Go ahead. Boast a little … Your kids behaving themselves? Good thing. Have you won a basketball game? Avoided an accident? Had something especially good to eat lately? A good coffee, maybe? Or, caught a really big fish this week? … All good stuff. But, is this all worth boasting about?
Paul draws together all the arguments from his letter to the Galatians with one, powerful, concrete, wonderfully terrible image: But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (6.14, ESV).
My only boast is in Christ who makes me a new creation through the Gospel.
That’s a hard teaching when there’s so many big fish and near accidents and good coffees that delight us. Do I have to put away all the “good” things of life to think rightly and only of Jesus?
We struggle here, because we forget (or, don’t properly believe) where we’ve come from. In (even before) the beginning, God existed. Holy unto Himself. Like consuming fire, He will not suffer the presence of sin. For our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12.29, from Deut 4). He, our same God, created a world and a people through His eternal Son. For by him all things were created … all things were created through him and for him (Col 1.15). We sin, and by all rights will be obliterated, removed from God’s presence—no pleasure to follow, nothing good, nothing we were made to enjoy, certainly not God’s presence. That’s now bedrock reality, Ground Zero for sinful humanity.
How does God respond? By sending His Son who meets us. Where? At the cross. And, in a way I struggle to get my mind around, we, those He’s called to Himself by faith, died with Jesus on that very cross. I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live (2.20a) … And, then, in a way still more profound, we were raised with Jesus to share his life. … the life I life I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me (2.20b).
Then, on Monday of this week, our friend Adam catches a big fish. And, he lets my boys hold it. And, we’re so happy! Now … who gets the credit for our happiness? Where was that happiness bought? … At the CROSS!
Now, when we boast, we brag, rejoice, glory and exult in the work of Jesus. And, we do this as new creations, free to enjoy the good of this world, because at the cross Jesus bought back those pleasures for his people.
“Every legitimate pleasure is a means to a higher end” (C.S. Lewis). The end, Paul would add, of boasting in Christ’s work, at the cross.
“Every legitimate pleasure in the world becomes an evidence of blood-bought Calvary love and an occasion for boasting in the cross” (John Piper, 2000).
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer (1 Tim 4.4). In other words, at the cross.
So, parents, kids do their homework and their chores this week? Celebrate! Kids, win a game recently? Jump for joy! Taken in a steaming, hot and strong cup of coffee or cup of chocolate recently? Give thanks. But, remember where the pleasure comes from. And, boast like crazy. In Christ, because of his work, at the cross.
Find a friend and think about these questions from Galatians 6.11-18:
How does this passage change the way you think about those things you’re excited about?
Why is it so hard to get your mind around the idea of any kind of boasting as a positive thing? (It might help to note that in its 37 uses this word is alternatively translated in the ESV as “brag, rejoice, exult, or glorify”.
Do I really believe that God is holy and I am undeserving of His presence? How does the power of the cross depend on starting in the right place in thinking about God and myself?
How does Paul’s logic apply to pain in this world as well? The same word is used in Rom 5.3-4. How might Christ’s work be significant in our pain, just as it is in our pleasure, and why might we boast in our suffering?
Noting Paul’s reference to the insignificance of circumcision (the sign of being under law), and noting Gal 5.6 as well, how might boasting in Christ free me to love and serve others?
Noting Paul’s closing of the letter in Gal 6.17, how does boasting in Christ leave a mark?