“Humility” – C. J. Mahaney – A Review by John Beeson
Note – Another review by John Beeson. If you would like to know more about John, I included a short bio of him the last time he posted for this blog. I am hoping that his posts and book reviews become more of a norm.
Humility by C. J. Mahaney – A Review
by John Beeson
Who doesn’t like CJ Mahaney? C’mon really… is there anybody who doesn’t love this guy? Bald, lanky, energetic, and full of joy, Mahaney is infectious. CJ was the senior pastor of Covenant Life Church in Maryland for 27 years and has now gone on to lead Sovereign Grace Ministries. Mahaney has given us another one of his trademarked hard-covered, pocket-sized monographs. In Humility, Mahaney is at his best, bringing the Word straight to your heart, applying its truths in the most down-to-earth way (and, as always, he manages to do so with a grin and a chuckle).
Mahaney gets rolling in Part II of the book, where he retells the story of James and John’s request to sit at the right hand of Jesus. For them, “Jesus is just a means to their end of personal exaltation” (41-42). But Jesus redefines greatness: it is service, just as “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The pursuit of greatness (as Christ defines it) becomes cross-centered, “attained only by emulating the Savior’s example – and made possible only by the Savior’s sacrifice” (58).
Part III is the longest and best section of the book, entailing 8 incredibly helpful and practical chapters. Let me recap some of my favorite bits of advice:
Reflect on the wonder of the cross. To paraphrase Owens, if our affections are captivated by the cross of Christ, there will be no room for sin. This gem alone, carefully mulled over, is alone worth the cost of the book.
Rest in God. Mahaney says, “Receive the gift of sleep from God and acknowledge His purpose for sleep” (82). My wife has taught me a lot about this one and it was great to hear Mahaney echo this wisdom I all too often rebuff.
Study God. Theology is transformative because it transforms your self-image and enlarges your understanding of God.
Laugh. Proud men cannot laugh at themselves. Make sure you can.
Identify evidences of grace in others. Open your eyes to see God’s great work in others, not their failures.
Speak encouragement. Edify the saints. It will take your attention off yourself and place it on others.
Invite correction in your own life. Desire correction. Accept the nuggets of truth in criticism no matter the source, but especially seek out godly correction.
Teach your children what true greatness is. James and John’s mom was not just alongside them when they asked to be seated next to Christ, she advocated for them. How do you advocate for your children? What behavior elicits the loudest cheers from you? Make sure that nothing exceeds the joy you display when your children are humble servants.
Humility is a marvelous book. It’ll just take you a night or two to read it, so set aside the time to let the Holy Spirit put you on His examination table and give you a check up. Mahaney has done the Christian church a great service, faithfully acting as God’s instrument of grace in imparting such practical wisdom about the slippery subject of humility. I, for one, have been greatly convicted and edified. May it be so with you as well.