A Short Book Review of
Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney
Last week, I received an advance reader’s copy of CJ Mahaney’s
new book on humility, due out September 23, 2005. In preaching, there
is a high degree of self-examination that goes into internalizing your
message, to make sure that it’s true in your life rather than standing
before a church as a Pharisee (Matt 23, especially v.3). As this is
true in preaching, I can only imagine the higher degree of bravado and
vigor needed to agree to write a book on humility. Mahaney was brave
enough to tackle this sorely needed subject and the church universal
should thank him for it (or, at least the English speaking ones).
sadly prohibited by the publisher from giving direct quotes, so let me
first lay out the structure of the book and then share some thoughts…
Section 1 ~ Our Greatest Friend; Our Greatest Enemy: the Battle of Humility v. Pride
Chapter 1. The Promise of Humility
Chapter 2. The Perils of Pride
Section 2 ~ The Great Reversal: our Savior and the Secret of True Greatness
Chapter 3. Greatness Redefined
Chapter 4. Greatness Demonstrated
Section 3 ~ Our Great Pursuit: the Practice of Humility
Chapter 5. As Each Day Begins
Chapter 6. As Each Day Ends
Chapter 7. For Special Focus
Chapter 8. Identifying Evidences of Grace
Chapter 9. Encouraging Others
Chapter 10. Inviting & Pursuing Correction
Chapter 11. Responding Humbly in Trials
Chapter 12. A Legacy of Greatness
the basic outline, you can see a facet of the book that I greatly
appreciate…two-thirds of the book deals with practice. All
application must be grounded in God’s Word and so it’s essential that
Mahaney start off with chapters 1-4, but the problem of pride in most
believers has little to do with ignorance of truth and much to do with
the practice and internalization of what’s already known. This crucial
area is where Mahaney’s book shines. He gets well at the heart in each
chapter (including #1-4), and consistently brings Scripture to bear on
manifestations of pride in our lives.
the book, Scripture is the ground of what’s said and is the basis for
all application that’s made. At the same time, in a winsome way,
Mahaney shares his own shortcomings as practical examples of pride,
while also sharing insights from a variety of other writers, both new
and old (e.g., Jonathan Edwards, Kris Lundgaard, Paul Tripp, DA Carson,
John Piper, Thomas Watson, Mark Dever, John Owen, John Calvin and
Charles Spurgeon…to name only a few). The quotes shared typically
serve to add vigor to Mahaney’s point. Let me give a few examples
since I don’t think the publisher can prohibit me from quoting quotes.
Charles Bridges ~ "Pride lifts up the heart against God; it contends for supremacy with Him."
Renahan ~ "Pride ruins pastors and churches more than any other thing,
it is more insidious in the church than rado in the home."
Edwards ~ Pride is "the worst viper that is in the heart." It is "the
greatest disturber of the soul’s peace and sweet communion with Christ"
and "the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all lusts."
Jonathan Edwards ~ "What a foolish, silly, miserable, blind, deceived poor worm am I, when pride works"
like these and other strengthen Mahaney’s already great book. With all
these laudatory comments, you may be wondering about shortcomings.
Forgive my insolence to say that the greatest shortcoming of the book
is it’s brevity. Amazon.com lists it at 192 pages, but reading it
passed much too quickly. Certain books seem long and you’re eager to
finish them & move on — I won’t list any names as I’m sure some
came to your mind right away. Other books are long, but you’re thankful
that they don’t end any sooner — Mortification of Sin
by John Owen is just such a book. Humility: True Greatness falls into
the category of ‘ends too soon.’ I came away still hungry and wanting
more. But since it was an advance copy, maybe I can hope that another
couple chapters will be added!
Conclusion = Buy this book. Read this book. Apply this book! And give it away to others as gifts — they’ll thank you later.