I love what J.C. Ryle writes about the first instruction Jesus gives us in the Sermon on the Mount when our LORD declared to us: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Ryle writes:
“The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are poor in spirit. He means the humble, and lowly-minded, and self-abased. He means those who are deeply convinced of their own sinfulness in God’s sight. These are they who are not ‘wise in their own eyes and holy in their own sight.’ They are not ‘rich and increased with goods.’ They do not fancy they need nothing. They regard themselves as ‘wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.’ Blessed are such! Humility is the very first letter in the alphabet of Christianity. We must begin low, if we would build high.”
I love the way Ryle puts that: “Humility is the first letter in the alphabet of Christianity.” Who refuses to see this when we come to know the LORD by being born again? We see it because we realize how it took God moving in us before we would believe. It took God’s Spirit giving us a heart of belief and removing our heart of stone. The true believer knows that he is a believer purely by God’s grace. God may have used the believer’s intellect in the process, but his belief is not a result of that intellect, or human reason. In fact, while faith is not void of intellect and reason, the true believer knows that more often than not, our intellect and reason stood in the way of our belief. It took a miracle in our lives to bring us to faith.
Given that, there is no place for us to begin in our walk, and continue on in our walks as His disciples, other than in a position of humility. We walk as believers by God’s good grace alone. It is not based on our talents or gifts, but we are given those talents and gifts to us for His glory, for the One who redeemed us.
We need this reminder of the need for humility because of the constant battle we face with pride. We tend to be proud because we are chosen, proud of out theology, proud of the fact that we know the truth the non-believer doesn’t. Proud we are not members of one sect or another. Proud we don’t sin like the multitudes of heathen. But when we take all of those things into account, we are reminded of the necessity of humbling ourselves, realizing that the Spirit working in us is by God’s grace, not our goodness. This is why we are called “Blessed” by our LORD. We receive His grace and rejoice knowing that it is the most precious gift of all because, we of all people, do not deserve it.