Book Review: “Humility” by C.J. Mahaney

Title: “Humility”
Author: C.J. Mahaney
Publisher: Multnomah
Release Date: September 30, 2005
Pages: 176
ISBN: 978-1-59052-326-1
Rating: 5/5 (highly recommended)
Purchase: Sovereign Grace Store, Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore, Amazon.com

I bought this book because I need it. Simple as that. Pride runs rampant in my life; it very often rears its ugly head. When I serve my brothers and sisters at GOC, when I write this blog, when I do well in school, or mention my musical or literary pseudo-abilities, pride surfaces. I take ownership of my abilities, under-recognizing, or failing altogether to recognize, God’s due credit for all that He has given me. He has given me my brain, my drive, my endurance; more, He has given me my life and my salvation, and none of it comes from me. None of it is mine to claim as my own. So I bought and read this book to help me in my fight against sin, to give God the glory He so deserves. (If you would pray for me on this matter, I could certainly use it.)

C.J. divides this book into the expository and the practical: he looks at how God views and deals with pride in the Bible, and he gives a collection of practices that he uses in his own life to combat pride. One thing I appreciate about C.J.’s books is that they are eminently practical. This is not merely a theologian’s look at humility, it is not simply a treatise on humility, and this is certainly not written by a man in an ivory tower. No, this book is written by a man who confesses to have great pride, who therefore takes biblically grounded steps to fight that pride, and passes on his knowledge and experiences to us.

Part I: Our Greatest Friend, Our Greatest Enemy
The Battle of Humility Versus Pride

This is the section where C.J. lays out the biblical precedent for humility. Many of us are familiar with the verse, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). C.J. explains why that is, by answering this question:

Why does God hate pride so passionately? Here’s why: Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him. . . . Pride takes innumerable forms but only has one end: self-glorification. 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. The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive. No wonder God opposes pride. No wonder He hates pride. Let that truth sink into your thinking. (31-32)

All I can say is that I was incredibly convicted by this passage. I have nothing further to add.

Part II: The Great Reversal
Our Savior and the Secret of True Greatness

In the example of Christ, we find one who is preeminently humble. The Son of God, worthy of all glory, came “not to be served but to serve” (Matt. 20:28b). He tells us, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43b-44). This greatness comes not in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of God, the One we love and serve. And, C.J. points out, this is made possible only by the death of Christ. We are prideful and sinful to the core, and the only way we can be humble is through the freedom from sin bought with the blood of Christ as “ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28a).

Part III: Our Great Pursuit
The Practice of True Humility

Thus it is only logical that C.J. begins his section on practices for preventing pride with “reflect on the wonder of the cross” (65). The cross shows us our true state, sinful and broken and in need of redemption. It points to God’s holiness, and thus to His sovereignty. “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness” (22). He suggests that you “begin your day expressing gratitude to God” (70), noting that someone who is “grateful for God’s many mercies” (71) is a humble person, because that individual knows how undeserving he is of his blessings and how little he can accomplish apart from God. These two practices only scratch the surface, in terms of breadth and depth, of C.J.’s suggestions. They are truly gems.

C.J. has a gift for writing. He is concise, yet incredibly convicting. His words are simply written, but moving. He writes in a conversational style that is easy to comprehend, but make no mistake: neither the simplicity of his style nor the brevity of his book diminish the power of the truth contained therein. His words are biblically grounded, and he draws from other preachers and writers powerful quotes to increase your understanding. This is a book I need, and a book everybody should read. Put your understanding of humility into practice so God may be glorified by our recognition of His sovereignty in all areas of our lives.

For another review, Tim Challies has a good one.

(All quotes are the property of Sovereign Grace Ministries.)

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2 responses to “Book Review: “Humility” by C.J. Mahaney

  1. Hi Elliot! It’s been awhile since we’ve last spoken. I don’t believe we’ve ever had a meaningful conversation haha, but I was just looking through my news feed and stumbled upon your blog. Your post has inspired me to buy this book! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your interpretations of the word. :]
    -Elena

    • Elena! It’s good to hear from you! I hope you’re doing well. :) I’m glad that you are being encouraged by His Word. This book has helped me–and is still helping me–view God in His rightful place and all the ways I can glorify God by humbling myself, and I’m certain it will do the same for you. Thanks for checking in, and I’m sure God will be glorified by your pursuit of knowledge and truth!

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