|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
Part two (last) of a series
In a previous article we saw that the pomp and power of the great but unbelieving men of this world become corruption and weakness when they lift up their eyes in Hell. But God commands us not to seek greatness, but smallness. It is the "small men of Heaven" who shall reign in glory with their Lord.
"Great for God"?
I have heard professing Christians speak of their desire to be "great for God." Some churches and institutions actually encourage that kind of thinking. A book of that title uses this tag-line: "Will you consign yourself to a little life or will you be great for God?"
But God will have none of it. The people of His kingdom are not the great men of this earth, but "the small men of Heaven." The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul tells us that it is they who will share future glory with their Lord:
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God - and righteousness and sanctification and redemption - that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
Note that the word "for" in this passage comes immediately after verses in which Paul chides the Corinthians for engaging in preacher worship. They were placing God's servants on ungodly pedestals in their thinking. In fact, the Corinthians were placing themselves on such pedestals. They had desecrated the exclusive truths of the Christians faith by pridefully mingling them with pagan falsehoods.
"It Shall Not Be So Among You"
Often the "great men" of the visible church are in fact "great men of Hell" - imposters who seek such exaltation. Church history, from the first century to the present day, is filled with examples, from the long succession of popes to present-day televangelists. But Jesus told His disciples that it must not be so among them:
Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom."
But Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They said to Him, "We are able."
So He said to them, "You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father."
And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:20-28)
The One Who "Would Not So Much as Raise His Eyes Toward Heaven"
In Luke chapter 18, Jesus gave this parable of the vast difference between the man who thinks he is great in the sight of God, and the man who understands his true position of smallness:
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men - extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'
"And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14)
Those Whom Christ Says Are Blessed
Thus Jesus spoke also at the beginning of Matthew 5:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.... Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-12)
God Resists The Proud
Peter learned such humility through many difficult experiences, including his thrice-denial of his Lord. Many years later, Peter spoke of the necessity of this same Christ-like humility in his first letter to the churches:
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:5-11)
Thus it was that John the Baptist said of Christ, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).
How Is It With You?
Dear friend, do you seek to be numbered among the great of this earth - most of whom are destined to be "the great men of Hell" - or do you seek to be more and more like your Lord in His humility?
For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." (Isaiah 57:15)
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart. These, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
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