A friend lent me the book "Humility True Greatness" a while back--and I was hooked. As a Christian, I have found my struggle for humility (or perhaps better put, with my ego) is never-ending, and sometimes feels futile as well. C.J. Mahaney's book has helped me to address this battle in a more concrete way--for example, he defines ego as "contending with God for supremacy." Wow! That certainly puts things in perspective. I found this book both readable and informative, and would recommend it to anyone who is in the struggle to determine who he or she will follow: God or his/her own ego.
Only in the past two years have I known much about C. J. Mahaney. Much of what I have learned is a result of the wiki leaks this last year and the controversy surrounding his leave of absence from Sovereign Grace Ministries. These events played a role in me reading this book. I figured the guy who wrote a book on the subject of humility then stepped down to have his character examined, specifically the matter of humility, must take this characteristic and his character extremely seriously.
After having read this book, I really feel like I've had a window into this man's heart. If you've gotten caught up in this controversial discussion about C. J. Mahaney, I encourage you to read this book before being swept away by a torrent of media that might bias your views of this man. Before deciding what we think of Mahaney, we need to see the presupposition under which he operates his Christian life. It is clear that the virtue of humility is cherished by him as it ought to by us all. It is also clear that when this character attribute of his is challenged, he does not take the challenge lightly. I appreciate they lengths at which he took in order to be tested and restored rightly.
I actually read Humility in February just after my recent surgery. I was cooped up in bed for a couple of days, and it seemed like good timing to give this book a read. After having read the book, I heartily recommend this book to every Christian who desires to understand the attribute of humility and the role that it ought to play in each of our lives.
According to Mahaney, "Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God's holiness and our sinfulness." In contrast to humility, Mahaney explains, "Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him." Basically, Mahaney says that our pride is strong when we forget our place before God and try to usurp that place from Him. Mahaney continues, "That's the motive and ultimate purpose of pride - to rob God of legitimate glory and to pursue self-glorification, contending for supremacy with Him." Humility is when we see ourselves the way God sees us, warts and all.
The beauty of it all is that God loves through our sinfulness. We know this because God the Father sent God the Son, who willingly subjected Himself to death on the cross. Mahaney elaborates on the value of Christ's death in respect to the subject of humility,
"Here's an essential truth: To learn true humility, we need more than a redefinition of greatness; we need even more than Jesus' personal example of humble service. What we need is His death_" Why was the death of Jesus necessary? Because all of humanity is corrupt and condemned, and we all have an acute tendency to deny the reality of our lost state before God.
Without first being confronted by Christ's death and encountering the wonder of salvation we cannot walk in humility. Humility requires us to emulate and sacrifice like Christ did when he died, according to Mahaney this is true greatness. What I've just shared covers the material from Parts One and Two of this book. Those two parts help the reader have context for understanding the links between pride, greatness, and humility. Part Three is where Mahaney provides encouragement and methods for practicing humility. This section includes principles to practice at the beginning of the day, the end of the day, and also some special principles.
As each day begins Mahaney challenges the reader to reflect on the wonder of the cross, to acknowledge our need for God, to give gratitude to God, and to practice spiritual disciplines. As an aside he recommends Don Whitney's book, Spiritual Discipline for the Christian Life, a book I am reading at present. Mahaney encourages those who wish to practice humility to take advantage of their commute and make it purposeful time with God. He also challenges the reader to cast their cares upon God.
As the day ends Mahaney cautions the reader from committing cosmic plagiarism. This is when we take credit for what God does in our lives. He also encourages us to accept the gift of sleep, then close the day with expressing gratefulness for Christ's death and resurrection.
As a special focus Mahaney encourages the reader to study the attributes of God, study the doctrine of grace, nbsp;and study the doctrine of sin.
There are a bunch of nuggets to take away from this book. One of the most precious ones that I found was in Mahaney's chapter on encouraging others. This nugget has to do with correcting others. Mahaney says, "Never correct without reminding the individual, at some point, of the gospel. Any conversation including correction must also include the gospel, because biblical correction is incomplete apart from the gospel." This observation of his is absolutely the best snapshot of this book. Always at the center of humility is a message, action, or lifestyle centered on the gospel. This is how it should be. When we rise Christ's resurrection is on our hearts and in our morning prayers. When we walk we proclaim the fulfilled promise of our Savior. When we lay our head down, we rest peacefully in the hands that were pierced for our transgressions, remembering the cost he paid for so great a salvation.
Once again, I recommend reading this book. Then a couple of months after having read it, re-acquaint yourself with the book and review your notes. That is what I did this evening, and it refreshed my soul.
View more book reviews by Joey Cochran at jtcochran.com.
I appreciated the fact that Mahaney started the book by acknowledging that it is almost an oxymoron to say that you are writing a book on Humilty. People immediately think you obviously have no humility if you think you can tell the rest of us what it is :)
But this little booklet is definitely a necessary book for those of us who need to defeat the sin of pride and develop the Biblical trait of humility.
His working definition for humility in this book is; "Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God's holiness and our sinfulness." That is a wonderful definition. We all acknowledge that God is holy and we should all acknowledge that we are sinful. So, if we stop to acknowledge these facts and that they apply to our private lives then we will be on the road to humility.
Chapter three of the book looks at Jesus and how He re-defines greatness! As you read you will be reminded that Jesus reminded even his disciples that if you wished to be the greates in the kingdom of God you needed to become the least, the servant of all. You need to humble yourself taking on the form of a bondservant.
Then Chapter 4 deals with the content that is essential to grasp the truth of what it means to be humble. This is probably the most pivital chapter in the text. Mahaney gives us many scriptural references to help us put the meat on the bones of humility. When you finish chapter four you know what is needed to become humble, you probably just don't know how to go about it.
So, starting in Chapter 5 Mahaney gives us his list of practical ways to weaken pride and cultivate humility. He does state, "For your own purposes, think of the items on my list simply as recommendations, not requirements--as suggestions for your consideration." He is acknowledging that you don't want to become legalistic in your trying to develop Humility. It is a gift that God gives to you as you strive to develop your walk with Christ.
So, the recommendations flow through the rest of the book and are excellent. When you finish I'm sure you will have a full list of things that you should be striving for in your battle to defeat sin, especially the sin of Pride and to put on the Christ-like character trait of humility.
To give just one example of the recommendations Mahaney starts with the recommendation to, "Reflect on the Wonder of the Cross." As you reflect on the cross you will not be able to look at it without seeing how sinful you are that it required Christ going to the cross to reconcile you with the Father. Your pride will be put away as you realize the work of the cross and that it was done for you. This will certainly drive you to your knees in humbleness as you declare to the Lord your thankfulness for what He has done.
Well, there are many other things in the book that will help you develop humility, but you won't know what they are until you purchase and read this masterpiece on the Character Trait of Humility.
True greatness is very distorted by the world today and C.J. Mahaney easily breaks it down with life stories and examples and easy to understand comparisons, not to mention he refers to scripture continuously. This book is great for anyone and everyone, because there isn't a person in the world who doesn't need to recognize their own pride in their hearts.