I was asked this question after church yesterday and I thought it would be a good way to start: “how do I boast in Christ, when I’ve got to bid on jobs and try to sell what my company does?” That’s a fantastic question. Here was my answer: boasting in Christ does not mean, “let go and let God”. Nor is it lazy, sloppy business. Further, boasting in Christ does not mean that we “oversell and under-deliver”, as many are prone to do. Boasting in Christ means we can give an honest bid, with honest expectations, and we can leave the decision of whether or not we get that bid, in the hands of God. And if we get the bid, we boast in Christ…and if we don’t get the bid, we boast in Christ. After all, according to Deuteronomy 8:18, it is the Lord who gives us the ability to make wealth…
Here’s what boasting in Christ allows us to do…it allows us to know that our eternal destiny is as secure, as Jesus’ kingdom is secure…it allows us to rest in God’s sovereign care for us and know that there is “nothing more to prove” because Jesus has done it all. And it this allows us to be honest with others, about what we can and cannot do, and we don’t have to allow our “stats” to define us anymore.
One statement I made on Sunday really resonated in my soul: “we can live in a world of performance while not being dominated by it.” Just think how freeing this is. We can work hard, put in long hours, give our best, evaluate honestly…and whether something succeeds or fails…it doesn’t define us or dominate us.
Let me give you a personal sports story about this (it’s all I’ve got…I’m sorry)…several years ago when I started coaching baseball, I coached the way I played: to win! And at times, it was win at all costs. No matter how bad I treated the players and no matter how much I stretched the rules…after all, all is “fair in love and war”. After a successful second season, winning Coach of the Year honors, and having most of my team back for the next season, the Lord started a work in me (that He’s still doing). I was so convicted of my “idolatry” to winning, that I stepped away from the game I loved, with the intention of never going back. For the next few years, I didn’t step on a baseball field and I couldn’t even go to games just to watch for fun. I needed a transformation of my heart, but I needed to crucify the world in my heart. I needed to “die” to the world’s system of success. In 2001, after 4 years away, an opportunity arose to coach again. After talking it over with Jill and those who I respect, I thought it was good to go back to coaching again. I went back into coaching with this thought: “I’m here for the glory of God and the good of these young men. If I can’t do it for those motives, I need to step away.” I stopped (for the most part) worrying about winning and started considering how to help young men grow in Christ and become better baseball players. Now, those who have coached with me and have been coached by me can attest, I have certainly have my moments when I need to “die” again. But I can say, honestly, I find my heart excited to help young men through this game and use this game as a platform for God’s glory. It’s been a kick. The winning has been awesome and I’ll be the first to say that. But, the relationships have been even better. When I look out at our church and I see the young men, who are now older men; I see the families of those I’ve coached; I watch the impact of preaching on Sunday after a Saturday doubleheader…it is amazing to see God at work. Long story, but I think it tells a tad of a picture…when the cross of Jesus becomes our boast, it’s amazing how less we think of ourselves. And it’s also amazing how that is the pathway to true, lasting joy.
The other issue with boasting in the cross that I didn’t cover yesterday was the consideration of what it meant to boast in the cross. The cross was an “emblem of suffering and shame”. It was a sign of ill-repute. It was the place that the most vile criminals died. To boast in the cross means that we are willing to be ill-treated, like Jesus was. It means we are willing to be identified with someone who was crucified as an awful criminal. Now, I get it, it’s Jesus we’re talking about. But don’t forget for these 1st century Christians…this was a really big deal. To glory in cross was to glory in an execution scene…it was glory in a lethal injection, an electric chair, or a noose. You get the point…I found this quote by Philip Ryken really challenging on this: “Thinking of how despicable the cross would’ve been: One that might come close is suggested by the Cotton Patch paraphrase: “God forbid that I should ever take pride in anything, except in the lynching of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
There is an odd phrase that Paul used in Galatians 6:16 that I didn’t have time to talk about. He said “And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God”. Who is the “Israel of God”? Some have argued that this is pointing to those who are from the nation of Israel, whom God has promised to redeem. There is some merit to this. However, I wonder, as do other commentators, if this isn’t a conclusion of what Paul has been talking about in Galatians. This issue was something that Paul began to develop in Galatians 3 and some think he concluded it with this phrase. Just notice these references:
- “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Gal. 3:7-9)
“so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (Gal. 3:14)
- “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.” (Gal. 3:16-18)
- “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Gal. 3:28-29)
- “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Gal. 4:4-7)
- “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.” (Gal. 4:28)
I think you get the point…these verses, would indicate to me (and I’m not alone here), that those who belong to the Israel of God, are not simply national, physical descendants of the nation of Israel. But rather, are those who put their faith in Jesus, no matter what nation they’re from. Not all who come from national, physical Israel, are true Israel (Rom. 9:6). The Israel of God are those who by faith in Jesus Christ have been made right with God.
Now, one last thing before I close this out. In Galatians 6:17, Paul made an ironic about the authenticity of his faith. He wrote, “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” This is ironic because the Jewish false teachers wanted their converts to have a brand or a mark…circumcision. And yet Paul, as he ends this letter says, in a sense (perhaps with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek)…if you want a mark for your body…I’ve got them…their lashes from you guys beating me! In other words, Paul’s point is this: Christians will show their true faith and sometimes the marks on their bodies will show the world they have true faith. As he put it in Romans 8:17, “if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (bold and italics mine). Suffering, persecution has always been a branding mark, to some degree, that authenticates our faith. So, Paul’s ironic point is well taken…leave me alone because I’ve already been branded!!
Quotes I left out:
- “John Stott writes: “The truth is that we cannot boast in ourselves and in the cross simultaneously. If we boast in ourselves and in our ability to save ourselves, we shall never boast in the cross and in the ability of Christ crucified to save us. We have to choose. Only if we have humbled ourselves as hell-deserving sinners shall we give up boasting of ourselves, fly to the cross for salvation and spend the rest of our days glorying in the cross.”
- “Christians inevitably face this temptation because the cross has a way of inviting persecution. It arouses opposition because it says that we are sinners under God’s curse. It tells us that we need someone else to die for our sins, that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves, only trust in Jesus.” Philip Ryken
- “How many pastors’ conferences turn into Monday morning brag sessions where we tout our own “ecclesiastical statistics,” tipping our hat to the Good Lord, to be sure, but craving the luster of the limelight for ourselves? No one can escape this temptation fully, for the tinderbox of pride flares up in every believer who is not yet perfectly conformed to the image of Christ, which is to say, every Christian who lives and ministers on this side of heaven. The only antidote to the poison of pride is the daily self-crucifixion of the flesh with its passions and desires (cf. 5:24).” Timothy George
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.
P.S. If there are questions that you’d like me to answer during one of my “musings” please don’t hesitate to shoot those my direction. Also, on a Sunday, after hearing a sermon, ask me some clarifying questions, if needed. Those help me serve you. Enjoy your week and the grace of God found in Jesus!