The Gateway to Virtue

September 8, 2019

David Sorn

If there was one virtue that led to all the others and helped you become more like Christ, would you want to know about it?

The Gateway to Virtue

September 8, 2019

David Sorn

If there was one virtue that led to all the others and helped you become more like Christ, would you want to know about it?


If you’re a football fan, you might recognize the name Chan Gailey.

He has been the head coach at Georgia Tech, head coach of the Buffalo Bills, and even the Dallas Cowboys.

But back in the 80’s, he was the head coach of a small Division II college in Alabama called Troy State.

He had coached his team to the Division II National Championship Game, and the week before the big game, his secretary came out to him and told him he had a phone call.

He was irritated by the interruption, because they were getting ready to practice for the championship game, but she responded, “But it’s Sports Illustrated…the Magazine”

As Gailey made his way back to the building, he began to think how great the publicity in Sports Illustrated would be for Troy State…since it was such a small school.

Then he began to think how they would need a lot of space in the magazine to tell the story.

Perhaps a cover story?

He began to wonder, “Should I pose…or should I go with an action shot?”

Surely they’ll want to interview me and put me on the cover.

When he picked up the phone, the person asked, “Is this Chan Gailey?”

“Yes it is,” he confidently replied.

“This is Sports Illustrated, and we are calling to let you know that your subscription is running out. Are you interested in renewing?”

And therein lies the human condition.

We are so prone to pride.

We’ll take every opportunity we get to form a higher opinion of ourselves than necessary.


And pride is often are undoing.

Our very own John McCormick gave a message on this last year when he worked out from Scripture how pride is almost always found at the root of sin.

But what if we flip the discussion around?

If we’re trying to avoid sin, and instead trying to develop virtues, what is the chief virtue? The root of all virtue?

A virtue is quality, or trait, or even behavior that is morally good.

So, for example, you might know that “patience is a virtue”

But so is kindness, and courage, and generosity, and honesty, contentment, and so on and so forth.

Virtues are inward attitudes or even the outward behaviors that we aspire to as Christians.

So if pride is typically at the root of our undoing…what’s at the root of what will build us up spiritually?

There is indeed one particular virtue that is a gateway to so many others…a chief virtue if you will.

And it’s the virtue of HUMLITY

When a lot of people think of humility, or being humble, they think, “Oh, that’s people who are shy, quiet, meek, or always putting themselves down”

That’s not really what humility is.

There’s that old saying that says “True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”

Here’s how I would Biblically define humility

Humility: When you assess yourself accurately…especially in light of your sinfulness and God’s greatness.

This is not the strong suit of the typical American.

There are plenty of countries in the world that people could visit and say, “Wow, what a humble people.”

The United States of America is not one of those countries.

We’re the country that teaches our children that they are extra special, amazing, and talented!

They are all worthy of trophies…just for breathing.

In 1950, Gallup asked High School Seniors if they thought they were an “important person” and found that 12% of them thought they were an important person.

They asked the same question to high school seniors in 2005 and 80% thought they were “an important person”

And now, with the rise of social media, I would suspect that percentage is even higher

We’re teaching the next generation that whatever they believe is true for them…no matter how illogical their argument is.

We’re teaching kids that they can do anything they want…if they put their mind to it

All of these things, cumulatively, do not foster humility.

We desperately need the teaching of God’s Word on this topic…

We won’t learn humility from our culture.

So how does one become humble?

I want to get to that, but let me first explain how exactly humility is the chief virtue.


In fact, I want to give you 5 reasons why humility functions as the chief or gateway virtue and thus leads you to other being more like Christ.

5 Reasons Why Humility is the Chief Virtue

#1: Humility is the doorway to you understanding God’s grace

(Romans 12:3) – NIV

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

(GO BACK TO “5 Reasons” SLIDE)

5 Reasons Why Humility is the Chief Virtue

#1: Humility is the doorway to you understanding God’s grace

We hit on this two weeks ago when Jesus talked about judgment day in the Book of Luke.

We should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to because when our sin is read on judgment day, our opinion of how great we are…will never be lower.

In fact, your view of yourself will be more accurate in that moment than any other

In my own mind, I often just simply define humility this way:

Humility is a commitment to reality.

All pride does is paint a false (& distorted) picture of reality to you.

But if you come to God in humility, and you realize how big your sin really is are…you’ll be able to see how big God’s grace for you really is!

We talked about this last Fall, when we were in Luke chapter 7, with a message called “The View from Below”

We learned that those who think they’ve been forgiven little, love little.

But if, in humility, you realize that your sins are many and great, and yet, God in his love forgave you anyway…

Your humility will ignite a passion and love for God

Another great thing about humility is that it allows you to be led by God and powerfully used by God.

