings agape love with Him, for God is love. When God has entered in power and given a revelation of Himself, a man or woman becomes nothing. And when a person becomes nothing before God, he or she cannot help but be humble before others. God’s presence becomes more than something a person feels during a special song, but a constant covering under which the soul continually lives. Its deep humility before God becomes a holy root from which all words and works come forth.

May God teach us that our thoughts and words and feelings about other people are the true test of our humility toward Him! May He teach us that our humility before Him is the only power that can enable us to be always humble before others! Our humility must be the life of Christ, the Lamb of God, inside us.

Are you planning to teach others about holiness? Are you planning to seek it for yourself? Then be on your guard. There is no pride so dangerous or subtle as religious pride. No one will ever say, “Don’t come too close or you will defile me.” Most people would never even form those exact words in their minds. But there can grow in your heart subconsciously a secret habit of patting yourself on your back for your accomplishments. You can find yourself addicted to the drug of comparing yourself to others. You’ll recognize this spiritual disease, not always by the presence of blatant words or actions, but by the presence of self dominating your thoughts. Those with discernment will detect it in your tone and countenance. Even the world won’t be too impressed—in fact, you’ll be giving them one more excuse to harden themselves to spiritual things. Only you will find yourself such a fascinating topic. When you’ve seen the glory of God for real, your attitude will be very, very different (Job 42:5-6; Isaiah 6:5).

Brothers and sisters, let’s do take this warning seriously. Unless an increase in humility is truly our heart’s desire, we may wake up one day to discover that we have been delighting in beautiful thoughts and feelings, in solemn words and actions, while the true evidence of God’s presence—the disappearance of self—is nowhere to be found. Let’s run to Jesus and hide ourselves in Him until we are clothed in His humility. There is no other way to find holiness.

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