I am crucified with Christ

No Room for Boasting

Those who want to make a good showing in the flesh are the ones who would compel you to be circumcised – but only to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.  For even the circumcised don’t keep the law themselves; however, they want you to be circumcised in order to boast about your flesh.   But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world. Gal. 6:11-14 HCSB

My husband has held a full-time ministry position since I before I married him, and for the time we lived overseas, I did too.  I’ve found that too often, the “lay people” put ministers, pastors and missionaries on a pedestal, and we invariably topple right off that ungodly thing.  

People who get paid to do God’s work are subject to the same temptation to boast in success as the rest of the world, but we might couch it in prettier terms.  “Church growth” is occasionally an euphemism for “look what a great pastor I am.”  That’s exactly the same sort of thing a business tycoon might brag about when his companies’ sales soar. Or, “She gave her life to Christ” might sometimes be “I was so skillful and bold in sharing the gospel.”  That sounds awfully similar to “I am a great salesman/public relations executive.”

I’m certainly not saying all full-time ministers think those things.  I’m merely saying it’s tempting to grab a little glory for oneself, no matter what your vocation.  And I picked full-time ministers as my example because the author of these verses, Paul, devoted his life to ministry.  When he said he wasn’t going to boast about anything but the cross, he meant exactly what I’ve described.  “I won’t boast in your conversions or the size of your churches.  I won’t boast about whether or not you’ve followed some rule like circumcision.  All that worldly success stuff?  I’ve crucified it.”

Paul had one thing to brag about, and it was about something he had nothing to do with.  He boasted about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  He willfully killed all that was in him that would have liked to take credit for himself.

May I die to myself in the same way.  May I keep Jesus alone on the pedestal.  Only then it is godly.

I am a trophy of grace

Escaping the Performance Trap

 He (God) presented Him (Jesus) to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.  Were then is boasting? It is excluded.  By what kind of law?  By one of works? No, on the contrary, by a law of faith.  For we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.  Romans 3:26-28 HCSB (parentheses mine)

Sometime when I still lived in Africa, I underlined these verses and wrote in big block letters to the side, “No guilt.” Why that, next a verse that is talking about the evils of boasting? Because I tend to get tangled in the performance trap – feeling as though I’m never quite doing “enough.”  There I was, a missionary, who knew in my heart that too often I’d rather hide in my house rather than share the gospel with an African.  I knew that instead of loving those hungry little village children, I was too often annoyed with them. I knew all the myriad of inadequacies in my sinful heart.  I fell short.  I was guilty.

And one day, sitting in the heat and reading my Bible, I came upon this verse.  “Don’t boast,” it said.  And the Holy Spirit?  He said something like, “No matter how good of a job you did as a missionary, no matter how many people you lead to Christ, or how many languages you learned, or how many little kids you loved, you’d still fall short.  You’d still have nothing to brag about.  And you’d still be guilty. 

I did the work, not you.

I declared you righteous.  Because you weren’t righteous on your own. And you can’t be. No matter how hard you try.

You can’t do anything to be good enough.

But that’s okay.  Because I’m good enough for you.”

I needed to remember that today.  If I am to be His trophy of grace, I’ve got to remember the grace part.  Certainly, I am unworthy to be a trophy. 

And that’s the point of grace.