5 Reasons Why Humility is the Chief Virtue

#1: Humility is the doorway to you understanding God’s grace

#2: Humility allows you to be led & used by God

(Psalm 25:9) – NIV

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

If you grow in humility, God is going to guide you.

What a promise that is!

If you think about it, this makes perfect sense.

The prideful person feels that they don’t need God’s help.

They feel that they don’t need to come to God and say, “What should I do about this situation at work or with my family member?”

In fact, prayerlessness is often one of the most obvious symptoms of a prideful heart.

If you are a person that doesn’t pray very often, there’s a very high chance you’re dealing with a lack of humility.

Your pride has told you that you don’t NEED to pray

But the humble person comes to God often…because the humble person has assessed themselves accurately…they are committed to reality.

They know that they are just a lowly human, and that the God of the Universe has often to helped them…so why in the world would they not take Him up on that offer?!

The humble person let’s go of what they think God should do in their life.

And instead, they go to God and seek His direction.

And it’s not hard to see how humility will lead to plenty of other virtues and good things in your life.

If, because of your humility, God is at the helm of your ship, He’s going to guide you to so many more righteous acts compared to if you’re telling God he can stay below deck because you’ve got this figured out

5 Reasons Why Humility is the Chief Virtue

#1: Humility is the doorway to you understanding God’s grace

#2: Humility allows you to be led & used by God

#3: Humility leads to praise

If you grow in humility, you will grow in your praise of God.

Which is SO, SO important.

Many Biblical scholars have said that our chief aim is to glorify God with our lives.

To live in such a way that we bring Him glory and praise and credit for what He’s done.

Yet, pride operates in direct opposition to that flow

We take our kids to the library a lot, and about 6 months ago, one of my kids randomly grabbed this book called, “Rory the Dinosaur: Me and My Dad”

And it’s such a good illustration of the necessity of humility.

In fact, let’s do a little “STORY TIME WITH DAVID,” and I’ll read you part of the book. J

It’s about Rory, the kid dinosaur, who decides he’s going to go off on his own and explore the island by himself.

(Show Rory Pages 1 – 7)

And I love this book because this is exactly what we do all day long.

We accomplish things in life…that really, our Father in Heaven is allowing us to accomplish…

but because we’re not looking for Him…we don’t notice what He’s doing.

And thus, in our pride, we take credit for doing it “all by ourselves”

But remember humility is a commitment to reality

It’s a commitment to putting your spiritual glasses on and seeing that it’s God who is providing for you and moving in your life.

Humility is such a gateway to growth in your faith!

But I want you to see how humility even leads to a growth in some of the behavioral virtues as well

Like take self-control for example.

5 Reasons Why Humility is the Chief Virtue

#1: Humility is the doorway to you understanding God’s grace

#2: Humility allows you to be led & used by God

#3: Humility leads to praise

#4: Humility leads to self-control

We would all love more self-control.

To better avoid lust while you’re looking at your phone, gluttony when you forgot to pack a lunch and decided a triple burger at Wendy’s was fine instead of salad, to better avoid impulse buying on Amazon…

How do we ever live in this virtue of self-control?

Again, it begins with humility

Americans really struggle with self-control because our solution for almost everything is “you can do it!”

“You can do anything if you just put your mind to it!”

And that’s a really terrible way to try and get more self-control in your life.

You’re just going to realize, all the more, that you CAN’T do it…and you’ll be even more defeated.

Think of AA…or any recovery group here (Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous…you name it)

These are people who are really trying to master self-control, right?

What’s their success based in?

It’s based in humility.

Step 1 of any recovery program is: We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol, food, gambling, heroin…that our lives had become unmanageable

That’s humility

Step 2: Came to believe that a power GREATER THAN OURSELVES could restore us to sanity

That’s humility.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God

That’s humility.

You begin to have power over your sins…not by trying harder to conquer them…but by becoming humble…and calling on God’s power.

I want to go further with some of these virtues like self-control, but we can’t get everything in during just one message.

So I want you to come back next week, and we’re going to talk about how humility fosters community.

And how it’s actually humility that leads to true Christian love and kindness.

5 Reasons Why Humility is the Chief Virtue

#1: Humility is the doorway to you understanding God’s grace

#2: Humility allows you to be led & used by God

#3: Humility leads to praise

#4: Humility leads to self-control

#5: Humility leads to honor

Humility leads to honor…but pride to leads to dishonor.

Pride comes before a fall…as Proverbs says

If you’re trying to be great, it’ll just lead to you be humbled…probably publicly…perhaps embarrassingly

Jesus says this a number of times in Scripture

(Matthew 23:12) – NIV

12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Or Solomon says it this way in Proverbs:

(Proverbs 18:12) – NIV

Before a downfall the heart is haughty,

but humility comes before honor.

Over time, because humility leads to admirable virtues that people will appreciate seeing in you, people will honor you.

