Joseph Herrin (07-20-08)
I Peter 5:5
And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
I Kings 21:27-29
And it came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently. Then the word of Yahweh came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, "Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days...”
If there were a garment a man or woman could buy today that was assured of eliciting the favor and grace of God upon the wearer, would you not want to be wearing it daily? Doing so would be especially prudent knowing the terrible judgments and calamities prophesied for America and the nations. If there were such a garment being sold today it would surely be made of sackcloth.
Sackcloth is just what its name implies. It is a coarse, tough fabric that is used in the manufacture of sacks. The equivalent of sackcloth today would be burlap which is a coarse canvas woven from jute or hemp. There is nothing appealing in this material. It is not flashy, stylish, or comfortable. Quite the contrary, it is dull, unattractive and irritating to the skin. Its rough texture scratches the skin which is why it is relegated to being used for sacks, rather than for clothing.
Ahab was accounted as the most wicked king to ever rule over Israel. Yet when he donned a garment of sackcloth and mourned before God, Yahweh took notice and relented of the judgment that He was going to bring about in Ahab’s days.
Although there is no such garment that can be purchased to be worn today to elicit the favor and grace of God, there is something that the children of God can clothe themselves with that will bring forth this result. The Bible declares that clothing oneself in humility will produce the desired effect. There is nothing about humility that the flesh of man finds appealing. Humility is a source of irritation to all that is in man’s fallen nature. The fallen nature of man wants to walk in pride, for pride fits the flesh like a garment of silk. Pride slips on easily, causes no trouble to man’s fallen nature, and lends itself to being paraded around to be admired by others.
I have discerned the voice of the Spirit of Christ daily urging me to clothe myself with humility. I have many opportunities to wear this garment, even as you do. We do well when we put it on, despite the objections of our flesh.
As a man who is called to be a teacher to the body of Christ, I teach on various doctrines all the time, and I very often come into contact with others who see things differently. I have had many lengthy discussions with brothers and sisters recently. Not all who write to me, express themselves with kindness. Some resort to personal attacks when they disagree with a teaching that offends them, or calls into question their own beliefs. When this occurs I find that silken garment of pride presents itself readily to me, inviting me to put it on.
Is there not a tendency in our flesh to fight fire with fire? When we are spoken to roughly, do we not want to defend, and even to speak a rough word in response, particularly when we are convinced of the other person’s error? Yet this is not the response the Son of God would have us choose.
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also...”
Now, I would be lying to you if I said that it is always my first reaction to do as the Lord has instructed. There have been plenty of times when I have written up a response to some offensive word, and there has been much of the silken garment of pride present. Oh, it feels so pleasant, and it fits so well, to just demolish an opponent with words of potent fury, using the knowledge of the word of God to cut and rend. Many have been the occasions when I wrote off some response only to be stopped by the Spirit before the send button could be pushed. At times I have been led to delete the entire e-mail. At other times, I am led to go back and re-write it, removing all language that might offend, to tone down the rhetoric, to remove all statements that bring charge against a person’s character.
I have been a Christian for 37 years, and one thing I have learned is that my flesh has not improved one iota from the day I was saved. It is as true today, as it was the day I was baptized into Christ Yahshua, that “in my flesh dwells no good thing.” There is as much pride in this flesh today as there was 37 years ago. The flesh is thoroughly leavened with it. There is as much lust, and covetousness, and anger, and fear, and selfishness as there was on the most carnal and defeated day of my life. This is why the apostle Paul instructs the saints to “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires.”
The Spirit of Christ within a man must rise up and put the flesh to death. If we ever think we have become so spiritual that we need no longer worry about the corruption in our flesh, then we are set for a fall. One day we will put off this sinful flesh, but until then the principle is always to “buffet our bodies and keep them under subjection.” I have found that it is not wise to be hasty in speech. If I am angered by some communication, then it is a good time to get up and pray, give it some time, and allow the Spirit to reveal His mind and will in a matter.
The issue of humility has great bearing upon all of the teachings I present. I must always be judging my motives in a writing. Have I written in such a way that my own understanding is magnified? Have I written to impress others? Am I seeking any selfish desire in that which I write? At times these things are difficult to discern.
