Michael Youssef - Healthy Living in a Sick World - Part 5
There are some who think that humility is synonymous with being a wimp, spineless, a doormat. There are some who think that humility means that you are always agreeable with the prevailing culture, with the prevailing thought. Never take a stand, especially publicly. Humility, beloved, has nothing to do with how many times a person says he or she is humble. Humility has nothing to do with how fast a person changes color. Or humility has nothing to do with a person who, for the sake of wanting to be liked, compromises the truth and the conviction from the Word of God. No, a million no's. But humility has everything to do with obedience to the truth of the Word of God. Humility has everything to do with being rooted and established in Christ and in his Word. Humility has everything to do with submission of one's thoughts, one's opinions, one's ideas to the truth of the Word of God.
Now beloved, no matter how gifted a person may be, no matter how clever a person may be, no matter how great a communicator a person may be, his or her effectiveness is only fleeting if it is not rooted and established in the truth of the Word of God. And that's precisely what the Apostle Paul is saying to the Corinthians and he's saying to every one of us. Turn with me, if you haven't already, to 1 Corinthians chapter 4. And we're only going to cover the first 13 verses and I'll finish the chapter in the next message. We are in the midst of a series of messages entitled, "Healthy Living in a Sick World," based on the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians.
Here, Paul makes it very clear that true humility begins by willingness to be a servant of Jesus. Paul, Peter, James, Jude, every one of them felt honored and privileged to call themselves servants of Jesus. Look at verse 1, please, 1 Corinthians chapter 4. "So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ as those who entrusted with secret things of God". Remember, Paul is addressing this foolishness that was taking place in that church of it being divided, and taking sides, and creating division in the church, a division that was not created by Paul or Apollos, created by the people. I'm going to come to that in a minute.
But the word that Paul uses here is literally is the lowest galley slave. It's the person who is rowing all day long in the bottom of the ship, rowing, rowing, the Greek word referencing to anybody who puts himself under authority. All Christian believers, especially those who are serving, they are subordinate and subject to the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes, we forget that, and we go to business for ourselves. Listen to me, the servant of Christ is to serve his Word, did you get that? The true servant of Christ serves his Word. Why am I saying this? Because the Word of God is his self-revelation. How do you know God without seeing his self-revelation in the Bible? Otherwise, we all have these mystical experiences, and everybody else has got this idea and that idea, and that's what we're feeling now.
And that, my beloved friend, is the core and the crux of humility. As I said, humility has nothing to do with appearances or popularity. Humility has nothing to do with what somebody says. Humility has everything to do with willingness to be subordinate to God and his Word. Humility has everything to do with saying all theories, all methodologies, all programs that are contrary to God's Word must go. Oh, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, this goes against the public opinion. I know this goes against the grain. This is not very popular. This will go against what's culturally acceptable. This will go against political correctness. So what?
A true servant of Jesus will always, always, always be an enigma and a paradox to this fallen world. If it's popular in this fallen world, it's not a true servant of Jesus Christ. You see, the world's system will never understand or comprehend that we see the unseen, that we conquer by yielding, that we find rest under a yoke, that we reign by serving, that we're made great by becoming little, that we are exalted by becoming humble, that we become wise by being fools for Jesus's sake, that we are made free by becoming bond slaves to Jesus. We possess all things by having nothing, that we are strong by being weak, that we triumph by defeat, that we have victory and glory in our infirmity, and that we live by dying. Question, what is the first concern for the servant of the Lord? Not how to be happy, but how pleasing to the Master, how pleasing am I to the Master?
Paul did not say the servant of Jesus must be eloquent, the servant of Jesus must be clever, or the servant of Jesus must be extraordinary communicator. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. The servant of Jesus must humble himself under Jesus. Look at verse 2, 1 Corinthians 4. "It is required of the steward to be," what? Here, the Apostle Paul, is saying that you and I every single day facing three courts, three courts, every day we face those three courts. There is what I call the lower court, and that is the court of public opinion, what people think of you, what people think of me. That's the court we face. And you know what? Whether you like it or not, that happens.