They’ll respect you as a co-worker, as a boss.

They’ll respect you as a grandfather…or grandmother.

Because your life will have earned their respect.

That’s where humility leads…to honor.

And we use that honor, not for ourselves, because that’s just pride…but as a platform to point to Christ.

But pride always leads the opposite way.

I know we live in a culture where we’re all supposed to promote ourselves on social media and talk about how special we are…

But that sort of pride and self-promotion will never lead you where you want to go.

If you’re always thinking about yourself…you won’t accomplish much of anything from an eternal perspective.

I remember reading once about a pastor who was officiating a funeral.

When the service was over, he was asked to lead the funeral procession as it made its way to the cemetery.

So he got into his car, and he started driving at the head of the funeral procession.

As he was driving, like many of us do, he got lost in thought…

Thinking about himself, what others might have thought of him as he led the funeral service…and all the other things he had to do that day.

As he was lost in thought about himself, he saw a K-mart, and he remembered that he made a mental note earlier that morning to pick something up at K-Mart for himself that day..

So he pulled into the K-Mart parking lot.

As he was looking for a parking space, he just happened to glance into the rear-view mirror--and saw a string of cars following, all with their lights on…following him for the funeral.

When we’re always thinking about ourselves, we can’t lead anyone anywhere good

But if you humble yourself, God will use you…

All the virtues that inspire others…like faith and courage and trust…will grow in your life…if you’re not preoccupied with yourself.


So if humility is truly that important to you growing in your Christian character…how does one become more humble?

Let me give you a few things you can do

For one, you’re going to have to acknowledge that pride…your high opinion of yourself…is a major problem in your life.

That you typically think you know what is right

That you think you’re a better person than others.

And that in general, you think of yourself way too much

I dare you to count how many times in a day you think about yourself.

C.S. Lewis once wrote:

“If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud…At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.” – C.S. Lewis

The Lord really opened my eyes to this concept in Scripture…of humility being THE Chief virtue this summer, and so I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot.

Every day on my prayer list, I see these words: Humility : The chief virtue…

Pray for it, seek it, humble yourself.

And I have to tell you, as I’ve spent more time thinking of this subject, I’m completely mortified by the depth (& pervasiveness) of my pride.

And it isn’t simply that I’m walking around going, “I’m the best thing since sliced bread…

Pride is much more sly and devious than that.

In our minds, it isn’t that obvious.

It’s that in how I look at other people…

And how we notice their faults (you know the ones we don’t have)

And that lack of humility hinders my ability to live out the virtue of love like Jesus wants me to

It’s in how I take credit for things

Which limits God moving through me…because He’ll move through someone else who will give Him glory

It’s in how I think I have things figured out…

Which limits how often I seek God for direction.

Which means I’m probably walking in the wrong direction!

Our pride is so pervasive… like gangrene it grows through our whole spiritual walk and severely limits our growth.

So, start by acknowledging that pride is a major, and most likely, pervasive problem in your life.

Secondly, start thinking of yourself less.

I heard one of my heroes, Timothy Keller, say once that if one of your co-workers comes in to work tomorrow and says, “Boy, my elbows feel great!”

You’re going to think, “Well, the only possible reason one would say such an odd thing is because, previously, their elbows weren’t feeling great!”

Because if your elbows are healthy, they don’t draw attention to themselves.

You never think about your elbows unless there is something wrong with them.

And he says it’s the same way with you ego, your sense of self.

If we were spiritually healthy and humble, we wouldn’t be constantly thinking about how we were doing, or looking, or what people were saying about us…it wouldn’t really cross our minds.

We wouldn’t just be looking constantly at our own interests, but God’s interests, and the interests of other people.

So, we acknowledge that we’re prideful…

We try to stop thinking so much of ourselves…

But humility is truly fostered when we see our sin, but we also see our God.

The God that looks on us, miserable sinners, with love…like the love a Father has when He first looks at his newborn child

But also the God that made stars, the planets, the universe.

The God that created everything we see

The God that holds our lives in the palm of His hand and numbers our days.

A life of worship will foster a life of humility.

John Flavel (FLAY-vel) once said:

“They that know God will be humble, and they that know themselves cannot be proud.” – John Flavel

I just keep going back to Rory the Dinosaur.

It’s funny the ways in which God speaks to us sometimes.

When I was reading this book to my kids…and looking at the father in some of these pictures…

Show Rory Page 7

It just hit me about what God did for us.

That he came down to our dirty world.

And that, out of His love and care for us, HE was scratched up, and beaten, and stretched out on a tree.

And He gave his life so we could live.

And how often do I still say, “I did this all by myself”

May we look up this week…and may we really see what He’s doing for us.

And may our humility be a gateway to more of His life in us.

Let me pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.