Thursday, March 28, 2019

My Only Brag

[These are reflections from my quiet time with God this morning. In quiet time, I stop to confess my sins in Jesus' name and to honor God; look at His Word, watching for anything in the Bible (reading it a chapter a day) that He seems to want me to consider; listen for the implications of the passage that has struck me; respond with how I pray this word from God will affect the way I live this day.]

Look: “...far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14, NIV)

“As for me, however, I will boast only about the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; for by means of his cross the world is dead to me, and I am dead to the world.” (Galatians 6:14, GNT)

Despite all his brilliance and dedication, Paul refuses to brag about anything but Jesus’ cross.

We brag about ourselves, our families, our achievements, our places of work, our connections, our churches, our political parties, and lots of other things and do so, in almost all cases, to elevate ourselves, to impress others, to get a piece of the world’s glory. (Even though the glory given by the world, along with its money, power, and conquests, mean nothing when we die.)

Paul is saying that on Jesus’ cross, his concern for the recognition of the world was also crucified. So was all the glory that the world has to offer. None of it has power over us any longer. None of it matters. By His cross, Jesus destroyed the power of the world--its estimation of us, its possessions, its affirmation (all on loan, at best)--over us. We are free to live in the gracious approval of God that belongs to all baptized believers in Jesus Christ.

Our only boast then is in the One Who, by His sacrificial death on the cross, sets us free, Jesus.

Listen: Jesus frees believers from the need to boast, brag, or burnish our reputations. I am a sinner saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, alone. That’s my brag. That’s my glory.

Of course, the old Adam still lives in me. So, I am daily tempted, even within my own mind, to elevate myself, to shine my own apple. I do this even though I understand that whatever good I am or do comes from Christ and whatever bad I am or do comes from me. Daily, my call is to submit to the crucifixion of my old self so that, in submission to Christ, I can more fully share in the freedom from the dead ways of the world He earned for me on the cross.

In Christ, I am approved by God. I don’t need the approval of the world.

Respond: Today, Lord Jesus, crucify the world’s estimation of me as motivation for boasting. Whether the world thinks well or ill of me is irrelevant. Help me to only brag about You, Your grace, Your love, Your will, Your authority, Your power, Your death, Your resurrection, and the freedom You alone bring to those who submit to the crucifixion of the old self that allows the new self to daily rise in You.

Help me not to care about the estimation of me among the unwitting wolves in sheep’s clothing who lurk among Christians. They think that when they’re bragging about their own “holiness,” they’re doing Your will. They’re not. They are as much a part of the world which must be crucified to me as the most rabid secularists. Both are of the world, offering rewards and condemnations that will not survive Your return.

Help me to remember today that You alone set me free. Now and in eternity. You are my only brag. Amen

[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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