The Power and Freedom of a Humble Life
Pride is often the true reason why we get our feelings hurt, why we feel rejection, why we won’t admit to mistakes, why we want to be seen with certain people, and why we stay angry.
Jesus gives us the perfect example of a powerful life lived without conceit, smugness, or arrogance. So why do we not want to admit to our pride? It is because of our pride!
In The Power of Humility, R. T. Kendall challenges us to look deeply into our hearts and motives to recognize the pride and self-righteousness there. Using personal stories and enlightening examples from the Bible, he demonstrates how pride interferes with a close relationship with God and reveals how to overcome pride and become more like Jesus.
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About the Author
R. T. Kendall is author of the best-selling title Total Forgiveness. Born in Ashland, Kentucky, he was educated at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Oxford University and was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, England, for twenty-five years. Known internationally as a speaker and teacher, Dr. Kendall is also the author of more than forty-five books, including The Sensitivity of the Spirit, The Thorn in the Flesh, Grace, Pure Joy, Imitating Christ, and The Anointing: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. Visit his website at www.rtkendallministries.com.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Personal story—how my pride got me into trouble, definitions of pride
1 Taking Ourselves Too Seriously
A measure of pride is essential to our self-esteem, emotional well-being, and good mental health. It is what gives us a sense of self-worth and dignity—which God wants each of us to have. We need to take ourselves seriously to some extent. But pride can push this too far as when we begin to take ourselves too seriously. In this chapter we will examine pride as it is generally understood in the Bible.
2 Is Pride Always a Bad Thing?
Although the Bible has nothing good to say about pride, Jesus’s parable about our taking the lowest seat at a banquet is a direct appeal to our pride. This shows that pride can be a good thing. Jesus assumes this. He does not want us to be humiliated but honored—but only when we go about it the right way. What is the way forward? It is to let a sense of duty propel us to service while not letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing (Matt. 6:3).
3 The High Cost of Pride
The purpose of this chapter is to help us face our pride—past and present, then ask whether we might avoid a future mistake by catching ourselves in the nick of time. But it is not easy to do. Pride is the sin we are loath to admit to.
4 Forfeiting Wisdom
Wisdom is the presence of the mind of the Holy Spirit. It is much, much more than presence of mind. Having mere presence of mind is the ability to think and act calmly and efficiently, especially in an emergency. To ask for wisdom shows you are not too proud to do so. If we will covet the presence of the mind of the Spirit—which means being on good terms with the Holy Spirit by never grieving Him (Eph. 4:30), it will keep us on the straight and narrow. Just maybe we will be preserved from the pride that destroys wisdom.
I might have called this chapter, “The Inexcusableness of Pride,” because nobody has a good excuse for being proud. But we all manage to get proud nonetheless! There is something in the fallen human heart that causes us to pretend. The word modesty means being humble or self-effacing. It is perhaps best understood in terms of what it is not: the opposite of pride, arrogance, vanity. It is having a moderate estimate of one’s own merits, not being boastful.
6 When the Anointing Lifts
This chapter actually extends the theme the inexcusableness of pride. We saw that any virtue or achievement we have is traced to the utter grace of God. We therefore are foolish to gloat or to take credit for any good thing in us. But if there is any doubt as to our having no right to be proud about ourselves, this becomes clear when we see what we are like when the anointing of the Holy Spirit lifts from us.
Self-righteousness has a way of blinding us to what we are really like. Self-righteousness blinds us to our self-righteousness. Self-righteousness may be defined as a smug feeling of well-being, whether conscious or unconscious, that comes as a result of justifying ourselves. The conscious feeling comes when we are so sure we are in the right. The unconscious feeling is present when we are not aware that we are arrogant even though at bottom we are so sure we are right. Self-righteousness may also be defined as a feeling of smug moral superiority derived from a sense that our beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person. It is perhaps best known as a holier than thou attitude. It means being piously sure of one’s own righteousness.
Self-pity comes naturally to all of us. It is the twin of self-righteousness; they two go together and are often inseparable. Self-pity has sometimes been linked to what is called the dark night of the soul. It sets in when God hides His face. Self-pity is feeling sorry for yourself. It is a feeling of sorrow (often self-indulgent) over your own sufferings. It is the psychological state of an individual in perceived adverse situations who has not accepted the situation and—in some cases—does not seem to have the confidence or the ability to cope with it. Like self-righteous people who are quite unteachable, so those afflicted with self-pity are hard to reach when others want to help them.
