Remembering Paul’s only boast

In an article from a daily devotional publication for teens (Soul Journey, ISBN 1-57293-132-9), a recent article cited six human characteristics or activities from Proverbs 6 that are unacceptable to the Lord. These were inflated ego, lying, murder, evil scheming, rushing into evil, lying in court and trouble making. The point made in the article was that these attributes or activities are opposite to the Lord’s nature and what he loves, and that an examination of how our loves and hates line up with the Lord’s is important.

Valuable food for thought, but for me the passage brought to mind a couple of other Scriptures where Paul explicitly describes his own stance, and by implication what ours should be.

“But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” Galatians 6:14, and “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20.

First, let me added the obvious provision that I am only speaking of believers in this discussion, since those of the world consider such matters ‘foolishness’ (1 Corinthians 2:14).

It stuck me that the unacceptable behaviours and attitudes laid out in Proverbs 6 could only occur in a believer to the degree to which the stance described by Paul in Galatians was either not the case (making them tarns among the wheat possibly) or was slipping towards worldly influences.

The world in which we live, are conditioned, and make our way, by and large teaches precisely the opposite. We are to put ourselves forward, show our talents, skills and accomplishment, and take as much pride as possible in these things throughout the process. Though false humility is common, the old adage of “blow you own horn since no-one else is likely to blow it for you” would seem more the phrase of the day today, albeit covertly.

Does this imply that there is no satisfaction to be taken, even obviously, in a job well and truly done? Not at all. But there is a great gulf between satisfaction in accomplishment and achievement, and worldly pride. And in a world overwhelmingly concerned with and largely rewarding of appearance, worldly pride is what is most often rewarded over genuine accomplishment.

That having been said, Paul stands clearly in the shadow of the Cross, boasting solely in the accomplishment of the One (and the process) that has saved Him. The difference here would appear to be one of attitude towards the world. If one has or seeks their place ‘in the world’, and views themselves as living ‘in the world’, then a worldly view of self and a desire to both be acknowledged by and seek pride in that world are natural and virtually unavoidable. Even when actually avoided, the battle is continuous and unrelenting.

On the other hand, if one does not belong to the world, but to Heaven solely through Christ crucified, then what is there of merit to boast of in the world or in ones place or activities therein? The only individual merit is in being a citizen of Heaven though still on earth. As such, since one had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact of their election to Heaven (Ephesians 1:4), all merit belongs to the provider of that destiny, Jesus Christ, and within that to the Holy Spirit and the process of Salvation.

So, grasping the fact of one’s election, devoid of personal merit both before or after the fact, must trivialize the world and its machinations. That which transports us into Heavenly eternity with our Lord is all that is of merit, and since He is the provider of that process at all junctures, boasting in Him alone is the only option (and joy, I should add).

Thus, Paul has stated for us, in direct and simple terms, the only road for those in the body of believers who are yet in the world. Though Satan and his minions (largely unacknowledged in the world today but nonetheless active) provide endless circumstance and support for the importance of the world, and specifically for the significance of individual pride, self esteem and self reliance in that world, Paul has stated the only real basis for personal value. That value is in the shadow of Christ and His accomplishments, shining the light of importance and significance on Him alone.

Soli Deo Gloria

Does this mean that, as a corollary, our lives in the flesh are to be devoid of satisfaction, accomplishment or worldly reward or enjoyment?. I do not think so. It is a matter of attitude and posture within the world, and not the circumstances that the Lord may permit, that is of importance. How that is possible is another discussion…

Solus Christus

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2 Responses to “Remembering Paul’s only boast”

  1. D Rho says:

    Great post!

    If the church were boasting like Paul it would be upside down to its current state at large. As it is; we have mass marketing, professionalism, performance driven, super structures, consumerism, and fame-vying. There’s a whole lot of boasting going on, but little talk of the cross or suffering. Is it any wonder that the church is losing members in droves, has leadership with rampant moral failures, and yet still trying to champion worldly success. We’ve all but emptied the church of its true power — Christ and Him crucified!

  2. kwilson says:

    Well said on all counts, and thank you.

    For the moment I have restrained myself from grabbing my soap box and expanding on each point in your list because they are each so pertinent. Suffice to say that it is a sad situation, and one which causes many who love the Lord great quiet distress, judging from comments make to me. Even more, the church seems to believe that the cure to dropping support (on many fronts) is even more of the same. It is a mindset and a vicious circle.

    It is often so frustrating, but the Lord was gracious enough this evening to have me read an article that reminded the reader of the Lord’s advice that we store up our treasure in Heaven and not on earth. This has very wide application and comes to mind when I read your list of the worldly performance critieria and approaches that seem to surround us.

    I pray that we may encourage one another to cleave only unto Him and Him crucified.

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