For the past few years, our family has watched The Nativity Story around Christmas. The realism of this film is refreshing, and I always seem to come away with a new appreciation for what happened when God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). This year I was again impressed with Mary’s Song, recited at the end of the film. It speaks of contrasting types of people – of the proud and the humble – and of God’s response to both. “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Luke 1:51-52). In the Christmas story, Herod is one of “the proud” whose intentions are thwarted while Mary, one “of humble estate,” bears the very Son of God.
As the story of 2013 unfolds, I don’t want to be counted among the proud. I want to continually humble myself under the mighty hand of God, so that He (not I) may exalt me when and how He chooses. I found a list today while cleaning the house that I remember reading several years ago. Written by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, the list compares proud people with broken people. It seems to me that humility and brokenness work hand in hand, that more of one leads to more of the other. The list is really good, and I’m including a portion of it below. This is a chance to examine yourself. Which camp do you fall into? These words may prick a bit (they did for me), but I pray they whet your appetite for this kind of brokenness and encourage you to humble yourself in the sight of the Lord.
- Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope. Broken people are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.
- Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit. Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for [God and] others.
- Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit. Broken people yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.
- Proud people desire to be served. Broken people are motivated to serve others.
- Proud people desire to be a success. Broken people are motivated to be faithful and make others a success.
- Proud people think of what they can do for God. Broken people know they have nothing to offer God except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives.
- Proud people are self-conscious. Broken people are not concerned with self at all.
- Proud people keep other’s at arms length. Broken people are willing to risk getting close to people and loving intimately.
- Proud people are quick to blame others. Broken people accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation.
- Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when criticized. Broken people receive criticism with a humble, open spirit.
- Proud people are concernd with being respectable, with what others think; they work to protext their own image and reputation. Broken people are concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; they are willing to die to their own reputation.
- Proud people find it difficult to share their spiritual need with others. Broken people are willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.
- Proud people have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; will you please forgive me?” Broken people are quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.
- Proud people tend to deal in generalities when confessing sin. Broken people are able to acknowledge specifics when confessing their sin.
- Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin. Broken people are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.
- Proud people wait for the other to come and ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding or conflict in a relationship. Broken people take the initiative to be reconciled when there is misunderstanding or conflict; they race to the cross, seeing if they can get there first, no matter how wrong the other may have been.
- Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor. Broken people compare themselves with the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for His mercy.
- Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure that everyone else does. Broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.
There you have it. That wasn’t so painful, was it? And I saved the best part for last. The best part of this list is its title: “The Heart God Revives.” May we, like Mary, have humble hearts and be exalted – revived – again and again this year by the presence of Emmanuel, the Lord who draws near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).