The word hypocrite (Greek upokrites) is used twenty times in the New Testament, mostly by Jesus. In the ancient Greek language it meant “actor.” But as the word developed, it came to be used in a bad sense. Philo (20 B.C.—A.D. 50) and Josephus (A.D. 37–100) generally used the word in a negative sense. And so did Jesus. The word translated “hypocrisy” is used seven times in the New Testament. The meaning then and now comes to this, describing a person who pretends to be what he is not. Why would a person do this? Our pride. We want the bouquet from people for having appeared to be something. One does this because he or she does not have it on their radar screen to seek the praise that comes from God only; they want the glory from one another (John 5:44).
10 Climbing Up, Climbing Down
It is more fun to climb up than it is to climb down. In Britain it is called eating humble pie—that is, to act submissively, especially when admitting to an error. In America it is eating crow. Climbing down is having to retract what we once said or believed. Though it can be humbling, it is good for the soul! The hardest thing in the world for some of us is to say, “I was wrong.” It is the best way to approach any relationship, and it is certainly the right way to be toward God. If you are wrong, confess it; if you are right, realize it is by the sheer grace of God this is the case.
11 Choosing Your Friends
We are fairly stupid if we choose friends on the basis of what makes us look good. It is well and good if our friends happen to be upstanding people, but if that is a requirement for finding friends, most of us will be bankrupt in that department. A friend is someone who knows all about you and still likes you. He or she is one who not only can weep when you weep but also rejoice when you rejoice. I would say, therefore, a true friend is one who can rejoice with you.
12 How to Become Yesterday’s Man
By yesterday’s men or women I refer to the fact that in former years such people were truly being used of God, possibly right in the middle of what God was doing—but only in the past. No longer. So I call them yesterday’s men or women because they are irrelevant today. It does not mean they are old or retired. It does not mean they have been made redundant. As a matter of fact, they could be active in their church and in ministry. As someone put it regarding the church, “If the Holy Spirit were completely taken from the church today, 90 percent of the work of the church would go right on as if nothing happened.” This can happen to an individual—as described in Hebrews 6:4–6. You can be old and be tomorrow’s man; you can be young and be yesterday’s man or woman. Moses was 80 before he was truly used of God; King Saul was only 40 when he became yesterday’s man. It has to do with crossing over a line that so offends the Holy Spirit His voice is never again perceived in one’s heart.
13 Prophetic Pride
Prophetic people need a lot of humility. They have to admit it when they get it wrong. They are understandably loath to do so. They want to be trusted and believed, and they fear that if they have a prophecy that was not accurate, nobody would believe them any longer. This is why they need a lot of humility—to be able to carry on after a mistake and leave it to God to vindicate their word.
14 Hypocritical Humility
Since humility is an obvious virtue and admired by most people, many try to feign humility. It looks better if you appear humble. As for those who are proud of their humility, this of course is an impossibility—it is like trying to make a hot snowball! And yet people try to play the role of being humble. The truth is, we are all proud men and women. We may pretend to be rid of it. But if we push it down into the cellar, it comes out in the attic. We may succeed for a while in making others think we are not so proud, but God knows the truth. I see the only way forward as looking straight to Jesus—and nowhere else.
There is more than one definition of boasting. It may be speaking of yourself in superlatives, to talk in a self-admiring way, or name dropping. In a word: self-praise. Generally speaking, boasting or bragging on oneself does little for the person who hears it. The antidote to boasting: love—the agape love of 1 Corinthians 13:4, for this love “does not boast.” Does it bless you when a person continually boasts of whom they know, how much time they have spent with them, and how close they are to them? It feeds on their insatiable ego but does nothing for you! Learn from this; be conscious that when you are boasting of any success, it is probably doing more for you than for them. And what it does for you may well be counterproductive on your spiritual life.
16 Judging and Being Judged
Pride makes us feel worthy to judge another. We think we have made personal progress in a particular area and forget how recently we were like that and how easily we could fall right back into the same malady. Pride is what makes us presume, even if unconsciously, that we are a cut above the other person. The truth is, we are not. Jesus followed His admonition about judging with this question: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?…You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:41–42). He is saying that we are qualified to judge when the plank in our eye is gone! And if we think it is gone, we are deceived.
