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When “Humility” Hinders Sanctification

Of course humility is a significant part of sanctification. We should grow deeper and deeper in humility every day. But there are times where our “humility” hinders our fight for sanctification.

In Broken-Down House, Paul Tripp writes about Moses’ argument with God in Exodus 3 and 4. After God tells Moses that He will go with him to Egypt, that He will give him signs to confirm his words, and that He has made Moses’ very mouth and so is capable to enable Moses to do what He’s calling him to do, Moses remains unconvinced and asks for someone else to be sent in his place. And God’s anger burns. Tripp writes:

There are two ways to look at how Moses responded here, and both are true. In one sense, Moses was accurately identifying weaknesses in himself. Fair enough, but hardly the complete picture because, far more importantly, Moses was completely overlooking the fact that the one asking him to do these significant things was the Almighty Creator, who certainly had the power to bring them to pass.

So the kind of doubt Moses was displaying here was not simply doubt in his own abilities. There is ultimately a deeper and far more significant doubt involved—a doubt of God’s sovereignty and power. Where the first kind of doubt might be a form of humility, the second is a sinful faithlessness. God knows that in ourselves we are not up to the tasks he calls us to, but he never makes a false assignment. When he sends us we are sent as instruments in his almighty hands. He is the one who creates the change. He is the great Restorer. He never calls us to what we cannot accomplish in him, but he always calls us to what we could never accomplish without him. (pp. 140-141)

This is really helpful as we think about the long, hard fight for sanctification. We’re called to be holy, as God is holy. We’re called to put off sexual immorality, pride, deceit, hatred, slander, gossip. We’re called to practice justice and to love mercy. We’re called to love our enemies and to suffer. We’re called to resist the incredibly seductive draw of self-justification and to rest in the finished work of Christ. And in appropriate humility, we have to admit that we’re failing in so many ways.

But if we respond to the call to sanctification with, “God, we’re not able. Sanctify someone else. We’re too weak for this fight,” then we’re not humbly admitting our need for Him. Rather we’re telling Him that we don’t trust Him to go with us, to enable us to accomplish the very thing to which He has called us. This “humility” hinders our sanctification because it’s not humility, it’s fear and a lack of trust wrapped up in “humble” language.

The next time you’re tempted to look at pornography or slander a coworker or ridicule your political leaders, refuse to respond in this way. Refuse to ask Him to leave you alone. Refuse to cower before the task to which He has called you—the good work that He has prepared in advance for you to do—and trust that He will enable you to do it. Pray for strength, certainly. And be strong and courageous. He will go with you.

Trevin Wax had a really useful post on the same topic last August:

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