The verse is burned into my mind, because it was the revelation in the church in my little town about six years ago:
“…and My people, who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
This was a call to the church to turn from all of it’s dead traditions and worship God for real.
Good. But one thing we got wrong: humbling ourselves. Contrition was confused with humility. Therefore, a change of heart was declared but not enacted. It was declared but not effective. To heal ourselves and our community, we should have been declaring our righteousness instead of our shortfalls, because then, then we would be saying the same thing that God says about us: that we have already been made righteous. I do not know the source, but I recently heard it said that ‘humility’ is believing what God says about you. It takes humility to accept the good things that God says about us; that we have been made righteous, that we are friends, that we are sons and not slaves.
I believe C.S. Lewis’ famous quote about humility to be accurate:
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
It is natural to feel grief over sin committed, but not all that helpful, because that grieving, especially if it is habitual, feeds the illusion that we are atoning for ourselves; in this we validate ourselves, instead of validating what Christ has done by letting our iniquity go. (And what is forgiveness but letting go of something.) But the grief over that iniquity feels like humility. That grief feels like atonement. That, friends, is when the grief becomes an illusion, even self-deception, if practiced habitually. That ‘humility’ becomes a substitute, counterfeit Christ, an anti-Christ, not only in function, but also in effect. God says we’re redeemed, man. God says it is finished. He paid a high price, so don’t be humbled by sin, be humbled by grace. Christ has removed the meaning from the sin, so now we need a new emotional home. Too many people have made ‘the struggle’ their home. (Check out Moving Forward) They’re confused when Christ takes their home away, and then they have to find a new way to live.
One trouble with the humility I’ve traditionally known, is that it’s built upon what I say about me. In that case, if I want to be humble, I better keep myself down. Instead, if humility is believing what God says about me, then no wonder there is a link between “humbling yourself” and having prayers that are effective. If your prayers agree with God, how can they not be effective?
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