But then there's the second court, it's the upper court. That court is the court of your conscience. But then Paul said there is a third court, it is the supreme court, it's the supreme court. And that supreme court is what God thinks of you, how God judges you. Verse 3, "But with me," look at this as the lower court here, it's the lower court. "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you". Another translation, I think it was Phelps' translation, put it this way, "It matters very little to me what anyone thinks of me". Can I get an amen?
Question: is the Apostle Paul callous? No. Is he contemptuous of people's opinion of him? No. In fact, to the contrary, Paul was not immune to the criticism of his critics. In fact, he defended his apostleship with passion. He was deeply hurt by false rumors and innuendos and false accusations by those who hated his stand for the truth, and they wanted to water down the gospel. Even here in this passage, he's doing exactly that. Paul was sensitive about the opinion of others, so don't you misunderstand this. Yet his life was not directed by them or their criticism. And his stand for the truth was not steered or changed direction of his life because of them and their criticism.
Their criticism did not consume his energy. "Oh my goodness, what are people thinking of me? Oh, what they're saying about me"? Their attack did not occupy his time. Their innuendo did not deter him from preaching the truth boldly, and let the chips fall where they may. Their false accusations did not compel him to compromise the truth. Sadly, sadly, that is not the case today. Whether it be in the church or public life in general, so many are accommodating to the lowest common denominator. Accommodating, accommodating, accommodating until one day, we're not going to recognize the gospel at all. And Paul said, "With me it's very little thing what you think of me. It's so small. It's not impacting me in any way at all that I should be judged by you".
This is the lower court. But then he said there is a second court. Now, by the way, he doesn't use the word "court" here in case you go home and start reading the passage and say, "Where did he get this"? I'm making it up, okay? So you understand, this is to give you a way by which you can identify with this. And he said there's a higher court than public opinion, that's the court of your conscience. Question, is our conscience 100% accurate judge and guide? No. Paul said it is not, it is the Word of God here. Chapter 4, Paul was saying, "Even the conscience that is enlightened by the Holy Spirit can rationalize wrong things and silence neutral things". It all depends on how you're trained.
Here's the bottom line, listen, I always get to the bottom line. This whole explanation is that the servant of God does not live by the opinion of others. The servant of God does not follow his or her conscience entirely. Verse 4, and Paul himself values the conscience. He's not dismissing it, he values it, and he himself knows of no evidence in his conscience to condemn him. He himself is very clear about this, but he said, "My conscience can now justify me before God".
And that is why we have a third court, the supreme court, and that court whose opinion and judgement matters the most. Verse 5, God's evaluation is what matters the most. God's verdict is what matters the most. God's judgement is what matters the most, why? Because people judge on the basis of appearance and often wrong. Our conscience judges based on learned behavior pattern or felt needs. Ah, but only God judges us on the basis of motive. Did you get that? Only God judges us on the basis of motive. I've always been motivated with what I call the audience of one. It's always, right, my ministry. But as I do come to this over time, it's becoming more intense, more intense that I care deeply of wanting to hear from the lips of my Savior, "Well done, good and faithful servant".
Let's recap here for a minute. True humility manifested in obedience to the truth of the Word of God. True humility is manifested in the acknowledging of the sovereignty of God. True humility is manifested in our deep desire to please the Lord. And this is really, my beloved friends, the crux, the core of the problem with the Corinthian church. That really is the core problem that Paul is dealing with. These folks were believers, yes. They were saved, yes. But they were prideful, they were boastful. They were the original writers of Frank Sinatra's song. No, I'm not going to sing it, "I Did It My Way".
They were the progenitors of looking out for number one. They were the epitome of I'm okay, you're okay. And Paul is saying at the very core of their division and factionalism is pride. They were proud of their human wisdom, they were proud of their human leaders, they were proud of taking side and creating division. And yet, in their case, the leaders themselves were godly and humble, and they did not want to see this happen. That's why I said don't go beyond what's written. Sadly today, we have leaders who foment and develop and cherish, eagerly promote themselves, and want followers to follow them, not Jesus.
