God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6
The Bible tells us that grace is God’s offer of righteousness and salvation for free without any works or other obligation to keep. But an offer will only ever do you any good if you receive that offer. In Ephesians, we are told that salvation is by grace through faith, but before talking about faith I think it’s important to consider one other prerequisite to receiving God’s grace: humility.
From the beginning of the Bible to the end, God makes it very clear that he will not force His goodness on anyone. He displays His loving-kindnesses and tender mercies over and over, many times imploring people in various ages to take advantage of His mercy and forgiveness. But God has never granted forgiveness to those who, puffed up with pride, don’t consider themselves needful of what God has to offer.
Humility is simply lowering yourself. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ demonstrated to the world the ultimate example of humility by lowering Himself from His position of glory to take on an earthly body and suffer the humiliation of crucifixion.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:6–8
Jesus Christ lowered himself below His warranted position of glory and exaltation and we should be willing to do the same. But the first step in humility is to simply lower ourselves to where we really are, to admit the needs that we actually have.
Have you ever had a child who is a know-it-all? Someone who frequently brags about how smart they are? You might start into a quick lesson on some matter only to be rebuffed with “Oh, I already know all about that.” After exposing gaping holes in your child’s keen comprehension of the topic at hand, you might take the opportunity to teach them about humility. If anyone is unwilling to admit their ignorance, they will never discover new knowledge and wisdom. The first step to becoming wise is to confess your need for it.
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:3
Admit your need for God’s grace
The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Some won’t admit they have a sin problem. They’ll excuse their sin, justifying themselves in one fashion or another. At times I’ve talked to people like this about the condition of their soul and will finally tell them very bluntly that there is nothing further to say. Apparently, Jesus Christ did not die for them and has nothing to offer them because the Bible very clearly says that Christ died for the ungodly which obviously does not include them.
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6
God’s grace is for those who are willing to admit that they are a miserable failure at living the kind of good and just and upright life that they know they ought to.
Other’s will admit they have a sin problem but are convinced that they can work their way out of it. If they just redouble their efforts to follow the law or the dictates of their own conscience, they’ll finally achieve a life of righteousness. God’s response is the question that Dr. Phil popularized: “How’s that working out for you?”
Humility is such a simple thing. It’s just being honest to recognize and admit your own failure to live an upright life. Yet this simple and easy step of admitting our own need is so often thwarted by our pride. We want to make our own way. We want to prove our own competence. We want to glory in the accomplishments of our own moral prowess.
So whether we are sinners lost without God or believers figuring out how to live the Christian life, we can set aside the grace of God choosing to prove ourselves with our own efforts, or we can look to heaven and simply rest, trusting wholly in the grace of God that makes us righteous without a single good deed credited to our account.
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. Galatians 2:21