17 The Gospel
The gospel of Jesus Christ is designed with basically one thing in mind: that God gets all the glory. How does this make you feel? Are you OK with this? Does this surprise you? I’m sorry, but the gospel that is preached nowadays, speaking generally, is “no gospel at all” (Gal.1:7). First, the emphasis seems to be on what we do. Second, the emphasis is often on the earthly benefits of becoming a Christian—that is, what it will do for you here below (your finances, healing, well-being). In a word: it is so man-centered. The What’s in it for me? era continues to govern our worldview.
18 Overcoming Pride
The gospel is the greatest remedy against pride. This is because it is so humbling to receive a gift—absolutely free. God has done it all. He has provided the Savior, who lived the perfect life. He grants us the repentance and faith that secure our salvation. We can take no credit for any of it! If you are true to the leading of the Holy Spirit, you will have to do things that humble you, make you appear as a wimp, and do things that nobody will admire. And yet it is a major step in overcoming pride. It comes to the gospel. Embrace it with both hands. And never look back.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If one reads this book with an open heart it will expose what is in us all, pride and self righteousness in their many forms. I was humbled and repentant after reading this book and will read it more than once. Thank you R.T. Kendall for a great book on a difficult subject.
There are so many things I didn't realize pride encompassed, such as self-pity. This is a great book on learning how to live the closest to Jesus, by living like him. RT Kendall writes about known and undetected forms of pride, and numerous ways to access the humility in our lives to be humble individuals that attract others.
I start to ready this book a month before my father pass away, i didnt knew them ,but,God was preparing me for that moment w this book, i went to my dads funeral and discover a life my dad have that i never knew it, the words and passages from the bible on that book kept me together in that difficult moment, and i praise the Lord for you Pastor Kendall,God bless you and thank you for make yourself available to God use you so powerfully....
The Power of Humility by R.T. Kendall is a powerful indictment of the popular Christian sin of pride. Kendall, long the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, England, brings his many years in the pulpit and the Lord's service to this study of how pride affects our faith and hampers our lives. He uses several biblical examples to demonstrate how God punishes those who rely on themselves instead of Him. Kendall even speaks honestly about his own battle with personal pride as well as stories he's witnessed personally. Pride may be the worst sin that keeps us from God, because even Christians can be very guilty of it, often masquerading as false humility. Here's a few of my favorite quotes from the book: You can talk about your failures and disappointments to almost anybody; you can only discuss your successes with a true friend. Pride makes us judge. It is pride that seeks to vindicate ourselves. The apostle Paul had made a huge step forward in this area: he refufsed to clear his name and simply chose to wait for the day God chooses to do it. You will not die by swallowing your pride. This is not always an easy book to read, as readers will often squirm with personal conviction, but it's a vital book to read for deeper faith.
By the end of the first paragraph of chapter one, R. T. Kendall had captured my full attention. I was already asking myself, "If I am a spirit filled Christian, how can I justify my subtle attitude of self righteousness and arrogance." "The Power of Humility: Living Free Like Jesus" is designed and destined to change lives. It is my prayer that my life might be one of them. because I want to emulate Jesus. Kendall points out the danger of crossing over the line from dignity to arrogance. He draws from Biblical examples to illustrate the results of arrogance. The lives of Pharaoh, Rehoboam, Uzziah, Haman, Nebuchadnezzar, Belteshazzar, and Herod Agrippa all suffered the results of their arrogance. Kendall goes on to help the reader recognize how pride and self righteousness entered into the world through the serpent in the Garden of Eden. I found the scriptural references and quotes from recognized leaders and personalities at the beginning of each chapter challenging, reflective, and profound. Many of them address a word of warning concerning humility, including: Self righteousness, self pity, hypocrisy, boasting, and judgment. Today we may personally be confronting pride in the context of social, racial, financial, physical, or spiritual realms. These all hinder our relationship with God. "The Power of Humility: Living Free Like Jesus" is an eye opening reminder to look within, to remember the source of our strength, to rely on the Lord for His blessing, while at the same time accepting and acknowledging his touch on our lives. This will allow the gifts and talents He has imparted to us to be used to bring honor to the Name of Jesus. As Reviewed for Midwest Book Review