Book review: Humility: True Greatness, by C. J. Mahaney

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I just finished reading C. J. Mahaney's new book "Humility: True Greatness", and I have to say, I think I'm becoming a big fan of Mahaney's books. My first exposure to him was reading another of his recent books, "Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God," which is really excellent. And this book is quite good, also. Mahaney has a very conversational writing style that makes these books easy, and pleasurable, reading, and they are very Biblical. Here, in a friendly, conversational way he explains what the Bible has to say about humility and applies it practically.

Humility: True Greatness is a brief book, only about 120 pages, with fairly large print. If you're interested in deep theological study of the Bible's teaching on humility, maybe it isn't the book for you -- but where it really shines is applying the Bible's teaching practically. Mahaney includes a number of useful practical (and sometimes humorous) suggestions for fostering humility in our lives. (One is to laugh frequently and laugh at ourselves, surprisingly).

Mahaney also dedicates an entire chapter to inviting and pursuing correction, which is one of the reasons I like this book so much. I think this is something every Christian needs to hear, and something that is unfortunately neglected by many Christians, and much Christian preaching, in the present. Particularly, Mahaney discusses how we can be completely oblivious to things we're doing which are wrong, yet are quite obvious to others. So we need to seek out others who are willing to tell us when we've done something wrong, even if we don't want to hear it, and even pursue such correction. After all, if we're doing something that displeases God, we need to know about it so that we can repent and change.

This is a really important concept, I think. One of the doctrines of the Reformed faith is what we call "total depravity", which means that our whole beings are corrupted by sin. If this is the case, then even our consciences and inner selves are affected by sin -- and so it is quite likely, and perhaps even inevitable, that at times, we sin without realizing it, or without realizing the extent of it. If this is the case, then it means that we need others to help us apply the Scriptures to our own lives, so we see where we've done wrong. For a Biblical example of this, see this case of David in 2 Samuel 11-12. He sinned with Bathsheba, killing her husband Uriah and marrying her, and yet fails to confess and repent of his sin for a long time -- long enough that she gives birth to David's son. Finally, God sends the prophet Nathan to rebuke David (ch. 12) and David repents. But until Nathan came and confronted David, he did not confess and renounce his sin, and God was displeased. And we all can be like that from time to time, so we need men and women of God who are willing to come and confront us when we've sinned and are failing to repent. Mahaney's book gives us a very valuable reminder of this.

On this same issue, Mahaney argues that we can have pockets of spiritual blindness, yet be convinced we can see quite clearly -- and be offended with anyone who has the nerve to think they can see better than us. But he mentions Prov. 12:15, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a man listens to advice." He asks whether we're instead hoping to avoid correction, and suggests that we should instead actively be seeking it out, because we are never competent in discerning our own sin.

Mahaney doesn't say this explicitly, but I think this is one of the reasons why it's so important for Christians to be vitally involved in a local church. We need other Christians -- and especially Christian leaders -- who are able and willing to help us see when we've sinned and failed to recognize it. God has appointed "watchmen" (pastors, teachers, leaders) in the church partly for exactly this reason, and we need them in order to prosper as Christians.

Well, that's enough of a digression on inviting and pursuing correction. This is a really good book. It argues Biblically that pride is a sin that God particularly detests, and one that is particularly detrimental in the Christian life. We need to be reminded of this, as pride is far too often a comfortable sin, one people don't particularly mind confessing and don't try to avoid. The reality is, however, that God hates pride. Additionally, this book has a lot of helpful practical application and suggestions, and it's very well-written and Biblical. I highly recommend it. There is certainly a lot I can benefit from in this book, and I expect that would be true for most Christians.

Caveat: This book was provided through a book review program coordinated by the Diet of Bookworms.

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