A couple weeks ago I posted a writing titled “A Testimony of a Dying Son.” In that writing I shared some personal testimony as I related to the saints the need to endure many offenses and trials in this life. I spoke of many instances in my own life where I have been borne loss, reproaches and false accusation. One brother wrote the following to me in reply.
Then you sent the message about your trials called "A Testimony of a Dying Son." This message also seems good to my mind and yet troubles my spirit for it has a sour taste. Again I waited on the Lord and He told me that this message does not glorify Him but rather the obedience, trials and suffering of Joseph Herrin.
Were my motives impure in writing this article? Was there something present in my heart that wanted others to know of the things I have suffered that they might offer me some sympathy? I wrote the brother the following in response.
I will confess that I find it easy to agree that your charge has some basis in truth, for I know that there is a tendency in my flesh toward pride. I also understand that my heart, like all men’s hearts, is deceitful, and can persuade me of its good intentions when indeed it has some selfish end in mind.
The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, Yahweh, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.
It is certain that Yahweh is bringing each of His sons to an emptying of all vanity and boasting. "Let him who boasts, boast in Yahweh." I know that pride is present in me, for I too was first born of the corruptible seed of Adam. Yahweh has been doing much in my life to bring me to an end of pride, yet the heart is so deceitful that it seeks to even boast in its abasement. As I am also born again of the Spirit of Christ, there is that within me that yearns to magnify the Father, and this requires that I truly die daily, that I crucify the flesh with its passions and desires.
I still find this struggle present within my being. The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, for they are contrary to one another. I do not deny that I still struggle with thoughts of desiring the affirmation and approval of others. There is that within me that wants others to think well of me. Such a motive is self-seeking, and when I stumble and recognize it I desire to repent, get up, and avoid repeating the error.
As I write I find myself weighing whether certain things should be shared, or withheld. There is usually no greater instance of this pondering whether a message should be communicated than when I am speaking something pertaining to my personal testimony. I would like to say that I am perfect in my discernment in these matters, but I know that there are times when I do not wait as patiently to hear from God before writing as at other moments. Due to the failure to always exercise this patience before writing, I have found that there are times when I have had to retract a writing later, and even offer an apology when the Spirit indicates that it is fitting to do so...
Having said these things, I feel you are right to suggest that there is pride present in the writing "A Testimony of a Dying Son." I do not doubt that there was something inside me that desired to want others to know of the things I have suffered, and in any degree that I have sought to glorify myself, rather than to glorify God, then I have erred. After reading your words here I went back and read again this writing. My heart is convicted that there is present in this testimony a lifting up of my own trials and obedience, and that my motives were not pure in writing these things. I am not convicted that the doctrine presented is wrong, but I do believe you are right to suggest that there was present a desire to magnify my own trials, which is folly.
I do believe God will have me to share these trials with others, but only at His leading, and only for selfless purposes, as did Paul. Therefore I will pray and ask the Father what He would have me to do pertaining to this testimony. If He says to remove it, I will do so. If He says to re-write it where the focus is upon Him, then I will do so. I do fear God, and I would prefer to judge myself that I would not need to be judged by Him.
It would have been easy to justify this writing, and to pay no heed to this brother’s objections. But I fear God, and I fear what is coming to the church in days ahead. I want to be shown grace and favor in these days. Wisdom would counsel me to let the Spirit of Christ examine deeply my motives, and to be quick to repent when any transgression is detected. Knowing the deceitfulness of sin, it seems much more likely that I would stumble through lack of caution into some area of pride, than I would stumble into humility and righteousness.
It is frequently upon my mind that all of us as God’s children are prone to stumbling. This is all the more reason to clothe ourselves with humility. We should be gracious to others, knowing that we too can fall at any moment.
Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
It appears to be the current wisdom of the day that a minister should not openly admit when he has erred lest people should lose confidence in what he says. But is not the opposite actually true? A man who will not confess his faults, nor understand the necessity of relying upon God to keep him from error, will certainly be led into greater and greater error. Those who follow a proud man will be led into destruction.
I have many things yet to learn. I want to remain teachable, and I want God to open my eyes to understand truth. Will He grant me this grace if I seek to magnify myself, and to hide my utter weakness? If I should see my brother or sister stumble, it is my hope that I might be able to help them back up, and that I would not kick them while they are down. By the judgment we judge others we will be judged. I desire mercy, therefore I choose to be merciful.
May we all value highly the garment of humility and wear it at all times.
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