Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
For Concord Baptist Association, September 25, 2004

“If my people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves,. . .”

Maybe our best example of one who humbled himself was John the Baptist, of whom Jesus said, “Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared” (Matt. 11:11, Holman).

I have a deep, abiding respect for John the Baptist. When I was born, my Dad, who had just started preaching, was sitting in the father’s waiting room. Hearing me give out a loud cry, Dad said, “Sounds like one crying in the wilderness. We’ll name him John.” When I was ordained, my Dad preached from John 1:6, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” The Baptist has long been my hero. When I was a boy I told people, when I die I want my head cut off, like John.

Except for Jesus, John was the greatest individual ever. The Baptist constantly called himself inferior to Christ. Jesus responded by saying John was superior to all others. John the Baptist truly was John the Great.

I have often wondered what was the ultimate virtue that won John this accolade from Jesus, a praise we all envy and would love to hear said of us. What was John’s greatest trait? He may have had the most self-denying heart ever.

John was great in holiness, kings couldn’t seduce him, but maybe greatest in humility, a throne couldn’t entice him. This utter disregard for advancement, the total burial of self, may rank as John’s greatest accomplishment.

At the height of his fame, John renounced the pinnacle of success, casting self-regard into oblivion. John had no ambition for eminence. He resisted the temptation to promote himself, claiming, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (JN 3:30).

John’s humility forces me to take a long, deep look into my own self, into how I will define and try to achieve spiritual greatness. If asked point blank to name the top five things I want to accomplish in life, I don’t know if there has ever been a time in my life when I could have honestly put humility on the list.

Our Lord will not tolerate pride among His servants. He often linked greatness with humility. In His kingdom, the greatest humble themselves most.

This truth came crashing in on me recently in a church staff retreat. We had been going through difficult days as a staff. We were discussing the problem, trying to analyze what might be wrong. After many possibilities had been offered, none seeming to resonate with the group, one of us suggested the problem might be pride. I was immediately stricken in my conscience.

Humility is hard to gain, and even harder to keep, for pride sneaks in insidiously. A huge danger in Christian living is to live it in our own strength. We easily slide from doing good deeds in the Spirit into doing good things in the flesh. We often find ourselves praying less, and depending more on our natural abilities.

Revival begins in utter humility, total brokenness, absolute dependence on God. We must humble ourselves.