Now, this is different from the Corinthian leaders, who are far from wanting people to follow Paul or Apollos or Cephas. They wanted to follow Christ, follow Christ. Not follow man, I don't care who he is. The people were using these leaders to get their prideful agenda fulfilled. Look at verse 6, he said, "Now, brethren, I have applied all these things to myself and to Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, 'Do not go beyond what is written.' Then you will not take pride in one man or another". Pride is not an orphan, he has a lot of siblings. And he has a twin sister named arrogance and boasting.
And that is why Paul said, verse 7, "Why do you brag? Why do you think that you are above other believers? Why do you think that you or your group are better than others"? Paul said, "In reality, we have nothing to brag about," why? Because everything we have is given to us. How can you brag about that which is given to you? Ultimately, he said, we're all made of the same stuff, that ultimately we're all redeemed by the same Lord. Ultimately, we're all given the same spirit. And when you're given something, you can't brag about it. It should bring us to our knees in gratitude and thanksgiving. And beloved, I don't have to tell you gratitude is becoming a rare commodity in our culture. Verse 8, Paul uses sarcasm and he calls them kings. You see, the Corinthian believers were actually having the very same problem as the church of Laodicea.
You remember the book of Revelation? The church of Laodicea in the book of Revelation, where Jesus sent them a letter and they thought that they were rich, needing nothing? And like the Laodicean, they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. Look at verses 9 to 13, finally Paul speaks of the paradox of Christian leadership. If you have never understood the paradox of Christian leadership, you'll see it here. And it is summarized in four words, four words: spectacle, fools, sufferers, and scum. This is literal words. And the Apostle Paul is saying to us that a life of a discipleship is a life of servanthood. A life of servanthood is a life of humility.
Beloved, in this world, true servants of the living God may be ridiculed. Oh, but in heaven they will rule. In this world, the servants of the living God might be mocked, called fools. Oh, but blessed are the fools, in Jesus's name. In this world, the true servants of the living God might be called names, but they have no time for resentment, they have no time for bitterness, they have no time of fighting. In this world, the servants of the living God who want to live peaceably, listen to me, I know a lot of Christians, they just want to live peaceably. And if they do, they will talk about God in sort of nebulous concepts, but they cannot talk about Jesus.
If they want to be treated like a scum, they proclaim that Jesus is the only way to salvation and heaven, as happens in our culture and in every culture around the world. That's why I believe with so many other people we're living in the end times. And that should not surprise us, for this is the story of our Lord and Savior Jesus himself, the King of all kings, the King of the universe. He was born and raised in obscurity. The King of the universe lived and died poor to make repentant sinners eternally rich. He had a stable for his birthplace and a manger for his cradle. He lived and worked as a carpenter in a despised town, where they used to say, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth"?
When Jesus began his ministry, he had no organization to support him. He preached without a price. He performed miracles for which he received no compensation. He said, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head". The king of the universe, for doing good, he received crucifixion. At the end of his earthly ministry, he was sold for 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave. The one who made all of the trees in the universe hung on a tree. The one who made all of their irons mines in the world, he was nailed to the cross with iron nails. His very own clothes were a gift, and his tomb was a borrowed tomb. He was made a spectacle, a fool and a scum for us, for you and for me. But that is not the end of the story.
A day is coming soon when his enemies shall be made his footstool. A day is coming soon when those who have pierced him, they're going to pound on their hearts. A day is coming soon when every knee shall bow. A day is coming soon when every tongue shall confess. A day is coming soon when you and I who have suffered for his namesake will reign and rule with him forever. And beloved, that is why we have every reason to be humble. Our humility is manifested in our obedience to the Word of God, not in surrender to the falsehood of culture, through pressure of culture. Our humility is manifested in our willingness to judge our motives, something I do on a regular basis. And that is why I want to conclude by saying to him, to him and him alone all glory, majesty, dominion, power, and praise forever and ever, amen.