So we might have something to boast about - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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So we might have something to boast about


Gal.6:14 "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."

So that we might have something to boast about!

We thought this morning about just how Jesus placed his death and subsequent resurrection right at the heart of any true understanding of the mission he had come into the world to accomplish. This evening we will continue the same general theme by considering what our reaction to such truth ought to be.

A Subject of Boasting
Our starting point will be found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

Gal.6:14 "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."

As Paul thought about Jesus’ death he was granted tremendous insights into just how precious and important it was. He came to appreciate some of the ramifications of what Jesus’ death had accomplished for his own life. Jesus’ death was the means of radically transforming Paul and his entire outlook on life. His old ways of looking at things and his old patterns of behaviour had been changed and forever changed.

The "world" that Paul refers to here is that entire system that exists in opposition to God. This world holds a great appeal for fallen humanity. All of us naturally belong to this "world system" and until God begins his work in us we feel quite at home in it. This "world system" operates according to its own values and standards; it possesses it own glory; and it offers it own rewards to those who will bow to its demands.

Now, Paul tells us, Jesus’ death has a twofold effect as far as this world is concerned. On the one hand Jesus’ death means that the world’s power and influence has been broken, it’s hold over us has been broken. For Paul this meant that the world could no longer attract and dominate him as it had done previously. On the other hand Paul says that he too had been changed by the death of Christ. By Jesus’ death Paul too had died to the desires and attractions of this world.

Jesus’ death had set Paul free. And this is true not just for the apostle Paul but for everyone else who puts their faith and trust in the crucified Saviour! If you are a Christian this evening then your old relationship with this world system which is heading for total destruction is no longer what it was, you have a new life to live!

As Paul considered the fruit of Christ’s death for his own life he didn’t react in a cool manner or with any sense of indifference. When Paul understood what Christ had done for him in dying for him it changed everything. His theological reflection couldn’t and didn’t leave him cold but led to dynamic activity and a complete change in his emotions.

Paul knew now that he had a whole new reason for boasting too and a new person to boast about! Indeed so great was Paul’s understanding of the significance of the death of his Saviour that he realised that he had nothing absolutely nothing else to boast about in life! His boasting would from now on be of the exclusive kind. Not only was he determined not to boast of anything other than the cross of Christ he was determined to boast about that cross, that is the death of Christ.

Paul’s reaction was the only appropriate reaction to such wonderfully good news and to such wonderfully transforming power. Thus we can say that one of the reasons Jesus died was that we might have something to boast about. He died that we might boast of his substitutionary death for us!
Is that what we do?

If we look again at Paul’s life we’ll catch a glimpse of what it means to boast in this way. Paul gloried in the death of Christ – he put it at the heart and centre of his ministry:

1Cor.1:23 "we preach Christ crucified"

Or again:

1Cor.2:2 "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."

He spoke over and over of how Jesus had given himself for his people and the giving he had in mind was the giving of himself up to death!

Gal.1:4 The Lord Jesus Christ "gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
Gal.2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Eph 5:2 "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
Tit.2:13-14 "our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ... gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."

Paul was thrilled with the death of Christ, he was amazed by it and he made it his unique boast and we should too!

The Bible and Boasting
If you look up the word "boast" in the dictionary the first explanation you’ll come across will probably be almost entirely negative:

The dictionary tells us that the verb to boast means:

"to talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one's achievements, possessions, or abilities."

And correspondingly the noun means:

"the act of talking with excessive pride and self-satisfaction."

People boast about all kinds of things but usually they only will boast of things that they consider to be of value or of worth. They’ll boast about all kinds of things:

  • Grades at school or university

  • Their pay package

  • Their children/grandchildren

  • Their achievements

  • The results of their favourite football team

The Bible recognises that people do boast like this and warns against it but it doesn’t outlaw boasting per se instead it illustrates a proper boasting:
And this is something of what we find:

Ps.34:2 "My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad."

Ps.44:8 "In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever."

Nor is this all, not content with illustrating a proper boasting the Bible deliberately and overtly calls for it:

Jer.9:23-24 "Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."

And of course Paul picks up this verse and quotes it in his first letter to the church at Corinth.

If you’re beginning to wonder how it is that Paul can write of only boasting in Christ crucified when these other verses commend a boasting about knowing the Lord in an experiential and trusting manner then it really is quite straightforward. The only way in which we can come to enjoy such a close relationship with the Lord is to have our sins dealt with and the slate wiped clean and that is only possible because Jesus died for us! To boast that we have been brought to know God is to boast of the Saviour’s death which made this possible!

Boasting about failure?
Generally people who boast will focus on their strengths. They’ll keep quiet about their failures and they’ll keep quiet about the black sheep of their family. They don’t want others to know how they have failed and will make excuses for any failures that do become known. They don’t want you to know about their dodgy relations and shady family members because they’re ashamed of them.

If you’re ashamed, apologetic, or embarrassed by the death of Christ then you won’t want to boast about it either.

If you don’t understand and appreciate what Jesus has done in laying down his life for you then you’ll find you won’t want to boast about it but will rather try to move the subject on so you can focus on something else.

  • To boast about how good Jesus was as a teacher will not cause others to raise their eyebrows in the same way they will if you boast in his cross.

  • To boast about the wonderful example he left may challenge others but they’re not likely to be threatened by it – after all they’re only too ready to believe they could copy that example if only they set themselves to do so.

But when you focus on his death, when you glory in his death, when you boast of his death, well then that’s a very different matter.

We live in a day when many think that justice should be all about reforming the criminal and not punishing him, people don’t like to think in terms of retributive punishment, it’s a big no-no. In such a climate it is difficult to imagine that the cross, the death of Christ, had a purpose. But what on earth are we to make of the death of Christ if we’re not allowed to see the retributive justice of a Holy God displayed in and through it?

And thoughts of God being angry with us as sinners is uncomfortable for us and so it’s more appealing to reinterpret the cross in a less threatening way. So people pass by it quickly tut-tutting what a dreadful thing it was, what a big mistake it all was, God couldn’t have wanted his Son to die like that – that would be cosmic child abuse, enough said.

But if you’ve felt the weight of your sin as the Holy Spirit has convicted you that you’re not as good as you thought you were an certainly not good enough for God, then you won’t want to by-pass the cross because it is precisely by the death of Christ that God resolves the problem of your sin! And when you see that you’ll not want to keep it under wraps but you’ll want to shout about it!

In fact Paul is so enthusiastic about the death of Christ that he was determined to do everything he could to magnify its worth and value and to that end he would do what goes against the grain of normal human pride. Paul would not try to hide his own failures and weaknesses but he would actually flag them up!

2Cor.11:30 "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness."

Boasting of his weaknesses in this way didn’t exaggerate Paul’s need of a great salvation and of a great Saviour but it did serve to show that the salvation Jesus secured by his death was a truly great salvation. In boasting about his failures Paul was in reality boasting of the value of Christ and in particular of the worth of his death! And have you noticed this is just how genuine Christians behave as well. They don’t pretend they are better than they are and they don’t hide their failures but they confess them and again and again you’ll find believers humbling themselves so that Jesus may be exalted. The true believer makes much of Jesus and is embarrassed and uneasy when others praise him rather than Jesus.

And of course our hymns and songs reflect this. How glad we are to sing of our own weakness and failure if only then we can magnify the glories of our great Saviour King Jesus!

So before we come to the table let us sing another song glorying in our Saviour.

And to God be the Glory!


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